TLC Book Tour: Lighthouse Island by Paulette Jiles

Genre: Adult Dystopian/Literary Fiction
Paperback, 416 pages
Published July 29th 2014 by William Morrow Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers (first published September 17th 2013)
$19.99 CAD

 Note: As a tour host selected by TLC virtual book tours, I received a complimentary copy from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are completely honest and completely my own.

It took me a long time and a lot of reflection before I could write this review. The book left me feeling unsure. I really wanted to like it—it had a lot of really good elements. However, it took me a while to determine what I thought of it. 

 
The setting is really excellent. It’s the future. There is little water, and it has to be strictly rationed. The world has become overpopulated, cities expanding and expanding until they almost touch one another. America is now essentially one giant city. We don’t know what year it is; they stopped counting. Everything is now run by “agencies,” all under the control of the Facilitator (or is it?). Even the smallest of offences can lead to your “arrest,” which essentially means your disappearance. It’s all very Orwellian in the best way. One of the greatest things about it was as I was reading, I became increasingly uncomfortable realizing how all too possible this future was. 
 
We’re introduced to the novel’s heroine when she is four years old and has been abandoned by her parents. She has a hard childhood and adolescence—even for someone growing up in this dystopia. However, for the most part, the story takes place when Nadia is an adult. 
 
Nadia takes pleasure in her own little rebellions. These, however, slowly lead up to her own impending arrest. Nadia is alerted to the danger that awaits her, and takes off before she can be apprehended. She becomes a fugitive, and must lie and manipulate her way out of the megacity. The problem is, however, that she no longer has a valid ID card and when they stopped counting the years they also stopped calling places by name. How is she going to navigate her way? She has a notion in her head that she must get to a place called Lighthouse Island that she saw on TV. Somehow she believes that she will finally be reunited with her parents there. Along the way she meets James Orotov from Demolitions, an amateur cartographer. Their relationship grows in an odd way, but it is befitting of their world and circumstances.  
 
Jiles’ writing is incredibly beautiful and thoughtful. I often found myself stopping to admire the prose and thinking, Man, this woman can write. When describing the world of the past which Nadia reads about in novels, there is one section that really stuck out to me. Jiles was describing the the freedom of those that came before Nadia—things they wouldn’t have even thought twice about: 
 
There seemed to be no regulations on anything: the watts of lightbulbs, shoe sizes, and placing of television screens. They had no ration allowances. They owned cats and dogs without the permission of the Department of Livestock and Companion Animals. There were times and places where there were no people: at midnight, among mountains. It was a world of swimming pools and cybertheft and malls, lakes and pets and horses and cows, cowboys, free-running bison, marshes, rain, fog, pear trees, snow, sailing, ships, men in tights. They were spendthrift and wasteful and neurotic. They had devoured the world and left nothing but a dry husk for Nadia Stepan. (pg 41)

The style of the novel fit completely with it hopeless, flat, forlorn tone of the story. The lack of quotation marks, however, was a stylistic choice I understood, but didn’t enjoy. Although I could appreciate the beauty in Jiles’ story and her many stylistic choices, I didn’t always find myself connecting with them. 
 
The characters are really interesting and complex…Unfortunately, I never felt like I really got to know them. I knew about them—their quirks, their talents, their likes, and dislikes—but I didn’t feel connected to them. For me, that is a key aspect in my enjoyment of a novel, and it was missing in this one. The characters seemed to be just curious people that I observed from a distance, only interested in their fate out of mere curiosity. I never felt emotionally involved in the story. 
 
SPOILER (ISH, BUT ONLY KIND OF)
The end also felt a little off to me. There was a somewhat uncomfortable shift focus, with a hopeful ending. I don’t usually begrudge a happy (ish) ending. I usually prefer them! But in this case, it felt a bit discordant with the tone of the novel. In the forsaken world that Jiles puts forth before us, this ending doesn’t seem to fit. It felt to me like James and Nadia should have been more star-crossed than they ended up being. 
END SPOILER 
 
All told, this was a beautifully written novel set in a masterfully created world peopled with very interesting characters. It was quite lovely and thought-provoking. Without feeling connected to the characters and their fates, however, I found myself losing interest.
 
If you’re looking for dystopian mind candy, this isn’t the novel for you. It’s nothing like the popular The Hunger Games or Divergent. It’s more akin to the stark and cerebral Nineteen Eighty-Four. If you like literary fiction though, it’s definitely worth a read. 

About Paulette Jiles

Paulette Jiles is a poet and memoirist. She is the author of Cousins, a memoir, and the bestselling novels Enemy Women and Stormy Weather. She lives on a ranch near San Antonio, Texas.

Paulette’s Tour Stops

Wednesday, July 30th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Tuesday, August 5th: BookNAround
Thursday, August 7th: BoundbyWords
Wednesday, August 13th: The Steadfast Reader
Monday, August 18th: Love at First Book
Wednesday, August 20th: A Book Geek
Friday, August 22nd: Read. Write. Repeat
Wednesday, August 27th: Here!!
Thursday, August 28th: Giraffe Days
Monday, September 1st: she treads softly
TBD: Book Snob

Book Tour Tomorrow!

I’m really excited about hosting the tour for Lighthouse Island by Paulette Jiles tomorrow! Check back in the morning for my review! Also, don’t forget to enter for your chance to win a copy! 
Here’s the synopsis from the publisher: 

In the coming centuries the world’s population has exploded and covered the earth with cities, animals are nearly all gone and drought has taken over so that cloudy water is issued by the quart. There are no maps, no borders, no numbered years. On this urban planet the only relief from overcrowding and the harsh rule of the big Agencies is the television in every living space, with its dreams of vanished waterfalls and the promise of virtual vacations in green spaces, won by the lucky few.



It is an unwelcoming world for an orphan like Nadia Stepan. Abandoned by her parents on a crowded street when she was four, the little girl is shuttled from orphanage to orphanage, foster-family to foster-family. Nadia grows up dreaming of the vacation spot called Lighthouse Island, in a place called the Pacific Northwest. She becomes obsessed with it and is determined to somehow find her way there. In the meantime this bright and witty orphan falls into the refuge of old and neglected books; the lost world of the imagination. And beyond the confusion and overcrowding and the relentless television noise, comes a radio voice from an abandoned satellite that patiently reads, over and over, the great classical books of the world-Big Radio, a voice in the night that lifts Nadia out of the dull and perpetual Present.

An opportunity for escape appears and Nadia takes it, abandoning everything to strike out for Lighthouse Island in a dangerous and sometimes comic adventure. She meets every contingency with bottomless inventiveness meets the man who changes the course of her life: James Orotov, mapmaker and demolition expert. Together they evade arrest and head north toward a place of wild beauty that lies beyond the megapolis-Lighthouse Island and its all-seeing eye.”

TLC Book Tour: The Agincourt Bride

The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson

Genre: Historical Fiction
Paperback, 578 pages
Published 2013 by Harper (an imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers)
$15.99 (CAD)

Buy now: Amazon – Indigo – Indiebound

Note: As a tour host selected by TLC virtual book tours, I received a complimentary copy from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. The opinions expressed here are completely honest and completely my own.


The Agincourt Bride is the story of Catherine de Valois, princess of France (early 15th century). This novel is the first instalment in a series about Catherine’s life. The story however is not told from Catherine’s perspective, but from that of Guillaumette Lanière, her fictional nursemaid, affectionately called Mette. 

Mette is thrust into Catherine’s life just after Catherine is born. Mette becomes her wet nurse after her own child is stillborn. From there on, Mette plays an important role in Catherine’s turbulent childhood as surrogate mother and protector. Later in life, Mette becomes Catherine’s friend and trusted confidante. 
 
From the beginning, I was easily caught up in the story. Mette, a young commoner down on her luck, ends up moving from a poor bakery into the royal nursery (although it wasn’t exactly her idea). She gets to see what it’s like from the other side of the spectrum—and it’s not always so pretty. Even the royal children knew what it was like to want. Their upbringing was borderline atrocious. They were completely ignored by their parents (although, their father didn’t ignore them on purpose. He was insane. Literally), and they were left essentially to their own devices as their governess hoarded all their money. Mette, pitying the poor little things, becomes attached to them—especially to Catherine, “the child of her breast.”
 
Most historical novels that I have read set in the 15th and 16th centuries have been told from the perspective of the main historical character. I found it interesting how this tale was told through the eyes of a trusted friend instead. Through Mette we see more than one side of things. She can be more objective about Catherine’s experiences but still also has an emotional stake in Catherine’s life that makes the reader feel involved. 
 
Furthermore, Mette notices things that the upper class might not notice, or, at least, take note of. For example, Mette’s descriptions show us what it was like to really live in those times—the poverty, the starvation, and the uncertainty that lingered. She also shows what went on in the day to day running of a castle, and what it was like being moved from place to place with the royal court at the whim of the King or Queen (in this case, Queen). The latter wasn’t glamorous or easy like it would seem from the eyes of the upper class. It was a heck of a lot of work—aristocrats don’t pack light. Nor do they pack (or unpack) themselves. On one move she asks one of the men if it was really necessary to take apart the princesses bed and drag it along (it was big). Weren’t there beds where they were going? Yes, there were but they, of course, weren’t good enough for France’s royalty. 
 
I really like the way that Hickson handled Catherine’s life. The relationship between her and Mette provided really good scope for the story. Hickson made me really care about Catherine and Mette. Their relationship was believable and warm—although separated a great deal in rank, their female companionship was quite true to form. While no one seemed to care what Catherine thought about things, Mette did. From their confidences we learn how Catherine was torn between her duty to her mother and her allegiance to her brother, the dauphin (i.e. the heir to the throne). I also like how Hickson decided to turn her exploration of Catherine’s life into a series. Much of the historical fiction like this that I’ve read has told the entirety of the person’s life in one volume. This generally leads to both a long book and large jumps in time. The Agincourt Bride however, only tells of Catherine’s life up until she was about twenty, focusing largely on her late teen years.
 
However, the villains in the story, mainly Queen Isabeau and the Duke of Burgundy, were a little flat, rarely receiving much attention or depth as far as character was concerned. However, this didn’t bother me too much. I honestly wasn’t overly concerned about them. It would have been nice to see a little more depth, but I was more concerned with the effect they had on Catherine and Mette, and that’s where attention was focused. I think that’s pretty understandable since the story is from Mette’s perspective. Which because of her rank (or lack-there-of), she would not have spent much time around the Queen or the Duke. Therefore, she wouldn’t be able to provide much information about their characters. She would have to rely on what she could glean from Catherine, her impressions, and things she heard about them. 
 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I got caught up in it right from the beginning, and had trouble putting it down! Hickson’s writing was clear and compelling, and so were her characters (mostly). I’m really looking forward to reading her next novel, The Tudor Bride, and learning more about Catherine’s story. If you have read and enjoyed Philippa Gregory, this book is right up your alley. Loved it. 

About the Author:

Joanna Hickson became fascinated with history when she studied Shakespeare’s history plays at school. However, having taken a degree in Politics and English she took up a career in broadcast journalism with the BBC, presenting and producing news, current affairs and arts programmes on both television and radio. Now she writes full time and has a contract with Harper Collins for three historical novels. The Agincourt Bride is the first. She lives in Scotland in a 200 year old farmhouse and is married with a large extended family and a wayward Irish terrier.

Upcoming tour: The Agincourt Bride by Joanna Hickson!

Here is the synopsis: 
“The epic story of the queen who founded the Tudor dynasty, told through the eyes of her loyal nursemaid. Perfect for fans of Philipa Gregory.

When her own first child is tragically still-born, the young Mette is pressed into service as a wet-nurse at the court of the mad king, Charles VI of France. Her young charge is the princess, Catherine de Valois, caught up in the turbulence and chaos of life at court.

Mette and the child forge a bond, one that transcends Mette’s lowly position.
But as Catherine approaches womanhood, her unique position seals her fate as a pawn between two powerful dynasties. Her brother, The Dauphin and the dark and sinister, Duke of Burgundy will both use Catherine to further the cause of France.

Catherine is powerless to stop them, but with the French defeat at the Battle of Agincourt, the tables turn and suddenly her currency has never been higher. But can Mette protect Catherine from forces at court who seek to harm her or will her loyalty to Catherine place her in even greater danger?”

Look out for more updates! Also check out the giveaway on the sidebar and enter for your chance to win a copy!  Xo

Giveaway Winner

Thanks to everyone for their support for my first book tour! It was a great experience and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I hope you all check back for my upcoming book tours in a little over a week.

I’m very excited to announce the winner of the giveaway for The Ghost Bride! Sandi H. will be the lucky recipient of a copy of  The Ghost Bride! Sandi, I hope you enjoy it!

Xo

TLC Book Tour: “The Ghost Bride” by Yangsze Choo

The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
Genre: Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Supernatural 

Published 2013 by William Morrow (an imprint of HaprerCollins)
eBook, 355 pages 
$15.99 CAD 
(also available in hardcover, $31.00 CAD, and paperback, $18.50 CAD)

Note: As a tour host selected by TLC virtual book tours, I receive a complimentary copy from the publishers in exchange for an honest review. I otherwise receive no compensation. The opinions expressed here are completely honest and completely my own.  

I was excited when I found this title among the books for upcoming TLC tours! I had been wanting to read this book with its beautiful and intriguing cover, and TLC book tours provided me with the perfect opportunity. I was looking forward to a historical novel exploring another culture. I was a little surprised when I got into it, because it was not altogether what I was expecting (to be honest, I only skimmed the synopsis, so that’s my bad!). However, it was still quite good!
 
The Ghost Bride is the story of Li Lan. She is a young woman living in Malaya (now Malaysia), a colonial of China, in 1893. She and her family live in a port town called Malacca. She is of marriageable age, but doesn’t have many prospects as her family, though respectable, has gone bankrupt. Without money, a good alliance is highly improbable. One day her father tells her of an… interesting proposal that he received from the wealthy Lim household. He was asked if Li Lan would be the ghost bride of the eldest Lim son who had died. 
 
Ghost marriages were to appease spirits. They were often between a couple who died before they were able to be married, or between a man and his mistress, after the man died, to bring the mistress to wife status. However, they also sometimes took place so that there was a widow to perform the ancestral rites for the dead man. So, all-in-all, this proposal shocks Li Lan (especially since she didn’t know the man!). She is surprised that her father would even convey to her such an insulting proposal. This would mean that Li Lan and her family were provided for, but it would also mean a lonely life of ceremonial sacrifices for Li Lan. Her father seems to understand why Li Lan would be against this marriage. However, he also seems to still want her to accept it. Although he loves his daughter very much, he has been slack in providing for her. He has been mentally absent to her, filling his mind with opium and memories of his dead wife. He is not being completely honest with Li Lan about how he has failed her, and what she faces as an unwed woman. 
 
As Li Lan explores her options, she visits the Lim mansion socially, and tries to understand their family politics. Not all is what it seems on the surface. Here, however, she meets Lim Tian Bai, and falls for him. When this happens, and she appears even more against the ghost marriage, Lim Tian Ching, her proposed ghost husband, begins haunting her dreams.  
This is where the story took an interesting turn. Instead of just exploring the historicity of ghost marriages and the time in which Li Lan lived, Choo instead takes a spiritual approach. Using a mixture of the prominent religious beliefs and superstitions in Malaysia, Choo brings to life a spirit world that Li Lan must navigate in order to save herself and her family. I thought this spirit world was a very interesting and creative tool for exploring the beliefs and culture of Malaysia. Instead of just discussing them, we experience them first hand alongside Li Lan. 
 
Lim Tian Ching is a slippery sort of fellow, and it’s hard to believe what he says. However, through her dreams, he manages to instil doubt in Li Lan. This leads her to see a medium, and, ultimately leads her to a spectral out of body experience in the spirit world. 
 
At first, I thought the switch from the expected historical fiction to the realm of spiritual/paranormal fiction was a bit odd, but it turned out to be a very interesting historical fantasy/mystery. Li Lan’s journey—both physical (well, technically spiritual) and emotional—is quite compelling. While she finds her way through the spirit world, she also comes into her own.
 
After my initial confusion over the swap to the fantastical, I really got into the story. Even more than that—I got excited about the ways in which I was able to learn more about Malaysian culture and beliefs. I don’t think it’s intentional (at least I hope it’s not), but I don’t tend to be drawn toward books set in different cultures. I don’t know why. I tend to read more stories about characters and stories set in cultures similar to my own. Perhaps it’s the familiarity and relatability. However, this experience with Malaysian superstitions, beliefs, and culture was invigorating. This was true because they were seamlessly combined with the plot and the character development. It wasn’t like, So, this cultural phenomenon is happening, insert explanation. It flowed much more naturally. I think that’s why the ghost story element was such a good choice for this particular story. It allowed me to become immersed in the beliefs and culture without feeling lectured about them and without feeling like I was outright being taught something. Although, yes, I do like to learn, I find sometimes fictions can feel more like nonfictions in this regard, and I am not a huge lover of reading nonfictions. 
 
Another thing Choo does well is character development. I loved the characters in this story, and they were anything but flat. Even the more secondary characters such as Li Lan’s father, her Amah, and Old Wong, were well drawn and experienced at least a small amount of expansion. (These three were actually my favourite characters. They were on the eccentric side, and I loved it!) Furthermore, even the “villains” in the story aren’t one sided. They serve well as antagonists,  but there is more to them. For example, Lim Tian Ching does some unsavoury things, but there is also much about him to pity. Each character’s motivations are explored and revealed in a really human way.
 
I really enjoyed this book. The writing was beautiful, the style was excellent, the characters were well drawn, the the plot was exciting. If you enjoy fantasy/mystery and/or historical fiction, you should definitely give this one a try! (If you are reading this before 15 August 2014, you should enter to win a free copy on the sidebar!)

About the Author (via GoodReads):





Yangsze Choo is a fourth generation Malaysian of Chinese descent. After graduating from Harvard, she worked as a management consultant and at a startup before writing her first novel. Yangsze eats and reads too much, and often does both at the same time. You can follow her blog at http://yschoo.com/ or on Twitter @yangszechoo






Check out Yangsze’s other tour stops for The Ghost Bride:
Tuesday, August 5th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Wednesday, August 6th: Jorie Loves a Story
Thursday, August 7th: Book Dilettante
Friday, August 8th: Bibliosue
Monday, August 11th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, August 12th: Here!!
Monday, August 18th: Literary Feline
Tuesday, August 19th: Books Without Any Pictures
Wednesday, August 20th: Olduvai Reads
Thursday, August 21st: Snowdrop Dreams of Books
Friday, August 22nd: nightlyreading
Saturday, August 30th: guiltless reading

The Ghost Bride: An Indio Spotlight Book!

Hey guys! 

I was shopping at Chapters this evening, taking a peek at the current bestsellers and others displays and whatnot, and look what I came across on an Indigo Spotlight display! 



I’m very excited to be a part of The Ghost Bride book tour, and hope you all stop by on Tuesday, 12 August! While you’re at it, you might as well enter to win a copy of The Ghost Bride! You can enter on the side bar.


Happy reading, fellow fiction lovers! 


xo 

“The Ghost Bride” Synopsis!

On Tuesday, 12 August Fuelled by Fiction will be hosting a stop on The Ghost Bride‘s tour! Check out the sidebar and enter for a chance to win a copy! Here is the synopsis from the publisher:

One evening, my father asked me if I would like to become a ghost bride…’

Though ruled by British overlords, the Chinese of colonial Malaya still cling to ancient customs. And in the sleepy port town of Malacca, ghosts and superstitions abound.


Li Lan, the daughter of a genteel but bankrupt family, has few prospects. But fate intervenes when she receives an unusual proposal from the wealthy and powerful Lim family. They want her to become a ghost bride for the family’s only son, who recently died under mysterious circumstances. Rarely practiced, a traditional ghost marriage is used to placate a restless spirit. Such a union would guarantee Li Lan a home for the rest of her days, but at a terrible price.

After an ominous visit to the opulent Lim mansion, Li Lan finds herself haunted not only by her ghostly would-be suitor, but also by her desire for the Lim’s handsome new heir, Tian Bai. Night after night, she is drawn into the shadowy parallel world of the Chinese afterlife, with its ghost cities, paper funeral offerings, vengeful spirits and monstrous bureaucracy—including the mysterious Er Lang, a charming but unpredictable guardian spirit. Li Lan must uncover the Lim family’s darkest secrets—and the truth about her own family—before she is trapped in this ghostly world forever.”



Sounds good, doesn’t it? It has been an Oprah.com Book of the Week, Carnegie Medal nominee, Indie Next List Pick, Barnes & Noble Fall 2013 Discover Great New Writers selection, Indigo Spotlight Pick, Goodreads Choice Award Finalist for Best Fantasy, Glamour Magazine Beach Read, and Good Housekeeping Magazine August Book Pick. 

xo

Giveaway!

Hey guys,
You may have noticed that I will be a tour host next week for The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo! I am very excited about this and I hope you are too! To get into the spirit of things (get it? ghosts? spirits?) from today until 14 August you can enter to win a free copy of the book! The winner will be randomly selected and announced on 15 August. 
You can find the giveaway on the sidebar!
Good luck! 
xo