Posts Categorized: Early Review

Early Review – The Mark of Cain (Long Lankin, #2) by Lindsey Barraclough

May 6, 2016 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, YA 0 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.

Early Review – The Mark of Cain (Long Lankin, #2) by Lindsey BarracloughThe Mark of Cain by Lindsey Barraclough
Series: Long Lankin #2
Published by Candlewick Press on May 10th 2016
Pages: 496
Genres: Horror, Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Goodreads

Also by this author: Long Lankin

two-half-stars

A spine-chilling companion to Long Lankin, here is the story of a wronged witch’s revenge, spanning generations and crossing the shadowy line between life and death.

In 1567, baby Aphra is found among the reeds and rushes by two outcast witches. Even as an infant, her gifts in the dark craft are clear. But when her guardians succumb to an angry mob, Aphra is left to fend for herself. She is shunned and feared by all but one man, the leper known as Long Lankin. Hounded and ostracized, the two find solace only in each other, but even this respite is doomed, and Aphra’s bitterness poisons her entire being. Afflicted with leprosy, tortured and about to be burned as a witch, she manages one final enchantment—a curse on her tormentor’s heirs. Now, in 1962, Cora and Mimi, the last of a cursed line, are trapped in an ancient home on a crumbling estate in deepest winter, menaced by a spirit bent on revenge. Are their lives and souls forfeit forever?

Long Lankin Series

Early Review – Long Lankin (Long Lankin, #1) by Lindsey Barraclough

Long Lankin (Long Lankin #1) by Lindsey Barraclough [PurchaseMy Review]

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‘I am bound here, for as long as there are Guerdons in the world, I must be in it. And they have returned to the marshlands – to me.’

 It’s been four years since Cora and Mimi lived to tell the tale of Long Lankin. The two girls survived, however, the scars they acquired are hidden beneath their skin. After their father recently came into an inheritance, their Auntie Ida’s rundown mansion, he tells them that they’re moving to the village of Bryers Guerdon. Right back to where it all happened. Long Lankin may no longer be a threat, but he wasn’t the only one left to fear. 400 years prior, a woman by the name of Aphra Rushes loved a leper who was known by the name of Long Lankin. She was sentenced to death at a young age for murdering an infant and his mother, a spell with the intent to cure Lankin which had gone awry. With her dying breath she placed a curse on the Guerdon line, who were responsible for her death. Flash forward to the Halloween of 1962 and her ashes have risen up from the ground to fulfill the curse that she placed on the Guerdon family before she was covered in pitch and burned at the stake.

‘I am the dust of charred bones and ash.’

I’ve considered Long Lankin to be one of my all-time favorite gothic horror stories and news of a follow-up story had me most eager even if I didn’t understand the necessity. There’s a wonderful air of mystery to The Mark of Cain, a constant sense of impending catastrophe. The writing itself is eloquent and I delighted in the eerie events depicted: the old derelict mansion that was unsettling on its own yet the girls’ memories of their time spent there made it even more so, their temporary guardians that caused more discontent than comfort due to their forever absent father, and the strange items that they would find around the house like the bundle of twigs tied with red twine or the archaic symbols sketched on the doors. The pacing felt constantly off and I ultimately feel it should not have taken all 496 pages to reach the point we did. The slow-pacing could have been easily made up for if that sense of impending catastrophe was heightened just a smidge more.

The story is told mainly from the point of view of Cora who is now fifteen years old and is struggling to maintain a sense of normalcy for her eight year old sister Mimi. The only trouble is, since Mimi was taken by Lankin she returned a changed child, able to see things normal people cannot. Including the current terror haunting them in their new home. Because we’re told this story from the POV of Cora, there’s a bit of a disconnect of knowledge that keeps the reader in the dark since Mimi refuses to discuss anything with Cora. What I’m assuming was intended was to add even more mystery to this story, but it only caused the story to falter leaving it feeling all very subdued as if Cora wasn’t actually experiencing it all firsthand. Regardless of the fact that Mimi is only eight years old, having the story told from her point of view would have been a vast improvement.

I’ve come a long way in the horror genre since I read Long Lankin back in 2012. In that review, I even admit to being “a big weenie” which I definitely wouldn’t describe myself in terms of horror stories anymore. Back then it took some serious encouragement to read horror and now I’d consider it one of my favorite genres. Long Lankin was a most unsettling read, yet The Mark of Cain just didn’t manage to leave me with the same impression. I think it would be appropriate to actually describe this as more Gothic vs. horror for curious readers. This may not have completely worked for me, but this is a Gothic thriller that will no doubt please many.

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Early Review – Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser

January 29, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2016 3 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 – Sweetgirl by Travis MulhauserSweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser
Published by Ecco on February 2nd 2016
Pages: 256
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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four-stars

With the heart, daring, and evocative atmosphere of Winter’s Bone and True Grit, and driven by the raw, whip-smart voice of Percy James, a blistering debut about a fearless sixteen-year old girl whose search for her missing mother leads to an unexpected discovery, and a life or death struggle in the harsh frozen landscape of the Upper Midwest.

As a blizzard bears down, Percy James sets off to find her troubled mother, Carletta. For years, Percy has had to take care of herself and Mama—a woman who’s been unraveling for as long as her daughter can remember. Fearing Carletta is strung out on meth and that she won’t survive the storm, Percy heads for Shelton Potter’s cabin, deep in the woods of Northern Michigan. A two-bit criminal, as incompetent as he his violent, Shelton has been smoking his own cook and grieving the death of his beloved Labrador, Old Bo.

But when Percy arrives, there is no sign of Carletta. Searching the house, she finds Shelton and his girlfriend drugged into oblivion—and a crying baby girl left alone in a freezing room upstairs. From the moment the baby wraps a tiny hand around her finger, Percy knows she must save her—a split-second decision that is the beginning of a dangerous odyssey in which she must battle the elements and evade Shelton and a small band of desperate criminals, hell-bent on getting that baby back.

Knowing she and the child cannot make it alone, Percy seeks help from Carletta’s ex, Portis Dale, who is the closest thing she’s ever had to a father. As the storm breaks and violence erupts, Percy will be forced to confront the haunting nature of her mother’s affliction and finds her own fate tied more and more inextricably to the baby she is determined to save.

Filled with the sweeping sense of cultural and geographic isolation of its setting—the hills of fictional Cutler County in northern Michigan—and told in Percy’s unflinching style, Sweetgirl is an affecting exploration of courage, sacrifice, and the ties that bind—a taut and darkly humorous tour-de-force that is horrifying, tender, and hopeful.

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Percy James is used to her mother disappearing, but something unspoken urges her to go off in search for her, despite the approaching blizzard. Shelton Potter is the maker and dealer of the local methamphetamine trade and his house is her first stop. She doesn’t find her mother but she does find a baby, laying in front of an open window as the snow begins to pile on top of her. Not knowing what to do but knowing she can’t leave the baby, she bundles her up and begins a tragic excursion through a blizzard in Northern Michigan.

This story seems like one that has been done time and time again, but it’s one that continues to work for me. Sweetgirl is being compared to Winter’s Bone, and it isn’t wrong, but there’s a wonderful touch of humor amidst the bleakness that also reminds me of Justified. Shelton Potter is a drug-addled character that sets off in the blizzard to find baby Jenna in a misguided attempt at being a hero. At one point he’s sucking on helium balloons and whiskey when he runs out of gas in his snowmobile in the middle of nowhere while pondering the complexities of our existence.

‘His head was throbbing. He wondered if he got worse headaches on account of how big his head was. It stood to reason that he would.’

Deep thoughts, right? He reminded me greatly of Dewey Crowe (Justified) for obvious reasons.

Percy James was a headstrong girl that was clearly used to taking care of herself. Despite moments where she appeared far too articulate for a sixteen-year-old girl, she was still written genuinely and made the sort of decisions one would expect from a teenager. Like instead of hiking into town to find help for the baby, she sets off deeper into the hills to enlist the help of her mother’s ex, Portis Dale, a kind but troubled man. Together, they traverse the snow-covered hills attempting to survive nature and survive Shelton Potter’s men. Portis Dale was a welcome addition and added another level of wittiness to the story.

“Am I being testy? I’m sorry, Percy. As your cruise director I deeply regret any momentary discomfort my tone may have caused you.”

Sweetgirl impressed me most with its striking descriptiveness and how vividly the scenery was brought to life. There may have been some slight issues in general, but it triumphed in terms of Percy’s personal evolution. For such a short novel, she manages to overcome adversity while learning how to know when to do the right thing and realizing her potential for a brighter future outside of the hills of Cutler County Michigan.

‘Mama loved me. I knew that she did. She loved me in a way not even Starr could, but it had been a long time, maybe as far back as that day at Spring Lake, that her love had not felt confused and undercut with sadness. This had always been the torment of Mama’s love and it remained so now – it was both the sun that had borne me and the endless orbit I tread around its burning.’

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Early Review – Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

January 22, 2016 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, YA 1 Comment

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.

Early Review – Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel SavitAnna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on January 26th 2016
Pages: 240
Genres: Historical Fiction, WWII
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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three-stars

A stunning, literary, and wholly original debut novel set in Poland during the Second World War perfect for readers of The Book Thief.

Kraków, 1939. A million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. This is no place to grow up. Anna Łania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father, a linguistics professor, during their purge of intellectuals in Poland. She’s alone.

And then Anna meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall, a skilled deceiver with more than a little magic up his sleeve. And when the soldiers in the streets look at him, they see what he wants them to see.

The Swallow Man is not Anna’s father—she knows that very well—but she also knows that, like her father, he’s in danger of being taken, and like her father, he has a gift for languages: Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish, even Bird. When he summons a bright, beautiful swallow down to his hand to stop her from crying, Anna is entranced. She follows him into the wilderness.

Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgment, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous. Even the Swallow Man.

Destined to become a classic, Gavriel Savit’s stunning debut reveals life’s hardest lessons while celebrating its miraculous possibilities.

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‘There is no labyrinth as treacherous as that with neither paths nor walls.’

When seven-year-old Anna is placed in the company of a neighbor while her father attends to some business, she never thought that would be the last she would see of him. The year is 1939 during the very beginning of World War II and the Germans are beginning their round up of scholars and Anna’s father is a professor at Jagiellonian University in Krakow. Unsure what to do, Anna turns to a mysterious stranger she names Swallow Man after he displays his proficiency with languages including the ability to speak to birds. Intrigued by this man, Anna begins to follow him and the two stay together, walking across Poland, for many years.

“A riverbank goes wherever the riverbank does. […] I’ll be the riverbank and you be the river.”

During this duo’s travels, the Swallow Man teaches Anna many lessons, cultivating her ability to survive with or without him. The two that bear repeating most: “To be found is to be gone forever,” and “One can’t be found as long as one keeps moving.” And keep hidden and moving they do. Within this short novel, years pass and it becomes more and more difficult to continue to survive in a world that has transformed around them, blanketing them in war. Throughout their time together, the Swallow Man persists in fascinating Anna with his perpetual crypticness and continues to keep the reader curious about the circumstances which brought him to this point.

‘It was very difficult for her to take her attention away from the thin man, even for a moment. Somewhere, tickling the back of her brain, she felt a certainty that if she wasn’t constantly watching this fellow, she would miss whole miracles, whole wonders – things that he let fall incidentally off himself as other men might shed dandruff.’

There was something supremely enchanting about this well-written story. It combined the heartrending historical aspects of The Book Thief with the magical realism of The Snow Child. Unfortunately, Savit built up a mesmerizing tale of survival only to lose steam and fizzle out at the end. The hazy inscrutability that is cast over this story leads to the magical feeling of mysteriousness but by the end, I was expecting that haze to clear and it never did. View Spoiler »

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Book Review – Fallen Land by Taylor Brown

January 14, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2016 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.

Book Review – Fallen Land by Taylor BrownFallen Land by Taylor Brown
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 12th 2016
Pages: 288
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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three-stars

Fallen Land is Taylor Brown's debut novel set in the final year of the Civil War, as a young couple on horseback flees a dangerous band of marauders who seek a bounty reward.

Callum, a seasoned horse thief at fifteen years old, came to America from his native Ireland as an orphan. Ava, her father and brother lost to the war, hides in her crumbling home until Callum determines to rescue her from the bands of hungry soldiers pillaging the land, leaving destruction in their wake. Ava and Callum have only each other in the world and their remarkable horse, Reiver, who carries them through the destruction that is the South.

Pursued relentlessly by a murderous slave hunter, tracking dogs, and ruthless ex-partisan rangers, the couple race through a beautiful but ruined land, surviving on food they glean from abandoned farms and the occasional kindness of strangers.

In the end, as they intersect with the scorching destruction of Sherman's March, the couple seek a safe haven where they can make a home and begin to rebuild their lives.

Dramatic and thrillingly written with an uncanny eye for glimpses of beauty in a ravaged landscape, Fallen Land is a love story at its core, and an unusually assured first novel by award-winning young author Taylor Brown.

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‘Outside the door, the world was taking shape out of the high-country mist. Blued timbers sprung of the fugitive reality of dawn, ghostlike, perfect hidings for ambushing men.’

Fallen Land tells the harrowing tale about two young people that manage to fall in love in the midst of the Civil War. Callum is riding in the company of a band of Confederates being led by a dangerous man; the Colonel. He is a man both loved and feared; described as “a man of great cruelty who nevertheless protected them, led them, eclipsed any guilt of theirs with his own. At his behest they had razed and butchered, no reason but hunger and the Colonel’s orders.” When they reach a house and Callum is the first to find a woman inside, his immediate instinct is to protect her and he kills a man to do just that. While wounded in the process, he wakes to find that while he protected her from the first man, he wasn’t there to protect her from the second. This knowledge spurs him to leave his troop and set off to find her again and ensure she’s okay. Callum is subsequently accused of murder and a bounty is put on him, forcing him and now Ava to flee from certain death.

‘…the bounty of the boy’s head was only of greater import, for men such as them have little place int he world that stood scorched and remnant before them.’

The story is told primarily through Callum’s point of view, however, we are shown snippets through the eyes of the bounty hunters and their devotion to Callum’s death is ruthless. Fierce and relentless, these men have no qualms about tracking him down for the purposes of obtaining the money promised to them; even if it involves killing or maiming innocents that stand in their way of discovery. The duo are forced to endure tremendous hardship and any hope that they have of making out of this alive is seemingly improbable.

While I found the writing to be positively sumptuous, the story itself did follow a meandering pace and took me quite some time to finish. The violence is extreme, but fitting. The romance is lacking with no spark between the two to be seen, which you wouldn’t expect since Callum made some pretty life-changing decisions in order to protect this woman of mystery. I can understand his intentions to protect a woman, I just never quite understood exactly why he went to such extreme lengths to do so. Setting all that aside, this is still a notable debut that leaves me anticipating future works to come from this author. I will also be checking out his short story collection, In the Season of Blood and Gold, which is more Southern Gothic/Country Noir.

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Early Review – The Dirt on Ninth Grave (Charley Davidson #9) by Darynda Jones

December 10, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015 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.

Early Review – The Dirt on Ninth Grave (Charley Davidson #9) by Darynda JonesThe Dirt on Ninth Grave by Darynda Jones
Series: Charley Davidson, #9
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 12th 2016
Pages: 336
Genres: Funny-ha-ha, Urban Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: First Grave on the Right, For I Have Sinned, Second Grave on the Left

three-half-stars

In a small village in New York lives Jane Doe, a girl with no memory of who she is or where she came from. So when she is working at a diner and slowly begins to realize she can see dead people, she's more than a little taken aback. Stranger still are the people entering her life. They seem to know things about her. Things they hide with lies and half-truths. Soon, she senses something far darker. A force that wants to cause her harm, she is sure of it. Her saving grace comes in the form of a new friend she feels she can confide in and the fry cook, a devastatingly handsome man whose smile is breathtaking and touch is scalding. He stays close, and she almost feels safe with him around.

But no one can outrun their past, and the more lies that swirl around her—even from her new and trusted friends—the more disoriented she becomes, until she is confronted by a man who claims to have been sent to kill her. Sent by the darkest force in the universe. A force that absolutely will not stop until she is dead. Thankfully, she has a Rottweiler. But that doesn't help in her quest to find her identity and recover what she's lost. That will take all her courage and a touch of the power she feels flowing like electricity through her veins. She almost feels sorry for him. The devil in blue jeans. The disarming fry cook who lies with every breath he takes. She will get to the bottom of what he knows if it kills her. Or him. Either way.

Charley Davidson series

First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson #1) {PurchaseMy Review}
Second Grave on the Left (Charley Davidson, #2) {PurchaseMy Review}
Third Grave Dead Ahead (Charley Davidson, #3) {Purchase}
Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet (Charley Davidson, #4) {PurchaseMy Review}
Fifth Grave Past the Light (Charley Davidson, #5) {PurchaseMy Review}
Sixth Grave on the Edge (Charley Davidson, #6) {PurchaseMy Review}
Seventh Grave and No Body (Charley Davidson, #7) {Purchase}
Eighth Grave After Dark (Charley Davidson, #8) {Purchase}

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*BOOKS 1-8 TO BE DISCUSSED. DON’T READ IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED*

Picking up where Eighth Grave After Dark leaves off, Charley has finally given birth to Beep, has already had to part with her, and has learned her true name. As feared, learning her true name causes Charley to lose control of her powers and she loses her memory completely and ends up in an alley in Sleepy Hollow, New York with no idea who she is. Now responding to the name of Jane, Jane Doe, she works as a waitress at a local diner. Fortunately, though she’s not alone, as she has a new best friend named Cookie and a raging attraction to the new cook named Reyes.

Well, I guess it was probable that I’d find a Charley Davidson story to be sort of ‘meh’ no matter how much I adore this series. After that brutal cliffhanger from Eighth Grave After Dark, I was dying to get my hands on this next installment. At first, I relished the change of pace and getting reacquainted in a new way to the characters we’ve already grown to know and love. We also got to see Charley, or Jane rather, fall in love again with Reyes with a new set of eyes seeing him for truly what he is. I loved that even though Jane has no idea about who or what she is, she still found herself embroiled in the mysteries of the town, often failing to think of her own safety out of the desire to protect the innocents.

I enjoyed those aspects of the story, but when it all boils down, there wasn’t nearly enough advancement of the fundamental storyline. I find the mythology and the foretold battle all extremely fascinating and previous installments have really been amping up the intensity. The Dirt on Ninth Grave was a vast change of pace and while I liked it at first, I wasn’t anticipating that it would last the entirety of the book. As I feared, the change of pace finally switched back to what I’ve come to expect in the final 30 pages or so. Honestly, though, the turmoil that takes place and the shocking revelations made it all worthwhile in the end. Darynda Jones once again left me thrilled with anticipation for the next book where the stakes have never been higher.

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Early Review – We’ll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean

September 17, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, YA 4 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 – We’ll Never Be Apart by Emiko JeanWe'll Never Be Apart by Emiko Jean
Published by HMH Books for Young Readers on October 6th 2015
Pages: 288
Genres: Mental Illness, Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
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two-stars

Murder.

Fire.

Revenge.

That’s all seventeen-year-old Alice Monroe thinks about. Committed to a mental ward at Savage Isle, Alice is haunted by memories of the fire that killed her boyfriend, Jason. A blaze her twin sister Cellie set. But when Chase, a mysterious, charismatic patient, agrees to help her seek vengeance, Alice begins to rethink everything. Writing out the story of her troubled past in a journal, she must confront hidden truths.

Is the one person she trusts only telling her half the story? Nothing is as it seems in this edge-of-your-seat psychological thriller from the debut author Emiko Jean.

‘So where does a story that ends in fire and death begin? It begins in the snow on the coldest day of the coldest winter of the last fifty years, with two girls on their sixth birthday in silent house. It begins with a body.’

Alice and Celia are twins who have had an arduous life, but fortunately they’ve had each other to get through it. After their grandfather died when they were six, they’ve bounced around to various different foster care homes, some worse than others. When Alice is seventeen years old, Celia intentionally sets a fire  that almost kills her but does kill her boyfriend, Jason. She wakes in a mental health hospital called Savage Isle to find herself recovering from burns and a definite lack of memory surrounding the incident. All Alice knows is Celia killed Jason and revenge begins to consume her thoughts.

Honestly, the summary gives it all away and if you didn’t bother to read the summary then the prologue definitely will. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with a mystery that’s predictable because the story itself can make it all worth it, but I have a hard time becoming sympathetic towards characters and their plights when I know more than they do. Their mental stumbling, trying to uncover obvious clues becomes more obnoxious than tragic.

We’ll Never Be Apart could have been saved with some tension but I never felt a sense of urgency from Alice to uncover the mystery. She finds herself in a mental hospital being charged with a crime that she knows in her heart she didn’t commit, yet instead of attempting to work through her memories she becomes resigned to her plight and instead focuses her attention on her crush. Nevermind that her boyfriend of several years just died in a fire a few weeks ago. Becoming resigned to the situation she finds herself in would have been one thing, because can you imagine waking up in a mental hospital being blamed for something you didn’t do and being force-fed medication? That would be terrifying and I think we’d all mentally shut down to some extent, but the focus on the boy was what really ruined it for me. And all the security card stealing so that the two can carouse the halls of the hospital at night. Because that’s totally legit.

I kept reading, hoping for a twist that I maybe hadn’t foreseen. Alas, the end came, and it was less twisty and suspenseful than I had been hoping for. The resolution was also far more tidy than I would have expected given the topic. All in all, this one is far from being a terrible read, but I’ve read too many books that touch on the same topic that have just been done better.

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Early Review – The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich

September 12, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, YA 0 Comments

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

Early Review – The Dead House by Dawn KurtagichThe Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich
Published by Little Brown Books for Young Readers on September 15th 2015
Pages: 432
Genres: Horror, Mental Illness, Mystery
Format: ARC
Source: The Novl
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads


three-stars

The Dead House is a chilling psychological horror that will keep you guessing even after the final page, from debut author Dawn Kurtagich.

Welcome to the Dead House.

Three students: dead.

Carly Johnson: vanished without a trace.

Two decades have passed since an inferno swept through Elmbridge High, claiming the lives of three teenagers and causing one student, Carly Johnson, to disappear. The main suspect: Kaitlyn, "the girl of nowhere."

Kaitlyn's diary, discovered in the ruins of Elmbridge High, reveals the thoughts of a disturbed mind. Its charred pages tell a sinister version of events that took place that tragic night, and the girl of nowhere is caught in the center of it all. But many claim Kaitlyn doesn't exist, and in a way, she doesn't - because she is the alter ego of Carly Johnson.

Carly gets the day. Kaitlyn has the night. It's during the night that a mystery surrounding the Dead House unravels and a dark, twisted magic ruins the lives of each student that dares touch it.

Debut author Dawn Kurtagich masterfully weaves together a thrilling and terrifying story using psychiatric reports, witness testimonials, video footage, and the discovered diary - and as the mystery grows, the horrifying truth about what happened that night unfolds.

‘Some people say that night blooms. But night descends self-consciously. Night cuts slowly.’

Is it possible for two souls to inhabit a single body? By day, Carly is in control but as soon as the sun sets Kaitlyn takes over. Every day, the same pattern. The two are aware of the other’s existence, calling one another sister, writing notes back and forth to each other. When they lose their parents in a car accident and they are committed to a mental hospital after being diagnosed with dissociative identity disorder, Kaitlyn doesn’t handle this very well. The counselor sees her as the “wrong” identity, the one that needs to be dealt with and gotten rid of. Kaitlyn begins hearing voices, seeing a frightening girl that she’s not sure is real or simply a figment of her imagination, and nightmares of a house of terror. Kaitlyn has to deduct exactly what is fact and what is fiction in order to find out the truth about Carly and of herself.

Flash forward to two decades later and we learn that a tragic fire took place at Carly’s school killing several students with Carly herself being declared missing. Not until Kaitlyn’s diary is uncovered do we learn of what really caused the fire and what took place that disastrous day. It uncovers much more than a simple psychological mystery; there is dark magic and murder and horror. The story unfolds through a series of e-mails, medical transcripts, diary entries, and notes between the duo. Epistolary stories are a favorite of mine, giving me the feel that I’m sorting through documents attempting to uncover the mystery and solve the investigation and The Dead House definitely gave me that feel. The writing was terrific and while it didn’t necessarily scare (few stories do these days though) several passages did leave my skin crawling.

‘I am lucky to be here. The Dead House descended like music curdling into time, and as it did I grew wet and cold, and it was dark and I was so alone… It had devoured me.’

While I loved the feel of this novel I did feel it bit off more than it could chew adding a few too many side stories that weren’t ultimately necessary to the already tangled mystery and the strangeness of the dark magic inclusion that never felt fully fleshed out. The romance(s) were equally trivial putting a melodramatic spin on things that definitely could have been omitted to maintain clarity and focus on the real story. What really brought this one down for me was the ending. I’m all for endings of ambiguity that leave me to make up my own mind about how things turned out, but this one ends like you ran into a dead end. There were just far too many unresolved questions and too few answers for my liking, but if you like concocting your own ending then this is the book for you. I still very much enjoyed the premise and the execution and look forward to reading more from this debut author.

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Early Review – The Marvels by Brian Selznick

September 11, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Middle Grade, Read in 2015 3 Comments

Early Review – The Marvels by Brian SelznickThe Marvels by Brian Selznick
Illustrator: Brian Selznick
Published by Scholastic Press on September 15th 2015
Pages: 640
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads


five-stars

Caldecott Award winner and bookmaking trailblazer Brian Selznick once again plays with the form he invented and takes readers on a voyage!

Two seemingly unrelated stories--one in words, the other in pictures--come together. The illustrated story begins in 1766 with Billy Marvel, the lone survivor of a shipwreck, and charts the adventures of his family of actors over five generations. The prose story opens in 1990 and follows Joseph, who has run away from school to an estranged uncle's puzzling house in London, where he, along with the reader, must piece together many mysteries.

 Continuing his unique theme of storytelling, Selznick takes his readers on a dual adventure told in pictures and then words. The first adventure is experienced solely in pictures and begins in 1776 on a ship named the Kraken. After a massive storm, there is only a single survivor: Billy Marvel. The pictures tell of his story, how he came to be connected to the Royal Theatre in London, and how subsequent generations became well-known actors with their own story to tell. The visually impressive illustrated story continues for over 400 pages and ends with an air of mystery.

Flashing forward to the 1990s, we’re introduced to Joseph Jervis who has just run away from boarding school to go in search of his Uncle Albert. Joseph’s parents are the absent sort and he’s hoping to find a family, a place to call home. Finding his Uncle ends up being a letdown seeing as he wants to immediately send Joseph back to where he belongs and doesn’t show any interest in getting to know each other. Joseph takes comfort in his Uncle’s old house that’s filled with history and a certain story that Joseph desperately wants to uncover. While the story of Joseph is an intriguing one, what’s more intriguing is how his story and that of Billy Marvel’s, two seemingly isolated stories, could possibly be connected. The connection slowly begins to piece together, flowering into a beautifully simplistic story about love and family.

I really adored this story; it even managed to elicit some teary-eyed feels. I loved the combination of pictures/words and was most impressed that Selznick managed to make his words-only storytelling just as mentally visual as his illustrations-only story. This charmingly simplistic story won me over completely and I definitely intend on picking up all of Selznick’s other works.

Many thanks to Wendy for gifting me this lovely story.

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Early Review – The Sparrow Sisters: A Novel by Ellen Herrick

August 27, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015 2 Comments

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.

Early Review – The Sparrow Sisters: A Novel by Ellen HerrickThe Sparrow Sisters: A Novel by Ellen Herrick
Published by William Morrow on September 1st 2015
Pages: 384
Genres: Magical Realism
Format: Paperback
Source: Library Thing
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
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two-stars

With echoes of the alchemy of Practical Magic, the lushness of Saving CeeCee Honeycutt, and the darkly joyful wickedness of the Witches of East End, Ellen Herrick’s debut novel spins an enchanting love story about a place where magic whispers just beneath the surface and almost anything is possible, if you aren’t afraid to listen

The Sparrow sisters are as tightly woven into the seaside New England town of Granite Point as the wild sweet peas that climb the stone walls along the harbor. Sorrel, Nettie and Patience are as colorful as the beach plums on the dunes and as mysterious as the fog that rolls into town at dusk.

Patience is the town healer and when a new doctor settles into Granite Point he brings with him a mystery so compelling that Patience is drawn to love him, even as she struggles to mend him. But when Patience Sparrow’s herbs and tinctures are believed to be implicated in a local tragedy, Granite Point is consumed by a long-buried fear—and its three hundred year old history resurfaces as a modern day witch-hunt threatens. The plants and flowers, fruit trees and high hedges begin to wither and die, and the entire town begins to fail; fishermen return to the harbor empty-handed, and blight descends on the old elms that line the lanes.

It seems as if Patience and her town are lost until the women of Granite Point band together to save the Sparrow. As they gather, drawing strength from each other, will they be able to turn the tide and return life to Granite Point?

The Sparrow Sisters is a beautiful, haunting, and thoroughly mesmerizing novel that will capture your imagination.

I picked up The Sparrow Sisters with some pretty lofty expectations and I suppose I kind of set myself up for failure there. Being that I’ve ran through Sarah Addison Allen’s library, I’m always looking for new magical realism stories but they seem few and far between. This being compared to SAA as well as Practical Magic had me switching this to all signs point to yes. Unfortunately, this was nothing but a disappointment and the magical realism tidbits just didn’t do it for me.

There are two parts to this story, but neither actually work. First, this is the story of the Sparrow sisters and how their family came to live in the town for generations upon generations. They’re known for being a little quirky but they’ve simply just become a fixture of the town and their strangeness is simply “accepted”. They keep to themselves, all living together in their family home until a new doctor comes to town who becomes instantly interested in the youngest Sparrow sister, Patience, for absolutely no reason at all. The second part of the story is the attempt at providing some semblance of a point, so there’s a bit of a pseudo-mystery, some moral conundrums, and all around pointlessness. See, Patience Sparrow is known for her Herbology remedies via the use of herbs from the family nursery. She seems to have a bit of a gift that’s been seemingly passed down from her family and she’s used it to help treat the townsfolk for years on anything from morning sickness to sleeplessness. When a local tragedy occurs, all signs point to Patience’s involvement just out of sheer negligence because of a misuse of herbs.

Patience and the good doctor Henry Carlyle are first introduced and immediately butt heads. Naturally, because we’re all adults here, Henry immediately falls for her prickly nature and insists on getting to know her. The two lack any sort of emotional spark and their attraction to one another remains completely hazy especially with their differing opinions on medicines and treatments. Henry has a secure position on his high horse while he rants and raves about Patience needing to send her patients to a “real doctor”. This is where the moral conundrums are in play.

“Look, you don’t expect me to stand back and let you treat a potentially sick child without some kind of conventional” – Henry emphasized the word – “medical participation?”

High horse. I told you. Henry would go on and on about the possible dangers of what she was doing and how her herbal remedies were going to hurt people someday. His ranking on the annoyance scale was up there with Rick.

I couldn’t help it. So, the book’s stance is natural remedies are evil and you shouldn’t trust them and just go to a “real doctor” instead. From personal experience, I never went to a “real” doctor when I was a kid and was raised on homeopathic (note, different than herbology) remedies. I felt that Henry’s stance on what “proper treatments” are and his constant ranting about “real doctors” was entirely unjustified and encompassed far too much of the book. What made it all the worse was before Henry, Patience was secure in her knowledge and belief of the good she was doing. Enter Henry and suddenly she’s filled with doubt and regret for her negligence. Please. Taking all the good she did and transforming her into a “witch” was only the next logical step, of course.

‘One look at the inscription on the band shell was enough to remind everyone in Granite Point how long it had been since panic seized the town, and how fast it had nearly destroyed it. If there was to be another witch hunt, it certainly had a strong start.’

Yes, because all that was missing was a modern day witch-hunt. The story continued unraveling. In addition to the story/plot itself, the writing felt incredibly stilted. There were some beautifully described scenes and I loved the portrayal of the small New England town, however, it lacked conviction. And good news? This is NATURALLY the start of a potential series.

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Early Review – Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

July 31, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, YA 3 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.

Early Review – Everything, Everything by Nicola YoonEverything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on September 1st 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: Coming-of-Age, Romance
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Sun Is Also a Star

four-stars

This innovative, heartfelt debut novel tells the story of a girl who’s literally allergic to the outside world. When a new family moves in next door, she begins a complicated romance that challenges everything she’s ever known. The narrative unfolds via vignettes, diary entries, texts, charts, lists, illustrations, and more.

My disease is as rare as it is famous. Basically, I’m allergic to the world. I don’t leave my house, have not left my house in seventeen years. The only people I ever see are my mom and my nurse, Carla.

But then one day, a moving truck arrives next door. I look out my window, and I see him. He’s tall, lean and wearing all black—black T-shirt, black jeans, black sneakers, and a black knit cap that covers his hair completely. He catches me looking and stares at me. I stare right back. His name is Olly.

Maybe we can’t predict the future, but we can predict some things. For example, I am certainly going to fall in love with Olly. It’s almost certainly going to be a disaster.

‘Maybe I’m holding out hope that one day, someday, things will change.’

Imagine living your entire life inside your house only ever having seen your mother and your nurse. Imagine never being able to feel the wind on your skin, or grass between your toes. Imagine growing up never having friends, never having a sleepover, and never being able to anticipate going on a date. This is the life that Madeline Whittier has been forced to live due to an immunodeficiency that causes her to be allergic to practically everything. When a new boy named Olly moves in next door, Madeline begins to test her boundaries because conversing with Olly slowly opens her eyes to what she’s been missing all this time.

Everything, Everything, despite the serious topic, read like a breath of fresh air. Madeline was such a wonderful character with such a quirky sense of humor and a resiliency you can’t help but admire. Her constant breaking of rules lacks what you would expect would come as completely reckless, but instead shows Madeline’s tenacity to experience the world for however long she’d be able to survive it. The narrative is told in typical story form but we’re also given snippets of her journal and the online chat sessions with Olly. The writing style flows wonderfully and it’s easy to get completely immersed in it and consume it quickly. Reminiscent of Jandy Nelson, Katie Catugno, and Jessi Kirby’s writing styles.

The romance was shockingly wonderful and I loved the progression that their relationship took. Their cutesy antics constantly put a smile on my face and I just loved reading how he slowly taught her about the world he lived in, that she had never experienced. With this being such a quick read, I was pleased that their romance didn’t feel quick as well. There were some real heart-wrenching moments that left me blubbering just a bit, because you can’t help but feel from the very beginning that there couldn’t possibly be a happy ending in sight. It only helped matters that I kept envisioning Madeline and Olly as these two:

While I won’t get into spoilery detail, the ending does have to be mentioned because it’s been a game-changer for a lot of people and their overall opinion of the book. Admittedly, there is a definite twist at the end that changes everything and is hastily “resolved” and not adequately so in my opinion. For me though, the magic of the book was the heartwarming romance and the incredibly charismatic characters which were both solid enough to withstand a somewhat skimpy resolution. Everything, Everything is no doubt an impressive debut from a promising new author.

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