Posts Categorized: eARC

Life’s Too Short – Lost Boy, The Afterlife of Holly Chase, Catalina

December 14, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, Life's Too Short 0 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.

Life’s Too Short – Lost Boy, The Afterlife of Holly Chase, CatalinaLost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry
Published by Berkley Books on July 4th 2017
Pages: 292
Genres: Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Alice, Red Queen

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From the national bestselling author of Alice comes a familiar story with a dark hook—a tale about Peter Pan and the friend who became his nemesis, a nemesis who may not be the blackhearted villain Peter says he is…

There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. This is how it happened. How I went from being Peter Pan’s first—and favorite—lost boy to his greatest enemy.

Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter's idea of fun is sharper than a pirate’s sword. Because it’s never been all fun and games on the island. Our neighbors are pirates and monsters. Our toys are knife and stick and rock—the kinds of playthings that bite.

Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever.

DNF @ page 77

I went into this with insanely high hopes because 1. I love a good villain retelling and 2. I loved The Chronicles of Alice but despite this, I don’t think high expectations is what caused me to DNF. I was fine with Peter being a more tarnished version of the Peter we all already know and I was fine with Jamie being a decent human being because that just means we get to see the path he ended up on that resulted in Captain Hook. No, what was disappointing was the writing. This was an extremely violent retelling (not an issue for me) but it’s written like it’s a Young Adult novel. Lost Boy was also marketed somewhat towards the YA crowd, what with the influx of fairy tale popularity, which would possibly explain the difference in writing styles between Alice and Lost Boy. It could also be argued that it was written in such a way because the characters themselves were children, however, these are “children” that have been children for many decades, locked in their children bodies while they remain in Neverland. I feel like they would have still matured in some sense over time. Regardless of why it was written this way, I didn’t care for it, it was slow and plodding and the characters and world were under-developed relying on existing impressions of a widely known tale.

I received this book free from Edelweiss 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 – Lost Boy, The Afterlife of Holly Chase, CatalinaThe Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
Published by HarperTeen on October 24th 2017
Pages: 389
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: Unearthly, Hallowed, Boundless

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On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she'd become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn't.

And then she died.

Now she's stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge--as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly's afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . .

DNF @ 3%

No, I didn’t get far enough into this story for it to begin to differentiate between its classic inspiration, but Holly Chase is a horrid brat. Much like Ebeneezer Scrooge but I guess I can handle that kind of behavior in a horribly cranky old man versus a self-entitled teenager who is cruel to the housekeeper. Honestly, this is Mean Girls: the Christmas version; if Regina George was visited by the three ghosts of Christmas. I’m not here for that.

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 – Lost Boy, The Afterlife of Holly Chase, CatalinaCatalina: A Novel by Liska Jacobs
Published by FSG Originals on November 7th 2017
Pages: 240
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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A magnetic, provocative debut novel chronicling a young woman's downward spiral following the end of an affair

Elsa Fisher is headed for rock bottom. At least, that's her plan. She has just been fired from MoMA on the heels of an affair with her married boss, and she retreats to Los Angeles to blow her severance package on whatever it takes to numb the pain. Her abandoned crew of college friends (childhood friend Charlotte and her wayward husband, Jared; and Elsa's ex-husband, Robby) receive her with open arms, and, thinking she's on vacation, a plan to celebrate their reunion on a booze-soaked sailing trip to Catalina Island.

But Elsa doesn't want to celebrate. She is lost, lonely, and full of rage, and only wants to sink as low as the drugs and alcohol will take her. On Catalina, her determined unraveling and recklessness expose painful memories and dark desires, putting everyone in the group at risk.

With the creeping menace of Patricia Highsmith and the bender-chic of Bret Easton Ellis, Liska Jacobs brings you inside the mind of an angry, reckless young woman hell-bent on destruction--every page taut with the knowledge that Elsa's path does not lead to a happy place. Catalina is a compulsive, deliciously dark exploration of beauty, love, and friendship, and the sometimes toxic desires that drive us.

DNF @ 3%

I read a single chapter of this book. It was enough. Catalina is the story of Elsa Fisher, a woman that spirals out of control after her affair with her married boss is discovered. She returns home, to a place where she never wanted to return to, to people she never wanted to see again, but she slips easily back into that life. Except everything is a tragedy because well, life is just so hard.

“Charly? She will definitely want to go shopping. And we will get Frappuccinos with skim milk, and try on dresses, and talk about whatever argument she and Jared are currently in the middle of. God, how exhausting to be back.”

I guess I never really understood why she HAD to go back home. Sure, maybe that’s explained in a later chapter, but she’s introduced as this martyr that loses her job and just gives up and goes back home. Why didn’t she try to get a new job? Why do I care? Oh wait, I don’t.

“The room-service boy lingers, saying he thinks redheads are pretty. He’s young and breakable and it would feel so goddamn good to break something.”

Yeah, Elsa Fisher is a pleasant individual. Real likable.

“I shower with my drink and take one of Mother’s Vicodins.”

Oh goodie. I picked up the novelization of a soap opera. Hard pass.

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Life’s Too Short – Surprise Me, Ultraluminous, All the Crooked Saints

December 8, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, Life's Too Short 5 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.

Life’s Too Short – Surprise Me, Ultraluminous, All the Crooked SaintsSurprise Me by Sophie Kinsella
Published by Dial Press on February 13th 2018
Pages: 432
Genres: Chick-Lit
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Wedding Night, My Not So Perfect Life

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After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other's sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. They never expected "until death do us part" to mean seven decades.

In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprise Me, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that question some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all.

DNF @ 25%

The only thing that came as a surprise was this DNF.

Honestly, I only read as much as I did because of my love of Kinsella. You know those stories that start off fairly mediocre and you just keep thinking (in this case, HOPING) that it’ll get better? It started off mildly intriguing: life is perfect for this couple, they have two beautiful children, good jobs, a happy life, and they even complete one another’s sentences. *groan* The two go to the doctor to get physicals at which point the doctor informs them they are perfectly healthy and they should plan on living long, long lives. Then he says: “You should have sixty-eight more wonderful years of marriage!” And then everything goes wrong. Because of course, they didn’t even consider the fact that they’d live that long, never thought about long-term being that long when it came to being married.

“We’ve got so much time.”
“But what are we going to do with it, Sylvie? How are we going to fill the endless, soulless years of mindless drone work? Where’s the joy in our lives?” He looks around the kitchen with a questing gaze, as though it might be in a jar labeled joy, next to turmeric.

Even though everything is perfectly fine and they have happy lives, now they have to deal with the concept that they’re going to have to be with one another for SO LONG. Come on. Hello, till death do us part? This is why everyone fucking gets divorced these days. Nobody stops to consider what it actually means, what you’re committing to, argh. I just found the whole concept stupid. And I’m sure they get over it and get back to being perfectly happy with their kids and white picket fence but I didn’t really care if they worked it out or not. Plus? There was this weird obsession with her dead father and lines like this:

‘Here in the privacy of my own mind, where no one else can hear, I can say it: To the outside world, Dan isn’t in the same league as my father. He doesn’t have the gloss, the money, the stature, the charitable achievements.’

Not just comparing your father to your husband, who in your mind is lacking in comparison, but comparing your dead father to your husband… nope. I’m done.

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 – Surprise Me, Ultraluminous, All the Crooked SaintsUltraluminous: A Novel by Katherine Faw Morris, Katherine Faw
Published by MCD on December 5th 2017
Pages: 176
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Young God

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Girlfriend. Prostitute. Addict. Terrorist? Who is K?

Ultraluminous, the daring new novel from Katherine Faw, the brilliant author of Young God, follows one year in the life of a high-end, girlfriend-experience prostitute. She has just returned to her native New York City after more than a decade abroad—in the capitals of Asia and the Middle East, her last stop Dubai, with a man she recalls only as the Sheikh—but it’s unclear why exactly she’s come back. Did things go badly for her? Does she have scores to settle?

Regardless, she has quickly made herself at home. She’s set up a rotation of clients—all of them in finance, and each of whom has different delusions of how he is important to her. And she’s also met a man whom she doesn’t charge—a damaged former Army Ranger, back from Afghanistan, and a fellow long-time heroin addict.

Her days are strangely orderly: a repetition of dinners, personal grooming, museum exhibitions, sex, Duane Reades (she likes the sushi), cosmology, sex, gallery shows, heroin, sex, and art films (which she finds soothing). The pattern is comforting, but does she really believe it’s sustainable? Or do the barely discernible rifts in her routine suggest that something else is percolating under the surface? Could she have fallen for one of her bankers? Or do those supposed rifts suggest a pattern within the pattern, a larger scheme she’s not showing us, a truth that won’t be revealed until we can see everything?

DNF @ 6%

I read Young God, so I did know what I was getting into by requesting this one. Or at least I thought I did. Ultraluminous is the story of a prostitute named K who makes up a different name for each new guy. No one else in this story has an actual name either. There’s the bodega guy. The art guy. The calf’s brain guy. The guy who buys’s me things. The junk-bond guy. I understand that the character herself named these characters as such as a lack of caring, deeming it unnecessary to know them personally given her job, but it resulted in an odd experience when reading about it. Her stories about each guy are told in snippets with little to no differentiation between each, almost as if it was a string of her recalling these memories instead of living them in real-time. It was easy to fall into this story and ride this strange stream of consciousness type wave but it was hard to find any entertainment in the sparseness.

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.

Life’s Too Short – Surprise Me, Ultraluminous, All the Crooked SaintsAll the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Published by Scholastic Press on October 10th 2017
Pages: 320
Genres: Magical Realism
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Shiver, Forever, The Raven Boys

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Here is a thing everyone wants: a miracle.Here is a thing everyone fears: what it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

DNF @ page 42

The moment I realized I wasn’t going to be able to finish a Stiefvater and I’d be forced to DNF:

I started this immediately when I got it but set it aside after a few pages. I thought it was because, at the time, I was in the midst of a major book slump so I attributed it to that but I had serious problems this time around as well. All the Crooked Saints is this strange, unexpected sort of magical realism. For me though, magical realism needs to be centered in realism. The magical aspects need to feel like a different type of reality but something that’s wholly possible. The magical realism here was just bizarre and out there and simply didn’t work for me. Also, the characters themselves were completely unlikable and were ridiculously pretentious. But there were a few lines I saved and a few lines I saw saved on Goodreads that caused a raised eyebrow or two:

‘She was so mean that she even killed her own name, and now people just pointed to her.’

‘She had been wearing artificial eyelashes in the womb and when they had fallen off in the birth canal, she had lost no time in replacing them.’

‘She formed pots out of clay that were so striking that sometimes, when she went to gather clay for a new one, she discovered that the clay had eagerly already begun to shape itself for her. Her voice was so well trained that bulls would lie down when they heard her sing. […] She could ride two horses at the same time, one leg on each horse, and still hold down her skirt to maintain her modesty, if she felt like it. Her segueza, developed from an ancient recipe, was so excellent that time itself stood still while you were eating it in order to savor the flavor along with you.’

Some may read these lines and think they’re gorgeous, but I can’t deal with an entire book full of that. Even a Stiefvater.

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Book Review – Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

November 9, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2017 6 Comments

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

Book Review – Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste NgLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Published by Penguin Press on September 12th 2017
Pages: 352
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: Everything I Never Told You

three-half-stars

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned -- from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren -- an enigmatic artist and single mother -- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town--and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

“Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.”

In Shaker Heights, Ohio, the residents believe themselves to live in a pseudo-bubble of perfection. The garbage trucks collect trash in alleys so as to not create an eyesore on the streets, their children are all raised to be productive members of society, and any hint of wrongdoing is always brushed off as an impossibility. Mia Warren, a “starving artist” single mother, and her teenage daughter Pearl move to this small town surrounded by an air of mystery, peaking the inquisitiveness of the town’s inhabitants. The duo has lived a nomadic existence since Pearl was born, but they find something in Shaker Heights that they hadn’t found before: a reason to stay. Pearl befriends the Richardson children, whose mother is actually their landlord, and their friendship to Pearl is something that she had never experienced before. Pearl and Mia’s presence, in turn, is a curiosity to the children, not having witnessed anything less than a perfect family before. The secrets of Mia and Pearl’s past and the underlying tension when a family tries to adopt a Chinese-American baby will inadvertently leave an unending change in this community.

Little Fires Everywhere opens with, well, little fires everywhere. Months after Mia and her daughter have moved to town, Mrs. Richardson wakes to find her house on fire, with small fires having been started on each of her children’s beds. Izzy, her youngest, has always been the rebel of the family and is the only one missing and is, therefore, the likely culprit. But no mystery is ever that simple, and figuring out what led up to it is the best part. Flashback to Mia and Pearl’s arrival in her VW Rabbit with their only possessions contained within, they breeze into town much like the obscure Vianne and her daughter, Anouk, breezed into that small French town in Chocolat. They’re looked upon as outsiders, but they quickly make themselves at home in this sequestered community. But when the McCulloughs decide to adopt a Chinese-American baby that was abandoned at a fire station, Mia Warren begins to involve herself in the spectacle for more reasons than one. The sole issue I had with this story was that the topic of race is clearly meant to shine a spotlight on the intricacies of the situation but ended up becoming too simplified in order to achieve an “end” to the storyline. This is also clearly meant to be the main storyline but it’s muddied by Mia’s own story, even when its inclusion was meant to show a reasoning behind her involvement.

Celeste Ng’s sophomore novel proves herself to be incredibly perceptive at bringing contemporary America to life. The foundation of her plot is based on simple legitimacy without the unnecessary addition of drama making her stories feel wholly genuine. Her stories never lack for complexity with Little Fires Everywhere tackling race, class, adoption, abortion in addition to the intricacies of motherhood and the everlasting weight of secrets. Contemporary has never been my favorite genre, but Ng makes it so incredibly appealing that I’m not sure I’ll ever stop seeking out her stories.

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Life’s Too Short – If We Were Villains, Ill Will, Yesternight

June 2, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Life's Too Short, YA 8 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.

Life’s Too Short – If We Were Villains, Ill Will, YesternightIf We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
Published by Flatiron Books on April 11th 2017
Pages: 352
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Enter the players. There were seven of us then, seven bright young things with wide precious futures ahead of us. Until that year, we saw no further than the books in front of our faces.

On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

Ten years ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.

Part coming-of-age story, part confession, If We Were Villains explores the magical and dangerous boundary between art and life. In this tale of loyalty and betrayal, madness and ecstasy, the players must choose what roles to play before the curtain falls.

DNF @ 10%

I overlooked the Shakespearean focus of this novel in favor of the comparisons to The Secret History. My mistake. Shakespeare has just never, and I’m resigned to believe will never, be my thing. The opening gives the reader a glimpse at the future, of one of the main characters being released for jail for an unknown crime, and it’s a hook that works. But then we’re introduced to seven characters: Richard, Meredith, Filippa, Alexander, Wren, James, and Oliver. Every single one of these characters, regardless of gender, all blended together without any helpful differentiation to keep track of who was who. The theater kid stereotypes were excessive in my opinion and you practically had to be a theater kid to understand and/or appreciate most of it.

“That was ruthless,” I said, sotto voce.

The author holds a Masters in Shakespeare studies so, being as far from a theater kid as one can get, I can only assume she knows what she’s talking about. Constantly quoting Shakespeare in conversation got old, fast, and by 10% I put on my hipster glasses and called 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 – If We Were Villains, Ill Will, YesternightIll Will by Dan Chaon
Published by Ballantine Books on March 7th 2017
Pages: 480
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Two sensational unsolved crimes—one in the past, another in the present—are linked by one man’s memory and self-deception in this chilling novel of literary suspense from National Book Award finalist Dan Chaon.

“We are always telling a story to ourselves, about ourselves,” Dustin Tillman likes to say. It’s one of the little mantras he shares with his patients, and it’s meant to be reassuring. But what if that story is a lie?

A psychologist in suburban Cleveland, Dustin is drifting through his forties when he hears the news: His adopted brother, Rusty, is being released from prison. Thirty years ago, Rusty received a life sentence for the massacre of Dustin’s parents, aunt, and uncle. The trial came to symbolize the 1980s hysteria over Satanic cults; despite the lack of physical evidence, the jury believed the outlandish accusations Dustin and his cousin made against Rusty. Now, after DNA analysis has overturned the conviction, Dustin braces for a reckoning.

Meanwhile, one of Dustin’s patients gets him deeply engaged in a string of drowning deaths involving drunk college boys. At first Dustin dismisses talk of a serial killer as paranoid thinking, but as he gets wrapped up in their amateur investigation, Dustin starts to believe that there’s more to the deaths than coincidence. Soon he becomes obsessed, crossing all professional boundaries—and putting his own family in harm’s way.
From one of today’s most renowned practitioners of literary suspense, Ill Will is an intimate thriller about the failures of memory and the perils of self-deception. In Dan Chaon’s nimble, chilling prose, the past looms over the present, turning each into a haunted place.

DNF @ 25%

Dan Chaon is one of those literary writers everyone raves about. Ill Will has received many spectacular reviews but I’ve realized that he has a style that is very eclectic and definitely isn’t for everyone and that unique writing style is what ultimately did me in. I understand the reason for writing it this way (bouncing between narrators and time) because it caused a sense of disorientation regarding the mystery already surrounding the crime (when Dustin was a teen, his mother, father, aunt, and uncle were murdered and he accused his adopted older brother). Not only did the story bounce rapidly between narrators and between time but often there were sentences left incomplete and particular chapters where text was written in columns and you had to flip back and forth between pages to finish the one column before starting the next which was very difficult on Kindle. I’m not sure if Chaon was going for some House of Leaves-esque formatting or what but it left me so confused in trying to figure out how to read it that I failed to get lost in the story itself.

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 – If We Were Villains, Ill Will, YesternightYesternight by Cat Winters
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on October 4th 2016
Pages: 374
Genres: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: Library Thing
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Also by this author: In the Shadow of Blackbirds, The Cure for Dreaming, The Uninvited: A Novel

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From the author of The Uninvited comes a haunting historical novel with a compelling mystery at its core.  A young child psychologist steps off a train, her destination a foggy seaside town. There, she begins a journey causing her to question everything she believes about life, death, memories, and reincarnation.

In 1925, Alice Lind steps off a train in the rain-soaked coastal hamlet of Gordon Bay, Oregon. There, she expects to do nothing more difficult than administer IQ tests to a group of rural schoolchildren. A trained psychologist, Alice believes mysteries of the mind can be unlocked scientifically, but now her views are about to be challenged by one curious child.

Seven-year-old Janie O’Daire is a mathematical genius, which is surprising. But what is disturbing are the stories she tells: that her name was once Violet, she grew up in Kansas decades earlier, and she drowned at age nineteen. Alice delves into these stories, at first believing they’re no more than the product of the girl’s vast imagination.  But, slowly, Alice comes to the realization that Janie might indeed be telling a strange truth.
Alice knows the investigation may endanger her already shaky professional reputation, and as a woman in a field dominated by men she has no room for mistakes. But she is unprepared for the ways it will illuminate terrifying mysteries within her own past, and in the process, irrevocably change her life.

DNF @ 10%

I’d say that I simply picked this up at the wrong time, mood-wise, except I tried to read this book a handful of times on different occasions and never got past 10%. The pacing was the hardest for me because from the very beginning it’s a slow-build and simply didn’t grab my attention in that 10% enough that I felt the need to keep going. The main character, Alice, was also strangely distant and she never quite captured my interest. Cat Winters is typically a favorite of mine but this one just didn’t do it for me.

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Early Review – White Hot (Hidden Legacy #2) by Ilona Andrews

April 27, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2017 12 Comments

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

Early Review – White Hot (Hidden Legacy #2) by Ilona AndrewsWhite Hot by Ilona Andrews
Series: Hidden Legacy #2
Published by Avon on May 30th 2017
Pages: 384
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: Magic Bites, Magic Rises, Burn for Me

four-half-stars

Nevada Baylor has a unique and secret skill—she knows when people are lying—and she's used that magic (along with plain, hard work) to keep her colorful and close-knit family's detective agency afloat. But her new case pits her against the shadowy forces that almost destroyed the city of Houston once before, bringing Nevada back into contact with Connor "Mad" Rogan.

Rogan is a billionaire Prime—the highest rank of magic user—and as unreadable as ever, despite Nevada's "talent." But there's no hiding the sparks between them. Now that the stakes are even higher, both professionally and personally, and their foes are unimaginably powerful, Rogan and Nevada will find that nothing burns like ice . . .

Hidden Legacy Series

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1) by Ilona Andrews [Purchase|Review]

Nevada Baylor hasn’t spoken with Rogan in months and she’s slowly begun to move on with her life even though the maddening man (ha — see what I did there) is never far from her mind. She agrees to investigate the murder of Cornelius Harrison’s wife and Nevada not only finds herself in the middle of a massive conflict between multiple magical families (or “Houses”) but right back in the path of Rogan himself. This time around they realize that they simply get more done when they work together as allies.

‘Suddenly the past two months of normal life tore apart, like fragile paper, and I was right back next to Rogan, about to charge into a fight. And it felt right.’

The conflict between Houses puts the duo in serious danger when some of the most powerful members of the magical society become involved. When they’re not trying to keep one another from dying, they’re trying to work out what to do with the sparks flying between them.

“And now that I’m conveniently here, you decide to give it another shot. Is there a shortage of attractive women in your life, Connor?”
“There is a shortage of you in my life,” he said.

This is my 17th Ilona Andrews book and I feel I can safely declare myself a rabid fangirl. (I have yet to dive into her The Edge series but give me time.) Ilona Andrews stories are absolutely one of the reasons I remain as hardcore an Urban Fantasy fan as I am today and her Hidden Legacy series only helps solidify that. Their characterization is superb and no character is left without a role or sounding like a replica of another. Nevada is one awesome badass lady that can hold her own, Rogan is far more beyond being just a love interest placeholder and professional of zingy one-liners, and even the side characters (Nevada’s sniper mother, crazy sisters, and hilarious grandmother) are fantastic.

Grandma Frida burst through the door in her yellow rubber-ducky pajamas. 
“Grandma’s here,” I added.

What I love about this series is how developed her world-building is beyond “people have powers” — we meet some new players in the game: summoners, fulgurkinetics, elementalists, and even some magically created monsters not of this world. In lesser hands, these unique aspects would easily come across as cheesy and overwhelming but Andrews makes everything so fascinating. If I’m being real, the fantastic world-building is only an added bonus when it comes to the romance though and it’s rare that I say anything along those lines (worldbuilding is typically always first because if you don’t have worldbuilding… you’ve got yourself a bodice ripper, amirite?) Urban Fantasy typically always includes a romance in some shape or form but there’s some crazy sexual tension going on (and has since book 1) but View Spoiler » And also, some good news… the wait for book 3 is not long at all: Wildfire comes out July 25th, 2017. I’m already chomping at the bit and even contemplating reading both again because this series is that good (horrendously bad covers aside, but at least Rogan finally found a shirt by book 3.) 🙂

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Release Day Feature + Giveaway! Gone Without A Trace by Mary Torjussen

April 18, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Giveaways, Release Day Feature 3 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.

Release Day Feature + Giveaway! Gone Without A Trace by Mary TorjussenGone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen
Published by Berkley Books on April 18th 2017
Pages: 352
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

A jaw-dropping novel of psychological suspense that asks, "If the love of your life disappeared without a trace, how far would you go to find out why?"

Hannah Monroe's boyfriend, Matt, is gone. His belongings have disappeared from their house. Every call she ever made to him, every text she ever sent, every photo of him and any sign of him on social media have vanished. It's as though their last four years together never happened.
As Hannah struggles to get through the next few days, with humiliation and recriminations whirring through her head, she knows that she'll do whatever it takes to find him again and get answers. But as soon as her search starts, she realizes she is being led into a maze of madness and obsession. Step by suspenseful step, Hannah discovers her only way out is to come face to face with the shocking truth...

Hannah Monroe comes home from work expecting her boyfriend Matt to be waiting for her but instead, she finds all trace of his presence in their home to be erased. His artwork is missing from the walls, his clothes, his furniture, and even his TV has been replaced by her old TV as if he was never there at all. She tries to call him only to find that his number has been erased from her phone, all of their text messages, e-mails, as well as every single picture from their four-year relationship. They were happy, they never fought, and life was good. Hannah doesn’t understand why he would up and leave like that without even trying to talk to her about it and all she wants is for him to give her a reason why.

‘I knew that if I were to just see him again, just talk to him, he’d remember how much he loved me. And then he’d come back.’

Desperate to find answers, Hannah begins to search for Matt any way that she knows how and she starts by contacting him at his office only to find that he had quit the week prior. She tries to get in touch with his mother only to find she moved months before Matt had left and nothing was ever mentioned to Hannah. Social media is also a dead-end and she quickly becomes even more determined to find him. She contacts his barber, any and all hotels in a reasonably distanced area, she stands outside the pub he used to frequent, and she only gets worse as time progresses. She starts keeping a notebook and post it notes to keep track of places she’s contacted hoping to uncover some connection to Matt during her research.

‘For a moment I didn’t know what to do; I knew that if I didn’t write (the) details down somewhere noticeable, I’d forget them, so I picked up a red marker pen and made a note on one of my glossy cabinets.’

Months pass and her obsessiveness over finding him only increases. She spends so much time looking for him that the job she used to pride herself on begins to suffer and she can’t seem to keep up with the workload anymore. She has trouble sleeping, she drinks far more than normal, and her appearance, physical (and mental) health quickly begins to deteriorate. And to make matters worse she’s started receiving unsettling text messages from unknown numbers, letters in her postbox, and she thinks someone is coming into her house when she’s gone.

‘I wore the same clothes as I’d worn the day before. They were my lucky clothes now. And I’d lain awake all night in them, too, so that the luck didn’t wear off. I couldn’t risk that.’

Hannah was quite the unlikeable character because of how exasperating her obsessive tendencies became. She became absolutely delusional but you couldn’t help wanting more for her, for her to be stronger, especially when you begin to realize just how much time has elapsed where she’s let this obsession take over her life. What I found most alarming yet fascinating about watching everything unfold was trying to uncover what motivated her, what possessed her to take things to such extremes. One can expect heartbreak from being left alone, but Hannah’s supposed heartbreak transformed into something terrifyingly destructive. In addition to all this, other facets of Hannah’s life are slowly revealed and we’re given glimpses into a troubling childhood and a best friend whom she shares a toxic relationship with. As the story unveils itself, you begin to question everything because there’s clearly something missing from this elaborate mystery. Admittedly, these scenes where she describes the feeling of being watched were so thoroughly unsettling that I began to feel one with Hannah and her paranoia.

Gone Without A Trace is a psychological thriller brimming with anticipation and tension that will make this an impossible read to put down.

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins [Purchase|Review]
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough [Purchase]
Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse [Purchase|Review]

Thanks to the wonderful individuals over at Berkley/Penguin Random House, I have a copy of Gone Without a Trace to share with one lucky reader! Leave a comment expressing your interest in this story to enter.

This giveaway is open to US residents only and will end on May 2nd, 2017.

Good luck!

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Short & Sweet – Everything Box + Wrong Dead Guy

March 23, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2017 2 Comments

Short & Sweet – Everything Box + Wrong Dead GuyThe Everything Box by Richard Kadrey
Series: Another Coop Heist #1
Published by Harper Voyager on April 19th 2016
Pages: 368
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Funny-ha-ha
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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Goodreads

Also by this author: Dead Set, Sandman Slim

three-half-stars

Reminiscent of the edgy, offbeat humor of Chris Moore and Matt Ruff, the first entry in a whimsical, fast-paced supernatural series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Sandman Slim novels—a dark and humorous story involving a doomsday gizmo, a horde of baddies determined to possess its power, and a clever thief who must steal it back . . . again and again.

22000 B.C. A beautiful, ambitious angel stands on a mountaintop, surveying the world and its little inhabitants below. He smiles because soon, the last of humanity who survived the great flood will meet its end, too. And he should know. He’s going to play a big part in it. Our angel usually doesn’t get to do field work, and if he does well, he’s certain he’ll get a big promotion.

And now it’s time . . . .

The angel reaches into his pocket for the instrument of humanity’s doom. Must be in the other pocket. Then he frantically begins to pat himself down. Dejected, he realizes he has lost the object. Looking over the Earth at all that could have been, the majestic angel utters a single word.

“Crap.”

2015. A thief named Coop—a specialist in purloining magic objects—steals and delivers a small box to the mysterious client who engaged his services. Coop doesn’t know that his latest job could be the end of him—and the rest of the world. Suddenly he finds himself in the company of The Department of Peculiar Science, a fearsome enforcement agency that polices the odd and strange. The box isn’t just a supernatural heirloom with quaint powers, they tell him.

It’s a doomsday device. They think . . .

And suddenly, everyone is out to get it.

Thousands of years ago, God decided to destroy the Earth and all who resided on it. Fortunately, us pesky mortals are pretty good survivalists and we didn’t all perish as was intended. This time, God sends an angel named Qaphsiel to Earth with a special box that would take the rest of us out for good. Except all didn’t go as planned. Qaphsiel lost the box.

“So, you’re the angel of Death?” The angel shook his head, a little embarrassed. “I don’t have that honor. In Heaven, I’m the celestial who bears the great golden quills, the silver Chroma, the holy vellums upon which the Lord God inscribes the fate of the universe.” Tiras’s eyes narrowed. “You’re in charge of office supplies. You’re the angel of office supplies.”

Thousands of years after the box was lost, we’re introduced to Coop. Coop has had it a bit rough lately. He’s a thief who was hired to steal some documents because his natural aversion to magical booby traps made him the perfect man for the job… but things didn’t turn out so well and he was soon thrown in prison for an undetermined amount of time. An old friend pulled some strings to get him out but only because a man by the name of Mr. Babylon requires Coop for a job. A job to steal a mysterious box. But once he does steal it, he’s instructed to steal it back for a secret government group that goes by the name of the Department of Peculiar Science, or else it’s straight back to prison. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Problem is, there are two doomsday cults trying to get the box so they can trigger the apocalypse, criminals who want to sell the box for money, a mysterious stranger that only brings destruction, and the original angel that misplaced the box in the first place trying to get it. Coop wants nothing to do with it but he’s soon embroiled in a world-ending conflict.

“I’m not sure I should smile at people anymore.”
“Yours is a little strained these days,” said Morty.
Sally came up with a drink in each hand. “Definitely don’t smile at people. You do look like you wonder what their liver tastes like.”

The pending apocalypse has never been more fun. Kadrey brings a bizarre sense of humor (and magic) to the end of the world and Coop is the hilariously witty spokesperson. The focus is less on worldbuilding and more on extending the hilarity for as long as possible (and sometimes beyond) but I can’t complain because this story made me laugh far more than I expected it to. The multiple storylines were handled well without getting too convoluted but again, the focus was on the humor at all times and the bit players were, for the most part, a ludicrous bunch and it wasn’t vital to keep a close track on exactly who was who. The Everything Box is a refreshing variation on the Urban Fantasy genre that feels much like a Men in Black/The Italian Job mashup in all the best ways.

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

Short & Sweet – Everything Box + Wrong Dead GuyThe Wrong Dead Guy by Richard Kadrey
Series: Another Coop Heist #2
Published by Harper Voyager on February 28th 2017
Pages: 432
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Funny-ha-ha
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Also by this author: Dead Set, Sandman Slim

three-stars

In this fast paced sequel to The Everything Box—the second entry in Richard Kadrey’s comedic supernatural series—chaos ensues when Coop and the team at DOPS steal a not- quite-dead and very lovesick ancient Egyptian mummy wielding some terrifying magic

Coop, a master thief sort of gone legit, saved the world from an ancient doomsday device—heroism that earned him a gig working for the Department of Peculiar Science, a fearsome top secret government agency that polices the odd and strange. Now Woolrich, Coop’s boss at the DOPS, has Coop breaking into a traveling antiquities show to steal a sarcophagus containing the mummy of a powerful Egyptian wizard named Harkhuf. With the help of his pals Morty, Giselle, and a professor that’s half-cat, half-robotic octopus, Coop pulls off the heist without a hitch.

It’s not Coop’s fault that when DOPS opened the sarcophagus they didn’t find the mummy they were expecting. Well, it was the right mummy, but it wasn’t exactly dead—and now it’s escaped, using a type of magic the organization hasn’t encountered before. Being a boss, Woolrich blames his underling for the screw up and wants Coop to find the missing Harkhuf and make it right, pronto.

Digging into Harkhuf’s history, Coop thinks the mummy is hunting for an ancient magical manuscript that will help him bring his old lover back to life.
Which wouldn’t be so bad if she wasn’t a warrior sorceress hell-bent on conquering the world with her undead armies.

Coop would very much like to run from the oncoming chaos. It’s one thing to steal a mummy, but another to have to deal with head-hunting bureaucrats, down-on-their luck fortune tellers, undead mailroom clerks, and a rather unimpressed elephant. Unfortunately, there’s nowhere to run. If he wants the madness to stop, he’s going to have to suck it up and play hero one more time. But if Coop manages to save the world AGAIN, he’s definitely going to want a lot of answers. And a raise.

“Really, Cooper, you’re in good hands. We can’t afford any more employee homicides until the next fiscal quarter,” said Woolrich.
“If you try just a little harder, I think you can be even less reassuring.”

Coop is back! And this time, he’s left his days of thievery behind for a day job with the Department of Peculiar Science. He’s involved in yet another race against the clock to save the world just replace the box with a mummy and its undead army. When Coop and his team are instructed to steal a mummy from a museum, the plan, of course, does not go according to plan and Coop ends up being cursed by the newly awakened mummy, Harkhuf, they were supposed to steal. On the sidelines, Coop’s nemesis from the first installment, Nelson, is stirring up trouble at work by stealing office supplies and just being a general nuisance but is clearly leading up to something big.

The Wrong Dead Guy is yet another thrilling tale of humor and sarcasm, but it felt like the subdued version of the jokes already told in The Everything Box. Coop’s wit also proved to be infectious because every major and minor character seemed to sound exactly like him, making this wide cast a bit hard to differentiate at times. The one new bizarro character that proved to be quite a laugh was Dr. Lupinsky, the deceased Egyptologist that inhabited a robotic octopus and a cat that was constantly requiring new batteries. (Because that’s what happens when you mess with the wrong sort of magic.) Which brings me to what I love most about Kadrey’s stories: they all include these outrageously preposterous tidbits that make them so uniquely him. There isn’t very much room to breath, plot-wise, because of the non-stop action so take a big deep breath before diving into this one. You won’t want to put this one down till it’s all said and done.

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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
Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Audible
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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
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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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Book Tour Review – The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy

February 10, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2017, TLC Book Tours 8 Comments

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

Book Tour Review – The Possessions by Sara Flannery MurphyThe Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy
Published by Harper on February 7th 2017
Pages: 368
Genres: Fantasy, Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: TLC Book Tours
Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Audible | HarperCollins
Goodreads


four-stars

In this electrifying literary debut, a young woman who channels the dead for a living crosses a dangerous line when she falls in love with one of her clients, whose wife died under mysterious circumstances

In an unnamed city, Eurydice works for the Elysian Society, a private service that allows grieving clients to reconnect with lost loved ones. She and her fellow workers, known as “bodies“, wear the discarded belongings of the dead and swallow pills called lotuses to summon their spirits—numbing their own minds and losing themselves in the process. Edie has been a body at the Elysian Society for five years, an unusual record. Her success is the result of careful detachment: she seeks refuge in the lotuses’ anesthetic effects and distances herself from making personal connections with her clients.

But when Edie channels Sylvia, the dead wife of recent widower Patrick Braddock, she becomes obsessed with the glamorous couple. Despite the murky circumstances surrounding Sylvia’s drowning, Edie breaks her own rules and pursues Patrick, moving deeper into his life and summoning Sylvia outside the Elysian Society’s walls.

After years of hiding beneath the lotuses’ dulling effect, Edie discovers that the lines between her own desires and those of Sylvia have begun to blur, and takes increasing risks to keep Patrick within her grasp. Suddenly, she finds her quiet life unraveling as she grapples not only with Sylvia’s growing influence and the questions surrounding her death, but with her own long-buried secrets.

A tale of desire and obsession, deceit and dark secrets that defies easy categorization, The Possessions is a seductive, absorbing page-turner that builds to a shattering, unforgettable conclusion.

About Sara Flannery Murphy

Sara Flannery Murphy grew up in Arkansas, where she divided her time between Little Rock and Eureka Springs, a small artists’ community in the Ozark Mountains. She received her MFA in creative writing at Washington University in St. Louis and studied library science in British Columbia. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and son. The Possessions is her first novel.

‘The fear swirls out of my mind, the last dregs of water spinning and sliding down the drain.
I open my eyes and reach for the cup, swallow the lotus. It barely takes any time before I’m gone.’

Eurydice (Edie) has worked for the Elysian Society as a body for five years where she acts as a conduit connecting individuals with their deceased loved ones. By consuming a lotus pill, it allows the “body” to almost disconnect so as to allow the loved one to once again have a physical form. The physical aspects of the body never change, but their mind returns as if they were never gone. Many don’t survive in the job for long but Edie is well-suited for it, lacking any emotional connections and much preferring to relinquish her body for that brief respite from the past that haunts her. When Patrick Braddock enters the Elysian Society to reconnect with his wife Sylvia who died almost two years ago under puzzling circumstances, Edie develops an obsession in both Patrick and Sylvia. With each visit from Patrick, Edie retains pieces of Slyvia’s memory, helping her assemble the puzzle surrounding Sylvia’s death.

‘I’m overwhelmed by the thought of all the women who would pour out of me if I were cracked open: swarming like insects, bubbling up out of my mouth. The women who have collected inside me over the years, filling up my insides until there’s no room left for me.’

This debut novel is fascinating. Murphy combines a contemporary story with paranormal aspects to create something quite mesmerizing. The entire concept of the Elysian Society and the lotuses is written loosely and never delves into any scientific aspects to explain exactly how channeling is done, but the vagueness still makes it a credible concept. As readers, we don’t actually witness what occurs when the lotus is consumed until later in the story which certainly gets imaginations running wild at the idea of taking a pill and giving a spirit free reign of your body. The lotuses themselves and how it’s described is incredibly reminiscent of the Lotus-Eaters from Greek mythology and the Odyssey. “Those who ate the honey-sweet lotus fruit no longer wished to bring back word to us, or sail for home. They wanted to stay with the Lotus-eaters, eating the lotus, forgetting all thoughts of return.” (The Odyssey, BkIX:63-104) Obviously, this is absent any aspect of channeling the dead, but the notion of becoming mentally absent and “forgetting all thoughts” is rather comparable to the lotuses in The Possessions.

‘My reflection lies trapped in the darkening window. A tree branch cuts through my torso, the spidery limbs fanned like veins and arteries spreading outward from my heart.’

The strongest aspect of this story is by far the author’s skillful writing style. The elaborate and sumptuous style felt often at odds with the emotionally disconnected voice of the narrator. Edie comes across as a character shrouded in mystery that we’re told very little about but this never lessened the strength of her voice in driving the story nor any interest in discovering more about her. The weakest aspect was the parallel mystery that never coalesced quite as natural as it could have but I felt the story would have suffered if it simply hadn’t been included at all.

The Possessions was a story that lingered long after I read the final page. Love, loss, and tragedy play expected roles in this tale that leaves you contemplating if you’re ever truly able to leave your past behind. Sara Flannery Murphy’s debut novel shows incredible potential for brilliant stories to come.

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This post was a part of ‘The Possessions’ blog tour.
Check out the other tour stops below!

Tuesday, February 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, February 8th: Stranded in Chaos
Thursday, February 9th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Friday, February 10th: For the Love of Words
Monday, February 13th: Rebecca Radish
Tuesday, February 14th: Books and Bindings
Wednesday, February 15th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog
Thursday, February 16th: The Ludic Reader
Friday, February 17th: Leigh Kramer
Monday, February 20th: Art Books Coffee
Tuesday, February 21st: Tina Says…
Wednesday, February 22nd: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, February 23rd: Doing Dewey|
Friday, February 24th: Luxury Reading
Saturday, February 27th: Sweet Southern Home
Sunday, February 28th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Tuesday, March 1st: Stacy’s Books
Wednesday, March 2nd: As I turn the pages

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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
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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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Also by this author: Indexing, A Local Habitation

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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