Review Tuesday: The Circle by Dave Eggers

I definitely picked up The Circle by David Eggers because I found out that Emma Watson was going to be starring in the movie, and I wanted to read it beforehand. This book was…wow. Very good, and super creepy.

From Goodreads:

When Mae Holland is hired to work for the Circle, the world’s most powerful internet company, she feels she’s been given the opportunity of a lifetime. The Circle, run out of a sprawling California campus, links users’ personal emails, social media, banking, and purchasing with their universal operating system, resulting in one online identity and a new age of civility and transparency. As Mae tours the open-plan office spaces, the towering glass dining facilities, the cozy dorms for those who spend nights at work, she is thrilled with the company’s modernity and activity. There are parties that last through the night, there are famous musicians playing on the lawn, there are athletic activities and clubs and brunches, and even an aquarium of rare fish retrieved from the Marianas Trench by the CEO. Mae can’t believe her luck, her great fortune to work for the most influential company in America–even as life beyond the campus grows distant, even as a strange encounter with a colleague leaves her shaken, even as her role at the Circle becomes increasingly public. What begins as the captivating story of one woman’s ambition and idealism soon becomes a heart-racing novel of suspense, raising questions about memory, history, privacy, democracy, and the limits of human knowledge.

The only real negative things that I can say about it, is that it’s too long – by about 100 pages. I started getting a bit bored part way through because the pace seemed really slow, and things started to get repetitive. However, the story as a whole was engrossing.

The Circle is essentially Google on steroids. It’s a tech company with a monopoly, the stereotypical campus that no one wants to leave, great pay and benefits – it’s a dream job, at a dream company that is making the world better for people. And as Mae starts to work there, you, the reader, also think that she’s hit the jackpot of a career.

And then…

Things start to get slightly creepy. Not overly at first, I mean you, the reader, have also drunk the Kool-Aid they’re providing, but as the book progresses you realize that what seemed like a great technological innovation 100 pages ago, is now becoming much more “Big Brother-y”, until well…you’ll have to read to find out.

I did find though that after putting down the book each time (it was a lunch time reading book) I didn’t want to be on my phone. I didn’t want to post my photos, comments etc. to the world at large. I wanted to remain silent, anonymous.

Has this book made me rethink my privacy and what I’m allowing companies to learn about me when I log into their apps? Definitely. And I also realized how little we (the consumer) know about what we’re agreeing to when we sign the “Terms & Conditions”. We don’t know what privacy we’re giving away and we certainly don’t know how to get it back.

I think this book (and the movie that is coming) will definitely start a conversation about privacy especially, but also about how we interact as humans, and what a healthy relationship and self-image should be.

This was definitely a must-read. It’s a very good book, and will certainly get you thinking about the consequences of giving up your privacy so freely. (And if you say that you’re not, please remember that you have zero idea what you’ve given up because there’s no way you’ve read the Terms & Conditions of anything app related).

 

 

 

Review Tuesday: Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami

I don’t read (or review) many children’s books, however, Book Uncle and Me by Uma Krishnaswami grabbed me by the heart. It was just so lovely.

book-uncle-and-meFrom Goodreads:

Nine-year-old Yasmin intends to read a book a day for the rest of her life. Book Uncle, who runs a free lending library on the street corner, always has the perfect book for her. But when Book Uncle seems to be in trouble, Yasmin has to take her nose out of her book and do something. With the elections coming up and the grown-ups busy with their own affairs, what difference can Yasmin and her friends possibly make? Will they get help from Karate Samuel, the eccentric superstar who’s standing for Mayor? Yasmin gets to work, ideas begin to fly like feathers, and soon everything starts to spin out of control.

Yasmin is a wonderful character. She is bright, engaged with her friends and the people around her, and loves to read. She reads a book a day, and she gets her books, not from a library but from Book Uncle. Book Uncle runs the free lending library on the street corner and always has the perfect book not just for her, but for everyone. It is something that he takes pride in, and Yasmin is always excited to go and see him.

Then, of course, something terrible happens. Book Uncle does not have a permit to be on the street corner with his lending library and someone has complained about him. The worse news is that he cannot afford to get one. So he has no choice but to pack up his lending library and head on home. Yasmin, when she realizes that Book Uncle has gone, is firstly upset for herself. How is she suppose to read a book a day if Book Uncle isn’t there to supply the books? When she goes to see Book Uncle though, and sees how upset and depressed he is, she realizes that she has to save the lending library not just for herself, but for Book Uncle and the other people who use the library.

Thus begins Yasmin’s entry into civic responsibility. She gets her classmates and friends, and their friends to start writing letters to the mayoral candidates about weather they will be able to help Book Uncle, and when that does work as well as she hoped she comes up with a new plan, and then other.

This book is a wonderful read. It teaches children about civic responsibility, and that you’re never too young to help make change. It also teaches the value of friendship, making goals and achieving them, and of course the value of reading.

This is a fantastic story, with a great message. It’s definitely one that you’ll want to pick up!

Review Tuesday: The Shattered Court by M.J. Scott

I borrowed The Shattered Court by M.J. Scott from a friend of mine. It was one of those, I was perusing her bookshelf, came across it and asked to borrow it. I was definitely not disappointed. This is my favourite book of the year so far.

shattered-courtFrom Goodreads:

Entangled in a court ruled by tradition and intrigue, a young witch must come to terms with newfound power and desire—and a choice between loyalty and survival.…

The royal witches of Anglion have bowed to tradition for centuries. If a woman of royal blood manifests powers, she is immediately bound by rites of marriage. She will serve her lord by practicing the tamer magics of the earth—ensuring good harvests and predicting the weather. Any magic more dangerous is forbidden.

Lady Sophia Kendall, thirty-second in line to the throne, is only days away from finding out if she will be blessed—or perhaps cursed—with magic. When a vicious attack by Anglion’s ancient enemies leaves the kingdom in chaos, Sophia is forced to flee the court. Her protector by happenstance is Lieutenant Cameron Mackenzie, a member of the royal guard, raised all his life to be fiercely loyal to the Crown.

Then Sophia’s powers manifest stronger than she ever imagined they would, and Cameron and she are inextricably linked in the process. As a witch unbound by marriage rites, Sophia is not only a threat to the established order of her country, but is also a weapon for those who seek to destroy it. Faced with old secrets and new truths, she must decide if she will fight for her country or succumb to the delicious temptation of power.…

This book starts off simple enough – you meet the two main characters Sophie and Cameron at the very beginning. Their life is a rather ordinary one. Cameron is a Red Guard – which means that he is a royal guard and someone who can do battle magic – and Sophie is a lady-in-waiting to the Queen. She is turning 21 and when she does she will find out if she has powers or not. If she does, she becomes an item auctioned off to the noble who will benefit the Crown the most. Oh, the joys of being a woman. Obviously, as it says in the description, Sophie does come into power. And she is unbound by marriage rites. What does this mean? It means that her powers are fully her own, and when you’re in line for a throne (even far down the line) that makes for a very dangerous situation.

The plot of this book is engaging and engrossing. The magic (what you know of it) is interesting, and the intrigue of the court, and who is responsible for certain things keeps you on the edge of your seat. Nothing is quite like it seems. I will admit however, that it is a little frustrating at times because you learn things slowly and only as Sophie learns them. I want to know all of the things, and I want to know them now!

The other thing that makes this book so enjoyable is Sophie and Cameron. They start of indifferent to each other and slowly (and then quickly) a bond grows between them. An unshakeable bond. These two characters and their relationship brought me joy. I want them to succeed. I’m rooting for them all the way. I’m smiling right now just thinking of them.

The book ends with many things left unanswered. It is definitely written as the first book in a series. I am so excited for book two – which is suppose to be coming out this year but that’s all I know. This is definitely a book that I’m going to be buying for myself and most likely reading again – maybe even again this year.

Review Tuesday: A Lady’s Heart by Vivian Arend

I don’t remember how I stumbled across Vivian Arend, but I’m so glad that I did. I love the shifter series (fantasy + romance) and the cowboy series that she has. They’re so entertaining. You fall in love with her characters so easily in these two series.

I think that I read A Lady’s Heart in about a day – maybe a day and a half. It was a quick read, with an engrossing story. I also really enjoyed the fact that the story was about Mandy. Readers met her in a previous book in the series. She was a character that you felt terribly for, and who you really wanted to get a happily-ever-after.

a-ladys-heartFrom Goodreads:

Lady Amanda Ainsworth found a safe place to pull herself together under the roof of the loud, boisterous Takhini Wolf pack. Safe—except for the sexy grizzly shifter with the oversized biceps and the steely-grey eyes who’s also hanging his hat with the Whitehorse wolves. Justin Cullinan makes her light up and shimmer inside like the Northern Lights, and she knows it’s time to start her new life.

He may be the bodyguard and not the CEO, but Justin’s powerful in his own right. He gets what he wants—and who he wants is the sweet seductive Mandy. He’ll go as slowly as necessary, but he has no intention of stopping until she admits they’re meant to be.

But when her safety is threatened, all bets are off. Justin’s going to keep his lady safe and find out who’s stalking her, and the best place is hidden in plain sight in the biggest shifter town in the north.

That is, if they aren’t running into a trap…

Like I said earlier, you met Justin and Mandy in an earlier book. In that book you immediately feel sorry for Mandy, and you instantly like Justin. So the fact that this book is about the two of them is awesome.

One of the things that I love about this  book is that Mandy learns how to stand up for herself. She decides what she wants and Justin helps her, in any way that he can, get it. It was so empowering watching her take bigger and bigger steps towards the person that she wanted to become. And I love that Justin always built her up. There were things that she wanted to do that she thought was silly and small, but he was always there to remind her when she gave in to self-doubt that if she wanted to do them, then they weren’t silly or small. It was simply what she wanted to do. Mandy gaining back her self-confidence, and trusting herself was a highlight of this book for me.

I also just enjoyed her and Justin’s relationship. There is a little zest of danger thrown into the story because someone is following Mandy and they’re not sure who is and what their motiviation is, but it does add  some heat to the story and to their romance.

In this story you also of course run into characters from previous books, and it’s just so wonderful seeing them all again. It’s like running into an old friend and playing a quick catch up. And what I like about it to is that you don’t run into ALL of the previous characters, just enough that you enjoy the catch up without being overrun with information that hinders the flow of the storyline.

There are of course hints dropped about upcoming books – there are at least 2 different sets of would-be couples, though one more than the other, that I’m excited about reading.

This was a quick read, and an enjoyable storyline. If you haven’t read any of her shifter series, and you’re into fantasy and romance then definitely give this series a go!

 

Review Tuesday: The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler

I was first introduced to The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler when I was in my first year of university. Some of the students at Queen’s University put on the play, and one of my friends was in it, so myself, and some other friends from my floor went to see the play. The play was powerful, authentic, and changed my perspective of how I looked at myself, and women’s issues.

I had not however ever read the play, and once I learned that Emma Watson had picked it as her Jan/Feb Feminist Book Club pick, I decided to give it a go.

vagina-monologuesFrom Goodreads:

I decided to talk to women about their vaginas, to do vagina interviews, which became vagina monologues…At first women were reluctant to talk. They were a little shy. But once they got going, you couldn’t stop them. Women secretly love to talk about their vaginas. They get very excited, mainly because no one’s ever asked them before.

It’s been over a decade since I saw the play The Vagina Monologues, so I was excited to read the book and see what I remembered and how I reacted this time.

I have to say that if you ever get a chance to see the play do it. I enjoyed the book, but the play – seeing it live – is where it packs a punch.

The play and this book are simply stories of women and how they view their vaginas. And while that may seem strange to some, it is powerful. When reading this book, I remembered the story The Flood. For some reason that stayed with me all these years. The images it produces are visceral. Another story I remembered is My Angry Vagina. I once again laughed out loud at just how on the money it was. I found myself muttering “damn fucking right,” as I read it too.

Another story, that I didn’t remember from the play when I saw it, but packed a punch while I was reading the book is My Vagina was my Village. This story broke my heart, and I’m sure it did when I first heard it.

The main thing I took away from these stories and this book/play (this time) was how much the world views vaginas and women and women’s issues as something that shouldn’t be talked about, or something that should only be talked about behind closed doors and whispered. Society is very much interested in keeping the status quo – and the status quo (let’s be real) doesn’t work for women.

The book also talks about V-Day, which is day that was created to celebrate vaginas, and to bring attention and to stop violence against women. And while it was a day created in the 90’s, it is still incredibly important. There are too many societies who think that it is their right to govern women’s bodies, their way of dressing, their sexuality, their thoughts, and that shit has got to stop.

Today is actually V-Day. If you don’t want to know more about it check it out here.

If you haven’t ever read this book or seen this play make sure that you do (woman or man). It is a must.

Review Tuesday: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

I was in Indigo one day, in need, desperate need, for a book. You ever have that? Where you just need a new book to read? A new story to fall into? I usually go to the fantasy section when I get like that. Fantasy always takes me to an entirely new world, and sometimes you just need to get away and disappear for a while.

So, I was walking through the fantasy section and I came across The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. I got excited – and even more excited because it was the first in a series. There are few things better in life than coming across a potentially good book series, am I right?

the-invisible-libraryFrom Goodreads:

The first installment of an adventure featuring stolen books, secret agents and forbidden societies – think Doctor Who with librarian spies!

Irene must be at the top of her game or she’ll be off the case – permanently…

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, which harvests fiction from different realities. And along with her enigmatic assistant Kai, she’s posted to an alternative London. Their mission – to retrieve a dangerous book. But when they arrive, it’s already been stolen. London’s underground factions seem prepared to fight to the very death to find her book.

Adding to the jeopardy, this world is chaos-infested – the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic. Irene’s new assistant is also hiding secrets of his own.

Soon, she’s up to her eyebrows in a heady mix of danger, clues and secret societies. Yet failure is not an option – the nature of reality itself is at stake.

Firstly, right off the bat, this book reminded me of the American tv series The Librarians, (which is a fantastic show FYI). It mostly reminded me of the show because there’s a secret library, with secret librarians who are out to keep certain things safe. But, where it differs is that by the end of this book I wasn’t sure how good the library was. There’s definitely a cliff hanger – or at least unanswered questions – about that.

Secondly, this book kept your guessing. I was never sure what was coming ’round the corner – literally and figuratively. There was a lot going on in this book – with a lot of different factions. It was fairly easy to keep everyone straight, but the motives of everyone were unclear a lot of the time. I felt like I was walking around with only half a map. I found it frustrating, but at the same time – this is book one of a series. I’m not suppose to know everything yet, I suppose.

While I found parts of the story frustrating because I didn’t fully understand motives and why certain things were happening, the characters were wonderful. Irene is a great main character. She is an innovative thinker, a take charge and get things done kind of woman, and a woman who above all just loves to read. She does have her freak outs, but and I love that she has them because it makes her more real, but I also love that she has them internally. This is no woman who falls apart all over a man. She holds her own.

Kai, is also a great character. I suspected what he was before it was revealed, but it took me a little while. His character was interesting because he has so many facets. I’m definitely interested in seeing how his character grows as the series progresses.

The world building was also very interesting in this book and because of the laws of the world (and sometimes lack their of) were so versatile you never knew what to expect.

Overall, this book was a very quick read (it’s one of those, you pick up and just fly through), with some memorable characters and settings. I got frustrated now and again because I didn’t understand how things fit together, but that didn’t really take away from the enjoyment of the story.

I will definitely be reading book two.

 

Review Tuesday: Accidentally on Purpose by Jill Shalvis

Accidentally on Purpose by Jill Shalvis came out January 24 – and I finished it on January 24th. It downloaded to my Kobo in the morning, when I was able to read a little bit before work, then I read at lunch, and then I came home and essentially read all evening until it was finished.

This was a great book. And it’s my favourite one in the Heartbreaker Bay series so far. But, before I continue:

accidentally-on-purposeFrom Goodreads:

There’s no such thing as a little in love…

Elle Wheaten’s priorities: friends, career, and kick-ass shoes. Then there’s the muscular wall of stubbornness that’s security expert Archer Hunt—who comes before everything else. No point in telling Mr. “Feels-Free Zone” that, though. Elle will just see other men until she gets over Archer . . . which should only take a lifetime . . .

There’s no such thing as a little in lust…

Archer’s wanted the best for Elle ever since he sacrificed his law-enforcement career to save her. But now that she’s earned happiness and success, Archer just wants Elle 24/7. Their chemistry could start the next San Francisco Earthquake, and Archer doesn’t want to be responsible for the damage. The alternative? Watch her go out with guys who aren’t him . . .

There is such a thing as…

As far as Archer’s concerned, nobody is good enough for Elle. But when he sets out to prove it by sabotaging her dates, she gets mad—and things get hot as hell. Now Archer has a new mission: prove to Elle that her perfect man has been here all along…

Archer and Elle have great chemistry – and not just sexual chemistry. They argue and bicker, but there is this friendship, this understanding, this deep caring for each other that is evident from the first page. That caught my interest first.  Most importantly though, the other person always mattered most. You saw the love these two characters had for each other long before they realized it themselves.

The sexual chemistry for these two was off the charts – the story and the plot lined wasn’t overwhelmed with sex scenes, but there was enough for you to get hot and bothered.

The other thing that I loved about this book was the plot line. Elle and Archer have a fantastic backstory and it’s something that gets played out in this book (it’s hinted at, and alluded to in the other books in the series). I was dying to know the history between these two, and I was not disappointed. The plot line gave the story a depth and a weight to it, that also gave their love a weight to it. These two characters got to where they are through a very long and painful road. They both deserved the happiness that they found at the end.

Overall, this was a highly enjoyable book. The plot line kept me interested, and the chemistry and snappy banter kept me entertained. (Also, it’s always nice running into old characters from the other books).

The only thing that I was disappointed about with this book, is that the author Jill Shalvis had said, a couple of weeks ago, that anyone who had pre-ordered the book (and I did months ago) would get an extra little story about two previous characters. I however, didn’t one. So, that I’m bummed about.

However, the story itself was awesome, and clearly something that I could not put down. Definitely pick this one up when you need a feel good book. It will not disappoint.

Update February 2 2017: Jill Shalvis’s PR company reached out to me about the bonus scene that I was missing. Turns out, I’m a moron, and did not read the instructions properly. *face palm*. However, they were super amazing and sent me a link to the scene. It was fantastic. I love these characters so much, and I cannot wait for Spence’s story. So if you haven’t read this series yet, I question your life choices and demand that you go and start it now. Yeah. Like right now.