Genre: Contemporary

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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Waiting on Wednesday – Ultraluminous: A Novel by Katherine Faw

September 13, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Waiting on Wednesday 2 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – Ultraluminous: A Novel by Katherine FawUltraluminous: A Novel by Katherine Faw
Published by MCD on December 5th 2017
Pages: 176
Genres: Contemporary
Format: Hardcover
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Also by this author: Young God

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?

I read this author’s debut, Young God, back in 2015 and it was all sorts of crazy grittiness. It’s certainly one that works for only certain readers but it’s one I haven’t managed to forget about. I look forward to seeing if this one is just as unforgettable.

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What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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

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

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

four-half-stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

idk chris pratt middle finger i dont care who cares

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

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Early Review – The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins

December 29, 2016 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2016, YA 2 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 – The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen HopkinsThe You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on January 24th 2017
Pages: 608
Genres: Contemporary, LGBTQIA, Verse
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: Triangles, Crank, Burned

two-half-stars

How do you live your life if your past is based on a lie? A new novel in both verse and prose from #1 New York Times bestselling author, Ellen Hopkins.

Arielle’s life is a blur of new apartments, new schools, and new faces. Since her mother abandoned the family, Arielle has lived nomadically with her father as he moves from job to job. All she’s ever wanted is to stay in one place for an entire school year, and it looks like she might finally get her wish. With a real friend, Monica, who might be even more than a friend soon, things are starting to look up.

But Arielle’s life is upended—and not by her father, but by her mom, who reveals that she never left Arielle. Instead, Arielle’s father kidnapped her, and her mom has been left searching ever since. She wants to take Arielle away, but Arielle has no connection with her mother, and despite everything, still loves her father. How can she choose between the mother she’s been taught to mistrust and the father who sewed that suspicion?

Not one person
on this planet cares about you.

No one but Daddy, who loves you
more than anything in the whole wide
world, and would lay down his life
for you. You remember that, hear me?

I heard those words too often
in any number of combinations
Almost always they came floating
in a fog of alcohol and tobacco.

Arielle has only ever known her dad from an early age. Dependable yet temperamental, he’s taken care of her for years on his own. Bounced from house to house and different woman to woman, Arielle and her father have finally settled down long enough in a town for her to begin to get comfortable. She’s joined the girls basketball team, she’s made friends, and she’s discovered a side of her sexuality that she fears. She’s never had a mom because according to her dad, she left both of them for her lesbian lover. Coming out to her father as the same would be beyond reckless.

Maya has a difficult relationship with her mother. She ran her father out of the house and joined Scientology, expecting Maya to do the same. When her mother tells her they’ll be moving from Texas to Sea Org in Los Angeles, a Scientology organization, she concocts a way to avoid having to go: she gets pregnant. The father, Sergeant Jason Ritter, proposes to her and she feels relief at finally escaping her mother but she’s traded one bad situation for another.

Funny How the Brain
Manages damage control,
conveniently curtaining
windows that overlook
certain footpaths into the past.

I try to keep the shades drawn.

Anything by Ellen Hopkins is bound to pack a punch with the types of subjects she tackles and The You I’ve Never Known is no different. This time she deals with abandonment, sexuality, and abuse, but it felt much more passive than some of her past stories. I’m always incredibly fond of her dual storylines and trying to determine the connection before the big reveal. While her stories are always lengthy in page count, the time it took for that big reveal to happen seemed to be dragged out for longer than was necessary. Often with Hopkins’ writing style, you find yourself getting lost in the beauty of her words. She still used verse as her main writing style and her typical formatting is there but it was much less lyrical and much more dense with a lot of backstory that lacked the passion her stories usually have. The main issue was with how the parents are portrayed. Her villains come in many forms, but in this story, they were the parents of both Maya and Arielle. They were both written as manic and often terrifying people, with little to no redeeming qualities. It was all black, no white, and definitely no gray area, and this lack of complexity caused them to come off as caricatures and nothing more.

Hopkins has long been a favorite of mine and while I felt this one was lacking, her stories still manage to linger in my head long after finishing. She tackles the subjects that most often need to be brought to light, I only wish that she would also focus more on the poetic aspects that make these ugly subjects beautiful.

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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 10 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

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 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.

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 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
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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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Waiting on Wednesday – Woman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki

August 31, 2016 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday 1 Comment

Waiting on Wednesday – Woman No. 17 by Edan LepuckiWoman No. 17 by Edan Lepucki
Published by Hogarth on May 9th 2017
Pages: 320
Genres: Contemporary
Format: Hardcover
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A dark, sexy noir about the intensity of female relationships—whether mother to daughter or friend to friend—that lies behind the hedgerows of beautifully manicured Los Angeles, from the New York Times bestselling author of CALIFORNIA

When Lady decides to take a break from her husband, she hires a live-in nanny so she can finish her book—but also possibly to avoid her children. S, a young artist/student, arrives on her doorstep to interview for the job and instantly connects with both her sons, but soon begins to act in a way that causes Lady to question her reason for being there. This twisty, moody, bizarre, and confidently written second novel is a riveting exploration of female friendship that will further establish Lepucki as a major voice in literary fiction.

About Edan Lepucki

Edan Lepucki is a graduate of Oberlin College and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Her short fiction has been published in McSweeney's, the Los Angeles Times Magazine, Narrative Magazine, Meridian, and FiveChapters, among other publications, and she is the winner of the 2009 James D. Phelan Award. She is a staff writer for The Millions and lives in Los Angeles, where she was born and raised.

She likes cooking, reading and filling out forms.

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I was admittedly not a fan of California, but I damn near adored her short story If You’re Not Yet Like Me so Edan and I are tied. 🙂 I’ll definitely be giving this one a shot.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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Waiting on Wednesday – The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins

August 10, 2016 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday 0 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen HopkinsThe You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on January 24th 2017
Pages: 592
Genres: Contemporary
Format: Hardcover
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Triangles, Crank, Burned

How do you live your life if your past is based on a lie? A new novel in both verse and prose from #1 New York Times bestselling author, Ellen Hopkins.

Arielle’s life is a blur of new apartments, new schools, and new faces. Since her mother abandoned the family, Arielle has lived nomadically with her father as he moves from job to job. All she’s ever wanted is to stay in one place for an entire school year, and it looks like she might finally get her wish. With a real friend, Monica, who might be even more than a friend soon, things are starting to look up.

But Arielle’s life is upended—and not by her father, but by her mom, who reveals that she never left Arielle. Instead, Arielle’s father kidnapped her, and her mom has been left searching ever since. She wants to take Arielle away, but Arielle has no connection with her mother, and despite everything, still loves her father. How can she choose between the mother she’s been taught to mistrust and the father who sewed that suspicion?

About Ellen Hopkins

Ellen Hopkins is the New York Times bestselling author of Crank, Burned, Impulse, Glass, Identical, Tricks, Fallout, Perfect, Triangles, Tilt, and Collateral. She lives in Carson City, Nevada, with her husband and son. Hopkin's Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Pinterest pages get thousands of hits from teens who claim Hopkins is the "only one who understands me", and she can be visited at ellenhopkins.com.

Like most of you here, books are my life. Reading is a passion, but writing is the biggest part of me. Balance is my greatest challenge, as I love my family, friends, animals and home, but also love traveling to meet my readers. Hope I meet many of you soon!

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A mixture of verse and prose… well, if anyone can pull it off, Ellen can.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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Book Review – Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

May 27, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 1 Comment

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 – Girls on Fire by Robin WassermanGirls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
Published by Harper on May 17th 2016
Pages: 368
Genres: Contemporary, Coming-of-Age
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Waking Dark

two-half-stars

On Halloween, 1991, a popular high school basketball star ventures into the woods near Battle Creek, Pennsylvania, and disappears. Three days later, he’s found with a bullet in his head and a gun in his hand—a discovery that sends tremors through this conservative community, already unnerved by growing rumors of Satanic worship in the region.

In the wake of this incident, bright but lonely Hannah Dexter is befriended by Lacey Champlain, a dark-eyed, Cobain-worshiping bad influence in lip gloss and Doc Martens. The charismatic, seductive Lacey forges a fast, intimate bond with the impressionable Dex, making her over in her own image and unleashing a fierce defiance that neither girl expected. But as Lacey gradually lures Dex away from her safe life into a feverish spiral of obsession, rebellion, and ever greater risk, an unwelcome figure appears on the horizon—and Lacey’s secret history collides with Dex’s worst nightmare.

Like The Virgin Suicides or the novels of Elena Ferrante, Girls on Fire stalks the treacherous territory between girlhood and adulthood. By turns a shocking story of love and violence and an addictive portrait of the intoxication of female friendship, set against the unsettled backdrop of a town gripped by moral panic, it is an unflinching and unforgettable snapshot of girlhood: girls lost and found, girls strong and weak, girls who burn bright and brighter—and some who flicker away.

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‘Origin stories are irrelevant. Nothing matters less than how you were born. What matters is how you die, and how you live. We live for each other, so anything that got us to that point must have been right.’

Girls on Fire left me incredibly conflicted and I sat on my review for several weeks hoping that time would help elucidate my feelings. (It did not. Yet here I am.) Girls on Fire consists of the types of teenagers of a Megan Abbott novel; Dare Me is the one that immediately comes to mind. These teenagers are not the teenagers of a Sarah Dessen novel. They are crude and vulgar, whose actions go well beyond shocking and insulting. I was constantly bouncing back and forth between being impressed by their brazenness and appalled by their impudence. It was a bit exhausting.

‘I loved it. Loved it like Shakespearean sonnets and Hallmark cards and all that shit, like I wanted to buy it flowers and light it candles and fuck it gently with a chainsaw.’

Girls on Fire is set in the early 90s when Nirvana was at the top and Real World was everyone’s obsession. A small town in Pennsylvania is horrified after the supposed suicide of the town jock, Craig Ellison. No one thinks he could have done it but the evidence clearly proves otherwise. While the story begins with Craig’s death and is constantly affected by it, the girls are center stage. Hannah Dexter is diffident and Lacey Champlain is fearless, so when Lacey takes “Dex” under her wing, their relationship becomes increasingly virulent the more time the duo spend together. Nikki Drummond is the requisite “mean girl” of the school and Lacey and Dex’s whole relationship is based on their shared hatred of her.

The writing was opulent and whenever the story lost me slightly in its meanderings, the writing always kept me enticed. The story though, there was something excessive and tiresome about the way these young women were written. Something superfluous about their actions and their demeanor in general. The relationship between Lacey and Dex was intense and so very exorbitant. It wasn’t that the writing didn’t properly portray their relationship with one another, but rather it was written with such detail that you became a part of them and a part of their relationship. The whole thing was distasteful and depleting and something that you definitely did not want to be a part of.

It’s a coming of age tale, about the metamorphose that, especially in individuals so young, can undergo because of the lives they’re forced to lead and the people they choose to surround themselves with. Bit by bit, each girl’s story unfolds and I once again found myself torn between how exactly I should be feeling. Despite my wavering opinion and low rating, this was certainly an audacious story to tell and is likely a very accurate portrayal (if a bit extreme) of female relationships and all the dark niches that are rarely exposed.

‘What matters isn’t how we found each other, Dex, or why. It’s that we did, and what happened next. Smash the right two particles together in the right way and you get a bomb. That’s us, Dex. Accidental fusion.’

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Book Review – Once Was a Time by Leila Sales

April 7, 2016 Bonnie Book Reviews, Middle Grade, Read in 2016 0 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.

Book Review – Once Was a Time by Leila SalesOnce Was a Time by Leila Sales
Published by Chronicle Books on April 5th 2016
Pages: 272
Genres: Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Time Travel
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: This Song Will Save Your Life

two-stars

In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte's scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place? Her split-second decision has huge consequences, and when she finds herself alone in the world, unsure of Kitty's fate, she knows that somehow, some way, she must find her way back to her friend. Written in the spirit of classic time-travel tales, this book is an imaginative and heartfelt tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.

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“What do you do when you learn, without a doubt, that you’ve lost everyone you love and you’re trapped by time forever?”

Charlotte “Lottie” Bromley has been raised to believe in time travel. Her father is an illustrious scientist who has been tasked with learning the secrets of time travel in hopes of gaining a leg up in the war. The year is 1940 and ten-year-old Lottie and her best friend Kitty are kidnapped by Nazis in an effort to coerce the secret of time travel from her father. When a shimmering portal appears in front of Lottie, she takes advantage of an opportunity that might never present itself again, even though that means leaving Kitty behind. Lottie finds herself in a place called Wisconsin in the year 2013 clad only in her pajamas. Her only desire is to find some way to return to Kitty and hope that her and her father survived after she escaped.

Once Was a Time intrigued me from the very beginning with the portrayal of a war-ravaged England through the perspective of a ten-year-old girl. Add in a scientist researching the existence of time travel and I was more than ready for an adventurous and entertaining story. Unfortunately, that feeling was tragically short-lived. I am ready and willing to read anything to do with time travel, however, in looking at the time travel books I have read and loved, there was one similarity between them all: the characters were time traveling to a fascinating time and place. Alas, Wisconsin circa 2013 does not scream fascinating to me.

The numerous genres also made this a difficult one for me. We’re introduced to this as historical fiction upon which it’s given a dash of science fiction and mystery. As soon as you’ve got comfortable with this interesting blend, the reader is then thrust into a contemporary, coming-of-age setting where Lottie is adapting to a modern age where everything is unknown. It was an interesting switch from what you typically find in time travel books, where a modern person is forced to adapt to the past but her dealing with mean girl cliques was too much. She makes friends with these girls even though she never seems to actually care for them because of she believes she doesn’t deserve to have good friends because she left her best friend behind with the Nazis. I could understand her mindset, it just ended up being far too long and drawn out for a meager 272 pages. The pacing picked up speed and seemed to be making a comeback at the end but seemed to lose control making the ending feel avoidably rushed.

I fell in love with Leila Sales’ writing after her novel This Song Will Save Your Life. Yes, that story touched on personal experiences so of course, it would be special to me but it was so passionately written, personal experiences or no, it was an incredible story. Unfortunately, I think it set the bar astronomically high for any future read I picked up from her. That spark that made that such an incredible story seemed to be absent here and while I loved the concept of it all, it could have been so much more than it was.

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Audiobook Review – Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach

March 10, 2016 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016, YA 1 Comment

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.

Audiobook Review – Thanks for the Trouble by Tommy WallachThanks for the Trouble by Tommy Wallach
Narrator: Francisco Pryor Garat
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on February 23rd 2016
Length: 6 hours and 24 minutes
Genres: Contemporary
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: We All Looked Up

four-stars

Tommy Wallach, the New York Times bestselling author of the “stunning debut” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) We All Looked Up, delivers a brilliant new novel about a young man who overcomes a crippling loss and finds the courage to live after meeting an enigmatic girl.
Tommy Wallach, the New York Times bestselling author of the “stunning debut” (Kirkus Reviews, starred review) We All Looked Up, delivers a brilliant new novel about a young man who overcomes a crippling loss and finds the courage to live after meeting an enigmatic girl.

“Was this story written about me?”
I shrugged.
“Yes or no?”
I shrugged again, finally earning a little scowl, which somehow made the girl even more pretty.
“It’s very rude not to answer simple questions,” she said.
I gestured for my journal, but she still wouldn’t give it to me. So I took out my pen and wrote on my palm.
I can’t, I wrote. Then, in tiny letters below it: Now don’t you feel like a jerk?

Parker Santé hasn’t spoken a word in five years. While his classmates plan for bright futures, he skips school to hang out in hotels, killing time by watching the guests. But when he meets a silver-haired girl named Zelda Toth, a girl who claims to be quite a bit older than she looks, he’ll discover there just might be a few things left worth living for.

From the celebrated author of We All Looked Up comes a unique story of first and last loves.

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I’ve always liked that phrase, “kill time.” As if time were some kind of evil dragon that needed to be slain. Unfortunately, like everything else in the world, time dies of natural causes, year by year, hour by hour, second by second. It’s a veritable time massacre going on out here.

Parker Santé has been mute since his father died in a car accident they were both involved in. It’s been five years. He’s still a bit angry with his lot in life so he spends the majority of his time alone, killing time, frequenting hotels because he’s found its easy to steal from rich people there. After skipping school, he spends his day at San Francisco’s Palace Hotel where he meets a most intriguing girl by the name of Zelda Toth… after he tries to steal her money. Despite their rocky introduction, the two quickly form a solid yet palpable connection that develops through the power of storytelling. Parker’s talent for writing fictional stories and Zelda’s own personal story: that she’s far, far older than she actually looks.

This is my second Tommy Wallach story and most certainly won’t be my last. His stories have never fallen into the category I find myself typically reading, yet he manages to tactfully write the most authentic and captivating characters. Parker possesses a depth that goes beyond the typical story we’ve all read about where the kid loses a parent and subsequently removes himself from the normal world. He was unexpectedly hilarious in that sarcastic way I do love so much. What stands out from this already charming story are Parker’s short stories. At first, I found the idea of them to be somewhat of an ill-fitting piece of the puzzle and that they would essentially detract from the main story; at least I did until it returns to the main story and I suddenly wished to go back to his magical storytelling. They are captivating to say the least and Wallach’s ability to write multiple amazing stories within a single story is most notable. Zelda seemed to be the biggest issue for most readers, yet I found her to be well-written too. Instead of the manic pixie dream girl that at first glance seems like we’d be getting, there’s a depth to her as well, and a compelling background that makes her far from conventional.

Thanks for the Trouble is a contemporary story about experiencing life and learning to recognize the things we take for granted. It’s not completely contemporary though, with a magical realism flair that never gives you exact answers but instead leaves you contemplating. For the most part, contemplating what it would be like to live forever, and if it would be as fantastic as one would initially think. You never quite know what is real and what is make believe with this one but that is exactly what makes this such an enchanting read.

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