CGG Book Club: City of Mirrors

Oh man! I have so many amazing books to share with you over the next few months as part of my book club…starting with these two awesome reads!

The Nightingale
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah

This is one of those books that you keep on hearing about, until finally you pick it up to see what all the fuss is about. Truth be told, I went into it with two mindsets: One, I had read another Kristin Hannah book in the past and wasn’t the biggest fan. Two, on a more positive note, I love reading books about WW2. I have no idea why – I think because the stories are inspiring in light of the darkness of that time, or perhaps it’s that whole ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ thing that makes so many WW2 books so unbelievable. Whatever the case…I was intrigued by this book, which tells the story of two estranged sisters, Isabelle and Vianne, living in occupied France over the course of the war. The story starts in more or less present day, with one of the sisters reflecting on this dark time in her life, before taking you back and forth between their stories. Vianne is focused on survival: protecting her daughter, waiting till her husband returns from war, dealing with the Nazi that is billeting in her home, and making it from one day to the next. Isabelle is ready to jump on the front lines, regardless of her life, or the safety of those she cares for. Although their stories largely run in tandem, they do intersect in important and bold ways, as each woman learns from the other one.

The story is pretty riveting. Kristin Hannah has a way of drawing you in, in a similar way to other imminently readable books like The Help or The Time Traveler’s Wife. The chapters move along at a great pace and the story breezes (not emotionally, mind you) through the six years or so of the war with ease, as the women slowly change and progress in their stories. I think what I found particularly fascinating was just reading about how the occupation of France really impacted its residents. This was also the setting for the excellent All the Light We Cannot See, but it’s the actual focus here, and it’s an important distinction. I really liked hearing about the quiet and not so quiet ways France fought back against its captors, and it was chilling to realize how dangerous life really was. You think starvation and sudden killings and the like were limited to concentration camps but this book shows they are very much prevalent in this Big Brother-esque environment of everyone being complicit, if only for their own survival. “Better them than me” is a sad theme for large portions of the story, although both Vianne and Isabelle demonstrate fortitude to the contrary. All in all, I very much recommend this one, particularly if you’re into WW2 stories!

City of Mirrors

Now onto another worthy novel to devour – one that Indigo actually tapped as a fab Father’s Day buy, by the by – The City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin.

What’s the Buzz?: Author Justin Cronin made headlines years ago when he signed a book deal valued at close to $4M for a trilogy of vampire apocalypse novels for adults. When his first book i the series was released in 2010, The Passage, it made waves…in general, you got it or you didn’t. Each volume in the series is long and the story is complex and it jumps around like crazy. But to use the tagline of a popular beer, those who like it (myself included), like it a lot. Now the series comes to an end five years after it began, with another doorstop of a book, The City of Mirrors, coming in at over 500 pages. Now has it lived up to the hype? Read on to find out…

What’s the Plot?: Trying to summarize a Justin Cronin novel is a tough job. His stories leapfrog literal centuries – back and forth too – where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. And if you haven’t read much of the series to date, it’s even harder. If you want zero spoilers, I wouldn’t read much of this, although I’m trying to keep it light on plot developments. Essentially, as I mentioned above, The Passage involves an apocalypse, where a group of death row inmates were infected with a disease that gave them vampire-like powers, and as a group, along with those they bite, have pretty much decimated large swaths of the population. The survivors are just that – surviving – although there is hope, in the form of a girl named Amy, who is also infected but different than the others. By the end of the first book, the survivors had a mission to enact, to try and take back their world. The second book focused on that mission (although it was largely different from what you may have expected it to be) and its results.

The City of Mirrors then, is about life after the second book’s mission. Was it actually successful? Who lived? Who died? Where is everyone? What are they doing? Are people safer now? What’s waiting in the wings? It spans a wide swath of time again, including a rather large section that takes place decades before the virus began and centers on the character Zero, and his time as a human (it’s actually rather bizarre to read 100-ish pages in such a normal, pre-virus world). But after getting the formalities out of the way, the ominous feeling of needing to check over your shoulder that lurks over the first couple of hundred pages begins to ramp up…and if I say too much more, I’ll be getting spoilery. The question I’ll leave you with is: how’s it going to end, once and for all?

What Should I Know?: The fascinating thing about this series is that we’ve always known something happens that causes this story to come to light – it’s being reviewed in the distant future. In many ways, the trilogy functions as sort of a fictional textbook account of a historical event. We don’t know specifically who is reviewing it or how they get the information we’re reading, but as you read this one, the ‘who’ question will be top of mind. Portions of the story (throughout the trilogy) are set 1,000 years after the virus took hold, but the crux of Cronin’s tale has largely centered around a period about 80-100 years later. Naturally, you’re going to realize that something important happens during this time, or else it wouldn’t be worth studying. The question, again, is what?

Who Should Read This Book?: Ah, and here is perhaps the most important part of this review! I think a lot of people don’t know what to make of Justin Cronin’s The Passage trilogy. Keep in mind, it came out when Twilight-mania was still gripping the nation, but to call it a vampire series is dismissive. Same with calling it a dystopian series. It’s an expertly crafted world, with a few similarities to something like The Walking Dead, with fascinating characters and a complex plot, but it’s also loaded with plenty of action scenes and thrills to keep you on the edge of your seat. I get why Indigo picked it as a Father’s Day book, as a result. It’s an action adventure dystopian vampire war novel, but it’s got a lot of heart, and it requires some patience to really get it and fall in love with it. I don’t recommend The Passage trilogy easily. I think the books are fantastic, but they require a certain kind of reader that’s willing to stay invested in them. Cronin totally knows what he’s doing, and as a result the payoff in each of his books has been spectacular. Admittedly, for example, even I had my doubts when we backtracked into Zero’s history for a huge chunk of the novel, but then suddenly it underscored so much of what happens from there (and what happened before). Cronin has a master plan. Trust. And recognize that this series is totally worthy of your time. You WILL get your questions answered and you MAY shed some tears. Be prepared.

Now, super excitingly, I have not one, but FIVE copies of The City of Mirrors to give away to my readers. Want to nab one? Here’s how to enter (and be sure to pick up the first two books in the series before you dive into this one!):

1) First & foremost: you must be a subscriber to the Canadian Gift Guide to enter this giveaway. It’s as simple as finding ‘The Gift of Gab’ box in the righthand column and dropping in your email or clicking follow. Then, tell me in the comments below by July 3, 2016 – why are you interested in reading The City of Mirrors?

2) Entries are limited to one per person / per email address / per household (or more if you score bonus entries). A random draw will be conducted on or around July 4, 2016 to select the winner, who will have 48 hours to respond before another winner is chosen in their place.

3) Entries are limited to Canadians that have reached the age of majority in their province. Quebec is not eligible for this promotion.

4) Bonus Entry: Follow Random House of Canada on Twitter, tag them and me (@cdngiftguide) in a Tweet about why you want to read this book! Post a link to your Tweet below in a separate comment to earn yourself an extra entry into the draw.

5) Bonus Entry #2: Follow Penguin Canada on Twitter, tag them and me (@cdngiftguide) in a Tweet about why you want to read this book! Post a link to your Tweet below in a separate comment to earn yourself an extra entry into the draw.

6) Bonus Entry #3: Add this book to your to-read list on GoodReads, and leave a link back to the page it’s on below in a separate comment to earn yourself another bonus entry.

7) Bonus Entry #4: Follow me (@cdngiftguide) on Instagram and share the cover of this book in your own post, tagging me, Penguin Canada and Random House of Canada, telling us why you’d love to read this book. Use the hashtag #thepassage too! Post a link to your photo in a separate comment below to earn yourself an extra entry.

48 Responses to “CGG Book Club: City of Mirrors”
  1. Heather Swanson says:

    I like to read about this time period in history

  2. Aimee says:

    This book looks like a good one to take camping this summer. I am a subscriber

  3. Karen says:

    Love and need to try new authors!

  4. Holly says:

    Sounds interesting and I like your recommendations!

  5. Audrey Skinner says:

    I love the storyline.

  6. Joan G. says:

    Sounds like a nice read for sunning on the back deck.

  7. Kay Burke says:

    I am a subscriber, love love to read & always open to recommendations so will read The City of Mirrors & as well as the others of course.

  8. corkrose says:

    @RandomHouseCA @jccronin (@cdngiftguide) thanks for the chance to read City of Mirrors – love books love new books….

  9. corkrose says:

    Have read The Nightingale – one of my favourite this past year & for our bookclub also

  10. aketch says:

    I’m always looking for a good read.

  11. Margaret Palmer says:

    I read the passage and made myself wait to read the second and third together to keep it fresh in my mind. I loved the Nightingale!

  12. Mary Warner says:

    I read several Bravo reviews of City Of Mirrors. My curiosity is tweeked.

  13. Jessica says:

    Heard a lot of good things about this author

  14. AliKira says:

    It sounds interesting based on your review!

  15. Chantelle says:

    I am interested in reading the City of Mirrors because I love to read and discover new authors and genres to read

  16. AnnieP says:

    City of Mirrors sounds interesting. I would like to read this adult vampire novel and find out what all of the buzz is about.

  17. AnnieP says:

    I added City of Mirrors to my Goodreads To-Read shelf:

  18. Kim K says:

    It looks like it would be a good summer vacation reader!

  19. intensev5 says:

    I love a good book about vampires!!

  20. kim says:

    I’ve read the first two books in this series and love them. Looking forward to reading this one!

  21. Trevor Lackey says:

    Absolutely loved the first 2 books in the series and can’t want to see what happens now!

  22. Trevor Lackey says:

    Here is my link to my Good Reads to read list –

  23. I loved The Passage (will have to re-read it as it was a few years ago), so I’m keen to find out what happened to the main characters.

  24. Wanda Bergman says:

    I am a subscriber. I’d love to read this book because the author is new to me/

  25. Deb Philippon says:

    The storyline sounds interesting. I graze a lot among genres, and pick and choose what interests me at the moment. This one does.

  26. lucy says:

    Would love to read this book.

  27. Alyssa Regnier says:

    I would love to give this book to my sister. It looks very interesting and she loves to read!

  28. Denae Boucher says:

    I want this book because I love to read absolutely anything!

  29. bkick1 says:

    Sounds like this would be a very interesting book to read. Different but intriguing.

  30. Nicole B says:

    I read the previous books and they were awesome! This is top of my summer reading list (after I re-read the other two!)

  31. diane says:

    I’d like to read something different and this sounds good especially since you recommended it.

  32. leah e says:

    I love to read new books. This sounds like it would be a book to keep you on the edge of your seat and take you into a different world which intrigues me.

  33. leah e says:

    I added it to my goodreads to-read list here:

  34. Kiki says:

    I have waited sooooooooooo long for the final book to be released!
    I gobbled up the two books, the summer of 2013 and then I have waited THREE YEARS?!?! to find out what happens to everyone?

  35. Kiki says:

  36. Anne Derkat says:

    Always interested in new authors. I haven’t read any of his books yet.

  37. marla says:

    I would love to read this – I love this time period

  38. lyn212 says:

    I think I would really enjoy City of Mirrors. I read The Passage and loved it!

  39. Lisa S says:

    I loved the first two books and can’t wait to read this one.The wait list on the library copy is huge!

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