Source: Gifted

Book Review – Still Me (Me Before You #3) by Jojo Moyes

June 8, 2018 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2018 4 Comments

Book Review – Still Me (Me Before You #3) by Jojo MoyesStill Me by Jojo Moyes
Series: Me Before You #3
Published by Pamela Dorman Books on January 30, 2018
Pages: 400
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
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Also by this author: Me Before You, The Girl You Left Behind, One Plus One

five-stars

From the #1 New York Times bestselling author Jojo Moyes, a new book featuring her iconic heroine of Me Before You and After You, Louisa Clark

Louisa Clark arrives in New York ready to start a new life, confident that she can embrace this new adventure and keep her relationship with Ambulance Sam alive across several thousand miles. She steps into the world of the superrich, working for Leonard Gopnik and his much younger second wife, Agnes. Lou is determined to get the most out of the experience and throws herself into her new job and New York life.

As she begins to mix in New York high society, Lou meets Joshua Ryan, a man who brings with him a whisper of her past. Before long, Lou finds herself torn between Fifth Avenue where she works and the treasure-filled vintage clothing store where she actually feels at home. And when matters come to a head, she has to ask herself: Who is Louisa Clark? And how do you reconcile a heart that lives in two places?

Funny, romantic, and poignant, Still Me follows Lou as she navigates how to stay true to herself, while pushing to live boldly in her brave new world.

Me Before You Series

Me Before You (Me Before You #1) by Jojo Moyes [Purchase|Review]
After You (Me Before You #2) by Jojo Moyes [Purchase]
Still Me (Me Before You #3) by Jojo Moyes [Purchase]

‘Once upon a time there was a small-town girl who lived in a small world. She was perfectly happy, or at least she told herself she was.’

Louisa is back, but this time she’s living in the big city after deciding to start saying yes to all those things that were forever holding her back from experiencing life, with a little help from Will, of course. She’s left Ambulance Sam back in England along with the rest of her family, confident that she’ll be able to create a life for herself while maintaining the old. Her job this time involves New York high society where she’s working for Agnes, the affluent Leonard Gopnik’s second, and much younger wife. Despite the constant demands of her new job and the usually excessive hours, Louisa still manages to make some important connections within the city that never sleeps: a friendly doorman who introduces him to her family and a whole other slice of the city she had yet to perceive, an irascible old woman with a pug named Dean Martin, and a couple of girls she bonds with over a love of vintage clothing.

‘I thought about how you’re shaped so much by the people who surround you, and how careful you have to be in choosing them for this exact reason, and then I thought, despite all that, in the end maybe you have to lose them all in order to truly find yourself.’

There are some books you pick up that you expect to obtain a certain experience from; I picked up Still Me with the intent to read something light and undemanding, yet, that couldn’t have ended up being further from the truth. Of course, there are parts that really are light and undemanding: Louisa’s internal dialogue about a city that fills her full of wonder, the descriptions of her always spirited wardrobe (yes, the bumblebee tights do in fact make an appearance), and her incurably charismatic sense of humor. Still Me is less about the romance (although that of course, plays a factor) but it’s much more an inspiring tale of being true to yourself, finding what sincerely makes you happy in life (we only get one, after all), and to always wear your stripy tights with pride. This book was a pleasant roller coaster of emotions that completely ran the gamut that I would gladly ride again.

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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.

Image result for carrie fisher in memoriam

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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Short & Sweet – The Chronicles of Alice

February 3, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews 5 Comments

Short & Sweet – The Chronicles of AliceAlice by Christina Henry
Series: The Chronicles of Alice #1
Published by Ace on August 4th 2015
Pages: 304
Genres: Horror, Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: eBook
Source: Gifted
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Also by this author: Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook

four-stars

A mind-bending new novel inspired by the twisted and wondrous works of Lewis Carroll...

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.

In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…

Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.

And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.

‘Alice hardly recalled when she was new and whole. That girl seemed like someone else she’d known once, long ago and far away.’

When Alice was sixteen-years-old, she snuck out of New City and into Old City with her friend Dor. She returned home changed irrevocably: she had a cut across her face that would no doubt transform her beautiful face into a scarred one, she was covered in blood, and she couldn’t stop talking about Rabbit. Her parents are determined to quiet any negative gossip that could be associated with their family so they place her in a mental asylum in Old City and there she remains for ten years. Drugged daily, memories of the Rabbit still haunt her and her only companion is Hatcher, a man that she speaks with through a small mouse hole which connects their two rooms. When a fire consumes the asylum and something powerful within is released, her and Hatcher escape together. Together they must work to contain what was released and Alice intends to find the truth of what happened to her all those years ago.

“I feel the night crawling up all around, blotting out the moon. I feel blood running down the walls, rivers of it in the streets below. And I feel his teeth closing around me.”

This book was mad. Completely and utterly mad. It’s this bizarre mix of fantasy and horror but is one outrageously insane nightmare. So, if you’re looking for some variation on the original Disney tale? hahahaha…. Look elsewhere. I read this entire book with this look on my face:

All the characters from the original tales are included in this retelling, except their roles are vastly different (and they are men, not animals). We see Chesire, Caterpiller, the Carpenter, and Walrus who are all crime bosses in Old City. But instead of just silly illusions we’re dealing with fighting rings, sex trafficking (massive trigger warnings here in terms of rape), cannibalism, some horrifying depictions of slavery and magical body modifications… (refer to above gif once again for my response). Honestly, this book is extremely disturbing and the incredible amount of non-stop violence felt like a complete assault on my being at times. Even if it was a difficult read, it was quite remarkable how the author managed to take the basis of a story yet transform it so drastically so as to render it nearly unrecognizable. What didn’t work quite as well was how the actual characters themselves were written. Whether it’s because the author chose to focus completely on the world itself or because she chose to have us rely on our recollections of the characters from the original tale, either way, the characters themselves were lacking in both personal detailing and their general motivations.

This story isn’t going to be for everyone and it’s definitely going to take someone with a higher threshold for reading some seriously messed up shit. It’s grotesque yet in that captivating way that keeps you reading while simultaneously thinking: “What the hell else could possibly happen?”

This fantasy horror mashup will definitely appeal to fans of unconventional fairytale retellings.

Short & Sweet – The Chronicles of AliceRed Queen by Christina Henry
Series: The Chronicles of Alice #2
Published by Ace on July 12th 2016
Pages: 304
Genres: Horror, Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook

three-half-stars

The author of Alice takes readers back down the rabbit hole to a dark, twisted, and fascinating world based on the works of Lewis Carroll…

Alice and Hatcher have escaped the Rabbit, Cheshire, and the Jabberwocky, but they are still on a mission to find Hatcher’s missing daughter, a quest they will not forsake even as it takes them deep into the clutches of the mad White Queen and her goblin or into the realm of the twisted and cruel Black King.

The pieces are set and the game has already begun. Each move brings Alice closer to her destiny. But, to win, she will need to harness her newfound abilities and ally herself with someone even more powerful—the mysterious and vengeful Red Queen…

“Once, there was a girl called Alice, and she lived in the New City, where everything is shining and beautiful and fair. But Alice was a curious girl with a curious talent. She was a Magician.”

After Hatcher and Alice discovered the truth of their pasts, they set out in search of Hatcher’s daughter Jenny who was believed to have been sold and sent East. On their journey, they stumble upon a small village near the woods with the horrifying stories of the children that they must sacrifice to the White Queen. Alice believes she can be of help to these people despite her inability to consistently use her magic and when Hatcher disappears, Alice is left on her own to take care of herself and make things right for the village.

‘There were monsters in the night but there were monsters in the day too, and monsters inside people who smiled and showed you all their teeth like they were nice.’

Reading this duology back to back was like shifting from fifth gear down to second without slowing down. If Alice was 100% horror, Red Queen is more like 30% and has all the building blocks to make it feel more like the fairytale these stories are based on. Creepy woods that contain unknown creatures that hunt at night, a White Queen and a Black King and the mysterious story of their pasts, magical villages that possess untold rules, a goblin that can fool you with illusions, and giants who were transformed from normal men by a malicious queen. For the majority of this story, Alice is the sole character presence and we get an inside look at her thought process which at first is hesitant and insecure at her ability to do anything on her own. Alice is not only besieged with her personal identity crisis but also with getting a grasp on her magical abilities. The build-up to her gaining confidence is a bit of a plodding process but is a necessity to make her change a realistic one.

The fairytale aspects of this story take center stage when it comes to wrapping up this magical adventure by cleaning up loose ends in a bit of a rapid and unrealistic (but realistic in fairytale standards) style. While I was glad to get a respite from the brutality of the first installment, I think there should have been more included in Red Queen so it felt less like a completely separate story instead of a continuation of the first.Christina Henry certainly knows how to mix up a fairytale and turn it into something awe-inspiring though and I look forward to next reading her take on Peter Pan and Captain Hook in

Christina Henry certainly knows how to mix up a fairytale and turn it into something awe-inspiring though and I look forward to next reading her take on Peter Pan and Captain Hook in Lost Boy.

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Early Review – The Marvels by Brian Selznick

September 11, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Middle Grade, Read in 2015 3 Comments

Early Review – The Marvels by Brian SelznickThe Marvels by Brian Selznick
Illustrator: Brian Selznick
Published by Scholastic Press on September 15th 2015
Pages: 640
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted
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five-stars

Caldecott Award winner and bookmaking trailblazer Brian Selznick once again plays with the form he invented and takes readers on a voyage!

Two seemingly unrelated stories--one in words, the other in pictures--come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle's puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.

 Continuing his unique theme of storytelling, Selznick takes his readers on a dual adventure told in pictures and then words. The first adventure is experienced solely in pictures and begins in 1776 on a ship named the Kraken. After a massive storm, there is only a single survivor: Billy Marvel. The pictures tell of his story, how he came to be connected to the Royal Theatre in London, and how subsequent generations became well-known actors with their own story to tell. The visually impressive illustrated story continues for over 400 pages and ends with an air of mystery.

Flashing forward to the 1990s, we’re introduced to Joseph Jervis who has just run away from boarding school to go in search of his Uncle Albert. Joseph’s parents are the absent sort and he’s hoping to find a family, a place to call home. Finding his Uncle ends up being a letdown seeing as he wants to immediately send Joseph back to where he belongs and doesn’t show any interest in getting to know each other. Joseph takes comfort in his Uncle’s old house that’s filled with history and a certain story that Joseph desperately wants to uncover. While the story of Joseph is an intriguing one, what’s more intriguing is how his story and that of Billy Marvel’s, two seemingly isolated stories, could possibly be connected. The connection slowly begins to piece together, flowering into a beautifully simplistic story about love and family.

I really adored this story; it even managed to elicit some teary-eyed feels. I loved the combination of pictures/words and was most impressed that Selznick managed to make his words-only storytelling just as mentally visual as his illustrations-only story. This charmingly simplistic story won me over completely and I definitely intend on picking up all of Selznick’s other works.

Many thanks to Wendy for gifting me this lovely story.

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Book Review – Blindsighted (Grant County #1) by Karin Slaughter

July 24, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2015 1 Comment

Book Review – Blindsighted (Grant County #1) by Karin SlaughterBlindsighted by Karin Slaughter
Series: Grant County #1
Published by Harper on September 4, 2001
Pages: 464
Genres: Detective, Mystery, Thriller
Format: Paperback
Source: Gifted
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Also by this author: Pretty Girls

four-stars

A small Georgia town erupts in panic when a young college professor is found brutally mutilated in the local diner. But it's only when town pediatrician and coroner Sara Linton does the autopsy that the full extent of the killer's twisted work becomes clear.

Sara's ex-husband, police chief Jeffrey Tolliver, leads the investigation—a trail of terror that grows increasingly macabre when another local woman is found crucified a few days later. But he's got more than a sadistic serial killer on his hands, for the county's sole female detective, Lena Adams—the first victim's sister—want to serve her own justice.

But it is Sara who holds the key to finding the killer. A secret from her past could unmask the brilliantly malevolent psychopath .. or mean her death.

In a small town in Georgia, a tragic and horrific murder shakes its residents to the core. The murder took place in a bathroom of a diner, shortly after the lunch rush, and no one heard or suspected a thing. Sara Linton, the town’s coroner discovers the victim, Sibyl Adams, just barely hanging on to life, with a cross carved into her chest, but is unable to save her. Sara’s ex-husband, police chief Jeffrey Tolliver is investigating and discovers that another girl is now mysteriously missing only to have her body discovered on the hood of Sara’s car with the wounds of a recent crucifixion. The religious aspects of these crimes have Sara fearing that their deaths are actually related to something that happened in her past and wondering if she knows exactly who is committing these atrocities.

Blindsighted is Karin Slaughter’s debut novel, however, I’m clearly behind since she has a massive amount of books under her belt at this point. But holy. cow. Blindsighted is rife with intensity. The forensic detailing is meticulous, the crimes are horrendously intricate, and yet I couldn’t put this down for anything. What I loved the most about this one though was the characterization. Sara Linton is clearly the main character but didn’t completely take center stage, giving side characters like Jeffrey and Lina enough page time to build their stories as well. Sara Linton was written perfectly average with strong medical skills but her and her actions never gravitated towards the impossible making this story and all the horror that came with it all the more plausible.

I made a new shelf specifically for this book (and I anticipate the other books in this series to be future additions) called “super-sicko”. When I was a teen, thriller/suspense novels were my go-to reads and my mom always called them my sicko books. While I haven’t read too many of them in recent years, this one most definitely qualifies and managed to even horrify me at times.

Horrified Zombie Cat. #LolCat #Meme

I’m happy to say that my iron stomach is still sufficiently intact.

Much thanks to Wendy for recommending this to me years ago and finally sending me my own copy thus giving me the kick in the pants I needed to finally start this. You know me so well. 🙂

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Book Review – Armada by Ernest Cline

July 23, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2015 3 Comments

Book Review – Armada by Ernest ClineArmada by Ernest Cline
Published by Crown on July 14th 2015
Pages: 368
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted
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Also by this author: Ready Player One

three-stars

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and videogames he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon.

Zack Lightman is a teenager obsessed with video games (but then again, what teenager these days isn’t?) His uniqueness comes from his obsession with 80s music, movies, and all things science fiction, but this is mostly because his dad was obsessed with those things and he died when Zack wasn’t even a year old. Buried in the personal effects he left behind, Zack discovers some of his journals which detail a possible government conspiracy where video games are actually a tool used to prepare people for a coming alien invasion. Zack thinks his dad was just a little loony towards the end but the harsh reality is his dad wasn’t too far off base with his theories. The end of the world is apparently coming and Zack and his video game buddies are the only ones properly trained to hopefully save the world.

After the success of Ready Player One, Armada could not come out soon enough. Per the summary, it still had the wonderful nerdiness we’ve come to expect from Clines and an interesting twist on video games and a fictional take on the importance in our culture. Yet in Armada, something special was distinctly missing. The complexities of the virtual world named OASIS that Cline created in Ready Player One was understandable, engaging, and tons of fun making you feel like you were along for the ride (even if you weren’t a bigger gamer like me.) In Armada, too much time was spent on the page count before the action actual began (100+ pages) as well as the details of the actions within the game that became inexplicably harder to understand as we got deeper in. The details of navigation (they were primarily flying drones) were given in place of actual action and it was hard to get a feel of things despite the fact the descriptions should have been able to put you smack dab in the driver seat. Maybe because RPO took place in a dystopian future made the concept easier to swallow, or maybe this is just an unfortunate sophomore slump.

The Last Starfight and Ender’s Game (or of course the book) both touch on the same subject: master video gamers are enlisted to save the world from invading aliens. The (slight) difference is the overabundance of pop culture references on just about every single page of this tale and how this pop culture knowledge is also key to helping to combat the invasion. The fact that RPO also focused on pop culture references worked better since the world they currently lived in left much to be desired. Those characters obsession with this particular section in time was viewed as a form of escapism more than anything. Zack Lightman is an 18-year-old kid in present-day who listens to Rush and apparently doesn’t watch any movie that wasn’t released in the 80s. Highly unlikely, even if this obsession is fueled by a father he never met. The whole story essentially felt like fan-fiction written by a gamer who daydreams how his video games skills will one day pay the bills. Or save the world in this case.

At this point, I get it. Cline loves the 80s. The music, the movies, and all the science fiction. If he keeps up the trend of going overboard with the 80s pop culture references in his next novel, I think he’d be better off actually setting the story in the 80s. But first and foremost, I’d like to see him come up with something new and original instead of playing off the same dated sci-fi tropes.

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Book Review – Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor (Friday Harbor #1) by Lisa Kleypas

December 24, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 0 Comments

Book Review – Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor (Friday Harbor #1) by Lisa KleypasChristmas Eve at Friday Harbor by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Friday Harbor #1
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 26th 2010
Pages: 211
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Goodreads


three-stars

ONE LITTLE GIRL NEEDS A FAMILY
One rain-slicked night, six-year-old Holly lost the only parent she knew, her beloved mother Victoria. And since that night, she has never again spoken a word.

ONE SINGLE MAN NEEDS A WIFE
The last thing Mark Nolan needs is a six-year-old girl in his life. But he soon realizes that he will do everything he can to make her life whole again. His sister’s will gives him the instructions: There’s no other choice but you. Just start by loving her. The rest will follow.

SOMETIMES, IT TAKES A LITTLE MAGIC…
Maggie Collins doesn’t dare believe in love again, after losing her husband of one year. But she does believe in the magic of imagination. As the owner of a toy shop, she lives what she loves. And when she meets Holly Nolan, she sees a little girl in desperate need of a little magic.

…TO MAKE DREAMS COME TRUE
Three lonely people. Three lives at the crossroads. Three people who are about to discover that Christmas is the time of year when anything is possible, and when wishes have a way of finding the path home…

When six-year-old Holly’s mother dies in a car accident, her Uncle Mark is named her guardian. Holly is devastated and hasn’t spoken in the six months that she’s lived with him. To top it off, Mark just found Holly’s letter to Santa where she was asking for a new mommy. Wandering the local shops in town, the two go into a toy store where the store owner Maggie gets Holly to finally come out of the shell she’s created around herself which sets in motion an attraction between Mark and Maggie.

The story felt incredibly rushed with only 224 pages and extremely large font but it was nonetheless still a quick and entertaining Christmas read. I would have loved for the story to have more detail and back-story and I especially wanted more build-up as far as the romance went though. The connection between Mark and Maggie was instantaneous which wouldn’t have been as problematic if Mark wasn’t already involved in someone. I would have been able to enjoy this short and sweet tale if we weren’t dealing with the dramatic aspects of the love triangle. Having Mark be a single guy connecting with a very motherly character would have sufficed.

Christmas Eve at Friday Harbor reads much like a story that should be included in a Christmas anthology but it’s the start of Kleypas’ ‘Friday Harbor’ series. I enjoyed it enough to continue the series but hope those future installments are further fleshed out. Definitely, a worthy Christmas read for those looking for a sentimental albeit predictable story to get quickly absorbed in. (And there’s also a Lifetime movie adaptation of this to check out!)

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Book Review – Deeper Than the Dead (Oak Knoll, #1) by Tami Hoag

December 21, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 0 Comments

Book Review – Deeper Than the Dead (Oak Knoll, #1) by Tami HoagDeeper Than the Dead by Tami Hoag
Series: Oak Knoll #1
Published by Dutton Adult on December 29th 2009
Pages: 421
Genres: Detective, Mystery-Contemporary, Thriller
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Down the Darkest Road

three-stars

The #1 New York Times bestselling author joins the Dutton list with the thriller her millions of fans have been awaiting for two years.

Tami Hoag is in a class by herself, beloved by readers and critic s alike, with more than 22 million copies of her books in print.
California, 1984. Three children, running in the woods behind their school, stumble upon a partially buried female body, eyes and mouth glued shut. Close behind the children is their teacher, Anne Navarre, shocked by this discovery and heartbroken as she witnesses the end of their innocence. What she doesn't yet realize is that this will mark the end of innocence for an entire community, as the ties that bind families and friends are tested by secrets uncovered in the wake of a serial killer's escalating activity.

Detective Tony Mendez, fresh from a law enforcement course at FBI headquarters, is charged with interpreting those now revealed secrets. He's using a new technique-profiling-to develop a theory of the case, a strategy that pushes him ever deeper into the lives of the three children, and closer to the young teacher whose interest in recent events becomes as intense as his own.

As new victims are found and the media scrutiny of the investigation bears down on them, both Mendez and Navarre are unsure if those who suffer most are the victims themselves-or the family and friends of the killer, blissfully unaware that someone very close to them is a brutal, calculating psychopath.

The body of a woman with her eyes and mouth glued shut are discovered in the woods by three school children on their way home from school. Discovering the woman’s body is only the beginning of how they become entangled in this mystery in a small town.

This was my first Tami Hoag book. I’ve been seeing her books everywhere for years and have been meaning to get around to it. My coworker actually brought me her copy from home and let me borrow it so it gave me the extra shove I needed to finally get on it.

One thing to note about ‘Deeper than the Dead’ is that it’s set in 1985. I must have glanced over these previous information, if it had been mentioned earlier, but not until I read a part where they were talking about an individual having a car phone and calling it an extravagant toy.

”But I doubt he and his cronies are playing cards in his car, and why would he lug that phone into his card game with him? You have to carry the damn things around in a suitcase.”

I need to get me one of those.

What I found most interesting about this murder mystery is the fact that there were three very prominent suspects that were regular members of society. I find that typical serial killer novels I’ve read are always lurking in the background and aren’t out standing in the spot light. I first liked that there were SO many suspects so that it wasn’t quite so obvious, but as the story progressed not only did I know exactly who it was but the intense focus that was placed on the other ‘suspects’ made it seem cheesy and a bit annoying after a while. I’m big on the murder mysteries but this one definitely wasn’t my favorite. I’ve got more of Tami Hoag’s books that I’ll be diving into in the future, I just hope that she spices things up a bit more.

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Book Review – Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie & Bob Mayer

December 1, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 0 Comments

Book Review – Agnes and the Hitman by Jennifer Crusie & Bob MayerAgnes and the Hitman by Bob Mayer, Jennifer Crusie
Published by St. Martin's Press on August 26, 2008
Pages: 430
Genres: Chick-Lit, Funny-ha-ha, Mystery, Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Gifted
Amazon
Goodreads


five-stars

Take one food writer named Cranky Agnes, add a hitman named Shane, mix them together with a Southern mob wedding, a missing necklace, two annoyed flamingos, and a dog named Rhett and you've got a recipe for a sexy, hilarious novel about the disastrous side of true love…

Agnes Crandall's life goes awry when a dognapper invades her kitchen one night, seriously hampering her attempts to put on a wedding that she's staked her entire net worth on. Then a hero climbs through her bedroom window. His name is Shane, no last name, just Shane, and he has his own problems: he's got a big hit scheduled, a rival trying to take him out, and an ex-mobster uncle asking him to protect some little kid named Agnes. When he finds out that Agnes isn't so little, his uncle has forgotten to mention a missing five million bucks he might have lost in Agnes's house, and his last hit was a miss, Shane's life isn't looking so good, either. Then a bunch of lowlifes come looking for the money, a string of hit men show up for Agnes, and some wedding guests gather with intent to throw more than rice. Agnes and Shane have their hands full with greed, florists, treachery, flamingos, mayhem, mothers of the bride, and--most dangerous of all--each other. Agnes and the Hitman is the perfect combination of sugar and spice, sweet and salty--a novel of delicious proportions.

The Storyline
Agnes is not your normal chick-lit heroine. The fact that she’s known as ‘Cranky Agnes’ could give you an idea. The fact that she’s used a frying pan in more ways than just cooking (I’ll give you a hint, one guy now has a metal plate in his head) could also give you another idea. There’s also an incident with a meat fork but I won’t spoil the fun for you. Or maybe it’s the mental conversations she has with her therapist.

”Fuck you,” Agnes said, bent over the edge of the cake.
Angry language, Agnes.
Fuck you, too, Dr. Garvin.

I think it’s a combination of everything, actually.

Agnes leads a quiet, simple, life as a food writer engaged to a quiet, simple man named Taylor. Her quiet, simple life takes a sharp 180° the day that she’s held at gunpoint for her dog. Yes, she’s held at gunpoint because they’re trying to steal her dog. Her life is soon thrown into even more upheaval when a hitman, Shane, is sent to protect her. People keep coming after Agnes, trying to steal her dog, trying to kill her, but who’s sending them? What follows is a rollercoaster ride that’s entirely way too much fun.

“Somebody might be coming to the house who might be dangerous.”
“Really?” Agnes said. “Because that almost never happens here. With advance notice. Should I get my frying pan?”

Final Thoughts
Agnes is going down as one of my favorite book characters of all time, definitely. She’s a single girl, who loves to cook for her friends, she’s preparing to hold a wedding at her house, and she’s a food writer… I mean, at face value she’s just a normal girl. Agnes cannot be taken at face value and that’s what I loved most, the fact that I was completely surprised at how crazy and lovable she was all at the same time.

This book was downright hilarious, was extremely enjoyable, the characters were all amazing (I especially loved Shane), and… why exactly have I never read anything by this author before? Will definitely be correcting this, pronto.

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Book Review – Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory

October 9, 2011 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2011, YA 1 Comment

Book Review – Raising Stony Mayhall by Daryl GregoryRaising Stony Mayhall by Daryl Gregory
Published by Del Rey on June 28, 2011
Pages: 449
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Horror
Format: eBook
Source: Gifted
Amazon
Goodreads


three-stars

In 1968, after the first zombie outbreak, Wanda Mayhall and her three young daughters discover the body of a teenage mother during a snowstorm. Wrapped in the woman’s arms is a baby, stone-cold, not breathing, and without a pulse. But then his eyes open and look up at Wanda — and he begins to move.

The family hides the child — whom they name Stony — rather than turn him over to authorities that would destroy him. Against all scientific reason, the undead boy begins to grow. For years his adoptive mother and sisters manage to keep his existence a secret — until one terrifying night when Stony is forced to run and he learns that he is not the only living dead boy left in the world.

In Part I, the Mayhall family find a woman long dead on the side of the road with a baby wrapped up inside her coat. Shortly after, Wanda Mayhall realizes what he really is, yet decides that they are going to keep him anyways and hide him from the world. We watch Stony change and literally grow from a baby into a young man just as any normal living human being does. We watch him become an integral part of the Mayhall family and develop into his own unique person. This was my favorite part of the novel.

Following Part I, which I was absolutely in love with, there was a major shift in the story and I wasn’t exactly on board with it. It became overly political, it became slightly philosophical, and I realize in retrospect that this was the world that the author was creating but it wasn’t exactly how I thought the story was going to go (or how I would have preferred it to go). I did enjoy the scientific aspects of the story and how the Living Dead were researching to find out what made them the way they are and what made it possible.

’Here was Thomas’s blood before he died, six hours after the bite: perfectly normal. And here was Thomas’s blood after he passed, at the 6:12 mark: dark, viscous, waxy. The transformation had occurred between observations, like the state change in a quantum particle. Like death itself.’

Many parts of this book required a certain amount of imagination. The idea behind the zombies in this book was that “Consciousness was the key.” At one point Stony explains how he once removed one of his toes and yet it still failed to decompose even though it was completely separated from his body. Once the toe was finally off his mind and he had failed to continue checking on it and thinking about it, only then did it finally start rotting and decomposing. I found this to be quite an interesting concept yet extremely hard to understand. Was that the only thing that kept these zombies ‘alive’? That if they had stopped thinking about themselves as a living dead person would they simply cease to exist?

’Where one dead thing ended and another began was largely a problem of perception and definition.’

I was overall disappointed with this book; however, I think that was largely because I was expecting something different entirely. I thought the storyline with the LD ‘governments’ and the plans being hatched by them was pretty strange and largely unbelievable. I had a hard time understanding where all the money came from… how one person could be the sole benefactor of so many. Also, the ending was inevitable but a bit too anticlimactic I thought. I loved Stony in the beginning but I was pretty disappointed at how the rest of the story unfolded.

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