Publisher: Atria Books

Book Review – Love Lies Beneath: A Novel by Ellen Hopkins

August 6, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2015 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.

Book Review – Love Lies Beneath: A Novel by Ellen HopkinsLove Lies Beneath by Ellen Hopkins
Published by Atria Books on July 21st 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Triangles, Crank, Burned

one-star

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Collateral comes a gripping novel about a woman caught in a love affair that could be her salvation…or her undoing.

Tara is gorgeous, affluent, and forty. She lives in an impeccably restored Russian Hill mansion in San Francisco. Once a widow, twice divorced, she’s a woman with a past she prefers keeping to herself.

Enter Cavin Lattimore. He’s handsome, kind, charming, and the surgeon assigned to Tara following a ski accident in Lake Tahoe. In the weeks it takes her to recover, Cavin sweeps her off her feet and their relationship blossoms into something Tara had never imagined possible. But then she begins to notice some strange things: a van parked outside her home at odd times, a break-in, threatening text messages and emails. She also starts to notice cracks in Cavin’s seemingly perfect personality, like the suppressed rage his conniving teenage son brings out in him, and the discovery that Cavin hired a detective to investigate her immediately after they met.

Now on crutches and housebound, Tara finds herself dependent on the new man in her life—perhaps too much so. She’s handling rocky relationships with her sister and best friend, who are envious of her glamour and freedom; her prickly brother-in-law, who is intimidated by her wealth and power; and her estranged mother. However perfect Tara’s life appears, things are beginning to get messy.

Writing in beautiful prose, Ellen Hopkins unveils a new style while evoking her signature poetic form that readers fell in love with in Collateral and Triangles.

Warning: Spoilers ahead.

I don’t even know where to begin with this epic disaster. I’m just as shocked as you are… Ellen Hopkins! One of my all-time favorites! The one I’ve always been able to rely on for a beautifully written story with a moving plot. Love Lies Beneath was nothing like I’ve come to expect from Hopkins and while change isn’t necessarily a bad thing, in this case, she strayed from her verse style and opted for a typical style of writing and it was a major fail. I can’t even soften this (or shorten my rant) so I don’t come off as a complete asshole because I am completely shocked at how straight up horrible this was. Me. Rating an Ellen Hopkins 1 star. Hell hath frozen over.

First off, I need to mention that I read the short story that is listed as a prequel story called On the Rocks. I’m all for anything that adds a new level of understanding and from what other reviewers said, reading it before Love helped you to understand Tara and Graham’s relationship better. (cue insane laughter) I have to basically spoil the short story in order to properly explain the beginning of my aggravations, so you’ve been warned.

Tara is introduced as a powerful, self-sufficient woman who is also a recent widow. She takes what she wants, in life and in the bedroom, and has no qualms about doing so. Graham meets twenty-three-year-old Tara for the first time in a local pawnshop, which she’s owner. He’s been seeing this other girl recently, but he thinks Tara is really something so he calls her a few days later to ask her out on a date. They hit it off, end up in bed together, and in the morning he leaves to go meet his girlfriend for lunch. Yeah, he’s a real charmer. Long story short, his girlfriend’s sister is meeting them and go figure, Tara is the sister that shows up. Talk about awkward. The aggravations began when I picked up Love and noted some SERIOUS inconsistencies.

When Love opens, there’s a serious jump in time. Tara is now forty and is now a three-time divorceé who spends her time in the gym or working on fundraising. One of her exes is a politician who takes care of all her expenses still so she doesn’t have to do any real work. Graham ended up married to her sister and they have three children together. Tara and Graham hate each other and the short story was supposed to be the key to explaining it all. But that’s where I ran into a major snag:

‘…would it have been better to confide the fact that Graham had tried to sleep with me?’

Wait. TRIED to sleep with her? Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought it was pretty clear in the short story they slept together.

‘They fuck for hours, until there’s nothing left to fuck away-no loneliness, no frustration, no pain, no thirst.’

Uh, yeah. I don’t think that could be any more clear. Yet I believe I counted at least three instances which mentioned how he hates her because she “turned him down”… TWENTY YEARS AGO. Because that makes complete sense for him to hate her after that long and after marrying her sister and having kids together for him to still hold a grudge for all that. Even if the story upheld the short stories claim that they slept together, it still wouldn’t be realistic for him to hate her after all that time.

Alright, so on to my next issue. Tara. Tara is not a character you will grow fond of. I’ve read my fair share of unlikeable characters and this alone won’t bring a story down for me. What brought it down is Tara is a total cliché and could not be more of a cardboard cutout. Her narrative is ridiculous and uninspiring and the motivations behind her mannerisms are chalked up to an absent mother that slept around with a bunch of men. But the things that would come out of her mouth were straight-up cringe worthy. Here are a few treasures I saved:

“No. You broke even, minus the three hundred you gave away. You could have lost the whole thing! Who does that? Who takes that kind of risk?
She is seriously clueless. “It’s only money, Mel.”

“Kayla’s been heading in the wrong direction for a while now. I’m afraid she’s lost all sense of reason.”
I’ve heard marijuana can do that to a person, and what if it’s become a gateway to harder stuff?

‘I’ve relied on condoms for intermittent liaisons, and remained herpes and fetus-free. Should I worry now? At my age, is what’s left of my egg stash even viable?
Oh well, if things go wrong, there’s always abortion.’

And my favorite:

‘The burgers, at least, don’t disappoint, and the fries are worth every fat-soaked bite. Good thing I didn’t eat earlier.’

Yeah, she’s a fabulous person. But she’s just so terribly written that she comes off as laughable and I’m not sure that’s what was intended. Speaking of the writing, compared to her more lush verse stories, this reads like somebody completely different wrote it. It’s oversimplified and the supposed “mystery” is something that’s thrown in for a half-assed twist at the end which made it all the more ludicrous. In addition to changing her writing style, she added in a whole lot more sex scenes than I had seen before from her, even in her other adult novels. Suffice it to say that I found them laughable as well and I’m certain that’s definitely not what she intended.

But personally, I want to lick him, forehead to foreskin. Hmm. Does he have foreskin? Damn, now I’m wondering.

Then I unhinge my jaw, which is what it takes for my mouth to accept the whole thing, and I teach him the meaning of head, Tara-style […]

I’m not sure when but she apparently transformed into a snake at some point. I missed that scene.

And this completely creepy mental image:

Completely engorged, his cock crawls up the backs of my legs.

Um. Cocks don’t do that. Maybe he should have that looked at.

And if all that wasn’t bad enough, towards the end she has this medical crisis and was a complete idiot about it. She had a reaction to something she ate and had to use her epi pen and considering I personally have to carry an epi-pen and know exactly how all that shit goes, the scene was completely enraging. She describes injecting herself and how the swelling in her eyes and face, as well as the hives, began to immediately shrink. And how she went to the bathroom to look at herself in the mirror, noted that her skin was slack from being all stretched out so she applied some tightening lotion. Uh, that’s not how that works, at fucking all. Your swelling doesn’t go away that quickly. But the icing on the fucking cake:

‘All the literature says to call 911 or go into the ER after an episode capped with epinephrine. But I want to go to the beach.’

And I’m done. I’m baffled. So completely shocked. I can’t even comprehend.

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Early Review – Black Iris by Leah Raeder

April 25, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, New Adult, Read in 2015 4 Comments

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

Early Review – Black Iris by Leah RaederBlack Iris by Leah Raeder
Published by Atria Books on April 28th 2015
Pages: 368
Genres: Contemporary Romance, LGBTQIA
Format: ARC
Source: Goodreads First Reads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Cam Girl

four-stars

The next dark and sexy romantic suspense novel from the USA Today bestselling author of Unteachable.

It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn't worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She's not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it's time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She's going to show them all.

‘Scars tell a story. My whole life was written on my body. How are you supposed to leave the past behind when you carry it with you in your skin?’

Laney Keating is a troubled teen questioning her sexuality while battling bullies and a severe drug addiction. She just wants to successfully make it to college so that she can start completely over with a fresh slate. That’s the bottom line, however, that doesn’t even begin to touch the contorted sort of life she leads. Still reeling from her mother’s suicide, Laney becomes intensely close with two individuals: Armin and Blythe. After finding out the details of her sordid story, the two agree to help her get back at those that hurt her so she can finally get the revenge she’s been dying for for so long.

‘I am not the heroine of this story.
And I’m not trying to be cute. It’s the truth. I’m diagnosed borderline and seriously fucked-up. I hold grudges. I bottle my hate until it ferments into poison, and then I get high off the fumes.’

First and foremost, Black Iris is one seriously dark and twisted thrill-ride of a tale. With a sense of being on a rollercoaster whipping you to and fro, the story throws us back in the past and forward into the future with each alternating chapter, slowly uncovering the facts of what caused Laney to become the sort of person she is. It’s such a thoroughly absorbing and well-written tale that keeping your facts straight isn’t ever a chore. And speaking of well-written, this book is simply sublime. Leah Raeder sees this world from a different perspective than the rest of us mere mortals. She sees this world in vibrant colors and intense detail and has the poetic ability to bring it to life for the rest of us.

‘I don’t categorize people by who I’m allowed to like and who I’m allowed to love. Love doesn’t fit into boxes like that. It’s blurry, slippery, quantum. It’s only limited by our perceptions and before we slap a label on it and cram it into some category, everything is possible.’

This book touches on a lot of severely dark aspects of life such as excessive drug use, mental illnesses such as depression and mania and not only the personal effects but how it manages to affect everyone in your life. It also tackles bullying, self-denigration and learning to come to terms with your sexuality despite it not being ‘the norm’. Revenge is a central part of the story as well and I loved how unrepentant Laney is about taking it, regardless of any ramifications. Her actions might not have been the easiest to understand or even to stomach, but her raw brutality still managed to be profound.

Black Iris may not be for everyone because its crudely savage and Laney remains remorseless to the very end without your quintessential self-realization over all the wrong that was done. But that crudeness is what completely ensnared me, shocked me and by the end left me completely stupefied (in the best way possible).

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Waiting on Wednesday – Black Iris by Leah Raeder

February 11, 2015 Bonnie New Adult, Waiting on Wednesday 2 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – Black Iris by Leah RaederBlack Iris by Leah Raeder
Published by Atria Books on April 28th 2015
Pages: 368
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Romance, Suspense
Format: Paperback
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Black Iris, Cam Girl

The next dark and sexy romantic suspense novel from the USA Today bestselling author of Unteachable.

It only took one moment of weakness for Laney Keating’s world to fall apart. One stupid gesture for a hopeless crush. Then the rumors began. Slut, they called her. Queer. Psycho. Mentally ill, messed up, so messed up even her own mother decided she wasn't worth sticking around for.

If Laney could erase that whole year, she would. College is her chance to start with a clean slate.

She's not looking for new friends, but they find her: charming, handsome Armin, the only guy patient enough to work through her thorny defenses—and fiery, filterless Blythe, the bad girl and partner in crime who has thorns of her own.

But Laney knows nothing good ever lasts. When a ghost from her past resurfaces—the bully who broke her down completely—she decides it's time to live up to her own legend. And Armin and Blythe are going to help.

Which was the plan all along.

Because the rumors are true. Every single one. And Laney is going to show them just how true.

She's going to show them all.

About Leah Raeder

I was born in the 80s, which means I have fantastic taste in music and atrocious taste in hair. I knew at eight years old that I wanted to be a published author when I grew up. Of course, when I was eight, “published author” was a glamorous daydream where I spent all day in bookstores, signing hardcovers and posing for photos with fans. In reality, authordom involves lots of bourbon-scented tears and neurotic self-doubt. At least there are fewer mullets.

As well as being a writer, I’m a voracious and omnivorous reader. Seriously. I read everything from contemporary Young Adult to dense, doorstop literary fiction. Some of my favorite writers are Vladimir Nabokov (Lolita), Virginia Woolf (Mrs. Dalloway), F. Scott Fitzgerald (Tender is the Night), and Jeanette Winterson (Written on the Body). I’m a total poetry geek, too—my two absolute favorites are Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath.

All the pretty colors on this website were made by me. In my non-bookish life, I’m a graphic designer.

I’m from Chicago and have lived all over the world, from NYC to LA to Tehran, Iran. I currently live in the Windy City with my partner, Alexander, who’s very understanding about all this girlsmut business.

Basically Unteachable was so utterly fantastic that I didn’t even bother reading the summary before adding this.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me a link to your post and I’ll be sure to stop by!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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Book Review – The House at Riverton by Kate Morton

May 1, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 3 Comments

Book Review – The House at Riverton by Kate MortonThe House at Riverton by Kate Morton
Published by Atria Books on April 22nd 2008
Pages: 480
Genres: Gothic, Historical Fiction, Mystery
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Secret Keeper, The Clockmaker's Daughter

three-half-stars

The House at Riverton is a sweeping debut novel set in England between the wars. It is the story of an aristocratic family, a house, a mysterious death and a vanishing way of life, told by a woman who witnessed it all and kept a secret for a lifetime.

Grace Bradley went to work at Riverton House as a servant when she was just a girl, before the First World War. For years her life was inextricably tied up with the Hartford family, most particularly the two daughters, Hannah and Emmeline.

In the summer of 1924, at a glittering society party held at the House, a young poet shot himself. The only witnesses were Hannah and Emmeline, and only they—and Grace—know the truth.

The novel opens in 1999 when Grace is ninety-eight years old, living out her last days in a nursing home. She is visited by a young director who is making a film bout the events of that summer in 1924. She takes Grace back to Riverton House and reawakens her memories. Told in flashback, this is the story of Grace's youth suring the last days of Edwardian aristocratic privilege shattered by war, of the vibrant 1920s and of the changes she witnessed as an entire way of life vanished forever.

The novel is full of secrets—some revealed, others hidden forever, reminiscent of the romantic suspense of Daphne du Maurier. It is also a meditation on memory, the devastation of war and a beautifully rendered window into a fascinating time in history.

Originally published to critical acclaim in Australia, already sold in ten countries and a #1 bestseller in England, The House at Riverton is a page-turning novel of suspense and passion, with characters—and an ending—the reader won't soon forget.

‘…history is a faithless teller whose cruel recourse to hindsight makes fools of its actors.’

The House of Riverton tells the tale of Grace Bradley who began working as a housemaid for the Hartford family at Riverton in 1915 during the first World War. Her life became inextricably linked to the house and its inhabitants; a link that would last a lifetime. Flash forward, Grace Bradley is 98 years old and living out her final days in a nursing home yet still holding tightly to the secrets she’s kept for many decades. Grace is approached by a young filmmaker who is making a movie about the tragic summer of 1924, when Robbie Hunter committed suicide, and nothing which followed was ever the same.

The story spans a vast time period beginning in 1915 when World War I is underway, to the 1920’s which completely redefined social and cultural customs and all the way to the late 90’s where we’re able to see just how much one tragic even can haunt someone forever. Kate Morton skillfully brings this time period and her characters to life. The impact of the war on the household was authentic feeling and especially well done. The one other novel of hers I’ve read, The Secret Keeper, is an absolute favorite of mine. Having read this one now I can definitely tell that this is her debut novel as it lacks the polished feel of The Secret Keeper. The House at Riverton is still a well-written and vibrant story with a cast of interesting characters although I found the mystery itself to be a bit disheveled.

The book summary makes it seem as if the story is centered around the mystery of a poet who committed suicide at Riverton in 1924, however, it took an endless amount of time to actually get to that point. The poet, Robbie Hunter, was a young man that Hannah and Emmeline met in 1915. He was a friend of their brother David and the two ended up going to war together. Their introduction is brief at the beginning of the book yet Robbie does not reappear again until close to the very end. The story had been following a steady path up until his reappearance and it not only threw a wrench in the story but made everything that followed feel contrived and artificial.

There is also an additional side mystery involving the narrator, Grace, and how her mother had worked at Riverton when she was younger. Her mother dies and takes her secrets with her and Grace slowly uncovers them throughout the novel. This, unfortunately, could have been interesting but felt ultimately unnecessary and not only detracted from the main mystery but extended the book needlessly. It was a separate mystery entirely from that of Robbie Hunter and I felt as if there was a similarity between Grace’s and Hannah’s secret that it would have been a better fit for the story as a whole.

The House of Riverton is an entertaining historical fiction debut that is chock-full of secrets waiting to be uncovered. It’s reminiscent of Atonement with a slight Downton Abbey feel and will be pleasing for fans of both.

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Release Day Feature + Giveaway! The Mapmaker’s War: A Legend by Ronlyn Domingue

March 5, 2013 Bonnie Giveaways, Release Day Feature 0 Comments

Release Day Feature + Giveaway! The Mapmaker’s War: A Legend by Ronlyn DomingueThe Mapmaker's War: A Legend by Ronlyn Domingue
Series: Keeper of Tales Trilogy #1
Published by Atria Books on March 5th 2013
Pages: 226
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Amazon
Goodreads

This will be the map of your heart, old woman. 

In an ancient time, in a faraway land, a young woman named Aoife is allowed a rare apprenticeship to become her kingdom's mapmaker, tasked with charting the entire domain. Traveling beyond its borders, she finds a secretive people who live in peace, among great wealth. They claim to protect a mythic treasure, one connected to the creation of the world. When Aoife reports their existence to her kingdom, the community is targeted as a threat. Attempting to warn them of imminent danger, Aoife is exiled for treason and finds refuge among the very people who had been declared her enemy. With them, she begins a new life surrounded by kindness, equality, and cooperation. But within herself, Aoife has no peace. She cannot share the grief she feels for the home and children she left behind. She cannot bear the warrior scars of the man she comes to love. And when she gives birth to their gifted daughter, Aoife cannot avoid what the child forces her to confront about her past and its truth. On this most important of journeys, there is no map to guide her. In this tale, her autobiography; Aoife reveals her pain and joy, and ultimately her transformation.

Today’s Release Day Feature is The Mapmaker’s War: A Legend by Ronlyn Domingue a new historical-fiction/fantasy novel from the author of The Mercy of Thin Air. Below is an excerpt and a giveaway!
Thank you to Atria Books for providing this giveaway opportunity!
 
Prologue
By Ronlyn Domingue,
Author of The Mapmaker’s War: A Legend
This will be the map of your heart, old woman. You are forgetful of the everyday. | misplaced cup, missing clasp | Yet, you recall the long-ago with morning-after clarity. These stories you have told yourself before. Write them now. At last, tell the truth. Be sparse with nostalgia. Be wary of its tangents. Mark the moments of joy but understand that is not now your purpose. Return to the places where your heart was broken. Scars evidence harm done. Some wounds sealed with weak knits. They are open again. The time has come to close them.
Here, choose the point of entry. Any place, any time, right now and you have —
Your small finger in the hearth’s ashes. A line appears. You divide space.
Then there were twigs and broom bristles. Scratches and marks and lines until you had the control to create shape. Circle, triangle, square, said your older brother. Ciaran put the first nib under your thumb and first scrap of parchment beneath that. What you drew is missing in substance and memory. In its place, years apart, you transformed the circle into a tub. The triangle was a churn. The square became a table. You marked your spot with an X.
Aoife, said your brother, who taught you to draw a map?
The kitchen as it was when you were five. You could render space and suspend time.
You lived in a large cold house at the edge of a forest. The shady quiet lured, then hid, you. Wild child, said the nursemaid. Uncivilized, your mother declared when you returned home dirty with treasures. She tried and failed to tame you. Wait until I tell your father, said she. Next to his chair, you held your breath and your guard. He saw no harm in the fresh air and exercise. Good habit to start now because what man wants a fat wife? said your father. Indulgent, she called him. She stormed off on stout legs.
You had few ordinary interests as a girl. You didn’t dress your bronze hair, tend to dolls, or join petty quarrels. This perplexed your mother, who tried her best to create a being in her own image. You soon realized you had to give to take. When you were attentive to your morning girlhood duties, she fought less when you asked for afternoon freedom. You acquiesced to learn how to behave regardless of whether you intended to follow suit. The re¬ward was worth the concession.
With meticulous care, you planned your provisions, though not your expeditions. Adventure wasn’t in the hunger to come but in the quest of what to follow. You packed your pouch | nuts and fruit, soft bread and hard cheese | along with parchment and ink, cloth scraps and straight edges.
You mapped the hidden worlds when you were still young enough to see them.
Spiderwebs and honeycombs taught the wisdom of symmetry. To you, everything before your eyes was built upon invisible lines and angles. The very spot where you stood only a point among many. A girl is not always in her place, you thought. A girl can be many places at once. And so you were. When you settled upon a space in the forest or meadow, you made a grid on the earth with small steps and tiny flags until there were row upon row of even little squares. You took your seat within the grid. You moved from square to square, noting what stood still and what passed by. All day long you observed and measured, sketched and colored. That which was off the edges appeared on the parchment as well. There were mysterious realms of bees and ants and creatures never seen before, with tiny castles and bright gardens.
One day, as you traced the uncovered trails of termites, you heard a rustle in the brush. You remained still with hope that the ancient stag or a sturdy bear would meet your eye. What a lovely beast to draw in that place! Instead, you faced a boy with green eyes and chestnut curls. A boy you knew well. Prince Wyl called your name and held up a dead rabbit by its hind legs. You lifted your hand in a polite wave and turned back to your work.
Did you see what I caught? I shall skin it and give the fur to the tailor to make you a fine collar, said Wyl.
It will be cold if you do that, you said.
It’s dead. It has no need for fur now.
So literal,Wyl.You mistake my japes.
You meant no hardness toward him. As you looked to the ground again, you smiled. You knew his gesture was an act of affection. Such regard you had neither sought nor earned. His attentions you tried not to encourage or reject. That you two knew each other at all was a matter of circumstance. Your father served as the King’s most trusted adviser.
On that day, when you wished Wyl had been the stag or a bear, you realized he didn’t ask to see your map. He had on other occasions.You had no way to know that in years to come he would be privy to every chart you made, to the very last one.
See, you became a mapmaker.
Those hours you spent looking at the distance from one point to the next | star to star, rock to rock, blade to blade | were your study of geometry before you ever received formal instruction. You could be both abstract and precise, and sit for long periods. Ciaran gave you lessons in nuthematics and astronomy. He had also taught you to read. You enjoyed the challenge of learning. You also liked the attention from your brother, amiable and patient with you. Your mother encouraged the companionship between her children. However, she saw no purpose for the lessons.
You need to know what is practical for a woman, said she. All this effort leads to nothing.
Nothing indeed would have come of it had you not heard your father and brother in conversation.
The kingdom was in a quiet time. For generations before, there had been years of strife, battles to claim land and battles to control it. At last, there was much to manage and little known about the holdings. They discussed the King’s consideration to map the entirety of his realm. Mapmakers would need to be hired and some trained.
You almost cried out on impulse. This you wanted to do, although you didn’t know why. You banished the thought that you would be denied the training. You wanted to be good at something other than what was expected of you, for life.You threw yourself at chance.
We’ll see, said your father when you asked for a place at the apprentice’s table. Don’t raise your hopes, said Ciaran when you told him of your wish. Your brother, seven years your senior, had begun to serve the King in earnest, the heir to your father’s role as a trusted adviser.You had no such secure inheritance.You suspected your name would not receive mention.
Now. Tell the truth.
You turned Wyl’s affection to your advantage. The pull between you both served in your favor.You didn’t call it manipulation. Perhaps it was. An offhand comment was all it took. I would like to learn to draw real maps. With magical speed, there you were in the mapmaker’s chamber.
Heydar came from another kingdom with an accent, his instruments, and several bound volumes. His ears sprouted whiskers that reached up to his frantic hair and down to his bushy beard. He looked, and ate, like a lion. You passed the tests he gave you, then he tested your courage because he saw your wits. He didn’t care that you were a girl, but twelve. All he cared was whether you could learn the craft, whether you practiced enough. He demanded excellence.You would deliver.
You thought to thank the King for his favor. Wyl arranged a brief meeting. The King said he had been assured of your talents. He said he made exceptions for what pleased him, and it pleased him greatly to have such intelligence, enthusiasm, and tenacity at his service. He gave no mention as to who might have swayed him. Or why he allowed it.
When you sat with your studies at home, your mother bustled to and fro. She stitched and stitched and stitched. She hurried and harassed the servants. She sighed and moaned.You ignored her. She told your father he would have difficulty finding a mate for such a daughter as yourself.
She isn’t crippled or ugly, which is good enough, but no man wants a stupid wife, said he.
That was how you became apprenticed to the old man. Why you, with that silent desperation you hoped he could not detect? You sensed if you could do well there, if you were a good mapmaker, you would avoid the inevitable. You knew what happened to girls like you.
You confess that you weren’t as smart as others assumed. You were no prodigy at figures and measures. What you grasped you did so with diligence and repetition until it became second nature. There had to be precision in your practice. You took pleasure in it. There was room for error in the Land of the Bees and Outlying Environs but not in the case of territory and ownership.
For four years, you apprenticed with the old mapmaker. Heydar tutored you in the pertinent subjects related to the craft. He showed you how to use all of the instruments. He sent you afield with them | heliotrope high in the hot sun |, then allowed you to practice at his side at the table. He gave to you his insight into triangles. That he brought from his distant land of sand. He mapped with three sides as his center and trained you to do the same. This he claimed proudly as his innovation. You claimed his legacy.
Heydar supervised your work as you charted the castle and its immediate lands. He had done so himself, but this was your final test. He praised your effort. He declared you ready to go on your own. Before he left to return to his homeland, he gave you the waywiser given to him by his adept.
Many distances this wheel has measured with its walks. Remember me in a step once in a while. My time is done, and yours has begun, said he.
The old mapmaker gave his leave and the King his permission. You crossed paths with your brother on his travels from holding to holding. With his group of envoys, Ciaran created lists and tallies. He was to collect numbers of people, animals, and goods. He was also to discern what grievances needed attention, what loyalties called for boons, and what troubles might be in brew beyond the borders.
You were instructed to chart all that could be seen, and that was much. The kingdom was wide and broad. There were mountains and rivers, hills and streams, forests and valleys. Within this were the hamlets and towns, mills and smithies, pastures and arables, roads and paths. Ciaran and you were to note the fortifications. Ciaran, the condition. You, the location.
Many times, Ciaran’s work would be done before you finished with yours. He would return to your childhood home, and you would stay behind to tend to the maps, but not only the maps. You explored the nearby regions by yourself. There were birds and plants and on occasion creatures you had never seen. You liked to speak with the people and learn about their customs. They fed you unusual foods and told familiar stories with subtle twists. Sometimes you sketched simple treasure maps for the children and hid coins for them to find.
To you, knowledge of the people was meant to be mapped as well. For whimsy, you would include reminders on your work for the King. They meant something to you and only you. This was how you entered your childhood again. A hut’s roof edged with ribbons for no apparent reason. A place where you ate too much of a succulent pie. A fallow field speckled with blue gentian.
It seemed, though, that just when you had found a comfortable rhythm in your temporary quarters, Prince Wyl appeared with matters to tend on behalf of his father. His presence caused a stir, with people running about to catch a peek at him and share words. He was, in fact, good with the subjects, when he saw them. He exchanged pleasantries. Sometimes he asked questions and listened until the people had had their say. When requested, he touched the crowns of children’s heads with gentleness. But, more often than not, Wyl was within your sight. He rode his horse around the place where you were at work. He sat at the hand of the host who gave shelter and food to the King’s representatives. He seemed to talk longer with others when you were nearby, in conversation with the son of a prominent nobleman. Or a lowly shepherd. Or a man on your crew.
He has the stealth of a squirrel and the modesty of a peacock, you thought.
One summer morning, you leaned over the plane table, your eye in a squint, and stood quickly when the object in your sight went black. There was Wyl with a raspberry between his fingertips and a small metal bowl filled with more.
Thank you, but I’ll wait to eat them. Stained fingers, stained map, you said.
You’re tame enough to feed by hand, said he.
You stood bold before his charming smile and the pride he’d mustered. Such a thing he’d never said to you. Wyl looked at the map in progress and noticed the triangles that branched across the parchment.
Where are we? asked he.
You pointed to an open space yet to be drawn.
This land is flat with little to see. Your work must be difficult.
I have my ways.
What would help you?
Elevation, perhaps. I’ve had dreams of a tower.
Then you’ll have this tower, said Wyl.
So it was. You gave him drawings of the tower in your dreams. Wyl found the woodcutters and smiths to make its pieces. He found stouthearted men to test its design, which did not fail, and hired them to tend to its care.
Innocent Wyl. He could not hide his adoration. You resisted your tender feelings. Was it love? Perhaps. When you were children, you attempted to keep the boundary fixed. Much your mother’s doing. Bow to him, Aoife, he is the prince. Be friendly, not familiar. Be gracious. Be obedient. Be careful. | yes, be that with his dark brother Raef as well |
You liked Wyl. His disposition was sanguine. He seemed more interested in pleasure than power. Grudges didn’t suit him. When you were young, when a girl wasn’t permitted to say aloud she found a boy comely, you thought he was just that. As you grew older, you found him handsome. An exceptional example. He, for whatever reason, found you pretty. No boy orbits a girl as he did unless an attraction, a physical attraction, exists.
When you first saw the tower, you toed the great beams at its base. You tugged the ropes that tethered the tower to the ground for safety. You tapped the metal bolts that locked the heartwood beams into place. Then, the best part of all, you didn’t have to climb the sides like a ladder but could walk the staircase you had envisioned. A spiralled up to the top.
You took your maiden ascent alone, with a crowd below, Ciaran and your crew, Wyl and his brother Raef. It was summer again. All was green and gold. All was alive. You had stood higher before, in the hill country, but this was different. When you leaned over the side, that caused much shouting on the ground. You saw straight down, your shadow a small dark splotch in the grass. So this is what the swallow sees on the wing, you thought. And as if by invitation, a blue swallow appeared above your head. It hovered before your eyes, plunged toward the earth, and darted away with a green head and long legs crushed between its beak. You called Wyl to join you.
The tower is wondrous. I could kiss you, you said.
Yes, you could, said he.
So literal, Wyl.
Then I’ll wait until you mean what you say.
You felt a sting. For the first time, a joke on him barbed you back.You watched him stare afar and wondered why he went to such lengths to please you. Perhaps there is more to this boy I once knew, you thought.You linked your arm with his and leaned into him, both swaying groundless.
_____________________________________________
The above is an excerpt from the book The Mapmaker’s War: A Legend by Ronlyn Domingue. The above excerpt is a digitally scanned reproduction of text from print. Although this excerpt has been proofread, occasional errors may appear due to the scanning process. Please refer to the finished book for accuracy.
Copyright © 2013 Ronlyn Domingue, author of The Mapmaker’s War: A Legend
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Early Review – Collateral by Ellen Hopkins

October 2, 2012 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2012 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.

Early Review – Collateral by Ellen HopkinsCollateral by Ellen Hopkins
Published by Atria Books on November 6th 2012
Pages: 512
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Verse
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Triangles, Crank, Burned

four-stars

The gripping story of a woman torn between love for her boyfriend, a dedicated Marine deployed to Afghanistan, and the resentment she has for the war that is tearing their lives apart.

Written in Hopkins’s stunning poetic verse style, Collateral centers on Ashley, an MFA student at San Diego State University. She grew up reading books and never dreamed she would become a military wife. One night she meets a handsome soldier named Cole. He doesn’t match the stereotype of the aggressive military man. He’s passionate and romantic. He even writes poetry. Their relationship evolves into a sexually charged love affair that goes on for five years and survives four deployments. Cole wants Ashley to marry him, but when she meets another man, a professor with similar pursuits and values, she begins to see what life might be like outside the shadow of war.

Collateral captures the hearts of the soldiers on the battlefield and the minds of the friends, family, and lovers they leave behind. Those who remain at home may be far away from the relentless, sand-choked skies of the Middle East and the crosshairs of a sniper rifle, but just the same, all of them will sacrifice a part of themselves for their country and all will eventually ask themselves if the collateral damage caused by war is worth the fight.

‘Each returning soldier is an in-the-flesh memoir of war. Their chapters might vary, but similar imagery fills the pages, and the theme of every book is the same – profound change. The big question became, could I live with that kind of change?’

Alternating between the past and present, Collateral tells the story of Ashley and a marine named Cole. How they met. How they fell in love. How Ashley was transformed by Cole’s deployment and how she struggled to make it through by using pills and alcohol to quiet her constant fears. Collateral was a deeply moving story that tells the tale of the one left behind in time of war, and how life can be when you love a soldier.

Collateral is a realistic story in every sense because the war depicted within the pages is the exact war we’re all living with today. Just as dark, gritty, and emotional as her other works with just enough hint at reality to make you wonder just how fictional it really is. Collateral does showcase the ‘worst-case scenario’ of loving a soldier, but that certainly makes it no less tangible. My heart ached for Ashley, her pain being so evident. I loved the snippets of Cole’s poetry, being able to see his outlook on his life in contrast with Ashley’s. Ellen Hopkins is truly an amazing writer and I’m so thankful for her stories. She uses no different words than any normal person but the way she uses them ends up turning them into something truly profound.

‘Alone in this untamed
empty place, I free
a relentless volley
of words. They
rage
against the pages, a torrent
of what was, what is,
what yet may come.
And when at last the spirits
recede,
I find echoed
in their retreat, stories
I dare not give voice to –
nightmares set adrift
in my paper harbor.’

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Early Review – The Secret Keeper by Kate Morton

September 23, 2012 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2012 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.

Early Review – The Secret Keeper by Kate MortonThe Secret Keeper by Kate Morton
Published by Atria Books on October 9th 2012
Pages: 484
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Romance
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: The House at Riverton, The Clockmaker's Daughter

five-stars

The new novel from the New York Times and internationally bestselling author of The Distant Hours is a spellbinding mix of mystery, thievery, murder, and enduring love.

During a party at the family farm in the English countryside, sixteen-year-old Laurel Nicolson has escaped to her childhood tree house and is dreaming of the future. She spies a stranger coming up the road and sees her mother speak to him. Before the afternoon is over, Laurel will witness a shocking crime that challenges everything she knows about her family and especially her mother, Dorothy.

Now, fifty years later, Laurel is a successful and well-regarded actress, living in London. She returns to the family farm for Dorothy’s ninetieth birthday and finds herself overwhelmed by questions she has not thought about for decades. From pre-WWII England through the Blitz, to the fifties and beyond, discover the secret history of three strangers from vastly different worlds—Dorothy, Vivien, and Jimmy—who meet by chance in wartime London and whose lives are forever entwined.

The Secret Keeper explores longings and dreams, the lengths people go to fulfill them, and the consequences they can have. It is a story of lovers, friends, dreamers, and schemers told—in Morton’s signature style—against a backdrop of events that changed the world.

‘It was the liquid silver flash Laurel would always remember. The way sunlight caught the metal blade, and the moment was briefly beautiful.’

In 1959, when Laurel was sixteen years old she watched as a stranger walked up her driveway, said hello to her mother, before her mother stabbed him to death. But the man wasn’t a stranger at all because before he died she heard him speak:

”Hello, Dorothy,” the man said. “It’s been a long time.”

When the police interviewed her mother, Laurel admits to seeing everything. Her mother didn’t do anything wrong, that the stranger had attacked her and she had no choice but to do what she had done. Nothing more was ever said about the man’s death and Laurel never asked but she the memories of that day never left her.

Fifty years later, Laurel’s mother has been hospitalized so she returns to her childhood home to be with her. Returning only revives the memories but this time she’s determined to finally find the answers to the mystery that has plagued her for almost her entire life.

The story flashes back and forth between 1940 and present day. As Laurel begins uncovering answers to her mother’s past, the truth begins to unfold. There is so much that can be said but shouldn’t for fear of ruining the story. Definitely one that truly needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated. Suffice it to say, it was an incredible mystery with intriguing and amazingly well-developed characters; a definite treat.

The immensity of the revelation at the end truly took my breath away. That moment when all is revealed and all the unanswered questions are finally given resolution and you finally see it all in its finality? Oh, the feelings! This book made me feel so much and it was intense, amazing, bittersweet and so poignant. Reading something with such intricate detailing, intersecting storylines that blended beautifully, and an ending I never could have possibly imagined… this was a real gem. I won’t be forgetting this story for a long time to come.

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Early Review – Triangles by Ellen Hopkins

October 14, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2011 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.

Early Review – Triangles by Ellen HopkinsTriangles by Ellen Hopkins
Published by Atria Books on October 18th 2011
Pages: 529
Genres: Contemporary, Verse
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Crank, Burned, Fallout

five-stars

THREE FEMALE FRIENDS FACE MIDLIFE CRISES IN A NO-HOLDS-BARRED EXPLORATION OF SEX, MARRIAGE, AND THE FRAGILITY OF LIFE.

Holly: Filled with regret for being a stay-athome mom, she sheds sixty pounds and loses herself in the world of extramarital sex. Will it bring the fulfillment she is searching for?

Andrea: A single mom and avowed celibate, she watches her friend Holly’s meltdown with a mixture of concern and contempt. Holly is throwing away what Andrea has spent her whole life searching for—a committed relationship with a decent guy. So what if Andrea picks up Holly’s castaway husband?

Marissa: She has more than her fair share of challenges—a gay, rebellious teenage son, a terminally ill daughter, and a husband who buries himself in his work rather than face the facts.

As one woman’s marriage unravels, another’s rekindles. As one woman’s family comes apart at the seams, another’s reconfigures into something bigger and better. In this story of connections and disconnections, one woman’s up is another one’s down, and all of them will learn the meaning of friendship, betrayal, and forgiveness.

Unflinchingly honest, emotionally powerful, surprisingly erotic, Triangles is the ultimate page-turner. Hopkins’s gorgeous, expertly honed poetic verse perfectly captures the inner lives of her characters. Sometimes it happens like that. Sometimes you just get lost.

Get lost in the world of Triangles, where the lives of three unforgettable women intersect, and where there are no easy answers.

’Two lines that never intersect are parallel. Two lines that intersect forming ninety-degree angles, are perpendicular. Perpendicular lines cross each other. Crossing lines. Today I’m thinking about how easy it is to be perpendicular. And about how, while parallel lines may not intersect, parallel lives too often do.’

Thoughts
I got this off of Galley Grab and it went on my list of ‘I might read… maybe’. Truth is I had heard about Ellen Hopkins YA books and wasn’t sure if I’d be able to handle the harshness of the subjects that she writes about and if her YA books were harsh I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from her adult novel. I picked it up one morning when I had some time to kill and was completely blown away. This woman is an amazing writer.

’Falling to pieces. That’s how my life feels. Fractured. Crushed. Disintegrating. And the weird thing is, it’s all because of that stupid little word: love. I’ve fallen in love with *name omitted*, and it’s tinting everything normal about me with shades of insanity.’

I could go into the storyline and what it’s all about, but the summary of the book pretty much says it all. The storyline wasn’t what made this book amazing though, it was the writing. The author also did the most amazing thing with the formatting of each page that really added something spectacular. I’m not often a fan of POV changes, and this book switches the POV often between the three main characters, but it totally worked in this situation. She also used a different font to differentiate between the characters which I thought was a brilliant touch.

As many of you already know, this author writes in verse, and I was not expecting to fall in love with that style of writing as I have. She would write in verse and then often between POV changes she would insert a poem… which was simply remarkable.

This was my favorite piece of hers:

Spilling a Secret
What its size,
will have varying
consequences. It’s not
possible to predict
what will happen
if you
open the gunnysack,
let the cat escape.
A liberated feline
might purr on your lap,
or it might scratch
your eyes out. You can’t
tell
until you loosen the knot.
Do you chance losing
a friendship, if that
friend’s well-being
will
only be preserved
by betraying sworn-to
silence trust? Once
the seam is ripped, can
it be
mended again?
And if that proves
impossible, will you be
okay
when it all falls to pieces?

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Book Review – Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies #1) by Isaac Marion

July 16, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 3 Comments

Book Review – Warm Bodies (Warm Bodies #1) by Isaac MarionWarm Bodies by Isaac Marion
Series: Warm Bodies #1
Published by Atria Books on April 26, 2011
Pages: 256
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Funny-ha-ha, Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Burning World

three-half-stars

R is a young man with an existential crisis--he is a zombie. He shuffles through an America destroyed by war, social collapse, and the mindless hunger of his undead comrades, but he craves something more than blood and brains. He can speak just a few grunted syllables, but his inner life is deep, full of wonder and longing. He has no memories, noidentity, and no pulse, but he has dreams.

After experiencing a teenage boy's memories while consuming his brain, R makes an unexpected choice that begins a tense, awkward, and stragely sweet relationship with the victim's human girlfriend. Julie is a blast of color in the otherwise dreary and gray landscape that surrounds R. His decision to protect her will transform not only R, but his fellow Dead, and perhaps their whole lifeless world.

Scary, funny, and surprisingly poignant, Warm Bodies is about being alive, being dead, and the blurry line in between.

What a truly engrossing and original novel. This will be my first of many zombie novels I have read where the story was told from the zombie, or ‘R’s’ point of view. This introduces the concept that zombies are more than the black drooling, grunting and groaning un-dead that they’ve been portrayed as in typical zombie novels. “It disquieted me at first, but it’s against etiquette to notice when one of us dies. I distracted myself with some groaning.” Zombie etiquette? Already I’m intrigued, give me more.

The storyline follows the same broken, choppy grunting and groaning that you would expect to find from your average zombie; except there’s an unexpected depth shown in ‘R’. The passages of lines where R is thinking are as in depth as a human, he just has difficult expressing his thoughts sufficiently due to his stunted vocabulary. You’ll find that the book is lacking in explanations, but it’s done that way on purpose, since this book is from the zombie’s point of view.

One line to sum it up? ‘I long for exclamation marks, but I’m drowning in ellipses.

R begins a friendship with an unlikely individual; a human girl named Julie. After attacking and killing her boyfriend Perry, by consuming his brain he absorbed his memories and he began seeing what he saw in Julie. That’s when R notices a change… a change in him, a spark of something he hadn’t felt since he died. It was as if he was just waiting for someone to come around and remind him of his humanity. This was truly a moving and touching novel in the unlikeliest of genres.

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Short and Sweet Review – Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’Brien

July 16, 2011 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2011 3 Comments

Short and Sweet Review – Wesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O’BrienWesley the Owl: The Remarkable Love Story of an Owl and His Girl by Stacey O'Brien
Published by Atria Books on June 2nd 2009
Pages: 256
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads


five-stars

On Valentine’s Day 1985, biologist Stacey O’Brien adopted Wesley, a baby barn owl with an injured wing who could not have survived in the wild. Over the next nineteen years, O’Brien studied Wesley’s strange habits with both a tender heart and a scientist’s eye—and provided a mice-only diet that required her to buy the rodents in bulk (28,000 over the owl’s lifetime). She watched him turn from a helpless fluff ball into an avid com­municator with whom she developed a language all their own. Eventually he became a gorgeous, gold-and-white macho adult with a heart-shaped face who preened in the mir­ror and objected to visits by any other males to “his” house. O’Brien also brings us inside Caltech’s prestigious research community, a kind of scientific Hogwarts where resident owls sometimes flew freely from office to office and eccentric, brilliant scientists were extraordinarily committed to studying and helping animals; all of them were changed by the animals they loved. As O’Brien gets close to Wesley, she makes astonishing discoveries about owl behavior, intelligence, and communication, coining the term “The Way of the Owl” to describe his noble behavior. When O’Brien develops her own life-threatening ill­ness, the biologist who saved the life of a helpless baby bird is herself rescued from death by the insistent love and courage of this wild animal.

Enhanced by wonderful photographs, Wesley the Owl is a thoroughly engaging, heart­warming, often funny story of a complex, emotional, non-human being capable of reason, play, and, most important, love and loyalty. Translated into eight languages and named an Audubon Magazine Editor’s Choice, Wesley the Owl is sure to be cherished by animal lovers everywhere.

Wesley the Owl: the story of biologist Stacey O’Brien and her adoption of a 4 day old baby barn owl. The book is a retelling of the 19 years spent caring and loving for this animal and of the love and bond the two of them shared.

‘Life your life not by staying in the shallow, safer waters, but by wading as deep into the river of life as possible, no matter how dangerous the current. We have only one chance at this life.’

I have this abnormally large soft spot in my heart for animals and this novel really did a number on that spot. Going into this book I understood the story line and as it can be expected this also included the retelling of Wesley’s final days. The bond that this woman shared with Wesley was so amazing and touching and heartbreaking in the end. I was in tears. This may not have been a novel of literary genius, but the story and the message was beautiful.

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