Posts Categorized: Julia Whelan

Life’s Too Short – The Simplicity of Cider, Tess of the Road, Strange Fire

December 21, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, Life's Too Short 4 Comments

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

Life’s Too Short – The Simplicity of Cider, Tess of the Road, Strange FireThe Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert
Published by Gallery Books on May 16th 2017
Pages: 336
Genres: Magical Realism
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

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Fall in love with The Simplicity of Cider, the charming new novel about a prickly but gifted cider-maker whose quiet life is interrupted by the arrival of a handsome man and his young son at her family’s careworn orchard by the author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake and Luck, Love & Lemon Pie.

Focused and unassuming fifth generation cider-maker Sanna Lund has one desire: to live a simple, quiet life on her family’s apple orchard in Door County, Wisconsin. Although her business is struggling, Sanna remains fiercely devoted to the orchard, despite her brother’s attempts to convince their aging father to sell the land.

Single dad Isaac Banks has spent years trying to shield his son Sebastian from his troubled mother. Fleeing heartbreak at home, Isaac packed up their lives and the two headed out on an adventure, driving across the country. Chance—or fate—led them straight to Sanna’s orchard.

Isaac’s helping hands are much appreciated at the apple farm, even more when Sanna’s father is injured in an accident. As Sanna’s formerly simple life becomes increasingly complicated, she finds solace in unexpected places—friendship with young Sebastian and something more deliciously complex with Isaac—until an outside threat infiltrates the farm.

From the warm and funny Amy E. Reichert, The Simplicity of Cider is a charming love story with a touch of magic, perfect for fans of Sarah Addison Allen and Gayle Forman.

DNF @ 20%

I adore Magical Realism and I adored Reichert’s debut The Coincidence of Coconut Cake but this one just didn’t do it for me. I’ve had a rollercoaster of a reading year and being very much a mood reader it seemed like every time I picked this one up, it never felt like the right time. Alas, I’m making this my last attempt (my fifth attempt, for the record) and calling it quits. This book possessed a lovely, heartwarming feel to it as you learn about the orchard and see all these special touches of magic throughout but as the summary states, Sanna is most prickly indeed. Her character was so completely off-putting to me that it lessened my interest in everything else. Did she redeem herself in the end? Possibly. But if I’ve restarted a book five times in a single year and still can’t get through it, honestly, that was more time spent trying than should be necessary.

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 Simplicity of Cider, Tess of the Road, Strange FireTess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on February 27th 2018
Pages: 544
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Seraphina

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Meet Tess, a brave new heroine from beloved epic fantasy author Rachel Hartman.

In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can’t make a scene at your sister’s wedding and break a relative’s nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.

Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it’s a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl—a subspecies of dragon—who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she’s tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.

Returning to the fascinating world she created in the award-winning and New York Times bestselling Seraphina, Rachel Hartman introduces readers to a new character and a new quest, pushing the boundaries of genre once again in this wholly original fantasy.

DNF @ 15%

Blogger Problem #74: Being blinded by the excitement surrounding an ARC that you accept it without completely thinking it through.

Seraphina was a real struggle for me to get through, especially when all my blogger friends were raving about it. Despite this, I still picked up Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2) and ended up DNF-ing. Even though Tess of the Road is not classified as Seraphina #3, it really is. It’s set in the same world, most of the same characters, just focusing on a different main character. Same series, spin-off series, either way… I really should have skipped over this one. Hartman’s world building is spectacular but I continue to struggle with the pacing of her stories.

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 – The Simplicity of Cider, Tess of the Road, Strange FireStrange Fire by Tommy Wallach
Narrator: Julia Whelan, Joy Osmanski, Madeleine Maby, Corey Brill, Jacques Roy, Gibson Frazier
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on October 3rd 2017
Pages: 386
Length: 9 hours and 35 minutes
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: We All Looked Up, Thanks for the Trouble

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It only takes a spark.

They said that the first generation of man was brought low by its appetites: for knowledge, for wealth, for power. They said mankind’s voracity was so great, the Lord sent his own Daughter to bring fire and devastation to the world.

The survivors were few, but over the course of centuries, they banded together to form a new civilization—the Descendancy—founded on the belief that the mistakes of the past must never be repeated.

Brothers Clive and Clover Hamill, the sons of a well-respected Descendant minister, have spent their lives spreading that gospel. But when their traveling ministry discovers a community intent on rediscovering the blasphemous technologies of the past, a chain of events will be set in motion that will pit city against city…and brother against brother.

Along with Gemma Poplin, Clive’s childhood sweetheart, and Paz Dedios, a revolutionary who dreams of overthrowing the Descendancy, Clive and Clover will each play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of this holy war, and the fate of humanity itself.

DNF @ 10%

I understand that the whole purpose of a blurb is to quickly encourage readers to pick it up, but when you do, and the blurb is nothing like it promised, that’s mighty disappointing. Oregon Trail meets Westworld was what hooked me and caused me so much excitement I admittedly didn’t even read the rest of the blurb (although this is a rampant problem for me.) If I had read the entire blurb I would have been immediately put off by the excessive religiousness and would’ve skipped this. But nooooo…. my 10-year-old brain started daydreaming of Oregon Trail instead.

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Strange Fire is told from the point of view of two brothers from a religious society that views technology to be the root of all evil. It’s less fantasy and more futuristic dystopian but possessed an essence of more popular dystopian novels (Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, Handmaid’s Tale, as well as the more recent Blood Red Road.) The writing was well done but the plot was slow to build which makes more sense when you consider it’s the start of a series. I tried to keep an open mind regarding the religious aspects but this ultimately just failed to capture my interest.

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Audiobook Review – An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

November 7, 2017 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2017, YA 2 Comments

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

Audiobook Review – An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret RogersonAn Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on September 26th 2017
Length: 8 hours and 45 minutes
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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two-stars

A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

“Why do we desire, above all other things, that which has the greatest power to destroy us?”

In a town named Whimsy, humans practice “Craft” to satisfy the “fair folk” that reside in the forests which border the town. Isobel is a master of her craft, despite her young age, and her portrait art is widely spoken of which she uses to trade for various enchantments to keep her and her family safe. When she’s hired by an autumn prince, her practiced eyed detects a mysterious sorrow in his eyes, something found in ordinary humans but never in the fair folk. She adds this final touch to his portrait and bids farewell to him, thinking she’ll never see him again, but knowing that she was absolutely falling in love with him. Surprisingly, he shows up on her doorstep weeks later but only because he plans to take her back to his court to stand trial for her crimes: painting his face with a weakness.

Isobel was an impassioned character and easy to like… at first. As soon as we’re introduced to the obvious love interest though, the story and her character take a bit of an adverse turn. It quickly became less of a fantasy with romantic elements and more a romance with fantasy elements. And she started thinking things like:

“Walking on a blade’s edge every time we exchanged a curtsy and a bow, knowing one misstep could topple me into mortal peril, made the blood sing in my veins.”

Yeah, thinking I might die any second always gets me excited too. It reminded me immensely of A Court of Thorns and Roses both in story and characterization but where An Enchantment of Ravens fell short was in creating an equally fascinating world and a story that didn’t revolve around a romance that was predictable and lacking in any real passion. I felt the “you must stand trial for your crimes!” storyline was a weak excuse to throw the duo together again and it was easy to foretell they would fall in love. The Romeo and Juliet spin on things making it forbidden for the fair folk to fall in love with humans just added more of a dramatic spin on things. The outside cover is absolutely spectacular but the insides are disappointingly mediocre.

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Ominous October – Dead Souls by J. Lincoln Fenn

October 8, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Ominous October, Read in 2016 3 Comments

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

Ominous October – Dead Souls by J. Lincoln FennDead Souls by J. Lincoln Fenn
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on September 20th 2016
Length: 9 hours and 30 minutes
Genres: Horror
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Poe

four-stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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