Source: Library

Book Review – The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4) by Maggie Stiefvater

Posted June 9, 2016 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2016, YA / 1 Comment

Book Review – The Raven King (The Raven Cycle #4) by Maggie StiefvaterThe Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #4
Published by Scholastic Press on April 26th 2016
Pages: 448
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Shiver, Forever, The Raven Boys


The fourth and final installment in the spellbinding series from the irrepressible, #1 New York Times bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater.

All her life, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love's death. She doesn't believe in true love and never thought this would be a problem, but as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she's not so sure anymore.

In a starred review for Blue Lily, Lily Blue, Kirkus Reviews declared: "Expect this truly one-of-a-kind series to come to a thundering close."

The Raven Cycle series

The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1) [PurchaseReview]
The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2) [PurchaseReview]
Blue Lily, Lily Blue (The Raven Cycle, #3) [PurchaseReview]

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 “He was a book, and he was holding his final pages, and he wanted to get to the end to find out how it went, and he didn’t want it to be over.”

We finally come to the end of the Cycle, whether we like it or not. The search for Glendower, for the lost King buried somewhere along the ley line in Virginia, comes to an end. Gansey has been searching for Glendower since he was stung to death by hornets and was miraculously brought back. “You will live because of Glendower. Someone else on the ley line is dying when they should not, and so you will live when you should not.” They are the words that have haunted him and kept up his mysterious search even when it seemed that all hope was lost. But he’s not the only one on this strenuous journey: Ronan, the dream thief, Adam, who gave his free will to Cabeswater, and Blue, who saw Gansey’s ghost before she even knew who he was and knew that he’s either Blue’s true love or she’s the one that kills him.

“What a strange constellation they all were.”

I’ve always praised this series for its fascinating way of blending magical with the contemporary and making it something anyone could believe in. Somewhere in the middle of The Raven King though, the magical hold these stories had on me died. That carefully created magic suddenly became frenzied and befuddling, leaving me grasping at straws to understand it, meanwhile watching as the story left me in its dust. The other magical aspect of this novel though is the vast amount of characters and how incredibly well developed each and every one of them are. The stories had always been centered around finding the lost King, waking him, and having him grant them a single wish. Slowly, as time progressed the friends began to realize that while they were still on an active search for Glendower, they no longer needed his aid because they had each other and they were more powerful together than they had ever realized before.

“This was where they were now: Nightmares were real. There was no difference between dreams and reality when they stood here in Cabeswater together.”

And as far as the romances, what an accomplished example of true friendship and romance going hand in hand. One never overpowered the other; they existed together in perfect harmony. Blue and Gansey. I adored reading about the short time on page that they did spend together in each others company. They nestled together like two puzzle pieces. Ronan and Adam. While these two didn’t come as a great surprise, it was still a delight to see it come to fruition. While Ronan has always kept his feelings under-wrap, I felt it essentially dulled the spark that I wanted to feel between them. That powerful realization of when they both recognize where their friendship has come to felt subdued and I wanted so much more for those two.

When Maggie Stiefvater started this series, The Raven Boys set the scene for powerful things to come. Magical things. And while the magic continued to linger, all of the predictions that were made and the expectations that were set all seemed to become entangled and left without any satisfactory explanation. I felt it was anti-climactic and made everything that came before inconsequential. These friends endured loss and suffered greatly in their adventures to discover Glendower and the buoyant tone the ending set felt almost contradictory to what the other novels established. The fervor and seriousness of the first installments set expectations for the ending which ended up vastly contrasting from what was given. I liked the impression left, that the friends’ journey wasn’t over and that many adventures were still to come, but it was hard to truly appreciate it when my mind was still wrapped up in how their previous adventures had “ended”. Add to that was the lack of closure for several other characters: Blue’s father, Gwenllian, the Grey Man and Maura, and Noah. Noah played such a vital part in this story yet he not only wasn’t given a mention of an ending but I expected the group to at least have some momentary thought for his sudden absence in their lives after so much time. Even Adam’s unworthy parents were given a semblance of an ending and that was wholly unnecessary.

My issues and my praises for this novel stack up pretty evenly in the end. I can only imagine how difficult it is to write such a sprawling story with so many highly-developed characters only to have to find some adequate way of bringing their stories to an end. Stiefvater sets this story up with the expectation of extraordinary magic only to have it taper off into something less extraordinary by the end. The Raven Cycle is a highly imaginative tale that showcases Stiefvater’s impressive abilities of bringing any character to life. Despite it all, I’m still sad to have to say goodbye.



Audiobook Review – Different Seasons by Stephen King

Posted June 3, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 1 Comment

Audiobook Review – Different Seasons by Stephen KingDifferent Seasons by Stephen King
Narrator: Frank Muller
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on August 27th 1982
Length: 19 hours and 49 minutes
Genres: Horror
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Doctor Sleep, Cujo, Pet Sematary


A “hypnotic” (The New York Times Book Review) collection of four novellas from Stephen King bound together by the changing of seasons, each taking on the theme of a journey with strikingly different tones and characters.

“The wondrous readability of his work, as well as the instant sense of communication with his characters, are what make Stephen King the consummate storyteller that he is,” hailed the Houston Chronicle about Different Seasons.

This gripping collection begins with “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption,” in which an unjustly imprisoned convict seeks a strange and startling revenge—the basis for the Best Picture Academy Award-nominee The Shawshank Redemption. Next is “Apt Pupil,” the inspiration for the film of the same name about top high school student Todd Bowden and his obsession with the dark and deadly past of an older man in town. In “The Body,” four rambunctious young boys plunge through the façade of a small town and come face-to-face with life, death, and intimations of their own mortality. This novella became the movie Stand By Me. Finally, a disgraced woman is determined to triumph over death in “The Breathing Method.”

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Different Seasons was King’s first Short Story publication which came out in the summer of 1982. In his Afterword, King gives us a brief glimpse into how this collection came about even though he originally never intended them to be published. All were written following the completion of a novel: The Body was written after Salem’s Lot, Apt Pupil was written after The Shining and he said he didn’t write again after that for 3 months, Shawshank Redemption was written after The Dead Zone, and The Breathing Method was written after Firestarter. Each story is clearly different than anything King had put out at that point, and it was just as his editor at the time feared. “First the telekinetic girl, then vampires, now the haunted hotel and the telepathic kid. You’re gonna get typed.” Typed as in, “horror writer”. It’s funny to think at this point in Stephen King’s career that he not only worried about being typed as nothing but a horror writer, but that he worried he wouldn’t be able to make a living writing horror. All four of these stories are between 25,000 and 35,000 words which is what King refers to as “a really terrible place, an anarchy-ridden literary banana republic called the ‘novella'”. Since these novellas weren’t his typical horror and were considered more mainstream, they weren’t exactly marketable, yet somehow King still managed to make it happen.

Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption (Hope Springs Eternal) tells the story of Andy Dufresne, a banker who in 1948 is wrongly convicted of killing his wife and her lover. It’s narrated by “Red” Ellis who is also in prison for life for killing his wife, except he wasn’t wrongly convicted. As the years pass, Andy’s story is relayed and despite everything he’s forced to suffer through, his resilience means his spirit won’t break. It’s a hopeful and unforgettable tale of perseverance that is most admirable, just as Kings subtitle suggests. This was by far my favorite of this series.

Apt Pupil (Summer of Corruption) is the story of thirteen-year-old Todd Bowden who, after becoming fixated on the horrifying details of World War II, discovers that his neighbor is fugitive Nazi war criminal who’s real name is Kurt Dussander. Todd forces him to divulge the stories of his involvement which subsequently drives them both mad from the horrors. The slowly spiraling mental state of both characters is truly terrifying to watch unfold. Who said there isn’t real horror in reality?

The Body (Fall From Innocence) recalls the events of a childhood adventure where a group of boys set out to see a dead body. Fall From Innocence is a fitting depiction for the transformation that these boys underwent by taking this journey, starting out simply innocent and curious. “He was a boy our age, he was dead, and I rejected the idea that anything about it could be natural; I pushed it away with horror.” It was a jarring realization of their own mortality and the loss of their adolescence. This was the most compelling tale of the collection that went beyond entertainment with its resonance of truth.

The Breathing Method (A Winter’s Tale) is certainly the closest to horror that King gets in this collection. Within the darkened walls of a private Manhattan club, ghost stories are told at Christmas. Sandra Stansfield is single and pregnant in the 1930s, yet despite the public snubs she receives, she’s determined to have the child no matter what. Her doctor, Dr. McCarron, teaches her what is now known as Lamaze even though it was frowned upon during that time period, and is what leads to the apex of this horrifying tale and completion of this collection.

Even though this collection of stories weren’t my favorite of King, I appreciated them for what they meant to show: another side to a typed horror author. While these weren’t true horror, elements of horror still manage to crop up in one-way shape or form in all of his tales, and that’s okay. King leaves us with a final note:

“I hope that you liked them, Reader; that they did for you what any good story should do—make you forget the real stuff weighing on your mind for a little while and take you away to a place you’ve never been. It’s the most amiable sort of magic I know.”

 They did, Mr. King. They definitely did.



Audiobook Review – Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria Aveyard

Posted June 2, 2016 by Bonnie in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016, YA / 1 Comment

Audiobook Review – Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria AveyardRed Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Narrator: Amanda Dolan
Series: Red Queen #1
Published by Harper Audio on February 10th 2015
Length: 12 hours and 40 minutes
Genres: Fantasy, Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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Mare Barrow's world is divided by blood—those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but when her best friend is conscripted into the army she gambles everything to win his freedom. A twist of fate leads her to the royal palace itself, where, in front of the king and all his nobles, she discovers a power of her own—an ability she didn't know she had. Except . . . her blood is Red.

To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks her new position to aid the Scarlet Guard—the leaders of a Red rebellion. Her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince—and Mare against her own heart.

From debut author Victoria Aveyard comes a lush, vivid fantasy series where loyalty and desire can tear you apart and the only certainty is betrayal.

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“Many things led to this day, for all of us. A forgotten son, a vengeful mother, a brother with a long shadow, a strange mutation. Together, they’ve written a tragedy.”

In Victoria Aveyard’s dystopian fantasy, the world encompasses two different types of people: Silvers and Reds. The Silvers are royalty, the rulers, maintaining their authority with the aid of the supernatural powers they possess. Reds are the working class and are treated poorly by Silvers, possessing no powers of their own to fight back. This split between people has always been this way, until a Red discovers that she possesses the powers of a Silver.

Mare Barrow, age 17 and a Red, knows her freedom is coming to an end soon. At the age of 18, she’ll be conscripted to fight in the war against the Kingdom of Lakeland because she doesn’t possess any useful talents to keep her home. She’s been resigned to her fate, however, when she discovers her best friend Kilorn will be conscripted as well, she becomes determined to find a way for the two of them to escape knowing he wouldn’t survive a war. She plans to use the skills she does possess, thievery, to obtain enough money to buy their freedom but the plan goes awry when she pickpockets, and is caught except miraculously the boy allows her to escape and gets her a job at the palace instead. It’s revealed that she possesses powers that even she wasn’t aware of, and she becomes a powerful pawn between the Silvers and the Scarlet Guard, the leaders of the Red rebellion.

The first half of this book introduces us to the life of a Red, and it’s bleak. The Silvers are painted as brutal tyrants that punish Reds for the smallest of crimes, where food is scarce, and poverty is the norm. The majority have accepted their lot in life, not being able to see any way of overcoming the Silvers. The Scarlet Guard is the heart of the rebellion against the Silvers, and its their help Mare seeks in escaping her and Kilorn’s conscription into war. The world itself isn’t described much outside of Mare’s small village, and while this may be due to the fact that the story was told from her point of view and her view is certainly limited, it would have been nice to be given some semblance of a backstory. All in all, it was still enjoyable and mildly entertaining, at least until the lovey bits were introduced.

Tropes and cliches were fairly common, yet like I previously mentioned it still managed to be an entertaining and far from painful read. Yes, there is a love triangle. Yes, there is also a fair amount of insta-love. No, it didn’t make me want to stab myself in the eye so there’s that at least. There’s the requisite special snowflake that becomes a catalyst for change. There’s constant lies and deceit and basically no one can be trusted. There was also a large amount of unlikely scenarios that required a suspension of disbelief. If you’re a fan of fantasy and capable of not taking a story too seriously, this is quite the entertaining read.

I’m always leery these days when books come with all the comparisons, and especially when those comparisons have been attached to an ample amount of books already. X-Men, Game of Thrones, Red Rising, Hunger Games, Divergent, etc. And sure, I can see the comparisons, but it never became such an obvious rip-off to completely turn me off from this story. All books are inspired by something, it just depends on the way each author spins it to make it unique and their own. Aveyard may not have completely dazzled me with her debut, however, she aroused my curiosity enough especially with the unexpected ending to continue following this story.

“Rise, red as the dawn.”



Book Review – Sandman Slim (Sandman Slim #1) by Richard Kadrey

Posted May 5, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 1 Comment

Book Review – Sandman Slim (Sandman Slim #1) by Richard KadreySandman Slim by Richard Kadrey
Series: Sandman Slim #1
Published by Harper Voyager on January 8th 2010
Pages: 416
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Dead Set, The Everything Box, The Wrong Dead Guy


Supernatural fantasy has a new antihero in Sandman Slim, star of this gripping, gritty new series by Richard Kadrey.

Life sucks and then you die. Or, if you’re James Stark, you spend eleven years in Hell as a hitman before finally escaping, only to land back in the hell-on-earth that is Los Angeles.

Now Stark’s back, and ready for revenge. And absolution, and maybe even love. But when his first stop saddles him with an abusive talking head, Stark discovers that the road to absolution and revenge is much longer than you’d expect, and both Heaven and Hell have their own ideas for his future.

Resurrection sucks. Saving the world is worse.

Darkly twisted, irreverent, and completely hilarious, Sandman Slim is the breakthrough novel by an acclaimed author.

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“So why’d you come back?”
“I’m going to kill some people,” I tell him. I pour the Jack into the coffee. “Probably a lot of people.”

James Stark is back on Earth after eleven years spent down in Hell, “Downtown” as he refers to it, fighting demons in the pits. He didn’t die to end up in Hell though, his magical group of friends sent him down in exchange for power. They also killed his girlfriend, Alice, the only person he’d ever found that loved and accepted him for who he was, so now he’s back in L.A. for some good old fashioned revenge.

Upon his return, he doesn’t actually realize eleven years has passed and that he’s no longer a 19 year old kid. Time flows differently Downtown. He does manage to bring back a few helpful items to ensure his survival: new Hellion magic to add to the magic he already knew, a magic knife that can not only cut through anything but also quite handily starts cars, a Veritas coin that will answer snarkily any questions posed to it, and a magic key he keeps safely inside his chest (yep, you read that right, inside) which allows him to slip into shadows and appear anywhere he desires. He’s fairly impossible to kill too which certainly helps. Stark is dead set on his revenge, but along the way he gets ensnared in the building evil on Earth which involves some asshole angels, a new sort of beast he didn’t even know existed, neo-Nazis, and even Homeland Security. Suffice it to say, he’s found himself in some shit.

“I’m not rich, but I know I’ll never starve because I can order a burrito and make the counter person think I’ve already paid.”
“Aim high, dude.”

And that’s the best part about Stark: his sense of humor. I adore a great story that is rife with violence and evil and all the wonderful things that go along with that but can still manage to sustain a sense of humor through it all. Stark’s life can admittedly be defined as shitty (eleven years spent in Hell can only be described as such), however, his snide cynicism adds a certain amount of wittiness that makes this damn near perfect. Sandman Slim has often been compared to Harry Butcher of The Dresden Files and while I can certainly see the similarities (male magician, hunting bad guys, solving mysteries, etc.) Stark is an infinitely more compelling character in my most humble opinion. Sure, these books are quite a bit more violent but the violence and the humor go hand in hand. Perfect example: within the very first few pages he’s cut the head off someone but still kept them alive and sat their head on a shelf forcing them to watch infomercials all day.

Bottom line, I really have no excuse for why it took me SO long to read these. They are suited perfectly for me and should be at the top of any Urban Fantasy lovers list. Sandman Slim is the start of a series which is followed by Kill the Dead. The eighth installment, The Perdition Score, is out this June so I have plenty of catching up to do. I can’t wait to dive back into the gritty streets of L.A.

‘There’s only one problem with L.A.
It exists.
L.A. is what happens when a bunch of Lovecraftian elder gods and porn starlets spend a weekend locked up in the Chateau Marmont snorting lines of crank off Jim Morrison’s bones. If the Viagra and illegal Traci Lords videos don’t get you going, then the Japanese tentacle porn will.’



Audiobook Review – The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins

Posted March 17, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 4 Comments

Audiobook Review – The Girl on the Train by Paula HawkinsThe Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins
Narrator: Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, India Fisher
Published by Penguin Audio on January 13th 2015
Length: 10 hours and 59 minutes
Genres: Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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A debut psychological thriller that will forever change the way you look at other people’s lives.

Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. “Jess and Jason,” she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost.

And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good?

Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

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“They’re what I lost, they’re everything I want to be.”

Rachel Watson takes the train each day to London and each day she is reminded of her failed marriage. The train rides past her old house she shared with her ex-husband Tom, where him and his new wife Anna live with their new baby. A few doors door from her old house are a couple that Rachel has developed a mild fascination with, whom she names Jess and Jason. They’re the type of couple that her and Tom never were, seemingly perfect; at least they appear that way from the window of the train. Until the day that Rachel witnesses something that changes her whole perception of them and subsequently plunges her into a dreadful mystery.

“There’s something comforting about the sight of strangers safe at home.”

If you’re like me, you tend to stay far from the massively hyped stuff, or at least you put it on the back burner until it has died down a bit. The Girl on the Train came out early last year and in the aftermath has become the go-to comparison (in addition to Gone Girl) for any and all mystery novels being released these days. But honestly? This was superb. There’s nothing I love more than a book with an unreliable narrator and this story has three. Rachel is the bitter ex-wife with a nasty drinking problem who is prone to blacking out and having zero recollection of anything that occurred. Anna is the new wife and is blinded by her hatred of Rachel for her constant interference in her and Tom’s life. Megan is the unhappy housewife who is shrouded completely by her mysterious past. This story is far from your typical family drama mystery and is chock full of secret after secret that constantly kept me guessing.

“I am no longer just a girl on the train, going back and forth without point or purpose.”

The Girl on the Train is at first slightly complex and perplexing, however, once it gets its hooks in you the intriguing mystery possesses a palpable sense of dread that will keep you riveted until the shocking end.



Book Review – Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels #7) by Ilona Andrews

Posted February 4, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 2 Comments

Book Review – Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels #7) by Ilona AndrewsMagic Breaks by Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels #7
Published by Ace on July 29th 2014
Pages: 418
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Magic Bites, Magic Rises, Burn for Me


No matter how much the paranormal politics of Atlanta change, one thing always remains the same: if there’s trouble, Kate Daniels will be in the middle of it…

As the mate of the Beast Lord, Curran, former mercenary Kate Daniels has more responsibilities than it seems possible to juggle. Not only is she still struggling to keep her investigative business afloat, she must now deal with the affairs of the pack, including preparing her people for attack from Roland, a cruel ancient being with god-like powers. Since Kate’s connection to Roland has come out into the open, no one is safe—especially those closest to Kate.

As Roland’s long shadow looms ever nearer, Kate is called to attend the Conclave, a gathering of the leaders from the various supernatural factions in Atlanta. When one of the Masters of the Dead is found murdered there, apparently at the hands of a shapeshifter, Kate is given only twenty-four hours to hunt down the killer. And this time, if she fails, she’ll find herself embroiled in a war which could destroy everything she holds dear…

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‘There is a storm gathering on our horizon. We will make a stand, but I wonder if it will matter in the end.’

In the world of Kate Daniels, the return of magic has left technology an unreliable resource in a dangerous world where vampires, werewolves, witches, and other paranormal beasties roam. Kate Daniels has always been able to hold her own, however, a being more powerful than her has just learned of her existence and he’s coming for her: her father, Roland. When Curran is forced to leave the Keep for a diplomatic trip, Kate is left in charge and struggles to not only maintain control but to keep everyone around her safe from the warpath Roland is on to get to her.

I positively adored the first five installments in this series, which I read pretty much read back to back, all to end up being massively disappointed with the sixth installment in 2013. There was a bunch of unnecessary drama that seemed so out of character for those that I’ve come to know and love and there’s nothing I love less than unnecessary drama. It was still an entertaining installment but enough to make me go on a Kate Daniels hiatus. I’ve been trying to catch up on some series and I’m on a major Urban Fantasy kick lately so I took the plunge and while I felt this was far better than Magic Rises (because no unnecessary drama), it still amounted to nothing but filler for me. But damn was it full of action and full of some of the best side characters that I sure hope get a bigger share of the spotlight in future installments (I’m looking at you Desandra). We might have been short Curran for the most part, but Kate, Desandra, Derek, and Ascanio were one hilarious bunch when you threw them all together.

Desandra shrugged her shoulders. “Hey, Kate? Have you thought of walking up to Hugh and telling him that he’s got the biggest dick ever?” She spread her arms to the size of a baseball bat.
“No, you think it would work?” I asked.
“It’s worth a try. May be he’ll be so happy you noticed his pork sword, he’ll forget all about trying to kill us.”
Pork sword. Kill me now. “I’ll think about it.”
Ascanio began patting his clothes.
“What?” Derek growled.
“Looking for something to take notes with.”

Can’t forget to mention Cuddles either.

“What the hell is this?” Desandra asked
“This is Cuddles. She’s a mammoth donkey.”
Derek grinned, leaning on the fence. “Do you have any self-respect left?”

So while this group is trying to survive vampires, Hugh, and even a random Wendigo, they were still such fun to read about. For the most part, this installment just felt like a bunch of strategical maneuvering to get everything in its proper place and while I understand the ultimate importance of it, it felt far more long and drawn out than should have been necessary. We get more info into Kate’s lineage that only makes you wonder just what she is capable of with the proper teachings. I don’t think I’ll be staying away from Kate Daniels anymore because it was damn good to be back.



Audiobook Review – Where All Light Tends to Go by David Joy

Posted January 21, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 2 Comments

Audiobook Review – Where All Light Tends to Go by David JoyWhere All Light Tends to Go by David Joy
Narrator: MacLeod Andrews
Published by Books on Tape on March 4th 2015
Length: 7 hours and 30 minutes
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Also by this author: The Weight of This World, The Line That Held Us


The area surrounding Cashiers, North Carolina, is home to people of all kinds, but the world that Jacob McNeely lives in is crueler than most. His father runs a methodically organized meth ring, with local authorities on the dime to turn a blind eye to his dealings. Having dropped out of high school and cut himself off from his peers, Jacob has been working for this father for years, all on the promise that his payday will come eventually. The only joy he finds comes from reuniting with Maggie, his first love, and a girl clearly bound for bigger and better things than their hardscrabble town.

Jacob has always been resigned to play the cards that were dealt him, but when he botches a murder and sets off a trail of escalating violence, he’s faced with a choice: stay and appease his kingpin father, or leave the mountains with the girl he loves. In a place where blood is thicker than water and hope takes a back seat to fate, Jacob wonders if he can muster the strength to rise above the only life he’s ever known.

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‘It was a silly thought to think that the life I was born into was something that could be so easily left behind. Some were destined for bigger things, far-off places, and such. But some of us were glued to this place and would live out what little bit of life we were given until we were just another body buried on uneven ground.’

Jacob McNeely is eighteen years old and has little to no hope for his future; he’s a McNeely after all. His mother is a meth addict and his father is the leader of the Cashiers, North Carolina meth ring with Jacob stuck between the middle of them. His daddy sends him and two others on a task to dispose of a snitch before he does further damage but everything goes wrong and sets in motion inescapable trouble. When Jacob’s only love Maggie asks him to leave with her, to finally leave that place behind, he has a brief moment of hope where he can almost see himself surviving outside of Cashiers. Actually making it happen is another matter entirely.

Ahh, another one of my “back woods” books. Appalachians. Trailers. Meth rings. And let’s not forget the typical abundance of bloodshed. There is something about these stories that manage to completely captivate me, don’t ask me why or how. Light has been on my TBR for ages but it wasn’t until Audible called this audio narration one of the best of 2015 did I finally pick it up. MacLeod Andrews narration is fantastic and I completely agree with Audible (listen below to a clip.) While I’m definitely impressed that this is the authors debut novel, there was something slightly absent from this and I’ve determined that it was ultimately the characterizations. Jacob was a well-written complex character that hovered on the fence that separated good and evil the entire story. His “daddy” was straight up violent with no redeeming characteristics whatsoever, which isn’t always a bad thing, but I would have appreciated some complexity with him as well. Maggie’s purpose was to be the shining beacon of hope, the good girl that turns Jacob away from a life of crime, but that’s all she really was… a purpose. Her character wasn’t built up at all, relying on her and Jacob’s past which we were never even shown in walks down memory lane. If it had gone on for too much longer I would be tempted to say it took the path of cliché, however, Joy pulled out the punches with an explosive ending that was bold and audacious and left me most impressed.

“Looks like there might be a little of that McNeely blood in you after all.”
That’s what I was scared of.

Where All Light Tends to Go is about being born into a situation, a lifestyle, and the realization that circumstance is one difficult obstacle to surmount. Jacob McNeely may be a McNeely, but his strength and determination to earn a life beyond his family legacy is admirable. David Joy is one to add to the list of Southern Gothic authors to read when you’re looking for a wild time in the Appalachians.



Audiobook Review – Heartburn by Nora Ephron

Posted January 8, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 11 Comments

Audiobook Review – Heartburn by Nora EphronHeartburn by Nora Ephron
Narrator: Meryl Streep
Published by Random House Audio on March 12th 1983
Length: 5 hours and 30 minutes
Genres: Chick-Lit, Funny-ha-ha
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections


Is it possible to write a sidesplitting novel about the breakup of the perfect marriage? If the writer is Nora Ephron, the answer is a resounding yes. For in this inspired confection of adultery, revenge, group therapy, and pot roast, the creator of Sleepless in Seattle reminds us that comedy depends on anguish as surely as a proper gravy depends on flour and butter.

Seven months into her pregnancy, Rachel Samstat discovers that her husband, Mark, is in love with another woman. The fact that the other woman has "a neck as long as an arm and a nose as long as a thumb and you should see her legs" is no consolation. Food sometimes is, though, since Rachel writes cookbooks for a living. And in between trying to win Mark back and loudly wishing him dead, Ephron's irrepressible heroine offers some of her favorite recipes. Heartburn is a sinfully delicious novel, as soul-satisfying as mashed potatoes and as airy as a perfect soufflé.

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‘I think I was so entranced with being a couple that I didn’t even notice that the person I thought I was a couple with thought he was a couple with someone else.’

Heartburn is Nora Ephron’s first and only novel, and this breaks my heart because I adored this story. Never did I think it so thoroughly possible to take a story about heartbreak and turn it into something so full of life and jest. Heartbreak is a devastating thing that we humans are forced to suffer through, but can you even imagine having to undergo it at 38 years old and 7 months pregnant? Rachel discovers a note from her husbands lover in a book of children’s songs, suggesting that he sing them to his son. Him and Rachel’s son. Written with such stunning clarity, it’s effortless to understand the rage (and embarrassment) that Rachel felt. But being pregnant and having a toddler left her with a precarious decision on whether to stay or go.

‘Maybe he’s missed me, I thought as we came around the corner. Maybe he’s come to his sense. Maybe he’s remembered he loves me. Maybe he’s full of remorse. There was a police car parked in front of the house. Maybe he’s dead, I thought. That wouldn’t solve everything, but it would solve a few things. He wasn’t, of course. They never are. When you want them to die, they never do.’

Rachel Samstat has such a wry and cynical sense of humor (the best type of humor) that manages to never tread into bitterness. I’m not sure if it’s because Meryl Streep herself played Rachel in the 1986 movie adaptation of Heartburn but she voiced Rachel impeccably (do yourself a favor and listen to the clip below). I spent half the time listening to this story laughing uproariously with tears in my eyes. She portrayed a perfect combination of indifference and restraint while handling a tough situation but opening up the dam of emotions when absolutely necessary. It encompassed everything about true heartbreak and just how calamitous it can be, but galvanizing as well. Infused within her tale of heartbreak are comfort food recipes such as Sour Cream Peach Pie, plain ol’ mashed potatoes, and of course Key Lime Pie; perfect for consuming or weaponizing, if ever the situation calls for it.



Audiobook Review – Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Posted January 7, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 1 Comment

Audiobook Review – Go Set a Watchman by Harper LeeGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Narrator: Reese Witherspoon
Series: To Kill a Mockingbird
Published by Harper Audio on July 14th 2015
Length: 6 hours and 57 minutes
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: To Kill a Mockingbird


From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch--"Scout"--returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise's homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past--a journey that can be guided only by one's conscience.

Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor and effortless precision--a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to an American classic.

To Kill a Mockingbird series


To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee [Review]

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This book will be discussed in detail, so please do not read unless you wanted to be spoiled.

When Go Set a Watchman was announced and released in the summer of 2015, it had its fair share of controversy. It was heavily questioned initially whether Harper Lee had authorized the book’s release, or if she had even written it at all. But then the release came, and the outrage became even more substantial: Atticus Finch is racist. I couldn’t help but feel that the quotations that were shared were being taken out of context, but it was some pretty solid evidence that was hard to refute. Bottom line, my curiosity was great and I had to experience the truth myself.

Readers are mad, and rightly so in my opinion, that Atticus Finch’s character has been dramatically transposed from the interpretation we were given in To Kill A Mockingbird. But that’s just what it was, an interpretation. If you remember, the story was written entirely from the point of view of Scout, who was just six years old and at that young age, it is easy for parental idolatry to occur. Go Set a Watchman takes place years later, where Jean Louise Finch “Scout” is now twenty-six years old and coming home from New York to visit her aging father. She’s confronted with the fact that she’s understood her father to be of one frame of mind about the world, that she has modeled her own mindset after his, and her beliefs are now crumbling when she discovers him in a “citizens’ council” meeting hosting a racist preacher. When she has it out with him later, she finds out that her father is a card-carrying member of the KKK as well. Atticus was that one shining beacon of hope in a sea of racism and to find out he’s no different than the majority of individuals in this era caused a complete loss of innocence. And here we all thought that To Kill A Mockingbird was the coming-of-age tale.

I did a re-read of To Kill A Mockingbird just last year, so it was all still very clear in my mind. This is a direct line from my review which posted last March:

“Atticus Finch, by far my favorite character, is a man that saw everyone as his equal. He believed this wholeheartedly and was willing to put his very livelihood on the line to fight for those rights. He was able to accept the differences in all of us and see the true bottom line: regardless of race, color, gender or any of the multitudes of ways that not only make us who we are but also separates us from the rest, at the end of the day we are all the same; we’re all human beings. This world would be a far better place with a few more Atticus Finch’s in existence.”

Go Set a Watchman has definitely caused me to examine my own mindset, much like Scout. So other than our preconceived notions that Atticus was anything but racist, what do we know about him actually? He’s honest and fair, he’s a great father and a fantastic lawyer. He views his job less as a job but more as a personal pledge to upholding the law, regardless of race. And there’s the rub. Atticus chose to defend Tom Robinson solely because of his personal obligation to upholding justice because he felt that no one would properly defend him like Atticus would.

“I remember that rape case you defended, but I missed the point. You love justice, all right. Abstract justice written down item by item on a brief – nothing to do with that black boy, you just like a neat brief. His cause interfered with your orderly mind, and you had to work order out of disorder. It’s a compulsion with you, and now it’s coming home to you – “

He goes on to explain his membership to the KKK as a way of being aware of who is also a member and who holds those beliefs. Jean Louise’s love interest, Henry, is also a card-carrying member and he explains to her his presence in the citizen’s council meeting be saying it allows him to continue to be of use to the community. That he isn’t necessarily agreeing with their beliefs, but he’s not going against them because calling them out would cast him out and being a part of the norm is safe. In a nutshell. So, conform to the norm and don’t voice your differing opinions because that’s not safe, is the belief. Of course, this is an extremely accurate interpretation of the typical mindset during this period in history and having Atticus come out as having racist beliefs just makes more sense even if I’d prefer to stick with my illustrious views of him, rather than these dispiriting quotes:

“Have you ever considered that you can’t have a set of backward people living among people advanced in one kind of civilization and have a social Arcadia?”

“You realize that our Negro population is backward, don’t you? You will concede that? You realize the full implications of the word ‘backward’, don’t you?”

“You realize that the vast majority of them here in the South are unable to share fully in the responsibilities of citizenship, and why?”

“Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world? […] Do you want your children going to school that’s been dragged down to accommodate Negro children?”

“…you do not seem to understand that the Negroes down here are still in their childhood as people.”

Jean Louise is naturally irate at what’s coming out of his mouth, but instead of voicing her dissension, explains her anger to him by asking him why he didn’t just raise her right.

“…I grew up right here in your house, and I never knew what was in your mind. I only heard what you said. You neglected to tell me that we were naturally better than the Negroes, bless their kinky heads, that they were able to go so far but so far only.”

Because if he had raised her to not be “colorblind”, as she says, and to be able to recognize the differences in the races then she wouldn’t be so conflicted because she’d be like-minded with everyone else in the town.

I loved To Kill a Mockingbird. I loved the hope it presented, but again, it was all being viewed from the point of view of a child so it had that sense of innocence. To Kill a Mockingbird has grown up, Scout has grown up, and that same world is now viewed with a devastating sense of realism that I think is a difficult thing to stomach. I have read many reviews that state even if this tarnishes Atticus for you, it is still a must-read because of how it views the world harshly but honestly. I have to disagree. For me, I think even if we enjoyed Scout’s innocent interpretation of the world, we’re all still fully aware of how the world truly is. We’re all aware of the masks that people can wear and the secrets that they hide from the public and even from those they love. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with continuing to hope that there was at least one good man in the South that was willing to stand up for his beliefs even if they didn’t manage to fit the norm.

‘I did not want my world disturbed, but I wanted to crush the man who’s trying to preserve it for me. I wanted to stamp out all the people like him. I guess it’s like an airplane: they’re the drag and we’re the thrust, together we make the thing fly. Too much of us and we’re nose-heavy, too much of them and we’re tail-heavy—it’s a matter of balance. I can’t beat him, and I can’t join him–’

Note on the Narration: I listened to Sissy Spacek’s narration of To Kill a Mockingbird and I couldn’t imagine Scout’s story being told any other way. But this book wouldn’t have been anything without the narration of Reese Witherspoon. Her southern accent is perfection and somebody has got to tell her she really must narrate more audiobooks. Listen below for a clip.



Book Review – Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker

Posted December 18, 2015 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2015 / 2 Comments

Book Review – Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise ParkerDear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker
Published by Scribner on November 10th 2015
Pages: 240
Genres: Literary Fiction, Memoir, Non-Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


A wonderfully unconventional literary debut from the award-winning actress Mary-Louise Parker.

An extraordinary literary work, Dear Mr. You renders the singular arc of a woman’s life through letters Mary-Louise Parker composes to the men, real and hypothetical, who have informed the person she is today. Beginning with the grandfather she never knew, the letters range from a missive to the beloved priest from her childhood to remembrances of former lovers to an homage to a firefighter she encountered to a heartfelt communication with the uncle of the infant daughter she adopted. Readers will be amazed by the depth and style of these letters, which reveal the complexity and power to be found in relationships both loving and fraught.

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The thing about books written by celebrities, especially non-fiction stories about their lives, is you have a predisposed idea of who they are as people. This idea can culminate through various ways such as the characters they play in movies/shows or the various stories that gossip magazines publish about them. And while I always felt that Mary Louise-Parker was a fascinating person, Dear Mr. You only made this all the more apparent.

“I wrote about us while you were away in a notebook that eventually saw the end of us, but the last I wrote about that time was in ink; it was a hurried, angry scrawl reading: Time, that cold bastard, with its nearlys and untils. I think, what a shame. Time should weep for having spent me without you.”

It has to be said, but I did not expect Mary Louise-Parker to be as remarkable a writer as she clearly is. I recently stumbled upon an article where she talks about her top ten favorite books and over half of them were poetry collections, so it’s clear where her poetic quality comes from. I read the majority of this book out loud to myself, simply because I wanted to slow down my normally fast-paced reading to better appreciate this small but stunning story. Her eloquence is something to truly aspire to.

As the title suggests, this is a collection of letters to the men that have in some way shape or form had an impact on her life. There was the occasional letter that was a miss for me, like the obscure one she wrote to a goat named Gem, but the majority of her letters moved me to unforeseen levels of emotion. Her letters run the gamut of emotions. The letter to Oyster Picker, recounting her father’s final moments on this Earth brought me to tears. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but I sobbed quietly, reading her profound words and then going back to re-read certain passages even though it was well past my bedtime. But there were also laughs, my favorite being the letter to her Former Boyfriend where she describes him eating all the guacamole off her plate and seething with rage she calmly picked up a fork and stabbed him through the hand. I’m not doing it justice but it truly was hilarious; I’m still chuckling in remembrance as I write this.

Parker has led a most fascinating life, full of delightful people, and it was a real treat being granted this glimpse into her life. At the end of this collection, she recollects how her father made her promise him she would always keep writing and I do hope that promise is fulfilled. It would be fantastic to see her recount her life again in letters, with a focus on the women instead. Bottom line, I do hope this isn’t the last we haven’t seen of Parker in the literary world.

“I love that sensation, when you think, this is too good, I’ll catch up with everyone else later. You just have to take in the truth of that expanse a few more seconds before it changes and becomes something else entirely, or before you do.”