Genre: Historical Fiction

Waiting on Wednesday – Transcription: A Novel by Kate Atkinson

March 21, 2018 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday 6 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – Transcription: A Novel by Kate AtkinsonTranscription: A Novel by Kate Atkinson
Published by Little Brown and Company on September 25th 2018
Pages: 352
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
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Also by this author: Life After Life

A thrilling new novel from the bestselling author of Life After Life

In 1940, eighteen-year old Juliet Armstrong is reluctantly recruited into the world of espionage. Sent to an obscure department of MI5 tasked with monitoring the comings and goings of British Fascist sympathizers, she discovers the work to be by turns both tedious and terrifying. But after the war has ended, she presumes the events of those years have been relegated to the past forever. Ten years later, now a radio producer at the BBC, Juliet is unexpectedly confronted by figures from her past. A different war is being fought now, on a different battleground, but Juliet finds herself once more under threat. A bill of reckoning is due, and she finally begins to realize that there is no action without consequence. Transcription is a work of rare depth and texture, a bravura modern novel of extraordinary power, wit and empathy. It is a triumphant work of fiction from one of the best writers of our time.

About Kate Atkinson

Kate Atkinson was born in York and now lives in Edinburgh. Her first novel, Behind the Scenes at the Museum, won the Whitbread Book of the Year Award and she has been a critically acclaimed international bestselling author ever since.

She is the author of a collection of short stories, Not the End of the World, and of the critically acclaimed novels Human Croquet, Emotionally Weird, Case Histories, and One Good Turn.

Case Histories introduced her readers to Jackson Brodie, former police inspector turned private investigator, and won the Saltire Book of the Year Award and the Prix Westminster.

When Will There Be Good News? was voted Richard & Judy Book Best Read of the Year. After Case Histories and One Good Turn, it was her third novel to feature the former private detective Jackson Brodie, who makes a welcome return in Started Early, Took My Dog.

I adored Life After Life but it’s crazy to think that came out 5 years ago already. Transcription sounds like a fantastic trip back to the time period, just maybe minus the whole time traveling bit.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Waiting on Wednesday – Tangerine by Christine Mangan

February 21, 2018 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday 4 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – Tangerine by Christine ManganTangerine by Christine Mangan
Published by Ecco on March 27th 2018
Pages: 320
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Format: Hardcover
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The last person Alice Shipley expected to see since arriving in Tangier with her new husband was Lucy Mason. After the accident at Bennington, the two friends—once inseparable roommates—haven’t spoken in over a year. But there Lucy was, trying to make things right and return to their old rhythms. Perhaps Alice should be happy. She has not adjusted to life in Morocco, too afraid to venture out into the bustling medinas and oppressive heat. Lucy—always fearless and independent—helps Alice emerge from her flat and explore the country.

But soon a familiar feeling starts to overtake Alice—she feels controlled and stifled by Lucy at every turn. Then Alice’s husband, John, goes missing, and Alice starts to question everything around her: her relationship with her enigmatic friend, her decision to ever come to Tangier, and her very own state of mind.

Tangerine is a sharp dagger of a book—a debut so tightly wound, so replete with exotic imagery and charm, so full of precise details and extraordinary craftsmanship, it will leave you absolutely breathless.

About Christine Mangan

Christine Mangan has her PhD in English from University College Dublin, where her thesis focused on 18th-century Gothic literature, and an MFA in fiction writing from the University of Southern Maine. Tangerine is her first novel.

I don’t take the risk of picking up debuts as often as I should, but the blurb on the front cover completely sold me:

“As if Donna Tartt, Gillian Flynn, and Patricia Highsmith had collaborated on a screenplay to be filmed by Hitchcock.”

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Rapid Fire Reviews – Lightwood, The Weight of This World, Wildfire, The Rules of Magic

December 28, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Rapid Fire Reviews, Read in 2017 7 Comments

Sometimes review writing is hard. Sometimes you don’t have a lot to say. Sometimes you’re just lazy as fuck. These are Rapid Fire Reviews.

Rapid Fire Reviews – Lightwood, The Weight of This World, Wildfire, The Rules of MagicLightwood by Steph Post
Published by Polis Books on January 24th 2017
Pages: 336
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: eBook
Source: the Author
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Short Summary: When Judah Cannon is released from prison and returns to his hometown of Silas, Florida, he finds himself swiftly wrapped up in the troublesome workings of his family once again except this time may not result in prison, but death.

Thoughts: Steph Post has written a riveting noir-style story about revenge and betrayal that switches up the typical Appalachian setting of most Southern Gothic novels and gives us a peek at the dynamic and dangerous world of Florida scrub country.

Verdict: Daniel Woodrell, Donald Ray Pollock, and Cormac McCarthy are all big names of the often lurid genre but Steph Post proves with Lightwood that her name is just as deserving to be listed amongst them.

four-stars

Rapid Fire Reviews – Lightwood, The Weight of This World, Wildfire, The Rules of MagicThe Weight of This World by David Joy
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons on March 7th 2017
Pages: 260
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Short Summary: Aiden McCall and Thad Broom have been best friends since they were children, both trapped by the imaginary confines of their hometown even after a huge amount of money ends up in their possession after witnessing the violent death of their drug dealer.

Thoughts: Joy’s graceful prose is all the more evident when its backdrop is a brutal tale but the two pair perfectly by focusing on the powerful loyalty between two lifelong friends.

Verdict: There’s no sophomore slump to be had here; The Weight of the World is just as fantastic as Where All Light Tends to Go which makes the wait for The Line That Held Us all the more interminable.

four-stars

Waiting on Wednesday – Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3) by Ilona AndrewsWildfire by Ilona Andrews
Series: Hidden Legacy #3
Published by Avon on July 25th 2017
Pages: 400
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Short Summary: Life is never quiet for Nevada Baylor who realizes she’s in love with Mad Rogan, has to contend with being hired for a job by his beautiful ex, but she’s also dealing with her evil grandmother trying to kidnap her solely because of the power she possessed.

Thoughts: The intricate world-building, passionate romance, and overall excitement of this series continue in this installment that just might not be the last in the trilogy as first presumed.

Verdict: This is the 19th Ilona Andrews story so clearly I’m a bit of a fangirl; however, it never ceases to amaze me the originality of their stories and how I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of them.

four-stars

Rapid Fire Reviews – Lightwood, The Weight of This World, Wildfire, The Rules of MagicThe Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Series: Practical Magic #2
Published by Simon & Schuster on October 10th 2017
Pages: 384
Genres: Historical FictionMagical Realism
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Short Summary: In Practical Magic we learn about the Owens sisters in the present day and in this unexpected prequel, we learn about their ancestors and the curse on the family that dates back to the early 1600s.

Thoughts: The Rules of Magic is an enchanting story that flows softly, never with any sense of urgency or climax, but delineates on a family that we never quite knew we wanted (or needed) to know more of until this was released.

Verdict: I was worried that this prequel (released twenty-two years after Practical Magic would feel stale and wouldn’t possess the same magic as its predecessor: I was wrong.

four-stars

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Waiting on Wednesday – The Last Hours by Minette Walters

November 22, 2017 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday 2 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – The Last Hours by Minette WaltersThe Last Hours by Minette Walters
Published by Mira on August 7th 2018
Pages: 544
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
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For most, the Black Death is the end. For a brave few, it heralds a new beginning.

When the Black Death enters England through the port of Melcombe in Dorseteshire in June 1348, no one knows what manner of sickness it is or how it spreads and kills so quickly. The Church cites God as the cause, and religious fear grips the people as they come to believe that the plague is a punishment for wickedness.

But Lady Anne of Develish has her own ideas. Educated by nuns, Anne is a rarity among women, being both literate and knowledgeable. With her brutal husband absent from Develish when news of this pestilence reaches her, she takes the decision to look for more sensible ways to protect her people than daily confessions of sin. Well-versed in the importance of isolating the sick from the well, she withdraws her people inside the moat that surrounds her manor house and refuses entry even to her husband.

She makes an enemy of her daughter and her husband's steward by doing so, but her resolve is strengthened by the support of her leading serfs … until food stocks run low and the nerves of all are tested by continued confinement and ignorance of what is happening in the world outside. The people of Develish are alive. But for how long? And what will they discover when the time comes for them to cross the moat?

Compelling and suspenseful, The Last Hours is a riveting tale of human ingenuity and endurance against the worst pandemic known to history. In Lady Anne of Develish - leader, saviour, heretic - Walters has created her most memorable heroine to date.

About Minette Walters

Minette Walters (born 26 September 1949) is a British mystery writer. After studying at Trevelyan College, University of Durham, she began writing in 1987 with The Ice House, which was published in 1992. She followed this with The Sculptress (1993), which received the 1994 Edgar Award for Best Novel. She has been published in 35 countries and won many awards.

The Sculptress has been adapted for television in a BBC series starring Pauline Quirke. Her novels The Ice House, The Echo, The Dark Room, and The Scold's Bridle have also been adapted by the BBC.

It probably says a lot about me that my first response to reading the blurb was “It’s about the black death!” with a face like:

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What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Waiting on Wednesday – Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All by Candace Fleming

November 8, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Waiting on Wednesday 4 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – Fatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All by Candace FlemingFatal Throne: The Wives of Henry VIII Tell All by Candace Fleming
Published by Schwartz & Wade on May 1st 2018
Pages: 416
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
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The tragic lives of Henry VIII and his six wives are reimagined by seven acclaimed and bestselling authors in this riveting novel, perfect for fans of Wolf Hall and Netflix's The Crown.

He was King Henry VIII, a charismatic and extravagant ruler obsessed with both his power as king and with siring a male heir.

They were his queens--six ill-fated women, each bound for divorce, or beheading, or death.

Watch spellbound as each of Henry's wives attempts to survive their unpredictable king and his power-hungry court. See the sword flash as fiery Anne Boleyn is beheaded for adultery. Follow Jane Seymour as she rises from bullied court maiden to beloved queen, only to die after giving birth. Feel Catherine Howard's terror as old lovers resurface and whisper vicious rumors to Henry's influential advisors. Experience the heartache of mothers as they lose son after son, heir after heir.

Told in stirring first-person accounts, Fatal Throne is at once provocative and heartbreaking, an epic tale that is also an intimate look at the royalty of the most perilous times in English history.

Who's Who:

* M. T. Anderson - Henry VIII
* Candace Fleming - Katharine of Aragon
* Stephanie Hemphill - Anne Boleyn
* Lisa Ann Sandell - Jane Seymour
* Jennifer Donnelly - Anna of Cleves
* Linda Sue Park - Catherine Howard
* Deborah Hopkinson - Kateryn Parr

About Candace Fleming

Candace Fleming is the prolific author of many critically acclaimed, bestselling books for children, including the picture books "Muncha! Muncha! Muncha! "(an ALA Notable Book and four starred reviews), and "Boxes for Katie "(a Junior Library Guild Selection and a "Publishers Weekly "Best Book of 2003); the nonfiction titles "Our Eleanor "(an ALA Notable Book, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and three starred reviews) and "Ben Franklin's Almanac "(an ALA Notable Book, ALA Best Book for Young Adults, James Madison Honor Book, and three starred reviews). She lives in Mt. Prospect, Illinois.

Honestly, I’m always on board with anything Tudor-related. And this sounds good.

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What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DNF @ 10%

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

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

The author holds a Masters in Shakespeare studies so, being as far from a theater kid as one can get, I can only assume she knows what she’s talking about. Constantly quoting Shakespeare in conversation got old, fast, and by 10% I put on my hipster glasses and called it quits.

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

Life’s Too Short – If We Were Villains, Ill Will, YesternightIll Will by Dan Chaon
Published by Ballantine Books on March 7th 2017
Pages: 480
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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dnf

Two sensational unsolved crimes—one in the past, another in the present—are linked by one man’s memory and self-deception in this chilling novel of literary suspense from National Book Award finalist Dan Chaon.

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

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

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

DNF @ 25%

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

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

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

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

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

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

DNF @ 10%

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

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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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dnf

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

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

DNF @ 15%

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

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

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

…hilariously reminded me of this meme:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


dnf

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

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

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

DNF @ 7%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Life’s Too Short: The Oxford Inheritance, Bright Air Black, The Burning WorldThe Burning World by Isaac Marion
Series: Warm Bodies #2
Published by Atria/Emily Bestler Books on February 7th 2017
Pages: 512
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Zombies
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Warm Bodies

dnf

R is recovering from death.

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

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

DNF @ 13%

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

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

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

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

And that is all we get by way of explanation.

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

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

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

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

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

three-stars

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

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

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

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

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

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