Posts Categorized: Adult

Release Day Feature – Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

August 7, 2018 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2018, Release Day Feature 2 Comments

I received this book 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 – Rust & Stardust by T. GreenwoodRust & Stardust by T. Greenwood
Published by St. Martin's Press on August 7, 2018
Pages: 352
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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four-half-stars

Camden, NJ, 1948. When 11 year-old Sally Horner steals a notebook from the local Woolworth's, she has no way of knowing that 52 year-old Frank LaSalle, fresh out of prison, is watching her, preparing to make his move. Accosting her outside the store, Frank convinces Sally that he's an FBI agent who can have her arrested in a minute - unless she does as he says.

This chilling novel traces the next two harrowing years as Frank mentally and physically assaults Sally as the two of them travel westward from Camden to San Jose, forever altering not only her life, but the lives of her family, friends, and those she meets along the way.

Based on the experiences of real-life kidnapping victim Sally Horner and her captor, whose story shocked the nation and inspired Vladimir Nabokov to write his controversial and iconic Lolita, this heart-pounding story by award-winning author T. Greenwood at last gives a voice to Sally herself.

About T. Greenwood

T. Greenwood is the author of twelve novels. She has received grants from the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and, most recently, the Maryland State Arts Council. She has won three San Diego Book Awards. Five of her novels have been BookSense76/IndieBound picks. BODIES OF WATER was finalist for a Lambda Foundation award. Her twelfth novel, RUST & STARDUST, will be published in August 2018.

She teaches creative writing for San Diego Writer's Ink and online for The Writer's Center. She and her husband, Patrick, live in San Diego, CA with their two daughters. She is also a photographer.

“She couldn’t ever tell anyone the things he had done and said to her. The secrets her skin kept now, the horror that flowed in her veins. Her marrow poisoned.”

Rust & Stardust is an affecting novelization of the true crime story that ultimately inspired Nabokov’s writing of Lolita. The facts: Sally Horner was kidnapped from Camden, New Jersey, in the summer of 1948, by a man claiming to be with the FBI after he caught her stealing a five-cent notebook. The man’s real name was Frank La Salle who had been released from state prison in January of the same year for sex crimes against young girls. The unknown: All of the tiny details that Greenwood had to infer in order to recreate the tragic story of Sally Horner.

The story melds the horrifying point of view of Sally Horner with that of the family she left behind and various individuals that were unwittingly impacted by La Salle’s crimes. Sally’s story is, of course, heinous especially when you consider this girl was a mere 11-years-old and the ease with which she was convinced that her minor crime was worth what she endured was heartbreaking. But it was the normalcy of life that her family was forced to revert back to that was the most heartbreaking for me. The efforts they were forced to exude, all because of the continuous passing of time with the vestiges of hope deteriorating with each passing day.

‘How sad it is that grief has a shelf life […]. It’s only fresh and raw for so long before it begins to spoil. And soon enough, it will be replaced by a newer, brighter heartache – the old one discarded and eventually forgotten.’

Within the first 100 pages you start to feel as if Sally had already endured a lifetime of suffering, but of course, the book was far from over. Her story, far from over. It’s hard to understand how an 11-year-old could be convinced the situation was credible, but then again, this happened in the year 1948 when crime wasn’t quite so common and it was normal for children to be mostly sheltered from the nightmares of the world. Also, we’re taught at a very early age to respect authority, especially police officers, so I can understand even if something seemed wrong, how would someone at that age really know? And of course, it wasn’t until months into her abduction as Sally grew up that she finally started asking the questions that you, as the reader, were no doubt screaming at her to question when this all began.

Rust & Stardust was, as expected, a most difficult read but Sally’s story was gracefully told. Do yourself a favor and don’t go searching for Sally’s story to find out what became of her; I made the mistake of doing just this and I wish I hadn’t so that the ending could have remained elusive.

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Rapid Reviews – The Line That Held Us, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Awakened

July 29, 2018 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Non-Fiction, Rapid Fire Reviews, Read in 2018 2 Comments

Sometimes review writing is hard. Sometimes you don’t have a lot to say. Sometimes you’re just lazy as fuck. These are Rapid Fire Reviews.

Rapid Reviews – The Line That Held Us, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, AwakenedThe Line That Held Us by David Joy
Illustrator: David Palumbo
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons on August 14, 2018
Pages: 272
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Where All Light Tends to GoThe Weight of This World

Short Summary: Darl Moody knows that he’s poaching when he sets out to go hunting late one night but he’s got many mouths to feed. The bullet he fires intended for an animal turns out to be none other than Carol Brewer who was also poaching on the same land, and instead of owning up to his mistake he buries the body and hopes that his terrifying brother Dwayne doesn’t ever connect the dots.

Thoughts: David Joy’s novels are impressively engaging and invoke the essence of the South in all the best (and terrible) ways

Verdict: The Line That Held Us was a riveting story of the reverberations of vengeance that was poignantly written. In his third novel, David Joy is clearly only getting better.

four-stars

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

Rapid Reviews – The Line That Held Us, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, AwakenedI’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
Published by Harper on February 27, 2018
Pages: 328
Genres: True Crime
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Short Summary: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is the posthumous culmination of Michelle McNamara’s research into the identity of the Golden State Killer, a man who committed at least 12 murders and more than 50 rapes.

Thoughts: The shining light of this true crime story is the passion and drive that McNamara possessed to uncover the mystery of a serial killer that haunted people for decades, and how heartbreaking it is that she wasn’t able to witness the day that he was finally found.

Verdict: Despite this being very obviously incomplete, I understand why the publication was so important. Did her research point directly to the killer? I would say no, however, the continued interest in the investigation clearly kept it alive when so many cases would have normally been forgotten, relegated to a basement alongside other cold cases.

three-half-stars

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

Rapid Reviews – The Line That Held Us, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, AwakenedNightflyers by George R.R. Martin
Illustrator: David Palumbo
Published by Bantam on May 29, 2018
Pages: 208
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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Short Summary: A group of individuals set out on a scientific expedition to uncover the mysteries of an alien race but along the way, an alien presence makes itself known and the group is fighting for their lives while trying to figure out if this is the same alien presence that they sought.

Thoughts: This novella has an impressive concept but the wide cast of characters that went without proper development and the strange focus on the sex lives of these 9 individuals was needless and I would’ve much preferred more details on the mysterious alien race instead.

Verdict: Nightflyers is a very unsettling little read and I’m very much looking forward to the visual aspects of bringing this novella to life on the small screen.

three-half-stars

Rapid Reviews – The Line That Held Us, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Awakened

Awakened by James S. MurrayDarren Wearmouth
Series: Awakened #1
Published by Harper Voyager on June 26, 2018
Pages: 287
Genres: HorrorSci-fi
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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Short Summary: When a new subway line connecting New Jersey and New York makes its inaugural journey, it arrives in the station to a crowd of spectators that watch in horror as they realize that the train is completely empty but there’s blood everywhere.

Thoughts: This one was a ton of fun and full of creepy moments but the shift in the second half where the story focused primarily on political drama/conspiracies instead was somewhat disappointing.

Verdict: With similarities to The Strain and the very script-like way this was written, this would be a most excellent tv show.

three-half-stars

I received this book 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.

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Book Review – An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim

July 20, 2018 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2018 4 Comments

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

Book Review – An Ocean of Minutes by Thea LimAn Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim
Published by Touchstone on July 10, 2018
Pages: 320
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Time Travel
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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three-stars

In the vein of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Station Eleven, a sweeping literary love story about two people who are at once mere weeks and many years apart.

America is in the grip of a deadly flu pandemic. When Frank catches the virus, his girlfriend Polly will do whatever it takes to save him, even if it means risking everything. She agrees to a radical plan—time travel has been invented in the future to thwart the virus. If she signs up for a one-way-trip into the future to work as a bonded laborer, the company will pay for the life-saving treatment Frank needs. Polly promises to meet Frank again in Galveston, Texas, where she will arrive in twelve years.

But when Polly is re-routed an extra five years into the future, Frank is nowhere to be found. Alone in a changed and divided America, with no status and no money, Polly must navigate a new life and find a way to locate Frank, to discover if he is alive, and if their love has endured.

An Ocean of Minutes is a gorgeous and heartbreaking story about the endurance and complexity of human relationships and the cost of holding onto the past—and the price of letting it go.

“TimeRaiser is a good company. We’ll protect you. Today, or rather tomorrow, is the first day of the rest of your life. It’s a gift.”

In the year 1981, the flu has devastated the world. When the ability to time travel becomes a reality, doctors attempt to go back to the beginning to prevent the flu from ever becoming an issue but limitations on travel prevent them from going back that far. Being infected is certain death and when Polly’s boyfriend Frank becomes infected, she agrees to a 32-month contract with TimeRaiser: in exchange for medical aid to cure Frank, Polly will travel to the year 1993 to help rebuild the physical elements of society. Goodbyes are conducted quickly with the two promising to meet the year she was due to arrive except Polly finds herself in the year 1998 instead. Filled with uncertainty in a world that used to be familiar, Polly must learn to cope with the past decisions that have changed her future irrevocably.

‘She had done it all without understanding the weight of what she was doing. Until this moment, the choice she’d made had kept its true, perverse nature secret: it was irreversible, and only comprehensible after it was done.’

With flashes between past and present, An Ocean of Minutes tells the story of Frank and Polly and why Polly would be willing to make such a monumental decision so that the two of them had a chance for a shared future. This story shares many genres, time travel, post-apocalyptic, and romance, but Lim balances the elements nicely and one never overwhelmed the other. The post-apocalyptic aspects were eerie, with the United States of America being divided into a section called The United States and a separate section called America. TimeRaiser’s employees are assigned codes based on the type of work they are assigned to do with some individuals making new tiles for new flooring, or other individuals ride exercise bikes all day to power resorts (reminding me vividly of Fifteen Million Merits. Any Black Mirror fans?) Polly is fortunate enough to be a skilled laborer and is assigned to restore old furniture where she’s granted certain liberties that regular “Journeymen” are not.

Life is still far from easy and nothing like the life that she left behind and Polly is forced to deal with far more than she ever anticipated when she signed up. Finding Frank is always at the forefront of her mind and was what kept these pages turning most for me: I was eager to know if Polly’s sacrifices would pay off for her and possibly Frank as well. The story’s pace is admittedly unhurried and despite the shocking nature of the world Polly finds herself in, it’s not exactly what I would call thrilling. Despite all this, I found myself completely enthralled in finding out the ending. The story concludes instead with a life lesson on impermanence, the reality of change, and a bit of a cynical approach to love. Realistic or not, I found it concluded most disappointingly.

‘In her heart, the past was not another time, but another place that still existed. It was just that she had taken a wrong turn.’

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva [Review]
The Last Policeman (The Last Policeman #1) by Ben H. Winters
The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan [Review]

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

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

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

five-stars

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

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

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

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

Me Before You Series

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

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

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

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

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

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Short & Sweet – Palace of Treason and The Kremlin’s Candidate

April 19, 2018 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2018, Short & Sweet Reviews 0 Comments

I received this book 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 – Palace of Treason and The Kremlin’s CandidatePalace of Treason by Jason Matthews
Narrator: Jeremy Bobb
Series: Red Sparrow Trilogy #2
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on June 2, 2015
Length: 20 hrs and 7 mins
Genres: Spy Thriller
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Red Sparrow

four-stars

Red Sparrow is now a major motion picture starring Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton!

The pulse-pounding sequel to the bestselling, Edgar Award-winning Red Sparrow that The New York Times Book Review called “terrifically good”: star-crossed spies Dominika Egorova and CIA agent Nate Nash return in a cat-and-mouse race to the finish.

Captain Dominika Egorova of the Russian Intelligence Service (SVR) has returned from the West to Moscow and the Center, the headquarters of her service. She finds things worse than when she left. She despises the men she must serve, the oligarchs, and crooks, and thugs of Putin’s Russia. What no one knows is that Dominika is working for the CIA as Washington’s most sensitive penetration of SVR and the Kremlin.

As she expertly dodges exposure, Dominika deals with a murderously psychotic boss; survives an Iranian assassination attempt; escapes a counterintelligence ambush; rescues an arrested agent and exfiltrates him out of Russia; and has a chilling midnight conversation in her nightgown with President Putin in one of the Tsar’s palaces. Complicating the risks is the fact that Dominika is in love with her CIA handler, Nate Nash, and their lust is as dangerous to both of them as committing espionage in Moscow. And when a mole in the SVR finds Dominika’s name on a restricted list of sources, it is a virtual death sentence. She must face off alone against her psycho boss, who’s got an eight-inch knife up his sleeve…

Just as fast-paced, heart-pounding, and action-packed as Red Sparrow, Jason Matthews’s second novel proves he is “an insider’s insider…and a masterful storyteller” (Vince Flynn, #1 New York Times bestselling author).

“Dvorets v Izmene,” said Dominika under her breath.
Benford looked over at Nate, one eyebrow raised.
“Palace of Treason,” Nate said.
“Works for me,” said Gable.”

Palace of Treason, the thrilling follow up to Red Sparrow, places Captain Dominika Egorova in a place both advantageous and dangerous. She’s in a position of great importance within Moscow and is able to provide vital intelligence to the CIA, however, she isn’t beloved by all and a few alarming individuals suspect her of wrongdoing. To make matters even more precarious, she’s caught the eye of the Russian president and one misstep will destroy everything she’s worked for.

Matthews continues to excel at the multitude of characters in these stories that all manage to be meticulously described without becoming excessive. The storyteller’s tendency to fall back on stereotypes, primarily when it comes to the Russians, is a bit of a low point. The lack of depth and distinction, fortunately, didn’t take away from the strength of the plot itself. Egorova fights throughout the story to keep her cover and to quietly take out anyone who could destroy it. She survives through so many assassination attempts that it was both incredible and unbelievable, but then again, she trained for years to survive this kind of life. She’s a woman on a mission, intent on getting payback for what she was forced to do for so many years in the name of Russia, but the one thing that she seems to be willing to risk it all for is love. A bit of a contradiction, but much like the seemingly odd inclusion of recipes at the end of each chapter, it still manages to work out nicely.

“You remember what I told you both in Vienna?” […] “That someday you’re gonna have to make a decision that’ll make you taste your stomach behind your teeth, but you got no choice, and maybe it even means hurting someone you respect and trust. Well, it happened today and it’ll happen again tomorrow, and the next day.”

 

I received this book 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 – Palace of Treason and The Kremlin’s CandidateThe Kremlin's Candidate by Jason Matthews
Narrator: Jeremy Bobb
Series: Red Sparrow Trilogy #3
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on February 13, 2018
Length: 17 hrs and 48 mins
Genres: Spy Thriller
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Red Sparrow

three-half-stars

In the final, thrilling New York Times bestselling installment of the Red Sparrow Trilogy, Russian counterintelligence chief Dominika Egorova and her lover, CIA agent Nate Nash, must find a Russian agent about to be appointed to a very high office in the US government.

With a plot ripped from tomorrow’s headlines, Jason Matthews’s high-powered, seductive third novel not only continues the dangerous entanglements of Dominika and Nate but reveals with chilling authenticity how Russian espionage can place agents in the most sensitive positions of power. The novel opens with Russian president Vladimir Putin planning the covert assassination of a high-ranking US official with the intention of replacing him with a mole whom Russian intelligence has cultivated for more than fifteen years.

Catching wind of this plot, Dominika, Nate, and their CIA colleagues must unmask the traitor before he or she is able to reveal that Dominika has been spying for years on behalf of the CIA. Any leak, any misstep, will expose her as a CIA asset and result in a one-way trip to a Moscow execution cellar. Along the way, Matthews, a thirty-three-year veteran of the CIA and winner of the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, sets vivid, unforgettable scenes in Moscow; Washington, DC; Hong Kong; New York; the Sudan; and Turkey, and introduces two cold-blooded killers: Iosip Blokhin, a brilliant Spetsnaz military officer, and Grace Gao, ravishing Chinese spy, master of Kundalini yoga, and Beijing-trained seductress.

Ultimately, the lines of danger converge on the spectacular billion-dollar presidential palace on the Black Sea during a power weekend with Putin’s inner circle. Does Nate sacrifice himself to save Dominika? Does she forfeit herself to protect Nate? Do they go down together?

This dazzling finale to Jason Matthews’s New York Times bestselling Red Sparrow Trilogy, called “a primer in twenty-first-century spying...terrifically good” (The New York Times Book Review), confirms the critical acclaim he received for the first two novels, praise that compared Matthews to John le Carré and Ian Fleming.

“The tenets of espionage were immutable—go forth and steal secrets—but technology was changing the Game.”

In The Kremlin’s Candidate, the race is on to identify the Russian spy who is one of three individuals currently in the running to become the next CIA director. This was hands down my favorite plot line of the trilogy and is by far the most thrilling in how Matthews brought everything full circle. Retelling Dominika’s time when she was still just a Sparrow, she was instructed to compromise U.S. Navy lieutenant Audrey Rowland and get her to agree to work with the Russians back in 2005. The mission was a success and Audrey’s been feeding information to them ever since. Flash forward back to the present, Audrey is in place to become the next CIA director and if she gains that position, she’ll be able to obtain the name of the Russian mole, Diva, who she knows intimately well as Dominika Egorova.

Matthews doesn’t settle for that one, immense plot, unfortunately, and it ends up far more convoluted than necessary. In addition to American and Russian spies, North Korean and Chinese spies are also thrown into the mix. There’s even mention of the Chinese version of the Russian “Sparrow” and while I understand we’ve been drilled on assassin and seductresses going hand in hand for three novels, this bit of added detail came off as cheesy more than anything. Sections certainly could have been omitted for a more streamlined story. The build-up to the grand finale does, in retrospect, feel like something I should have anticipated but it still managed to astonish. A lot of the details makes you question whether Matthews is including his actual knowledge from his own personal spying days, or if it’s simply randomly added detail. Either way, it was most convincing. This is the third and final story of the Red Sparrow trilogy and while it is obvious that Matthews has developed a formula by this point, it doesn’t matter, because it’s exciting and it works. In looking back on the near 60 hours I spent listening to the ordeals of Dominika Egorova and Nathaniel Nash, it was easy to lose yourself in the intricate web of the spy world. It was a most enjoyable thrill ride and I’ve never laughed harder at my new favorite insult: “I don’t know what’s wrong with you but I bet it’s hard to pronounce.”

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Life’s Too Short – Barbed Wire Heart, Unbury Carol, Future Home of the Living God

April 6, 2018 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Life's Too Short, Read in 2018 2 Comments

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

Life’s Too Short – Barbed Wire Heart, Unbury Carol, Future Home of the Living GodBarbed Wire Heart by Tess Sharpe
Published by Grand Central Publishing on March 6th 2018
Pages: 416
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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dnf

Never cut the drugs--leave them pure.Guns are meant to be shot--keep them loaded.Family is everything--betray them and die.

Harley McKenna is the only child of North County's biggest criminal. Duke McKenna's run more guns, cooked more meth, and killed more men than anyone around. Harley's been working for him since she was sixteen--collecting debts, sweet-talking her way out of trouble, and dreading the day he'd deem her ready to rule the rural drug empire he's built.

Her time's run out. The Springfields, her family's biggest rivals, are moving in. Years ago, they were responsible for her mother's death, and now they're coming for Duke's only weak spot: his daughter.

With a bloody turf war threatening to consume North County, Harley is forced to confront the truth: that her father's violent world will destroy her. Duke's raised her to be deadly--he never counted on her being disloyal. But if Harley wants to survive and protect the people she loves, she's got to take out Duke's operation and the Springfields.

Blowing up meth labs is dangerous business, and getting caught will be the end of her, but Harley has one advantage: She is her father's daughter. And McKennas always win.

DNF @ 16%

Southern Gothic is my jam and Barbed Wire Heart sounded right up my alley. Of course, when you compare anything to Winter’s Bone I’m even more on board. Harley McKenna’s character did in fact, read a lot like Ree Dolly with her badass nature and overall inability to sit on the sidelines letting someone else handle business. It’s an admirable quality and I’m quite fond of this characteristic in female characters. For some reason though, something about the characters, the atmosphere, and the story itself just never rang true for me. It felt like a combination of a lack of authenticity and simply trying too hard to fit in all the guns, the drugs, the bad men, and excessive violence that are characters in and of themselves in novels of this ilk. Whatever it was that ultimately turned me off from this story, I wish it wasn’t the case because I had high hopes for this one.

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

Life’s Too Short – Barbed Wire Heart, Unbury Carol, Future Home of the Living GodUnbury Carol by Josh Malerman
Published by Del Rey on April 10, 2018
Pages: 384
Genres: Fantasy, Western
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: Bird Box, Black Mad Wheel

dnf

Carol Evers is a woman with a dark secret. She has died many times . . . but her many deaths are not final: They are comas, a waking slumber indistinguishable from death, each lasting days.

Only two people know of Carol’s eerie condition. One is her husband, Dwight, who married Carol for her fortune, and—when she lapses into another coma—plots to seize it by proclaiming her dead and quickly burying her . . . alive. The other is her lost love, the infamous outlaw James Moxie. When word of Carol’s dreadful fate reaches him, Moxie rides the Trail again to save his beloved from an early, unnatural grave.

And all the while, awake and aware, Carol fights to free herself from the crippling darkness that binds her—summoning her own fierce will to survive. As the players in this drama of life and death fight to decide her fate, Carol must in the end battle to save herself.

DNF @ 15%

As you might have guessed from the title, Carol is dead. Or at least she dies a lot but she comes back, for some mysterious reason. When Carol was still alive and kicking, she married this pretty horrible dude named Dwight (horrible dude, horrible name… it fits) who only pretended to like her for her money, but now that she’s died again, he intends to keep it that way. Except for her ex, the outlaw James Moxie is coming to save her from a forever death. Yeah, outlaw. This is some bizarre blend of fantasy and the Wild West and there were absolutely no ‘horror’ bits about it. Except having to read characters constantly repeat the phrase “Hell’s heaven” ad nauseam was plenty horrific enough.

Honestly, this just sounds like a bad Lifetime movie, but Bird Box remains one of my all-time favorite horror novels and I keep trying his stories even though nothing has managed to come close.

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

Life’s Too Short – Barbed Wire Heart, Unbury Carol, Future Home of the Living GodFuture Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich
Published by Harper on November 14, 2017
Pages: 288
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: The Round House

dnf

The world as we know it is ending. Evolution has reversed itself, affecting every living creature on earth. Science cannot stop the world from running backwards, as woman after woman gives birth to infants that appear to be primitive species of humans. Twenty-six-year-old Cedar Hawk Songmaker, adopted daughter of a pair of big-hearted, open-minded Minneapolis liberals, is as disturbed and uncertain as the rest of America around her. But for Cedar, this change is profound and deeply personal. She is four months pregnant.

Though she wants to tell the adoptive parents who raised her from infancy, Cedar first feels compelled to find her birth mother, Mary Potts, an Ojibwe living on the reservation, to understand both her and her baby’s origins. As Cedar goes back to her own biological beginnings, society around her begins to disintegrate, fueled by a swelling panic about the end of humanity.

There are rumors of martial law, of Congress confining pregnant women. Of a registry, and rewards for those who turn these wanted women in. Flickering through the chaos are signs of increasing repression: a shaken Cedar witnesses a family wrenched apart when police violently drag a mother from her husband and child in a parking lot. The streets of her neighborhood have been renamed with Bible verses. A stranger answers the phone when she calls her adoptive parents, who have vanished without a trace. It will take all Cedar has to avoid the prying eyes of potential informants and keep her baby safe.

A chilling dystopian novel both provocative and prescient, Future Home of the Living God is a startlingly original work from one of our most acclaimed writers: a moving meditation on female agency, self-determination, biology, and natural rights that speaks to the troubling changes of our time.

DNF @ 20% (+ scan reading)

The concept of evolution reversing itself is a potentially fascinating story, but Erdrich didn’t exactly tackle the details of this idea. It’s merely a stated occurrence and the story instead focuses on women being rounded up for breeding stock because there are so few “original” babies being born. Which… just sounds a lot like The Handmaid’s Tale to me. Whether or not it’s the renewed interest in The Handmaid’s Tale what with the new show, but there have been a ridiculous amount of dystopian tales surrounding the degradation of women as of late. This is all well and good, I’m always on board for a good dystopian story, but with Future Home of the Living God, Erdrich’s attempts to hop on the bandwagon of dystopian lit results in nothing more than a lesser, imitative version.

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Audiobook Review – Red Sparrow (Red Sparrow Trilogy #1) by Jason Matthews

March 9, 2018 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2018 4 Comments

I received this book 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.

Audiobook Review – Red Sparrow (Red Sparrow Trilogy #1) by Jason MatthewsRed Sparrow by Jason Matthews
Narrator: Jeremy Bobb
Series: Red Sparrow Trilogy #1
on June 4th 2013
Length: 17 hours and 55 minutes
Genres: Spy Thriller
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Palace of Treason, The Kremlin's Candidate

four-stars

An impossible to put down, highly commercial espionage thriller written by a CIA insider.

In today’s Russia, dominated by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, state intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the cast-iron bureaucracy of post-Soviet intelligence. Drafted against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress in the service, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a first-tour CIA officer who handles the CIA’s most sensitive penetration of Russian intelligence. The two young intelligence officers, trained in their respective spy schools, collide in a charged atmosphere of tradecraft, deception, and inevitably, a forbidden spiral of carnal attraction that threatens their careers and the security of America’s valuable mole in Moscow. Seeking revenge against her soulless masters, Dominika begins a fatal double life, recruited by the CIA to ferret out a high-level traitor in Washington; hunt down a Russian illegal buried deep in the U.S. military and, against all odds, to return to Moscow as the new-generation penetration of Putin’s intelligence service. Dominika and Nathaniel’s impossible love affair and twisted spy game come to a deadly conclusion in the shocking climax of this electrifying, up-to-the minute spy thriller.

In a not so fictional world, moles have infiltrated both the U.S. and Russian governments and it’s often difficult to determine what side anyone is on. Nathaniel Nash is a CIA officer in charge of handling CIA assets, most important of those is MARBLE, a Russian mole that is a high-ranking foreign intelligence officer that has been selling secrets to the United States for years. Dominika Egorova is a Russian intelligence officer, recruited by her uncle the deputy director of the foreign intelligence service, but is forced into attending Sparrow school where she’s taught the art of seducing her enemies. She’s also gifted with synesthesia which allows her to see emotions as colors — quite helpful when it comes to detecting whether someone is lying or not. When Dominika is instructed by Russian officials to use her Sparrow skills on Nate Nash in order to uncover the mole he was hiding, it quickly becomes more than just an assignment.

“Trouble is the beginning of disaster.”

Red Sparrow is Jason Matthews’ first novel but it certainly reads like it was penned by someone with a skilled hand, likely due to his own 33-years of experience as a CIA operative. Red Sparrow reads like a far more sophisticated version of the majority of spy novels, undeniably missing the pulse-pounding action sequences but instead is a nuanced psychological game of chess. He details what would easily be considered the superfluous minutiae of what it means to be a spy but these details effectively build up rather than diminish the complexity of the story as a whole. His experience in the intelligence world certainly shows and this textbook guide on how to be a spy is cloaked with the cover of a fiction novel. Just in case you were worried this was going to be too serious, Matthews includes a recipe at the end of each chapter (the recipe for the Creamed Horseradish sauce had me drooling.)

Red Sparrow, as I stated, certainly lacks the standard pulse-pounding action sequences, but the espionage being conducted for almost 18 hours in this thrilling audiobook concludes with higher than before stakes in the most dangerous of games. I’m even more excited for the film now.

related-reads-grey

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré
Casino Royale (James Bond (Original Series) #1) by Ian Fleming

 

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Rapid Fire Reviews – The Dry, Strange Weather, Witch Creek, The Wolves of Winter

February 22, 2018 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2018 7 Comments

Sometimes review writing is hard. Sometimes you don’t have a lot to say. Sometimes you’re just lazy as fuck. These are Rapid Fire Reviews.

Rapid Fire Reviews – The Dry, Strange Weather, Witch Creek, The Wolves of WinterThe Dry by Jane Harper
Series: Aaron Falk #1
Published by Flatiron Books on January 10th 2017
Pages: 336
Genres: Mystery
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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Short Summary: Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns to his small hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend who is accused of murdering his family and then committing suicide, but this small town is full of terrible secrets and shocking surprises.

Thoughts: This mystery is one of the most impressive debuts that I’ve read in a very long time, intertwining a past vs. present story, a captivating writing style, and a tangled mystery that was most thrilling when all is revealed.

Verdict: Whether or not this needed to be the start of a series, Jane Harper impressed me so much I’ll be reading anything and everything she writes.

four-stars

Rapid Fire Reviews – The Dry, Strange Weather, Witch Creek, The Wolves of WinterStrange Weather by Joe Hill
Published by William Morrow on October 24th 2017
Pages: 432
Genres: HorrorFantasy
Format: ARC
Source: Library Thing
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Goodreads

Also by this author: NOS4A2Twittering from the Circus of the DeadThe Fireman: A Novel

Short Summary: A camera that slowly eats your soul with each picture, a mall security guard is believed to have prevented a mass shooting, a man on his first skydiving adventure lands on a seemingly sentient cloud, and a sudden apocalyptic event in Boulder, Colorado causes the clouds to rain deadly nails.

Thoughts: Strange Weather is an indelible collection of four short stories about vastly different topics that relate in some way to weather but all leave you with that unsettled feeling that Hill is oh so good at.

Verdict: While this was an impressive collection, it wasn’t consistent and I hoped for a little more from certain tales; however, it is apparent that Hill is just as talented in short story form as he is in novels.

four-stars

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

Rapid Fire Reviews – The Dry, Strange Weather, Witch Creek, The Wolves of WinterWitch Creek by Laura Bickle
Series: Wildlands #4
Published by Harper Voyager on February 27th 2018
Pages: 384
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: Dark AlchemyNine of Stars

Short Summary: Petra Dee won’t let a little thing like cancer stop her from finding her husband who she fears is lost to the darkness that lies under her town, but the Tree of Life is growing strong again and the power behind it won’t be stopped.

Thoughts: Petra’s perseverance to find her husband was admirable, but quitting chemo halfway through to go in search of him was fairly asinine and this installment, the weakest so far, could and should have been more about her search for Gabriel.

Verdict: I love this magical series and despite this weak installment, the cliffhanger means there are more installments to come and I’m still definitely on board for more Petra (and 100% more of her coyote side-kick Sig.)

three-stars

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

Rapid Fire Reviews – The Dry, Strange Weather, Witch Creek, The Wolves of WinterThe Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson
Narrator: Jayme Mattler
on January 2nd 2018
Length: 8 hrs and 53 mins
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Audible
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Short Summary: After a nuclear war and a devastating pandemic, Lynn McBride and her family are surviving in the wilds of Canada, but secrets her parents kept hidden are suddenly seeing the light of day and those secrets endanger everyone.

Thoughts: This can easily be compared to all the big names: The Road, The Passage, Ashfall, etc. because despite my continued love for the genre, it’s been done to death; however, Johnson manages to still make this a worthwhile tale (especially with the added help of narrator Jayme Mattler).

Verdict: As a debut author, Johnson’s pick of genre may be overdone but his writing skills shine with possibility for future novels.

three-stars

I received this book 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.

 

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Book Review – I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections by Nora Ephron

January 5, 2018 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2018 0 Comments

Book Review – I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections by Nora EphronI Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections by Nora Ephron
Published by Knopf on November 9th 2010
Pages: 137
Genres: Non-Fiction, Funny-ha-ha, Memoir
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: Heartburn

four-stars

Nora Ephron returns with her first book since the astounding success of I Feel Bad About My Neck, taking a cool, hard, hilarious look at the past, the present, and the future, bemoaning the vicissitudes of modern life, and recalling with her signature clarity and wisdom everything she hasn’t (yet) forgotten.

Ephron writes about falling hard for a way of life (“Journalism: A Love Story”) and about breaking up even harder with the men in her life (“The D Word”); lists “Twenty-five Things People Have a Shocking Capacity to Be Surprised by Over and Over Again” (“There is no explaining the stock market but people try”; “You can never know the truth of anyone’s marriage, including your own”; “Cary Grant was Jewish”; “Men cheat”); reveals the alarming evolution, a decade after she wrote and directed You’ve Got Mail, of her relationship with her in-box (“The Six Stages of E-Mail”); and asks the age-old question, which came first, the chicken soup or the cold? All the while, she gives candid, edgy voice to everything women who have reached a certain age have been thinking . . . but rarely acknowledging.

Filled with insights and observations that instantly ring true—and could have come only from Nora Ephron—I Remember Nothing is pure joy.

“On some level, my life has been wasted on me. After all, if I can’t remember it, who can? The past is slipping away and the present is a constant affront.”

I Remember Nothing: and Other Reflections, Ephron’s last essay collection published before her death in 2012, touches on the tragedy of aging and is probably not something that I could fully appreciate only being in my 30s (but I still loved it). She discusses becoming forgetful, about physical changes, but she touches on stories from her life that she has managed to remember in vibrant detail. She also includes several recipes, in particular, one for ricotta pancakes in an essay about Teflon (which is far more riveting than it sounds at first glance.) She bemoans the discovery of the hazards of Teflon since her ricotta pancakes never come out quite the same in any other pan and in the recipe, instructs you to heat up a Teflon pan until carcinogenic gas is released into the air. I will always adore her wit though and her random stories that may seem inconsequential but are just anecdotes into the life of a pretty extraordinary sounding woman. Reading her discussion on the personal tragedy that led to her only fiction novel, Heartburn, was emotional.

“I mention all this so you will understand that this is part of the process: once you find out he’s cheated on you, you have to keep finding it out, over and over and over again, until you’ve degraded yourself so completely that there’s nothing left to do but walk out.”

You can tell when she writes that it’s old news, but it’s still something that managed to transform her into who she is today, leaving that unseen yet indelible impression.

“People always say that once it goes away, you forget the pain. It’s a cliché of childbirth: you forget the pain. I don’t happen to agree. I remember the pain. What you really forget is love.”

It will be a sad day when I no longer have any new Nora to read. The Most of Nora Ephron will be my last so I’m saving that one for a rainy day.

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Life’s Too Short – Made for Love, A Plague of Giants, Shadowless

December 30, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Life's Too Short 2 Comments

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

Life’s Too Short – Made for Love, A Plague of Giants, ShadowlessMade for Love by Alissa Nutting
Published by Ecco on July 4th 2017
Pages: 320
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: Tampa

dnf

Hazel has just moved into a trailer park of senior citizens, with her father and Diane—his extremely lifelike sex doll—as her roommates. Life with Hazel’s father is strained at best, but her only alternative seems even bleaker. She’s just run out on her marriage to Byron Gogol, CEO and founder of Gogol Industries, a monolithic corporation hell-bent on making its products and technologies indispensable in daily life. For over a decade, Hazel put up with being veritably quarantined by Byron in the family compound, her every movement and vital sign tracked. But when he demands to wirelessly connect the two of them via brain chips in a first-ever human “mind-meld,” Hazel decides what was once merely irritating has become unbearable. The world she escapes into is a far cry from the dry and clinical bubble she’s been living in, a world populated with a whole host of deviant oddballs.

As Hazel tries to carve out a new life for herself in this uncharted territory, Byron is using the most sophisticated tools at his disposal to find her and bring her home. His threats become more and more sinister, and Hazel is forced to take drastic measures in order to find a home of her own and free herself from Byron’s virtual clutches once and for all.

DNF @ 40%

I knew from having read Tampa that Nutting could come up with some bizarre shit of a storyline that I’d still relish in reading. But I have come to realize with this novel that even I have limits. Made for Love felt like some bizarro Black Mirror parody sort of world where Hazel leaves her husband Byron who wants to implant a mind-meld chip into her brain. We’re given a flashback to how they met and it was all such a hilarious spoof on Fifty Shades of Grey and I was completely on board. Even the terribly awkward (but extremely comical) return home to her father where she finds him residing with a real-life sex-doll named Diane. Bizarre, yes. But I was still fully on board. I’m apparently cool with strange science fiction storylines and sex-dolls but I draw the line with strange men attracted to dolphins. Yeah, you read that right. After several chapters of Hazel and her father (and we mustn’t forget Diane), we’re thrown for a loop when we’re introduced to Jasper who, after conning his latest girlfriend into giving him all her money and bailing, experiences a random dolphin attack and finds himself only attracted to dolphins. And describes this attraction in explicit detail. I may never look at a dolphin the same.

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I received this book 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.

Life’s Too Short – Made for Love, A Plague of Giants, ShadowlessA Plague of Giants by Kevin Hearne
Series: Seven Kennings #1
Published by Del Rey Books on October 17th 2017
Pages: 618
Genres: Fantasy
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Hounded, Hammered

dnf

In the start of a compelling new series, the New York Times bestselling author of The Iron Druid Chronicles creates an unforgettable fantasy world of warring giants and elemental magic.

In the city of Pelemyn, Fintan the bard takes to the stage to tell what really happened the night the giants came . . .

From the east came the Bone Giants, from the south, the fire-wielding Hathrim - an invasion that sparked war across the six nations of Teldwen. The kingdom's only hope is the discovery of a new form of magic that calls the world's wondrous beasts to fight by the side of humankind.

DNF @ 30%

I really loved the first few installments of Hearne’s Iron Druid Chronicles but I called it quits after book four. The humor was still there, the great characters, but it started to feel very repetitive. I heard about a brand new series coming from him and was so ready for a fresh new story. And one about a fantasy world with giants and magic? Oh man, I’m so disappointed this wasn’t all I had hoped it to be. The opening was extremely promising, where a bard with magical abilities begins to tell the story of the Bone Giants. He’s able to take on the appearance and voice of individuals so most of the first chapters were voiced by a different individual with a different perspective of things ongoing. Around the time when Hearne attempts to merge their storylines together was when he lost me. There were too many characters with obscure names, too many points of view, and too much to keep track off right from the beginning to keep me invested.

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I received this book 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.

Life’s Too Short – Made for Love, A Plague of Giants, ShadowlessShadowless by Hasan Ali Toptaş
Published by Bloomsbury on October 17th 2017
Pages: 320
Genres: Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: the Publisher
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dnf

Hasan Ali Toptaş, "the Turkish Kafka", playfully challenges ideas of identity and memory in this surprising and beguiling novel.

In an Anatolian village forgotten by both God and the government, the muhtar has been elected leader for the sixteenth successive year. When he drunkenly staggers to bed that night, the village is prospering. But when he awakes to discover that Nuri, the barber, has disappeared in the dead of night, the community begins to fracture. In a nameless town far, far away, Nuri walks into a barbershop, not knowing how he has arrived. Blurring the lines of reality to terrific effect, this novel is both a compelling mystery and an enduring evocation of displacement.

DNF @ 15%

I typically stick with a pretty concrete set of genres because literary fiction and I so rarely get along. Sometimes I really try to push myself out of my comfort zone, hoping to find some diamond in the rough that will inevitably encourage me to venture outside that zone more often. This is one of those out of my comfort zone picks. Unfortunately, this is not encouraging me to pick up more literary fiction but instead to stay securely comfortable in the genres that I consistently love.

I never quite understood what was going on because it was this strange blend of literary fiction and magical realism, except I guess it’s supposed to be real but honestly, I don’t even know. I’m sure there is some beauty to a story such as this but when “his ears grew larger than soup ladles”, the broom suddenly had a voice, walls shivered at his touch, and his hair grew back immediately after being cut I just knew this was unfortunately not the book for me.

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