Posts Categorized: Book Reviews

Life’s Too Short – If We Were Villains, Ill Will, Yesternight

June 2, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Life's Too Short, YA 8 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 – If We Were Villains, Ill Will, YesternightIf We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
Published by Flatiron Books on April 11th 2017
Pages: 352
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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dnf

Enter the players. There were seven of us then, seven bright young things with wide precious futures ahead of us. Until that year, we saw no further than the books in front of our faces.

On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

Ten years ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.

Part coming-of-age story, part confession, If We Were Villains explores the magical and dangerous boundary between art and life. In this tale of loyalty and betrayal, madness and ecstasy, the players must choose what roles to play before the curtain falls.

DNF @ 10%

I overlooked the Shakespearean focus of this novel in favor of the comparisons to The Secret History. My mistake. Shakespeare has just never, and I’m resigned to believe will never, be my thing. The opening gives the reader a glimpse at the future, of one of the main characters being released for jail for an unknown crime, and it’s a hook that works. But then we’re introduced to seven characters: Richard, Meredith, Filippa, Alexander, Wren, James, and Oliver. Every single one of these characters, regardless of gender, all blended together without any helpful differentiation to keep track of who was who. The theater kid stereotypes were excessive in my opinion and you practically had to be a theater kid to understand and/or appreciate most of it.

“That was ruthless,” I said, sotto voce.

The author holds a Masters in Shakespeare studies so, being as far from a theater kid as one can get, I can only assume she knows what she’s talking about. Constantly quoting Shakespeare in conversation got old, fast, and by 10% I put on my hipster glasses and called it quits.

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 – If We Were Villains, Ill Will, YesternightIll Will by Dan Chaon
Published by Ballantine Books on March 7th 2017
Pages: 480
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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dnf

Two sensational unsolved crimes—one in the past, another in the present—are linked by one man’s memory and self-deception in this chilling novel of literary suspense from National Book Award finalist Dan Chaon.

“We are always telling a story to ourselves, about ourselves,” Dustin Tillman likes to say. It’s one of the little mantras he shares with his patients, and it’s meant to be reassuring. But what if that story is a lie?

A psychologist in suburban Cleveland, Dustin is drifting through his forties when he hears the news: His adopted brother, Rusty, is being released from prison. Thirty years ago, Rusty received a life sentence for the massacre of Dustin’s parents, aunt, and uncle. The trial came to symbolize the 1980s hysteria over Satanic cults; despite the lack of physical evidence, the jury believed the outlandish accusations Dustin and his cousin made against Rusty. Now, after DNA analysis has overturned the conviction, Dustin braces for a reckoning.

Meanwhile, one of Dustin’s patients gets him deeply engaged in a string of drowning deaths involving drunk college boys. At first Dustin dismisses talk of a serial killer as paranoid thinking, but as he gets wrapped up in their amateur investigation, Dustin starts to believe that there’s more to the deaths than coincidence. Soon he becomes obsessed, crossing all professional boundaries—and putting his own family in harm’s way.
From one of today’s most renowned practitioners of literary suspense, Ill Will is an intimate thriller about the failures of memory and the perils of self-deception. In Dan Chaon’s nimble, chilling prose, the past looms over the present, turning each into a haunted place.

DNF @ 25%

Dan Chaon is one of those literary writers everyone raves about. Ill Will has received many spectacular reviews but I’ve realized that he has a style that is very eclectic and definitely isn’t for everyone and that unique writing style is what ultimately did me in. I understand the reason for writing it this way (bouncing between narrators and time) because it caused a sense of disorientation regarding the mystery already surrounding the crime (when Dustin was a teen, his mother, father, aunt, and uncle were murdered and he accused his adopted older brother). Not only did the story bounce rapidly between narrators and between time but often there were sentences left incomplete and particular chapters where text was written in columns and you had to flip back and forth between pages to finish the one column before starting the next which was very difficult on Kindle. I’m not sure if Chaon was going for some House of Leaves-esque formatting or what but it left me so confused in trying to figure out how to read it that I failed to get lost in the story itself.

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.

Life’s Too Short – If We Were Villains, Ill Will, YesternightYesternight by Cat Winters
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on October 4th 2016
Pages: 374
Genres: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: Library Thing
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Also by this author: In the Shadow of Blackbirds

dnf

From the author of The Uninvited comes a haunting historical novel with a compelling mystery at its core.  A young child psychologist steps off a train, her destination a foggy seaside town. There, she begins a journey causing her to question everything she believes about life, death, memories, and reincarnation.

In 1925, Alice Lind steps off a train in the rain-soaked coastal hamlet of Gordon Bay, Oregon. There, she expects to do nothing more difficult than administer IQ tests to a group of rural schoolchildren. A trained psychologist, Alice believes mysteries of the mind can be unlocked scientifically, but now her views are about to be challenged by one curious child.

Seven-year-old Janie O’Daire is a mathematical genius, which is surprising. But what is disturbing are the stories she tells: that her name was once Violet, she grew up in Kansas decades earlier, and she drowned at age nineteen. Alice delves into these stories, at first believing they’re no more than the product of the girl’s vast imagination.  But, slowly, Alice comes to the realization that Janie might indeed be telling a strange truth.
Alice knows the investigation may endanger her already shaky professional reputation, and as a woman in a field dominated by men she has no room for mistakes. But she is unprepared for the ways it will illuminate terrifying mysteries within her own past, and in the process, irrevocably change her life.

DNF @ 10%

I’d say that I simply picked this up at the wrong time, mood-wise, except I tried to read this book a handful of times on different occasions and never got past 10%. The pacing was the hardest for me because from the very beginning it’s a slow-build and simply didn’t grab my attention in that 10% enough that I felt the need to keep going. The main character, Alice, was also strangely distant and she never quite captured my interest. Cat Winters is typically a favorite of mine but this one just didn’t do it for me.

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Better Late Than Never: The Dead Zone by Stephen King

May 26, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Better Late Than Never, Book Reviews, Read in 2017 6 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.

Better Late Than Never: The Dead Zone by Stephen KingThe Dead Zone by Stephen King
Narrator: James Franco
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on April 25th 2017
Length: 16 hours and 11 minutes
Genres: Horror
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Doctor Sleep

three-half-stars

Never before on audio! A #1 national bestseller about a man who wakes up from a five-year coma able to see people’s futures and the terrible fate awaiting mankind in The Dead Zone—a “compulsive page-turner” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Johnny Smith awakens from a five-year coma after his car accident and discovers that he can see people’s futures and pasts when he touches them. Many consider his talent a gift; Johnny feels cursed. His fiancé married another man during his coma and people clamor for him to solve their problems.

When Johnny has a disturbing vision after he shakes the hand of an ambitious and amoral politician, he must decide if he should take drastic action to change the future. The Dead Zone is a “faultlessly paced…continuously engrossing” (Los Angeles Times) novel of second sight.

*First published in 1979, this is my first time reading The Dead Zone. Better late than never.

Johnny Smith has lived with physic abilities his entire life but it isn’t until the car accident in his 20s that they become an undeniable ability. He lay in a coma before waking to discover that his girlfriend at the time is now married, that he’s lost four years of his life, and that he now possesses the ability to witness the future of any individual (and sometimes even objects) he touches. Sometimes the future he sees is only a few minutes ahead of the present time but sometimes it’s years ahead. The truth of his abilities are revealed to the public after the highly publicized account of him waking after a four-year coma, and the limelight changes his life irrevocably. He sequesters himself from the public after the demands for his assistance in finding lost loved ones/missing persons, despite his mother, Vera Smith, and her insistence that he was brought back “to do God’s work.” When news of a high-profile serial killer hits his radar, he begins to feel morally obligated to at least try to help. And when he shakes the hand of an up and coming politician and foresees not just his future but the future of the human race, Johnny has to decide what is “right” and if he’s now duty-bound to changing the future so it never becomes our present.

“We all do what we can, and it has to be good enough, and if it isn’t good enough, it has to do.”

First published in 1979, The Dead Zone ended up being far more relevant to today’s time than I ever would have predicted. The future of the dirty politician that Johnny foresaw is a man by the name of Greg Stillson who started off as a nobody yet rose up in the ranks and quickly became the popular vote for the next President of the United States. His political platform and personal style were aimed towards the working class and he was prided on his honesty but had a definite lack of tact. He completely lacks any political knowledge, has big plans for America (albeit most of them beyond ludicrous), and is a devoutly religious man. Stillson is first introduced almost as a caricature of a real villain, someone that can’t possibly be taken seriously, but you slowly realize his influence on the vast population is something that cannot be brushed off as having little consequence. The ludicrousness didn’t last long after realization dawned. As I said… most relevant, right?

The Dead Zone is many stories in one. The beginning is a long drawn out section detailing Johnny’s recuperation in the hospital and the subsequent surgeries that were required for him to ever be able to walk again. Once he’s back on his feet, literally, the story switches focus to catching the serial killer, and you begin to think that that’s the plot except that story finds resolution and hundreds of pages remain. It came off slightly clunky, almost like we were being left out on parts of Johnny’s life that weren’t interesting enough for the page, but at least in this instance, James Franco’s narration gives these characters life. His acting skills are on full display to helpfully differentiate the characters, making Johnny a mellow smooth-talker, and giving Stillson a villainous voice that accurately matches his vile actions. Despite the definite lack of any type of horror (unless you count the potentially horrific reality of it all) and the obvious backpedaling done on that ending, The Dead Zone ended up being a vastly different King than I’ve come to expect but was still no doubt a thrilling story.

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Book Review – A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J. Maas

May 19, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, New Adult, Read in 2017 5 Comments

Book Review – A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J. MaasA Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #3
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on May 2nd 2017
Pages: 720
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: Queen of Shadows

three-half-stars

Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit—and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.
As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords—and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

A Court of Thorns and Roses series

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1) by Sarah J. Maas
A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) by Sarah J. Maas

Well, it’s finally here.

I’m so exasperated and everyone and their mother has given this 5 stars at this point so I’m feeling like quite the outcast. I liked A Court of Thorns and Roses, adored A Court of Mist and Fury, and A Court of Wings and Ruin was quite possibly my most anticipated book of the year. I took the day off work to read this and while I can’t say that I regret doing so or that the book was bad, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. There were things I liked and things I didn’t like, so I’ll start with the good.

The best parts of this book were, surprisingly, the war scenes. We all knew a war was coming in this installment but I never quite expected it to be nearly as epic and for all the fae and their magical powers to be quite as badass as they were. Savage, brutal, and thrilling (and the war makes up a large chunk of this book). In terms of the best (non-violent) parts, Feyre getting to explore more that the Court of Dreams has to offer was lovely. Her depictions of the city were enough to form magical cities in my mind, but the library carved inside an actual mountain? The shelves built into the stone walls, the reading nooks, the low-burning lamps, the cozy chairs, and the fireplaces.

And lastly, I loved how she incorporates all of the lesser characters that seemed to have minor roles in the conclusion: the Suriel, the Weaver, the Bone Carver, and even a new terrifying beastie.

And now onto the bad.

I’ll do my best.

My first issue: the beginning. The story opens where the ending of Mist left off with Feyre returning to the Spring Court. She’s intent on gathering information about King Hybern and his armies but it turned into this long and drawn out affair that transformed Feyre into this cruel and vindictive person that I didn’t much care for. What she intended to achieve simply didn’t seem necessary to the story as a whole either. My second issue was actually with the writing itself. I’m not sure if less editing was done, or time constraints to get this done and published (or a combination of the two) but this read incredibly uneven. There’s so much to accomplish with a final book in a series and it felt like Maas had a checklist of things that needed to be answered, actions that the characters had to take to set up certain events, etc. and we bounced hurriedly onto the next task on her list just as soon as one was completed. The story lacked a grace and flow that was needed to draw these three stories together in order to give it the final farewell it deserved. And lastly, in terms of farewells, the ending caused the majority of my grumbles. Maas implied throughout the entire book of things impending that never came to fruition and things ended all nice and neat with a pretty little bow on top. Clearly, many (and I mean many) fans were perfectly content, I, unfortunately, was not. But as I said, it wasn’t a bad ending but it wasn’t the ending I expected.

Maas has already announced that there are two additional trilogies to come set in this same world and while I was originally excited, I’d really like to know the focus on those stories before committing to more. What started as a beauty and the beast retelling turned into a fascinating world full of magic and fae. While I don’t give this final installment the highest of marks, this was still a most engrossing trilogy.

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Short & Sweet (Beauty & the Beast Retellings) – A Court of Thorns and Roses, Hunted, Lost in a Book

April 28, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, New Adult, Read in 2017, Short & Sweet Reviews, YA 10 Comments

Short & Sweet (Beauty & the Beast Retellings) – A Court of Thorns and Roses, Hunted, Lost in a BookA Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
Published by Recorded Books on May 5th 2015
Length: 16 hrs and 7 mins
Genres: Fantasy, Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: Queen of Shadows

four-stars

Feyre's survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price ...

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre's presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

‘I was as unburdened as a piece of dandelion fluff, and he was the wind that stirred me about the world.’

Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales and it’s always so fascinating to see how authors mold fairy tales into a unique story of their own. A Court of Thorns and Roses definitely veers off the standard path making “Beast/Tamlin” a member of the fae court, making “Belle/Feyre” a badass female hunter, and removing the animated furniture entirely. The story still revolves around the curse and the time ticking down before it’s too late, but Maas adds a magical element (and a deviant female villain) to this already magical fairytale that I absolutely adored. What I loved most was the incredibly dark turn she took the tale which gave the added opportunity of adding a new level of complexity and intrigue to Feyre’s character.

“Don’t feel bad for one moment about doing what brings you joy.”

Like spending time re-reading. I occasionally get hang-ups about “wasting” time re-reading when I should be spending my time reading stories that I haven’t yet experienced. But sometimes a re-read is necessary (like when you’re gearing up for the final installment of a beloved trilogy!!) and sometimes the second time is even better than the first. I read A Court of Thorns and Roses for the first time in June 2016 and it was far from love at first sight (mostly because I was never Team Tamlin) but during this re-read I was able to set aside my issues with the romance and focus more on the world building and the fascinating aspects of the story itself that I didn’t pay much attention to the first time. I also decided to splurge and bought the audiobook copies and guys, let me tell you, these are fantastic on audio with Jennifer Ikeda’s narration. I’m pretty devastated that she won’t be returning to narrate A Court of Wings and Ruin but it’s still well worth listening to her narrate the first two installments, I’ll just be reading the third one with my eyeballs instead. 🙂

Short & Sweet (Beauty & the Beast Retellings) – A Court of Thorns and Roses, Hunted, Lost in a BookHunted by Meagan Spooner
Published by HarperTeen on March 14th 2017
Pages: 384
Genres: Fantasy, Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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three-half-stars

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?


“She wept because she did not know what she wanted, and because she wanted everything.”

Yeva has never been comfortable living among the town aristocrats but instead dreams of the stories her father would tell her when she was younger; of the forest and the magic contained within. When her father loses his fortune and they are forced to move back to his lodge in the woods, Yeva could not be more content knowing she can spend her days familiarizing herself once again with the woods even though she knows it’s not a reasonable way for her to spend her life. Her father also begins spending his days and nights in the woods, mentioning hunting a beast and when he fails to come home after weeks of being gone, Yeva sets out to help him only to be captured by the beast that her father was hunting.

“She moves like beauty, she whispers to us of wind and forest—and she tells us stories, such stories that we wake in the night, dreaming dreams of a life long past. she reminds us of what we used to be.
She reminds us of what we could be.”

Hunted is told primarily from Yeva’s point of view but is interspersed with short snippets from the Beast, showing the constant battle between his animalistic side while he fights to retain a hold of his humanity. Yeva is kept in a cell for weeks on end, telling him stories of Ivan and the Firebird to the one on the other side of her cell door who brings her food every day, having no idea that he is also her captor. The Beast finally shows himself to her and reveals that he captured her for a purpose: she must train to be a more superior hunter than she already is because she’s the only one that can kill the creature responsible for cursing him.

Hunted is a combination of the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale with the Ivan, the Firebird, and the Gray Wolf Russian fairy tale and it’s a slow to unfold type of story. There’s also a disassociation from any sort of emotional connection that was key in my own connection with the story. I found it to be a beautiful story in essence of a young girl not knowing what to do with her life, wandering aimlessly, and I really wanted to feel her adversity but I never quite felt like there is much at stake for our young heroine. The significance behind the Firebird plays a huge role in this tale, as well as storytelling in general, and the romantic building blocks were left feeling incomplete in the attempts at focusing on the bigger picture. There is a note at the end Spooner includes regarding the origins of this story and the lengthy process it took to come to fruition was a heartwarming story. Her dedication to all of her readers was unbelievably touching and made me wish I had loved this story more than I did.

‘Male or female, young or old, if you’re reading this book, then you’re also that child reading by flashlight and dreaming of other worlds. Don’t be scared of her, that inner Beauty, or her dreams. Let her out. She’s you, and she’s me, and she’s magic.
There’s no such thing as living happily ever after — there’s only living. We make the choice to do it happily.’

Short & Sweet (Beauty & the Beast Retellings) – A Court of Thorns and Roses, Hunted, Lost in a BookBeauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by Disney Press on January 31st 2017
Pages: 352
Genres: Fantasy, Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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two-stars

Smart, bookish Belle, a captive in the Beast’s castle, has become accustomed to her new home and has befriended its inhabitants. When she comes upon Nevermore, an enchanted book unlike anything else she has seen in the castle, Belle finds herself pulled into its pages and transported to a world of glamour and intrigue. The adventures Belle has always imagined, the dreams she was forced to give up when she became a prisoner, seem within reach again.

The charming and mysterious characters Belle meets within the pages of Nevermore offer her glamorous conversation, a life of dazzling Parisian luxury, and even a reunion she never thought possible. Here Belle can have everything she has ever wished for. But what about her friends in the Beast’s castle? Can Belle trust her new companions inside the pages of Nevermore? Is Nevermore’s world even real? Belle must uncover the truth about the book, before she loses herself in it forever.

“Isn’t that what a good story does? It pulls you in and never lets you go.”

DAMMIT, I WANTED THIS STORY TO PULL ME IN AND NEVER LET ME GO.

Lost in a Book replicates its Disney counterpart where Belle is a captive of the Beast in his castle that still includes Cogsworth, Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, Chip, and more. Beast reveals his library to Belle and she is awed, but instead of the bright shiny room of perfection we all have embedded in our minds:

Belle immediately realizes how much the library has fallen into disrepair and needs to be cleaned excessively. Within this library, she finds a room and within this room a special book which transports her to a world of adventure where anything is possible. She quickly becomes enamored with the book and the world it shows her, despite her understanding that it isn’t actually real, and is constantly sneaking away to be in this world. When she isn’t hiding in the book, she’s complaining ad nauseam about her provincial life.

Good gawd, we get it, you hate your life. Lost in a Book quickly becomes less about the Beast and all about Belle… more scenes from his point of view would have been welcome. Any scenes that showed the Beast’s feelings for Belle grow felt lacking any sort of emotion and instead felt like all it was was a last ditch effort to save his servants. Maybe those parts were left out with the understanding that we knew, based on the Disney production, how Beast actually felt, but I wanted to see it included in the story itself since there were so many changes I felt it should have been able to stand on its own. Especially in regards to the villain: Gaston was absent completely in exchange for a female villain: Death. Yes, Death. You see, the story actually starts with Death and her sister Love.

Indeed. See Death and Love made a bet that Belle wouldn’t be the one to break the spell (Death obviously bet against her) and when she began to realize that Love might actually win, she set out to make sure that didn’t happen. *yawn* This could have been a charming addition to Beauty and the Beast retellings but the story lacked any real substance and most definitely lacked the magic the original tale had.

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Early Review – White Hot (Hidden Legacy #2) by Ilona Andrews

April 27, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2017 12 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.

Early Review – White Hot (Hidden Legacy #2) by Ilona AndrewsWhite Hot by Ilona Andrews
Series: Hidden Legacy #2
Published by Avon on May 30th 2017
Pages: 384
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: Magic Bites

four-half-stars

Nevada Baylor has a unique and secret skill—she knows when people are lying—and she's used that magic (along with plain, hard work) to keep her colorful and close-knit family's detective agency afloat. But her new case pits her against the shadowy forces that almost destroyed the city of Houston once before, bringing Nevada back into contact with Connor "Mad" Rogan.

Rogan is a billionaire Prime—the highest rank of magic user—and as unreadable as ever, despite Nevada's "talent." But there's no hiding the sparks between them. Now that the stakes are even higher, both professionally and personally, and their foes are unimaginably powerful, Rogan and Nevada will find that nothing burns like ice . . .

Hidden Legacy Series

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1) by Ilona Andrews [Purchase|Review]

Nevada Baylor hasn’t spoken with Rogan in months and she’s slowly begun to move on with her life even though the maddening man (ha — see what I did there) is never far from her mind. She agrees to investigate the murder of Cornelius Harrison’s wife and Nevada not only finds herself in the middle of a massive conflict between multiple magical families (or “Houses”) but right back in the path of Rogan himself. This time around they realize that they simply get more done when they work together as allies.

‘Suddenly the past two months of normal life tore apart, like fragile paper, and I was right back next to Rogan, about to charge into a fight. And it felt right.’

The conflict between Houses puts the duo in serious danger when some of the most powerful members of the magical society become involved. When they’re not trying to keep one another from dying, they’re trying to work out what to do with the sparks flying between them.

“And now that I’m conveniently here, you decide to give it another shot. Is there a shortage of attractive women in your life, Connor?”
“There is a shortage of you in my life,” he said.

This is my 17th Ilona Andrews book and I feel I can safely declare myself a rabid fangirl. (I have yet to dive into her The Edge series but give me time.) Ilona Andrews stories are absolutely one of the reasons I remain as hardcore an Urban Fantasy fan as I am today and her Hidden Legacy series only helps solidify that. Their characterization is superb and no character is left without a role or sounding like a replica of another. Nevada is one awesome badass lady that can hold her own, Rogan is far more beyond being just a love interest placeholder and professional of zingy one-liners, and even the side characters (Nevada’s sniper mother, crazy sisters, and hilarious grandmother) are fantastic.

Grandma Frida burst through the door in her yellow rubber-ducky pajamas. 
“Grandma’s here,” I added.

What I love about this series is how developed her world-building is beyond “people have powers” — we meet some new players in the game: summoners, fulgurkinetics, elementalists, and even some magically created monsters not of this world. In lesser hands, these unique aspects would easily come across as cheesy and overwhelming but Andrews makes everything so fascinating. If I’m being real, the fantastic world-building is only an added bonus when it comes to the romance though and it’s rare that I say anything along those lines (worldbuilding is typically always first because if you don’t have worldbuilding… you’ve got yourself a bodice ripper, amirite?) Urban Fantasy typically always includes a romance in some shape or form but there’s some crazy sexual tension going on (and has since book 1) but View Spoiler » And also, some good news… the wait for book 3 is not long at all: Wildfire comes out July 25th, 2017. I’m already chomping at the bit and even contemplating reading both again because this series is that good (horrendously bad covers aside, but at least Rogan finally found a shirt by book 3.) 🙂

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

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

Short & Sweet (Mysteries) – 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 (Mysteries) – 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.

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 (Mysteries) – 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.

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 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.

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 10 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
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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.

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 (Fantasies) – Sweep in Peace, Feversong, Golden Dynasty,

April 7, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, Short & Sweet Reviews 9 Comments

Short & Sweet (Fantasies) – Sweep in Peace, Feversong, Golden Dynasty,Sweep in Peace by Ilona Andrews
Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #2
Published by NYLA on November 13th 2015
Pages: 315
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Magic Bites

four-stars

Dina DeMille doesn’t run your typical Bed and Breakfast. Her inn defies laws of physics, her fluffy dog is secretly a monster, and the only paying guest is a former Galactic tyrant with a price on her head. But the inn needs guests to thrive, and guests have been scarce, so when an Arbitrator shows up at Dina's door and asks her to host a peace summit between three warring species, she jumps on the chance.

Unfortunately, for Dina, keeping the peace between Space Vampires, the Hope-Crushing Horde, and the devious Merchants of Baha-char is much easier said than done. On top of keeping her guests from murdering each other, she must find a chef, remodel the inn... and risk everything, even her life, to save the man she might fall in love with. But then it's all in the day's work for an Innkeeper...

“What are you planning?” I asked, as we turned toward the grand ballroom.
“Just a small demonstration for the public good,” he said. “I am so sorry.”
“You’re apologizing in advance.”
“Yes.”
“Never a good sign.”

Dina DeMille runs a Victorian Bed and Breakfast in a small Texas town but it’s certainly far from normal. She only caters to otherworldly visitors but they are few and far between these days and her only visitor is Caldenia who is actually a permanent resident since she has a price on her head and can’t leave the grounds. When Dina is approached with a dangerous but tempting offer to host a peace summit between three warring groups, she knows that if all goes well this could end up helping the Inn more than anything. But on the other hand, if things go wrong, it could be disastrous and she could lose the Inn for good. Dina takes the chance and hopes for the best.

In Sweep in Peace we get to witness the truly magical capabilities of the Inn and Dina herself and we’re introduced to a large number of new characters but most importantly is my favorite: Orro, the chef she hires to feed the massive group of people now occupying her Inn. She also gets a new cat that remains a bit of a mystery but I look forward to finding out more about him in (hopefully!) the next installment. I read Clean Sweep early last year and felt it was a fun, cozy sort of paranormal mystery. It was a bit forgettable, nothing extraordinary, and I decided that picking up the next installment wasn’t worthwhile.

I’ve been crazy in the mood for Urban Fantasy lately and Sweep in Peace was literally the only one immediately available for check-out at my library so I decided what the hell. IT WAS SO GOOD. It was funny and exciting and I completely fell in love with these characters like I somehow managed to avoid doing in the first. Now I’m on hold for the third installment and the wait is interminable. That’ll teach me.

“This is blasphemy!” Odalon declared in the same way Gerard Butler had once roared “This is Sparta.” Sadly, Odalon had nobody to kick into a bottomless hole for emphasis, so he settled for looking extremely put out.

Short & Sweet (Fantasies) – Sweep in Peace, Feversong, Golden Dynasty,Feversong by Karen Marie Moning
Series: Fever #9
Published by Delacorte Press on January 17th 2017
Pages: 512
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Beyond the Highland Mist

four-stars

#1 New York Times bestselling author Karen Marie Moning returns with the epic conclusion to her pulse-pounding Fever series, where a world thrown into chaos grows more treacherous at every turn. As Mac, Barrons, Ryodan, and Jada struggle to restore control, enemies become allies, right and wrong cease to exist, and the lines between life and death, lust and love, disappear completely.

Black holes loom menacingly over Dublin, threatening to destroy the Earth. Yet the greatest danger is the one MacKayla Lane has unleashed from within: the Sinsar Dubh—a sentient book of unthinkable evil—has possessed her body and will stop at nothing in its insatiable quest for power.

The fate of Man and Fae rests on destroying the book and recovering the long-lost Song of Making, the sole magic that can repair the fragile fabric of the Earth. But to achieve these aims, sidhe-seers, the Nine, Seelie, and Unseelie must form unlikely alliances and make heart-wrenching choices. For Barrons and Jada, this means finding the Seelie Queen who alone can wield the mysterious song, negotiating with a lethal Unseelie prince hell-bent on ruling the Fae courts, and figuring out how to destroy the Sinsar Dubh while keeping Mac alive.

This time, there’s no gain without sacrifice, no pursuit without risk, no victory without irrevocable loss. In the battle for Mac’s soul, every decision exacts a tremendous price.


*Beware! Spoilers from the first 8 installments… but that’s to be expected, right?*

Feversong opens to the tragedy that Feverborn left us with: the evil book inside her, the Sinsar Dubh, has finally found a way to take complete control over Mac. Finally possessing a sentient form, the book wastes no time in wreaking havoc on Dublin and its remaining inhabitants. How to possibly destroy the book without also destroying Mac in the process is something no one knows how to do, but stopping the book before it gains, even more, power is crucial to saving the last of the human race. The black holes that were left behind by the Hoar Frost King continue to hover mere feet above the Earth and until the Song of Making is discovered, there may soon not be an Earth to save. Time is quickly running out.

I’m not going to go into plot details because if you love the series, you’re going to read it anyways, but I will say this: There’s a lot riding on a final installment, especially for such a well-loved series that has gone on for as long as it has. There are an immense amount of loose-ends to tie up, deciding how to wrap up the stories of beloved characters (whether they get their happily ever after or not), and trying to find an ending that isn’t predictable but that doesn’t also come out of left field. Series endings have a low probability of impressing me which makes me truly wonder why I embark on as many series as I do. While there were still some questions that went unanswered (not enough to make me grumpy) and a few plot lines that were wrapped up a bit too neatly (nothing’s perfect though), I was overall impressed with how entertaining this final installment was. Have I changed my mind that all installments after Shadowfever were necessary? Nope, but they still gave me more time in a fantasy world that I will always love.

Feversong marks the (second) end of the Fever series, but I’m not entirely convinced that it couldn’t emerge once again from the ashes like a phoenix. It’s been done once before so I won’t say it isn’t possible. There were a few extra pieces of the puzzle that could most definitely go on to form a new book (books?), but I was happy with the ending in Shadowfever and I’m shockingly happy with the ending in Feversong View Spoiler » so let’s not push our luck, k Moning?

I hope she creates a new wonderfully magical world for me to fall in love and obsess over soon.

Short & Sweet (Fantasies) – Sweep in Peace, Feversong, Golden Dynasty,The Golden Dynasty by Kristen Ashley
Series: Fantasyland #2
on August 22nd 2011
Pages: 530
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Borrowed
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Also by this author: Wildest Dreams

four-stars

Circe Quinn goes to sleep at home and wakes up in a corral filled with women wearing sacrificial virgin attire - and she is one of them. She soon finds out that she’s not having a wild dream, she’s living a frightening nightmare where she’s been transported to a barren land populated by a primitive people and in short order, she’s installed very unwillingly on her white throne of horns as their Queen.
Dax Lahn is the king of Suh Tunak, The Horde of the nation of Korwahk and with one look at Circe, he knows she will be his bride and together they will start The Golden Dynasty of legend.
Circe and Lahn are separated by language, culture and the small fact she’s from a parallel universe and has no idea how she got there or how to get home. But facing challenge after challenge, Circe finds her footing as Queen of the brutal Korwahk Horde and wife to its King, then she makes friends then she finds herself falling in love with this primitive land, its people and especially their savage leader.

A word to the wise about these books: they’re… kinda like crack. Imagine there’s an alternate but magical reality where there’s a different version of you and that it’s possible to swap spots with your other version and live in that very different and magical world. In Wildest Dreams, the first installment of this series, Finnie Wilde made the choice to switch places. In Golden Dynasty, Circe Quinn had no knowledge of this alternate world and woke up in it terrified where she’s about to be set free by a primitive type people and hunted, captured, and raped by men who wish to find wives. It’s an ordeal that she didn’t think she would live through, but Circe survived and discovered that she had been caught by the King himself and was now Queen of these people.

Now, wait a minute!! I know what you’re thinking!!

But for you Game of Thrones fans out there… how many of you ended up loving Khal Drogo and Daenerys together??

 photo When-You-Would-Happily-Choose-Having-Khal-Gently-Touch-Your-Forehead-Instead-Winning-One-Million-Dollars_zpsbfniq3um.gif
*cries* Why did he have to die?!

Because Golden Dynasty is a straight up epic Game of Thrones continuation story, taking you on a path that GRRM could never have dreamed up. It takes Khal Drogo and Daenerys’ story to a whole new and amazing level. How could she possibly fall in love with her rapist, you ask? Excellent question; I asked it myself. All I have to say is, Kristen Ashley works wonders in the development of Circe and Lahn’s relationship, generating one of the most intense and passionate romances I’ve read. She also delves deep into the culture of these people without turning it into some excuse for the heinous acts done. Suffice it to say, this entire series has been magical and I can see why Ashley is so beloved in the romance genre.

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Life’s Too Short: Lincoln in the Bardo, Exit West, The Wanderers

March 30, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, Life's Too Short 10 Comments

Life’s Too Short: Lincoln in the Bardo, Exit West, The WanderersLincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders
Published by Random House Audio Publishing Group on February 14th 2017
Length: 7 hours and 25 minutes
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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dnf

The long-awaited first novel from the author of Tenth of December: a moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln, as well as an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented

February 1862. The Civil War is less than one year old. The fighting has begun in earnest, and the nation has begun to realize it is in for a long, bloody struggle. Meanwhile, President Lincoln’s beloved eleven-year-old son, Willie, lies upstairs in the White House, gravely ill. In a matter of days, despite predictions of a recovery, Willie dies and is laid to rest in a Georgetown cemetery. “My poor boy, he was too good for this earth,” the president says at the time. “God has called him home.” Newspapers report that a grief-stricken Lincoln returns, alone, to the crypt several times to hold his boy’s body.

From that seed of historical truth, George Saunders spins an unforgettable story of familial love and loss that breaks free of its realistic, historical framework into a supernatural realm both hilarious and terrifying. Willie Lincoln finds himself in a strange purgatory where ghosts mingle, gripe, commiserate, quarrel, and enact bizarre acts of penance. Within this transitional state—called, in the Tibetan tradition, the bardo—a monumental struggle erupts over young Willie’s soul.

Lincoln in the Bardo is an astonishing feat of imagination and a bold step forward from one of the most important and influential writers of his generation. Formally daring, generous in spirit, deeply concerned with matters of the heart, it is a testament to fiction’s ability to speak honestly and powerfully to the things that really matter to us. Saunders has invented a thrilling new form that deploys a kaleidoscopic, theatrical panorama of voices to ask a timeless, profound question: How do we live and love when we know that everything we love must end?

DNF @ 3%

Me: “Wow! 166 audiobook narrators seems insane but that could be really cool. Like a full-cast play!”

Me mid-listen: “Well, it’s kind of convoluted but not too bad. It’s not really interesting though, at least so far. And when the other narrators speak up they kind of sound like they’re detached from the main production… if that makes sense. Like, floating disconnected voices. I’m intrigued though!”

“When we are newly arrived in this hospital-yard, young sir, and feel like weeping, what happens is, we tense up ever so slightly, and there is a mildly toxic feeling in the joints, and little things inside us burst. Sometimes we might poop a bit if we are fresh. Which is just what I did, out on the cart that day: I pooped a bit while fresh, in my sick-box, out of rage, and what was the result? I have kept that poop with me all this time, and as a matter of fact–I hope you do not find this rude, young sir, or off-putting, I hope it does not impair our nascent friendship–that poop is still down there, at this moment, in my sick-box, albeit much dryer!”

Sorry, but uh, that definitely does impair our friendship, kind sir.

Life’s Too Short: Lincoln in the Bardo, Exit West, The WanderersExit West: A Novel by Mohsin Hamid
Published by Riverhead Books on March 7th 2017
Pages: 240
Genres: Magical Realism, Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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dnf

In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

Exit West follows these characters as they emerge into an alien and uncertain future, struggling to hold on to each other, to their past, to the very sense of who they are. Profoundly intimate and powerfully inventive, it tells an unforgettable story of love, loyalty, and courage that is both completely of our time and for all time.

DNF @ 15%

I had high hopes for this one. Romance + war + magical realism… honestly anything magical realism makes my ears perk up even though little of it ever works for me. I wanted to know more about the war itself, the state of the world and how they had reached the point they were at, but by 15% the most detailed information given was about Saeed’s mom and dad’s sex life before he was born. Which, no thanks.

I also had a bit of an issue with the writing that I could have easily ignored if the story itself was captivating. But lines like this:

“He was an independent-minded, grown man, unmarried, with a decent post and a good education, and as was the case in those days in his city with most independent-minded, grown men, unmarried, with decent posts and good educations, he lived with his parents.”

…hilariously reminded me of this meme:

Life’s Too Short: Lincoln in the Bardo, Exit West, The WanderersThe Wanderers by Meg Howrey
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on March 14th 2017
Pages: 384
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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dnf

In four years Prime Space will put the first humans on Mars. Helen Kane, Yoshi Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetsov must prove they’re the crew for the job by spending seventeen months in the most realistic simulation every created.

Retired from NASA, Helen had not trained for irrelevance. It is nobody’s fault that the best of her exists in space, but her daughter can’t help placing blame. The MarsNOW mission is Helen’s last chance to return to the only place she’s ever truly felt at home. For Yoshi, it’s an opportunity to prove himself worthy of the wife he has loved absolutely, if not quite rightly.

Sergei is willing to spend seventeen months in a tin can if it means travelling to Mars. He will at least be tested past the point of exhaustion, and this is the example he will set for his sons.

As the days turn into months the line between what is real and unreal becomes blurred, and the astronauts learn that the complications of inner space are no less fraught than those of outer space. The Wanderers gets at the desire behind all exploration: the longing for discovery and the great search to understand the human heart.

DNF @ 5%

There isn’t anything particularly wrong with this one, but when you compare it to The Martian, I’m going to have certain expectations. The Wanderers is more character study than anything and isn’t anywhere close to humorous. The dialogue felt stilted, there was a lot of talk about creating suits for space which could be cool but really wasn’t. I also read a slight spoiler that made me convinced I made the right decision View Spoiler » All in all, it was a snooze fest and I just wasn’t in the mood.

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