Posts Categorized: Audiobook

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 for 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
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Audible
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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 for 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
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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.

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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.’

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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 for 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

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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.

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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 4 Comments

I received this book for 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 for 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
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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…

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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 for 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.

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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.

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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 for 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
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Audible
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*

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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?

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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”?!

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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.

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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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Life’s Too Short: All Our Wrong Todays, Daughter of a Thousand Years, The Last Adventure of Constance Verity

January 13, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, Life's Too Short, Read in 2017 9 Comments

I received this book for 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: All Our Wrong Todays, Daughter of a Thousand Years, The Last Adventure of Constance VerityAll Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Published by Dutton Books on February 7th 2017
Pages: 384
Genres: Sci-fi, Time Travel
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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dnf

You know the future that people in the 1950s imagined we'd have? Well, it happened. In Tom Barren's 2016, humanity thrives in a techno-utopian paradise of flying cars, moving sidewalks, and moon bases, where avocados never go bad and punk rock never existed . . . because it wasn't necessary.

Except Tom just can't seem to find his place in this dazzling, idealistic world, and that's before his life gets turned upside down. Utterly blindsided by an accident of fate, Tom makes a rash decision that drastically changes not only his own life but the very fabric of the universe itself. In a time-travel mishap, Tom finds himself stranded in our 2016, what we think of as the real world. For Tom, our normal reality seems like a dystopian wasteland.

But when he discovers wonderfully unexpected versions of his family, his career, and—maybe, just maybe—his soul mate, Tom has a decision to make. Does he fix the flow of history, bringing his utopian universe back into existence, or does he try to forge a new life in our messy, unpredictable reality? Tom’s search for the answer takes him across countries, continents, and timelines in a quest to figure out, finally, who he really is and what his future—our future—is supposed to be.

DNF @ 8%

I was so thrilled to get an early review copy of this fascinating sounding Utopian time-travel adventure. It even made it onto my most anticipated debuts of the year. Unfortunately, it wasn’t meant to be.

The main issue I had was with the voice of the narrator. Tom is  a man in his thirties but comes off sounding like a confused teenager. He’s not one of the scientists responsible for the discovery of how time travel works, but he still tries to explain how it works to the reader while advising that he basically has no clue what he’s even talking about. He was confused. I was confused. It was all very confusing (and frustrating). I’m sure he was meant to be viewed as mildly inane and definitely humorous but his flippant nature was vexing to say the least. I chose to attempt to persevere thinking that maybe he would grow on me but then I got to this scene:

“…a malfunctioning navigation system caused a hover car to break formation, careen out of control, and smear half of my mother across the lawn in a wet streak of blood and bone and skin and the end of everything.”

His mother’s death was written so crudely it was distasteful all the while stating how much he cared for her. It didn’t mesh. And then there was:

“I got the wary sense she felt some shudder of excitement at me so openly expressing my grief to her, to her alone, as if she were the only one who could coax it out of me before it rotted right through my skin.

Looking back, it’s like the grief was an offering I made to them in exchange for their bodies and, for reasons I’m not insightful enough to understand, my tears turned them on.”

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This is a reference to the multiple women that attended his mothers funeral and who he subsequently slept with (all of them, he slept with all of them). I’ve read about some pretty repugnant characters in my life and while Tom was certainly far from the worst, there was nothing appealing about this character to keep me invested in the remainder of this story.

I received this book for 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: All Our Wrong Todays, Daughter of a Thousand Years, The Last Adventure of Constance VerityDaughter of a Thousand Years by Amalia Carosella
Published by Lake Union Publishing on February 21st 2017
Pages: 432
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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dnf

Greenland, AD 1000

More than her fiery hair marks Freydís as the daughter of Erik the Red; her hot temper and fierce pride are as formidable as her Viking father’s. And so, too, is her devotion to the great god Thor, which puts her at odds with those in power—including her own brother, the zealous Leif Eriksson. Determined to forge her own path, she defies her family’s fury and clings to her dream of sailing away to live on her own terms, with or without the support of her husband.

New Hampshire, 2016

Like her Icelandic ancestors, history professor Emma Moretti is a passionate defender of Norse mythology. But in a small town steeped in traditional values, her cultural beliefs could jeopardize both her academic career and her congressman father’s reelection. Torn between public expectation and personal identity, family and faith, she must choose which to honor and which to abandon.

In a dramatic, sweeping dual narrative that spans a millennium, two women struggle against communities determined to silence them, but neither Freydís nor Emma intends to give up without a fight.

DNF @ 12%

Dual timelines! Iceland! Thor! And…Viking romance you say??

*ponders*

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Alas, I never got to the hot Vikings bit, if that was even a possibility. The bit I did read didn’t amount to much other than a complete dwelling on religion. In 1000 AD, Freydís is battling to retain her belief in the old gods as everyone around her is being converted to a belief in one god. In present day, Emma is battling to retain her belief in the old gods… in a society that hasn’t recognized those gods in centuries. She’s determined to believe as she wishes even as she breaks up with her boyfriend because of it and is discussing it with her friend incessantly.

“I’ve tried to be patient with you, Emma,” he said when I didn’t respond “I think I’ve been incredibly understanding, all things considered, while you’ve worked through whatever rebellion this is. I haven’t pressured you or made any demands –“

The “rebellion” being her refusal to believe in God. Guy sounds like a dick anyways.

“I loved Sarah, I did. We’d been friends practically since birth. But if I hadn’t been Catholic enough for David, I would never be Christian enough for her, either.”

Good grief. If any “friend” ever said that I wasn’t Christian enough for them I’d probably die laughing.

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Sorry, but I came for the hot Vikings.

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I received this book for 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.

Life’s Too Short: All Our Wrong Todays, Daughter of a Thousand Years, The Last Adventure of Constance VerityThe Last Adventure of Constance Verity by A. Lee Martinez
Narrator: Cynthia Farrell
Series: Constance Verity #1
Published by Recorded Books on December 15th 2016
Length: 9 hrs and 33 mins
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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dnf

Constance Verity has been saving the world since she was seven, and she’s sick of it. She sets off on one last adventure to assassinate her fairy godmother and become the one thing she’s never been: ordinary.
Ever since she was granted a wish at birth by her fairy godmother, Constance Verity has become one of the world’s great adventurers. It all began at her seventh birthday party when she defeated a snake. She has become a master of exotic martial arts, a keen detective, and possesses a collection of strange artifacts gathered from her adventures. But Constance has spent the past twenty-eight years saving the world, and she’s tired of it. All she wants is to work in an office and date a nice, normal guy. And she is finally figured out a way to do it: she’s going to kill her fairy godmother and reset her life. The only problem, though, is that saving the world is Constance’s destiny. She’s great at it, and there are forces at work to make sure she stays in the job.

Then again, it’s also her destiny to have a glorious death.

DNF @ 32%

“I’m Constance Danger Verity. I’ve defeated magical Nazis in four different alternate realities, and saved the King of the Moon from a literal army of ninja assassins. I can do anything. Why the hell can’t I do this?”

“This” = quitting the job of being the savior of the world.

Yes, Constance Verity was blessed as an infant by a fairy godmother who bestowed upon her the ability of mastering anything she puts her mind to. Anything. But she’s done with that life and all she wants is to get an office job and have a normal life, one that doesn’t involve vampire Al Capone, leprachaun kings, or turtle dragons. Whatever that is.

I really enjoyed this one at first because it had a super quirky sense of humor added into some pretty crazy urban fantasy. But those quirky levels kept rising further than I thought was possible. The formulaic clichés are piled on page after page and while I can see the appeal, it just wasn’t my preferred type of humor. We veered quickly into screwball territory. Constance Verity should have been delved into more because she was an interesting individual and one that I would have enjoyed learning more about. For the most part though we learn about the adventures she’s undertaken, the creatures shes battled, and the ways she’s saved the world. But we find out little about her personally as the story continues the focus on the plentiful quirky tropes instead.

“Are you trying to be a tough guy?” asked Connie. “If so, I’d recommend putting down the snow cone.”
Tia took a bite of her ice. “But it’s so good. I don’t know what they put in it – “
“Buzazabog blood.”
Tia examined the crimson shavings in her hand. “I thought it was some kind of space cherry.”
“Nope. Blood.”
Tia shrugged. “As long as it’s not artificial sweeteners, I can live with it.”

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Short & Sweet – Half-Blood Prince, The Rose and the Dagger, The Lover’s Dictionary

January 6, 2017 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016, Read in 2017, Short & Sweet Reviews 7 Comments

Short & Sweet – Half-Blood Prince, The Rose and the Dagger, The Lover’s DictionaryHarry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
Narrator: Jim Dale
Series: Harry Potter #6
Published by Pottermore from J.K. Rowling on November 20th 2015
Length: 18 hours and 55 minutes
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: The Cuckoo's Calling

five-stars

"There it was, hanging in the sky above the school: the blazing green skull with a serpent tongue, the mark Death Eaters left behind whenever they had entered a building...wherever they had murdered...."

When Dumbledore arrives at Privet Drive one summer night to collect Harry Potter, his wand hand is blackened and shrivelled, but he does not reveal why. Secrets and suspicion are spreading through the wizarding world, and Hogwarts itself is not safe. Harry is convinced that Malfoy bears the Dark Mark: there is a Death Eater amongst them. Harry will need powerful magic and true friends as he explores Voldemort's darkest secrets, and Dumbledore prepares him to face his destiny....

“It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness, nothing more.”

Once upon a time, I considered Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix to be my favorite of the bunch. This re-read? This is quite possibly my new favorite for how well-paced and exciting the mystery was. There was a reason behind everything Rowling included and when the links become apparent it was nothing short of fantastic. These stories have been quite dark since Goblet of Fire, but this installment added many fascinating angles to it and finally gives us the relationship between Harry and Dumbedore that should have been in place years ago. Technically this is my very first time re-reading past Prisoner of Azkaban (#3) and it almost felt like I was reading them for the first time. Having read Cursed Child has also changed my perception on the story as well by being able to view the characters differently knowing not just how they turned out at the end of Deathly Hallows, but several decades later as adults too.

harry potter

While I haven’t re-read these as much as I should, I have seen the movies several times and those are what has been ingrained into my brain so it’s fantastic to recall the subtle/unsubtle changes that were made. Peeves continues to be absent and Tonks’ major part in this book is left out completely, the destruction of the Burrow didn’t happen at all in the story, a certain someones funeral gets left out, but most missed were many of the memories of Tom Riddle that Dumebledore shared with Harry. Those memories, to me, are what makes Voldemort most fascinating (in the worst of ways) and gives him a much needed complexity which takes him beyond your standard cardboard villain. But yes, I have a vastly different appreciation for this story now and am grateful I’ve finally made time to re-read this series in its entirety.

“Let us step into the night and pursue that flighty temptress, adventure.”

Short & Sweet – Half-Blood Prince, The Rose and the Dagger, The Lover’s DictionaryThe Rose & the Dagger by Renee Ahdieh
Series: The Wrath and the Dawn #2
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers on April 26th 2016
Pages: 416
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: The Wrath and the Dawn

three-half-stars

The darker the sky, the brighter the stars.

In a land on the brink of war, Shahrzad is forced from the arms of her beloved husband, the Caliph of Khorasan. She once thought Khalid a monster—a merciless killer of wives, responsible for immeasurable heartache and pain—but as she unraveled his secrets, she found instead an extraordinary man and a love she could not deny. Still, a curse threatens to keep Shazi and Khalid apart forever.

Now she’s reunited with her family, who have found refuge in the desert, where a deadly force is gathering against Khalid—a force set on destroying his empire and commanded by Shazi’s spurned childhood sweetheart. Trapped between loyalties to those she loves, the only thing Shazi can do is act. Using the burgeoning magic within her as a guide, she strikes out on her own to end both this terrible curse and the brewing war once and for all. But to do it, she must evade enemies of her own to stay alive.
The saga that began with The Wrath and the Dawn takes its final turn as Shahrzad risks everything to find her way back to her one true love again.

“It was because they were two parts of a whole. He did not belong to her. And she did not belong to him. It was never about belonging to someone. It was about belonging together.”

Khalid spends his days keeping his identity secret as he helps to rebuild his demolished city and Shahrzad is doing all she possibly can to break the curse on Khalid so that they can live out their days together in peace. The Wrath and the Dawn only hinted at the presence of magic and I’m pleased to say that the magic is on full display in The Rose and the Dagger. There’s heartbreak and strife galore because is anything ever easy when it comes to love?

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It’s no secret that I absolutely adored the first book. Whether it’s because I loved the first so much and I didn’t expect the second to be able to live up to it or because of my poor track record in regards to final books in series’ but it took me forever to take the plunge and pick this one up. But better late than never, I finally did. This installment focuses less on the romance and more on the conspiracies and scheming going on in the background of the kingdom. Yes, the romance focus was definitely missed since I loved it so, however, there was a maturity to it this time around that was definitely absent from Wrath what with all the passion flying around. There were some intriguing mysteries involving Khalid’s rivals and Shahrzad’s father that I quite liked but one mystery in particular View Spoiler » left me feeling confused what with the unraveled ends that it was left with. While I was not nearly as enamored with this installment as I was with the prior, this still ended up being a most magical story inspired by A Thousand and One Nights.

Short & Sweet – Half-Blood Prince, The Rose and the Dagger, The Lover’s DictionaryThe Lover's Dictionary by David Levithan
Published by Picador on January 17th 2012
Pages: 224
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: The Lover's Dictionary

five-stars

How does one talk about love? Is it even possible to describe something at once utterly mundane and wholly transcendent, that has the power to consume our lives completely, while making us feel part of something infinitely larger than ourselves? Taking a unique approach to this age-old problem, the nameless narrator of David Levithan's The Lover's Dictionary constructs the story of a relationship as a dictionary. Through these sharp entries, he provides an intimate window into the great events and quotidian trifles of coupledom, giving us an indelible and deeply moving portrait of love in our time.

‘It scares me how hard it is to remember life before you. I can’t even make the comparisons anymore, because my memories of that time have all the depth of a photograph. It seems foolish to play games of better and worse. It’s simply a matter of is and is no longer.’

The Lover’s Dictionary is the antithesis of a love story. But it’s still a story of love. It’s the type that brings to light all the hairline fractures and imperfections of romance. It shows the wondrous, shining moments of first love and the gloomy, dispiriting moments when it comes to a close. It’s both tragic and comforting and it’s an astonishing piece of writing.

flux, n.

The natural state. Our moods change. Our lives change. Our feelings for each other change. Our bearings change. The song changes. The air changes. The temperature of the shower changes.

Accept this. We must accept this.

I read and reviewed this years ago but I recently purchased a copy for myself and have been wanting to re-read just to see if this retained all the same magic that I recalled it having. I quite possibly loved this even more, mainly because while I could appreciate the emotions behind the story the first read, the second read was like a mirror reflecting back all my current emotions. It made my heart ache quite fiercely at times, but reading something so sincere and genuine can be a breath of fresh air, even when it hurts.

abyss, n.

There are times when I doubt everything. When I regret everything you’ve taken from me, everything I’ve given you, and the waste of all the time I’ve spent on us.

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Short & Sweet – Little Women, Skipping Christmas, Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe

December 30, 2016 Bonnie Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Short & Sweet Reviews 1 Comment

Short & Sweet – Little Women, Skipping Christmas, Christmas at the Comfort Food CafeLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott
Published by Tally Hall Press on 1868
Pages: 635
Genres: Classics, Historical Fiction, Holiday - Christmas
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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three-stars

Grown-up Meg, tomboyish Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy. The four March sisters couldn't be more different. But with their father away at war, and their mother working to support the family, they have to rely on one another. Whether they're putting on a play, forming a secret society, or celebrating Christmas, there's one thing they can't help wondering: Will Father return home safely?

“I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.”

Can you believe it? The last person on Earth has finally read Little Women! Okay, I’m kidding, I’m sure I wasn’t the last one to read it but sure feels like it. But yes, this was my very first time reading it and I’m glad I did even though it was a bit of a struggle because 18th century works of fictions and I don’t often get along real well. But despite my apprehension View Spoiler » this one really won me over in the end. I learned to appreciate it for what it’s meant to be: an old-fashioned yet authentic tale of a close knit family, and in particular four very different young women, struggling to find their place in a difficult time in history. It’s not a glamorous tale of silk gowns and ball rooms, but rather an accurate interpretation of how life really was for Louisa May Alcott and her three sisters, as well as all the other women coming of age in the 1800s. It makes you appreciate family, life itself, and presents under the Christmas tree. And NOW, I can finally watch the movie.

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Short & Sweet – Little Women, Skipping Christmas, Christmas at the Comfort Food CafeSkipping Christmas by John Grisham
Narrator: Dennis Boutsikaris
Published by Random House Audio on November 6th 2001
Length: 3 hrs and 42 mins
Genres: Holiday - Christmas
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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five-stars

Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on Hemlock Street without a rooftop Frosty; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences–and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined.

In my opinion, this is the Christmas book. Forget A Christmas Carol or anything else resembling wholesome Christmas stories, Skipping Christmas is a destined classic. What can I say, the concept of skipping Christmas entirely and going on a cruise instead just speaks to my Grinch-y soul.

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This year I opted to re-read the audiobook version which is narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris who portrays Luther Krank perfectly in all his deadpan humorous glory. When I first discovered this novel, many, many years ago… I almost glanced over it because “John Grisham? Isn’t that the guy that writes legal thrillers?” Yep, he sure is, but apparently he also has a humorous side. Many of you have likely seen the film adaptation Christmas with the Kranks which is all sorts of hilarious (especially with the book lacking that sidesplitting scene after Luther gets botox), but this short novel is an amusing way to spend a few hours surrounded by Christmas cheer as you contemplate an alternative to it all.

Short & Sweet – Little Women, Skipping Christmas, Christmas at the Comfort Food CafeChristmas at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson
Series: Comfort Food Cafe #2
Published by HarperImpulse on September 23rd 2016
Pages: 209
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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three-stars

Becca Fletcher has always hated Christmas but she has her reasons for being Little Miss Grinch. Now, though, she can’t avoid her version of ho-ho-hell – because she’s travelling to the Comfort Food Cafe to spend the festive season with her sister Laura and her family. She’s expecting mulled wine, 24-hour Christmas movie marathons and all kinds of very merry torture.

Little does Becca know that the Comfort Food Cafe is like no other place on earth. Perched on a snow-covered hill, it’s a place full of friendship where broken hearts can heal, new love can blossom and where Becca’s Christmas miracle really could happen – if only she can let it…

‘They are perfect together, and it’s only their pasts holding them back.
Which, I suppose, is a sentence that could be applied to all of us, in some way or another.’

Becca Fletcher has always been known as the wild child of the family: drugs, alcohol, one night stands, you name it. She’s turned over a new leaf after a tragedy strikes her sister’s family and she realizes that it’s time she became someone that can be depended on. And now that same sister is asking her to come visit her for Christmas. She hates Christmas, but she just can’t say no to her sister.

The little town of Budbury is a charming little seaside village where everyone is friendly and looks out for one another. It’s the kind of quaint place that is only found within the pages of a story, but it doesn’t stop you from wishing such a place really existed. This is a fun Christmas time read but admittedly the Christmas theme took a backseat to the romance. Becca’s sister has been trying to set her up with the cute Irish boy named Sam since this past summer and when she visits, they finally meet in person for the first time. I appreciated Becca’s honesty with her past problems and not wanting to jump into anything (like a bed) too quickly and was up front and honest with him about this. She didn’t beat around the bush and gloss over her problems or make any sort of excuses, so for him to continue to doggedly pursue her despite her insistence they take things slow was a bit problematic for me. Granted, this all works out like your typical storybook romance is supposed to and was undeniably cute once I got past my awkward feels about the whole thing.

Christmas + cutesy romance = two peas in a pod.

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Short & Sweet – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, The Last Days of Jack Sparks, Bad Boy

December 23, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016, Short & Sweet Reviews 9 Comments

Short & Sweet – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, The Last Days of Jack Sparks, Bad BoyAll the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on August 9th 2016
Pages: 346
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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four-stars

A beautiful and provocative love story between two unlikely people and the hard-won relationship that elevates them above the Midwestern meth lab backdrop of their lives.

As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. It's safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight. Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around. Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night her star gazing causes an accident. After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father's thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold.

By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery. When tragedy rips Wavy's family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world. A powerful novel you won’t soon forget, Bryn Greenwood's All the Ugly and Wonderful Things challenges all we know and believe about love.

We meet Wavonna “Wavy” Quinn when she’s only five years old and she’s already experienced far more than any five year old should. Her father Liam is a meth dealer and her mother Val is an addict. Val possesses more than a few neurosis about cleanliness (she tells her she has germs, sticks her fingers down her throat telling her food is dirty, occasionally even throws food out completely forcing Wavy and her younger brother Donal to dig from the trash for their dinners) and subsequently passes these same neurosis onto Wavy. She refuses to eat when others are looking, she doesn’t touch anyone, and refuses to be touched. Until Jesse Joe Kellen. Kellen is a drug runner for Liam but he begins the only one that takes care of Wavy and her brother. As Wavy grows up in her unstable environment, we’re told her story from her point-of-view and various others in her life and we see how her and Kellen’s relationship transforms into something, well, both ugly and wonderful.

I’ve read some questionable books in my time but the idea of romanticizing a relationship between an extremely  young girl (they met when she was just 5) with a twenty-something year old man had me saying

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For good reason, but damn did Greenwood make it work. The story unfolds over the course of 15 years or so of Wavy’s life and through it all we see the trauma she underwent in her household and how her and Kellen’s relationship ultimately saved them both. I appreciated how much we got to see from Wavy’s point of view because it gave the reader the ability to develop some much needed tolerance. While it may be deemed wrong in the eyes of the law, Wavy had a complete understanding of their less than perfect romance. Setting aside the squick factor that I know is a definite issue, this was a beautiful tale of hard-fought love.

I received this book for 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 – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, The Last Days of Jack Sparks, Bad BoyThe Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp
Published by Orbit on March 3rd 2016
Pages: 336
Genres: Horror
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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four-stars

Jack Sparks died while writing this book. This is the account of his final days.
In 2014, Jack Sparks - the controversial pop culture journalist - died in mysterious circumstances.

To his fans, Jack was a fearless rebel; to his detractors, he was a talentless hack. Either way, his death came as a shock to everyone.

It was no secret that Jack had been researching the occult for his new book. He'd already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed in rural Italy.

Then there was that video: thirty-six seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.

Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed - until now. This book, compiled from the files found after his death, reveals the chilling details of Jack's final hours.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks is about, well, the last days of Jack Sparks. While researching the occult for his most recent book, he had some mysterious incidents that even he couldn’t explain away. See, even though he was researching the occult, he was actually a professed non-believer of it all and sought to discredit everyone. He attended an actual exorcism and laughed at the experience and then there was the mysterious video that was added onto his personal YouTube channel showing possible proof of an actual ghost. It was a bit downhill for him from there on out.

This story was for the most part a mystery and the horror would sneak up on you reminding you of its true genre, but there was quite a lot of humor to balance things out. For the record, I read a lot of horror and this story often left me with my jaw on the ground. Once things really got going and you’re dealing with various different storylines that were confusing yet still managed to make sense, then Arnopp hits you with the twist.

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But like, in the best way.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks managed to both shock and impress me despite the loose ends that didn’t quite get resolved to my liking. If you enjoyed A Head Full of Ghosts but were wishing it was a bit more terrifying? This reads for you.

I received this book for 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 – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, The Last Days of Jack Sparks, Bad BoyBad Boy by Elliot Wake
Narrator: Randal Marsh
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on December 6th 2016
Pages: 248
Length: 8 hrs and 29 mins
Genres: Contemporary
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Audible
Goodreads


two-half-stars

Vlog star Renard Grant has nothing to prove: he’s got a pretty face, chiseled body, and two million adoring video subscribers. Plus the scars on his chest and a prescription for testosterone. Because Ren is transgender: assigned female at birth, living now as male. He films his transition and shares it bravely with the world; his fans love his honesty and positivity.

But Ren has been living a double life.

Off-camera, he’s Cane, the muscle-bound enforcer for social justice vigilante group Black Iris. As Cane, he lets his dark side loose. Hurts those who prey on the disempowered. Indulges in the ugly side of masculinity. And his new partner, Tamsin Baylor, is a girl as rough and relentless as him. Together, they terrorize the trolls into silence.

But when a routine Black Iris job goes south, Ren is put in the crosshairs. Someone is out to ruin his life. He’s a bad boy, they say, guilty of what he punishes others for.

Just like every other guy: at heart, he’s a monster, too.

Now Ren’s got everything to prove. He has to clear his name, and show the world he’s a good man. But that requires facing demons he’s locked away for years. And it might mean discovering he’s not such a good guy after all.

Renard Grant is a popular transgender vlogger who is also a vigilante saving terrorized women in his spare time. If your immediate thought is “that’s a bit of a mouthful” you would be right. Grant’s story is a rousing tale of discovering your true identity; something that Wake can speak from the heart about because his emotions shown clearly through the delivery. The transformation process is discussed in much detail and it’s enlightening and informative, shedding light on something with many pre-conceived notions.

I adored Unteachable and while Black Iris and Cam Girl both had their fair share of flaws, there was still much to love and the writing style is something to behold. The issue I had with Bad Boy is there’s simply far too much going on in the few pages there are. There was already enough of a story recounting the experience of transitioning without adding in the concept of a masked vigilante group protecting women. It’s a great concept, the only problem is the transition story View Spoiler » was a far more compelling one and the superfluous addition only caused it to pale in comparison. On top of that, the combination of many of Wake’s previous characters from Black Iris and Cam Girl was overwhelming. Each of her characters can hold their own as the star of the show and having them all grouped together, battling for attention, felt like some sort of all-consuming motley (and not in the best way). Bad Boy is still no doubt well worth the read for the edifying aspect alone.

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Audiobook Review – I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid

December 10, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 3 Comments

Audiobook Review – I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain ReidI'm Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid
Narrator: Candace Thaxton
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on June 14th 2016
Pages: 5 hours and 22 minutes
Genres: Horror, Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Audible
Goodreads


two-stars

In this deeply scary and intensely unnerving debut novel, Jake and a woman known only as “The Girlfriend” are on a drive to visit his parents at their secluded farm. But when Jake leaves “The Girlfriend” stranded at an abandoned high school, what follows is a twisted unraveling of the darkest unease, an exploration into psychological frailty, and an ending as suspenseful as The Usual Suspects and as haunting as Misery.

Deeply scary and intensely unnerving, Iain Reid’s debut novel is a tightening spiral of a story about a woman’s uncertainty of her relationship with her boyfriend, Jake. After an uncomfortable and confusing trip to meet Jake’s parents at their isolated farmhouse, reality unravels and events spin out of control when Jake and “The Girlfriend” make an unscheduled stop at an abandoned high school. Part murder mystery, part psychological thriller, I’m Thinking of Ending Things is about doubt, psychological fragility, and the lengths we’ll go to avoid the truth. Twisted as Shutter Island, as suspenseful as Under the Skin and as atmospheric as The Sisters Brothers, Reid’s breakout literary thriller is sure to keep readers guessing until the last page.

‘Sometimes a thought is closer to truth, to reality, than an action. You can say anything, you can do anything, but you can’t fake a thought.’

Jake and his girlfriend are traveling to visit his parents, whom she’s meeting for the first time, but on the way there she realizes that she’s thinking of ending things with Jake. Throughout the entirety of the trip, she contemplates her decision, wondering if she should truly go through with it. Her internal monologue remains ambivalent while describing their supposed rare and intense attachment. What exactly would make her suddenly think about ending things remains a mystery. She also touches on strange events from her childhood and a recent individual who has been leaving eerie voicemails that she isn’t sure how to handle. In addition to this are sections interspersed which imply that a crime took place but no clear answer is given. This rehashing of events is an unsettling build-up to a truly baffling finish.

what britney spears confused britney wut

This story had such diverging ratings that I HAD to try this, even if it turned out to be horrendous. Sometimes you just gotta see for yourself because you never really know. Well, my rating pretty much speaks for itself. I didn’t hate it but I clearly didn’t love it. The narration of this audiobook succeeded in making this one a manageable read and bumped up my rating from a mere 1 star. Her character voices were easily able to differentiate including Jack’s male voice. The individual that was leaving the eerie voicemails was described as having an effeminate voice and while the voicemails themselves were meant to spook the reader, Candace Thaxton’s production of these particular scenes were the most eerie part. (See below for an audio clip.) In terms of the “mystery”, it relies heavily on creating a build up of intrigue (and an immense amount of bait-and-switch tactics) to get you to the twist of an ending. Enough is revealed by our narrator via her stream of conscious depiction of events, but you can tell from early on that she’s not being exactly forthcoming in the details. Something is being omitted; there’s a missing piece of the puzzle. If you didn’t already detect the cryptic nature of our narrator, the fact that she isn’t ever identified, she remains nameless the entirety of the novel, should be a flashing warning sign.

‘Both fictions and memories are recalled and retold. They’re both forms of stories. Stories are the way we learn. Stories are how we understand each other.’

Admittedly, the beginning was fairly adequate even though there was that feeling of a forced air of mystery. As more is revealed, it’s hard to see what direction this story is headed in but it’s enough to still leave you curious. But then the weirdness sets in. She asks Jake questions which he ignores completely as if she never even spoke, he gives her a tour of the farm View Spoiler » instead of going immediately into the house to see his parents whom they traveled hours to see, his idea to stop at a Dairy Queen while there’s an ongoing blizzard outside, and most especially was his insistence that they detour down an unplowed road because he thinks there’s a school down there with most likely a trash can because he has to throw away his melting lemonade cup before the cup holders get sticky.

wtf confused huh jenna marbles what the fuck

This sudden lack of sense was an immediate disconnect from the mystery because I knew that something fishy was going on. Nothing seemed logical and clearly everything that was happening had to be questioned to the nth degree. Regardless of my confusion, the ending could have delivered a spectacular twist that had me praising the authors ingenuity… but not in this case. The ending clears up all questions without being thrown some curve ball twist you never saw coming. Thinking back over the entirety of this short novel, you can see hints at the reveal that was to come, but that doesn’t make it any more satisfying. In truth, the ending is a bit too orderly for how convoluted this novel is presented and while the introductory build-up had me immediately hooked, the end result was anticlimactic.

‘Maybe the end was written right from the beginning.’

1986 jeff goldblum geena davis the fly this is it

 

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Audiobook Review – Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

November 25, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Non-Fiction, Read in 2016 3 Comments

I received this book for 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.

Audiobook Review – Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna KendrickScrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
Narrator: Anna Kendrick
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on November 15th 2016
Length: 6 hours
Genres: Memoir, Funny-ha-ha
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Audible
Goodreads


four-stars

A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

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While Anna Kendrick discovered a love for acting at an early age, this certainly didn’t help her popularity with the other kids. What middle schooler even knows what the hell Sundance is anyways? Scrappy Little Nobody is a collection of brilliantly amusing episodes of her life from the time she was in a community theater production of Annie (Annie is brought up frequently, for which she apologizes for), flashing forward to the time she was typically referred to as “Number 44” on the set of Twilight, and the time she was “high off her face” at the Spirit Awards. Interspersed between these anecdotes are stories of growing up as a normal (yet very small) child in Maine, struggling to make ends meet even after becoming “a star”, and her eternal love of sweatpants.

“I love rules and I love following them, unless that rule is stupid.”

I’ve read more celebrity memoirs in the past year than I have in my entire life. There was the gorgeously written Dear Mr. You (Mary Louise Parker), the inspirational Year of Yes (Shonda Rhimes) and Yes, Please (Amy Poehler), and the hilarious The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo (Amy Schumer). There’s something unreasonably astonishing, yet still refreshing, about reading celebrity memoirs and finding yourself taken aback at what normal people they are. While it could be argued that they’re simply trying to appear like normal people, Anna Kendrick’s stories come off as very authentic and candid. While her witty sense of humor is flawless, having her read this only enhanced the story. Her narration showcases her distinctive voice and her cleverly written zingers are even more hilarious when read out loud. At a mere six hours of audiobook time, her intimate recap of her thirty-one years of life leaves you wishing for more of her comical tidbits.

“So now, when I’m standing in a patch of wet moss in open-toed shoes and a strapless chiffon sundress, watching my breath fog in front of my face, I think: You are a fucking Navy SEAL, Kendrick! You will get through this scene, you will say the stupid joke, and if you lose a nipple to frostbite in the process it will be for art!

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For more hilarious memoirs…

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Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson [Review]
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer [Review]
Yes Please by Amy Poehler

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Ominous October – Dead Souls by J. Lincoln Fenn

October 8, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 0 Comments

I received this book for 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.

Ominous October – Dead Souls by J. Lincoln FennDead Souls by J. Lincoln Fenn
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on September 20th 2016
Length: 9 hours and 30 minutes
Genres: Horror
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository
Goodreads


four-stars

From the award-winning author of the acclaimed novel Poe comes an edgy and bone-chilling new novel.

When Fiona Dunn is approached in a bar by a man who claims he's the devil, she figures it's just some kind of postmodern-slash-ironic pickup line. But a few drinks in, he offers her a wish in exchange for her immortal soul, and in addition Fiona must perform a special favor for him whenever the time comes. Fiona finds the entire matter so absurd that she agrees. Bad idea. Not only does Fiona soon discover that she really was talking to the devil incarnate, but she's now been initiated into a bizarre support group of similar "dead souls" - those who have done the same thing as Fiona on a whim and who must spend their waking hours in absolute terror of that favor eventually being called in...and what exactly is required from each of them in order to give the devil his due.

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Imagine witnessing your boyfriend get into a taxi with another woman after he tells you he’s leaving town on a business trip. You head to the bar to get trashed only to end up unintentionally selling your soul to a man named Scratch, who also claims to be the devil, for a single wish. There’s also the matter of the future favor he’ll be calling in when you least expect it. Bad freaking night. Fiona Dunn is an atheist and doesn’t believe it’s at all impossible, but when clear evidence to the contrary rears its ugly head, she’s determined to find a way out of the deal. Once she discovers that there are far more “dead souls” than just her in Oakland, California, she winds up becoming a new member of a support group for all who continue to walk this Earth, minus a soul. But as time passes, the Devil starts calling in his favors, and they end up being far more horrifying than they ever would have anticipated.

Out of all the wishes Fiona could have made, she made the wish to be truly invisible, to be able to witness all the things she otherwise would have missed. In exchange, she gets a business card with the date she sold her soul burnt into it and a blank space below “Favor.” Once the Devil calls in his favor, instructions will appear and you won’t be able to say no. And this is the part where the otherwise mysterious tale turns dark and gruesome. Very, very dark and gruesome. It is suggested that the mass shootings and otherwise horrifyingly violent acts that have occurred in the past (and even hinting at current events) are nothing more than the Devil calling his favor, performing violent acts in his name. I specifically enjoyed how the author manages to make this story very much set in the real world yet incorporating the paranormal aspects in such a way to make it all seem scarily conceivable.

The story is written in first person which gives it that distressing sense of urgency as Fiona frantically tries to come up with a plan to give out of the disaster she finds herself in. The beginning of the story delves into Fiona’s career as a marketing executive and it’s not until later you realize how relevant it all is in the grand scheme of things. A marketing executive is akin to a salesman and Fiona is determined to sell her plan to the Devil, just as she were to sell an idea to a client, except this time her very soul is at stake.

More horrifying than terrifying, but still immensely satisfying. Fenn knocks it out of the park with this delightfully macabre tale of horror.

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Horns by Joe Hill [Purchase]
The Waking Dark by Robin Wasserman [Purchase//Review]
A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay [Purchase//Review]

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