Posts Categorized: Adult

Short & Sweet – Behind Her Eyes, Poe, The Butterfly Garden

April 21, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2017, Short & Sweet Reviews 0 Comments

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

Short & Sweet – Behind Her Eyes, Poe, The Butterfly GardenBehind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough
Published by Flatiron Books on January 31st 2017
Pages: 306
Genres: Mystery
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Mayhem

four-stars

Why is everyone talking about the ending of Sarah Pinborough's Behind Her Eyes?

Louise is a single mom, a secretary, stuck in a modern-day rut. On a rare night out, she meets a man in a bar and sparks fly. Though he leaves after they kiss, she’s thrilled she finally connected with someone.

When Louise arrives at work on Monday, she meets her new boss, David. The man from the bar. The very married man from the bar…who says the kiss was a terrible mistake but who still can’t keep his eyes off Louise.
And then Louise bumps into Adele, who’s new to town and in need of a friend, but she also just happens to be married to David. David and Adele look like the picture-perfect husband and wife, but then why is David so controlling, and why is Adele so scared of him?

As Louise is drawn into David and Adele’s orbit, she uncovers more puzzling questions than answers. The only thing that is crystal clear is that something in this marriage is very, very wrong, but Louise can’t guess how wrong―and how far a person might go to protect their marriage’s secrets.

‘Questions, question, question. It seems that ever since David and Adele came into my life I’ve been filled with questions. They’re like weeds in water. Every time I think I can swim away another one tangles around my legs to drag me back down.’

Everything about this story and its summary scream “typical suburban drama” but Behind Her Eyes is far from anything you’ve ever read, I can assure you. Sure, Louise is a single mom who meets a man in a bar. They share a kiss, but nothing more. When she gets to work on Monday to meet her new boss, David, it ends up being the man from the bar… who is married. Desperate to make everything less awkward, they both admit to it being a vast mistake in an attempt to make sure it’s never brought up again. But when Louise makes a new friend named Adele who ends up being David’s wife, Louise’s life becomes vastly complicated.

The present-day story progresses as David and Adele’s past unfolds which further complicates matters. It’s constantly alluded to that David is overly protective of Adele, that he keeps her literally locked inside their house, that he limits her access to her own personal finances, and that their relationship is far from anything healthy. Adele involves Louise in her personal drama but leaves vital pieces of the puzzle out in a desperate attempt to earn Louise’s empathy. But to what end?

Here’s where things get dicey and where I understand the negative opinions of many even though mine differ. The whole initial setup of this story appears very formulaic, establishing some preconceived notions of where the plot could possibly go. The massive emphasis by Flatiron Books Marketing team on the twist at the end is worthy because it’s one that absolutely no one could have seen coming. It didn’t come out of left field, so to speak, it wasn’t even playing on the same field. No, this twist is practically conjured out of thin air and while this would normally leave me feeling cheated (again, based on all those established preconceived notions) it was such an extremely bizarre and outlandish approach to transforming the a-typical suburban drama into something different that I really couldn’t help but love it. Pinborough never fails to surprise me.

Short & Sweet – Behind Her Eyes, Poe, The Butterfly GardenPoe by J. Lincoln Fenn
Narrator: Luke Daniels
Published by Brilliance Audio on October 22nd 2013
Length: 10 hrs and 44 mins
Genres: Mystery, Horror
Format: Audiobook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
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Also by this author: Dead Souls

three-stars

It's Halloween, and life is grim for twenty-three-year-old Dimitri Petrov. It's the one-year anniversary of his parents' deaths, he's stuck on page one thousand of his Rasputin zombie novel, and he makes his living writing obituaries.

But things turn from bleak to terrifying when Dimitri is assigned to cover a seance at the reputedly haunted Aspinwall Mansion. There, Dimitri meets Lisa, a punk-rock drummer he falls hard for. But just as he's about to ask her out, he unwittingly unleashes malevolent forces, throwing him into a deadly mystery. He wakes up in the morgue -- icy cold and haunted by a cryptic warning given by a tantalizing female spirit.

As town residents begin to turn up gruesomely murdered, Dimitri must unravel the connections among his family, the Aspinwall Mansion, and the secrets held in a pair of crumbling antiquarian books. If he doesn't, it's quite possible Lisa will be the next victim.


“Two weeks. Everything you love, own, and cherish, can be gone, liquidated, and lost forever in two weeks. Give or take a day.”

Dimitri Petrov is a would-be novelist and current obituary writer for an irrelevant newspaper. He gets tasked last minute with covering a séance at a local haunted house on Halloween (of course), he meets his dream girl, and there’s a lot of awkward conversation where he manages to win her over… somehow. But his life admittedly goes a bit downhill from there when he manages to fall through the floor, wakes up in the actual morgue, and finds that he has a new ghostly friend he dubs Poe that won’t leave him alone. Add in the mystery behind the haunted house, the strange family history of his new girlfriend, the truth behind the tragic deaths of Dimitri’s own parents, some curious ancient books that seem to possess powers, and a spleen-eating serial killer and you’ve got the plot of Poe. All in just over 300 pages.

“I have watched enough cheesy detective television shows in my young life to know that when one is presented with an inexplicable mystery, the first order of business (after procuring good donuts and coffee—check) is to create a wall of clues with photos of suspects and article clippings, preferably in an artistic yet seemingly random fashion.”

In the beginning, this story was entertaining, fast-paced, and fun, but just as it started out fine for Dimitri, unfortunately, the book went downhill as well. The characters themselves were never fully formed except for Dimitri who was the stories requisite guy who found humor and sarcasm in anything and everything (and reminded me a lot of the guy in The Last Days of Jack Sparks.) The mysteries were excessive and mildly convoluted, yes, however the horror elements brought about some very well-written pieces of terror. The descriptions were on point and were enough to churn even the hardest of stomachs. The biggest issue I had was how the author chose to focus more on the cutesy relationship aspects in a plot that didn’t require anything of the sort. Adding a romance factor certainly helps to appeal to a wider audience but it just didn’t work for me.

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Having already read Fenn’s sophomore novel, Dead Souls, I can see how far she’s come with her plotting and characterization(Dead Souls is absolutely incredible — read it). Her debut may not have been my favorite but she’s definitely fallen onto my radar on authors to watch out for.

Short & Sweet – Behind Her Eyes, Poe, The Butterfly GardenThe Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison
Narrator: Lauren Ezzo, Mel Foster
Series: The Collector #1
Published by Brilliance Audio on June 1st 2016
Length: 9 hrs and 13 mins
Genres: Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
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two-stars

Near an isolated mansion lies a beautiful garden.

In this garden grow luscious flowers, shady trees…and a collection of precious “butterflies”—young women who have been kidnapped and intricately tattooed to resemble their namesakes. Overseeing it all is the Gardener, a brutal, twisted man obsessed with capturing and preserving his lovely specimens.

When the garden is discovered, a survivor is brought in for questioning. FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are tasked with piecing together one of the most stomach-churning cases of their careers. But the girl, known only as Maya, proves to be a puzzle herself.

As her story twists and turns, slowly shedding light on life in the Butterfly Garden, Maya reveals old grudges, new saviors, and horrific tales of a man who’d go to any length to hold beauty captive. But the more she shares, the more the agents have to wonder what she’s still hiding.…

“Some people stay broken. Some pick up the pieces and put them back together with all the sharp edges showing.”

FBI agents Victor Hanoverian and Brandon Eddison are put in charge of interviewing a kidnap survivor that goes by the name of Maya who was recently rescued. According to her, she was one of many “butterflies” who lived in a garden. They were all girls who over the years had been kidnapped and brought to the garden by a man only known as The Gardener. He tattoos beautiful wings on their backs, renames them, rapes them, and cares for them until their expiration date of 21-years-old at which point The Gardener would kill them and preserve them in resin such as one does with perfect specimens. The Butterfly Garden switches back and forth between past and present and unveils the ordeals of the years that Maya spent behind the walls of the garden.

First off, yes, this is some sick and twisted sounding shit but whatever, I’m weird. Considering The Collector is one of my all-time favorite books, this story was immediately appealing to me and there were vast similarities. The kidnapped girl(s), the obsession with preserving butterflies (actual butterflies though), and the acclimating the victim(s) to transform their abnormal environment into something normal. Where The Collector was straight forward and quietly disturbing, The Butterfly Garden worked very hard at establishing the belief that we were working with an unreliable narrator and that there was clearly a big twist to anticipate. This was a most unsettling read and the author never flinches away from describing the brutality the girls were forced to suffer through. Also written well (and equally unsettling) was the mentality of The Gardener and how effortlessly he was able to convince himself that he was doing what was right for these girls by taking them in and caring for them.

I did have some serious issues with the technicalities of The Gardener’s whole operation that I’m sure could be easily overlooked with a little suspension of disbelief but sometimes I just can’t be that kind of reader. I’ll add in spoiler tags just in case: View Spoiler » All in all, I had a lot of questions that didn’t come equipped with a whole lot of answers.

And then that ending.

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I’M SO ANGRY. I don’t remember the last time I read such an immensely enthralling book that captivated me from page one, had me searching for extra time in the day just to read it, only to have it fall flatter than a fucking pancake at the end. I mean seriously, what even was that? Don’t market your book based on some hidden secret if all you’ve come up with is that. There’s apparently a second book too. No, thank you, please.

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Release Day Feature + Giveaway! Gone Without A Trace by Mary Torjussen

April 18, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Giveaways, Release Day Feature 3 Comments

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

Release Day Feature + Giveaway! Gone Without A Trace by Mary TorjussenGone Without a Trace by Mary Torjussen
Published by Berkley Books on April 18th 2017
Pages: 352
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: the Publisher
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A jaw-dropping novel of psychological suspense that asks, "If the love of your life disappeared without a trace, how far would you go to find out why?"

Hannah Monroe's boyfriend, Matt, is gone. His belongings have disappeared from their house. Every call she ever made to him, every text she ever sent, every photo of him and any sign of him on social media have vanished. It's as though their last four years together never happened.
As Hannah struggles to get through the next few days, with humiliation and recriminations whirring through her head, she knows that she'll do whatever it takes to find him again and get answers. But as soon as her search starts, she realizes she is being led into a maze of madness and obsession. Step by suspenseful step, Hannah discovers her only way out is to come face to face with the shocking truth...

Hannah Monroe comes home from work expecting her boyfriend Matt to be waiting for her but instead, she finds all trace of his presence in their home to be erased. His artwork is missing from the walls, his clothes, his furniture, and even his TV has been replaced by her old TV as if he was never there at all. She tries to call him only to find that his number has been erased from her phone, all of their text messages, e-mails, as well as every single picture from their four-year relationship. They were happy, they never fought, and life was good. Hannah doesn’t understand why he would up and leave like that without even trying to talk to her about it and all she wants is for him to give her a reason why.

‘I knew that if I were to just see him again, just talk to him, he’d remember how much he loved me. And then he’d come back.’

Desperate to find answers, Hannah begins to search for Matt any way that she knows how and she starts by contacting him at his office only to find that he had quit the week prior. She tries to get in touch with his mother only to find she moved months before Matt had left and nothing was ever mentioned to Hannah. Social media is also a dead-end and she quickly becomes even more determined to find him. She contacts his barber, any and all hotels in a reasonably distanced area, she stands outside the pub he used to frequent, and she only gets worse as time progresses. She starts keeping a notebook and post it notes to keep track of places she’s contacted hoping to uncover some connection to Matt during her research.

‘For a moment I didn’t know what to do; I knew that if I didn’t write (the) details down somewhere noticeable, I’d forget them, so I picked up a red marker pen and made a note on one of my glossy cabinets.’

Months pass and her obsessiveness over finding him only increases. She spends so much time looking for him that the job she used to pride herself on begins to suffer and she can’t seem to keep up with the workload anymore. She has trouble sleeping, she drinks far more than normal, and her appearance, physical (and mental) health quickly begins to deteriorate. And to make matters worse she’s started receiving unsettling text messages from unknown numbers, letters in her postbox, and she thinks someone is coming into her house when she’s gone.

‘I wore the same clothes as I’d worn the day before. They were my lucky clothes now. And I’d lain awake all night in them, too, so that the luck didn’t wear off. I couldn’t risk that.’

Hannah was quite the unlikeable character because of how exasperating her obsessive tendencies became. She became absolutely delusional but you couldn’t help wanting more for her, for her to be stronger, especially when you begin to realize just how much time has elapsed where she’s let this obsession take over her life. What I found most alarming yet fascinating about watching everything unfold was trying to uncover what motivated her, what possessed her to take things to such extremes. One can expect heartbreak from being left alone, but Hannah’s supposed heartbreak transformed into something terrifyingly destructive. In addition to all this, other facets of Hannah’s life are slowly revealed and we’re given glimpses into a troubling childhood and a best friend whom she shares a toxic relationship with. As the story unveils itself, you begin to question everything because there’s clearly something missing from this elaborate mystery. Admittedly, these scenes where she describes the feeling of being watched were so thoroughly unsettling that I began to feel one with Hannah and her paranoia.

Gone Without A Trace is a psychological thriller brimming with anticipation and tension that will make this an impossible read to put down.

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The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins [Purchase|Review]
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough [Purchase]
Before We Met by Lucie Whitehouse [Purchase|Review]

Thanks to the wonderful individuals over at Berkley/Penguin Random House, I have a copy of Gone Without a Trace to share with one lucky reader! Leave a comment expressing your interest in this story to enter.

This giveaway is open to US residents only and will end on May 2nd, 2017.

Good luck!

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Short & Sweet – Sleeping Giants + Waking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel

April 14, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2017, Short & Sweet Reviews 3 Comments

Short & Sweet – Sleeping Giants + Waking Gods by Sylvain NeuvelSleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel
Narrator: Andy Secombe, Eric Meyers, Laurel Lefkow, Charlie Anson, Liza Ross, William Hope, Christoper Ragland, Katharine Mangold, Adna Sablyich
Series: Themis Files #1
Published by Random House Audio on April 26th 2016
Length: 8 hrs and 28 mins
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
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four-half-stars

A page-turning debut in the tradition of Michael Crichton, World War Z, and The Martian, Sleeping Giants is a thriller fueled by an earthshaking mystery—and a fight to control a gargantuan power.

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near her home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.

Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved—its origins, architects, and purpose unknown. Its carbon dating defies belief; military reports are redacted; theories are floated, then rejected.

But some can never stop searching for answers.

Rose Franklin is now a highly trained physicist leading a top secret team to crack the hand’s code. And along with her colleagues, she is being interviewed by a nameless interrogator whose power and purview are as enigmatic as the provenance of the relic. What’s clear is that Rose and her compatriots are on the edge of unraveling history’s most perplexing discovery—and figuring out what it portends for humanity. But once the pieces of the puzzle are in place, will the result prove to be an instrument of lasting peace or a weapon of mass destruction?

Eleven-year-old Rose Franklin rides her new bicycle in Deadwood, South Dakota when she suddenly falls into a large hole. At the bottom of this hole was a twenty-foot-long metal hand which she had fallen directly into the palm. Seventeen years later, Rose Franklin is a brilliant physicist who has been brought in to study the mysterious hand that she fell into as a child to determine anything she can about it.

“I don’t really believe in fate,” she says, “but somehow ‘small world’ doesn’t begin to do this justice.”

Its origins and its chemical makeup defy logic; it weighs far less than would be expected based on its mass and its composition couldn’t have come from Earth. When Army helicopter pilots Kara Resnik and Ryan Mitchell crash somewhere in Syria, they find an extremely long, metal forearm that connects to the metal hand like a magnet when placed nearby. The search for the remaining pieces of this metal body continues across the globe to hopefully one day determine the purpose of this creation.

I absolutely adored this story. Sleeping Giants is a science fiction story that delves into the mysteries of space, the mysterious mythology uncovered about the origins of the metal giant, and delves into the scientific aspects of the giant’s metallurgy in an informative and detailed way. The mysteries go beyond the giant though, expanding to each and every character and no one is left to fall by the wayside. Who is the unnamed narrator that possesses so much power and authority, how coincidental is it that Rose Franklin remains involved with the hand years later, what was the purpose of this metal giant and where did it come from? The whole book reads like one massive conspiracy theory, much like an episode of the X-Files and we’re slowly fed answers but never to the bigger picture questions. Will we ever truly know?

The fact that this was Neuvel’s debut is absolutely mind-boggling. The concept and the execution both are fascinating and immensely entertaining. The execution will definitely divide readers seeing as he traded a traditional narrative for a more epistolary type storytelling, using interview transcripts, news articles, journal entries, etc. for the entirety of the tale. If you’re an audiobook fan, this is even more brilliant to listen to with its full cast narration. I don’t re-read stories often but I re-read this one in anticipation of Waking Gods. I think I loved it, even more, the second time around.

Short & Sweet – Sleeping Giants + Waking Gods by Sylvain NeuvelWaking Gods by Sylvain Neuvel
Narrator: Andy Secombe, Adna Sablyich, Laurel Lefkow, Eric Meyers, William Hope, Charlie Anson, Christoper Ragland, Karina Fernandez, Madeleine Rose, Roy McMillan, Olivia Dowd, Sarah Wells
Series: Themis Files #2
Published by Random House Audio on April 4th 2017
Length: 9 hrs and 2 mins
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Audible
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four-half-stars

In the gripping sequel to Sleeping Giants, which was hailed by Pierce Brown as “a luminous conspiracy yarn . . . reminiscent of The Martian and World War Z,” Sylvain Neuvel’s innovative series about human-alien contact takes another giant step forward.

As a child, Rose Franklin made an astonishing discovery: a giant metallic hand, buried deep within the earth. As an adult, she’s dedicated her brilliant scientific career to solving the mystery that began that fateful day: Why was a titanic robot of unknown origin buried in pieces around the world? Years of investigation have produced intriguing answers—and even more perplexing questions. But the truth is closer than ever before when a second robot, more massive than the first, materializes and lashes out with deadly force.

Now humankind faces a nightmare invasion scenario made real, as more colossal machines touch down across the globe. But Rose and her team at the Earth Defense Corps refuse to surrender. They can turn the tide if they can unlock the last secrets of an advanced alien technology. The greatest weapon humanity wields is knowledge in a do-or-die battle to inherit the Earth . . . and maybe even the stars.


“I came to realize that good and evil were out of my reach, that time was the only thing I had any control over. I could buy time, create intervals. I could not truly make the world a better place, but I could make part of it a better place for a short while.”

Waking Gods bolsters and expands upon the Sleeping Giants storyline by adding high levels of adrenaline and excitement in this highly anticipated follow-up. Ten years have passed since the end of Sleeping Giants when Rose and team completed the reconstruction of the metal giant they named Themis after the ancient Greek Titan-goddess. They were beginning to slowly piece together information surrounding the mystery of her origins and are only briefly grasping her full technological capabilities when another metal giant appears in the center of London. It stands immobile for weeks, but without provocation, it attacks one-day leaving thousands dead, but some miraculously survived. More giants appear around the globe and Rose and team are given the impossible task of determining how to stop these attacks and to find out the reason behind them before Earth’s population is exterminated.

No sophomore slump to be had here. Listening to Waking Gods felt akin to being on a high-speed roller coaster: you’re buckled in, the ride is moving, and the time to change your mind has long since passed. But damn, is it a crazy good time.

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Waking Gods continues with the same interview style of storytelling, with a few new characters/voices to acquaint ourselves with. The plot was incredibly fast paced and read much like an action movie would just minus the visuals. Incredibly similar to The War of the Worlds in regards to the severity and devastation of the attacks but much less straightforward in terms of the reasoning behind the attacks themselves (and far more fascinatingly scientific View Spoiler ».) Neuvel imbues his alien invasion with a history and purpose essentially giving the human race a chance at survival. He also manages to add a level of humor (there’s something unequivocally humorous about two individuals trying to manhandle a giant robot, albeit clunkily, into battle) that somehow manages to meld harmoniously with such a somber narrative. There are twists and turns aplenty, one particular scene made me loudly gasp and another where my face started leaking, and the ending will leave you thunderstruck. Neuvel’s endings, while definitely worthy of the term ‘cliffhanger’, never feel cheap but rather an apt ending that will lead to a brilliant beginning of the next, and possibly last, installment.

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Short & Sweet – Everything Box + Wrong Dead Guy

March 23, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2017 2 Comments

Short & Sweet – Everything Box + Wrong Dead GuyThe Everything Box by Richard Kadrey
Series: Another Coop Heist #1
Published by Harper Voyager on April 19th 2016
Pages: 368
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Funny-ha-ha
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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Goodreads

Also by this author: Dead Set

three-half-stars

Reminiscent of the edgy, offbeat humor of Chris Moore and Matt Ruff, the first entry in a whimsical, fast-paced supernatural series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Sandman Slim novels—a dark and humorous story involving a doomsday gizmo, a horde of baddies determined to possess its power, and a clever thief who must steal it back . . . again and again.

22000 B.C. A beautiful, ambitious angel stands on a mountaintop, surveying the world and its little inhabitants below. He smiles because soon, the last of humanity who survived the great flood will meet its end, too. And he should know. He’s going to play a big part in it. Our angel usually doesn’t get to do field work, and if he does well, he’s certain he’ll get a big promotion.

And now it’s time . . . .

The angel reaches into his pocket for the instrument of humanity’s doom. Must be in the other pocket. Then he frantically begins to pat himself down. Dejected, he realizes he has lost the object. Looking over the Earth at all that could have been, the majestic angel utters a single word.

“Crap.”

2015. A thief named Coop—a specialist in purloining magic objects—steals and delivers a small box to the mysterious client who engaged his services. Coop doesn’t know that his latest job could be the end of him—and the rest of the world. Suddenly he finds himself in the company of The Department of Peculiar Science, a fearsome enforcement agency that polices the odd and strange. The box isn’t just a supernatural heirloom with quaint powers, they tell him.

It’s a doomsday device. They think . . .

And suddenly, everyone is out to get it.

Thousands of years ago, God decided to destroy the Earth and all who resided on it. Fortunately, us pesky mortals are pretty good survivalists and we didn’t all perish as was intended. This time, God sends an angel named Qaphsiel to Earth with a special box that would take the rest of us out for good. Except all didn’t go as planned. Qaphsiel lost the box.

“So, you’re the angel of Death?” The angel shook his head, a little embarrassed. “I don’t have that honor. In Heaven, I’m the celestial who bears the great golden quills, the silver Chroma, the holy vellums upon which the Lord God inscribes the fate of the universe.” Tiras’s eyes narrowed. “You’re in charge of office supplies. You’re the angel of office supplies.”

Thousands of years after the box was lost, we’re introduced to Coop. Coop has had it a bit rough lately. He’s a thief who was hired to steal some documents because his natural aversion to magical booby traps made him the perfect man for the job… but things didn’t turn out so well and he was soon thrown in prison for an undetermined amount of time. An old friend pulled some strings to get him out but only because a man by the name of Mr. Babylon requires Coop for a job. A job to steal a mysterious box. But once he does steal it, he’s instructed to steal it back for a secret government group that goes by the name of the Department of Peculiar Science, or else it’s straight back to prison. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Problem is, there are two doomsday cults trying to get the box so they can trigger the apocalypse, criminals who want to sell the box for money, a mysterious stranger that only brings destruction, and the original angel that misplaced the box in the first place trying to get it. Coop wants nothing to do with it but he’s soon embroiled in a world-ending conflict.

“I’m not sure I should smile at people anymore.”
“Yours is a little strained these days,” said Morty.
Sally came up with a drink in each hand. “Definitely don’t smile at people. You do look like you wonder what their liver tastes like.”

The pending apocalypse has never been more fun. Kadrey brings a bizarre sense of humor (and magic) to the end of the world and Coop is the hilariously witty spokesperson. The focus is less on worldbuilding and more on extending the hilarity for as long as possible (and sometimes beyond) but I can’t complain because this story made me laugh far more than I expected it to. The multiple storylines were handled well without getting too convoluted but again, the focus was on the humor at all times and the bit players were, for the most part, a ludicrous bunch and it wasn’t vital to keep a close track on exactly who was who. The Everything Box is a refreshing variation on the Urban Fantasy genre that feels much like a Men in Black/The Italian Job mashup in all the best ways.

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

Short & Sweet – Everything Box + Wrong Dead GuyThe Wrong Dead Guy by Richard Kadrey
Series: Another Coop Heist #2
Published by Harper Voyager on February 28th 2017
Pages: 432
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Funny-ha-ha
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Goodreads

Also by this author: Dead Set

three-stars

In this fast paced sequel to The Everything Box—the second entry in Richard Kadrey’s comedic supernatural series—chaos ensues when Coop and the team at DOPS steal a not- quite-dead and very lovesick ancient Egyptian mummy wielding some terrifying magic

Coop, a master thief sort of gone legit, saved the world from an ancient doomsday device—heroism that earned him a gig working for the Department of Peculiar Science, a fearsome top secret government agency that polices the odd and strange. Now Woolrich, Coop’s boss at the DOPS, has Coop breaking into a traveling antiquities show to steal a sarcophagus containing the mummy of a powerful Egyptian wizard named Harkhuf. With the help of his pals Morty, Giselle, and a professor that’s half-cat, half-robotic octopus, Coop pulls off the heist without a hitch.

It’s not Coop’s fault that when DOPS opened the sarcophagus they didn’t find the mummy they were expecting. Well, it was the right mummy, but it wasn’t exactly dead—and now it’s escaped, using a type of magic the organization hasn’t encountered before. Being a boss, Woolrich blames his underling for the screw up and wants Coop to find the missing Harkhuf and make it right, pronto.

Digging into Harkhuf’s history, Coop thinks the mummy is hunting for an ancient magical manuscript that will help him bring his old lover back to life.
Which wouldn’t be so bad if she wasn’t a warrior sorceress hell-bent on conquering the world with her undead armies.

Coop would very much like to run from the oncoming chaos. It’s one thing to steal a mummy, but another to have to deal with head-hunting bureaucrats, down-on-their luck fortune tellers, undead mailroom clerks, and a rather unimpressed elephant. Unfortunately, there’s nowhere to run. If he wants the madness to stop, he’s going to have to suck it up and play hero one more time. But if Coop manages to save the world AGAIN, he’s definitely going to want a lot of answers. And a raise.

“Really, Cooper, you’re in good hands. We can’t afford any more employee homicides until the next fiscal quarter,” said Woolrich.
“If you try just a little harder, I think you can be even less reassuring.”

Coop is back! And this time, he’s left his days of thievery behind for a day job with the Department of Peculiar Science. He’s involved in yet another race against the clock to save the world just replace the box with a mummy and its undead army. When Coop and his team are instructed to steal a mummy from a museum, the plan, of course, does not go according to plan and Coop ends up being cursed by the newly awakened mummy, Harkhuf, they were supposed to steal. On the sidelines, Coop’s nemesis from the first installment, Nelson, is stirring up trouble at work by stealing office supplies and just being a general nuisance but is clearly leading up to something big.

The Wrong Dead Guy is yet another thrilling tale of humor and sarcasm, but it felt like the subdued version of the jokes already told in The Everything Box. Coop’s wit also proved to be infectious because every major and minor character seemed to sound exactly like him, making this wide cast a bit hard to differentiate at times. The one new bizarro character that proved to be quite a laugh was Dr. Lupinsky, the deceased Egyptologist that inhabited a robotic octopus and a cat that was constantly requiring new batteries. (Because that’s what happens when you mess with the wrong sort of magic.) Which brings me to what I love most about Kadrey’s stories: they all include these outrageously preposterous tidbits that make them so uniquely him. There isn’t very much room to breath, plot-wise, because of the non-stop action so take a big deep breath before diving into this one. You won’t want to put this one down till it’s all said and done.

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Short & Sweet – A Local Habitation, Feverborn, Wildest Dreams

March 10, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2017, Short & Sweet Reviews 10 Comments

Short & Sweet – A Local Habitation, Feverborn, Wildest DreamsA Local Habitation by Seanan McGuire
Series: October Daye #2
Published by DAW on March 2nd 2010
Pages: 390
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Fae
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Indexing

three-half-stars

Now comes the second in the series-from a dynamic new fantasy talent!
Toby Daye-a half-human, half-fae changeling-has been an outsider from birth. After getting burned by both sides of her heritage, Toby has denied the fae world, retreating to a "normal" life. Unfortunately for her, the Faerie world had other ideas...

Now her liege, the Duke of the Shadowed Hills, has asked Toby to go to the Country of Tamed Lightening to make sure all is well with his niece,

Countess January O'Leary. It seems like a simple enough assignment-until Toby discovers that someone has begun murdering people close to January, and that if the killer isn't stopped, January may be the next victim.

“Jan built herself an ivory tower to keep the wolves out; she never dreamed they were already inside.”

Now that Toby Daye has her PI license back, things are looking up for her. After a girls night out that leads to Tybalt carrying her home (!!!), Toby wakes up to a request from Sylvester, the Duke of Shadowed Hills, that she can’t decline. Sylvester has been unable to reach his niece, the Countess January O’Leary, in the Country of Tamed Lightning. Several weeks have passed without word from her and he’s unable to personally check on her without inciting a political war, so he’s requesting that Toby go in his place. She arrives to find that no one has been able to call for help outside of Tamed Lightning, people have been dying, and the killer is still unknown even as more bodies pile up. Toby refuses to back down without figuring out what’s happening to January and her people.

While the storyline of A Local Habitation drug along at the pace of a snail, it’s the awesome characters that really make this series for me. I love Toby and I love Tybalt. Danny, the Bridge Troll taxi driver was, unfortunately, absent but we got to see her two hilarious cats briefly and the recent pet addition: Spike the rose goblin (who apparently looks like a cat made from a rosebush but I missed that in the original introduction so I just imagine it as this small, round rosebush that just bounces around.) The story itself reads like some campy horror film where individuals keep getting picked off, the others rush to see if they could catch the person, they never do, repeat ad nauseam. There are some pretty obvious clues that happen early on, Toby’s refusal to get out of danger was just stupid, and the mystery was drawn out for far too long. Regardless, the characters remain the big appeal to me and I’m still so glad I gave this series another shot.

Short & Sweet – A Local Habitation, Feverborn, Wildest DreamsFeverborn by Karen Marie Moning
Series: Fever #8
Published by Delacorte Press on January 19th 2016
Pages: 512
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Fae
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Beyond the Highland Mist

three-half-stars

In Karen Marie Moning’s latest installment of the epic #1 New York Times bestselling Fever series, the stakes have never been higher and the chemistry has never been hotter. Hurtling us into a realm of labyrinthine intrigue and consummate seduction, FEVERBORN is a riveting tale of ancient evil, lust, betrayal, forgiveness and the redemptive power of love.

When the immortal race of the Fae destroyed the ancient wall dividing the worlds of Man and Faery, the very fabric of the universe was damaged and now Earth is vanishing bit by bit. Only the long-lost Song of Making—a haunting, dangerous melody that is the source of all life itself—can save the planet.

But those who seek the mythic Song—Mac, Barrons, Ryodan and Jada—must contend with old wounds and new enemies, passions that burn hot and hunger for vengeance that runs deep. The challenges are many: The Keltar at war with nine immortals who’ve secretly ruled Dublin for eons, Mac and Jada hunted by the masses, the Seelie queen nowhere to be found, and the most powerful Unseelie prince in all creation determined to rule both Fae and Man. Now the task of solving the ancient riddle of the Song of Making falls to a band of deadly warriors divided among—and within—themselves.

Once a normal city possessing a touch of ancient magic, Dublin is now a treacherously magical city with only a touch of normal. And in those war-torn streets, Mac will come face to face with her most savage enemy yet: herself.

“What we achieve at our best moment doesn’t say much about who we are. It all boils down to what we become at our worst moment.”

Feverborn is the penultimate installment of the Fever series, but then again Moning tried ending it once before and we see how well that stuck. Finding out that Feversong was the last of the series prompted a renewed interest in finding out how it’s all going to get resolved (except, there is a tenth installment listed on Goodreads but apparently it’s not actually happening. WE’LL SEE.) Iced was a complete disaster, Burned was mildly better, but Feverborn actually started feeling like the series I’d always loved again.

Mac continues to be unsure of herself in regards to the Sinsar-Dubh, not able to tell whether or not she’s living a complete illusion created by the evil book. The entire city is at risk from Black Holes that consume anything and everything which the Hoar Frost King left behind from the absence of his power. And underneath the Abbey, Cruce is slowly trying to figure out a way to escape his prison and rule all Fae. In the opening pages, Mac is still invisible and I did an eye roll and reconsidered my decision to pick this up. If you remember, she was invisible the majority of Burned which got real fucking old, real fast. But craziness ensues and she finds herself fully visible once again for unknown reasons and while I would normally question the whys and such, I was just so damn pleased she was visible again so she could hopefully get back to business. And that she did.

The points of view alternated between Mac, Ryodan, Jada, Cruce, and Lor, which the latter felt completely out of place and unnecessary but I admit he did add some mild (yet highly sexualized) sense of humor to this dark tale. And of course Mac and Barrons continue to be mad for each other.

Every cell in my body comes to hard, frantic, sexual life when he’s near.’

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There were a few serious issues plot-wise that really detracted from the more positive aspects of this installment. First, the scenes from the past between the Unseelie King and Seelie Queen that were supposed to hint at what’s been happening all along but just confused things even more. Second, which is a major spoiler View Spoiler » And lastly, that ending was just weird and random. View Spoiler » And of course, another cliffhanger! BECAUSE WHY NOT. I can’t say I’m excited for the final installment, but I’m definitely curious to see how this unintentional extension of this series ends up playing out.

Short & Sweet – A Local Habitation, Feverborn, Wildest DreamsWildest Dreams by Kristen Ashley
Series: Fantasyland #1
Published by Self-Published on August 15th 2011
Pages: 563
Genres: Fantasy Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: The Golden Dynasty

four-stars

Seoafin "Finnie" Wilde was taught by her parents that life was meant to be lived, every breath was a treasure and to seek every adventure she could find. And she learns this lesson the hard way when they perish in a plane crash when she's fifteen. But she never forgets and when she discovers there is a parallel universe where every person has a twin, she finds a witch who can send her there so she can see her parents again and have the adventure of a lifetime.

But nearly upon arrival in the Winter Wonderland of Lunwyn, she realizes she's been played by her twin of the alternate universe and shortly finds herself walking down the aisle to be wed to The Drakkar.

Instantly thrown into inauspicious circumstances, with years of practice (she did, of course, survive that elephant stampede, if she could do that, she can do anything), Finnie bests the challenges and digs into her adventure. But as Frey Drakkar discovers the woman who is his new wife is not Princess Sjofn, a woman he dislikes (intensely) but instead, his Finnie, a free-spirit with a thirst for venture just like him (not to mention she is his destiny), without her knowledge he orders his new bride bound to his frozen world, everlasting.


I expected Wildest Dreams to remain on my TBR for a very long time, even after it was recommended to fans of A Court of Mist and Fury. It was $0.99 so I snagged it. I have a hard time saying no to most $0.99 books, even though I’m terrible about getting to the actual reading them part. It was hook, line, and sinker when I found out what this story (and series) was about — there is a parallel universe to our world where your twin resides. Finnie, wanting to find adventure, pays a witch to switch her with her twin so she could reside in this fantasy realm for at least a short time. Imagine her great surprise when she finds herself in this new world, minutes from marriage to an angry, brooding man that she’s never laid eyes on before.

First off, these books are long. But fun. And allllll kinds of romance-y. Finnie had some pretty cheesy dialogue that took me a while to get used to (she says cool and freaking entirely way too much) and there’s some serious alpha-male-ness going on, but when it all comes down to it the world-building was actually pretty awesome and the romance was all sorts of cute.

“You are, my wee Finnie, beyond my wildest dreams.”

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Short & Sweet – Talking as Fast as I Can, The Princess Diarist, Seriously… I’m Kidding

March 3, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2017, Short & Sweet Reviews 3 Comments

Short & Sweet – Talking as Fast as I Can, The Princess Diarist, Seriously… I’m KiddingTalking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between by Lauren Graham
Published by Ballantine Books on November 29th 2016
Pages: 224
Genres: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Format: Hardcover
Source: Gifted
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three-stars

In this collection of personal essays, the beloved star of Gilmore Girls and Parenthood reveals stories about life, love, and working as a woman in Hollywood—along with behind-the-scenes dispatches from the set of the new Gilmore Girls, where she plays the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore once again.

In Talking as Fast as I Can, Lauren Graham hits pause for a moment and looks back on her life, sharing laugh-out-loud stories about growing up, starting out as an actress, and, years later, sitting in her trailer on the Parenthood set and asking herself, “Did you, um, make it?” She opens up about the challenges of being single in Hollywood (“Strangers were worried about me; that’s how long I was single!”), the time she was asked to audition her butt for a role, and her experience being a judge on Project Runway (“It’s like I had a fashion-induced blackout”).

In “What It Was Like, Part One,” Graham sits down for an epic Gilmore Girls marathon and reflects on being cast as the fast-talking Lorelai Gilmore. The essay “What It Was Like, Part Two” reveals how it felt to pick up the role again nine years later, and what doing so has meant to her.

Some more things you will learn about Lauren: She once tried to go vegan just to bond with Ellen DeGeneres, she’s aware that meeting guys at awards shows has its pitfalls (“If you’re meeting someone for the first time after three hours of hair, makeup, and styling, you’ve already set the bar too high”), and she’s a card-carrying REI shopper (“My bungee cords now earn points!”).

Including photos and excerpts from the diary Graham kept during the filming of the recent Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, this book is like a cozy night in, catching up with your best friend, laughing and swapping stories, and—of course—talking as fast as you can.

“Life doesn’t often spell things out for you or give you what you want exactly when you want it, otherwise it wouldn’t be called life, it would be called a vending machine.”

My lovely friend got me this for Christmas but I waited to pick it up because I had heard that there were mild spoilers from the new season of Gilmore Girls. And then I finally watched the first episode. And I didn’t like it.

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BLASPHEMY. I know, I know. I’m just as distraught as you. There was just something terribly forced about Lorelai’s sense of humor this go around and Rory’s poor boyfriend Paul View Spoiler » that she literally keeps overlooking (like when she leaves the diner completely forgetting that he had just gone to the bathroom real quick?) It’s a running joke that she’s been meaning to break up with him but she just keeps forgetting. Good grief, that’s not funny, that’s just wretched.

I understand this is supposed to be a review of the book, not the show, it’s just my opinion of the show definitely tarnishes my thoughts on the book because this is all about her glorious reprisal to the role of Lorelai Gilmore. She discusses in depth just how wonderful it was to be back in Stars Hollow alongside everyone once again and I wanted to happily reminiscence with her but I’m still full of self-loathing that I couldn’t love the new season.

Discussions related to Gilmore Girls took up the vast majority of this short book, but as indicated by the sub-title ‘From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in Between‘ Graham included various other anecdotes about her childhood and other assorted roles that make up her career. The non-Gilmore Girls additions left the story feeling slightly uneven and I almost felt this would have been best left as a long recollection of all things Gilmore Girls. In retrospect, I also felt that her recollections from the original seasons were a bit sloppy. She didn’t keep a journal of this time in her life, which is fine, but she describes how she sat down to actually watch the original seasons (for the first time ever) and took a bunch of notes when things jogged her memory. The more I discuss, the more it seems I didn’t like anything about this book, but that’s not exactly true because even if Lorelai didn’t possess much in the way of humor, Graham’s humor shines through even on page. And there’s always the original seasons for me to fondly remember.

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Short & Sweet – Talking as Fast as I Can, The Princess Diarist, Seriously… I’m KiddingThe Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
Narrator: Carrie Fisher, Billie Lourd
Published by Penguin Audio on November 22nd 2016
Length: 5 hrs and 10 mins
Genres: Non-Fiction, Memoir
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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four-stars

The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher’s intimate, hilarious and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie. Named a PEOPLE Magazine Best Book of Fall 2016.

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved—plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a teenager with an all-consuming crush on her costar, Harrison Ford.

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time—and what developed behind the scenes. And today, as she reprises her most iconic role for the latest Star Wars trilogy, Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience.

“I liked being Princess Leia. Or Princess Leia’s being me. Over time I thought that we’d melded into one. I don’t think you could think of Leia without my lurking in that thought somewhere.”

Carrie Fisher played the role of Princess Leia at just nineteen years old and it went on to define her entire life. The diary that she kept at this age is retold in snippets (narrated by her daughter, Billie Lourd) and showcases her delightful way with words. It feels invasive to be shown this time of her life, while her affair with Harrison Ford was going on, and it’s effortless to understand the intense adolescent love that she had for him. The Princess Diarist even goes beyond the retold tales of Fisher’s time on the Star Wars set and sets out to describe just how much playing Princess Leia came to be a part of her own personal identity. She describes how jarring stepping into the limelight was for her despite her belief that it was something she understood already, having grown up the daughter of Debbie Reynolds.

“The crew was mostly men. That’s how it was and that’s pretty much how it still is. It’s a man’s world & show business is a man’s meal with women generously sprinkled through it like over-qualified spice.”

Fisher was always outspoken about the mental health and addiction problems that she dealt with for most of her life but The Princess Diarist doesn’t delve into that aspect of her as much. Nonetheless, this was an unexpectedly emotional read for me even though I was a fan of Fisher’s.  She would make occasional references to when she passes as well as a mention of how her obituary would look like (with a picture of her as Princess Leia complete with buns) and it was a bit of a punch to the gut. Her sardonic sense of humor lightened the heartbreak but it was clear that Fisher believed she still had a lot of life to live. Listening to her raspy voice tell her final story was a treat and I can only hope that she got to say all that she wanted in the time she was given.

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Short & Sweet – Talking as Fast as I Can, The Princess Diarist, Seriously… I’m KiddingSeriously...I'm Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres
Narrator: Ellen DeGeneres
Published by Hachette Audio on October 4th, 2011
Length: 3 hours and 7 minutes
Genres: Non-Fiction, Memoir, Funny-ha-ha
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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four-stars

I've experienced a whole lot the last few years and I have a lot to share. So I hope that you'll take a moment to sit back, relax and enjoy the words I've put together for you in this book. I think you'll find I've left no stone unturned, no door unopened, no window unbroken, no rug unvacuumed, no ivories untickled. What I'm saying is, let us begin, shall we?


“So be who you really are. Embrace who you are. Literally. Hug yourself. Accept who you are. Unless you’re a serial killer.”

I was having a pretty bad day when I started this. There was a lot of driving involved that I wasn’t looking forward to and an unexpected blizzard to boot. I always like a good audiobook to keep me company I just didn’t think anything was going to be able to get me out of the funk I was in — but I underestimated Ellen.

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I’m Kidding…Seriously aims at being a light-hearted advice manual with the main goal of just making you smile. She takes digs at her fellow celebrities and their hilarious lifestyles but becomes quickly somber when discussing the importance of being true to yourself and accepting who you are as a person. This isn’t your typical inspirational celebrity memoir on how to make it big in Hollywood but rather reads like an internal monologue with the author herself. If you’re an audiobook lover, do yourself a favor and listen to this one because Ellen’s tone and delivery make this all the more enjoyable an experience. If you’re a fan of her stand-up comedy routines, you’ll find much to laugh about in this. I know I did.

‘I feel bad for people December birthdays […] It’s not fair and I have a message for parents out there. Don’t do that to your kids. Plan your love. I’m not great at baby math, so I’m just gonna say in the early part of the year, maybe January until March, stay away from each other. It’s not gonna be easy. Those are winter months and you’re going to want to stay warm. But unfortunately one of you is going to have to sleep in a tent in the backyard.’

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Short & Sweet – Everything I Never Told You, Big Little Lies

February 24, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Short & Sweet Reviews 8 Comments

Short & Sweet – Everything I Never Told You, Big Little LiesEverything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Published by Blackstone Audio on June 26th 2014
Length: 10 hrs and 1 min
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: Freebie
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four-half-stars

A haunting debut novel about a mixed-race family living in 1970s Ohio and the tragedy that will either be their undoing or their salvation.

Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet....

So begins the story in this exquisite debut novel about a Chinese American family living in a small town in 1970s Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother's bright blue eyes and her father's jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue - in Marilyn's case that her daughter become a doctor rather than a homemaker, in James' case that Lydia be popular at school, a girl with a busy social life and the center of every party.

When Lydia's body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos, forcing them to confront the long-kept secrets that have been slowly pulling them apart. James, consumed by guilt, sets out on a reckless path that may destroy his marriage. Marilyn, devastated and vengeful, is determined to find a responsible party, no matter what the cost. Lydia's older brother, Nathan, is certain the neighborhood bad boy Jack is somehow involved. But it's the youngest of the family, Hannah, who observes far more than anyone realizes - and who may be the only one who knows the truth about what happened.

A profoundly moving story of family, history, and the meaning of home, Everything I Never Told You is both a gripping pause-resister and a sensitive family portrait, exploring the divisions between cultures and the rifts within a family and uncovering the ways in which mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and husbands and wives struggle, all their lives, to understand one another.

‘Before that she hadn’t realized how fragile happiness was, how if you were careless, you could knock it over and shatter it.’

Lydia is the third child of Marilyn and James Lee and is undeniably their favorite. Her absence from breakfast one morning arouses suspicion but never would they have imagined that her body would be found at the bottom of the lake near their house. Lydia’s death, while tragic, ends up being the catalyst for unveiling the multitude of issues within the Lee household. The year is 1970 and the steps that led to this tragedy began over a decade ago when Marilyn, a white woman from Virginia, and James, a first-generation Chinese-American, married despite the ill opinions on their interracial relationship. When Marilyn gets pregnant, she gives up her dream of becoming a doctor and instead devotes her time and energy to Lydia so that one day she can become what Marilyn could not, never stopping to consider what Lydia actually desired. James, after a difficult life of always being the outsider, he constantly pushes his children to fit in and be social so they never have to experience what it’s like to be an outsider. We may know from the very first sentence that Lydia is dead, but the path that brought her to this point remains a mystery. Ng rewinds to the very beginning and allows Lydia’s story to finally reveal the truth that she never dared speak aloud.

‘It would disappear forever from her memory of Lydia, the way memories of a lost loved one always smooth and simplify themselves, shedding complexities like scales.’

I have had this book on my shelf for an obscenely long time simply because family dramas usually possess suburban type spectacles that I’d rather do without. But this book had depth, it had the most well-written characters that I have read in recent memory, it had a captivating storyline, and it completely broke my heart. Ng gracefully unmasks the secrets kept by the Lee’s and their two surviving children, Nathan and Hannah, through multiple storylines without it once getting convoluted. Marilyn and James’ lifetime of broken dreams and of the racism that they faced is egregious, but it’s their complete lack of familiarity and understanding with one another and their own children that was truly terrible. The emotional intricacy of this superbly written tale and the devastating ending will resonate with me for a long time to come.

Short & Sweet – Everything I Never Told You, Big Little LiesBig Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Published by Berkley on July 29th 2014
Pages: 460
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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two-half-stars

Big Little Lies follows three women, each at a crossroads:

Madeline is a force to be reckoned with. She’s funny and biting, passionate, she remembers everything and forgives no one. Her ex-husband and his yogi new wife have moved into her beloved beachside community, and their daughter is in the same kindergarten class as Madeline’s youngest (how is this possible?).
And to top it all off, Madeline’s teenage daughter seems to be choosing Madeline’s ex-husband over her. (How. Is. This. Possible?).

Celeste is the kind of beautiful woman who makes the world stop and stare. While she may seem a bit flustered at times, who wouldn’t be, with those rambunctious twin boys? Now that the boys are starting school, Celeste and her husband look set to become the king and queen of the school parent body.

But royalty often comes at a price, and Celeste is grappling with how much more she is willing to pay.
New to town, single mom Jane is so young that another mother mistakes her for the nanny. Jane is sad beyond her years and harbors secret doubts about her son. But why? While Madeline and Celeste soon take Jane under their wing, none of them realizes how the arrival of Jane and her inscrutable little boy will affect them all.

Big Little Lies is a brilliant take on ex-husbands and second wives, mothers and daughters, schoolyard scandal, and the dangerous little lies we tell ourselves just to survive.

“Did anyone really know their child? Your child was a little stranger, constantly changing, disappearing and reintroducing himself to you. New personality traits could appear overnight.”

In the coastal seaside town of Pirriwee, everything and everyone is covered in a thin veneer of gloss, though it only does so much to hide the imperfections underneath. And the fact that someone is dead after Trivia Night at the local school goes terribly wrong. But who it is and how it happened remains a mystery… or so it seems.

Madeleine’s youngest child is entering kindergarten, but so is her ex-husband’s daughter. The ex-husband that left her and their baby girl to survive on their own fifteen years prior. Celeste, a stay at home mom, and her husband Perry, a hedge fund manager, are the parents of twin boys and they live in a palatial house on the beach. Things definitely look perfect from the outside but Perry has an uncontrollable anger problem that is only getting worse. Jane is a single mom who’s little boy Ziggy was the product of a one-night stand; a one-night stand that left her mentally scarred and unable to heal. The adults all have their fair share of drama going on but to make matters worse there is a terrible ongoing situation of bullying happening at the kids’ school and the truth is far from easy to ascertain. Family drama, infidelity, domestic abuse, and bullying are all adequate plot points on their own but Big Little Lies combines them all for an intense story about the imperfections that many endeavor to hide from the world.

“They say it’s good to let your grudges go, but I don’t know, I’m quite fond of my grudge. I tend it like a little pet.”

This is my first Moriarty book and I’m still struggling to establish whether I actually liked it. The mystery and the anticipated big reveal was all that kept me going because the writing style felt very haphazard and slightly sloppy, written in a flippant and emotionally disjointed way. I would understand that demeanor for some of her characters, but everyone is written in such a way. The story starts off with a Quentin Tarantino type hook: someone is dead but you don’t know who it is and you don’t know what led up to this point. Now, let’s rewind it to six months before the death and go back through everything with a fine-tooth comb. Let’s also intersperse it with gossiping mothers (and the occasional father) who are all convinced it has something to do with a shocking affair, or it was because of some fight that happened between a couple of mothers months back on the playground, or maybe it was when one of the kids handed out birthday invitations to all but one child, or maybe it was Madeleine’s Erotic Book Club. Absolutely no one has any clue what’s actually going on.

idk chris pratt middle finger i dont care who cares

Okay, so basically if you didn’t guess, I gave zero fucks about their petty squabbles. But still, I zoomed through these 460 pages (honestly, that many pages were completely unnecessary). While the mom drama is pretty horrifying in the heavy doses we’re given, it’s despairingly accurate, I know because I have had to personally refuse to participate in that shit (fuck the PTA, honestly). There is also this constant veil of humor over everything, despite the seriousness of a few of the storylines, and I can’t say that I liked it, especially when the domestic abuse storyline had me breathing like I needed a paper bag. Moriarty’s stand against domestic violence isn’t handled poorly (although it could have been handled better), I just felt that the inclusion of comic relief in the story to lessen the seriousness only ended up leaving a bad taste in my mouth. View Spoiler » Many readers may be pleased to have this comic relief to lighten the seriousness of domestic abuse, bullying, and infidelity, but I for one could have done without it. All it managed to do was lessen the depth and seriousness of these grim issues.

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Book Tour Review – The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy

February 10, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2017, TLC Book Tours 7 Comments

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

Book Tour Review – The Possessions by Sara Flannery MurphyThe Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy
Published by Harper on February 7th 2017
Pages: 368
Genres: Fantasy, Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: TLC Book Tours
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Audible|HarperCollins
Goodreads


four-stars

In this electrifying literary debut, a young woman who channels the dead for a living crosses a dangerous line when she falls in love with one of her clients, whose wife died under mysterious circumstances

In an unnamed city, Eurydice works for the Elysian Society, a private service that allows grieving clients to reconnect with lost loved ones. She and her fellow workers, known as “bodies“, wear the discarded belongings of the dead and swallow pills called lotuses to summon their spirits—numbing their own minds and losing themselves in the process. Edie has been a body at the Elysian Society for five years, an unusual record. Her success is the result of careful detachment: she seeks refuge in the lotuses’ anesthetic effects and distances herself from making personal connections with her clients.

But when Edie channels Sylvia, the dead wife of recent widower Patrick Braddock, she becomes obsessed with the glamorous couple. Despite the murky circumstances surrounding Sylvia’s drowning, Edie breaks her own rules and pursues Patrick, moving deeper into his life and summoning Sylvia outside the Elysian Society’s walls.

After years of hiding beneath the lotuses’ dulling effect, Edie discovers that the lines between her own desires and those of Sylvia have begun to blur, and takes increasing risks to keep Patrick within her grasp. Suddenly, she finds her quiet life unraveling as she grapples not only with Sylvia’s growing influence and the questions surrounding her death, but with her own long-buried secrets.

A tale of desire and obsession, deceit and dark secrets that defies easy categorization, The Possessions is a seductive, absorbing page-turner that builds to a shattering, unforgettable conclusion.

About Sara Flannery Murphy

Sara Flannery Murphy grew up in Arkansas, where she divided her time between Little Rock and Eureka Springs, a small artists’ community in the Ozark Mountains. She received her MFA in creative writing at Washington University in St. Louis and studied library science in British Columbia. She lives in Oklahoma with her husband and son. The Possessions is her first novel.

‘The fear swirls out of my mind, the last dregs of water spinning and sliding down the drain.
I open my eyes and reach for the cup, swallow the lotus. It barely takes any time before I’m gone.’

Eurydice (Edie) has worked for the Elysian Society as a body for five years where she acts as a conduit connecting individuals with their deceased loved ones. By consuming a lotus pill, it allows the “body” to almost disconnect so as to allow the loved one to once again have a physical form. The physical aspects of the body never change, but their mind returns as if they were never gone. Many don’t survive in the job for long but Edie is well-suited for it, lacking any emotional connections and much preferring to relinquish her body for that brief respite from the past that haunts her. When Patrick Braddock enters the Elysian Society to reconnect with his wife Sylvia who died almost two years ago under puzzling circumstances, Edie develops an obsession in both Patrick and Sylvia. With each visit from Patrick, Edie retains pieces of Slyvia’s memory, helping her assemble the puzzle surrounding Sylvia’s death.

‘I’m overwhelmed by the thought of all the women who would pour out of me if I were cracked open: swarming like insects, bubbling up out of my mouth. The women who have collected inside me over the years, filling up my insides until there’s no room left for me.’

This debut novel is fascinating. Murphy combines a contemporary story with paranormal aspects to create something quite mesmerizing. The entire concept of the Elysian Society and the lotuses is written loosely and never delves into any scientific aspects to explain exactly how channeling is done, but the vagueness still makes it a credible concept. As readers, we don’t actually witness what occurs when the lotus is consumed until later in the story which certainly gets imaginations running wild at the idea of taking a pill and giving a spirit free reign of your body. The lotuses themselves and how it’s described is incredibly reminiscent of the Lotus-Eaters from Greek mythology and the Odyssey. “Those who ate the honey-sweet lotus fruit no longer wished to bring back word to us, or sail for home. They wanted to stay with the Lotus-eaters, eating the lotus, forgetting all thoughts of return.” (The Odyssey, BkIX:63-104) Obviously, this is absent any aspect of channeling the dead, but the notion of becoming mentally absent and “forgetting all thoughts” is rather comparable to the lotuses in The Possessions.

‘My reflection lies trapped in the darkening window. A tree branch cuts through my torso, the spidery limbs fanned like veins and arteries spreading outward from my heart.’

The strongest aspect of this story is by far the author’s skillful writing style. The elaborate and sumptuous style felt often at odds with the emotionally disconnected voice of the narrator. Edie comes across as a character shrouded in mystery that we’re told very little about but this never lessened the strength of her voice in driving the story nor any interest in discovering more about her. The weakest aspect was the parallel mystery that never coalesced quite as natural as it could have but I felt the story would have suffered if it simply hadn’t been included at all.

The Possessions was a story that lingered long after I read the final page. Love, loss, and tragedy play expected roles in this tale that leaves you contemplating if you’re ever truly able to leave your past behind. Sara Flannery Murphy’s debut novel shows incredible potential for brilliant stories to come.

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This post was a part of ‘The Possessions’ blog tour.
Check out the other tour stops below!

Tuesday, February 7th: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Wednesday, February 8th: Stranded in Chaos
Thursday, February 9th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Friday, February 10th: For the Love of Words
Monday, February 13th: Rebecca Radish
Tuesday, February 14th: Books and Bindings
Wednesday, February 15th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog
Thursday, February 16th: The Ludic Reader
Friday, February 17th: Leigh Kramer
Monday, February 20th: Art Books Coffee
Tuesday, February 21st: Tina Says…
Wednesday, February 22nd: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, February 23rd: Doing Dewey|
Friday, February 24th: Luxury Reading
Saturday, February 27th: Sweet Southern Home
Sunday, February 28th: Thoughts On This ‘n That
Tuesday, March 1st: Stacy’s Books
Wednesday, March 2nd: As I turn the pages

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Short & Sweet – Beyond Shame, Beyond Control, Beyond Denial

February 9, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2017, Short & Sweet Reviews 4 Comments

Short & Sweet – Beyond Shame, Beyond Control, Beyond DenialBeyond Shame by Kit Rocha
Series: Beyond #1
Published by Kit Rocha on September 15th 2012
Pages: 354
Genres: Diiiirrrrrrttyyy, Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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three-stars

All Noelle Cunningham has ever wanted is a life beyond–beyond the walls of Eden, where only the righteous are allowed to remain, and beyond her stiflingly restrictive existence as a councilman’s daughter. But only ruins lie outside the City, remnants of a society destroyed by solar storms decades earlier.

The sectors surrounding Eden house the corrupt, the criminal–men like Jasper McCray, bootlegger and cage fighter. Jas clawed his way up from nothing to stand at the right hand of Sector Four’s ruthless leader, and he’ll defend the O’Kane gang with his life. But no fight ever prepared him for the exiled City girl who falls at his feet.

Her innocence is undeniable, but so is their intense sexual attraction, and soon they’re crossing every boundary Noelle barely knew she had. But if she wants to belong to Jas, first she’ll have to open herself to the gang, to a dangerous world of sex, lust and violence. A world where passion is power, and freedom is found in submission.

“She’d been cast out of Eden and straight into Hell.”

Outside the walls of Eden is complete ruin after solar storms destroyed much of the Earth, but many have found ways to survive and even thrive. Noelle Cunningham, a councilman’s daughter, has lived her entire life behind the heavily regulated walls of Eden but after getting caught in various compromising acts she is thrown out into the Sectors to fend for herself. She hasn’t walked the Sectors long before she’s drugged and is being stalked through the streets when she is rescued by Jasper McCray, an O’Kane lieutenant of Sector Four. When his protective instinct arises, he decides to take her under his wing. The O’Kanes, led by Dallas O’Kane, are the most dangerous gang in all the Sectors and their money is made from distilling alcohol and smuggling it into Eden where alcohol is forbidden. Sector Four is led with an iron fist but for the most part, it’s a non-stop party where regulations are non-existent like they are in Eden. Alcohol and sex are enjoyed without shame and Noelle will be in for an eye-opening experience.

This book has been on my TBR for years because the genre combination of post-apocalyptic and erotica was too intriguing a concept to pass up. Except there were like two sentences that reference the reason the world is the way it is, a chapter or two about conflicts between Sectors, and the rest was basically one giant orgy.

Yes, I know, it’s erotica (or as I like to call it, word porn) so I shouldn’t be surprised at all but word porn can have a storyline too, so excuse me. Anyways, Jasper ends up putting Noelle in the hands of Lex who decides to teach her how it’s done out in the sectors. No, not like, how to work or earn her keep (although I guess it is?) anyways… it was basically, “Hey, I’m Lex, here are some clothes of mine you can borrow because you can’t wear that to the sex party. I’ll introduce you to people later. I’m going to give this guy a blowjob, you should watch carefully because you’re going to also get down here and practice. And later we’ll have dance lessons because you’re going to be a stripper. Welcome to Sector Four!”

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Get a girl a drink first, ffs. So yes, this is definitely erotica, don’t be fooled as I was by the post-apocalyptic aspect thrown in for effect.

Jasper and Noelle of course get cozy super fast and out in the Sectors you don’t get wedding rings. You get collars. Yes, like a dog, oh except it’s tattooed on you. You get collared and you’re supposed to be submissive because you’re owned and… what in the fuck did I read? The one aspect of this story that smoothed all these jagged flaws out was the topic of consent. It wasn’t all about the women because men got “taken care of” way more than the women did but the need for consent was always being brought up. The women were never forced into doing a single thing that they didn’t want to do, which was appreciated, even though half the time I was like

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But if they were cool with it, then you do you.

The actual legitimate issue I had with this story though was Noelle herself. Rules that heavily restrict society in general is bound to cause turmoil and some massive rebelling and that’s exactly what got kicked Noelle out of her home. She comes off as cute and innocent because that’s what Eden instructed her to be but she’s still got that rebellious streak and it comes out through her interest in sex. It seems like an understandable curiosity at first but this chick is either thinking about sex, talking about sex, or bemoaning how terrible she is for being the way she is. You discover not a damn thing about her character other than this. As Navessa put it ever so eloquently: “she’s basically a clit with legs”.

Despite my abundant issues, this was oddly unputdownable. I’m intrigued by the fact that each story in the series focuses on a different couple but I am hoping that the world-building and characterization is built on as well.

Short & Sweet – Beyond Shame, Beyond Control, Beyond DenialBeyond Control by Kit Rocha
Series: Beyond #2
Published by Kit Rocha on March 13th 2013
Pages: 400
Genres: Diiiirrrrrrttyyy, Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: eBook
Source: Freebie
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Audible
Goodreads


three-stars

She refuses to be owned.

Alexa Parrino escaped a life of servitude and survived danger on the streets to become one of the most trusted, influential people in Sector Four, where the O’Kanes rule with a hedonistic but iron fist. Lex has been at the top for years, and there’s almost nothing she wouldn’t do for the gang…and for its leader. Lie, steal, kill—but she bows to no one, not even Dallas O’Kane.
He’ll settle for nothing less.

Dallas fought long and hard to carve a slice of order out of the chaos of the sectors. Dangers both large and small threaten his people, but it’s nothing he can’t handle. His liquor business is flourishing, and new opportunities fuel his ambition. Lex could help him expand his empire, something he wants almost as much as he wants her. And no one says no to the king of Sector Four.

Falling into bed is easy, but their sexual games are anything but casual. Attraction quickly turns to obsession, and their careful dance of heady dominance and sweet submission uncovers a need so deep, so strong, it could crush them both.

Beyond Control centers around the relationship between Lex and Dallas and holy shit, these two be crazy. We learn that Lex wasn’t always in Sector Four, she used to be owned and was something of a sex slave in another Sector so she has issues with submission (as can be expected). Her and Dallas have been something of a thing for years but he hasn’t made her an honest woman and collared her yet so she decides to force his hand one day and gets his name tattooed across her stomach. He responds as she expected and bestows a gorgeous temporary collar on her made of leather and chains. They finally seal the deal by having sex (without an audience either!) because even though they’ve been at it for years, Dallas wouldn’t sleep with her until she was officially collared.

Goddamn, this is some romantic shit.

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As hoped, we do find out more about the state of the world (only a little though) and the politics between Sectors plays a much larger part. Overall though, this one was a bit of a rocky read for me. I never much cared for the dynamic between Lex and Dallas and his continued insistence that she wants to be owned touched a bit of a nerve when you consider her past. Once again, the consent train comes barreling in to the station to make all the crazy shit okay. I just didn’t super buy it this time. And whether it’s because of the lack of characterization or what, but I don’t actually like any of these characters. I didn’t like Noelle’s doe-eyed, innocent act, Jasper was this seemingly brainless brute that just wanted to protect the pretty lady, Lex has clearly got some mental hangups due to her past but goddamn she’s angsty, and Dallas is the king of brainless brutes. Their sex scenes were also not nearly as hot as in the prior book mostly because the domination factor was through the roof and that got old quick.

I continue to have many of the same issues with these stories but they leave me completely riveted. It almost must be said that they definitely don’t read like the self-published books that they are. I may not have any partiality when it comes to characters but I have enjoyed meeting new couples with each story… definitely keeps things interesting.

Short & Sweet – Beyond Shame, Beyond Control, Beyond DenialBeyond Denial by Kit Rocha
Series: Beyond #2.5
Published by Kit Rocha on March 22nd 2013
Pages: 15
Genres: Diiiirrrrrrttyyy, Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: eBook
Source: Freebie
Amazon
Goodreads


three-stars

Caution: this story is not meant to stand alone.

The Beyond Happily Ever After stories are vignettes and outtakes showing the O'Kanes in their daily lives, in between the adventures and often after their happy endings. These stories were written exclusively for readers and fans of the series, and will probably not make very much sense to anyone not familiar with the characters.

The stories are also available for free at kitrocha.com.

lol Yeah, I’m still reading these.

Beyond Denial consists of just 15 pages, seeing as it’s actually a deleted scene from Beyond Control (so make sure to read that one first). Since each book focuses on a different couple, I was anticipating a book between Ace and Rachel, but this deleted scene is actually between Ace and Jared. And they aren’t having a chat.

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I’m growing to appreciate the openness of sexuality in these stories. The things that go on may seem a little extreme and crazy but I find the general absence of labels, shame, and taboos that we constantly deal with in society to be quite refreshing. I wasn’t sure if I’d be continuing these stories because they’re really not my thing… but they’ve got their hooks in me.

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Short & Sweet – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, The Last Days of Jack Sparks, Bad Boy

December 23, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016, Short & Sweet Reviews 10 Comments

Short & Sweet – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, The Last Days of Jack Sparks, Bad BoyAll the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on August 9th 2016
Pages: 346
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Audible
Goodreads


four-stars

A beautiful and provocative love story between two unlikely people and the hard-won relationship that elevates them above the Midwestern meth lab backdrop of their lives.

As the daughter of a drug dealer, Wavy knows not to trust people, not even her own parents. It's safer to keep her mouth shut and stay out of sight. Struggling to raise her little brother, Donal, eight-year-old Wavy is the only responsible adult around. Obsessed with the constellations, she finds peace in the starry night sky above the fields behind her house, until one night her star gazing causes an accident. After witnessing his motorcycle wreck, she forms an unusual friendship with one of her father's thugs, Kellen, a tattooed ex-con with a heart of gold.

By the time Wavy is a teenager, her relationship with Kellen is the only tender thing in a brutal world of addicts and debauchery. When tragedy rips Wavy's family apart, a well-meaning aunt steps in, and what is beautiful to Wavy looks ugly under the scrutiny of the outside world. A powerful novel you won’t soon forget, Bryn Greenwood's All the Ugly and Wonderful Things challenges all we know and believe about love.

We meet Wavonna “Wavy” Quinn when she’s only five years old and she’s already experienced far more than any five year old should. Her father Liam is a meth dealer and her mother Val is an addict. Val possesses more than a few neurosis about cleanliness (she tells her she has germs, sticks her fingers down her throat telling her food is dirty, occasionally even throws food out completely forcing Wavy and her younger brother Donal to dig from the trash for their dinners) and subsequently passes these same neurosis onto Wavy. She refuses to eat when others are looking, she doesn’t touch anyone, and refuses to be touched. Until Jesse Joe Kellen. Kellen is a drug runner for Liam but he begins the only one that takes care of Wavy and her brother. As Wavy grows up in her unstable environment, we’re told her story from her point-of-view and various others in her life and we see how her and Kellen’s relationship transforms into something, well, both ugly and wonderful.

I’ve read some questionable books in my time but the idea of romanticizing a relationship between an extremely  young girl (they met when she was just 5) with a twenty-something year old man had me saying

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For good reason, but damn did Greenwood make it work. The story unfolds over the course of 15 years or so of Wavy’s life and through it all we see the trauma she underwent in her household and how her and Kellen’s relationship ultimately saved them both. I appreciated how much we got to see from Wavy’s point of view because it gave the reader the ability to develop some much needed tolerance. While it may be deemed wrong in the eyes of the law, Wavy had a complete understanding of their less than perfect romance. Setting aside the squick factor that I know is a definite issue, this was a beautiful tale of hard-fought love.

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

Short & Sweet – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, The Last Days of Jack Sparks, Bad BoyThe Last Days of Jack Sparks by Jason Arnopp
Published by Orbit on March 3rd 2016
Pages: 336
Genres: Horror
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Audible
Goodreads


four-stars

Jack Sparks died while writing this book. This is the account of his final days.
In 2014, Jack Sparks - the controversial pop culture journalist - died in mysterious circumstances.

To his fans, Jack was a fearless rebel; to his detractors, he was a talentless hack. Either way, his death came as a shock to everyone.

It was no secret that Jack had been researching the occult for his new book. He'd already triggered a furious Twitter storm by mocking an exorcism he witnessed in rural Italy.

Then there was that video: thirty-six seconds of chilling footage that Jack repeatedly claimed was not of his making, yet was posted from his own YouTube account.

Nobody knew what happened to Jack in the days that followed - until now. This book, compiled from the files found after his death, reveals the chilling details of Jack's final hours.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks is about, well, the last days of Jack Sparks. While researching the occult for his most recent book, he had some mysterious incidents that even he couldn’t explain away. See, even though he was researching the occult, he was actually a professed non-believer of it all and sought to discredit everyone. He attended an actual exorcism and laughed at the experience and then there was the mysterious video that was added onto his personal YouTube channel showing possible proof of an actual ghost. It was a bit downhill for him from there on out.

This story was for the most part a mystery and the horror would sneak up on you reminding you of its true genre, but there was quite a lot of humor to balance things out. For the record, I read a lot of horror and this story often left me with my jaw on the ground. Once things really got going and you’re dealing with various different storylines that were confusing yet still managed to make sense, then Arnopp hits you with the twist.

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But like, in the best way.

The Last Days of Jack Sparks managed to both shock and impress me despite the loose ends that didn’t quite get resolved to my liking. If you enjoyed A Head Full of Ghosts but were wishing it was a bit more terrifying? This reads for you.

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

Short & Sweet – All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, The Last Days of Jack Sparks, Bad BoyBad Boy by Elliot Wake
Narrator: Randal Marsh
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on December 6th 2016
Pages: 248
Length: 8 hrs and 29 mins
Genres: Contemporary
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
Amazon|B&N|Book Depository|Audible
Goodreads


two-half-stars

Vlog star Renard Grant has nothing to prove: he’s got a pretty face, chiseled body, and two million adoring video subscribers. Plus the scars on his chest and a prescription for testosterone. Because Ren is transgender: assigned female at birth, living now as male. He films his transition and shares it bravely with the world; his fans love his honesty and positivity.

But Ren has been living a double life.

Off-camera, he’s Cane, the muscle-bound enforcer for social justice vigilante group Black Iris. As Cane, he lets his dark side loose. Hurts those who prey on the disempowered. Indulges in the ugly side of masculinity. And his new partner, Tamsin Baylor, is a girl as rough and relentless as him. Together, they terrorize the trolls into silence.

But when a routine Black Iris job goes south, Ren is put in the crosshairs. Someone is out to ruin his life. He’s a bad boy, they say, guilty of what he punishes others for.

Just like every other guy: at heart, he’s a monster, too.

Now Ren’s got everything to prove. He has to clear his name, and show the world he’s a good man. But that requires facing demons he’s locked away for years. And it might mean discovering he’s not such a good guy after all.

Renard Grant is a popular transgender vlogger who is also a vigilante saving terrorized women in his spare time. If your immediate thought is “that’s a bit of a mouthful” you would be right. Grant’s story is a rousing tale of discovering your true identity; something that Wake can speak from the heart about because his emotions shown clearly through the delivery. The transformation process is discussed in much detail and it’s enlightening and informative, shedding light on something with many pre-conceived notions.

I adored Unteachable and while Black Iris and Cam Girl both had their fair share of flaws, there was still much to love and the writing style is something to behold. The issue I had with Bad Boy is there’s simply far too much going on in the few pages there are. There was already enough of a story recounting the experience of transitioning without adding in the concept of a masked vigilante group protecting women. It’s a great concept, the only problem is the transition story View Spoiler » was a far more compelling one and the superfluous addition only caused it to pale in comparison. On top of that, the combination of many of Wake’s previous characters from Black Iris and Cam Girl was overwhelming. Each of her characters can hold their own as the star of the show and having them all grouped together, battling for attention, felt like some sort of all-consuming motley (and not in the best way). Bad Boy is still no doubt well worth the read for the edifying aspect alone.

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