Posts Categorized: Early Review

Early Review – Positive by David Wellington

March 26, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015 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 – Positive by David WellingtonPositive by David Wellington
Published by Harper Voyager on April 21st 2015
Pages: 448
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Zombies
Format: ARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


In the bestselling vein of Guillermo Del Toro and Justin Cronin, the acclaimed author of Chimera and The Hydra Protocol delivers his spectacular breakout novel—an entertaining page-turning zombie epic that is sure to become a classic.

Anyone can be positive . . .

The tattooed plus sign on Finnegan's hand marks him as a Positive. At any time, the zombie virus could explode in his body, turning him from a rational human into a ravenous monster. His only chance of a normal life is to survive the last two years of the potential incubation period. If he reaches his twenty-first birthday without an incident, he'll be cleared.

Until then, Finn must go to a special facility for positives, segregated from society to keep the healthy population safe. But when the military caravan transporting him is attacked, Finn becomes separated. To make it to safety, he must embark on a perilous cross-country journey across an America transformed—a dark and dangerous land populated with heroes, villains, madmen, and hordes of zombies. And though the zombies are everywhere, Finn discovers that the real danger may be his fellow humans.

Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome meets World War Z and I Am Legend in this thrilling tale that has it all: a compelling story, great characters, and explosive action, making Positive the ultimate zombie novel of our time.

‘It grows in the dark part of your head like a fungus. All the while eating holes in your brain until it’s a sponge full of virus […] That was what had happened to my mom. For twenty years, ever since the crisis, she’d been dying inside. A little more every day.

And maybe it had been happening to me, too.’

Finn has lived within the sheltered gates since he was born. The world outside is a complete mystery, yet the stories he’s heard has made him thankful for his safe and sheltered life. The safety is shattered when his mother spontaneously turns and he’s forced out into the mysterious world with a new tattoo; a plus sign on the top of his sign marking him as possibly infected. His only hope is to get to the military camp in Ohio where he can live out his final two years of incubation before he can be accepted back into safety. But two years is a very long time for someone who doesn’t know how the world truly is.

The way an author handles the scientific aspects of a post-apocalyptic novel is key. Some authors handle it head on and explain in minute detail and others leave their characters in the dark and simply focus on the survival side of living in the new world. Both work, but if you’re going to attempt to explain the scientific side of things, it best make sense. In this world, it’s been twenty years since the initial outbreak and no one has seen a zombie in fifteen years. Once infected with the zombie virus, the incubation period is apparently anything from twenty seconds to twenty years. So, you get bit, you might be good only for the next hour or you could be fine for the next twenty years, but nobody knows for sure. Since the outbreak happened twenty years ago, I’m not sure exactly how they’ve been able to successfully test that theory. It also isn’t explained how the outbreak happened to begin with, so the science of Positive was definitely lacking for me. One specific line about killing a zombie by stabbing him in the liver also had me baffled. Come on! Zombies don’t give a shit about their livers.

Also lacking, was the character development. Our narrator, Finn, is an extremely naive individual when we’re first introduced. Positive acts as his coming-of-age story in a world falling apart at the seams. He’s forced to figure out quickly how to survive and how to adapt his mind to the concept of how things truly work outside of the gates of New York City. In that regards, this story reminded me a lot of Ashfall with our young, male narrator forced to adapt to the new world around him. Obviously, all that was missing were the zombies. Similarly was the fact that both stories focused on the part where humans turn into a whole other type of monster as well. The issue with Finn was how quickly he managed to shed himself of his naivety. It could be said that the things he was forced to experience could speed along that process but it just didn’t feel like genuine progression.

The portrayal of female characters was pretty appalling as well. Positive has two main female characters for the most part; one played the role of enemy and the other was meek and submissive (there was one strong female that made a brief appearance but it wasn’t enough to satisfy me in regards to the way the rest of the females were portrayed). The submissive one, well, I suppose it could be argued that she was strong in her own way and got Finn and the rest of their party out of a few sticky situations. It could also be argued that being a victim of abuse led her to this mind frame and that it couldn’t be helped but… View Spoiler » Was it really so much to ask that we couldn’t get one strong female main character in this giant 450-page story?

Unfortunately, even setting aside the issues I personally had with Positive, what really lessened my enjoyment of this story was the fact that I have read so many stories in this same genre that were simply so much better. Positive didn’t manage to bring anything new to the genre and didn’t have much in the way of originality, but newcomers to post-apocalyptic stories will likely find more enjoyment than I did.

Ashfall (Ashfall #1) by Mike Mullin {Purchase – My Review}
The First Days (As the World Dies #1) by Rhiannon Frater {Purchase}
The Passage (The Passage #1) by Justin Cronin {Purchase}

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Early Review – The Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma

March 13, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, YA 5 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 Walls Around Us by Nova Ren SumaThe Walls Around Us by Nova Ren Suma
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on March 24th 2015
Pages: 336
Genres: Ghosties, Magical Realism
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Also by this author: Imaginary Girls


“Ori’s dead because of what happened out behind the theater, in the tunnel made out of trees. She’s dead because she got sent to that place upstate, locked up with those monsters. And she got sent there because of me.”

The Walls Around Us is a ghostly story of suspense told in two voices--one still living and one long dead. On the outside, there’s Violet, an eighteen-year-old dancer days away from the life of her dreams when something threatens to expose the shocking truth of her achievement. On the inside, within the walls of a girls’ juvenile detention center, there’s Amber, locked up for so long she can’t imagine freedom. Tying these two worlds together is Orianna, who holds the key to unlocking all the girls’ darkest mysteries.

We hear Amber’s story and Violet’s, and through them Orianna’s, first from one angle, then from another, until gradually we begin to get the whole picture--which is not necessarily the one that either Amber or Violet wants us to see.

Nova Ren Suma tells a supernatural tale of guilt and innocence, and what happens when one is mistaken for the other.

‘She was coming. She was the next thing to come, after the locks. Once she was here, everything would go wrong. Of that I felt certain.’

Amber is an inmate at Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center who hasn’t seen freedom since the age of thirteen when she was arrested for murder. One night, much like all the rest, something changed though and all the doors of the prison were open and the girls that resided there briefly tasted a freedom that they never thought they’d witness again. Violet is a successful ballet dancer headed to New York City to attend Juilliard. Her story involves her best friend Ori and how after one life altering afternoon, Ori was taken away to Aurora Hills Secure Juvenile Detention Center. Violet, Amber, and Ori are all linked together, intricately, with isolated secrets just waiting to be revealed.

The Walls Around Us is told in alternating points of view by two unreliable narrators: Amber and Violet. Amber is a convicted murderer yet her story of how she got to where she convinces us to see past straight black and white and to the gray that exists in-between. The amount of time she’s spent behind bars has caused her to lose her individuality, taking comfort in seeing herself as a piece of the consolidated unit of girls that share her fate. Violet is a pretentious prima donna; the narcissistic rich girl. Rather than feeling upset over the loss of her best friend three years past she only sees her flawed history with Ori as something that may pose as a deterrent on the road to her pristine future. The voices are vastly different and easy to keep separate, however, the stories of both girls seem they couldn’t possibly fit together. Keeping the facts straight as well as the intersecting timelines that occur can be trying, but the payoff is incredible. This is only my second Nova Ren Suma story and I must say that her stories are something remarkable. She writes characters with such conviction that you quickly lose yourself in classifications of ‘fiction’.

What was most incredible about this book was the realistic view of juvenile delinquency and the discrepancies in the criminal justice system. The harsh reality of discrimination was never more evident when one suspect is immediately excused of guilt while the multi-racial friend is immediately accused without much question. While it would be easy to remain focused on the horrible situation of the innocent victim, I found myself focused on the atrocious sort of person that could stand back and watch a friend be accused of a crime they weren’t responsible for. It should come as no surprise that a story as haunting as this could credibly pull off shades of the supernatural as well. The line between fantasy and reality is muddied turning this story of juvenile delinquency into an eerie story of guilt and innocence. Beautifully written, completely enthralling… I can’t seem to find the words to do this one justice. It’s definitely a must-read.

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Early Review – Burning Kingdoms (The Internment Chronicles #2) by Lauren DeStefano

March 7, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, YA 1 Comment

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 – Burning Kingdoms (The Internment Chronicles #2) by Lauren DeStefanoBurning Kingdoms by Lauren DeStefano
Series: The Internment Chronicles #2
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on March 10th 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Also by this author: Wither, Perfect Ruin, The Peculiar Night of the Blue Heart


Danger descends in the second book of The Internment Chronicles, from the New York Timesbestselling author of The Chemical Garden trilogy.

After escaping Internment, Morgan and her fellow fugitives land on the ground to finally learn about the world beneath their floating island home.

The ground is a strange place where water falls from the sky as snow, and people watch moving pictures and visit speakeasies. A place where families can have as many children as they want, their dead are buried in vast gardens of bodies, and Internment is the feature of an amusement park.

It is also a land at war.

Everyone who fled Internment had their own reasons to escape their corrupt haven, but now they’re caught under the watchful eye of another king who wants to dominate his world. They may have made it to the ground, but have they dragged Internment with them?

The Internment Chronicles series

Perfect Ruin (The Internment Chronicles #1) by Lauren DeStefano {My ReviewPurchase}
No Intention of Dying (Novella) (The Internment Chronicles #1.5) by Lauren DeStefano {Purchase}

Returning to the story of Morgan Stockhour, a resident of Internment, who has now crash landed on Earth with no feasible way of returning home. With her is her betrothed, Basil, her best friend, Pen, her brother, his wife and Celeste, the princess of Internment who was a stowaway. Shortly upon their arrival, the group learns that Earth isn’t necessarily the safe haven they had hoped for and is actually in the middle of a war that unknowingly involves Internment.

In this middle installment, we’re given a brand new environment to understand but rationalizing won’t come easy. Here on Earth, Kings rule even though it seems like the setting is sometime in the 1920s. There are speakeasies and silent movies but then out of nowhere, a mermaid is spotted. The world building is focused on much more in this installment but with all the descriptions given it’s still not fully explained.

The characters themselves and their various backgrounds are delved into more in this installment. Morgan still acts as narrator, but considering there isn’t much of a plot going on, for the most part, her narration managed to drag this story down even more. Regarding the lack of plot, the characters spend a lot of time sitting around waiting for something to happen. Inevitably, drama gets stirred up, a love triangle develops and friendships are tested. This could have all been an interesting addition to this dystopian tale, however, that would require you to have been invested in these characters from the very beginning of this trilogy and I, unfortunately, was not.

Burning Kingdoms is the second installment in The Internment Chronicles and it definitely suffers from a slower pace and lack of plot. For me, it’s been frustrating with how unsatisfying I’ve found it considering the potential behind the interesting concept. The final story may provide some satisfaction but I think I’ll be calling it quits.

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Early Review – All the Rage by Courtney Summers

February 27, 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 – All the Rage by Courtney SummersAll the Rage by Courtney Summers
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 14th 2015
Pages: 336
Genres: Mystery, Realistic YA Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Also by this author: This is Not a Test, Sadie


The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything—friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous. But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time—and they certainly won’t now—but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear,

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, Courtney Summers' new novel All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women in a culture that refuses to protect them.

‘…they’d think of me the way they think of me now, think of it as some kind of natural conclusion to my story, sad, maybe, deserved it, well no, of course no one does, but. That girl. You can see it. It’s written on her.’

Romy Grey lives on the “wrong side” of a small town where everybody knows everybody. She’s the girl that no one trusts, the type of girl that everybody expects to be nothing but trouble. When she’s raped at a party and accuses the sheriff’s son of the attack, she quickly loses her best friend and becomes the focus of harassment from every person in her town. Romy lives as inconspicuous as she can from that day on but when a local girl goes missing in addition to news of an attack similar to Romy’s, she realizes she can’t keep quiet anymore.

I devoured this book in a single day. I couldn’t tear my eyes away even if I wanted to. This book, guys, encompasses everything that is wrong with this society. Where a woman can accuse a man of abuse and not for a second will they believe her, simply because the man has always been considered an upstanding member of the community. Because naturally, the facade we put on for the public is completely our true selves and can immediately absolve someone of any accusations. This was a terrifyingly realistic account of the aftermath of rape, of small town mentality, the immediate stereotypes that get doled out and how truly horrid people can be to one another.

‘I rest my middle finger across my lips; red on red, the most subtle way I can tell him to fuck himself because I’m not stupid enough to say it out loud in a world that’s his fan club.’

The writing was course and raw but had a finesse to it that completely encapsulated the expected horror of the situation. The story did get a little jumbled when it switches between “Now” and “Two Weeks Before” and it was difficult at first to re-sort the sequence of events in your mind but once you realize what transpired you’ll want to go back to the beginning with a fresh, knowledgeable look at it all. Summers is unflinching in her determination to accurately represent all that’s wrong with rape culture and subsequent victim blaming and while it was a painful story to read, it’s one incapable of being forgotten.

Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson {Purchase}
Dare Me by Megan Abbott {Purchase}

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Release Day Feature – The Third Twin by C.J. Omololu

February 24, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, 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.

Release Day Feature – The Third Twin by C.J. OmololuThe Third Twin by C.J. Omololu
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on February 24th 2015
Pages: 336
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


Identical twins. Identical DNA. Identical suspects. It’s Pretty Little Liars meets Revenge in this edge-of-your-seat thriller with a shocking twist.

When they were little, Lexi and her identical twin, Ava, made up a third sister, Alicia. If something broke? Alicia did it. Cookies got eaten? Alicia’s guilty. Alicia was always to blame for everything.

The game is all grown up now that the girls are seniors. They use Alicia as their cover to go out with boys who are hot but not exactly dating material. Boys they’d never, ever be with in real life.

Now one of the guys Alicia went out with has turned up dead, and Lexi wants to stop the game for good. As coincidences start piling up, Ava insists that if they follow the rules for being Alicia, everything will be fine. But when another boy is killed, the DNA evidence and surveillance photos point to only one suspect—Alicia. The girl who doesn’t exist.

As she runs from the cops, Lexi has to find the truth before another boy is murdered. Because either Ava is a killer . . . or Alicia is real.

‘In my mind it’s almost like there was actually a third twin with us. Even when we were kids, Alicia was fun and daring and not afraid to get into trouble now and ask for forgiveness later. “Even though she was imaginary, Alicia seemed to real then.”‘

Lexi and Ava are twin sisters and when they were younger, they both had an imaginary sister named Alicia. Problem is, they’re all grown up and still pretend like Alicia exists but they’ve just changed the rules a bit. Now the girls alternate being Alicia and they dress up and wear makeup far more scandalous than they would normally to go out on dates with boys they wouldn’t normally. It was all fun and games until one of “Alicia’s” dates turns up dead.

The Third Twin is told from the point of view of Lexi who begins to suspect her sister Ava as the mystery continues and more people keep turning up dead. The coincidences become too much and Ava quickly becomes a stranger to her. But could her twin sister, the person she is closer than anyone else in the world, truly be capable of murder? The focus on the mystery took up the majority of the novel with the character development being pushed to the back burner. Lexi and Ava were both of the snobbish, self-absorbed variety and didn’t manage to garner much interest in me especially when some of the things they would do were just so illogical. With that said, the possibilities of the mystery were what kept the pages turning for me. But mysteries rarely surprise me anymore. It’s usually one or the other: either the outcome is evident from early on or the resolution comes out of left field. Neither one is satisfying, but I would much rather be kept guessing and The Third Twin certainly did that.

The mystery surrounding Alicia became stretched at the seams and took a while to actually get anywhere while the same pattern kept repeating itself regarding more people turning up dead with ‘Alicia’ being the only culprit. While I didn’t predict the ending, once revealed it did seem like the only reasonable possibility and I really should have seen it coming. All in all, even if the ending wasn’t one you would normally see in reality, this was still a pleasurable thrill of a mystery that YA mystery fans will no doubt enjoy.

Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone by Kat Rosenfield {PurchaseMy Review}
Fury by Shirley Marr {PurchaseMy Review}
Dangerous Boys by Abigail Haas {PurchaseMy Review}

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Early Review – Dark Rooms by Lili Anolik

February 21, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015 2 Comments

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

Early Review – Dark Rooms by Lili AnolikDark Rooms by Lili Anolik
Published by William Morrow on March 3rd 2015
Pages: 336
Genres: Mystery-Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


The Secret History meets Sharp Objects in this stunning debut about murder and glamour set in the ambiguous and claustrophobic world of an exclusive New England prep school.

Death sets the plot in motion: the murder of Nica Baker, beautiful, wild, enigmatic, and only sixteen. The crime is solved, and quickly—a lonely classmate, unrequited love, a suicide note confession—but memory and instinct won’t allow Nica’s older sister, Grace, to accept the case as closed.

Dropping out of college and living at home, working at the moneyed and progressive private high school in Hartford, Connecticut, from which she recently graduated, Grace becomes increasingly obsessed with identifying and punishing the real killer.

Compulsively readable, Lili Anolik’s debut novel combines the verbal dexterity of Marisha Pessl’s Special Topic in Calamity Physics and the haunting atmospherics and hairpin plot twists of Megan Abbott’s Dare Me

‘I hauled my body along, through the trees, over the fence, toward what I knew–knew because it was there, all of it, in that piercing mechanical wail, knew because it was prophesied in my dream, as elusive as a scent, a shadow, a ghost, knew because it was written in the very blood flowing through my veins—would be as bad as it gets.’

Grace and Nica both attend Chandler Academy, a private boarding school in Hartford, Connecticut where their parents are also teachers. Grace was always the quiet sister the resided within the shadow of her younger and wilder sister Nica until a bullet took her life and left Grace suddenly alone. She is troubled by not only her absence, the realization on how much she relied upon her sister but also a sense of bewilderment about who she is supposed to be without her. Grace develops a pill habit that quickly spirals out of control causing her to drop out of college and remain at home. After Nica’s death is pinned on a student who recently committed suicide, Grace doesn’t believe it to be true. After she finds evidence that he couldn’t possibly have killed her she determines it’s up to her to find out who really did.

Dark Rooms is a debut novel and while it had some pacing issues and the occasional hiccup, it was quite the engrossing tale. As far as the previously mentioned hiccups, the investigation itself which spans the majority of the novel felt generally ‘off’. When Grace would discover a clue she would either connect the dots in a way that left me completely confounded or would often jump to the strangest and most outlandish conclusions. View Spoiler » The one saving grace is that the main character recognized exactly what she was doing:

‘I’ve been pretending I know, careening from conviction to conviction like a human pinball, setting off every light and spark and bell, absolutely positive about one thing, then absolutely positive about another. But, the truth is, the only thing I’m absolutely positive about is that I don’t know anything at all.’

It put a new spin on her outlandish conclusions: she was desperate and grasping at straws to find the answers to her sister’s death that was plaguing her with uneasiness. There was also another (spoilery) reason for her desperation to complete the investigation and when you took a step back and really looked at what she was going through it ended up making at least a modicum of sense in the madness. The secrets and reasoning behind Nica’s death were dark enough to live up to the title but the additions regarding Nica being her mother’s muse in her photography and the lines that were constantly being crossed with her practically stalking her to take candid photos felt a bit gratuitous in the end. This story was a complete knockout as far as the writing is concerned and is definitely worth a read for that alone.

Dark Rooms is a mixture of somber tales in suburbia, a murder/mystery thriller and a coming of age novel. Comparisons to The Secret History, Gillian Flynn’s Sharp Objects, and even Megan Abbott are what initially intrigued me about this novel. The similarities to Sharp Objects is fairly accurate with the story of the seemingly normal teenage girls and the dark family secrets that inevitably change their very makeup but didn’t completely live up to that comparison. All in all, big name comparisons generally always do the book a disservice and while Dark Rooms isn’t a perfect clone, fans of those novels will definitely find some thrill within these pages as I certainly did.

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Book Review – Shadows Over Paradise by Isabel Wolff

February 20, 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.

Book Review – Shadows Over Paradise by Isabel WolffShadows Over Paradise by Isabel Wolff
Published by Bantam on February 10th 2015
Pages: 384
Genres: Historical Fiction, WWII
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Also by this author: A Vintage Affair, The Very Picture of You


A childhood mistake. A lifetime of regrets.

Jenni is a 'ghost': she writes the lives of other people. It's a job that suits her well: still haunted by a childhood tragedy, she finds it easier to take refuge in the memories of others rather than dwell on her own.

Jenni has an exciting new commission, and is delighted to start working on the memoirs of a Dutchwoman, Klara. As a child in the Second World War, Klara was interned in a camp on Java during the Japanese occupation – she has an extraordinary story of survival to tell.

But as Jenni and Klara begin to get to know each other, Jenni begins to do much more than shed light on a neglected part of history. She is being forced to examine her own devastating memories, too. But with Klara's help, perhaps this is finally the moment where she will be able to lay the ghosts of her own past to rest?

Gripping, poignant and beautifully researched, Ghostwritten is a story of survival and love, of memory and hope.

‘This was Polvarth, a place I’d vowed never to return to, yet which I saw, in my mind, every day.
It was my idea.
I closed my eyes as the memories rushed back.
We did it all by ourselves.’

Jenni Clark is a ghostwriter that takes the ghosts of a person’s past and molds them into a story. Her most recent commission is Klara, a woman that survived after being confined as a child in a camp in the midst of World War II. Klara currently resides in a town called Polvarth, a town that Jenni spent time there and where the ghosts of her own past currently reside. The opportunity presented to her in this job though is enough to make her willing to finally face those ghosts after all these years.

Jenni has run into trouble in her relationship with Rick; he wants to have children and she does not. The two agree that maybe this trip to Polvarth will give each of them a chance to reflect on their lives together and hopefully help them to work things out. The issue behind her refusal to have children stems from a childhood incident that she’s never told him or anyone for that matter. The tragedy is one she blames herself for and it isn’t until Klara shares her own story does she realize how similar the two are, and how both women need to find it in their hearts to finally forgive themselves in order to truly move on. Jenni’s story may have been mostly a side-story but it was still a vital piece of the whole story that was interwoven and resolved beautifully.

Stories about World War II, especially when they are centered around a concentration camp, are some of the hardest stories for me to read yet I’m completely incapable of passing one up. They are typically all stories about general devastation but Klara’s story adds a piece of history to WWII that I didn’t previously know much about concerning the Japanese invasion of the Dutch colony of Java where Klara grew up. The natives of the island were left in peace but any and all European residents of the island were forced into concentration camps. Her story details being separated from family, the incessant degradation, the backbreaking work, the hunger, the sickness, and inevitably the death. They were constantly forced to travel on foot to new camps which were generally worse than the camp they left behind. Even after the war was finally over and they were no longer being held against their will in the camps, they were forced to stay when the natives wished to cause them harm for what happened to their country at the hands of the Japanese. It was of course incredibly painful to read but Shadows Over Paradise did a brilliant job at bringing this unforgettable time in history to life.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys {Purchase}
A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff {Purchase}
Night by Elie Wiesel {Purchase}

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Early Review – Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy Hepinstall & Becky Hepinstall Hilliker

February 19, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015 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.

Early Review – Sisters of Shiloh by Kathy Hepinstall & Becky Hepinstall HillikerSisters of Shiloh by Becky Hepinstall Hilliker, Kathy Hepinstall
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on March 3rd 2015
Pages: 256
Genres: Civil War, Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


A best-selling novelist enlists her own sister to bring us the story of two Southern sisters, disguised as men, who join the Confederate Army—one seeking vengeance on the battlefield, the other finding love.

In a war pitting brother against brother, two sisters choose their own battle.

Joseph and Thomas are fresh recruits for the Confederate Army, daring to join the wild fray that has become the seemingly endless Civil War, sharing everything with their fellow soldiers—except the secret that would mean their undoing: they are sisters.

Before the war, Joseph and Thomas were Josephine and Libby. But that bloodiest battle, Antietam, leaves Libby to find her husband, Arden, dead. She vows vengeance, dons Arden’s clothes, and sneaks off to enlist with the Stonewall Brigade, swearing to kill one Yankee for every year of his too-short life. Desperate to protect her grief-crazed sister, Josephine insists on joining her. Surrounded by flying bullets, deprivation, and illness, the sisters are found by other dangers: Libby is hurtling toward madness, haunted and urged on by her husband’s ghost; Josephine is falling in love with a fellow soldier. She lives in fear both of revealing their disguise and of losing her first love before she can make her heart known to him.

In her trademark “vibrant” (Washington Post Book World) and “luscious” (Atlanta Journal-Constitution) prose, Kathy Hepinstall joins with her sister Becky to show us the hopes of love and war, the impossible-to-sever bonds of sisterhood, and how what matters most can both hurt us and heal us.

‘Twenty-one. The number of men who would pay for his death. As a woman she loved the poetry in that equation; as a man she loved the rage.’

Libby and Arden are newlyweds but a mere month into their lives together, the Civil War breaks out and Arden leaves to join the ranks of the Confederate army. When Libby hears that a massive battle took place nearby involving Arden’s unit she sets out to verify his survival. Her older sister Josephine travels with her and after they split up to search is the one that finds Arden with a massive hole in his stomach, dying slowly. By the time Libby finds them, Arden is still warm but long gone. Filled with a foreign rage, Libby cuts off her hair intent on joining the Confederates. She swears to take twenty-one Yankee lives for the twenty-one years that Arden was on this earth. Josephine, finding out her intentions, resolves herself to go with her if only to protect her from her dangerous plan.

The writing team for this novel is two sisters; one is a bestselling novelist and the other possesses a history degree. The result is a fluid story that is not just poignant but leaves you feeling well-informed of this time period. Sisters of Shiloh is written primarily from the point of view of Libby and Josephine who become Thomas and Joseph when they enlist. It reflects their struggles from being simple teenage girls to adapting to life as a soldier not only with the constant fear of dying but of keeping the secret of their gender safe. Josephine only joined the army to protect her sister and has no intentions of doing harm to anyone if she can help it. She’s a simple girl who has never been in love but slowly finds herself falling for Wesley Abeline (and he begins falling for “her” although his feelings remain conflicted as he’s not aware of her true gender). Libby’s mindset becomes darker as the book progresses with her hearing Arden’s voice in her head, urging her in the battle to kill again and again. She eventually begins to actually see him as well, with his stomach still bleeding and flies that cover the wound. At first, it was hard to differentiate the sister’s voices but by the end, they had developed their own separate identities so much that each section was clearly definable. Josephine remained sorrowful at her inability to save her sister from her own mind and Libby remained in conflict with her true nature and the impressionable effects of her husband even after death.

‘Arden, though, was more than a name. He was a presence, an exhortation, the heaving breaths of his spirit keeping up with her, his voice shouting that unearthly Rebel yell right along with her.’

Women that conceal themselves as men and join the war effort (typically in the Civil War) seems to be a new trend in literature these days as this is the second release I’ve read recently. I Shall Be Near to You was the previous one I read and is told from the point of view of a woman that joins the Union army, rather than the Confederates. Both books succeed in presenting a side of the war that was apparently quite common but vastly absent from the history books. Reading about these women that sacrificed their safety and voluntarily went into battle (even when they weren’t allowed to) was shocking and impressive even if it wasn’t exactly smart. Libby and Josephine went into the war not knowing how to shoot a gun yet they persevered and lasted a whole eight months in the war when some men didn’t last a few weeks. This may be considered an ‘unconventional’ side of wartime but it’s a side that is truly admirable that I’d love to see more of. Other related reads I intend on picking up include Neverhome by Laird Hunt, Liar, Temptress, Soldier Spy by Karen Abbott and This Side of the River by Jeffrey Stayton.

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Review + Giveaway! The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand

February 5, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Giveaways, Read in 2014, YA 10 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.

Review + Giveaway! The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia HandThe Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
Published by HarperTeen on February 10th 2015
Pages: 400
Genres: Realistic YA Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Also by this author: Unearthly, Hallowed, Boundless


There's death all around us.
We just don't pay attention.
Until we do.

The last time Lex was happy, it was before. When she had a family that was whole. A boyfriend she loved. Friends who didn't look at her like she might break down at any moment.

Now she's just the girl whose brother killed himself. And it feels like that's all she'll ever be.

As Lex starts to put her life back together, she tries to block out what happened the night Tyler died. But there's a secret she hasn't told anyone-a text Tyler sent, that could have changed everything.

Lex's brother is gone. But Lex is about to discover that a ghost doesn't have to be real to keep you from moving on.

From New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Hand, The Last Time We Say Goodbye is a gorgeous and heart-wrenching story of love, loss, and letting go.

‘Time passes. That’s the rule. No matter what happens, no matter how much it might feel like everything in your life has frozen around one particular moment, time marches on.’

Lexie is an unexceptionally smart student with big dreams of going to MIT. She has a boyfriend who loves her and a group of friends she can depend on. But that was life seven weeks ago. Now? Her grades are slipping, she’s broke up with her boyfriend and she won’t talk to any of her friends. Seven weeks ago her brother killed himself. But now she’s starting to his ghost. A series of journal entries reveal the facts behind Lexie’s grief (and guilt) and the heartbreak begins anew when we are exposed to the truth of her pain.

‘I didn’t know to savor that moment on the dance floor, to understand how beautiful and rare it was, how fragile, how ephemeral, when Ty was happy. When we were all happy, and we were together, and we were safe.
I didn’t know.
I didn’t know.’

Grief comes in many forms as we all handle it in different ways. Lexie’s path of grief led her to shut everyone out and while this storyline has certainly been done before, it still managed to resonate honestly and leave a strong impression. These days, death and grief have become most common in YA novels and while it can certainly come off as a morbid fascination, the existence of these types of novels can be vital for those who don’t quite know how to handle their grief. It can serve as proof to those who have also experienced grief that they are far from alone and that there are people that can help. It’s a sad fact of life that we must all learn how to cope, heal and continue living. The Last Time We Said Goodbye is more of a cautionary tale seeing as the story is told from the surviving sister and inevitably shows the repercussions of suicide and the effects of grief but manages to still leave the reader with a facet of hope to cling to. While this is a work of fiction, the author states that she had a younger brother that killed himself which only made this all the more poignant and truly from the heart.

The Last Time We Said Goodbye is a raw and brutally honest depiction of the various sides of grief. It’s an insightful and admirable story about acceptance and forgiveness that will no doubt leave you heartsick but is an incredibly worthy read.

I was fortunate enough to receive an early copy of this book from Harper Teen and now want to share this book with one of you! To be entered to win, please use the Rafflecopter widget below.

This is open to U.S. residents only! Sorry international followers.
Giveaway ends February 19th, 2015

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Early Review – Shutter by Courtney Alameda

January 30, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015, YA 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 – Shutter by Courtney AlamedaShutter by Courtney Alameda
Published by Feiwel & Friends on February 3rd 2015
Pages: 384
Genres: Ghosties, Horror, Paranormal
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat -- a girl who sees the auras of the undead in a prismatic spectrum. As one of the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage, she has trained since childhood to destroy monsters both corporeal and spiritual: the corporeal undead go down by the bullet, the spiritual undead by the lens. With an analog SLR camera as her best weapon, Micheline exorcises ghosts by capturing their spiritual energy on film. She's aided by her crew: Oliver, a techno-whiz and the boy who developed her camera's technology; Jude, who can predict death; and Ryder, the boy Micheline has known and loved forever.

When a routine ghost hunt goes awry, Micheline and the boys are infected with a curse known as a soulchain. As the ghostly chains spread through their bodies, Micheline learns that if she doesn't exorcise her entity in seven days or less, she and her friends will die. Now pursued as a renegade agent by her monster-hunting father, Leonard Helsing, she must track and destroy an entity more powerful than anything she's faced before . . . or die trying.

Lock, stock, and lens, she’s in for one hell of a week.

“Hand for a hand, and tooth for a tooth – 
Chain down the souls of Abraham’s youth.
Eye for an eye, and life for a life – 
Down stabs vengeance, swift as a knife.”

Shutter brings to life a world where the last descendants of the Van Helsing lineage continue the family tradition of battling the supernatural. Micheline Helsing is a tetrachromat, someone that possesses the ability to see the ghostlight of the undead. Being able to see them allows her to use modified analog SLR camera to capture the ghostly energy with each flash. Most ghosts could be captured by this method with a couple of photographs, however, their latest assignment refuses to go down so easy. When it infects Micheline and each member of her team with a Soulchain, finding out how to destroy it is more imperative than ever after they learn they have a mere 7 days before the Soulchains take their lives.

Alameda has created a most impressive world in her debut novel. The concept is an amalgamation of Ghostbusters and the video game Fatal Frame with the historical fiction addition of the Helsing and Stoker families that allied in the late 1800s to defeat Dracula. It would have been easy for this combination to go wrong but Alameda makes it all seem quite ideal. The concept behind Micheline’s weapon was impeccably detailed backed by an immense amount of obvious research. It was all fully fleshed out and inevitably sounded completely logical, however it reached a point where I found myself getting lost in the details. Normally I would say that too much detail vs. not enough would be preferable but that wasn’t the case here. An explanation that was spread throughout the story would have been more desirable than the near info-dump in the books beginning. There was a point where so much time was spent on the detailing that I lost focus on the story itself and actually put the book on hold only to come back to it later.

Being a huge fan of horror novels I had some high expectations going in (but mostly because, holy crap that cover.) Alas, I was, for the most part, left disappointed. Although the proper elements were all in place and excellent use of description was used effectively, it didn’t ever truly frighten me. Nonetheless, this was still an action packed page-turner even if the mystery itself was easily foreseeable. Two things I did not foresee: 1. the inclusion of a Romeo & Juliet style romance (“My father’s rules kept us imprisoned in adjacent cells; we were able to reach through the bars, but we couldn’t ever by truly, madly, inseparably together.”) and 2. it’s fairly clear that this is the start of a new series. I’m not absolutely certain, but there were enough loose ends left that could definitely lead to the continuation of this tale. I can’t say I’m against this idea though. I think with all the world-building details out of the way this could be a solid supernatural series that I would definitely be willing to pick up again.

Mild on horror, mild on romance but definitely an entertaining thrill ride of a story.

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