Publisher: Reagan Arthur Books

Book Review – The Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan

August 21, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 3 Comments

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

Book Review – The Lifeboat by Charlotte RoganThe Lifeboat by Charlotte Rogan
Published by Reagan Arthur Books on April 3rd 2012
Pages: 278
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery
Format: Hardcover
Source: the Publisher
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three-stars

Grace Winter, 22, is both a newlywed and a widow. She is also on trial for her life.

In the summer of 1914, the elegant ocean liner carrying her and her husband Henry across the Atlantic suffers a mysterious explosion. Setting aside his own safety, Henry secures Grace a place in a lifeboat, which the survivors quickly realize is over capacity. For any to live, some must die.

As the castaways battle the elements, and each other, Grace recollects the unorthodox way she and Henry met, and the new life of privilege she thought she'd found. Will she pay any price to keep it?

The Lifeboat is a page-turning novel of hard choices and survival, narrated by a woman as unforgettable and complex as the events she describes.

‘[…] the mind can work to suppress traumatic experiences, and I suppose that is true, but sometimes I think the failure to remember is not so much a pathological tendency as a natural consequence of necessity […]’

Grace Winter and her new husband Henry are traveling across the Atlantic to New York on the Empress Alexandra when a mysterious explosion sinks the ship. Grace manages to obtain a spot on a lifeboat but her husband was not and she presumes he is dead. The story begins though, with Grace no longer in the lifeboat, saved after 21 days at sea, but currently on trial for murder.

Being stranded in the middle of the Atlantic is a horrifying enough though but The Lifeboat’s extreme focus on the suffering and the change in mentality that the individuals undergo truly make you wonder if earning a spot on that lifeboat was actually a blessing. We learn the details of what occurred on the lifeboat from Grace directly, as she’s been instructed to do by her lawyer in an attempt to find some way of exonerating her. Grace is a deceptively simple woman that is actually far more manipulative than I think anyone gave her credit for. Her sense of self-preservation is strong and when rehashing the sequence of events which took place on the lifeboat, she always finds a way to reinterpret her actions so as to always come out ‘right’. As you learn more of her story, you’ll begin to start questioning her actions and realize how unreliable a narrator she has been the entire time.

“…was bluish-black and rolled past us like an unending herd of whales. The lifeboat alternately rose high on their broad backs and slid down into the deep depressions between them. Above, clouds hurtled through the sky before the wind…. I shivered, and for the first time since the day of the shipwreck, I felt profoundly afraid. We were doomed.”

The traumatic situation these individuals found themselves in was only made worse as time progressed and the rapid reduction of food and water quantities only succeeded in speeding up the hysteria. Fear begins warping mentalities and speculations arise creating more danger inside the boat than the sea itself. This story of survival is fascinating and appalling, but put in a similar situation who knows what lengths you would go to in order to ensure your own survival?

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Early Review – Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

February 19, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013 10 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.

Early Review – Life After Life by Kate AtkinsonLife After Life by Kate Atkinson
Published by Reagan Arthur Books on March 14th 2013
Pages: 544
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Transcription

five-stars

During a snowstorm in England in 1910, a baby is born and dies before she can take her first breath. During a snowstorm in England in 1910, the same baby is born and lives to tell the tale.
What if there were second chances? And third chances? In fact an infinite number of chances to live your life? Would you eventually be able to save the world from its own inevitable destiny? And would you even want to?

Life After Life follows Ursula Todd as she lives through the turbulent events of the last century again and again. With wit and compassion, she finds warmth even in life's bleakest moments, and shows an extraordinary ability to evoke the past. Here is Kate Atkinson at her most profound and inventive, in a novel that celebrates the best and worst of ourselves.

“What if you had the chance to do it again and again, until you got it right? Would you do it?”
-Edward Beresford Todd

This is the story of Ursula Todd’s live(s), and of her death(s), and of how she lives when given a second chance. Each time she dies (and returns) she obtains a sense of deja vu from her past lives. She uses these bits of knowledge from these previous scenes of life to “get it right” and to change the outcome of her life now. Practice makes perfect after all.

The writing was flawless, albeit a tad hard to grasp at first. There’s a constant flipping back and forth between time and it was supremely difficult to determine which story went with which one, however it all comes together in the end. I found it best to simply read, absorb, and watch the story unfold without putting too much thought into it or keeping notes regarding what is happening with each date (speaking from personal experience, it’s completely unnecessary).

“No point in thinking, you just have to get on with life. We only have one after all, we should try and do our best. We can never get it right, but we must try.”

Despite her multiple chances to “get it right”, Ursula did not always succeed. She may have avoided one obstacle she encountered in a previous life only to run into another. As Ursula said, “We can never get it right, but we must try.” Life isn’t perfect, and even if you had multiple chances to go back and change things it still won’t be perfect. I think it also meant that sometimes we need to experience these imperfections in order to truly know how to “get it right”.

It was amazing to watch each scene transpire and be able to witness how one single act not only resulted in evading death (the second time around of course) but how drastically different her life often was. But what was even more amazing was finishing the story and fully grasping all the story lines that had been going on and having them all come together harmoniously. There truly aren’t enough adjectives in existence for me to properly describe how truly amazing I found this book to be. Life After Life was genius, superbly written, intricately detailed, and capable of an emotional resonance you won’t see coming.

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Early Review – Dare Me by Megan Abbott

July 28, 2012 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2012 4 Comments

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

Early Review – Dare Me by Megan AbbottDare Me by Megan Abbott
Published by Reagan Arthur Books on July 31st 2012
Pages: 290
Genres: Contemporary, Thriller
Format: Hardcover
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: The Fever

four-half-stars

Addy Hanlon has always been Beth Cassidy's best friend and trusted lieutenant. Beth calls the shots and Addy carries them out, a long-established order of things that has brought them to the pinnacle of their high-school careers. Now they're seniors who rule the intensely competitive cheer squad, feared and followed by the other girls -- until the young new coach arrives.

Cool and commanding, an emissary from the adult world just beyond their reach, Coach Colette French draws Addy and the other cheerleaders into her life. Only Beth, unsettled by the new regime, remains outside Coach's golden circle, waging a subtle but vicious campaign to regain her position as "top girl" -- both with the team and with Addy herself.

Then a suicide focuses a police investigation on Coach and her squad. After the first wave of shock and grief, Addy tries to uncover the truth behind the death -- and learns that the boundary between loyalty and love can be dangerous terrain.

The raw passions of girlhood are brought to life in this taut, unflinching exploration of friendship, ambition, and power. Award-winning novelist Megan Abbott, writing with what Tom Perrotta has hailed as "total authority and an almost desperate intensity," provides a harrowing glimpse into the dark heart of the all-American girl.

‘The drone in my ear, it’s like the tornado drill in elementary school, the hand-cranked siren that rang mercilessly, all of us hunched over on ourselves, facing the basement walls, heads tucked into our chests. Beth and me wedged tight, jeaned legs pressed against each other. The sound of our own breathing. Before we all stopped believing a tornado, or anything, could touch us, ever.’

Ah, the sordid lives that teenagers lead, hidden under their masks of perfection. Seemingly perfect girls Addy and Beth are cheerleaders but it’s more than just a hobby to them; it’s a part of who they are. Their lives would mean nothing if they weren’t in cheer. When the new school year comes around and with it a new cheer coach, it sets about a change so big that no one can even begin to imagine the end results.

‘…we work hard because it raises a din, a rabid, high-pitched din that can nearly drown out the sound of the current and coming chaos. The sense that everything is changing in ways we can’t guess and that nothing can stop it.’

Now, when I first read the synopsis and how it’s about two troubled high school girls who are best friends and also cheerleaders my mind automatically flashed to scenes from Bring It On and Gossip Girl and I physically winced and completely lost all interest in ever pursuing it. And then it shows up in my mailbox. FINE. I’ll give it a shot. Well. These girls make Gossip Girls look tame in comparison and they are far from the perky preppy bitches in Bring It On. They are brilliantly methodical and the strength they exude is at times quite scary, especially when you realize these are 16 and 17 year-olds. Often I’ll read a story based on young adults and if it’s not done well their mature acts come across as phony and insincere. Addy and Beth were real and it was nothing short of enthralling.

‘Time comes, you have to listen to yourself.
As if listening to yourself was just something you could do. As if there were something there to listen to. A self inside you with all kinds of smart things to say.’

And as far as the writing goes, the only way I can think of describing it is being incredibly intense. This is not YA so just because the main characters are in high school, do yourself a favor and don’t jump to conclusions. But wow, the storyline was already extreme, the characters vivid, but the powerful lines thrown in really completed it. Megan Abbott… where have you been hiding?

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