Publisher: Harper

Banned Books Week – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

September 28, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 2 Comments

Banned Books Week – The Bell Jar by Sylvia PlathThe Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Narrator: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Published by HarperCollins on 1963
Length: 7 hours and 30 minutes
Genres: Classics, Contemporary
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


four-half-stars

Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under -- maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that Esther's insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic.

‘Sylvia Plath’s only novel, The Bell Jar, has, on several occasions, been on banned book lists. […] Well, the first reason is due to the suicidal tendencies and attempted suicide scene. It has been said that some find it inappropriate to read about for it may entice readers to do the same. A few other reasons that Plath’s book has been subjected to being banned is, according to the University of Virginia’s Censored Exhibit online, is that “in the late 1970s, The Bell Jar was suppressed for not only its profanity and sexuality but for its overt rejection of the woman’s role as wife and mother.'”‘

‘The silence drew off, baring the pebbles and shells and all the tatty wreckage of my life. Then, at the rim of vision, it gathered itself, and in one sweeping tide, rushed me to sleep.’

Esther Greenwood is a promising young editorial intern at a popular women’s magazine in New York City. Despite the potential of a bright life ahead of her, Esther remains discouraged and almost intimidated by the future. She’s a very independent and strong-minded woman in a time where social expectations for a woman of her age are vastly different than her mindset. This expectancy that is placed on her only increases her discouragement in life and a deep depression begins to shape.

‘I felt myself melting into the shadows like the negative of a person I’d never seen before in my life.’

The bell jar is an object used in physics experiments in order to preserve something as it creates a vacuum effect and things inside become hermetically sealed. The metaphor here is that everything placed inside becomes unaffected by anything that occurs on the outside, much as Esther’s feelings form a sort of trap that contain her. Her feelings of doubt and discouragement overtake her and she’s unable to see reason and no amount of outside influence can change that. This would typically make for an extremely depressing tone however Esther is a surprisingly humorous, albeit dark, character. The Bell Jar is actually a retelling of events after they have already occurred so in essence Esther is looking back over her life and is realizing the naivety of her actions.

Sylvia Plath skillfully incorporates her gorgeous prose into her first and only novel. The writing style itself is extremely clever and seamless with a somewhat unreliable narrator. The story is not told in chronological order so the story is often hard to extrapolate but must be reminisced on after it’s all said and done. Esther Greenwood is meant to be the semi-autobiographical of Sylvia Plath herself and if you know anything about her actual biography that may explain the cryptic ending we’re given.

The narration by Maggie Gyllenhaal is superb and emulates the words of Esther Greenwood flawlessly. I had actually attempted reading this one in a physical copy and couldn’t get hooked on it but the audio was such a treat.

The reasons why this eye-opening novel has been banned span from ‘it encourages suicide’ and ‘it encourages a non-traditional way of life (mainly for women)’. As far as this novel ‘encouraging’ suicide that’s positively absurd. The Bell Jar does not encourage suicide it simply showcases how deep depression can be, how strong a hold it can have on you and gives you a firsthand view of what it means to unravel. I see nothing wrong with the subject matter and I personally find it to be more educational than anything.

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Audiobook Review – Pronto (Raylan Givens #1) by Elmore Leonard

September 6, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 4 Comments

Audiobook Review – Pronto (Raylan Givens #1) by Elmore LeonardPronto by Elmore Leonard
Narrator: Alexander Adams
Series: Raylan Givens #1
Published by Harper Audio on October 5th 2010 (first published 1993)
Length: 5 hours and 57 minutes
Genres: Detective, Mystery-Contemporary
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


three-stars

The feds want Miami bookmaker Harry Arno to squeal on his wiseguy boss. So they're putting word out on the street that Arno's skimming profits from "Jimmy Cap" Capotorto--which he is, but everybody does it. He was planning to retire to Italy someday anyway, so Harry figures now's a good time to get lost. U.S. Marshal Raylan Givens knows Harry's tricky--the bookie ditched him once in an airport while in the marshal's custody--but not careful. So Raylan's determined to find the fugitive's Italian hideaway before a cold-blooded Sicilian "Zip" does and whacks Arno for fun. After all, it's a "pride thing..".and it might even put Raylan in good stead with Harry's sexy ex-stripper girlfriend Joyce.

Pronto tells the story of Harry Arno: he’s a Miami bookie, is dating a topless dancer named Joyce and plans to retire to a villa in Italy within the next year. Harry has been skimming profits from his boss Jimmy ‘Cap’ for years but has so far remained undetected until the Feds decide to set him up in order to get to Jimmy thus forcing him to move up his retirement date and has him fleeing town immediately.

I decided to pick Pronto as my first Elmore Leonard novel because of the fact that I love ‘Justified’ so much. While my love of the show centers around the character Raylan Givens (or, if I’m being quite honest, mainly because of Timothy Olyphant) he doesn’t play the leading character as I would have expected. Pronto is a dialogue driven narrative with a large cast of engaging characters that are all given their share of the spotlight in this story. The mob bosses are hysterical and their simple mindedness is portrayed well and with good humor. Raylan Givens is a small-town cowboy that is much smarter than his persona would imply. Harry is a thief who uses and abuses anyone that can be a benefit to him but still manages to still be a character you care about. Pronto is an entertaining blend of western and crime fiction with a subtle dash of humor.

This was enjoyable on audio with narrator Alexander Adams capable of using a multitude of different voices and even managed to make the occasional Italian dialogue sound authentic. Now that I’ve had my first experience reading an Elmore Leonard book I can safely say it won’t be my last.

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Early Review – Magic Marks the Spot (The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1) by Caroline Carlson

July 6, 2013 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013, YA 3 Comments

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

Early Review – Magic Marks the Spot (The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1) by Caroline CarlsonMagic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson
Series: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1
Published by HarperCollins on September 10th 2013
Pages: 368
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Terror of the Southlands

three-half-stars

Pirates! Magic! Treasure! A gargoyle? Caroline Carlson's hilarious tween novel The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot is perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society.

Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. She can tread water for thirty-seven minutes. She can tie a knot faster than a fleet of sailors, and she already owns a rather pointy sword.

There's only one problem: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags.

But Hilary is not the kind of girl to take no for answer. To escape a life of petticoats and politeness at her stuffy finishing school, Hilary sets out in search of her own seaworthy adventure, where she gets swept up in a madcap quest involving a map without an X, a magical treasure that likely doesn't exist, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous—and unexpected—villain on the High Seas.

Written with uproarious wit and an inviting storyteller tone, the first book in Caroline Carlson's quirky seafaring series is a piratical tale like no other.

After recently being denied admittance to The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates simply because she’s a girl, Hilary is now being forced into attending Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies. Not that she has any desire to become a Delicate Lady. She can tread water for 37 minutes, can tie a knot that cannot be undone and hates dresses because dresses make climbing ship’s rigging next to impossible.

While Hilary is quite the vibrant character on her own, her gargoyle side-kick provided the comic relief when the story veered too far into weighty territory. The weighty territory mostly involved the odd choice in bad guy, which was a bit of a shock and surprise, however it was handled well. While the story was only occasionally serious, the remaining characters were still just as lighthearted making this a perfect read for young kids. In addition to the story there are between chapter snippets of letters, newspaper articles and other assorted information that was a charming addition.

Magic Marks the Spot is an extremely cute Middle Grade novel that comes equipped with a super spunky heroine, entertaining pirates, magical gargoyles and treasure hunting adventures. While this works as a stand-alone novel with its solid wrap-up ending, it’s actually a brand new start to a planned trilogy. Definitely looking forward to future mischief from Ms. Hilary!

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Early Review – Asylum by Madeleine Roux

July 5, 2013 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013, YA 2 Comments

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

Early Review – Asylum by Madeleine RouxAsylum by Madeleine Roux
Published by HarperCollins on August 20th 2013
Pages: 320
Genres: Horror
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads


one-star

Asylum is a thrilling and creepy photo-novel perfect for fans of the New York Times bestseller Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it's a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.

As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it's no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.

Featuring found photos of unsettling history and real abandoned asylums and filled with chilling mystery and page-turning suspense, Madeleine Roux's teen debut, Asylum, is a horror story that treads the line between genius and insanity.

The word Asylum alone evokes a feeling of dread. A twinge of apprehension. Unfortunately the title was the only thing that elicited that expected response, because the book was honestly extremely dry and wearisome.

The idea behind the story was solid: 16 year-old Dan comes to stay for several weeks over the summer at a college prep program and he finds out their dorms are located in what once was an asylum for the criminally insane. I’m on board with that. The characters completely destroyed this story though. They were dull, uninteresting and lacking in any sort of dimension.

The inconsistency of maturity was awful. Dan would be contemplating Jung one minute and acting like a 12 year old boy the next. He is supposed to be this incredibly socially awkward guy that has the hardest time making friends, yet he finds two people and they’re the bestest of friends… instantly. They spend all their time together and they even decide to take some of the same classes together and they talk about their family problems with one another and… it just didn’t feel authentic. Their friendship itself may have worked, but the fact that we knew they had JUST met ruined it all. Within a week even the teachers have nicknamed them ‘The Hydra’.

Dan’s two friends, Abby and Jordan, also met each other for the first time on the bus that brought them to the school. The nail in the coffin happened for me when about a week into their stay, Abby forgets to tell Jordan that she won’t be able to study with him because she’s hanging out with Dan instead. She comes home to find him waiting for her outside her dorm door, drinking, proclaiming that she drove him to drink.

Their friendship lacked a necessary composition that would generate these types of responses. But honestly, I’m not sure when I would ever put up with that type of behavior from a friend; it was just unnecessary and dramatic. (Also unnecessary was the incredibly forced romance that could have completely been done without.) It seemed incredibly unrealistic how advanced their relationship seemed to be after such a short amount of time and considering this was a huge basis of the story, it practically ruined the story as a whole for me.

The comparison to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a bit far-fetched and the only link between the two I could determine was the inclusion of black and white pictures. With Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children though, the pictures felt like they fit with the story much more and appeared to be incredibly authentic. While my ARC copy didn’t contain all pictures, the ones I was able to view looked digitally created and many didn’t even match up to what was being described which completely defeated the whole purpose. I would consider this to be a far closer match-up to Dennis Lehane’s ‘Shutter Island’- the YA Version with extremely bad characters.

The story was interesting enough but I was really anticipating a much more intense reading experience. The ending doesn’t give you all the answers, because apparently this is being made into a series which is completely unnecessary; this could have been a perfect stand-alone story (if it had more solid of characters and maybe a bit more creepy thrown in for flavor). Suffice it to say this was an epic disappointment and I don’t consider myself to be interested enough in continuing.

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Book Tour Review – The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy

June 27, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Book Tour, Read in 2013, TLC Book Tours 2 Comments

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

Book Tour Review – The Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van BooyThe Illusion of Separateness by Simon Van Booy
Published by Harper on June 11th 2013
Pages: 224
Genres: Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: TLC Book Tours
Amazon
Goodreads


three-stars

Award-winning author Simon Van Booy tells a harrowing and enchanting story of how one man's act of mercy during World War II changed the lives of a group of strangers, and how they each eventually discover the astonishing truth of their connection

Whether they are pursued by Nazi soldiers, old age, shame, deformity, disease, or regret, the varied characters of Simon Van Booy's utterly compelling novel The Illusion of Separateness discover in their darkest moments of fear and isolation that they are not alone, that they were never alone, that every human being is a link in an unseen chain.

This gripping, emotional story intertwines the stories of several compelling characters: a deformed German infantryman; a lonely British film director; a young, blind museum curator; Jewish-American newlyweds separated by war; a lost child on the brink of starvation; and a caretaker at a retirement home for actors in Santa Monica. The same world moves beneath each of them, and one by one, through seemingly random acts of selflessness, they discover the vital parts they have played in each other's lives, a realization that shatters the illusion of their separateness. Moving back and forth in time and across continents,

The Illusion of Separateness displays the breathtaking skill of, "a truly special writer who does things with abstract language that is so evocative and original your breath literally catches in your chest" (Andre Dubus III).

‘In a sense we are all prisoners of some memory, or fear, or disappointment-we are all defined by something we can’t change.’

The Illusion of Separateness tells the story of six different individuals who are all interconnected in ways they don’t even realize. The story begins in Los Angeles, CA in 2010 but goes as far back as 1939 in the midst of World War II. Through these first-person stories and the recounting of past events, it slowly begins to unfold how these seemingly random people are all effected by a strangers actions.

I’m quite enamored with interweaving story lines in movies (Crash, Babel, Love Actually, The Fountain.. I could obviously go on and on) relishing in the stories of many only to find just how interconnected they are to one another. It takes a skilled writer to successfully write several plot lines, connect them effortlessly and at the same time give each of them a proper ending. I was immediately interested in this book once I realized it dealt with multiple plot lines yet found myself leery when noticing how few pages the author gave himself to work with, made me worry that he wouldn’t give each and every one of his characters proper credit or back-story. While I wish I did have more back-story on these characters, what we were given was sufficient enough to make each of them memorable.

‘…finding the candles by heat, and blowing them out one by one, as we, one day, will be vanquished with a last puff and then nothing at all – nothing but the fragrance of our lives in the world, as on a hand that once held flowers.’

While the characters ‘illusion of separateness’ did on occasion feel strained and slightly forced this was still undoubtedly an enjoyable tale. Slow to build with a simplistic way of writing but was ultimately extremely pleasing in the end.

 dvd-pearl
This post was a part of the The Illusion of Separateness blog tour.
Click the button below for a complete list of tour stops.
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Early Review – The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

May 3, 2013 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013, YA 2 Comments

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

Early Review – The School for Good and Evil by Soman ChainaniThe School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Series: The School for Good and Evil #1
Published by HarperCollins on May 14th 2013
Pages: 496
Genres: Fairy-Tales/Retellings, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads


three-half-stars

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

‘[…]whether you are Good or Evil, an Ever or a Never, you must learn to respect one another, for no matter how different you may seem, you cannot exist without the other. The line between princess and witch is a thin one indeed…’

The residents of the small town of Gavaldon are all raised on fairy tales, and they all believe them to be real. Every four years, The School Master takes two children over the age of 12 and one child is placed in The School of Good and the other Evil. It’s been four years.

Sophie, lover of pink and a self-proclaimed princess, dreams of going to The School of Good and meeting her Prince and living happily ever after. Agatha, lover of black and silence and solitude with her cat, isn’t quite sure if she believes in the schools but she knows if she was destined to go there would be no better place for her than The School of Evil. Sophie and Agatha are best friends and when both are chosen for The School’s, it comes as quite a shock when their placements are switched. Agatha is definitely not Good and Sophie can’t possibly be Evil…

What worked for me: The writing is vibrant and extremely visual with alternating POV’s between Sophie and Agatha which provided the reader with a glimpse of both schools through their eyes. Sophie was quite an unbearable character but I do believe that was the purpose (and only solidified her position with The School of Evil). Agatha managed to become the real heart of the story and a truly good person. Both girls struggle throughout the story to retain their friendship due to the constant stereotype that Good can’t possibly be friends with Evil.

What didn’t work for me: The story was excessively long and would have benefited from some additional editing. Also, once I got the gist of the backwards type fairy tale going on it did become a tad predictable. I understand that it was a Grimm-type fairy tale and was dark and malevolent, but I really hated the way Sophie treated Agatha considering they were supposed to be best friends and considering Sophie was Agatha’s only friend. The biggest flaw in my opinion was the ending though. It was so strange and seemed a bit out of left field. There’s ‘didn’t see that coming! wow what a shocker!’ and ‘didn’t see that coming because that doesn’t even make any sense.’ I requested this book solely because of that fabulous book trailer so my expectations were high from the start. This wasn’t a disappointment but it didn’t live up to my high expectations.

Truer to a Grimm Fairy Tale rather than Disney, The School for Good and Evil was intense and distressingly amoral yet still contained what all fairy tales possess: a valuable lesson. One surety about this book, there is truly nothing like it. The School for Good and Evil is a fairy tale that’s been shaken up; it’s all backwards and mismatched but still manages to retain at least the structure of the classic fairy tale that we all know and love. If you’re a fan of fairy tales (especially of the Grimm nature) then this is a story for you.

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Early Review – Reboot (Reboot #1) by Amy Tintera

April 19, 2013 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013, YA 8 Comments

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

Early Review – Reboot (Reboot #1) by Amy TinteraReboot by Amy Tintera
Series: Reboot #1
Published by HarperTeen on May 7th 2013
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Sci-fi
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads


two-half-stars

Five years ago, Wren Connolly was shot three times in the chest. After 178 minutes she came back as a Reboot: stronger, faster, able to heal, and less emotional. The longer Reboots are dead, the less human they are when they return. Wren 178 is the deadliest Reboot in the Republic of Texas. Now seventeen years old, she serves as a soldier for HARC (Human Advancement and Repopulation Corporation).

Wren’s favorite part of the job is training new Reboots, but her latest newbie is the worst she’s ever seen. As a 22, Callum Reyes is practically human. His reflexes are too slow, he’s always asking questions, and his ever-present smile is freaking her out. Yet there’s something about him she can’t ignore. When Callum refuses to follow an order, Wren is given one last chance to get him in line—or she’ll have to eliminate him. Wren has never disobeyed before and knows if she does, she’ll be eliminated, too. But she has also never felt as alive as she does around Callum.

The perfect soldier is done taking orders.

I was extremely excited for this debut because that summary could not sound any more awesome. Wren 178 is the strongest and deadliest reboot because she was dead 178 minutes before her body rebooted and she came back to life. Reboots are all stronger and faster and heal faster than ordinary humans. The other main difference is their complete lack of emotions making them the perfect super soldier. So basically reboots are some terminator zombie type thing…yep, sign me up for that.

I’ve seen this time and time again: an interesting and original concept that’s thoroughly lacking in execution. Now, I’m not saying this was a complete disaster but it definitely failed to live up to the anticipation the summary generated. It was all just very ‘meh’ for me.

The first major issue I had was the world-building. The beginning part of the story felt like one massive info-dump that never really succeeded at explaining anything. And there were so many questions I had that were never quite explained. Like why the reboots continued aging even though they’re basically a zombie, how it is that they’re still able to have children (regarding the reference that upon rebooting they’re given a birth control shot) and why in the world they become “attractive” upon rebooting. Strange additions to the Reboot world that I didn’t find made much sense.

But the second and main issue I had was the romance. Wren is supposed to be the most unemotional reboot of the bunch yet she becomes immediately intrigued by the newest reboot, Callum 22. I just couldn’t buy it, period. It was so half-hazardly thrown together, completely lacking in credibility and was extremely ill-fitting with the rest of the story. Wren is supposed to be a super solider. A complete badass. Yet the romance aspect turned her into every other typical girl with zero original qualities. The aspect of the story that she’s been their perfect soldier and obeys all orders until she begins to rebel… perfect. But something other than a corny romance needed to be the catalyst for her rebellion.

Wren’s ‘voice’ felt very authentic to me as she always seemed very monotone and didn’t elicit much excitement when recounting anything. Despite it being authentic, it still felt very tiresome to read. There were some very exciting scenes though and I just wish there wasn’t so much I had issue with since it inevitably ruined the better parts for me as a whole. Reboot fortunately doesn’t leave you with a whopper of a cliffhanger but unfortunately I still don’t see this series and I continuing.

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Short & Sweet – The Beautiful Indifference: Stories by Sarah Hall

January 18, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2013, Short & Sweet Reviews 10 Comments

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

Short & Sweet – The Beautiful Indifference: Stories by Sarah HallThe Beautiful Indifference: Stories by Sarah Hall
Published by Harper Perennial on January 29th 2013
Pages: 208
Genres: Collections & Anthologies
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads


five-stars

Winner of the Portico Prize
Winner of the Edge Hill University Short Story Prize
Short-listed for the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award

Sarah Hall has been hailed as "one of the most significant and exciting of Britain's young novelists" (The Guardian). Now, in this collection of short fiction published in England to phenomenal praise, she has created a work at once provocative and mesmerizing.

‘A Beautiful Indifference’ is a collection of seven short stories that had been previously published in various forms and have been honored for awards on their own. The first story, ‘Butcher’s Perfume’ was shortlisted for the BBC National Short Story Award in 2010 and ‘Vuotjärvi’ was long-listed for the Sunday Times EFG Private Bank Short Story Award in 2011.

I’ve only recently started reading short stories but I decided to pick this one up and was very pleased. Very raw and disconcerting stories with prose that really packs a punch and manages to leave your mind whirling. Each story is very allegorical. Lacking in a true, concrete conclusion and typically left open to interpretation, they all seem to have some deeper meaning that was unattainable for the most part for me. Despite this, these were some of the most gratifying short stories I have ever read. The writing was truly brilliant and left me always wanting more. Sarah Hall is definitely an author worth checking out.

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Book Tour Review – The Death of Bees by Lisa O’Donnell

January 2, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2012, TLC Book Tours 1 Comment

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

Book Tour Review – The Death of Bees by Lisa O’DonnellThe Death of Bees by Lisa O'Donnell
Published by Harper on January 2nd 2013
Pages: 311
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Format: ARC
Source: TLC Book Tours
Amazon
Goodreads


five-stars

A riveting, brilliantly written debut novel-a coming-of-age story with the strong voice and powerful resonance of Swamplandia! and The Secret Life of Bees—in which two young sisters attempt to hold the world at bay after the mysterious death of their parents.

Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am fifteen. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved.

Marnie and her little sister Nelly are on their own now. Only they know what happened to their parents, Izzy and Gene, and they aren’t telling. While life in Glasgow’s Hazlehurst housing estate isn’t grand, they do have each other. Besides, it’s only one year until Marnie will be considered an adult and can legally take care of them both.

As the new year comes and goes, Lennie, the old man next door, realizes that his young neighbors are alone and need his help. Or does he need theirs? But he’s not the only one who suspects something isn’t right. Soon, the sisters’ friends, their other neighbors, the authorities, and even Gene’s nosy drug dealer begin to ask questions. As one lie leads to another, dark secrets about the girls’ family surface, creating complications that threaten to tear them apart.

Written with fierce sympathy and beautiful precision, told in alternating voices, The Death of Bees is an enchanting, grimly comic tale of three lost souls who, unable to answer for themselves, can answer only for each other.

“Today is Christmas Eve. Today is my birthday. Today I am 15. Today I buried my parents in the backyard. Neither of them were beloved.”

Launching right into the heart of the story, Marnie and Nelly bury their parents in the backyard after their father suffocates and their mothers hangs herself. With both parents gone the girls are left completely alone. Living in the slums of Glasgow, Scotland, Marnie makes a hasty decision to bury them both in the garden in order to avoid being placed into foster care. When Marnie turns 16 she can legally care for her sister so they just need to stay under the radar for one year. But between their curious but concerned neighbor and his inquisitive dog with a penchant for digging in their garden, a drug dealer their father owes money to, and a grandfather that wants to find his daughter their carefully constructed web of lies slowly begins to deteriorate.

Having lived with their parents misconduct their entire lives, finding their dead bodies didn’t have the emotional impact that would be typical for most people. Marnie had already been taking care of her and her sister for years so not having their parents there really wasn’t new. Except they were still there. Kind of. They were just in the garden now, buried under the lavender bushes.

It wasn’t until later that I connected the dots and the references to the sexual abuse from their father. The author manages to indirectly reference the abuse both girls received from their father without going into unnecessary detail but I almost missed it entirely. The only indication given of this abuse was the lasting impacts both girls exhibit (i.e. Marnie’s drinking and drug problems and lack of disregard for sleeping with married men and Nelly’s ongoing night terrors.) Their experiences nevertheless created an unbreakable bond between the girls.

Throughout the story, the reference to people being ‘monsters’ for actions in their life that have inevitably gone on to define them. The elderly gay neighbor Lennie who takes it upon himself to care for the girls when they so desperately needed someone. But due to a past transgression that labeled him a sex offender he becomes identified as a monster. Marnie and Nelly’s parents are more deserving of the label ‘monster’ because of the serious neglect of their children. The girls were forced to grow up at an extremely young age due to their parents terminal absence. Neither girl had anything close to a childhood and it was always a guessing game whether they would come home with groceries or drugs and booze. The children’s grandfather that appears and suddenly wants to be a part of their life to make amends for past wrongs is also deserving of the title. But that’s where the grey area develops: Do the girls actions make them monsters as well? Or is their behavior excusable because of everything they had already been through and what they were trying to avoid? The author doesn’t provide any clear cut answer in determining who is right and who is wrong but it’s safe to say that all characters are at fault in some way.

The style of writing and changes in point of view were brilliant. Each character had their own distinctive voice and their own important story. All points of view were told in first person but Lennie’s was written almost as a letter or diary entries to his deceased lover, Joseph. Nelly is quite the eccentric 12 year-old that is a violin prodigy, has a fondness for old classic movies, and speaks as if, as Lennie put it, “like she swallowed a dictionary”. Marnie, an extremely direct and to the point individual that carries a massive burden which she manages to somewhat hide. It’s obvious that both girls lack necessary help, they just simply don’t know where to look for it.

“What on earth is happening to the bees? They say it is an ecological disaster, an environment holocaust. Every day I wonder what the blazes can be causing this abuse of our ecosystem.” -Nelly

The meaning behind the title eluded me for quite some time and I actually spent several hours pondering its significance. So this is what I came up with, but I could be completely off the mark, I have no idea but it really does seem to have a simple and straight forward meaning. As Nelly stated above, the death of bees is an ecological disaster and an environmental holocaust as bees play a major role and their deaths have a lasting effect. Even though their parents didn’t play a major role in the girls lives, their deaths still managed to make a lasting impact on them.

‘I fear death, I have always feared death. It comes like a gale and never with permission. I would meet it again today.’

‘The Death of Bees’ is gloomy, somber, and brutally realistic but darkly comedic as well. Enthralling and thought-provoking, you’ll find yourselves racing to finish to find out these unforgettable girls’ fate.

dvd-pearl
This post was a part of The Death of Bees blog tour.
Click the button below for a complete list of tour stops.
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Book Tour Review – Married Love: And Other Stories by Tessa Hadley

November 27, 2012 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Book Tour, Read in 2012, Short Stories, TLC Book Tours 0 Comments

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

Book Tour Review – Married Love: And Other Stories by Tessa HadleyMarried Love and Other Stories by Tessa Hadley
Published by Harper Perennial on November 20th 2012
Pages: 240
Genres: Contemporary, Literary Fiction, Romance
Format: ARC
Source: TLC Book Tours
Amazon
Goodreads


three-stars

A girl haunts the edges of her parents' party; a film director drops dead, leaving his film unfinished and releasing his wife to a new life; an eighteen-year-old insists on marrying her music professor, then finds herself shut out from his secrets; three friends who were intimate as teenagers meet up again after the death of the women who brought them together. Ranging widely across generations and classes, and evoking a world that expands beyond the pages, these are the stories of Tessa Hadley's astonishing new collection.

On full display are the qualities for which Tessa Hadley has long been praised: her unflinching examination of family relationships; her humor, warmth and psychological acuity; her powerful, precise and emotionally dense prose. In this collection there are domestic dramas, generational sagas, wrenching love affairs and epiphanies-captured and distilled to remarkable effect. Married Love is a collection to treasure, a masterful new work from one of today's most accomplished storytellers.

‘He knew how passionately she succumbed to the roles she dreamed up for herself. She won’t be able to get out of this one, he thought. She can’t stop now.’

Married Love: And Other Stories is a collection of short fictional contemporary stories. Married Love is not all about domestic bliss. It’s about the every day struggles that the characters encounter. Each story is a showcasing of a brief moment that manages to convey an entire life without leaving one feeling incomplete by the shortness of it.

‘For a moment, however, she could imagine the sensation of chewing politely and sufferingly on a mouthful of broken crystal, tasting salty blood.’

Reviewing a collection of short stories is always difficult. Do you review each one individually? Do you rate them as a whole? All in all, the characters within her stories are strongly written and despite the fact that I certainly preferred a few more than others they all managed to shine in their own way. Her writing was stately and succinct and quite enjoyable. My interest has definitely been piqued and I would love to read more from this author.

‘I couldn’t help being swept along by the idea of someone changing who she was: I knew I wasn’t capable of this; I was just helplessly forever me.’

dvd-pearl
This post was a part of the Married Love blog tour.
Click the button below for a complete list of tour stops.
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