Publisher: Ballantine Books

Book Review | “Daisy Jones & The Six”: the Rise and Fall of Fame

March 14, 2019 Bonnie 2019, Adult, Book Reviews 4 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 | “Daisy Jones & The Six”: the Rise and Fall of FameDaisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid
Published by Ballantine Books on March 5, 2019
Pages: 368
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Forever, Interrupted

three-stars

Everyone knows Daisy Jones & The Six, but nobody knows the reason behind their split at the absolute height of their popularity . . . until now.

Daisy is a girl coming of age in L.A. in the late sixties, sneaking into clubs on the Sunset Strip, sleeping with rock stars, and dreaming of singing at the Whisky a Go Go. The sex and drugs are thrilling, but it’s the rock and roll she loves most. By the time she’s twenty, her voice is getting noticed, and she has the kind of heedless beauty that makes people do crazy things.

Also getting noticed is The Six, a band led by the brooding Billy Dunne. On the eve of their first tour, his girlfriend Camila finds out she’s pregnant, and with the pressure of impending fatherhood and fame, Billy goes a little wild on the road.

Daisy and Billy cross paths when a producer realizes that the key to supercharged success is to put the two together. What happens next will become the stuff of legend.

The making of that legend is chronicled in this riveting and unforgettable novel, written as an oral history of one of the biggest bands of the seventies. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a talented writer who takes her work to a new level with Daisy Jones & The Six, brilliantly capturing a place and time in an utterly distinctive voice.

Daisy: Just how honest do we have to get here? I know I told you I’d tell you everything but how much “everything” do you really want to know?

Daisy Jones & The Six was one of the biggest rock bands of the 70s but following the end of their first tour, the band broke up without ever revealing why. In this documentary-style novel, Taylor Jenkins Reid brings to life a fictional band while revealing their rapid rise to fame and an even faster descent.

Does anyone remember VH1’s Behind the Music? Back in the day when the internet wasn’t nearly as impressive and your favorite bands definitely weren’t on social media, music fans had Behind the Music. These documentaries featured interviews with the band, friends/family, managers, and anyone else that had an interesting story to tell about the band. Daisy Jones & The Six reads exactly like an episode set in the 70s replete with band drama and rampant drug abuse. The story effectively strips away the veneer that gets built up around celebrities, exposing their vulnerability and weaknesses, and revealing them as being no different than anyone else. The songs they write were the soundtrack to their drama-filled lives, forcing them to experience it all again and again with each new performance. The entire novel is essentially one massive interview, with each individual giving their perspective on what occurred which didn’t always coincide with someone else’s account but considering all the drug use and the many decades that have passed, I suppose that’s understandable.

While I found the style of the story to be a nice change of pace, unfortunately, the style managed to undermine the story as a whole. The emphasis on the importance of their song-writing and the feelings that the verses cultivated was something I wanted to be able to feel through reading about it, but it didn’t translate well on page. There was a definite lack of connection and I simply never found a reason to be invested in the lives of these individuals. Their story was an unending loop of song-writing, performing, drama, and partying yet you know it’s all building up to something big and my curiosity had me flying through this novel. I realized when the big reveal came that a greater investment in the characters was vital to feeling anything other than letdown when it actually came. Still an interesting novel for anyone looking for a glimpse into the craziness of music in the 70s.

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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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dnf

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

dnf

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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Short & Sweet (Celebrity Memoirs) – Talking as Fast as I Can, The Princess Diarist, Seriously… I’m Kidding

March 3, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2017, Short & Sweet Reviews 3 Comments

Short & Sweet (Celebrity Memoirs) – Talking as Fast as I Can, The Princess Diarist, Seriously… I’m KiddingTalking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham
Published by Ballantine Books on November 29th 2016
Pages: 224
Genres: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
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three-stars

In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.

In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge on Project Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).

In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.

Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls (“If you’re meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you’ve already set the bar too high”), and she’s a card-carrying REI shopper (“My bungee cords now earn points!”).

Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and—of course—talking as fast as you can.

“Life doesn’t often spell things out for you or give you what you want exactly when you want it, otherwise it wouldn’t be called life, it would be called a vending machine.”

My lovely friend got me this for Christmas but I waited to pick it up because I had heard that there were mild spoilers from the new season of Gilmore Girls. And then I finally watched the first episode. And I didn’t like it.

BLASPHEMY. I know, I know. I’m just as distraught as you. There was just something terribly forced about Lorelai’s sense of humor this go around and Rory’s poor boyfriend Paul View Spoiler » that she literally keeps overlooking (like when she leaves the diner completely forgetting that he had just gone to the bathroom real quick?) It’s a running joke that she’s been meaning to break up with him but she just keeps forgetting. Good grief, that’s not funny, that’s just wretched.

I understand this is supposed to be a review of the book, not the show, it’s just my opinion of the show definitely tarnishes my thoughts on the book because this is all about her glorious reprisal to the role of Lorelai Gilmore. She discusses in depth just how wonderful it was to be back in Stars Hollow alongside everyone once again and I wanted to happily reminiscence with her but I’m still full of self-loathing that I couldn’t love the new season.

Discussions related to Gilmore Girls took up the vast majority of this short book, but as indicated by the sub-title ‘From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between‘ Graham included various other anecdotes about her childhood and other assorted roles that make up her career. The non-Gilmore Girls additions left the story feeling slightly uneven and I almost felt this would have been best left as a long recollection of all things Gilmore Girls. In retrospect, I also felt that her recollections from the original seasons were a bit sloppy. She didn’t keep a journal of this time in her life, which is fine, but she describes how she sat down to actually watch the original seasons (for the first time ever) and took a bunch of notes when things jogged her memory. The more I discuss, the more it seems I didn’t like anything about this book, but that’s not exactly true because even if Lorelai didn’t possess much in the way of humor, Graham’s humor shines through even on page. And there’s always the original seasons for me to fondly remember.

Short & Sweet (Celebrity Memoirs) – Talking as Fast as I Can, The Princess Diarist, Seriously… I’m KiddingThe Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Narrator: Carrie Fisher, Billie Lourd
Published by Penguin Audio on November 22nd 2016
Length: 5 hrs and 10 mins
Genres: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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four-stars

The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher’s intimate, hilarious and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie. Named a PEOPLE Magazine Best Book of Fall 2016.

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a teenager with an all-consuming crush on her costar, Harrison Ford.

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes. And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.

“I liked being Princess Leia. Or Princess Leia’s being me. Over time I thought that we’d melded into one. I don’t think you could think of Leia without my lurking in that thought somewhere.”

Carrie Fisher played the role of Princess Leia at just nineteen years old and it went on to define her entire life. The diary that she kept at this age is retold in snippets (narrated by her daughter, Billie Lourd) and showcases her delightful way with words. It feels invasive to be shown this time of her life, while her affair with Harrison Ford was going on, and it’s effortless to understand the intense adolescent love that she had for him. The Princess Diarist even goes beyond the retold tales of Fisher’s time on the Star Wars set and sets out to describe just how much playing Princess Leia came to be a part of her own personal identity. She describes how jarring stepping into the limelight was for her despite her belief that it was something she understood already, having grown up the daughter of Debbie Reynolds.

“The crew was mostly men. That’s how it was and that’s pretty much how it still is. It’s a man’s world & show business is a man’s meal with women generously sprinkled through it like over-qualified spice.”

Fisher was always outspoken about the mental health and addiction problems that she dealt with for most of her life but The Princess Diarist doesn’t delve into that aspect of her as much. Nonetheless, this was an unexpectedly emotional read for me even though I was a fan of Fisher’s.  She would make occasional references to when she passes as well as a mention of how her obituary would look like (with a picture of her as Princess Leia complete with buns) and it was a bit of a punch to the gut. Her sardonic sense of humor lightened the heartbreak but it was clear that Fisher believed she still had a lot of life to live. Listening to her raspy voice tell her final story was a treat and I can only hope that she got to say all that she wanted in the time she was given.

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Short & Sweet (Celebrity Memoirs) – Talking as Fast as I Can, The Princess Diarist, Seriously… I’m KiddingSeriously...I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
Narrator: Ellen DeGeneres
Published by Hachette Audio on October 4th, 2011
Length: 3 hours and 7 minutes
Genres: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Funny-ha-ha
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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four-stars

I've experienced a whole lot the last few years and I have a lot to share. So I hope that you'll take a moment to sit back, relax and enjoy the words I've put together for you in this book. I think you'll find I've left no stone unturned, no door unopened, no window unbroken, no rug unvacuumed, no ivories untickled. What I'm saying is, let us begin, shall we?


“So be who you really are. Embrace who you are. Literally. Hug yourself. Accept who you are. Unless you’re a serial killer.”

I was having a pretty bad day when I started this. There was a lot of driving involved that I wasn’t looking forward to and an unexpected blizzard to boot. I always like a good audiobook to keep me company I just didn’t think anything was going to be able to get me out of the funk I was in — but I underestimated Ellen.

I’m Kidding…Seriously aims at being a light-hearted advice manual with the main goal of just making you smile. She takes digs at her fellow celebrities and their hilarious lifestyles but becomes quickly somber when discussing the importance of being true to yourself and accepting who you are as a person. This isn’t your typical inspirational celebrity memoir on how to make it big in Hollywood but rather reads like an internal monologue with the author herself. If you’re an audiobook lover, do yourself a favor and listen to this one because Ellen’s tone and delivery make this all the more enjoyable an experience. If you’re a fan of her stand-up comedy routines, you’ll find much to laugh about in this. I know I did.

‘I feel bad for people December birthdays […] It’s not fair and I have a message for parents out there. Don’t do that to your kids. Plan your love. I’m not great at baby math, so I’m just gonna say in the early part of the year, maybe January until March, stay away from each other. It’s not gonna be easy. Those are winter months and you’re going to want to stay warm. But unfortunately one of you is going to have to sleep in a tent in the backyard.’

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Waiting on Wednesday – Ill Will: A Novel by Dan Chaon

November 23, 2016 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday 1 Comment

Waiting on Wednesday – Ill Will: A Novel by Dan ChaonIll Will by Dan Chaon
Published by Ballantine Books on March 7th 2017
Pages: 480
Genres: Mystery
Format: Hardcover
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Also by this author: Ill Will

A psychologist is unwillingly embroiled in two spectacular unsolved murders, one past and one present, in this haunting suspense novel.

In 1983, Dustin Tillman’s family—his parents and his aunt and uncle—were murdered in a shocking massacre. His foster brother, Rusty, was convicted of the crime, in a trial that was steeped in the “Satanic Cult” paranoia of the 1980s.

Thirty years later, Rusty’s conviction is overturned, and suddenly Dustin, now a psychologist, must question whether his testimony that imprisoned his brother was accurate. When one of his patients, an ex-cop, gets him deeply involved in a series of unsolved murders, Dustin’s happy suburban life starts to unravel, as his uncertainties about his past and present life begin to merge.

About Dan Chaon

Dan Chaon is the author of Among the Missing, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and You Remind Me of Me, which was named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, The Christian Science Monitor, and Entertainment Weekly, among other publications. Chaon’s fiction has appeared in many journals and anthologies, including Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize, and The O. Henry Prize Stories. He has been a finalist for the National Magazine Award in Fiction, and he was the recipient of the 2006 Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Chaon lives in Cleveland, Ohio, and teaches at Oberlin College, where he is the Pauline M. Delaney Professor of Creative Writing. His new novel, Await Your Reply, will be published in late August 2009.

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I have yet to read any of Chaon’s more well known books (Await Your Reply, Stay Awake), although I did have the opportunity to read one of his short stories in the Nightmares anthology that I quite enjoyed. Ill Will sounds like an exciting psychological thriller that I’m excited to get my hands on.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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Waiting on Wednesday – Always: A Novel by Sarah Jio

November 16, 2016 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday 3 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – Always: A Novel by Sarah JioAlways: A Novel by Sarah Jio
Published by Ballantine Books on February 7th 2017
Pages: 288
Genres: Chick-Lit
Format: Hardcover
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Also by this author: The Violets of March, The Bungalow, Blackberry Winter

A woman on her way to a romantic dinner with her fiance encounters a ragged homeless man—who turns out to be the ex she’s never gotten over. A romantic and gripping novel about the fierce resilience of the human heart.

Torn between two men, Kailey Crane is faced with an impossible choice: embrace the bright future she has with her new fiance, or dedicate herself to reclaiming a past love that may be gone forever. Set amidst the Seattle music scene of the 90s as well as the present day, Always parallels the past and present in a unique love story about a woman who discovers what she’s willing to save and what she will sacrifice.

About Sarah Jio

Sarah Jio is the New York Times bestselling author of THE VIOLETS OF MARCH, THE BUNGALOW, BLACKBERRY WINTER, THE LAST CAMELLIA, MORNING GLORY, GOODNIGHT JUNE, THE LOOK OF LOVE--all from Penguin (Plume), and ALWAYS, forthcoming on February 7, 2017 from Random House (Ballantine). Sarah is also a journalist who has contributed to The New York Times, Glamour, O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, SELF, Real Simple, Fitness, Marie Claire, and many others. She has appeared as a commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition. Her novels are translated into more than 25 languages. Sarah lives in Seattle with her three young boys.

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I really love Jio’s novels and it’s been a while since I’ve picked any up. This sounds like the type of fluffy stories I’ve been in the mood for lately though.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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Book Review – The Last One: A Novel by Alexandra Oliva

July 28, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 6 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.

Book Review – The Last One: A Novel by Alexandra OlivaThe Last One: A Novel by Alexandra Oliva
Published by Ballantine Books on July 12th 2016
Pages: 304
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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four-stars

Survival is the name of the game, as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself—and one woman’s mind and body are pushed to the limit. A thrilling, unsettling, high-concept debut novel for readers of Station Eleven and The Passage.

She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far.

It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it man-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game.

Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all of her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes.

But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will either be her triumph or her undoing.

Sophisticated and provocative, harrowing and surprising, The Last One is a novel that forces us to confront the role that media plays in our perception of what is real—how readily we cast our judgments, and how easily we are manipulated.

style-3 (3) review

“The contestants don’t know everything. […] They know no one gets voted off, that this is a race – or, rather, a series of small races during which they accumulate advantages and disadvantages. What they don’t know is that this race does not have a finish line. […] The game will continue until only one person remains, and the only way out is to quit.”

When twelve individuals sign up for a wilderness survival television show called In the Dark, they never could have imagined that they’d actually be fighting for their lives. While the show continues, a fierce contagion of unknown origin is decimating the population of the outside world which they’ve been disconnected from. As we see through the eyes of the contestants, things begin to change in shocking ways, the clues they find and the challenges they’re given, but this is still just a game… right?

I don’t watch a lot of television in general and I especially don’t watch a lot of reality television despite its massive increase in popularity in recent years. The Last One has been recommended to fans of reality television, however, this is definitely not a requirement because I still found this to be a most curious and unique take on the typical post apocalyptic tale. There are twelve contestants but the story is told primarily from the point of view of a female dubbed ‘Zoo’ by the shows producers seeing as she works at a wildlife sanctuary. All individuals are given nicknames: there’s Biology, Carpenter Chick (originally known as Asian Chick), Tracker, Black Doctor, Waitress, Rancher, Exorcist, Air Force, Cheerleader Boy, and Banker. The names are clearly only given as an easily identifiable label without giving consideration to the fact that these individuals have actual names, but this is a reality television show they’re a part of after all. The story switches between the start of the competition and to the time when the competition was over, yet the contestants, mainly Zoo, were quite literally left in the dark. This build-up to knowing what she underwent in the competition becomes vital to understanding how it’s possible for her to have endured the things she did while still smoothing these incidents over mentally, assuring herself that this isn’t real, it’s just a prop for the show.

‘Nothing can be worse than what they’ve already put me through. I’d never choose this, not again. But I’m here and I’m a woman of my word and I promised myself I wouldn’t quit.’

Zoo is a highly developed female character despite the fact that we primarily see her from a would be position behind the lens of a camera. If the world hadn’t been ending and the show had actually gone on, she would have been my bet for last one standing. Oliva’s writing was first-rate in describing the psychological trauma that Zoo withstands in sorting through fact and fiction when the two become muddied. She convinces herself despite clear contradictions that this is still the game in a failed attempt to shelter her from the reality of her situation. Making reality television as the primary plot point as well as the inclusion of snippets of a chat forum where viewers are able to discuss their thoughts and opinions on the episodes was a crafty way of integrating a modern tale with credible post-apocalyptic elements. The story may not have delved into the origins of the contagion, however, The Last One smartly focused on the psychological aspects of a modern society being confronted with the world ending instead.

It would be easy to say that post-apocalyptic stories are overdone what with the hoards of them in existence but The Last One only confirms that it’s still a genre worth reading.

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Book Review – The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3) by Justin Cronin

June 10, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 1 Comment

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

Book Review – The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3) by Justin CroninThe City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
Series: The Passage #3
Published by Ballantine Books on May 24th 2016
Pages: 624
Genres: Horror, Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Twelve

three-half-stars

In "The Passage" and "The Twelve", Justin Cronin brilliantly imagined the fall of civilization and humanity s desperate fight to survive. Now all is quiet on the horizon but does silence promise the nightmare s end or the second coming of unspeakable darkness? At last, this bestselling epic races to its breathtaking finale.

"The world we knew is gone. What world will rise in its place?"

The Twelve have been destroyed and the hundred-year reign of darkness that descended upon the world has ended. The survivors are stepping outside their walls, determined to build society anew and daring to dream of a hopeful future.

But far from them, in a dead metropolis, he waits: Zero. The First. Father of the Twelve. The anguish that shattered his human life haunts him, and the hatred spawned by his transformation burns bright. His fury will be quenched only when he destroys Amy – humanity's only hope, the Girl from Nowhere who grew up to rise against him.

One last time light and dark will clash, and at last Amy and her friends will know their fate.

The Passage series

The Passage (The Passage #1) by Justin Cronin [Review – Purchase]
The Twelve (The Passage #2) by Justin Cronin [ReviewPurchase]

style-3 review

“City of memories, city of mirrors. Am I alone? Yes and no. I am a man of many descendants.”

The year is 101 A.V. and three years have passed since the elimination of the Twelve, three years since any viral has been sighted and 100 thousand people are living comfortably behind the secure walls of Kerrville, Texas. But after three years it’s easy to start thinking that they’re finally safe, that they don’t have to remain behind this wall because there’s nothing left to fear. And that’s exactly what the citizens of Kerrville do, they pack up their belongings and seek out a new home, beyond the wall, because it’s no longer a necessity for safety. It’s almost too late before they realize that maybe what they thought was safety was nothing but a mirage.

‘A world of souls, both the living and the dead, in which time and space, memory and desire, existed in a purely fluid state, the way they did in dreams.’

From the very beginning, we’re made aware that the world does, in fact, survive this catastrophe that has consumed the world. The City of Mirrors opens with a reading from what is known as “The Book of Twelves“, a journal that was discovered that to some extent explains the virus and its origins, which is being presented at the Third Global Conference on the North American Quarantine Period. The year is 1003 A.V. (After Virus) So no matter how unlikely survival seems to be amidst the ongoing battle, we can rest assured with the knowledge that humankind manages to find a way to survive. This certainly doesn’t lessen the agitation in wondering who exactly does survive.

Completing this trilogy was clearly an immense undertaking and despite being upset it took as long as it did to come to fruition (it was originally anticipated that each book would be released every other year so technically we were supposed to get this back in 2014, but whatever, I’ll let it go), I can certainly understand it. After all, the three books combined are close to 2,000 pages total. I read The Passage when it was first published in 2010 and it was such an incredibly impressive book that I still remember being in complete awe of Cronin’s talents. The Twelve came out two years later and I was manic about getting my hands on a copy. I was supremely disappointed once I did. The Twelve was such a vastly different change of pace and it felt like nothing but an incredibly huge filler book. Having no idea what to expect from The City of Mirrors, I still picked this one up with both trepidation and confidence. I was pretty conflicted emotionally. And even after finishing it I still am slightly.

Cronin did a remarkable job at re-introducing characters we’ve all come to know and love and giving them their much-deserved endings. There seemed to be quite a lot of time spent on characters that didn’t seem to be of much consequence which only added to the already massive page length. But the plot was the real reason for page length if we’re placing blame. It was a slow build which was at first off-putting since personally I went into this thinking we’d be in for some massive battle at a rapid pace. In truth, that action I was anticipating didn’t actually happen until the midway point of this 624-page tome. But up until that point, we’re shown a typical day in Kerrville. And more and more typical days. There’s Michael and his seemingly impossible plan to save the world that he’s been working towards for over two decades. Peter. Alicia. Amy. Sara. They all have stories to tell. And of course, Zero. Before, when his name was Fanning. When he was a student at Harvard University in the late 1980s. Before he traveled to South America and became the only surviving carrier of the virus that brought the world to near ruin. We’re given his complete story in an attempt to bring him to the forefront when he has always been nothing more than a background villain. To give reason to his madness after death was an interesting addition, and while his story was reasonably moving, this is a character that we’ve never seen play a part as a human being. He has always been the ultimate danger, the reason humankind was near decimated, and to humanize him was irrelevant because he was no longer human. His life and who he was “before” was inconsequential.

While the lead up was slow-going and it started lagging again towards the near end, Cronin still ends this apocalyptic tale on an excellent note. We’re given more details about the Global Conference that took place, the knowledge that they do and don’t possess of the virus that destroyed the world, and the fascinating archaeological records. My advanced reader copy didn’t contain the actual art/photographs but it is referenced in the epilogue that various aerial photographs, microscopic slides of the virus found in human remains, and maps of the past and current world are included. I’m interested enough to pick up the real copy and do a re-read of the epilogue just for that extra tidbit. This installment might not have left me completely satisfied, but I can’t deny that this was still a solid trilogy about an apocalyptic world I hope never to find myself in the middle of. The descriptive details of how the virus came to infect its first host is a scientific terror that is alarmingly probable. I also can’t deny that Cronin is one skillful author that has an unbelievable way with words. I can’t wait to see what new world he invents next.

‘The song was like a sonic embodiment of pure emotion. There was a deep heartache inside its phrases, but the feeling was expressed with such tenderness that it did not seem sad. It made him think of the way time felt, always falling into the past, becoming memory.’

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Waiting on Wednesday – The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3) by Justin Cronin

November 18, 2015 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday 2 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – The City of Mirrors (The Passage #3) by Justin CroninThe City of Mirrors by Justin Cronin
Series: The Passage #3
Published by Ballantine Books on May 24th 2016
Pages: 704
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Vampires
Format: Hardcover
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Twelve, The City of Mirrors

In The Passage and The Twelve, Justin Cronin brilliantly imagined the fall of civilization and humanity’s desperate fight to survive. Now all is quiet on the horizon—but does silence promise the nightmare’s end or the second coming of unspeakable darkness? At last, this bestselling epic races to its breathtaking finale.

The world we knew is gone. What world will rise in its place?

The Twelve have been destroyed and the hundred-year reign of darkness that descended upon the world has ended. The survivors are stepping outside their walls, determined to build society anew—and daring to dream of a hopeful future.

But far from them, in a dead metropolis, he waits: Zero. The First. Father of the Twelve. The anguish that shattered his human life haunts him, and the hatred spawned by his transformation burns bright. His fury will be quenched only when he destroys Amy—humanity’s only hope, the Girl from Nowhere who grew up to rise against him.

One last time light and dark will clash, and at last Amy and her friends will know their fate.

About Justin Cronin

Justin Cronin is the New York Times bestselling author of The Passage, The Twelve, The City of Mirrors (coming May 2016), Mary and O’Neil (which won the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Stephen Crane Prize), and The Summer Guest. Other honors for his writing include a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a Whiting Writers’ Award. A Distinguished Faculty Fellow at Rice University, he divides his time between Houston, Texas, and Cape Cod, Massachusetts.

The Passage Series

The Passage (The Passage #1) [Purchase]
The Twelve (The Passage #2) [Purchase|Review]

I feel like I’ve been waiting my entire life for this book. And even better, the release date has been pushed up to May! At one point, it had a late December 2016 release date so this is most exciting. If you haven’t picked up this fantastic series, get on it. You’ve got until May to catch up and trust me, you’ll need all that time. Have you seen the page count? It’s worth it though.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

dvd-pearl

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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Waiting on Wednesday – House of Echoes by Brendan Duffy

November 12, 2014 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday 1 Comment

Waiting on Wednesday – House of Echoes by Brendan DuffyHouse of Echoes by Brendan Duffy
Published by Ballantine Books on April 7th 2015
Pages: 400
Genres: Horror
Format: Hardcover
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Akin to Jennifer McMahon’s The Winter People and Joe Hill’s Heart-Shaped Box, House of Echoes is a debut thriller populated by achingly sympathetic characters, charged with psychological suspense, and rich with a small town’s strange history.

A young New York City couple with a boy and a baby in tow, Ben and Caroline Tierney had it all…until Ben’s second novel missed the mark, Caroline lost her lucrative banking job, and something went wrong with 8-year-old Charlie. When Ben inherits land way upstate from his grandmother, the two of them began to believe in second chances. But upon arriving in Swannhaven, a town that seems to have been forgotten by time, they’re beset by strange sights and disconcerting developments…and they begin to realize they might have made their worst mistake yet. But what dark secret is buried in this odd place? And will Ben and Caroline figure it out soon enough to save their young family?

Small towns, dark secrets… very mysterious. Plus, comparing it to Heart Shaped Box doesn’t hurt.

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 – Unravel by Calia Read

October 17, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, New Adult, Read in 2014 1 Comment

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.

Book Review – Unravel by Calia ReadUnravel by Calia Read
Published by Ballantine Books on August 26th 2014
Pages: 324
Genres: Mental Illness, Mystery, Suspense
Format: Paperback
Source: Library Thing
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads


two-half-stars

Six months ago, I was happy. I was simply Naomi Carradine.

One month ago, I was admitted into a psych ward.

Yesterday, Lachlan visited me. Kissed me. And told me that I’m starting to lose my mind.

Hours later, Max haunted my thoughts, reminding me I’m not crazy and that he needs my help.

A few minutes ago, I drifted further from reality, trying to unravel the past.

And now...everyone thinks I’m insane. But, I know he's real, and I know he needs me.

Do you believe me?

‘Listen closely. Hang on to every word. But most of all, please believe me.’

It’s been a full month since Naomi Carradine was involuntarily admitted to Fairfax Mental Health Institute. She’s adamant that she’s fine, healthy and ready to go home but the doctors are also adamant that it’s going to require more time for her to be ready. Her memories of the past leave her baffled and confused as to why her parents would ever put her in a place like this. As part of her therapy she begins to tell her story, her full story, and slowly the painful pieces of her life begin to piece back together.

Unravel was incredibly captivating from the very start. The story transitions between her present life in the mental health institute and various pieces of her past. I was thoroughly engrossed and eager to find out how Naomi got in the position she was in and with each new bit of information it continued to be intriguing but all conclusions I came to were shrouded in a haze and nothing made sense. I spent the majority of this book in a haze, questioning everything and disliking the character because of her actions.

It wasn’t pleasant, however, it still made for quite the page turner. It feels wrong to complain about the confusion the story causes only to have it all answered in the end, but I can’t help it. There were various instances where I was close to quitting, but as I said, it does make sense when you have the resolution but getting there is half the problem.

My main issue from the very beginning was the semblance of a love triangle that was happening. Naomi has returned home for the summer from college but is staying with her friend Lana’s parents as her parents are traveling Europe. Naomi went off to college, leaving behind Lachlan after the two professed their love for each other. Upon Naomi’s return, however, she meets Max and their tumultuous affair is sudden and instantaneous. It’s incredibly hot and super steamy but it came straight outta left field.

‘…if you listened very carefully, you would hear the sound of a faint tear. That was just the sound of my heart unraveling like a torn ribbon.
All from one touch.’

This is the 2nd time they’ve met.

‘The hunger I had for him was like an addiction. It controlled me. It took away the power I thought I had and controlled every single action I made.’

This is the 3rd time they’ve met.

It was an eye-rolling good time. In addition to their mad infatuation with one another right off the bat, Max was doing things for her that no new boyfriend would ever do, like get crazy angry when something bad happened to Naomi’s friend and subsequently helped her pay rent when she needed to move into her own place. Again, it all becomes justified in the end and makes much more sense in retrospect but there were sections that were so ill-fitting that it made it a tough pill to swallow overall.

Unravel is a New Adult novel that touches on the deep topic of mental illness. Having read books that featured similar storylines, I can’t say Unravel was my favorite or that it was even portrayed accurately. Not being a doctor, I could be completely off the mark but some things just didn’t seem logical. I did enjoy the psychological twists overall though because they were shocking and kept me guessing right up till the very end. Just a heads up, there is one, maybe two incredibly violent scenes of rape that were very hard to read about.

I’ve been very wary about branching out into New Adult because the subject matter never sounds like my cup of tea. Unravel seemed to possess an originality that I would enjoy so I took a leap of faith. While I wasn’t completely disappointed, I did expect more.

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