Source: Purchased

Short & Sweet – Little Women, Skipping Christmas, Christmas at the Comfort Food Cafe

Posted December 30, 2016 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Short & Sweet Reviews / 2 Comments

Short & Sweet – Little Women, Skipping Christmas, Christmas at the Comfort Food CafeLittle Women by Louisa May Alcott
Published by Tally Hall Press on 1868
Pages: 635
Genres: Classics, Historical Fiction, Holiday - Christmas
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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three-stars

Grown-up Meg, tomboyish Jo, timid Beth, and precocious Amy. The four March sisters couldn't be more different. But with their father away at war, and their mother working to support the family, they have to rely on one another. Whether they're putting on a play, forming a secret society, or celebrating Christmas, there's one thing they can't help wondering: Will Father return home safely?

“I want to do something splendid…something heroic or wonderful that won’t be forgotten after I’m dead. I don’t know what, but I’m on the watch for it and mean to astonish you all someday.”

Can you believe it? The last person on Earth has finally read Little Women! Okay, I’m kidding, I’m sure I wasn’t the last one to read it but sure feels like it. But yes, this was my very first time reading it and I’m glad I did even though it was a bit of a struggle because 18th century works of fictions and I don’t often get along real well. But despite my apprehension View Spoiler » this one really won me over in the end. I learned to appreciate it for what it’s meant to be: an old-fashioned yet authentic tale of a close knit family, and in particular four very different young women, struggling to find their place in a difficult time in history. It’s not a glamorous tale of silk gowns and ball rooms, but rather an accurate interpretation of how life really was for Louisa May Alcott and her three sisters, as well as all the other women coming of age in the 1800s. It makes you appreciate family, life itself, and presents under the Christmas tree. And NOW, I can finally watch the movie.

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Short & Sweet – Little Women, Skipping Christmas, Christmas at the Comfort Food CafeSkipping Christmas by John Grisham
Narrator: Dennis Boutsikaris
Published by Random House Audio on November 6th 2001
Length: 3 hrs and 42 mins
Genres: Holiday - Christmas
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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five-stars

Imagine a year without Christmas. No crowded malls, no corny office parties, no fruitcakes, no unwanted presents. That’s just what Luther and Nora Krank have in mind when they decide that, just this once, they’ll skip the holiday altogether. Theirs will be the only house on Hemlock Street without a rooftop Frosty; they won’t be hosting their annual Christmas Eve bash; they aren’t even going to have a tree. They won’t need one, because come December 25 they’re setting sail on a Caribbean cruise. But, as this weary couple is about to discover, skipping Christmas brings enormous consequences–and isn’t half as easy as they’d imagined.

In my opinion, this is the Christmas book. Forget A Christmas Carol or anything else resembling wholesome Christmas stories, Skipping Christmas is a destined classic. What can I say, the concept of skipping Christmas entirely and going on a cruise instead just speaks to my Grinch-y soul.

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This year I opted to re-read the audiobook version which is narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris who portrays Luther Krank perfectly in all his deadpan humorous glory. When I first discovered this novel, many, many years ago… I almost glanced over it because “John Grisham? Isn’t that the guy that writes legal thrillers?” Yep, he sure is, but apparently he also has a humorous side. Many of you have likely seen the film adaptation Christmas with the Kranks which is all sorts of hilarious (especially with the book lacking that sidesplitting scene after Luther gets botox), but this short novel is an amusing way to spend a few hours surrounded by Christmas cheer as you contemplate an alternative to it all.

Short & Sweet – Little Women, Skipping Christmas, Christmas at the Comfort Food CafeChristmas at the Comfort Food Cafe by Debbie Johnson
Series: Comfort Food Cafe #2
Published by HarperImpulse on September 23rd 2016
Pages: 209
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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three-stars

Becca Fletcher has always hated Christmas but she has her reasons for being Little Miss Grinch. Now, though, she can’t avoid her version of ho-ho-hell – because she’s travelling to the Comfort Food Cafe to spend the festive season with her sister Laura and her family. She’s expecting mulled wine, 24-hour Christmas movie marathons and all kinds of very merry torture.

Little does Becca know that the Comfort Food Cafe is like no other place on earth. Perched on a snow-covered hill, it’s a place full of friendship where broken hearts can heal, new love can blossom and where Becca’s Christmas miracle really could happen – if only she can let it…

‘They are perfect together, and it’s only their pasts holding them back.
Which, I suppose, is a sentence that could be applied to all of us, in some way or another.’

Becca Fletcher has always been known as the wild child of the family: drugs, alcohol, one night stands, you name it. She’s turned over a new leaf after a tragedy strikes her sister’s family and she realizes that it’s time she became someone that can be depended on. And now that same sister is asking her to come visit her for Christmas. She hates Christmas, but she just can’t say no to her sister.

The little town of Budbury is a charming little seaside village where everyone is friendly and looks out for one another. It’s the kind of quaint place that is only found within the pages of a story, but it doesn’t stop you from wishing such a place really existed. This is a fun Christmas time read but admittedly the Christmas theme took a backseat to the romance. Becca’s sister has been trying to set her up with the cute Irish boy named Sam since this past summer and when she visits, they finally meet in person for the first time. I appreciated Becca’s honesty with her past problems and not wanting to jump into anything (like a bed) too quickly and was up front and honest with him about this. She didn’t beat around the bush and gloss over her problems or make any sort of excuses, so for him to continue to doggedly pursue her despite her insistence they take things slow was a bit problematic for me. Granted, this all works out like your typical storybook romance is supposed to and was undeniably cute once I got past my awkward feels about the whole thing.

Christmas + cutesy romance = two peas in a pod.

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Book Review – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany

Posted November 5, 2016 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2016, YA / 6 Comments

Book Review – Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John TiffanyHarry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2 by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, John Tiffany
Series: Harry Potter #8
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on July 31st 2016
Pages: 320
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Goodreads

Also by this author: The Cuckoo's Calling, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows

five-stars

The Eighth Story. Nineteen Years Later.

Based on an original new story by J.K. Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, a new play by Jack Thorne, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series and the first official Harry Potter story to be presented on stage. The play will receive its world premiere in London’s West End on July 30, 2016.

It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

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*some spoilers to follow*

If I’m being honest, I never originally intended on reading this story. I adore Harry Potter, I just felt that the story was better left as is after the epilogue of the Deathly Hallows. But then my book bestie morphed into the pushiest book pusher that ever pushed and suddenly I found myself having already finished and wondering how I ever thought I could not read this. Setting aside all the vast amounts of criticism this has received (i.e. this isn’t written by Rowling, it reads like fan-fic, it’s not even a book but a screenplay) it ended up being more than I could have ever hoped for.

“Hogwarts will be the making of you, Albus. I promise you, there is nothing to be frightened of there.”

Taking us right back to the epilogue of the Deathly Hallows, we get to see Albus getting on his first train to Hogwarts. And his discussion with Harry regarding the possibility of him being placed in Slytherin. We’re not given the detailed account of his time spent at Hogwarts, but rather the generalized impression that Hogwarts isn’t quite the sanctuary for him that it was for his father. The comprehensive details of the world are also missing from the screenplay but for those of us who have already read the first seven books, that world is emblazoned upon our minds and no rehashing of details are necessary for us to fully comprehend each and every scene.

Cursed Child manages to smoothly connect many major plot points from the original novels: the infiltration of the Ministry of Magic by Harry, Ron, and Hermione (Deathly Hallows, book 7), the Tri-Wizard tournament and Cedric’s death (Goblet of Fire, book 4), time turners (Prisoner of Azkaban, book 3), the perpetual battle between good and evil, and the important father-son relationships that have been a focal point of this series from the beginning. It also makes a less than obvious point of showing how seemingly inconsequential deaths end up having a much larger impact in the grand scheme of things. With the help of a time turner, we’re shown snippets of how the world could have been with the simplest of changes. The variation of possibilities was both shocking and horrifying. What I most enjoyed was how this wasn’t simply a new set of adventures with a new set of characters but rather recognition of the fact that the actions of the past was not a given end to that story, but that they inevitably had an effect on the future of their own children.

Harry: “How do I protect my son, Dumbledore?”
Dumbledore: “You ask me, of all people, how to protect a boy in terrible danger? We cannot protect the young from harm. Pain must and will come.”

While we do see the original characters and what they have become 19 years later, the focal point is on their children, primarily Albus and Scorpius who become immediate friends on the Hogwarts Express. Albus has a severely strained relationship with his father, Harry, and has difficulty living up to not just the enormous importance of his father, of the great men he was named after, and because of the fact that he was in fact placed in Slytherin rather than his father’s house, Gryffindor. It’s easy to see from the original stories how understandable it would be for Harry to not be the perfect father, considering his own lack of a permanent father figure. He does what he feels is best even when it is quite clearly not best, and the scenes between the two are often painful and heartbreaking. Scorpius, son of Draco Malfoy, also suffers from a poor relationship with his father due the actions of his past as well as Draco’s own relationship with his father, Lucius.

In October of this year I decided to do an impromptu re-read of the Harry Potter series on audio. I have re-read books 1-3 numerous times but I tend to run out of steam and have never been able to re-read books 4-7. Well, I finally overcame my hangups and completed my first re-read of Goblet of Fire. Due to the majority of this story centering around the storyline from The Goblet of Fire I chose to do my second re-read of the year (ha) of Cursed Child since the storyline was still so fresh in my mind. It works extremely well if you treat it as a #4.5 book as well, granted, it’s vital to know the outcome of the series as a whole in order to fully appreciate how it ties everything together and illustrates the growth of these characters.

“Perfection is beyond the reach of humankind, beyond the reach of magic. In every shining moment of happiness is that drop of poison: the knowledge that pain will come again. Be honest to those you love, show your pain. To suffer is as human as to breathe.”

Yes, perfection is an impossibility, and while there were many things I would have personally changed, this still managed to hit all my Harry Potter feels as perfectly as possible. Cursed Child reinforced my love of both the original stories and characters by growing them in legitimate ways, it gave me new characters to love (primarily Scorpius <3), and it removed the stereotype associated with Slytherin house by showing that not all associated are necessarily evil. #slytherinpride

I got: Slytherin!! So true. Can We Guess Your Hogwarts House By Asking Random Questions?

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Audiobook Review – Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory Ortberg

Posted May 26, 2016 by Bonnie in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 1 Comment

Audiobook Review – Texts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory OrtbergTexts from Jane Eyre: And Other Conversations with Your Favorite Literary Characters by Mallory Ortberg
Narrator: Zach Villa, Amy Landon
Published by Tantor Audio on January 21st 2015
Length: 2 hrs and 22 mins
Genres: Books-About-Books, Funny-ha-ha
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
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four-stars

Mallory Ortberg, co-creator of the cult-favorite website The Toast, presents this whimsical collection of hysterical text conversations from your favorite literary characters.

Everyone knows that if Scarlett O'Hara had an unlimited text-and-data plan, she'd constantly try to tempt Ashley away from Melanie with suggestive messages. If Mr. Rochester could text Jane Eyre, his ardent missives would obviously be in all-caps. And Daisy Buchanan would not only text while driving, she'd text you to pick her up after she totaled her car.

Based on the popular Web feature, Texts from Jane Eyre is a witty, irreverent mash-up that brings the characters from your favorite books into the 21st century.

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Texts From Jane Eyre: the re-imagined conversations between literary characters if they all carried a smartphone. Sounds hilarious, but I admittedly didn’t have much interest in this initially because I feared far too much of this would go right over my head considering I’m quite ignorant of the vast majority of “classics”. I listened to a 60 second clip of this audiobook though and I was already cracking up so I decided to give this one a shot regardless. Texts From Jane Eyre goes beyond just Jane Eyre, portraying the likes of Odysseys and Circe, Edgar Allan Poe, Peter Pan, Harry Potter, and even the broody Achilles who contemplates the possibility of going home and being a farmer.

As I mentioned, the majority of these stories did in fact go right over my head because like hell I’m attempting to read Atlas Shrugged. Or Moby Dick for that matter. I haven’t given up hope that I may actually conquer Gone with the Wind though. Despite my occasional confusion, the combined narration of Amy Landon and Zach Villa still managed to make this a vastly entertaining couple of hours (the audiobook is a mere 2h 22m long). The various different accents they implemented made this feel at times like a full cast narration. I downloaded the eBook as well in order to capture screen shots and I must say that while the passages were funny, having this read to you was an altogether different (and better) experience. A brief visit to sparknotes.com to get the gist of the classics did prove to be helpful if you wish to take the time to become quickly acquainted with the lesser known characters. As for the ones I did know that required no introduction, such as Sherlock, they were so hilariously and accurately depicted that I found myself rewinding and re-listening because I was often laughing too hard to hear the whole passage.

Face cocaine. lol Other favorites were Ron telling Hermione about the magic “credit cards” he signed up for (Harry Potter), Peeta’s frosting emergency (Hunger Games), and the hilarious harassment via texting from Mrs. Danvers (Rebecca).

Suffice it to say, I thoroughly enjoyed this one and highly recommend the audio edition (listen to a clip below!). Mallory Ortberg successfully added a modern flair and humor to literature’s most treasured characters, bringing them to life once again and reminding us what made them memorable in the first place.

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Book Review – Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho

Posted January 15, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 3 Comments

Book Review – Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo CoelhoVeronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho
Published by HarperCollins on March 17, 2009
Pages: 191
Genres: Philosophy, Literary Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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two-stars

Twenty-four-year-old Veronika seems to have everything -- youth and beauty, boyfriends and a loving family, a fulfilling job. But something is missing in her life. So, one cold November morning, she takes a handful of sleeping pills expecting never to wake up. But she does -- at a mental hospital where she is told that she has only days to live.

Inspired by events in Coelho's own life, Veronika Decides to Die questions the meaning of madness and celebrates individuals who do not fit into patterns society considers to be normal. Bold and illuminating, it is a dazzling portrait of a young woman at the crossroads of despair and liberation, and a poetic, exuberant appreciation of each day as a renewed opportunity.

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You know how there are just certain things in life that your brain simply cannot comprehend no matter how hard you try? For me, that’s philosophy. Philosophy seems like something that should totally work for me, but the bigger picture, that moment of clarity, of understanding, NEVER comes. I signed up for Philosophy 101 in University and I’m not sure if I had the worst teacher known to man but I walked out less than halfway through the first class. The sole exception to this has been The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet. Say what you want, but that shit is legit. Veronika could take a lesson or two from Pooh Bear.

So, Veronika decides to die. That’s not a spoiler, clearly.

‘When she had achieved almost everything she wanted in life, she had reached the conclusion that her existence had no meaning, because every day was the same. And she had decided to die.’

She decides, over a period of months where she begins collecting sleeping pills, that there is essentially no more point to life because she’s already accomplished everything. So why continue to live it? Veronika takes the pills yet she’s discovered by an unknown individual and wakes to find herself in Villete, the infamous mental hospital. She’s devastated to find that she didn’t succeed in her task but is informed by the doctor that she damaged her heart irreparably and that she has less than a week to live. Initially, this book started off strong and it seemed as if it would be an interesting look into the workings of a mental illness but Paulo Coelho opted to go for a philosophical angle instead which flawed the whole point he was trying to make. Within these short 191 pages, we’re introduced to other individuals currently staying at Villete: a woman with acute anxiety and a man with schizophrenia which are all meant to be traits of Coelho himself who was institutionalized when he was young.

‘In a world where everyone struggles to survive whatever the cost, how could one judge those people who decide to die? No one can judge. Each person knows the extent of their own suffering, or the total absence of meaning in their lives.’

There is much confusion when it comes to the medical aspects of the novel and the even more ridiculous plot twist. In a nutshell, this story is about reveling in our differences, the fact that what society views as “insanity” isn’t necessarily so, and the necessity for finding the beauty in each new day of life. While I understand what Paulo Coelho was intending with this story, taking a serious subject like attempted suicide and giving it a picture perfect (and unrealistic) ending made it all so very contrived.

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Book Review – Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. Maas

Posted September 4, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA / 2 Comments

Book Review – Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass #4) by Sarah J. MaasQueen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #4
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on September 1st 2015
Pages: 656
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury, A Court of Thorns and Roses

four-half-stars

Sarah J. Maas's New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series reaches new heights in this sweeping fourth volume.

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she's at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past . . .

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die just to see her again. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen's triumphant return.

Celaena's epic journey has captured the hearts and imaginations of millions across the globe. This fourth volume will hold readers rapt as Celaena's story builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

Word of warning: This is a book 4 review, therefore there will be spoilers from previous installments.

‘She was the heir of fire.
She was fire, and light, and ash, and embers. She was Aelin Fireheart, and she bowed for no one and nothing, save the crown that was hers by blood and survival and triumph.’

Just to quickly summarize the devastation that Heir of Fire left us with: Celaena/Aelin is headed back to Adarlan to begin the search for the Wyrdkeys and the war against the King after leaving Rowan behind, Dorian has become enslaved by his father, Chaol has fled and thankfully took Fleetfoot on his way out (or I could have never forgiven him) and in another part of the world, Manon has been made Wing Leader. Oh such fabulously wonderful characters, it was so nice to pick their stories back up. Queen of Shadows picks right up where HoF left off and continues the same steady sort of pace that some loved and some hated. I was a big fan for the sole reason that the story was really deserving of some slow simmering. I’m all for big time action scenes, however, I feel with this series there is not only the fantasy world-building aspect that is key but there is a wide cast of characters that need sufficient time to build them as well. And there are so many intricate details that just add to the elegant complexity of this fascinating tale.

Typically, I find that when I’m reading stories that deal with multiple POVs, there’s always ones that I prefer over the others and almost always one that I just can’t stand. I can honestly say that I enjoyed them all. Aelin’s POV because we’ve seen her come into her power but now we get to see her come into her role as queen (and still with the snarky we’ve all come to expect). We get Arobynn with more of an involvement in the story and they touch on their past (and Sam, *sniff*) which seemed a long time coming after the focus on him from the prequel stories so long ago. Aelin finds a new female friend in (shocker) Lysandra and her story/addition is fantastic. But mostly I loved Manon’s because… well, WHO DOESN’T LOVE MANON. It was great getting a little behind the scenes look at Asterin’s background but we’re introduced to a new character, Elide, who plays a part in the witches story but also has an interesting tie to Aelin’s past.

‘She was a whirling cloud of death, a queen of shadows, and these men were already carrion.’

There were a couple minuscule issues I had though. 1. Chaol continues to look down his nose in regards to the things that Aelin has done and continues to do. It got irritating after a while because, come on, craziness is happening and desperate times call for desperate measures and all that jazz. His opinions caused him to become a distant character in this installment and we honestly didn’t see him as much as I’d like. I wanted them to settle their differences and get on with it. 2. The villain. I’m a sucker for back stories on the villain and while the King was doing some pretty horrifying things, there was clearly an interesting/crazy story there regarding how he got to this point and why and how and why. I would have liked to see this delved into during his brief POV sections to build him up as a character like any other rather than a mini info-dump. 3. I would have also loved more of Kaltain’s back story as well because wow did her role ever get crazy.

The plot itself was incredibly detailed but still actually made forward progress, which I’ve found can sometimes be an issue with fantasy novels. There were slower moments, but there some impressive action scenes that helped balance it out. What I loved most were the small connections that pop up, small references that connect the previous installments and mostly the prequel are such a joy to see when they all come full circle.

The romance was subtle and definitely never made any attempts to high-jack the story, hallelujah. But oh man, the TENSION. It never amounted to much, which did make my eye go a little twitchy but all I gotta say is View Spoiler »

“…if it was death separating us… I would find you. I don’t care how many rules it would break. Even if I had to get all three keys myself and open a gate, I would find you again. Always.”

I appreciated the small amount of resolution we’re given, despite the fact that more disaster is inevitable since this is only installment 4 of 6. But still, gotta love a story with a solid ending rather than an ending that makes you pull your hair out when you realize how long you have to wait for the next one. Throne of Glass is easily one of my all-time favorite series with an amazing cast of characters and an incredibly thrilling fantasy world.

“Let’s go rattle the stars.”

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Book Review – Replay by Ken Grimwood

Posted August 7, 2015 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2015 / 6 Comments

Book Review – Replay by Ken GrimwoodReplay by Ken Grimwood
Published by William Morrow on January 1986
Pages: 311
Genres: Time Travel
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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five-stars

Jeff Winston was 43 and trapped in a tepid marriage and a dead-end job, waiting for that time when he could be truly happy, when he died.

And when he woke and he was 18 again, with all his memories of the next 25 years intact. He could live his life again, avoiding the mistakes, making money from his knowledge of the future, seeking happiness.

Until he dies at 43 and wakes up back in college again...

Jeff Winston is given a unique opportunity when amidst a mid-life crisis of sorts at the age of forty-three, talking to his wife on the phone, he has a heart attack and dies. Yes, this is only the beginning of his story. When he wakes up, he’s confused by his surroundings and thinks he must be dreaming because he hasn’t seen the inside of his dorm room since he was eighteen years old. Except he really is eighteen, all over again. He has the opportunity to do everything differently and he starts by using his knowledge of the future by betting on the Kentucky Derby and creating the start of his fortune. He becomes more successful than he ever could have imagined in his first life, he’s happy and healthy and while this life isn’t without its flaws he feels it to be far superior than the first go around. And then he turns forty-three, has yet another heart attack at the same exact moment, blacks out, and reawakens once again at eighteen.

Something really resonated with me with this book and I absolutely adored the time I spent reading it. Replay is so spectacularly simplistic yet bursting with brilliance. While it’s tagged as a time travel novel, it’s a very different sort. With each replay, Jeff retains all knowledge of the past while constantly returning to his younger self. There’s a distinct lack of anything supernatural or science fiction or even an answer as to why this was happening to him period. While you won’t be able to stop yourself from wondering about the why of it all, Replay’s real focus is more on the profound and of the components of what makes life worth living.

At one point or another, we’ve all wondered “If I could go back in the past, would I do things differently?” If given the opportunity, knowing the things we know based on the lives we’ve led, would we attempt to try to change things in hopes of creating a better future for ourselves? While I fully agree that our experiences in life are what truly makes us who we are, and I’m pretty satisfied with the way I turned out, I still can’t help but think of the myriad of possibilities of what could be changed or at least slightly altered. In Replay, even though it is told from the point of view of a fictional character, you can’t help but feel as if you’re being given the opportunity to replay based on the way he chooses to live his various lives. His immediate reaction to second chances is money and he spends his life making millions only to discover by the next replay that it never quite made him as happy as he had expected it to. So in the next life he focuses on something different. One thing he does begin to realize is that no matter what life you choose to lead, something is bound to go wrong, even with a knowledge of the future and of memories of past actions. Even with the opportunity to replay, there’s never a guarantee that you’ll end up with anything close to perfect, you just learn to work with what you’re given and make it the very best possible.

All life includes loss. It’s taken me many, many years to learn to deal with that, and I don’t expect I’ll ever be fully resigned to it. But that doesn’t mean we have to turn away from the world, or stop striving for the best that we can do and be. We owe that much to ourselves, at least, and we deserve whatever measure of good may come of it.

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Book Review – The Long Walk by Stephen King

Posted July 28, 2015 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2015 / 6 Comments

Book Review – The Long Walk by Stephen KingThe Long Walk by Richard Bachman, Stephen King
Published by Signet on July 1979
Pages: 370
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Horror
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: Doctor Sleep, Cujo, Pet Sematary

five-stars

In this #1 national bestseller, “master storyteller” (Houston Chronicle) Stephen King, writing as Richard Bachman, tells the tale of the contestants of a grueling walking competition where there can only be one winner—the one that survives.

“I give my congratulations to the winner among your number, and my acknowledgments of valor to the losers.”

Against the wishes of his mother, sixteen-year-old Ray Garraty is about to compete in the annual grueling match of stamina and wits known as The Long Walk. One hundred boys must keep a steady pace of four miles per hour without ever stopping...with the winner being awarded “The Prize”—anything he wants for the rest of his life. But, as part of this national tournament that sweeps through a dystopian America year after year, there are some harsh rules that Garraty and ninety-nine others must adhere to in order to beat out the rest. There is no finish line—the winner is the last man standing. Contestants cannot receive any outside aid whatsoever. Slow down under the speed limit and you’re given a warning. Three warnings and you’re out of the game—permanently....

“The whole walk seemed nothing but one looming question mark. He told himself that a thing like this must have some deep meaning. Surely it was so. A thing like this must provide an answer to every question, it was just a matter of keeping your foot on the throttle.”

Only Stephen King could write such a spellbinding tale of a bunch of boys doing nothing but walking.

The Long Walk has become something of a national pastime in America where every year, hundreds of teenage boys apply to compete. Only a hundred boys are selected to try to be the last man standing. The winner receives anything they could ask for. We experience The Long Walk through the eyes of sixteen-year-old Ray Garraty. We see firsthand (or sometimes the fallen one’s name is murmured slowly along the lines that remain standing) as one by one, the contestants fall from exhaustion, pain, mental anguish, or because they simply fell below the required 4mph speed. He makes friends with several and is forced to see them fall to the hail of bullets when they’re given their third and final warning.

‘The lights filled the sky with a bubblelike pastel glow that was frightening and apocalyptic, reminding Garraty of pictures he had seen in the history books of the German air-blitz of the American East Coast during the last days of World War II.’

With references to the German air blitz of the American East Coast and of 31st of April, it’s clear that the world The Long Walk takes place in is a twisted alternative version of our own. Other than that, this story is a very straight forward sort of tale that lacks any sort of supernatural or fantasy aspects. But it’s most definitely horror. Day after day of non-stop walking, catching brief yet unsatisfying naps while your feet continue propelling you forward, being forced to take a warning and possibly two so you can quickly go to the bathroom by the side of the road all the while guns are trained on the back of your head and spectators line the roads just for the possibility of being there to see the guns remove someone from the running.

It’s easy to compare this story to the multitude of preposterous reality competitions these days, but if you take into account that King wrote this during 1966-1967 when the war in Vietnam was raging, the correlation to war, in general, becomes apparent as well. The televised draft, the battle, and the mass deaths that seemed so very meaningless. There is of course also the fact that the one to remain standing isn’t ever actually a “winner”. After seeing the things that occurred in the competition, the victor is irrevocably changed.

The Long Walk is the second book written under the Bachman name but the first I’ve read. At the beginning of my edition, there was an introduction called “The Importance of Being Bachman” where he discusses exactly why he chose to write under a pseudonym, and of his displeasure when he was unveiled as being Bachman. It was an interesting take that I never considered before as to why a writer would choose to write under a pseudonym, but this beautiful line sums it up nicely.

‘…there’s a place in most of us where the rain is pretty much constant, the shadows are always long, and the woods are full of monsters. It is good to have a voice in which the terrors of such a place can be articulated and its geography partially described, without denying the sunshine and clarity that fill so much of our ordinary lives.’

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Book Review – Scarlet (Scarlet #1) by A.C. Gaughen

Posted May 28, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA / 8 Comments

Book Review – Scarlet (Scarlet #1) by A.C. GaughenScarlet by A.C. Gaughen
Series: Scarlet #1
Published by Walker Childrens on June 7th 2012
Pages: 305
Genres: Fairy-Tales/Retellings, Historical Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: Lady Thief, Lion Heart

two-half-stars

Posing as one of Robin Hood's thieves to avoid the evil Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only Big John and Robin Hood know the truth-that the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. It's getting harder to hide as Gisbourne's camp seeks to find Scarlet and drive Robin Hood out of Nottinghamshire.

But Scarlet's instinct for self-preservation is at war with a strong sense of responsibility to the people who took her in when she was on the run, and she finds it's not so easy to turn her back on her band and townspeople. As Gisbourne draws closer to Scarlet and puts innocent lives at risk, she must decide how much the people of Nottinghamshire mean to her, especially John Little, a flirtatious fellow outlaw, and Robin, whose quick smiles and temper have the rare power to unsettle Scarlet. Full of exciting action, secrets, and romance, this imaginative retelling of the classic tale will have readers following every move of Robin Hood and band of thieves.

‘I do what I do because I will always believe that no matter how awful life gets for however many of these people, there is something I can do about it. There is something I will do about it.’

If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I’m a huge fan of Robin Hood tales. Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves is one of my all-time favorite movies and never fails to give me the swoons. I mean come on, just look at those two.

*cue Bryan Adams*

When I first heard about this twisted retelling, I was a bit hesitant. I expected a love story and (hopefully) an interesting backstory leading up to how Scarlet became a member of Robin and his band of thieves and why she’s posing as a boy in the first place. There was definite potential there but my initial hesitation was dead-on seeing as I did not love this as most have.

In regards to Scarlet’s backstory, I really liked this aspect and somehow managed to not see the twist that was clearly coming from a mile away. But once all is revealed, there were some things that failed to add up for me. Primarily, her speech. She talks like Osha from Game of Thrones, it was ridiculous. It’s highly uneducated and once you realize who and what she actually is it begins to sound incredibly forced. I understand that speaking in such a way served only to put her in less of a spotlight and allows her to blend in with the village folk, however, if she was trying to stay out of the spotlight maybe she shouldn’t have constantly been taking so many highly unnecessary risks? She was constantly putting herself and the band in danger and after the first couple of times, I was ready to kick her out of the band myself. But the fighting was awesome and badass! Except… more things failed to add up. Like where Scarlet picked up those awesome fighting/knife skills. It couldn’t have all been self-preservation and learning on her own. There was zero mention of any of that and there should have been since her past would have never included any knowledge related to fighting/thievery.

And now for the love story. I’m sorry but… it irritated me.

While I’m fully aware that a love story happened in my previously mentioned favorite movie, this love story still managed to come off as completely ill-fitting. There just seemed to be entirely too much going between the Sheriff of Nottingham killing villagers and the new thief taker brought in from London for there to be a legit romance let alone a freaking love triangle. WITH JOHN LITTLE. I could have accepted the romance but the love triangle pushed me overboard. There was also the fact that I just didn’t swoon over these too as much as I would have liked. Then there were lines like this:

“You called me a whore, Rob. You said awful things.”
“Ah,” he said, and his hand took mine again, tight. “Hurting you is the best way I know how to punish myself.

Ha! Change of Robins. But seriously, I don’t even know where to begin with that line.

One last and final issue is the fact that this is a historical novel that failed to feel anything like a historical novel. I missed the detail and the feel of this medieval time period being brought to life. But this is definitely one of the smaller issues I had with this novel.

Scarlet was, unfortunately, a massive disappointment for me. I went into this one with high hopes and maybe that was the problem. It intrigued me enough to continue this series with the hope that it will improve.

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Book Review – Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer

Posted April 2, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA / 0 Comments

Book Review – Cress (The Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa MeyerCress by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #3
Published by Feiwel & Friends on February 4th 2014
Pages: 560
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Fairy-Tales/Retellings, Sci-fi
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: Cinder, Scarlet, Fairest

three-half-stars

The third book in Marissa Meyer’s New York Times/USA Today-bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, inspired by Rapunzel.

In this third book in Marissa Meyer's bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and prevent her army from invading Earth.

Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl trapped on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s being forced to work for Queen Levana, and she’s just received orders to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice.

When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is splintered. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a higher price than she’d ever expected. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai, especially the cyborg mechanic. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

The Lunar Chronicles series

Glitches (The Lunar Chronicles, #0.5)  {Online Free Read}
The Little Android (The Lunar Chronicles, #0.6) {Online Free Read}
Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer {PurchaseMy Review}
The Queen’s Army (The Lunar Chronicles #1.5) by Marissa Meyer {Online Free Read}
Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer {PurchaseMy Review}

Picking up where Scarlet left off, we return to Cinder, Captain Thorne, Scarlet, Wolf, and Iko all attempting to culminate a plan to stop Queen Levana before she marries Emperor Kai. Cress, imprisoned by Queen Levana on a satellite orbiting Earth, is an expert hacker and when she’s given orders to track down Cinder she does it with ease. Instead of turning this information over, she decides to help the group anyway she can. After a botched rescue attempt lands Cress and Thorne in the African desert and the rest of the group scattered, everyone has to survive long enough to find each other once again. The clock is quickly ticking down to the wedding that will give Queen Levana control of the universe unless Cinder can successfully stop her.

Scarlet shared page-time between Cinder and Scarlet’s storylines but with Cress we have even more storylines to follow not only with the addition of Cress as a character but because the group has been scattered. I really, really loved Cress’ storyline and how much it delved into her backstory and everything about her family and how she got to where she is was wonderfully done. There were some rather slow moments when Cress and Throne were plodding through the African desert that was a bit hard to get through but it helped us learn more about Cress and even a little it more about Thorne that really helped you to appreciate their characters even more. Scarlet wasn’t present as much as I would have liked but Meyer pushed her to the limit putting her on a nail-biting path that I believe will lead to her having a major role in the final installment, Winter.

This series continues to impress. I love the intricacies of the political system and the details of the ongoing strife, the evolution of the plague that lurks dangerously in the background and the fact that while these manage to be authentic and impressive you can still identify the well-known fairy tales these are built around. This penultimate installment will leave you waiting with bated breath for Winter, Meyer’s twist on the story of Snow White, the conclusion to this thrilling series.

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Book Review – A Little Something Different by Sandy Hall

Posted February 13, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA / 3 Comments

Book Review – A Little Something Different by Sandy HallA Little Something Different by Sandy Hall
Published by Swoon Reads on August 26th 2014
Pages: 272
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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three-stars

Swoon Reads proudly presents its first novel—an irresistible and original romance between two college students told from 14 different viewpoints.

The creative writing teacher, the delivery guy, the local Starbucks baristas, his best friend, her roommate, and the squirrel in the park all have one thing in common—they believe that Gabe and Lea should get together.

Lea and Gabe are in the same creative writing class. They get the same pop culture references, order the same Chinese food, and hang out in the same places. Unfortunately, Lea is reserved, Gabe has issues, and it seems like they are never going to work things out.

But something is happening between them, and everyone can see it. You’ll be rooting for Gabe and Lea too, in this irresistibly quirky, completely original novel, chosen by readers, writers, and publishers to be the debut title for the new Swoon Reads imprint!

Gabe and Lea are the only ones that don’t see that they belong together. A Little Something Different is interestingly told from fourteen different points of view of everyone around them, including a squirrel and a bench. Yes, you read that right. Gabe is terribly shy despite the fact that he does in fact like Lea and Lea, try as she might, she can’t seem to get through to him. Does he just not like her? Does he have a girlfriend? Is he gay? Oh, the mental drama we subject ourselves to when trying to determine if a crush likes us back.

A unique aspect of this book is the style of writing. While it wasn’t my favorite at first and the quirky few (namely the squirrel and bench) did seem rather odd, it definitely grew on me. I don’t know about you, but I’m a total people watcher, and it was pretty adorable how so many people took an interest in Gabe and Lea and their seemingly inevitable relationship. Even Victor, the moody kid in their Creative Writing class, couldn’t resist taking an interest in their shenanigans:

“…you two assholes are the most annoyingly cute thing I’ve ever seen. I’m annoyed at myself for even using the word ‘cute’. I feel sick to my stomach over using that word.”

If you were wondering, I’m a total Victor.

So while it was all cute and fluffy fun, there were some downsides that I can’t help but mention. I did wish that Gabe and Lea’s points of view were also included in the mix because while we do get a feel for their thoughts via their friends, it would have been better to have it firsthand. Another thing is I honestly couldn’t see why everyone thought Lea and Gabe were perfect for each other, especially with all the one-sided conversations Lea had with him where he literally said nothing. This happened for MONTHS. There’s shy (and yes, I get it that he was dealing with other issues as well) but after a point, I wondered why Lea seriously even bothered. Their interactions with one another gave the story a very adolescent feel and when suddenly they’re at a party getting drunk it kind of threw me for a bit. And then there was the unnecessary lady-bashing when everyone thought Gabe liked this other girl in their Creative Writing class:

“There really is no point,” Lea says. “Even if he does like girls, he’s totally into this girl Hillary in creative writing.”
“Sounds like Hillary is a skank queen of Cockblock-ville.”

But despite Victor and I’s shared moodiness, I still found myself charmed by this simple and sweet tale. It’s definitely one to save for when you’re in need of some serious fluff.

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