Source: Purchased

Book Review – The Perfect Present by Karen Swan

Posted December 25, 2014 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 / 1 Comment

Book Review – The Perfect Present by Karen SwanThe Perfect Present by Karen Swan
Published by Pan on November 8th 2012
Pages: 531
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Holiday - Christmas
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Amazon | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Christmas at Tiffany's

four-stars

Haunted by a past she can’t escape, Laura Cunningham desires nothing more than to keep her world small and precise - her quiet relationship and growing jewellery business are all she needs to get by. Until the December day when Rob Blake walks into her studio and commissions a necklace that will tell his enigmatic wife Cat’s life in charms.

As Laura interviews Cat’s family, friends and former lovers, she steps out of her world and into theirs – a charmed world where weekends are spent in Verbier and the air is lavender-scented, where friends are wild, extravagant and jealous, and a big love has to compete with grand passions.

Hearts are opened, secrets revealed and as the necklace begins to fill up with trinkets, Cat’s intoxicating life envelops Laura’s own. By the time she has to identify the final charm, Laura’s metamorphosis is almost complete. But the last story left to tell has the power to change all of their lives forever, and Laura is forced to choose between who she really is and who it is she wants to be.

Laura Cunningham is a jewelry maker specializing in beautiful charms, lives with her long-term boyfriend Jack and has a secret side to herself that she’s desperate to keep contained. When she’s commissioned to create a personalized charm bracelet for Rob Blake’s wife Cat, Laura ends up immersed in their lives and subsequently awakens a part of herself that she’s struggled to keep dormant.

So the not so great. The enigma of Laura’s past took up the vast majority of The Perfect Present and made it less straight forward than you would think. It was engaging at first and gave her an air of intrigue but this was such a long story that the desire to learn her secret became a need rather than a desire after a certain point. The mystery unfolded near to the very end of the story and could have definitely been given more page time in order to fully explain everything so as to make Laura’s actions throughout the story much more plausible.

Now the good. Karen Swan has managed to create a multi-layered character in Laura Cunningham. She remained a complete mystery throughout the entire tale (which is both good and bad as you’ll see below) which was infinitely important in a 500+ page story. In addition to Laura’s character, there is a full cast of characters which Laura has to interview in order to complete the commissioned job and each of them were given a solid back-story. Kitty was by far my favorite and was the most realistic and likable one of the bunch. The men were all the brooding sort but it was never taken too overboard. I also loved that this was a far from perfect tale and there wasn’t technically a happy ending, or at least not the type of happy ending that you would have gone in expecting.

After reading Christmas at Tiffany’s I was desperate to get my hands on more of Karen Swan’s work. Tiffany’s was A+ and one of my most favorite stories of the year. Perfect Present wasn’t an enthralling but was still enjoyable and was far from your typical chicklit type tale which I appreciated. Taking place throughout the month of December including Christmas day so this was the perfect time to read this story. This is now my second read of hers and I will either need to have more of her stories shipped from the UK or hope that US publishers pick up her stories… or both would work too. 🙂bonnie blog signature

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Book Review – The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel (Sherlock Holmes #1) by Anthony Horowitz

Posted December 18, 2014 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 / 3 Comments

Book Review – The House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel (Sherlock Holmes #1) by Anthony HorowitzThe House of Silk: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Anthony Horowitz
Series: Sherlock Holmes #1
Published by Mulholland Books on November 1, 2011
Pages: 304
Genres: Historical Fiction, Mystery, Sherlock
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Moriarty

four-half-stars

For the first time in its one-hundred-and-twenty-five-year history, the Arthur Conan Doyle Estate has authorized a new Sherlock Holmes novel.

Once again, THE GAME'S AFOOT...

London, 1890. 221B Baker St. A fine art dealer named Edmund Carstairs visits Sherlock Holmes and Dr John Watson to beg for their help. He is being menaced by a strange man in a flat cap - a wanted criminal who seems to have followed him all the way from America. In the days that follow, his home is robbed, his family is threatened. And then the first murder takes place.

Almost unwillingly, Holmes and Watson find themselves being drawn ever deeper into an international conspiracy connected to the teeming criminal underworld of Boston, the gaslit streets of London, opium dens and much, much more. And as they dig, they begin to hear the whispered phrase-the House of Silk-a mysterious entity that connects the highest levels of government to the deepest depths of criminality. Holmes begins to fear that he has uncovered a conspiracy that threatens to tear apart the very fabric of society.

The Arthur Conan Doyle Estate chose the celebrated, #1 New York Times bestselling author Anthony Horowitz to write The House of Silk because of his proven ability to tell a transfixing story and for his passion for all things Holmes. Destined to become an instant classic, The House of Silk brings Sherlock Holmes back with all the nuance, pacing, and almost superhuman powers of analysis and deduction that made him the world's greatest detective, in a case depicting events too shocking, too monstrous to ever appear in print...until now.

‘Show Holmes a drop of water and he would deduce the existence of the Atlantic. Show it to me and I would look for a tap. That was the difference between us.’

In London, during the Autumn of 1890, Holmes and Watson are investigating a seemingly ordinary crime involving rare art and of course murder. Their investigation manages to take them far from the beaten path and propels them straight into a most horrific ongoing crime involving The House of Silk. They hit a brick wall being unable to find any useful information about it but both Holmes and Watson are unable to stop investigating, of course, even with the obvious danger they are putting themselves in by continuing to do so. Watson narrates the tale wonderfully, giving us insight into the quirks of Sherlock and the sheer brilliance of his mind. There are mysteries within mysteries in this story and the inevitable unraveling is truly the best part.

The House of Silk is the first installment in a new Holmes series written by Anthony Horowitz that has been sanctioned and commissioned by the estate of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Horowitz definitely has some big shoes to fill but his writing skills shine and Holmes and Watson feel as if they were never gone. I’m a huge fan of the original Conan Doyle stories and have always been leery of picking up the various pastiches out there; I’d much rather just read the originals. I took the risk once with The Beekeeper’s Apprentice and it quickly became one of my all-time favorites. The House of Silk was my second foray into Holmes pastiches and my luck continued. This was a fantastically faithful representation of everything I love about the originals, yet managed to add a level of excitement that I feel is sometimes missing from the classics. Horowitz did an honorable job of continuing the Sherlock legacy and these are well worth the read to all you Sherlock fans out there.

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Book Review – Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer

Posted December 12, 2014 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2014, YA / 4 Comments

Book Review – Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa MeyerScarlet by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #2
Published by Feiwel & Friends on February 5th 2013
Pages: 452
Genres: Fairy-Tales/Retellings, Romance, Steampunk
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Cinder, Cress, Fairest

four-stars

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of Marissa Meyer's bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison--even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

The Lunar Chronicles series

Glitches (The Lunar Chronicles, #0.5) by Marissa Meyer {Online Free Read}
The Little Android (The Lunar Chronicles, #0.6) by Marissa Meyer {Online Free Read}
Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1) by Marissa Meyer {PurchaseMy Review}

From Cinder as cyborg Cinderella to Scarlet as Little Red Riding Hood (or hoodie, rather). Cinder has joined up with fellow inmate Thorne to bust out of prison in order to escape the wrath of Queen Levana. Scarlet is in search of her grandmother who has been missing for two weeks and the only one that seems to know anything is a guy who only goes by the name of “Wolf”.

I’ve always been a huge fan of fairytale retellings but the idea of steampunk/sci-fi/fairy tales blended together never inspired me to pick up these books and as more and more installments released the surer I was that these weren’t books I would ever enjoy. Not only do those same elements continue but the incorporation of multiple fairy tales all in one universe sounded like a big hot mess. I finally caved and read Cinder just to try to see what all the fuss was about… so. much. fun. I loved Cinder’s Cinderella story and all of the steampunk and sci-fi elements were done so, so well. But then came the end of Cinder’s tale and I was under the impression that the next story focused on an entirely different character which bummed me out so I didn’t end up picking it up immediately. Don’t make the same mistake I did because I was pleasantly surprised to find that Cinder gets plenty of page time. But also don’t be surprised if you manage to like Scarlet just as much if not more (serious, the girl even packs a gun for protection). That is hands down the best thing about these books and the main characters are that each of these female leads is imbued with some serious badass-ness that you can’t help but love.

The time spent on both Scarlet and Cinder’s stories was well-balanced and inevitably blended together rather seamlessly. The thing with fairy-tales and their re-tellings is you can’t help but not be surprised at the typical turn of events because we already know what’s going to happen. Meyer has managed to inject The Lunar Chronicles with an entertaining level of originality that continues to keep those pages turning. I have sky high expectations at this point and I won’t be wasting any time before picking up Cress.

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Book Review – Garden Spells (Waverley Family #1) by Sarah Addison Allen

Posted December 4, 2014 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 / 4 Comments

Book Review – Garden Spells (Waverley Family #1) by Sarah Addison AllenGarden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen
Series: Waverley Family #1
on August 28th 2007
Pages: 304
Genres: Magical Realism
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: Lost Lake, First Frost

four-stars

In a garden surrounded by a tall fence, tucked away behind a small, quiet house in an even smaller town, is an apple tree that is rumored to bear a very special sort of fruit. In this luminous debut novel, Sarah Addison Allen tells the story of that enchanted tree, and the extraordinary people who tend it.…

The Waverleys have always been a curious family, endowed with peculiar gifts that make them outsiders even in their hometown of Bascom, North Carolina. Even their garden has a reputation, famous for its feisty apple tree that bears prophetic fruit, and its edible flowers, imbued with special powers. Generations of Waverleys tended this garden. Their history was in the soil. But so were their futures.

A successful caterer, Claire Waverley prepares dishes made with her mystical plants—from the nasturtiums that aid in keeping secrets and the pansies that make children thoughtful, to the snapdragons intended to discourage the attentions of her amorous neighbor. Meanwhile, her elderly cousin, Evanelle, is known for distributing unexpected gifts whose uses become uncannily clear. They are the last of the Waverleys—except for Claire’s rebellious sister, Sydney, who fled Bascom the moment she could, abandoning Claire, as their own mother had years before.

When Sydney suddenly returns home with a young daughter of her own, Claire’s quiet life is turned upside down—along with the protective boundary she has so carefully constructed around her heart. Together again in the house they grew up in, Sydney takes stock of all she left behind, as Claire struggles to heal the wounds of the past. And soon the sisters realize they must deal with their common legacy—if they are ever to feel at home in Bascom—or with each other.

Enchanting and heartfelt, this captivating novel is sure to cast a spell with a style all its own….

Garden Spells tells the story of two gifted sisters: Claire Waverley, a successful caterer in their hometown who has a decidedly magical touch with food, and Sydney, the younger sister who left town at an early age only to run into trouble forcing her to return to Bascom, North Carolina with her six year old daughter, Bay. Sydney left her hometown in an attempt to run from what it means to be a Waverley, and the magical gifts they have, as well as from the heartbreak caused by the breakup with her high school boyfriend. While Sydney bounced from city to city, Claire remained in their childhood home where their late grandmother lived and led a quiet life of solitude until Sydney came back into her life.

Garden Spells centers around the two Waverley sisters but manages to incorporate a full cast into a small amount of pages without overdoing it. My favorite character was Evanelle, a “second or third or fourteenth cousin” that also has her own unique gift: she would get sudden urges to gift individuals with certain items which they would inevitably need sooner or later. She was a complete hoot and added a distinct sense of humor to the tale. We’re also given passages told from the points of view of love interests, other townsfolk and six-year-old Bay who possesses the gift of knowing just exactly where things belong. Garden Spells is so heartwarming and realistic seeing two sisters who had grown apart over the years reintegrate one another into their lives. On top of the wonderful magical flairs, it’s also the perfect read for fans of what I like to call “foodie fiction”. Claire, being an owner of a catering business, is often cooking and her delicious sounding masterpieces are described in intricate detail.

‘Anise hyssop honey butter on toast, angelica candy, and cupcakes with crystallized pansies made children thought. Honeysuckle wine served on the Fourth of July gave you the ability to see in the dark. The nutty flavor of the dip made from hyacinth bulbs made you feel moody and think of the past, and the salads made with chicory and mint had you believing that something good was about to happen, whether it was true or not.’

Sarah Addison Allen is one of my favorite authors and I don’t say that lightly. I can always count on her books to have a whimsical tale that will put a smile on my face and lead me to hours of enjoyment. Oddly enough, I didn’t always have such a high opinion of her. Garden Spells was actually the first book of hers I read and I honestly didn’t care for it, but after going on to read all of her works and loving each and every one of them, I knew I had to revisit this and give it another shot through a different set of eyes. The second time around went much better and I enjoyed it greatly. Why the change? I remember the first time I kept comparing it to the movie/book Practical Magic without bothering to note the differences plus it was my first foray into magical realism so I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. (I also read The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake around the same time and disliked it greatly so I’m thinking a re-read of that may be in order.) This is the first time I’ve gone back attempting to give a book I disliked another shot. In my mind, it always seems like a waste of time because if you disliked it the first time, why would it be different the second time? Well, if I take anything from this experience it’s that it won’t be the last time.

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Classic Curiosity – Frankenstein by Mary Shelley

Posted October 11, 2014 by Bonnie in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Ominous October, Read in 2014 / 7 Comments

Classic Curiosity – Frankenstein by Mary ShelleyFrankenstein by Mary Shelley
Narrator: Dan Stevens
Published by Audible on 1818
Length: 8 hrs and 35 mins
Genres: Classics, Horror
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
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four-stars

Narrator Dan Stevens (Downton Abbey) presents an uncanny performance of Mary Shelley's timeless gothic novel, an epic battle between man and monster at its greatest literary pitch. In trying to create life, the young student Victor Frankenstein unleashes forces beyond his control, setting into motion a long and tragic chain of events that brings Victor to the very brink of madness. How he tries to destroy his creation, as it destroys everything Victor loves, is a powerful story of love, friendship, scientific hubris, and horror.

The summer of 1816 was named the “Year Without a Summer” after the eruption of Mount Tambora caused a long and dreary Volcanic Winter. With everyone keeping to the indoors, Mary, her future husband Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and John Polidori all entertained themselves by telling ghost stories and then inevitably it was suggested they each come up with their own type of horror story. It was during this very summer that Mary Shelley, at the age of eighteen, came up with the initial concept of Frankenstein.

‘After days and night of incredible labour and fatigue, I succeeded in discovering the cause of generation and life; nay, more, I became myself capable of bestowing animation upon lifeless matter.’

Frankenstein is the story of Victor Frankenstein, a man that through experiementation in both science and alchemy devised a way to combine pieces of human corpses and give them new life. Frankenstein is a legendary story and has become a pivotal part of our cultural understanding of the supernatural world, however, the novel is actually nothing like the classic movies involving lightning, screaming and Frankenstein actually being excited at his accomplishments.

His shock and awe quickly transforms into a horrific realization at what he was capable of and he ran away in terror, leaving the monster alone. We’re told Frankenstein’s story first and the steps that led to the monsters creation and the subsequent events as well. Frankenstein depicts him as a monster, thus the reason he is never given an actual name, but when we are finally given the story via the monsters point of view we realize this ‘monster’ is quite possibly anything but. His is a story of complete despondency that easily garners your compassion regardless of the pain and suffering he has wreaked. He may be a creation but is he still not a person? Is his creators ensuing abandonment to blame for his conduct because Frankenstein had a duty beyond just his creation? I believe it is. Without his creator there to teach him the ways of the world, he was forced to observe, learn and interpret on his own. So then it was his observances of society what transformed him into who he came to be? A matter of circumstance? He became an outcast of society because of his appearance and after a time became lonely and craved a companion. He sought out his creator so as to force him to duplicate his work.

This is my first read of the classic and I must say it’s nothing like I was expecting. It ended up being a strange and eclectic blend of genres. It was science fiction, with the creation of a man from pieces of corpses, and it was gothic and horror, the dead coming back to life and wreaking havoc on the world. Neither of those were the sole purpose or point of this story; it only set the scene. At the heart of this story are the revolutionary and intellectual questions about life, death and existence. About scientific possibilities and how far is too far. And it’s about compassion and lack of it in this world. Was Frankenstein’s monster truly an outcast only because of his appearance, because initially he showed the utmost caring towards individuals and even saved a drowning girl at one point. Society saw the monster and judged him harshly based off that alone, never giving him the benefit of the doubt. It’s a fictional accounting of a harsh world but it’s a rather truthful and distressing accounting. This is Gothic literature at its very finest and I’m so glad I finally conquered this incredible piece of work.

‘Once I falsely hoped to meet with beings who, pardoning my outward form, would love me for the excellent qualities which I was capable of unfolding. I was nourished with high thoughts of honour and devotion. But now crime has degraded me beneath the meanest animal. No guilt, no mischief, no malignity, no misery, can be found comparable to mine. When I run over the frightful catalogue of my sins, I cannot believe that I am the same creature whose thoughts were once filled with sublime transcendent visions of the beauty and the majesty of goodness.’

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Book Review – Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander #8) by Diana Gabaldon

Posted September 11, 2014 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 / 2 Comments

Book Review – Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander #8) by Diana GabaldonWritten in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #8
Published by Delacorte Press on June 10th 2014
Pages: 848
Genres: Historical Fiction, Time Travel
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel

three-stars

In her now classic novel Outlander, Diana Gabaldon told the story of Claire Randall, an English ex-combat nurse who walks through a stone circle in the Scottish Highlands in 1946, and disappears . . . into 1743. The story unfolded from there in seven bestselling novels, and CNN has called it “a grand adventure written on a canvas that probes the heart, weighs the soul and measures the human spirit across [centuries].” Now the story continues in Written in My Own Heart’s Blood.

1778: France declares war on Great Britain, the British army leaves Philadelphia, and George Washington’s troops leave Valley Forge in pursuit. At this moment, Jamie Fraser returns from a presumed watery grave to discover that his best friend has married his wife, his illegitimate son has discovered (to his horror) who his father really is, and his beloved nephew, Ian, wants to marry a Quaker. Meanwhile, Jamie’s wife, Claire, and his sister, Jenny, are busy picking up the pieces.

The Frasers can only be thankful that their daughter Brianna and her family are safe in twentieth-century Scotland. Or not. In fact, Brianna is  searching for her own son, who was kidnapped by a man determined to learn her family’s secrets. Her husband, Roger, has ventured into the past in search of the missing boy . . . never suspecting that the object of his quest has not left the present. Now, with Roger out of the way, the kidnapper can focus on his true target: Brianna herself.

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood is the brilliant next chapter in a masterpiece of the imagination unlike any other.

Outlander series

Outlander (Outlander #1) {Purchase}
Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) {Purchase}
Voyager (Outlander #3) {Purchase}
Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) {Purchase}
The Fiery Cross (Outlander #5) {Purchase}
A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander #6) {Purchase}
An Echo in the Bone (Outlander #7) {Purchase}
The Outlander Series 7-Book Bundle on Kindle {Purchase}

After the dramatic conclusion in An Echo in the Bone and the five years it took for this installment to come out, I was expecting to swallow this whole as soon as I was afforded the opportunity. Instead? It took me upwards of almost THREE MONTHS to finish which is practically unheard of for me. When I finally read the last page, I ran joyously through the house a la Liz Lemon style.

But let’s back up and discuss what actually goes down in this book. There will be spoilers for previous installments.

So, there was drama. A lot of it. Written picks right up where Echo left off in 1778 with Claire discovering Jamie is, in fact, alive and kicking and her marriage (and consummation) to Lord John poses some mighty intense drama. Then there’s William who just recently discovered that Lord John is not actually his father, Jamie is, but raised him since Jamie was unable to. He proceeds to throw a tantrum about said drama for pretty much the full extent of the book making his chapters pretty interminable. We’ve got Ian and his dog Rollo, who have decidedly less drama but since he has become engaged to Rachel and just so happens to be well-liked by William, well there’s your drama for that storyline too. There are various other side stories too that are, you guessed it, full of drama. Oh, and we can’t forget about the fact that the American Revolutionary War is going on in the background of all this. Meanwhile, in 1980, Bree is frantic to find her son Jem whom she fears has been taken through the stones and back in time by an enemy who discovered that Jem knows the location of a priceless buried treasure. Roger has set off to follow them through the stones to get him back but his leaving brings more trouble for Bree back home.

Bree and Roger’s sections were my most favorite but were, unfortunately, the smallest part of the book as a whole. I’d say they got roughly 20% while the remaining 80% was spent in 1778. All of Gabaldon’s books have been large in size, Written clocking in at 848 pages of extremely tiny print, but this one honestly felt too long. An extreme amount of detail was placed on Claire’s methods for healing with the rudimentary tools available to her and some were extremely graphic and completely unnecessary for the storyline as a whole. There were several chapters spent on her saving Lord John’s brother from an asthma attack, the medical cases from various individuals that were injured in battle, an amputation, Lord John Grey’s eye injury which she heals with her fingers and honey and the worst of them all: the surgery she performs on a slave girl to fix her rectovaginal fistula. FYI? Don’t Google that. It was all super detailed and somewhat interesting for the most part but I wanted more actual story.

Yes, I did give this 3 stars so clearly there was some good to this. Again, like I said, Bree and Roger’s chapters were the best and I loved where their stories took them in this massive puzzle Gabaldon is masterminding. There were some terribly emotional scenes that managed to draw me back into the story: Ian and his dog Rollo, Henri Christian (Fergus’ son) and Jane’s whole sad story. I found the unrelenting drama too much but mainly because it didn’t manage to work my emotions like the other books always seemed to. Even though this one is most definitely my least favorite of the series there is no doubt that I’ll be continuing this series. I anxiously await the next installment (in a half dozen years or so if we’re lucky), especially after everything, got set up in the conclusion (but thankfully there wasn’t a dramatic cliffhanger).

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Book Review – Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer

Posted August 30, 2014 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2014, YA / 4 Comments

Book Review – Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa MeyerCinder by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1
Published by Feiwel & Friends on January 3rd 2012
Pages: 400
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Fairy-Tales/Retellings, Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Scarlet, Cress, Fairest

four-stars

Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. 

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

The Lunar Chronicles series

Glitches (The Lunar Chronicles, #0.5)  {Online Free Read}
The Little Android (The Lunar Chronicles, #0.6) {Online Free Read}

“Even in the Future the Story Begins with Once Upon a Time”

In New Beijing, humans, androids, and cyborgs live amongst each other in a world ravaged by a plague called letumosis. Cinder became a cyborg at an early age after surviving a car crash that killed both her parents and now works as a mechanic to earn money for her self-absorbed and hateful adoptive mother. When her sister becomes sick and Cinder is blamed, her mother volunteers her for a medical testing group for cyborgs where the survival rate is non-existent. She inevitably stumbles upon information about her past that she had been unable to remember and it manages to turn her entire life upside down.

A sci-fi retelling of Cinderella as a cyborg“. That blurb had me skeptical for years, avoiding this book and insisting it wasn’t going to be for me. And then I read Glitches, the short story prequel to Cinder and it convinced me to finally pick it up. Boy, am I glad I did. In retrospect, it still astounds me that a book with so many various genres still managed to work as well as it did. I mean it’s sci-fi, a retelling, sorta steampunk-ish, and even dystopian. AND Cinderella is a total badass and even a mechanic. It shouldn’t work in theory but it definitely does. The world was brilliantly drawn and I loved just how well the Cinderella story was incorporated.

Cinder’s perseverance made her an extremely likable heroine and the romance between her and Prince Kai was completely charming (plus no instalove here folks!). Her horrendous stepmother was par for the course for the original Cinderella tale but good grief, that woman was the very definition of awful. In Cinderella, the wicked stepmother made Cinderella stay home from the ball and clean the house. Oh, woe is her. But in Cinder, her wicked adoptive mother sold her to a medical testing group where not a single person has survived. Now THAT is wicked. Cinderella didn’t know how good she had it. Even though everyone knows the story of Cinderella, there were enough alterations done to this story to keep it suspenseful. The ending will leave you yearning for the next book, Scarlet, with the author tackling another well-known fairy tale: Little Red Riding Hood.

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Book Review – Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions by Daniel Wallace

Posted August 22, 2014 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 / 1 Comment

Book Review – Big Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions by Daniel WallaceBig Fish: A Novel of Mythic Proportions by Daniel Wallace
Published by Penguin Books on October 1st 1998
Pages: 208
Genres: Magical Realism
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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Goodreads


four-stars

He could outrun anybody, and he never missed a day of school. He saved lives, tamed giants. Animals loved him. People loved him. Women loved hi (and he loved them back). And he knew more jokes than any man alive.

Now, as he lies dying, Edward Bloom can't seem to stop telling jokes -or the tall tales that have made him, in his son's eyes, an extraordinary man. Big Fish is the story of this man's life, told as a series of legends and myths inspired by the few facts his son, William, knows. Through these tales -hilarious and wrenching, tender and outrageous- William begins to understand his elusive father's great feats, and his great failings.

‘[…] I thought of him suddenly, and simply, as a boy, a child, a youth, with his whole life ahead of him, much as mine was ahead of me. I’d never done that before. And these images — the now and then of my father — converged, and at that moment he turned into a weird creature, wild, concurrently young and old, dying and newborn.
My father became a myth.’

Edward Bloom is an enigma of a man that has always told only the most elaborate yet unbelievable tales of his life. He is a traveling businessman that rarely comes home, even though he has a wife and a son forever waiting for him. Being home so little forces his son, William, to put these tall tales together in his mind in the hope that his father might become less of a mystery to him. When Edward comes home to stay because he’s dying, William seeks to learn as much as he can about his father before it’s too late.

‘Beneath one facade there’s another facade and then another, and beneath that the aching dark place, his life, something that neither of us understands.’

The tall tales of the man named Edward Bloom are the very definition of far-fetched, yet being the only stories he has ever told has transformed them into a type of myth thus transforming him into an inspiring hero of his own making. He’s encountered a giant and a two-headed Japanese geisha. He rode on the back of a giant catfish and explored an underwater town. There have been river-girls and all-seeing glass eyes and even a time when he saved a little girl from certain death by ripping out the very heart of a wild dog. Each piece of his life is told episodically but not always chronologically and serves only to heighten the mystery.

‘When a man’s stories are remembered, then he is immortal.’

William’s insistence on discovering the true nature of his father never amounts to much as Edward continues to shroud himself in his stories steeped in fantasy. But it ultimately becomes unnecessary anyway. Magical realism runs rampant in this tale, yet at the heart of the story, it’s simply about the unconditional love between a father and son.

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Classic Curiosity – And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Posted August 9, 2014 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Read in 2014 / 3 Comments

Classic Curiosity – And Then There Were None by Agatha ChristieAnd Then There Were None by Agatha Christie
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on 1939
Pages: 264
Genres: Classics, Mystery, Thriller
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Hallowe'en Party

five-stars

“Ten . . .” —Ten strangers are lured to an isolated island mansion on an island off the Devon coast by a mysterious host.

“Nine . . .” —At dinner, a recorded message accuses each of them of harboring a guilty secret. By the end of the meal, one is dead.

“Eight . . .” —Stranded by a violent storm, there is no hope of escape. Haunted by a nursery rhyme counting down one by one, the guests begin to die.

“Seven . . .” —As suspicions are raised and accusations fly, secrets begin to surface. But who among them is the killer . . . and will any of them survive?

‘There was something magical about an island – the mere word suggested fantasy. You lost touch with the world-an island was a world of its own. A world, perhaps, from which you might never return.’

Ten people arrive at Soldier Island after receiving invitations from various acquaintances convincing them to make the trip. The island has been much talked about recently after some confusion over who owns it so everyone is intrigued to find out the answer to that question. Everyone seemingly has nothing in common with one another until an announcement booms through the house on the first night from a gramophone bringing each persons secret to light. By the end of that first night, one person has died. After a search has been conducted of the island, the rest of the guests come to the realization that they’re the only ones on that island and that the murderer must be among the nine remaining guests.

Agatha Christie is the prolific author known as the “Queen of Crime” and the “Master of Misdirection”. I have no idea what took me so long to pick up anything of hers, being such a long time fan of mysteries in general, but And Then There Were None was the perfect first choice.

Ten little Soldier boys went out to dine;
One choked his little self and then there were nine.

Nine little Soldier boys sat up very late;
One overslept himself and then there were eight.

Eight little Soldier boys traveling in Devon;
One said he’d stay there and then there were seven.

Seven little Soldier boys chopping up sticks;
One chopped himself in halves and then there were six.

Six little Soldier boys playing with a hive;
A bumblebee stung one and then there were five.

Five little Soldier boys going in for law;
One got in Chancery and then there were four.

Four little Soldier boys going out to sea;
A red herring swallowed one and then there were three.

Three little Soldier boys walking in the zoo;
A big bear hugged one and then there were two.

Two Little Soldier boys sitting in the sun;
One got frizzled up and then there was one.

One little Soldier boy left all alone;
He went out and hanged himself and then there were none.

The guests find the above nursery rhyme that has been framed on the wall curious. As well as the ten little soldier figurines that stand on the dining room table. Each subsequent death results in the realization that the deaths are not only following the nursery rhyme (the first individual died after choking on what appeared to be cyanide) but with each death a soldier figurine is mysteriously removed from the table. While it seems unlikely that the murderer would have been able to plan accordingly in order to remain a mystery and still kill, following the nursery rhyme perfectly, the impossibility was expertly erased by the authors exhilarating storytelling ability. Each person begins to suspect one another until there isn’t anyone left to trust, even the reader is continually left in the dark as to the perpetrator. Just when you think you’ve caught on to what’s going on, Christie is bound to throw a wrench into your theories. I loved this book and loved the constant guessing game and will no doubt be picking up many more Agatha Christie novels in the future.

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Book Review – Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits #1) by Katie McGarry

Posted June 21, 2014 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2014, YA / 0 Comments

Book Review – Pushing the Limits (Pushing the Limits #1) by Katie McGarryPushing the Limits by Katie McGarry
Series: Pushing the Limits #1
Published by Harlequin Teen on May 1st 2013
Pages: 397
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads


three-stars

So wrong for each other…and yet so right.

No one knows what happened the night Echo Emerson went from popular girl with jock boyfriend to gossiped-about outsider with "freaky" scars on her arms. Even Echo can't remember the whole truth.

But when Noah Hutchins, the smoking-hot, girl-using loner in the black leather jacket, explodes into her life with his surprising understanding, Echo's world shifts in ways she could never have imagined. They should have nothing in common.

Yet the crazy attraction between them refuses to go away. And Echo has to ask herself just how far they can PUSH THE LIMITS and what she'll risk for the one guy who might teach her HOW TO LOVE AGAIN.

Pushing the Limits is a contemporary YA story about romance and friendship and dealing with loss. Echo was involved in an accident with her mother but the trauma was so strong that her mind has blocked it completely. All she wants to do is remember, but is she strong enough to handle the truth? Noah is still dealing with the loss of his parents in a house fire and is struggling to survive the foster care system. He was separated from his two younger brothers and all he wants to do is obtain custody of them so they can all be a happy family again. Echo and Noah have both suffered in life but are complete opposites of each other, yet they fall for one another just the same.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: YA contemporary is not my go-to genre. This book sat on my shelf for years because let’s be honest, that cover screams nothing but high school! romance! angst! drama! to me. I was surprised that while the romance (and yes, all the angst and drama one could ever hope for) is a major part, the story possessed a depth I was not expecting. Echo and Noah were individuals that had been forced into growing up sooner than necessary due to incidents in their life and Pushing the Limits is their coming of age story that treads the line between YA and NA and will be well-liked by fans of both.

Pushing the Limits was entertaining and I read it fairly quickly, however, it didn’t manage to generate much in the way of opinion. I was overall a bit indifferent about Echo and Noah’s story. While I appreciated the complex and separate side stories of both characters, it was all too melodramatic for me in the end. The romance was given some time to develop so instant love wasn’t a real factor, but once the romance started it, the seriousness between the two progressed at the speed of light. There were the obligatory ‘I love you’s’ thrown around and the constant use of ‘babe’. While the characters stories possessed depth I didn’t feel that their romance did. The story suffered in pacing during the second half and would have benefited from a trim in length as it only succeeded in adding more of the already abundant melodramatic flair. Excessively long yet still compulsively readable, it disappointed by ending too predictable. I seem to have nothing but negative things to say, yet I did enjoy the read overall. It’d be worth it to give the author another shot to see how she progresses as a writer.

How to Love by Katie Cotugno {PurchaseMy Review}
Jellicoe Road by Melina Marchetta {Purchase}
A Little Wanting Song by Cath Crowley {Purchase}

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