Posts Categorized: Audiobook

Better Late Than Never: The Dead Zone by Stephen King

May 26, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Better Late Than Never, Book Reviews, Read in 2017 6 Comments

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Better Late Than Never: The Dead Zone by Stephen KingThe Dead Zone by Stephen King
Narrator: James Franco
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on April 25th 2017
Length: 16 hours and 11 minutes
Genres: Horror
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Doctor Sleep

three-half-stars

Never before on audio! A #1 national bestseller about a man who wakes up from a five-year coma able to see people’s futures and the terrible fate awaiting mankind in The Dead Zone—a “compulsive page-turner” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Johnny Smith awakens from a five-year coma after his car accident and discovers that he can see people’s futures and pasts when he touches them. Many consider his talent a gift; Johnny feels cursed. His fiancé married another man during his coma and people clamor for him to solve their problems.

When Johnny has a disturbing vision after he shakes the hand of an ambitious and amoral politician, he must decide if he should take drastic action to change the future. The Dead Zone is a “faultlessly paced…continuously engrossing” (Los Angeles Times) novel of second sight.

*First published in 1979, this is my first time reading The Dead Zone. Better late than never.

Johnny Smith has lived with physic abilities his entire life but it isn’t until the car accident in his 20s that they become an undeniable ability. He lay in a coma before waking to discover that his girlfriend at the time is now married, that he’s lost four years of his life, and that he now possesses the ability to witness the future of any individual (and sometimes even objects) he touches. Sometimes the future he sees is only a few minutes ahead of the present time but sometimes it’s years ahead. The truth of his abilities are revealed to the public after the highly publicized account of him waking after a four-year coma, and the limelight changes his life irrevocably. He sequesters himself from the public after the demands for his assistance in finding lost loved ones/missing persons, despite his mother, Vera Smith, and her insistence that he was brought back “to do God’s work.” When news of a high-profile serial killer hits his radar, he begins to feel morally obligated to at least try to help. And when he shakes the hand of an up and coming politician and foresees not just his future but the future of the human race, Johnny has to decide what is “right” and if he’s now duty-bound to changing the future so it never becomes our present.

“We all do what we can, and it has to be good enough, and if it isn’t good enough, it has to do.”

First published in 1979, The Dead Zone ended up being far more relevant to today’s time than I ever would have predicted. The future of the dirty politician that Johnny foresaw is a man by the name of Greg Stillson who started off as a nobody yet rose up in the ranks and quickly became the popular vote for the next President of the United States. His political platform and personal style were aimed towards the working class and he was prided on his honesty but had a definite lack of tact. He completely lacks any political knowledge, has big plans for America (albeit most of them beyond ludicrous), and is a devoutly religious man. Stillson is first introduced almost as a caricature of a real villain, someone that can’t possibly be taken seriously, but you slowly realize his influence on the vast population is something that cannot be brushed off as having little consequence. The ludicrousness didn’t last long after realization dawned. As I said… most relevant, right?

The Dead Zone is many stories in one. The beginning is a long drawn out section detailing Johnny’s recuperation in the hospital and the subsequent surgeries that were required for him to ever be able to walk again. Once he’s back on his feet, literally, the story switches focus to catching the serial killer, and you begin to think that that’s the plot except that story finds resolution and hundreds of pages remain. It came off slightly clunky, almost like we were being left out on parts of Johnny’s life that weren’t interesting enough for the page, but at least in this instance, James Franco’s narration gives these characters life. His acting skills are on full display to helpfully differentiate the characters, making Johnny a mellow smooth-talker, and giving Stillson a villainous voice that accurately matches his vile actions. Despite the definite lack of any type of horror (unless you count the potentially horrific reality of it all) and the obvious backpedaling done on that ending, The Dead Zone ended up being a vastly different King than I’ve come to expect but was still no doubt a thrilling story.

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Short & Sweet (Beauty & the Beast Retellings) – A Court of Thorns and Roses, Hunted, Lost in a Book

April 28, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, New Adult, Read in 2017, Short & Sweet Reviews, YA 10 Comments

Short & Sweet (Beauty & the Beast Retellings) – A Court of Thorns and Roses, Hunted, Lost in a BookA Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
Published by Recorded Books on May 5th 2015
Length: 16 hrs and 7 mins
Genres: Fantasy, Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: Queen of Shadows

four-stars

Feyre's survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price ...

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre's presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

‘I was as unburdened as a piece of dandelion fluff, and he was the wind that stirred me about the world.’

Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales and it’s always so fascinating to see how authors mold fairy tales into a unique story of their own. A Court of Thorns and Roses definitely veers off the standard path making “Beast/Tamlin” a member of the fae court, making “Belle/Feyre” a badass female hunter, and removing the animated furniture entirely. The story still revolves around the curse and the time ticking down before it’s too late, but Maas adds a magical element (and a deviant female villain) to this already magical fairytale that I absolutely adored. What I loved most was the incredibly dark turn she took the tale which gave the added opportunity of adding a new level of complexity and intrigue to Feyre’s character.

“Don’t feel bad for one moment about doing what brings you joy.”

Like spending time re-reading. I occasionally get hang-ups about “wasting” time re-reading when I should be spending my time reading stories that I haven’t yet experienced. But sometimes a re-read is necessary (like when you’re gearing up for the final installment of a beloved trilogy!!) and sometimes the second time is even better than the first. I read A Court of Thorns and Roses for the first time in June 2016 and it was far from love at first sight (mostly because I was never Team Tamlin) but during this re-read I was able to set aside my issues with the romance and focus more on the world building and the fascinating aspects of the story itself that I didn’t pay much attention to the first time. I also decided to splurge and bought the audiobook copies and guys, let me tell you, these are fantastic on audio with Jennifer Ikeda’s narration. I’m pretty devastated that she won’t be returning to narrate A Court of Wings and Ruin but it’s still well worth listening to her narrate the first two installments, I’ll just be reading the third one with my eyeballs instead. 🙂

Short & Sweet (Beauty & the Beast Retellings) – A Court of Thorns and Roses, Hunted, Lost in a BookHunted by Meagan Spooner
Published by HarperTeen on March 14th 2017
Pages: 384
Genres: Fantasy, Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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three-half-stars

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?


“She wept because she did not know what she wanted, and because she wanted everything.”

Yeva has never been comfortable living among the town aristocrats but instead dreams of the stories her father would tell her when she was younger; of the forest and the magic contained within. When her father loses his fortune and they are forced to move back to his lodge in the woods, Yeva could not be more content knowing she can spend her days familiarizing herself once again with the woods even though she knows it’s not a reasonable way for her to spend her life. Her father also begins spending his days and nights in the woods, mentioning hunting a beast and when he fails to come home after weeks of being gone, Yeva sets out to help him only to be captured by the beast that her father was hunting.

“She moves like beauty, she whispers to us of wind and forest—and she tells us stories, such stories that we wake in the night, dreaming dreams of a life long past. she reminds us of what we used to be.
She reminds us of what we could be.”

Hunted is told primarily from Yeva’s point of view but is interspersed with short snippets from the Beast, showing the constant battle between his animalistic side while he fights to retain a hold of his humanity. Yeva is kept in a cell for weeks on end, telling him stories of Ivan and the Firebird to the one on the other side of her cell door who brings her food every day, having no idea that he is also her captor. The Beast finally shows himself to her and reveals that he captured her for a purpose: she must train to be a more superior hunter than she already is because she’s the only one that can kill the creature responsible for cursing him.

Hunted is a combination of the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale with the Ivan, the Firebird, and the Gray Wolf Russian fairy tale and it’s a slow to unfold type of story. There’s also a disassociation from any sort of emotional connection that was key in my own connection with the story. I found it to be a beautiful story in essence of a young girl not knowing what to do with her life, wandering aimlessly, and I really wanted to feel her adversity but I never quite felt like there is much at stake for our young heroine. The significance behind the Firebird plays a huge role in this tale, as well as storytelling in general, and the romantic building blocks were left feeling incomplete in the attempts at focusing on the bigger picture. There is a note at the end Spooner includes regarding the origins of this story and the lengthy process it took to come to fruition was a heartwarming story. Her dedication to all of her readers was unbelievably touching and made me wish I had loved this story more than I did.

‘Male or female, young or old, if you’re reading this book, then you’re also that child reading by flashlight and dreaming of other worlds. Don’t be scared of her, that inner Beauty, or her dreams. Let her out. She’s you, and she’s me, and she’s magic.
There’s no such thing as living happily ever after — there’s only living. We make the choice to do it happily.’

Short & Sweet (Beauty & the Beast Retellings) – A Court of Thorns and Roses, Hunted, Lost in a BookBeauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by Disney Press on January 31st 2017
Pages: 352
Genres: Fantasy, Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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two-stars

Smart, bookish Belle, a captive in the Beast’s castle, has become accustomed to her new home and has befriended its inhabitants. When she comes upon Nevermore, an enchanted book unlike anything else she has seen in the castle, Belle finds herself pulled into its pages and transported to a world of glamour and intrigue. The adventures Belle has always imagined, the dreams she was forced to give up when she became a prisoner, seem within reach again.

The charming and mysterious characters Belle meets within the pages of Nevermore offer her glamorous conversation, a life of dazzling Parisian luxury, and even a reunion she never thought possible. Here Belle can have everything she has ever wished for. But what about her friends in the Beast’s castle? Can Belle trust her new companions inside the pages of Nevermore? Is Nevermore’s world even real? Belle must uncover the truth about the book, before she loses herself in it forever.

“Isn’t that what a good story does? It pulls you in and never lets you go.”

DAMMIT, I WANTED THIS STORY TO PULL ME IN AND NEVER LET ME GO.

Lost in a Book replicates its Disney counterpart where Belle is a captive of the Beast in his castle that still includes Cogsworth, Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, Chip, and more. Beast reveals his library to Belle and she is awed, but instead of the bright shiny room of perfection we all have embedded in our minds:

Belle immediately realizes how much the library has fallen into disrepair and needs to be cleaned excessively. Within this library, she finds a room and within this room a special book which transports her to a world of adventure where anything is possible. She quickly becomes enamored with the book and the world it shows her, despite her understanding that it isn’t actually real, and is constantly sneaking away to be in this world. When she isn’t hiding in the book, she’s complaining ad nauseam about her provincial life.

Good gawd, we get it, you hate your life. Lost in a Book quickly becomes less about the Beast and all about Belle… more scenes from his point of view would have been welcome. Any scenes that showed the Beast’s feelings for Belle grow felt lacking any sort of emotion and instead felt like all it was was a last ditch effort to save his servants. Maybe those parts were left out with the understanding that we knew, based on the Disney production, how Beast actually felt, but I wanted to see it included in the story itself since there were so many changes I felt it should have been able to stand on its own. Especially in regards to the villain: Gaston was absent completely in exchange for a female villain: Death. Yes, Death. You see, the story actually starts with Death and her sister Love.

Indeed. See Death and Love made a bet that Belle wouldn’t be the one to break the spell (Death obviously bet against her) and when she began to realize that Love might actually win, she set out to make sure that didn’t happen. *yawn* This could have been a charming addition to Beauty and the Beast retellings but the story lacked any real substance and most definitely lacked the magic the original tale had.

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Short & Sweet (Mysteries) – Behind Her Eyes, Poe, The Butterfly Garden

April 21, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2017, Short & Sweet Reviews 2 Comments

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Short & Sweet (Mysteries) – Behind Her Eyes, Poe, The Butterfly GardenBehind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
Published by Flatiron Books on January 31st 2017
Pages: 306
Genres: Mystery
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Mayhem

four-stars

Why is everyone talking about the ending of Sarah Pinborough's Behind Her Eyes?

Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.
And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend, but she also just happens to be married to David. David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife, but then why is David so controlling, and why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong, but Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

‘Questions, question, question. It seems that ever since David and Adele came into my life I’ve been filled with questions. They’re like weeds in water. Every time I think I can swim away another one tangles around my legs to drag me back down.’

Everything about this story and its summary scream “typical suburban drama” but Behind Her Eyes is far from anything you’ve ever read, I can assure you. Sure, Louise is a single mom who meets a man in a bar. They share a kiss, but nothing more. When she gets to work on Monday to meet her new boss, David, it ends up being the man from the bar… who is married. Desperate to make everything less awkward, they both admit to it being a vast mistake in an attempt to make sure it’s never brought up again. But when Louise makes a new friend named Adele who ends up being David’s wife, Louise’s life becomes vastly complicated.

The present-day story progresses as David and Adele’s past unfolds which further complicates matters. It’s constantly alluded to that David is overly protective of Adele, that he keeps her literally locked inside their house, that he limits her access to her own personal finances, and that their relationship is far from anything healthy. Adele involves Louise in her personal drama but leaves vital pieces of the puzzle out in a desperate attempt to earn Louise’s empathy. But to what end?

Here’s where things get dicey and where I understand the negative opinions of many even though mine differ. The whole initial setup of this story appears very formulaic, establishing some preconceived notions of where the plot could possibly go. The massive emphasis by Flatiron Books Marketing team on the twist at the end is worthy because it’s one that absolutely no one could have seen coming. It didn’t come out of left field, so to speak, it wasn’t even playing on the same field. No, this twist is practically conjured out of thin air and while this would normally leave me feeling cheated (again, based on all those established preconceived notions) it was such an extremely bizarre and outlandish approach to transforming the a-typical suburban drama into something different that I really couldn’t help but love it. Pinborough never fails to surprise me.

Short & Sweet (Mysteries) – Behind Her Eyes, Poe, The Butterfly GardenPoe by J. Lincoln Fenn
Narrator: Luke Daniels
Published by Brilliance Audio on October 22nd 2013
Length: 10 hrs and 44 mins
Genres: Mystery, Horror
Format: Audiobook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
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Also by this author: Dead Souls

three-stars

It's Halloween, and life is grim for twenty-three-year-old Dimitri Petrov. It's the one-year anniversary of his parents' deaths, he's stuck on page one thousand of his Rasputin zombie novel, and he makes his living writing obituaries.

But things turn from bleak to terrifying when Dimitri is assigned to cover a seance at the reputedly haunted Aspinwall Mansion. There, Dimitri meets Lisa, a punk-rock drummer he falls hard for. But just as he's about to ask her out, he unwittingly unleashes malevolent forces, throwing him into a deadly mystery. He wakes up in the morgue -- icy cold and haunted by a cryptic warning given by a tantalizing female spirit.

As town residents begin to turn up gruesomely murdered, Dimitri must unravel the connections among his family, the Aspinwall Mansion, and the secrets held in a pair of crumbling antiquarian books. If he doesn't, it's quite possible Lisa will be the next victim.


“Two weeks. Everything you love, own, and cherish, can be gone, liquidated, and lost forever in two weeks. Give or take a day.”

Dimitri Petrov is a would-be novelist and current obituary writer for an irrelevant newspaper. He gets tasked last minute with covering a séance at a local haunted house on Halloween (of course), he meets his dream girl, and there’s a lot of awkward conversation where he manages to win her over… somehow. But his life admittedly goes a bit downhill from there when he manages to fall through the floor, wakes up in the actual morgue, and finds that he has a new ghostly friend he dubs Poe that won’t leave him alone. Add in the mystery behind the haunted house, the strange family history of his new girlfriend, the truth behind the tragic deaths of Dimitri’s own parents, some curious ancient books that seem to possess powers, and a spleen-eating serial killer and you’ve got the plot of Poe. All in just over 300 pages.

“I have watched enough cheesy detective television shows in my young life to know that when one is presented with an inexplicable mystery, the first order of business (after procuring good donuts and coffee—check) is to create a wall of clues with photos of suspects and article clippings, preferably in an artistic yet seemingly random fashion.”

In the beginning, this story was entertaining, fast-paced, and fun, but just as it started out fine for Dimitri, unfortunately, the book went downhill as well. The characters themselves were never fully formed except for Dimitri who was the stories requisite guy who found humor and sarcasm in anything and everything (and reminded me a lot of the guy in The Last Days of Jack Sparks.) The mysteries were excessive and mildly convoluted, yes, however the horror elements brought about some very well-written pieces of terror. The descriptions were on point and were enough to churn even the hardest of stomachs. The biggest issue I had was how the author chose to focus more on the cutesy relationship aspects in a plot that didn’t require anything of the sort. Adding a romance factor certainly helps to appeal to a wider audience but it just didn’t work for me.

Having already read Fenn’s sophomore novel, Dead Souls, I can see how far she’s come with her plotting and characterization(Dead Souls is absolutely incredible — read it). Her debut may not have been my favorite but she’s definitely fallen onto my radar on authors to watch out for.

Short & Sweet (Mysteries) – Behind Her Eyes, Poe, The Butterfly GardenThe Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison
Narrator: Lauren Ezzo, Mel Foster
Series: The Collector #1
Published by Brilliance Audio on June 1st 2016
Length: 9 hrs and 13 mins
Genres: Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Audible
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two-stars

Near an isolated mansion lies a beautiful garden.

In this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees…and a collection of precious “butterflies”—young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens.

When the garden is discovered, a survivor is brought in for questioning. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are tasked with piecing together one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers. But the girl, known only as Maya, proves to be a puzzle herself.

As her story twists and turns, slowly shedding light on life in the Butterfly Garden, Maya reveals old grudges, new saviors, and horrific tales of a man who’d go to any length to hold beauty captive. But the more she shares, the more the agents have to wonder what she’s still hiding.…

“Some people stay broken. Some pick up the pieces and put them back together with all the sharp edges showing.”

FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are put in charge of interviewing a kidnap survivor that goes by the name of Maya who was recently rescued. According to her, she was one of many “butterflies” who lived in a garden. They were all girls who over the years had been kidnapped and brought to the garden by a man only known as The Gardener. He tattoos beautiful wings on their backs, renames them, rapes them, and cares for them until their expiration date of 21-years-old at which point The Gardener would kill them and preserve them in resin such as one does with perfect specimens. The Butterfly Garden switches back and forth between past and present and unveils the ordeals of the years that Maya spent behind the walls of the garden.

First off, yes, this is some sick and twisted sounding shit but whatever, I’m weird. Considering The Collector is one of my all-time favorite books, this story was immediately appealing to me and there were vast similarities. The kidnapped girl(s), the obsession with preserving butterflies (actual butterflies though), and the acclimating the victim(s) to transform their abnormal environment into something normal. Where The Collector was straight forward and quietly disturbing, The Butterfly Garden worked very hard at establishing the belief that we were working with an unreliable narrator and that there was clearly a big twist to anticipate. This was a most unsettling read and the author never flinches away from describing the brutality the girls were forced to suffer through. Also written well (and equally unsettling) was the mentality of The Gardener and how effortlessly he was able to convince himself that he was doing what was right for these girls by taking them in and caring for them.

I did have some serious issues with the technicalities of The Gardener’s whole operation that I’m sure could be easily overlooked with a little suspension of disbelief but sometimes I just can’t be that kind of reader. I’ll add in spoiler tags just in case: View Spoiler » All in all, I had a lot of questions that didn’t come equipped with a whole lot of answers.

And then that ending.

I’M SO ANGRY. I don’t remember the last time I read such an immensely enthralling book that captivated me from page one, had me searching for extra time in the day just to read it, only to have it fall flatter than a fucking pancake at the end. I mean seriously, what even was that? Don’t market your book based on some hidden secret if all you’ve come up with is that. There’s apparently a second book too. No, thank you, please.

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Short & Sweet – Sleeping Giants + Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

April 14, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2017, Short & Sweet Reviews 10 Comments

Short & Sweet – Sleeping Giants + Waking Gods by Sylvain NeuvelSleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
Narrator: Andy Secombe, Eric Meyers, Laurel Lefkow, Charlie Anson, Liza Ross, William Hope, Christoper Ragland, Katharine Mangold, Adna Sablyich
Series: Themis Files #1
Published by Random House Audio on April 26th 2016
Length: 8 hrs and 28 mins
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
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four-half-stars

A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton, World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power.

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

Eleven-year-old Rose Franklin rides her new bicycle in Deadwood, South Dakota when she suddenly falls into a large hole. At the bottom of this hole was a twenty-foot-long metal hand which she had fallen directly into the palm. Seventeen years later, Rose Franklin is a brilliant physicist who has been brought in to study the mysterious hand that she fell into as a child to determine anything she can about it.

“I don’t really believe in fate,” she says, “but somehow ‘small world’ doesn’t begin to do this justice.”

Its origins and its chemical makeup defy logic; it weighs far less than would be expected based on its mass and its composition couldn’t have come from Earth. When Army helicopter pilots Kara Resnik and Ryan Mitchell crash somewhere in Syria, they find an extremely long, metal forearm that connects to the metal hand like a magnet when placed nearby. The search for the remaining pieces of this metal body continues across the globe to hopefully one day determine the purpose of this creation.

I absolutely adored this story. Sleeping Giants is a science fiction story that delves into the mysteries of space, the mysterious mythology uncovered about the origins of the metal giant, and delves into the scientific aspects of the giant’s metallurgy in an informative and detailed way. The mysteries go beyond the giant though, expanding to each and every character and no one is left to fall by the wayside. Who is the unnamed narrator that possesses so much power and authority, how coincidental is it that Rose Franklin remains involved with the hand years later, what was the purpose of this metal giant and where did it come from? The whole book reads like one massive conspiracy theory, much like an episode of the X-Files and we’re slowly fed answers but never to the bigger picture questions. Will we ever truly know?

The fact that this was Neuvel’s debut is absolutely mind-boggling. The concept and the execution both are fascinating and immensely entertaining. The execution will definitely divide readers seeing as he traded a traditional narrative for a more epistolary type storytelling, using interview transcripts, news articles, journal entries, etc. for the entirety of the tale. If you’re an audiobook fan, this is even more brilliant to listen to with its full cast narration. I don’t re-read stories often but I re-read this one in anticipation of Waking Gods. I think I loved it, even more, the second time around.

Short & Sweet – Sleeping Giants + Waking Gods by Sylvain NeuvelWaking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
Narrator: Andy Secombe, Adna Sablyich, Laurel Lefkow, Eric Meyers, William Hope, Charlie Anson, Christoper Ragland, Karina Fernandez, Madeleine Rose, Roy McMillan, Olivia Dowd, Sarah Wells
Series: Themis Files #2
Published by Random House Audio on April 4th 2017
Length: 9 hrs and 2 mins
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Audible
Goodreads


four-half-stars

In the gripping sequel to Sleeping Giants, which was hailed by Pierce Brown as “a luminous conspiracy yarn . . . reminiscent of The Martian and World War Z,” Sylvain Neuvel’s innovative series about human-alien contact takes another giant step forward.

As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.


“I came to realize that good and evil were out of my reach, that time was the only thing I had any control over. I could buy time, create intervals. I could not truly make the world a better place, but I could make part of it a better place for a short while.”

Waking Gods bolsters and expands upon the Sleeping Giants storyline by adding high levels of adrenaline and excitement in this highly anticipated follow-up. Ten years have passed since the end of Sleeping Giants when Rose and team completed the reconstruction of the metal giant they named Themis after the ancient Greek Titan-goddess. They were beginning to slowly piece together information surrounding the mystery of her origins and are only briefly grasping her full technological capabilities when another metal giant appears in the center of London. It stands immobile for weeks, but without provocation, it attacks one-day leaving thousands dead, but some miraculously survived. More giants appear around the globe and Rose and team are given the impossible task of determining how to stop these attacks and to find out the reason behind them before Earth’s population is exterminated.

No sophomore slump to be had here. Listening to Waking Gods felt akin to being on a high-speed roller coaster: you’re buckled in, the ride is moving, and the time to change your mind has long since passed. But damn, is it a crazy good time.

Waking Gods continues with the same interview style of storytelling, with a few new characters/voices to acquaint ourselves with. The plot was incredibly fast paced and read much like an action movie would just minus the visuals. Incredibly similar to The War of the Worlds in regards to the severity and devastation of the attacks but much less straightforward in terms of the reasoning behind the attacks themselves (and far more fascinatingly scientific View Spoiler ».) Neuvel imbues his alien invasion with a history and purpose essentially giving the human race a chance at survival. He also manages to add a level of humor (there’s something unequivocally humorous about two individuals trying to manhandle a giant robot, albeit clunkily, into battle) that somehow manages to meld harmoniously with such a somber narrative. There are twists and turns aplenty, one particular scene made me loudly gasp and another where my face started leaking, and the ending will leave you thunderstruck. Neuvel’s endings, while definitely worthy of the term ‘cliffhanger’, never feel cheap but rather an apt ending that will lead to a brilliant beginning of the next, and possibly last, installment.

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Life’s Too Short: Lincoln in the Bardo, Exit West, The Wanderers

March 30, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, Life's Too Short 10 Comments

Life’s Too Short: Lincoln in the Bardo, Exit West, The WanderersLincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders
Published by Random House Audio Publishing Group on February 14th 2017
Length: 7 hours and 25 minutes
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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dnf

The long-awaited first novel from the author of Tenth of December: a moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln, as well as an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy’s body.

From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

DNF @ 3%

Me: “Wow! 166 audiobook narrators seems insane but that could be really cool. Like a full-cast play!”

Me mid-listen: “Well, it’s kind of convoluted but not too bad. It’s not really interesting though, at least so far. And when the other narrators speak up they kind of sound like they’re detached from the main production… if that makes sense. Like, floating disconnected voices. I’m intrigued though!”

“When we are newly arrived in this hospital-yard, young sir, and feel like weeping, what happens is, we tense up ever so slightly, and there is a mildly toxic feeling in the joints, and little things inside us burst. Sometimes we might poop a bit if we are fresh. Which is just what I did, out on the cart that day: I pooped a bit while fresh, in my sick-box, out of rage, and what was the result? I have kept that poop with me all this time, and as a matter of fact–I hope you do not find this rude, young sir, or off-putting, I hope it does not impair our nascent friendship–that poop is still down there, at this moment, in my sick-box, albeit much dryer!”

Sorry, but uh, that definitely does impair our friendship, kind sir.

Life’s Too Short: Lincoln in the Bardo, Exit West, The WanderersExit West: A Novel by Mohsin Hamid
Published by Riverhead Books on March 7th 2017
Pages: 240
Genres: Magical Realism, Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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dnf

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

DNF @ 15%

I had high hopes for this one. Romance + war + magical realism… honestly anything magical realism makes my ears perk up even though little of it ever works for me. I wanted to know more about the war itself, the state of the world and how they had reached the point they were at, but by 15% the most detailed information given was about Saeed’s mom and dad’s sex life before he was born. Which, no thanks.

I also had a bit of an issue with the writing that I could have easily ignored if the story itself was captivating. But lines like this:

“He was an independent-minded, grown man, unmarried, with a decent post and a good education, and as was the case in those days in his city with most independent-minded, grown men, unmarried, with decent posts and good educations, he lived with his parents.”

…hilariously reminded me of this meme:

Life’s Too Short: Lincoln in the Bardo, Exit West, The WanderersThe Wanderers by Meg Howrey
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on March 14th 2017
Pages: 384
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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dnf

In four years Prime Space will put the first humans on Mars. Helen Kane, Yoshi Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetsov must prove they’re the crew for the job by spending seventeen months in the most realistic simulation every created.

Retired from NASA, Helen had not trained for irrelevance. It is nobody’s fault that the best of her exists in space, but her daughter can’t help placing blame. The MarsNOW mission is Helen’s last chance to return to the only place she’s ever truly felt at home. For Yoshi, it’s an opportunity to prove himself worthy of the wife he has loved absolutely, if not quite rightly.

Sergei is willing to spend seventeen months in a tin can if it means travelling to Mars. He will at least be tested past the point of exhaustion, and this is the example he will set for his sons.

As the days turn into months the line between what is real and unreal becomes blurred, and the astronauts learn that the complications of inner space are no less fraught than those of outer space. The Wanderers gets at the desire behind all exploration: the longing for discovery and the great search to understand the human heart.

DNF @ 5%

There isn’t anything particularly wrong with this one, but when you compare it to The Martian, I’m going to have certain expectations. The Wanderers is more character study than anything and isn’t anywhere close to humorous. The dialogue felt stilted, there was a lot of talk about creating suits for space which could be cool but really wasn’t. I also read a slight spoiler that made me convinced I made the right decision View Spoiler » All in all, it was a snooze fest and I just wasn’t in the mood.

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Short & Sweet (Celebrity Memoirs) – Talking as Fast as I Can, The Princess Diarist, Seriously… I’m Kidding

March 3, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2017, Short & Sweet Reviews 3 Comments

Short & Sweet (Celebrity Memoirs) – Talking as Fast as I Can, The Princess Diarist, Seriously… I’m KiddingTalking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham
Published by Ballantine Books on November 29th 2016
Pages: 224
Genres: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
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three-stars

In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.

In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge on Project Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).

In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.

Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls (“If you’re meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you’ve already set the bar too high”), and she’s a card-carrying REI shopper (“My bungee cords now earn points!”).

Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and—of course—talking as fast as you can.

“Life doesn’t often spell things out for you or give you what you want exactly when you want it, otherwise it wouldn’t be called life, it would be called a vending machine.”

My lovely friend got me this for Christmas but I waited to pick it up because I had heard that there were mild spoilers from the new season of Gilmore Girls. And then I finally watched the first episode. And I didn’t like it.

BLASPHEMY. I know, I know. I’m just as distraught as you. There was just something terribly forced about Lorelai’s sense of humor this go around and Rory’s poor boyfriend Paul View Spoiler » that she literally keeps overlooking (like when she leaves the diner completely forgetting that he had just gone to the bathroom real quick?) It’s a running joke that she’s been meaning to break up with him but she just keeps forgetting. Good grief, that’s not funny, that’s just wretched.

I understand this is supposed to be a review of the book, not the show, it’s just my opinion of the show definitely tarnishes my thoughts on the book because this is all about her glorious reprisal to the role of Lorelai Gilmore. She discusses in depth just how wonderful it was to be back in Stars Hollow alongside everyone once again and I wanted to happily reminiscence with her but I’m still full of self-loathing that I couldn’t love the new season.

Discussions related to Gilmore Girls took up the vast majority of this short book, but as indicated by the sub-title ‘From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between‘ Graham included various other anecdotes about her childhood and other assorted roles that make up her career. The non-Gilmore Girls additions left the story feeling slightly uneven and I almost felt this would have been best left as a long recollection of all things Gilmore Girls. In retrospect, I also felt that her recollections from the original seasons were a bit sloppy. She didn’t keep a journal of this time in her life, which is fine, but she describes how she sat down to actually watch the original seasons (for the first time ever) and took a bunch of notes when things jogged her memory. The more I discuss, the more it seems I didn’t like anything about this book, but that’s not exactly true because even if Lorelai didn’t possess much in the way of humor, Graham’s humor shines through even on page. And there’s always the original seasons for me to fondly remember.

Short & Sweet (Celebrity Memoirs) – Talking as Fast as I Can, The Princess Diarist, Seriously… I’m KiddingThe Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Narrator: Carrie Fisher, Billie Lourd
Published by Penguin Audio on November 22nd 2016
Length: 5 hrs and 10 mins
Genres: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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four-stars

The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher’s intimate, hilarious and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie. Named a PEOPLE Magazine Best Book of Fall 2016.

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a teenager with an all-consuming crush on her costar, Harrison Ford.

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes. And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.

“I liked being Princess Leia. Or Princess Leia’s being me. Over time I thought that we’d melded into one. I don’t think you could think of Leia without my lurking in that thought somewhere.”

Carrie Fisher played the role of Princess Leia at just nineteen years old and it went on to define her entire life. The diary that she kept at this age is retold in snippets (narrated by her daughter, Billie Lourd) and showcases her delightful way with words. It feels invasive to be shown this time of her life, while her affair with Harrison Ford was going on, and it’s effortless to understand the intense adolescent love that she had for him. The Princess Diarist even goes beyond the retold tales of Fisher’s time on the Star Wars set and sets out to describe just how much playing Princess Leia came to be a part of her own personal identity. She describes how jarring stepping into the limelight was for her despite her belief that it was something she understood already, having grown up the daughter of Debbie Reynolds.

“The crew was mostly men. That’s how it was and that’s pretty much how it still is. It’s a man’s world & show business is a man’s meal with women generously sprinkled through it like over-qualified spice.”

Fisher was always outspoken about the mental health and addiction problems that she dealt with for most of her life but The Princess Diarist doesn’t delve into that aspect of her as much. Nonetheless, this was an unexpectedly emotional read for me even though I was a fan of Fisher’s.  She would make occasional references to when she passes as well as a mention of how her obituary would look like (with a picture of her as Princess Leia complete with buns) and it was a bit of a punch to the gut. Her sardonic sense of humor lightened the heartbreak but it was clear that Fisher believed she still had a lot of life to live. Listening to her raspy voice tell her final story was a treat and I can only hope that she got to say all that she wanted in the time she was given.

Image result for carrie fisher in memoriam

Short & Sweet (Celebrity Memoirs) – Talking as Fast as I Can, The Princess Diarist, Seriously… I’m KiddingSeriously...I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
Narrator: Ellen DeGeneres
Published by Hachette Audio on October 4th, 2011
Length: 3 hours and 7 minutes
Genres: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Funny-ha-ha
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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four-stars

I've experienced a whole lot the last few years and I have a lot to share. So I hope that you'll take a moment to sit back, relax and enjoy the words I've put together for you in this book. I think you'll find I've left no stone unturned, no door unopened, no window unbroken, no rug unvacuumed, no ivories untickled. What I'm saying is, let us begin, shall we?


“So be who you really are. Embrace who you are. Literally. Hug yourself. Accept who you are. Unless you’re a serial killer.”

I was having a pretty bad day when I started this. There was a lot of driving involved that I wasn’t looking forward to and an unexpected blizzard to boot. I always like a good audiobook to keep me company I just didn’t think anything was going to be able to get me out of the funk I was in — but I underestimated Ellen.

I’m Kidding…Seriously aims at being a light-hearted advice manual with the main goal of just making you smile. She takes digs at her fellow celebrities and their hilarious lifestyles but becomes quickly somber when discussing the importance of being true to yourself and accepting who you are as a person. This isn’t your typical inspirational celebrity memoir on how to make it big in Hollywood but rather reads like an internal monologue with the author herself. If you’re an audiobook lover, do yourself a favor and listen to this one because Ellen’s tone and delivery make this all the more enjoyable an experience. If you’re a fan of her stand-up comedy routines, you’ll find much to laugh about in this. I know I did.

‘I feel bad for people December birthdays […] It’s not fair and I have a message for parents out there. Don’t do that to your kids. Plan your love. I’m not great at baby math, so I’m just gonna say in the early part of the year, maybe January until March, stay away from each other. It’s not gonna be easy. Those are winter months and you’re going to want to stay warm. But unfortunately one of you is going to have to sleep in a tent in the backyard.’

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Short & Sweet (Family Dramas) – Everything I Never Told You, Big Little Lies

February 24, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Short & Sweet Reviews 10 Comments

Short & Sweet (Family Dramas) – Everything I Never Told You, Big Little LiesEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Published by Blackstone Audio on June 26th 2014
Length: 10 hrs and 1 min
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: Freebie
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four-half-stars

A haunting debut novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970s Ohio and the tragedy that will either be their undoing or their salvation.

Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet....

So begins the story in this exquisite debut novel about a Chinese American family living in a small town in 1970s Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother's bright blue eyes and her father's jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue - in Marilyn's case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James' case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.

When Lydia's body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia's older brother, Nathan, is certain the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it's the youngest of the family, Hannah, who observes far more than anyone realizes - and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.

A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping pause-resister and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

‘Before that she hadn’t realized how fragile happiness was, how if you were careless, you could knock it over and shatter it.’

Lydia is the third child of Marilyn and James Lee and is undeniably their favorite. Her absence from breakfast one morning arouses suspicion but never would they have imagined that her body would be found at the bottom of the lake near their house. Lydia’s death, while tragic, ends up being the catalyst for unveiling the multitude of issues within the Lee household. The year is 1970 and the steps that led to this tragedy began over a decade ago when Marilyn, a white woman from Virginia, and James, a first-generation Chinese-American, married despite the ill opinions on their interracial relationship. When Marilyn gets pregnant, she gives up her dream of becoming a doctor and instead devotes her time and energy to Lydia so that one day she can become what Marilyn could not, never stopping to consider what Lydia actually desired. James, after a difficult life of always being the outsider, he constantly pushes his children to fit in and be social so they never have to experience what it’s like to be an outsider. We may know from the very first sentence that Lydia is dead, but the path that brought her to this point remains a mystery. Ng rewinds to the very beginning and allows Lydia’s story to finally reveal the truth that she never dared speak aloud.

‘It would disappear forever from her memory of Lydia, the way memories of a lost loved one always smooth and simplify themselves, shedding complexities like scales.’

I have had this book on my shelf for an obscenely long time simply because family dramas usually possess suburban type spectacles that I’d rather do without. But this book had depth, it had the most well-written characters that I have read in recent memory, it had a captivating storyline, and it completely broke my heart. Ng gracefully unmasks the secrets kept by the Lee’s and their two surviving children, Nathan and Hannah, through multiple storylines without it once getting convoluted. Marilyn and James’ lifetime of broken dreams and of the racism that they faced is egregious, but it’s their complete lack of familiarity and understanding with one another and their own children that was truly terrible. The emotional intricacy of this superbly written tale and the devastating ending will resonate with me for a long time to come.

Short & Sweet (Family Dramas) – Everything I Never Told You, Big Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Published by Berkley on July 29th 2014
Pages: 460
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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two-half-stars

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?).
And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body.

But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.
New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

“Did anyone really know their child? Your child was a little stranger, constantly changing, disappearing and reintroducing himself to you. New personality traits could appear overnight.”

In the coastal seaside town of Pirriwee, everything and everyone is covered in a thin veneer of gloss, though it only does so much to hide the imperfections underneath. And the fact that someone is dead after Trivia Night at the local school goes terribly wrong. But who it is and how it happened remains a mystery… or so it seems.

Madeleine’s youngest child is entering kindergarten, but so is her ex-husband’s daughter. The ex-husband that left her and their baby girl to survive on their own fifteen years prior. Celeste, a stay at home mom, and her husband Perry, a hedge fund manager, are the parents of twin boys and they live in a palatial house on the beach. Things definitely look perfect from the outside but Perry has an uncontrollable anger problem that is only getting worse. Jane is a single mom who’s little boy Ziggy was the product of a one-night stand; a one-night stand that left her mentally scarred and unable to heal. The adults all have their fair share of drama going on but to make matters worse there is a terrible ongoing situation of bullying happening at the kids’ school and the truth is far from easy to ascertain. Family drama, infidelity, domestic abuse, and bullying are all adequate plot points on their own but Big Little Lies combines them all for an intense story about the imperfections that many endeavor to hide from the world.

“They say it’s good to let your grudges go, but I don’t know, I’m quite fond of my grudge. I tend it like a little pet.”

This is my first Moriarty book and I’m still struggling to establish whether I actually liked it. The mystery and the anticipated big reveal was all that kept me going because the writing style felt very haphazard and slightly sloppy, written in a flippant and emotionally disjointed way. I would understand that demeanor for some of her characters, but everyone is written in such a way. The story starts off with a Quentin Tarantino type hook: someone is dead but you don’t know who it is and you don’t know what led up to this point. Now, let’s rewind it to six months before the death and go back through everything with a fine-tooth comb. Let’s also intersperse it with gossiping mothers (and the occasional father) who are all convinced it has something to do with a shocking affair, or it was because of some fight that happened between a couple of mothers months back on the playground, or maybe it was when one of the kids handed out birthday invitations to all but one child, or maybe it was Madeleine’s Erotic Book Club. Absolutely no one has any clue what’s actually going on.

idk chris pratt middle finger i dont care who cares

Okay, so basically if you didn’t guess, I gave zero fucks about their petty squabbles. But still, I zoomed through these 460 pages (honestly, that many pages were completely unnecessary). While the mom drama is pretty horrifying in the heavy doses we’re given, it’s despairingly accurate, I know because I have had to personally refuse to participate in that shit (fuck the PTA, honestly). There is also this constant veil of humor over everything, despite the seriousness of a few of the storylines, and I can’t say that I liked it, especially when the domestic abuse storyline had me breathing like I needed a paper bag. Moriarty’s stand against domestic violence isn’t handled poorly (although it could have been handled better), I just felt that the inclusion of comic relief in the story to lessen the seriousness only ended up leaving a bad taste in my mouth. View Spoiler » Many readers may be pleased to have this comic relief to lighten the seriousness of domestic abuse, bullying, and infidelity, but I for one could have done without it. All it managed to do was lessen the depth and seriousness of these grim issues.

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Life’s Too Short: The Oxford Inheritance, Bright Air Black, The Burning World

February 16, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, Life's Too Short 6 Comments

I received this book free from Library Thing in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Life’s Too Short: The Oxford Inheritance, Bright Air Black, The Burning WorldThe Oxford Inheritance: A Novel by A.A. McDonald
Narrator: Nan McNamara
Published by HarperAudio on February 23rd 2016
Length: 12 hours and 47 minutes
Genres: Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library Thing
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dnf

At prestigious Oxford University, an American student searches for the truth about her mother’s death in this eerie, suspenseful thriller that blends money, murder, and black magic.

You can’t keep it from her forever. She needs to know the truth.

Cassandra Blackwell arrives in Oxford with one mission: to uncover the truth about her mother’s dark past. Raised in America, with no idea that her mother had ever studied at the famed college, a mysterious package now sends her across the ocean, determined to unravel the secrets that her mother took to her grave. Plunged into the glamorous, secretive life of Raleigh College, Cassie finds a world like no other: a world of ancient tradition, privilege—and murder.

Beneath the hallowed halls of this storied university there is a mysterious force at work . . . A dark society that is shaping our world, and will stop at nothing to keep its grip on power. Cassie might be the only one who can stop them—but at what cost?

DNF @ 18% (and some scan-reading to see if I was missing out on anything)

‘All her work had finally come to fruition: the scheming and lies, the sacrifice and risk.’

Cassandra Blackwell is on a mission to discover the secret past about her mother after she died when Cassandra was just fourteen-years-old. Three years ago a mysterious letter arrives from Oxford addressed to her deceased mother: “You can’t hide the truth forever. Please come back and end this for good.” She quickly sets out to discover what the letter could mean but doesn’t uncover anything. She then spends the next three years of her life working to gain enough ground just to gain acceptance at Raleigh College at Oxford in hopes of discovering more information from the inside. It’s her Junior year abroad and she’s finally done it.

Her mother was a terrible human being who was constantly exploding into fits of rage and accusing Cassandra of being the reason she didn’t become a great poet because she got pregnant with her at twenty. She rehashes all the times she had to lock herself in the bathroom to escape her wrath until she had managed to calm down. She inevitably committed suicide and Cassandra ended up in foster care until she was sixteen at which point she chose to live off the grid. A random letter shows up years later and suddenly she decides she needs to show she’s smart so she can get into a college in England just so she can research her mother. Maybe this all seems trivial but I didn’t buy this plot at all and considering it’s the foundation of the entire mystery, I decided to call it quits.

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Life’s Too Short: The Oxford Inheritance, Bright Air Black, The Burning WorldBright Air Black: A Novel by David Vann
Published by Grove Press on March 7th 2017
Pages: 288
Genres: Historical Fiction, Greek Mythology
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository
Goodreads


dnf

Following the success of Aquarium which was a New York Times Editor’s Choice and garnered numerous rave reviews, David Vann transports us to 13th century B.C. to give a nuanced and electric portrait of the life of one of ancient mythology’s most fascinating and notorious women, Medea.

In brilliant poetic prose Bright Air Black brings us aboard the ship Argo for its epic return journey across the Black Sea from Persia’s Colchis—where Medea flees her home and father with Jason, the Argonauts, and the Golden Fleece. Vann’s reimagining of this ancient tale offers a thrilling, realist alternative to the long held notions of Medea as monster or sorceress. We witness with dramatic urgency Medea’s humanity, her Bronze Age roots and position in Greek society, her love affair with Jason, and her tragic demise.

Atmospheric and spellbinding, Bright Air Black is an indispensable, fresh and provocative take on one of our earliest texts and the most intimate and corporal version of Medea’s story ever told.

DNF @ 7%

Considering Medea was one of my all-time favorite reads from my Ancient and Medieval Cultures class in college, I had high hopes for this one. Alas, it didn’t pan out. Bright Air Black is set before Medea and Jason have children but after Jason has secured the Golden Fleece. Medea’s father, King Aeëtes, is in pursuit of them and in an attempt to slow him down Medea sacrifices her brother, dismembers him, and tosses pieces of him overboard knowing that her father will stop to collect each and every piece.

The writing is both difficult to read and impossible to put down due to the long-winded narrative style. The chapters are few and far between as well as any actual dialogue making this a monotonous yet grotesque read. At times it was like Hannibal meets mythology.

‘Medea takes a piece of her brother, a thigh, heavy and tough, muscled, and licks blood from it, dark and thick. She spits, licks and spits again and again, three times to atone. Mouth filled with the taste of her family’s blood, and she throws this piece of Helios into the waves.’

Then after she threw the thigh overboard and her father has recovered it:

‘Her brother gone. She misses him there, far away, in his father’s arms, and yet most of him is here. She kneels in him still.’

Then there was a scene of a man leaning overboard to take a shit and Medea describes how it fouls the air due to lack of wind. I’m sure she ran out of body parts to toss overboard and the men wouldn’t spend the entire book shitting over the side of the boat, but there just wasn’t enough to captivate me in this retelling of one of my favorite Greek myths.

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Life’s Too Short: The Oxford Inheritance, Bright Air Black, The Burning WorldThe Burning World by Isaac Marion
Series: Warm Bodies #2
Published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books on February 7th 2017
Pages: 512
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Zombies
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Audible
Goodreads

Also by this author: Warm Bodies

dnf

R is recovering from death.

He’s learning how to breathe, how to speak, how to be human, one clumsy step at a time. He doesn’t remember his old life and he doesn’t want to. He’s building a new one with Julie.

But his old life remembers him. The plague has another host far more dangerous than the Dead. It’s coming to return the world to the good old days of stability and control and the strong eating the weak, and stopping it will require a frightening journey into the surreal wastelands of America—and the shadowy basement of R’s mind.

DNF @ 13%

I had been heading towards a slump so that may be part of the reason for my complete intolerance and unwillingness to give this a chance, but this just did not work for me. Warm Bodies was an original (and slightly disturbing) tale of a zombie falling in love with a human, subsequently regaining his humanity in the process. It was a moving and touching novel in the unlikeliest of genres. The New Hunger was even more fantastic, well written, and it made me more excited than I had been for The Burning World to release. But before I had even hit double digits in progress, I was already ready to call it quits. This section was at 7%:

‘Her irises are the usual metallic gray, but as I stare into them, they flicker. A brief glint, like a flake of gold in the sand of a deep river.’

Very pretty words. Marion can definitely string some adjectives and metaphors together but then he had to go and mess it all up.

“What is it?” Julie asks in an awed whisper.
“I have no idea. I’ve never had less idea about anything. We’ve been calling it ‘the Gleam.’ Every once in a while it just… happens, and the Dead get a little less dead.”

And that is all we get by way of explanation.

It was just such a lame and half-assed attempt at explaining the whole plot point. The dead coming back to life after being zombies, being dead… and you give it some fancy capitalized name and that’s supposed to be sufficient? Sorry, but that just doesn’t work for me. I continued reading up to 13% where the settlement is attacked by a rival settlement and it officially became just like all other post-apocalyptic/zombie tales that I’ve already read at least half a dozen times. Does it switch it up somehow and become original and memorable again? Maybe. The introduction into this unexpected sequel was so lackluster that it wasn’t interesting enough for me to stick around to find out.

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Short & Sweet – The Book of Mirrors, The Atomic Weight of Love, Rosemary & Rue

January 27, 2017 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2017, Short & Sweet Reviews 6 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Short & Sweet – The Book of Mirrors, The Atomic Weight of Love, Rosemary & RueThe Book of Mirrors by E.O. Chirovici
Published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books on February 21st 2017
Pages: 288
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Audible
Goodreads


three-stars

An elegant, page-turning thriller in the vein of Night Film and Crooked Letter, Crooked Letter, this tautly crafted novel is about stories: the ones we tell, the ones we keep hidden, and the ones that we’ll do anything to ensure they stay buried.

When literary agent Peter Katz receives a partial book submission entitled The Book of Mirrors, he is intrigued by its promise and original voice. The author, Richard Flynn, has written a memoir about his time as an English student at Princeton in the late 1980s, documenting his relationship with the protégée of the famous Professor Joseph Wieder. One night just before Christmas 1987, Wieder was brutally murdered in his home. The case was never solved. Now, twenty-five years later, Katz suspects that Richard Flynn is either using his book to confess to the murder, or to finally reveal who committed the violent crime.

But the manuscript ends abruptly—and its author is dying in the hospital with the missing pages nowhere to be found. Hell-bent on getting to the bottom of the story, Katz hires investigative journalist John Keller to research the murder and reconstruct the events for a true crime version of the memoir. Keller tracks down several of the mysterious key players, including retired police detective Roy Freeman, one of the original investigators assigned to the murder case, but he has just been diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer’s. Inspired by John Keller’s investigation, he decides to try and solve the case once and for all, before he starts losing control of his mind. A trip to the Potosi Correctional Centre in Missouri, several interviews, and some ingenious police work finally lead him to a truth that has been buried for over two decades...or has it?
Stylishly plotted, elegantly written, and packed with thrilling suspense until the final page, The Book of Mirrors is a book within a book like you’ve never read before.

‘They’d all been wrong and had seen nothing but their own obsessions in the windows they’d tried to gaze through, which, in fact, turned out to have been mirrors all along.’

When Peter Katz receives a compelling partial manuscript, he contacts the author immediately in hopes of receiving the end of the story only to find out that he’s been hospitalized from complications due to lung cancer. He dies days later but Peter is unable to leave the story be because the story involves an individual by the name of Joseph Wieder who was murdered in real-life and he feels the story possesses the echoes of truth. Could this story possibly be the puzzle piece that ends up solving this unsolved crime? When Peter hires investigative journalist John Keller to look for the missing manuscript, he comes up empty. Diving back into the past and interviewing individuals who knew Joseph Wieder in an attempt to decipher whether the manuscript was truthful or not proves to be difficult. Who remembers details from decades later? So were the police correct at the time of the crime, is the manuscript correct, or is the truth still waiting to be uncovered?

The Book of Mirrors is a book within a book. The first part of this novel we’re introduced to Peter Katz, and we get to read the exact manuscript that he did. We become acquainted with Richard Flynn (the author of the manuscript) and Laura Baines. Both are students at Princeton and both are acquainted with Joseph Wieder. We learn of the mystery behind Wieder, a brilliant psychology, and of the secret experiments that he was conducting on individuals minds. Whether or not the experiments were what inevitably caused his death or not, it would have been interesting to learn more about them, but rather the story seems to only wish to paint Wieder as something of a mad scientist. The second part of the story is told from the point of view of John Keller, the investigative journalist. And the third and final part is told from the point of view of retired police detective Roy Freeman, the original investigator of the Wieder murder. The separate points of view would have given the story dimension but the voices themselves detract from this objective since they all, unfortunately, sound the same.

Comparisons to Night Film are way offThe story is a slow-paced mystery but the lack of urgency is simply due to the fact that there wasn’t a need for it: the crime was almost three decades old and almost everyone that could have possibly been involved is deceased. This certainly takes away any heightened intensity that a typical detective thriller may have but doesn’t take away from the interest in discovering the truth. Unreliable statements, secrets, and flawed memories will keep the reader speculating but could also have the effect of causing irritation at a continued lack of progress in the investigation. While the resolution is plausible, it was wrapped up a little too flawlessly for my liking.

I received this book free from Library Thing, Library in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Short & Sweet – The Book of Mirrors, The Atomic Weight of Love, Rosemary & RueThe Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J. Church
Narrator: Jennifer Van Dyck
Published by Brilliance Audio on May 3rd 2016
Length: 10 hrs and 52 mins
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library Thing, Library
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Audible
Goodreads


four-stars

In her sweeping debut novel, Elizabeth J. Church takes us from the World War II years in Chicago to the vast sun-parched canyons of New Mexico in the 1970s as we follow the journey of a driven, spirited young woman, Meridian Wallace, whose scientific ambitions are subverted by the expectations of her era.

In 1941, at seventeen years old, Meridian begins her ornithology studies at the University of Chicago. She is soon drawn to Alden Whetstone, a brilliant, complicated physics professor who opens her eyes to the fundamentals and poetry of his field, the beauty of motion, space and time, the delicate balance of force and energy that allows a bird to fly.

Entranced and in love, Meridian defers her own career path and follows Alden west to Los Alamos, where he is engaged in a secret government project (later known to be the atomic bomb). In married life, though, she feels lost and left behind. She channels her academic ambitions into studying a particular family of crows, whose free life and companionship are the very things that seem beyond her reach. There in her canyons, years later at the dawn of the 1970s, with counterculture youth filling the streets and protests against the war rupturing college campuses across the country, Meridian meets Clay, a young geologist and veteran of the Vietnam War, and together they seek ways to mend what the world has broken.

Exquisitely capturing the claustrophobic eras of 1940s and 1950s America, The Atomic Weight of Love also examines the changing roles of women during the decades that followed. And in Meridian Wallace we find an unforgettable heroine whose metamorphosis shows how the women’s movement opened up the world for a whole generation.

“We have to take flight. It’s not given to us, served up on a pretty, parsley-bordered platter. We have to take wing. Was I brave enough to do that? Or would I be content to remain earthbound?”

The Atomic Weight of Love spans the time during World War II and the years during the Vietnam War. In the 1940s, Meridian Wallace was a young woman ahead of her time who chose to study biology in hopes of one day becoming an ornithologist at the University of Chicago. She meets a brilliant physics professor, Alden Whetstone, who is twenty years older than her but challenges her intellectually. They fall in love, they get married, and she gives up her dreams (temporarily at first) to move to a community in Los Alamos, New Mexico to become an unhappy housewife where Alden is assisting with the Manhattan Project. As the years pass by, Meridian is forced to evaluate the decisions she’s made in life and her personal evolution.

“I would not open the door to hope, no matter how exquisite her feathers, how promising and sweet her song. I was done with hope.”

Atomic is a most poignant story with an appropriate narrative voice for the time period. The writing manages to be consistently crisp and never tedious despite the entire lifetime that is told within these pages. Meri’s continued sacrifices that she makes throughout her life are disheartening to see but her insistence on continuing to study the local crows is the focal point of this tale. The community that Meri and Alden reside in is a study in women during the wartime where they range between happy housewives to the women looking to break the mold and help out right alongside the men. Meri’s two loves, Alden and a younger man she meets late in life, are portrayed through a critical lens and while never overly romantic, the passion is still evident. Alden himself was written rather one-dimensionally and comes off as a despot, but I felt that this was once again a sign of the times and the expectations of a woman’s role comes into play and Meri’s inability to ever fit into that role.

Meridian had an ample and fulfilling life, finally finding the purpose she had always sought. It was a satisfying story of accomplishment and fruition but at the conclusion, I couldn’t help wishing for more for Meridian.

Short & Sweet – The Book of Mirrors, The Atomic Weight of Love, Rosemary & RueRosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire
Series: October Daye #1
Published by DAW on September 1st 2009
Pages: 368
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Audible
Goodreads

Also by this author: Indexing

three-stars

October "Toby" Daye, a changeling who is half human and half fae, has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the Faerie world, retreating to a "normal" life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world has other ideas...

The murder of Countess Evening Winterrose pulls Toby back into the fae world. Unable to resist Evening's dying curse, which binds her to investigate, Toby must resume her former position as knight errant and renew old alliances. As she steps back into fae society, dealing with a cast of characters not entirely good or evil, she realizes that more than her own life will be forfeited if she cannot find Evening's killer.

“We have to burn brightly. We can’t burn forever.”

October “Toby” Daye is a changeling and after spending fourteen years living as a koi in a pond she’s back to trying to live a normal life working the night shift at a grocery store. Ha, honestly, I already love it. Toby has to solve the murder of a fae friend, her own life is on the line if she doesn’t, and Toby is such a badass. She’s a changeling, only half-fae, so she doesn’t possess quite the badassery that everyone else does but she really holds her own. The side characters are also surprisingly fantastic (Danny, the Bridge Troll taxi driver was my personal favorite next to Tybalt), I loved seeing all the various fae species (especially the rose goblins), and there’s clearly much to learn about Toby and her backstory which I’m super eager for. There’s a romance in this installment but it doesn’t consume the story and thank gawd because ew. But there’s another romance that we only get hints of and…

I’m totally kicking myself. I listened to Rosemary and Rue on audio in late 2011 and I gave it two stars because I was so fucking bored. I’m now chalking that up to the fact that I was brand new to audiobooks and didn’t really know what I was doing because I clearly wasn’t listening to this super interesting urban fantasy story with an awesome heroine. Or maybe the narrator was really bad? I have no idea, guys, but I’ve officially re-read it and while I only gave it 3 stars, it was an excited for the next installment 3 stars. (Which means I also need to give Moon Called another shot since I also listened to it around the same time and also didn’t like it.) Anyways, many, many thanks to Christina for being book pusher extraordinaire. I’m so glad I gave this one a second chance. 🙂

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Short & Sweet – Eleventh Grave in Moonlight, My Not So Perfect Life, Deathly Hallows

January 20, 2017 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2017, Short & Sweet Reviews 3 Comments

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Short & Sweet – Eleventh Grave in Moonlight, My Not So Perfect Life, Deathly HallowsEleventh Grave in Moonlight by Darynda Jones
Series: Charley Davidson #11
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on January 24th 2017
Pages: 352
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: First Grave on the Right

three-half-stars

A typical day in the life of Charley Davidson involves cheating husbands, missing people, errant wives, philandering business owners, and oh yeah...demons, hell hounds, evil gods, and dead people. Lots and lots of dead people. As a part time Private Investigator and full-time Grim Reaper, Charley has to balance the good, the bad, the undead, and those who want her dead. In this eleventh installment, Charley is learning to make peace with the fact that she is a goddess with all kinds of power and that her own daughter has been born to save the world from total destruction. But the forces of hell are determined to see Charley banished forever to the darkest corners of another dimension. With the son of Satan himself as her husband and world-rocking lover, maybe Charley can find a way to have her happily ever after after all.

*spoilers for previous installments*

“…I’m going to take over the world.”
“The whole thing?”
“Well, I’m going to try to take over the world.”
“And you feel you’re prepared for world domination?”
I lifted a noncommittal shoulder. “I’m taking a business class.”

Despite her new awareness of her God-like state, Charley Davidson strives to continue living as a normal human would. She’s taking a business class at the college (to help her out when she takes over the world), she has a new case which involves the son of the people that kidnapped Reyes when he was a child, and she’s helping the police sort out why and who could be sending Cookie’s daughter, Amber, threatening text messages.

Although I continue to profess my love for this series, it must be said that the plots of these later installments are getting weaker with each new one. I have always loved the incorporation of her day-to-day investigations mixed with the advancement of the Reaper storyline but if I’m being honest, more needs to happen with the Reaper storyline. It continues to be stretched to the limit and we’re given minuscule nibbles with each book which seems like nothing more than a way to continue to stretch the series past its expiration date. For the most part, there isn’t any actual advancement until the final 10% or so, and while it’s a most excellent 10%, it makes one definitely wish there was more to go around. And then as a cherry on top, we’re given a massive cliffhanger that will leave the reader groaning until the next installment.

The mysteries are great, the paranormal aspects are incredibly interesting, the sex scenes are off the charts, and Charley is always a source of amusement. But, Jones, you’re killing me with these cliffhangers.

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Short & Sweet – Eleventh Grave in Moonlight, My Not So Perfect Life, Deathly HallowsMy Not So Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella
Published by The Dial Press on February 7th 2017
Pages: 448
Genres: Chick-Lit
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Goodreads

Also by this author: Wedding Night

three-half-stars

Part love story, part workplace dramedy, part witty critique of the false judgments we make in a social-media-obsessed world, this is New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella’s most timely and sharply observed novel yet.

Everywhere Katie Brenner looks, someone else is living the life she longs for, particularly her boss, Demeter Farlowe. Demeter is brilliant and creative, lives with her perfect family in a posh townhouse, and wears the coolest clothes. Katie’s life, meanwhile, is a daily struggle—from her dismal rental to her oddball flatmates to the tense office politics she’s trying to negotiate. The final, demeaning straw comes when Demeter makes Katie dye her roots in the office. No wonder Katie takes refuge in not-quite-true Instagram posts, especially as she’s desperate to make her dad proud.

Then, just as she’s finding her feet—not to mention a possible new romance—the worst happens. Demeter fires Katie. Shattered but determined to stay positive, Katie retreats to her family’s farm in Somerset to help them set up a vacation business. London has never seemed so far away—until Demeter unexpectedly turns up as a guest. Secrets are spilled and relationships rejiggered, and as the stakes for Katie’s future get higher, she must question her own assumptions about what makes for a truly meaningful life.
Sophie Kinsella is celebrated for her vibrant, relatable characters and her great storytelling gifts. Now she returns with all of the wit, warmth, and wisdom that are the hallmarks of her bestsellers to spin this fresh, modern story about presenting the perfect life when the reality is far from the image.

Katie Brenner grew up in the English countryside and has always dreamed of living in the big city. At 26-years-old, she’s finally working her dream job at an ad agency, has a place of her own, and an Instagram account that showcases a life that anyone would envy. Despite her perfect outward appearance, everything is far from perfect. She’s not doing anything terribly creative at her job and is barely making ends meet, she has her own place but she has roommates and her room is tragically small so she keeps all her clothes piled in a hammock, and all those pictures she posts on Instagram is more how she wishes her life was vs. how it really is. When her life is abruptly upended and she finds herself living once again with her dad in the English countryside, she doesn’t think she’ll ever find her way back to London. A new family “glamping” business keeps her busy and her creative side honed, but some unexpected glampers from London have Katie realizing that London isn’t quite done with her.

Katie is an incredible character for many reasons but first and foremost: she’s so realistic. Don’t get me wrong, 95% of the time I love a good story to escape into so I can leave the real world behind but that straggler 5% loves a character that I can feel in tune with, a character that I can truly understand. This story gave me major Devil Wears Prada vibes but instead of the invisible girl that gets a haircut, loses some weight, and is bestowed a gorgeous wardrobe only to live happily ever after we get Katie. Katie didn’t get a haircut, lose weight, or get a new wardrobe. Nope. Katie loses her job, has to move back home with dad, and is often found in wellies because it’s just sensible in the countryside.

My Not So Perfect Life centers around Katie’s personal development and the realization that much like her own Instagram account, people hide beyond a persona that is not always the person they truly are. This is a laugh out loud adventure that despite its slightly unnecessary page length and unexpected lack of focus on the romance, this delightful story will no doubt charm new and old fans alike.

Short & Sweet – Eleventh Grave in Moonlight, My Not So Perfect Life, Deathly HallowsHarry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling
Narrator: Jim Dale
Series: Harry Potter #7
on July 21st 2007
Length: 21 hrs and 36 mins
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Audible
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Cuckoo's Calling

five-stars

As he climbs into the sidecar of Hagrid's motorbike and takes to the skies, leaving Privet Drive for the last time, Harry Potter knows that Lord Voldemort and the Death Eaters are not far behind. The protective charm that has kept Harry safe until now is broken, but he cannot keep hiding. The Dark Lord is breathing fear into everything Harry loves and to stop him Harry will have to find and destroy the remaining Horcruxes. The final battle must begin - Harry must stand and face his enemy....

*spoilers*


This is officially my very first time I’ve completely re-read this series and it’s quite possible that I love it even more than I did before. Reading all books back to back (I started the first one in October and finished the last one in January) only made it even more apparent what an incredible saga that Rowling gifted us. All the linked parts, the character development, and just how astonishing it was to see it all unfold. Somehow it still managed to leave me awed even knowing how it all ends. While my opinions of the series as a whole didn’t change (other than the fact that my favorite book is now officially Half-Blood Prince and I’ve gotten over my irritation with Dobby) there is one aspect in these stories that I paid a lot more attention to this go around: Dumbledore and Snape.

First and foremost, I’m team Snape (and a Slytherin if you were curious). Yes, I am fully aware that he was a horrible shithead to a bunch of children, primarily Harry, and the only reason was because he loved Harry’s mother and she didn’t love him. Boo-hoo. I’m also aware that he was a Death Eater doing terrible things on behalf of Voldemort before he joined up with Dumbeldore. I’m aware of all these things but I can still appreciate the bravery and risks he took in the name of love, even it was misguided. It doesn’t necessarily make him a hero in my eyes and his actions don’t make up for the wrong he did, but it is still worthy of mention. Don’t agree?

hahaha Kidding. But on to an even more controversial topic: Dumbledore was kind of a dick. Sure, at first he’s that kind, fatherly figure that Harry can’t help but look up to. But when year after year at Hogwarts passes and poor young Harry is dealing with shit that he can barely comprehend, does Dumbledore make it a point to educate him on the ways of the wizarding world? Nope. And when we finally realize what’s been going on this entire time? That he’s known from the very beginning that Harry was going to have to die for the “greater good”?!

Sure, if he had told Harry at an early age he could have lost his marbles at the prospect of an early death so I understand why he didn’t tell him but I definitely don’t agree with it because he didn’t treat Harry like a pawn; he treated him like he was someone special to him. Think of all the times that Harry was touting Dumbledore’s greatness while from the very beginning he’s known the endgame all along.

Leave an infant on a doorstep, don’t even ring the doorbell. They’ll find him in the morning. Know Harry’s living in a goddamn cupboard under the stairs, constantly abused by the Dursley’s–does nothing. Let Snape continue to mistreat him unnecessarily. Blames it on the fact he developed feelings for the reason why he’s lied to Harry his entire life… talk about emotional manipulation. Not letting Harry in on the secret of the horcruxes until after he was doomed to die because his dumbass, for personal advancement reasons, put it on because it was also a Hallow. Dick move, Dumbledore. /rant

Rowling really achieved greatness with this final installment. Each installment has progressively gotten darker as Harry and all other characters take step after step into adulthood. This world that Rowling has created is both horrible and mesmerizing in equal measure. A world where there are creatures that can suck out your very soul, but also wondrous creatures like unicorns and Hippogriffs. A world where you can be struck down with two simple words, but also where owls deliver your mail and paintings talk. But the most wondrous thing that Rowling accomplished with these stories is just how many lives she transformed, mine included. It’s enough to make anyone believe in magic.

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