Genre: Historical Fiction

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

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

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

Life’s Too Short: Lincoln in the Bardo, Exit West, The WanderersLincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders
Published by Random House Audio Publishing Group on February 14th 2017
Length: 7 hours and 25 minutes
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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The long-awaited first novel from the author of Tenth of December: a moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln, as well as an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented

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

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

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

DNF @ 3%

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

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

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

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

Life’s Too Short: Lincoln in the Bardo, Exit West, The WanderersExit West: A Novel by Mohsin Hamid
Published by Riverhead Books on March 7th 2017
Pages: 240
Genres: Magical Realism, Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

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

DNF @ 15%

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

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

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

…hilariously reminded me of this meme:

Life’s Too Short: Lincoln in the Bardo, Exit West, The WanderersThe Wanderers by Meg Howrey
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on March 14th 2017
Pages: 384
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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In four years Prime Space will put the first humans on Mars. Helen Kane, Yoshi Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetsov must prove they’re the crew for the job by spending seventeen months in the most realistic simulation every created.

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

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

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

DNF @ 5%

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

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Waiting on Wednesday – The River of Kings by Taylor Brown

March 1, 2017 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday 6 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – The River of Kings by Taylor BrownThe River of Kings by Taylor Brown
Published by St. Martin's Press on March 21st 2017
Pages: 336
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
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Also by this author: Fallen Land

“The most exciting literary adventure fiction I've read since Deliverance.” –Howard Frank Mosher, author of God's Kingdom

Two brothers travel a storied river’s past and present in search of the truth about their father’s death in the second novel by the acclaimed author of Fallen Land.

The Altamaha River, Georgia’s “Little Amazon,” has been named one of the 75 “Last Great Places in the World.” Crossed by roads only five times in its 137-mile length, the blackwater river is home to thousand-year-old virgin cypress, descendants of 18th-century Highland warriors, and a motley cast of rare and endangered species. The Altamaha has even been rumored to harbor its own river monster, as well as traces of the most ancient European fort in North America.

Brothers Hunter and Lawton Loggins set off to kayak the river, bearing their father’s ashes toward the sea. Hunter is a college student, Lawton a Navy SEAL on leave; both young men were raised by an angry, enigmatic shrimper who loved the river, and whose death remains a mystery that his sons hope to resolve. As the brothers proceed downriver, their story is interwoven with that of Jacques Le Moyne, an artist who accompanied the 1564 expedition to found a French settlement at the river’s mouth, which began as a search for riches and ended in a bloody confrontation with Spanish conquistadors and native tribes, leaving the fort in ruins and a few survivors fleeing for their lives.

In The River of Kings, SIBA-bestselling author Taylor Brown artfully weaves three narrative strands—the brothers’ journey, their father’s past, and the dramatic history of the river’s earliest people—to evoke a legendary place and its powerful hold on the human imagination.

About Taylor Brown

Taylor Brown is a recipient of the Montana Prize in Fiction, and he's been a finalist for the Press 53 Open Awards, Machigonne Fiction Contest, and Doris Betts Fiction Prize. He is the author of In the Season of Blood and Gold (Press 53, 2014),Fallen Land (St. Martin's, 2016), and The River of Kings. He lives in Wilmington, North Carolina, where he is the founder and editor of BikeBound, a custom motorcycle blog.

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Brown’s debut, Fallen Land, was an impressive read and this one sounds even more fascinating. And could his covers be any more gorgeous??

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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

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

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

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

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R is recovering from death.

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

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

DNF @ 13%

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

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

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

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

And that is all we get by way of explanation.

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

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

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

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

Short & Sweet – The Book of Mirrors, The Atomic Weight of Love, Rosemary & RueThe Book of Mirrors by E.O. Chirovici
Published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books on February 21st 2017
Pages: 288
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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three-stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 13, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, Life's Too Short, Read in 2017 10 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: All Our Wrong Todays, Daughter of a Thousand Years, The Last Adventure of Constance VerityAll Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastai
Published by Dutton Books on February 7th 2017
Pages: 384
Genres: Sci-fi, Time Travel
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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dnf

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

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

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

DNF @ 8%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life’s Too Short: All Our Wrong Todays, Daughter of a Thousand Years, The Last Adventure of Constance VerityDaughter of a Thousand Years by Amalia Carosella
Published by Lake Union Publishing on February 21st 2017
Pages: 432
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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dnf

Greenland, AD 1000

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

New Hampshire, 2016

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

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

DNF @ 12%

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

*ponders*

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

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

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

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

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

Sorry, but I came for the hot Vikings.

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

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

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

DNF @ 32%

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

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

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

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

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

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

January 6, 2017 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016, Read in 2017, Short & Sweet Reviews 9 Comments

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

five-stars

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

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

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

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

harry potter

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

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

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

three-half-stars

The darker the sky, the brighter the stars.

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

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

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

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

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

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

five-stars

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

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

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

flux, n.

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

Accept this. We must accept this.

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

abyss, n.

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

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Waiting on Wednesday – The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer

January 4, 2017 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday 2 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – The Scribe of Siena by Melodie WinawerThe Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer
Published by Touchstone on May 16th 2017
Pages: 464
Genres: Historical Fiction, Time Travel
Format: Hardcover
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Equal parts transporting love story and gripping historical conspiracy—think The Girl with a Pearl Earring meets Outlander—debut author Melodie Winawer takes readers deep into medieval Italy, where the past and present blur and a twenty-first century woman will discover a plot to destroy Siena.

Accomplished neurosurgeon Beatrice Trovato knows that her deep empathy for her patients is starting to impede her work. So when her beloved brother passes away, she welcomes the unexpected trip to the Tuscan city of Siena to resolve his estate, even as she wrestles with grief. But as she delves deeper into her brother’s affairs, she discovers intrigue she never imagined—a 700-year-old conspiracy to decimate the city.

After uncovering the journal and paintings of Gabriele Accorsi, the fourteenth-century artist at the heart of the plot, Beatrice finds a startling image of her own face and is suddenly transported to the year 1347. She awakens in a Siena unfamiliar to her, one that will soon be hit by the Plague.
Yet when Beatrice meets Accorsi, something unexpected happens: she falls in love—not only with Gabriele, but also with the beauty and cadence of medieval life. As the Plague and the ruthless hands behind its trajectory threaten not only her survival but also Siena’s very existence, Beatrice must decide in which century she belongs.

The Scribe of Siena is the captivating story of a brilliant woman’s passionate affair with a time and a place that captures her in an impossibly romantic and dangerous trap—testing the strength of fate and the bonds of love.

About Melodie Winawer

Melodie Winawer is a physician-scientist and Associate Professor of Neurology at Columbia University. A graduate of Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, and Columbia University with degrees in biological psychology, medicine, and epidemiology, she has published forty-seven nonfiction articles and book chapters. She is fluent in Spanish and French, literate in Latin, and has a passable knowledge of Italian. Dr. Winawer lives with her spouse and their three young children in Brooklyn, New York. The Scribe of Siena is her first novel.

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I’m forever a sucker for anything time travel, but time traveling to Italy in 1347 to prevent a plot to destroy a city… and something to do with a plague? This debut novel sounds fantastic.

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

December 30, 2016 Bonnie Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Short & Sweet Reviews 2 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

cartoon

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Christmas + cutesy romance = two peas in a pod.

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Waiting on Wednesday – Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra

December 21, 2016 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday 8 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – Mad Miss Mimic by Sarah HenstraMad Miss Mimic by Sarah Henstra
Published by Razorbill Canada on January 3rd 2017
Pages: 272
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Paperback
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository
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Jane Austen meets Arthur Conan Doyle in a historical fiction debut for fans of Ruta Sepetys and Elizabeth Wein.

Born into an affluent family, Leo outwardly seems like a typical daughter of English privilege in the 1870s: she lives with her wealthy married sister Christabel, and lacks for neither dresses nor trinkets. But Leo has a crippling speech impediment that makes it difficult for her to speak but curiously allows her to mimic other people's voices flawlessly. Servants and ladies alike call her "Mad Miss Mimic" behind her back... and watch as she unintentionally scares off every potential suitor. Only the impossibly handsome Mr. Thornfax seems interested in Leo...but why? And does he have a connection to the mysterious Black Glove group that has London in its terrifying grasp? Trapped in a city under siege by terror attacks and gripped by opium fever, where doctors (including her brother-in-law) race to patent an injectable formula, Leo must search for truth in increasingly dangerous situations - but to do so, she must first find her voice.

About Sarah Henstra

Sarah Henstra is the author of Mad Miss Mimic (Razorbill, 2015), an historical novel for young adults. She is a professor of English literature at Ryerson University, where she teaches courses in Gothic Horror, Fairy Tales & Fantasies, Psychoanalysis & Literature, and Creative Writing. She grew up on the wild, wet coast of British Columbia, but now she lives in Toronto, Ontario with her two sons.

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The comparisons to Austen, Doyle, Sepetys, and Wein seem a little all over the place but this summary sounds like a fantastic gothic historical fiction. It’s been too long since I’ve picked up something in that vein.

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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