Posts Categorized: Life’s Too Short

Life’s Too Short – Vox, Pack, Cross Her Heart

September 20, 2018 Bonnie Book Reviews, Life's Too Short, Read in 2018 10 Comments

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

Life’s Too Short – Vox, Pack, Cross Her HeartVox by Christina Dalcher
Published by Berkley on August 21, 2018
Pages: 326
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Set in an America where half the population has been silenced, VOX is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.

On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than 100 words daily, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial—this can't happen here. Not in America. Not to her.

This is just the beginning.

Soon women can no longer hold jobs. Girls are no longer taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words a day, but now women only have one hundred to make themselves heard.

But this is not the end.

For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.

DNF @ meh? There was a lot of scan-reading.

I haven’t read many of the recent feminist speculative novels cropping up that are clearly taking inspiration from the newly renewed popularity of The Handmaid’s Tale, but I requested this one and I honestly wish I hadn’t. The issue with Vox, in particular, is it doesn’t seem to be written to show society the dangers in an attempt to right future wrongs, but rather to capitalize on the fears of many. In the beginning of Vox, we’re introduced to a world where all females are fitted with a metal bracelet which delivers a shock if the individual goes over their allotted 100 words per day. Paper, pencils, books, all banned. Jean is a mother of three boys and one girl and she mentally contemplates what she could have done differently to avoid the outcome of the world she finds herself living in. The flashbacks she has regarding her grad school roomie warning her against inaction amid the rise of fundamentalism, how religions are wholly evil, and the indirect references to our current president were all a bit too on the nose. It also didn’t help that the second half turned into some blockbuster thriller and if I couldn’t take the novel seriously before, I certainly wasn’t able to at that point. I’m all about driving home the importance of voting but lines like:

“My fault started two decades ago, the first time I didn’t vote … was too busy to go on [a march].”

I mean criminy, talk about subtle. Voting is incredibly important and I believe that everyone should exercise their right to do so. A single vote might not be the decider in a race, or it could, but at the very least you’ve gone out there and made your opinion known. Dalcher was trying to make a good point, that women’s rights are precarious at best, but maybe don’t wrap up your cautionary tale in the cloak of a thriller simply to make it more exciting.

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

Life’s Too Short – Vox, Pack, Cross Her HeartPack by Mike Bockoven
Published by Talos on July 3, 2018
Pages: 272
Genres: Paranormal, Werewolves
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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From the author of FantasticLand comes a supernatural thriller set in a sleepy Nebraska town that mixes the novels of Ann Rice and the pulpy, bloody works of Donald Ray Pollock.

Cherry, Nebraska, population 312, is just off the highway between the sticks and the boonies. It’s where Dave Rhodes and his friends have lived all their lives. They own businesses, raise families, pay taxes, deal with odd neighbors and, once or twice a month just like their fathers before them—transform into wolves. It’s not a bad life, but when one of the group members goes astray, it sets in motion a series of events that will threaten to destroy the delicate balance that has kept Dave and his clan off the radar. Between a son getting ready for his first transformation—called The Scratch—a wife with sordid secrets, a new sheriff who knows nothing of the creatures in his midst, and a mysterious man in a bow tie with a shady agenda, the middle of nowhere is about to get very dangerous.

Interspersed with historical documents and newspaper clippings, and court documents that reveal the past of Cherry, Nebraska, a past informed by spirits, the devil, and crooked cops. In the vein of Donald Ray Pollock and Glen Duncan, Pack is at its heart is the story of family’s survival in an unforgiving world. Mike Bockoven’s second novel moves at breakneck speed with prose that hits like an injection of battery acid. Raw, real, and funny, Pack exposes the horror and tenderness that festers in the forgotten corners of the American Dream.

DNF @ 17%

Pack is described as a supernatural thriller and is likened to Anne Rice (Interview with the Vampire) and Donald Ray Pollock (The Devil All the Time). I am typically not a big werewolf story reader, but my brain went a little wild with excitement over the idea of combining Rice and Pollock, two of my favorite authors. First of all, a supernatural thriller this is not. Small town, werewolf family drama? Absolutely. The characters weren’t very memorable and the storyline itself just felt uneventful and it took me many weeks to even get to the measly 17% I made it to. I know that publishers request lines not be included from review copies, so I won’t, however, the state which the review copy was in absolutely played a part in preventing me from finishing this. Maybe that’s unfair, but this read like the very first draft before a single change was made and before spell-check was even run. There were so many glaring errors (spelling, grammar, you name it) that it was unfortunately too distracting. Here’s hoping the finished copy got a high coat of gloss applied with all the errors buffed out.

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

Life’s Too Short – Vox, Pack, Cross Her HeartCross Her Heart by Sarah Pinborough
Published by William Morrow on September 4, 2018
Pages: 352
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: Mayhem, Murder, The Language of Dying

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Lisa is living a lie and everyone is about to find out.

Lisa lives for her daughter Ava, her job and her best friend Marilyn.

But when a handsome client shows an interest in her, Lisa starts daydreaming about sharing her life with him, too. Maybe she’s ready now. Maybe she can trust again. Maybe it's time to let her terrifying secret past go.

But when her daughter rescues a boy from drowning and their pictures are all over the news for everyone to see, Lisa's world explodes.

As she finds everything she has built threatened, and not knowing who she can trust, it's up to Lisa to face her past in order to save what she holds dear.

But someone has been pulling all their strings. And that someone is determined that both Lisa and Ava must suffer.

Because long ago Lisa broke a promise. And some promises aren't meant to be broken.

DNF @ 24%

After reading (and loving) both Mayhem and Murder, Pinborough was immediately inducted into my auto-read author hall of fame list. There was a brief setback with The Language of Dying (magical realism either REALLY works for me or REALLY doesn’t, there is no in between) but Behind Her Eyes brought me right back to what I love about this author. Which brings me to Cross Her Heart. What’s strange about this one is I read the first 1/4 of this book in a single night and then proceeded to set it down and then completely forgot about it. The storyline alludes to the concept that Lisa and her daughter Ava ran away from something (I’m sure it was all disclosed later in the story) and the story was full of bits and pieces about Lisa refusing to date and how much of a helicopter mom she is and how the mother-daughter duo led a quiet life, but then strange things start popping up from her past that leads Lisa to believe their quiet life isn’t as peaceful as she thought. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the story, there just wasn’t anything particularly great. It also didn’t help that it reminded me quite a bit of another mystery I DNF’d earlier this year. I’ll still be keeping my eyes peeled for her next story.

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Life’s Too Short – City of Brass, The Salt Line, Baby Teeth

June 1, 2018 Bonnie Book Reviews, Life's Too Short, Read in 2018 12 Comments

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

Life’s Too Short – City of Brass, The Salt Line, Baby TeethThe City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
Narrator: Gabra Zackman
Series: The Daevabad Trilogy #1
Published by Harper Voyager on November 14, 2017
Pages: 544
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Nahri has never believed in magic. Certainly, she has power; on the streets of 18th century Cairo, she’s a con woman of unsurpassed talent. But she knows better than anyone that the trade she uses to get by—palm readings, zars, healings—are all tricks, sleights of hand, learned skills; a means to the delightful end of swindling Ottoman nobles.

But when Nahri accidentally summons an equally sly, darkly mysterious djinn warrior to her side during one of her cons, she’s forced to accept that the magical world she thought only existed in childhood stories is real. For the warrior tells her a new tale: across hot, windswept sands teeming with creatures of fire, and rivers where the mythical marid sleep; past ruins of once-magnificent human metropolises, and mountains where the circling hawks are not what they seem, lies Daevabad, the legendary city of brass?a city to which Nahri is irrevocably bound.

In that city, behind gilded brass walls laced with enchantments, behind the six gates of the six djinn tribes, old resentments are simmering. And when Nahri decides to enter this world, she learns that true power is fierce and brutal. That magic cannot shield her from the dangerous web of court politics. That even the cleverest of schemes can have deadly consequences.

After all, there is a reason they say be careful what you wish for . . .

DNF @ 15%

There was a lot of hype surrounding this one when it came out and despite the fact that epic fantasy has a tendency to fly over my head, I really wanted to give it a try. For me, epic fantasy has to hook me, immediately, whether it’s with an amazing main character or some pretty spectacular world-building. There was something off-putting to me about Nahri from the very beginning and the world-building was chock-full of a magical world where everything has to be explained and there are tribes and some of them are at war with each other but I honestly couldn’t ever keep any of it straight. It even has its own lexicon, which I really do appreciate the time involved to truly create a world from the ground up, it just didn’t draw me in enough to make the commitment to finish this 500+ novel plus the expected two additional novels in this magical trilogy.

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

Life’s Too Short – City of Brass, The Salt Line, Baby TeethThe Salt Line by Holly Goddard Jones
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on September 5, 2017
Pages: 400
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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In the spirit of Station Eleven and California, award-winning novelist Holly Goddard Jones offers a literary spin on the dystopian genre with this gripping story of survival and humanity about a group of adrenaline junkies who jump -the Salt Line.-

How far will they go for their freedom--once they decide what freedom really means?

In an unspecified future, the United States' borders have receded behind a salt line--a ring of scorched earth that protects its citizens from deadly disease-carrying ticks. Those within the zone live safe, if limited, lives in a society controlled by a common fear. Few have any reason to venture out of zone, except for the adrenaline junkies who pay a fortune to tour what's left of nature. Those among the latest expedition include a popstar and his girlfriend, Edie; the tech giant Wes; and Marta; a seemingly simple housewife.

Once out of zone, the group find themselves at the mercy of deadly ticks--and at the center of a murderous plot. They become captives in Ruby City, a community made up of outer-zone survivors determined to protect their hardscrabble existence. As alliances and friendships shift amongst the hostages, Edie, Wes, and Marta must decide how far they are willing to go to get to the right side of the salt line.

DNF @ 60%

It’s truly rare that I get so far in a book only to DNF but it took me almost 2 months to get to 60% and that was far too much time for a mere 400 pages. The beginning held immense appeal and I thoroughly enjoyed how the author unfolded the details of a world where citizens lived behind walls to protect them from disease-carrying ticks. A group of people ventures beyond the walls on some sort of thrill tour, testing the limits of their survival. As the story develops, we’re also given the backstory of each of the members of the group and as you start to realize the dangerous plot they’ve found themselves in the midst of, you also realize that these seemingly innocuous backstories hold more answers than was previously understood. The world building was fantastic and I even enjoyed the backstories even though I was still at a point in the story where I didn’t understand the ultimate purpose, but as soon as the conspiracies were unveiled it just felt way too far-fetched to be taken seriously and didn’t make a whole lot of sense as a whole. It, of course, can be argued that maybe I didn’t give it enough time to answer my lingering questions, but honestly, after reading this for almost two months, I just don’t care.

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

Life’s Too Short – City of Brass, The Salt Line, Baby TeethBaby Teeth by Zoje Stage
Narrator: Gabra Zackman
Published by Macmillan Audio on July 17, 2018
Pages: 320
Length: 11 hrs and 6 mins
Genres: Thriller
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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Sweetness can be deceptive.

Meet Hanna.

She’s the sweet-but-silent angel in the adoring eyes of her Daddy. He’s the only person who understands her, and all Hanna wants is to live happily ever after with him. But Mommy stands in her way, and she’ll try any trick she can think of to get rid of her. Ideally for good.

Meet Suzette.

She loves her daughter, really, but after years of expulsions and strained home schooling, her precarious health and sanity are weakening day by day. As Hanna’s tricks become increasingly sophisticated, and Suzette's husband remains blind to the failing family dynamics, Suzette starts to fear that there’s something seriously wrong, and that maybe home isn’t the best place for their baby girl after all.

DNF @ 29%

Baby Teeth is the story of seven-year-old Hanna and her stay-at-home mom Suzette. The story alternates between their different points of view painting an extremely unsettling portrait into the domestic life of this family. Hanna doesn’t have anything physically wrong with her, yet she refuses to speak, and her inner dialogue chapters are full of a disturbing vindictiveness towards her mother and complete adoration of her father. Suzette’s chapters show a mother that has reached her limit with an impossible child and a husband that refuses to believe that their child is as bad as she says she is (except she doesn’t tell him half the things that she does, convinced that he simply won’t believe her).

I almost quit when Hanna appears to lust after her naked father’s body, thinking about how when mommy’s gone she’s going to marry him someday. I almost quit when Hanna concocts a plan after using Google that she’s going to pretend to be some woman from the 17th century that was burned at the stake for being a witch. I definitely quit after Hannah made her mother a photo collage of her sleeping body alongside various dead corpses, Suzette said she was going to show it to her father, so then Hanna decides to hurt herself to make it look like her mother did it.

I understand that the whole point of this was meant to be unsettling but it felt gratuitous and apparently even my concrete stomach has its limits.

“Hanna didn’t think it was fair that Sunshine had such perfect hair – the color of Daddy’s. Sometimes she gazed at it, longing to take a knife to Sunshine’s scalp and remove her fine locks. Hannah imagined herself proudly wearing the wig she’d make, unbothered by the stray trickle of blood that might dribble down her forehead.”

Image result for ugh gross gif

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

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

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

Life’s Too Short – Barbed Wire Heart, Unbury Carol, Future Home of the Living GodBarbed Wire Heart by Tess Sharpe
Published by Grand Central Publishing on March 6th 2018
Pages: 416
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Never cut the drugs--leave them pure.Guns are meant to be shot--keep them loaded.Family is everything--betray them and die.

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

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

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

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

DNF @ 16%

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

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

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

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

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

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

DNF @ 15%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DNF @ 20% (+ scan reading)

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

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Life’s Too Short – Bonfire, The Wedding Date, Andrea Vernon and the Corporation for UltraHuman Protection

February 16, 2018 Bonnie Book Reviews, Life's Too Short 8 Comments

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

Life’s Too Short – Bonfire, The Wedding Date, Andrea Vernon and the Corporation for UltraHuman ProtectionBonfire by Krysten Ritter
Published by Crown Archetype on November 7th 2017
Pages: 288
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Should you ever go back?

It has been ten years since Abby Williams left home and scrubbed away all visible evidence of her small town roots. Now working as an environmental lawyer in Chicago, she has a thriving career, a modern apartment, and her pick of meaningless one-night stands.

But when a new case takes her back home to Barrens, Indiana, the life Abby painstakingly created begins to crack. Tasked with investigating Optimal Plastics, the town's most high-profile company and economic heart, Abby begins to find strange connections to Barrens’ biggest scandal from more than a decade ago involving the popular Kaycee Mitchell and her closest friends—just before Kaycee disappeared for good.

Abby knows the key to solving any case lies in the weak spots, the unanswered questions. But as Abby tries to find out what really happened to Kaycee, she unearths an even more disturbing secret—a ritual called “The Game,” which will threaten the reputations, and lives, of the community and risk exposing a darkness that may consume her.

With tantalizing twists, slow-burning suspense, and a remote, rural town of just five claustrophobic miles, Bonfire is a dark exploration of the question: can you ever outrun your past?

DNF @ 10%

I’ve become a big dnf-er in recent months, especially when I was working two jobs because my time was oh so very precious. This was one that didn’t make that crucial “worth it” mark. I’ve had Bonfire sitting on my digital shelf for months but in my mind, I was saving it for when I needed something awesome, for when I wanted to read a really great book. I’m not sure exactly how I established such lofty expectations for this book, but I did. This really had all the workings of a book I’d no doubt love: mysterious disappearances, the small-town girl returns home, and possible legal/courtroom drama. It could have been a perfect combination of Sharp Objects and The Fever but quickly morphed into an Erin Brockovich novelization but without the allure of Julia Roberts. There wasn’t anything completely terrible about Bonfire, there just wasn’t anything special about it either.

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

Life’s Too Short – Bonfire, The Wedding Date, Andrea Vernon and the Corporation for UltraHuman ProtectionThe Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
Published by Berkley Books on January 30th 2018
Pages: 320
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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A groomsman and his last-minute guest are about to discover if a fake date can go the distance in a fun and flirty debut novel.

Agreeing to go to a wedding with a guy she gets stuck with in an elevator is something Alexa Monroe wouldn't normally do. But there's something about Drew Nichols that's too hard to resist.

On the eve of his ex's wedding festivities, Drew is minus a plus one. Until a power outage strands him with the perfect candidate for a fake girlfriend...

After Alexa and Drew have more fun than they ever thought possible, Drew has to fly back to Los Angeles and his job as a pediatric surgeon, and Alexa heads home to Berkeley, where she's the mayor's chief of staff. Too bad they can't stop thinking about the other...

They're just two high-powered professionals on a collision course toward the long distance dating disaster of the century--or closing the gap between what they think they need and what they truly want...

DNF @ I don’t even know

This debut contemporary romance has a glowing recommendation from none other than Roxanne Gay on the very front of this cover. I had such high hopes for this mold breaker of a romance novel that includes an interracial couple but there wasn’t even enough of a spark for me to want to see how everything played out. It all starts with a somewhat cliché meeting in a broken down elevator where the duo strikes up a stilted and awkward conversation which leads to him asking her to be his date at a wedding. First things first, there was zero chemistry. No spark. None. I didn’t particularly care for either character but I certainly didn’t care for Drew after my first impression of him.

“Don’t look at me like that! I’m not a girlfriend kind of guy! And when I could tell that she might want something more serious, I ended it.”

Ohhh. Yay. A real charmer.

And I can understand that Alexa’s continued lack of self-confidence was supposed to be something that a normal woman could sympathize with but it was so constant even in the short amount that I read that it was distracting to the actual story.

‘…she was almost distracted enough not to wonder if he could detect the Spanx underneath her dress. Almost.”

See, she’s even distracted.

“Oh, and don’t forget! The hashtag is #jollymosh.” Molly smiled and glided away.

If I ever actually get married, someone please shoot me if I ever have a hashtag for my damn wedding. Especially one as terrible as that.

Warning, bout to get vicious. Bottom line? The writing was stilted and simple, the characters lacked any sort of complexity and originality, despite including an interracial couple Guillory was far from breaking any sort of mold, and even the whole reason for the story, the romance, fell completely flat and wasn’t anything to swoon over. Some serious steam can result in (literary) elevators, but you won’t find that here. Check out The Hating Game for one particularly great elevator scene and Hearts in Darkness for what you’d hoped Alexa and Drew’s elevator meeting would have been like.

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

Life’s Too Short – Bonfire, The Wedding Date, Andrea Vernon and the Corporation for UltraHuman ProtectionAndrea Vernon and the Corporation for UltraHuman Protection by Alexander C. Kane
Narrator: Bahni Turpin
Published by Audible Studios on August 22nd 2017
Length: 8 hrs and 49 mins
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Author
Audible
Goodreads


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Andrea Vernon always thought she would spend her life living in Paris writing thought-provoking historical novels all day and sipping wine on the Seine all night. But the reality is she's drowning in debt, has no prospects, and is forced to move back to Queens, where her parents remind her daily that they are very interested in grandchildren.Then, one morning, she is kidnapped, interviewed, and hired as an administrative assistant by the Corporation for UltraHuman Protection. Superheroes for hire, using their powers for good. What could possibly go wrong?Lots.Her coworkers may be able to shoot lightning out of their hands or have skin made of diamonds, but they refuse to learn how to use the company's database. She has a swell hook-up buddy relationship with The Big Axe, but he's pushing to go exclusive. Then there's the small matter of a giant alien space egg hovering over Yankee Stadium, threatening civilization as we know it.Will Andrea find contentment in office drudgery? Can she make a life together with a guy who's eight feet tall and never puts down his axe? And will she ever figure out how her boss likes her coffee?

DNF @ 28%

I have a sense of humor, I swear. It’s just… sarcastic and dark. Doesn’t make it any less funny.

Goofy humor? I don’t get. I understand that a joke was intended, but my brain clearly lacks the proper wiring for actual laughter to occur. That’s exactly what it was like listening to Andrea Vernon. Bahni Turpin does a superb job narrating what I’m sure is a very hilarious and entertaining tale about superheroes. But we’re not talking superheroes like Wolverine. No, instead we’ve got Teleporter Joe who can only teleport one way to Roosevelt Island (and only when he has an erection) and anyone that teleports with him gets diarrhea.

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

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

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

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

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

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

DNF @ 40%

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

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

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

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

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

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

DNF @ 30%

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

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

Life’s Too Short – Made for Love, A Plague of Giants, ShadowlessShadowless by Hasan Ali Toptaş
Published by Bloomsbury on October 17th 2017
Pages: 320
Genres: Literary Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: the Publisher
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Hasan Ali Toptaş, "the Turkish Kafka", playfully challenges ideas of identity and memory in this surprising and beguiling novel.

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

DNF @ 15%

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

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

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Life’s Too Short – The Simplicity of Cider, Tess of the Road, Strange Fire

December 21, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, Life's Too Short 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.

Life’s Too Short – The Simplicity of Cider, Tess of the Road, Strange FireThe Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert
Published by Gallery Books on May 16th 2017
Pages: 336
Genres: Magical Realism
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: The Coincidence of Coconut Cake

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Fall in love with The Simplicity of Cider, the charming new novel about a prickly but gifted cider-maker whose quiet life is interrupted by the arrival of a handsome man and his young son at her family’s careworn orchard by the author of The Coincidence of Coconut Cake and Luck, Love & Lemon Pie.

Focused and unassuming fifth generation cider-maker Sanna Lund has one desire: to live a simple, quiet life on her family’s apple orchard in Door County, Wisconsin. Although her business is struggling, Sanna remains fiercely devoted to the orchard, despite her brother’s attempts to convince their aging father to sell the land.

Single dad Isaac Banks has spent years trying to shield his son Sebastian from his troubled mother. Fleeing heartbreak at home, Isaac packed up their lives and the two headed out on an adventure, driving across the country. Chance—or fate—led them straight to Sanna’s orchard.

Isaac’s helping hands are much appreciated at the apple farm, even more when Sanna’s father is injured in an accident. As Sanna’s formerly simple life becomes increasingly complicated, she finds solace in unexpected places—friendship with young Sebastian and something more deliciously complex with Isaac—until an outside threat infiltrates the farm.

From the warm and funny Amy E. Reichert, The Simplicity of Cider is a charming love story with a touch of magic, perfect for fans of Sarah Addison Allen and Gayle Forman.

DNF @ 20%

I adore Magical Realism and I adored Reichert’s debut The Coincidence of Coconut Cake but this one just didn’t do it for me. I’ve had a rollercoaster of a reading year and being very much a mood reader it seemed like every time I picked this one up, it never felt like the right time. Alas, I’m making this my last attempt (my fifth attempt, for the record) and calling it quits. This book possessed a lovely, heartwarming feel to it as you learn about the orchard and see all these special touches of magic throughout but as the summary states, Sanna is most prickly indeed. Her character was so completely off-putting to me that it lessened my interest in everything else. Did she redeem herself in the end? Possibly. But if I’ve restarted a book five times in a single year and still can’t get through it, honestly, that was more time spent trying than should be necessary.

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

Life’s Too Short – The Simplicity of Cider, Tess of the Road, Strange FireTess of the Road by Rachel Hartman
Published by Random House Books for Young Readers on February 27th 2018
Pages: 544
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Seraphina

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Meet Tess, a brave new heroine from beloved epic fantasy author Rachel Hartman.

In the medieval kingdom of Goredd, women are expected to be ladies, men are their protectors, and dragons get to be whomever they want. Tess, stubbornly, is a troublemaker. You can’t make a scene at your sister’s wedding and break a relative’s nose with one punch (no matter how pompous he is) and not suffer the consequences. As her family plans to send her to a nunnery, Tess yanks on her boots and sets out on a journey across the Southlands, alone and pretending to be a boy.

Where Tess is headed is a mystery, even to her. So when she runs into an old friend, it’s a stroke of luck. This friend is a quigutl—a subspecies of dragon—who gives her both a purpose and protection on the road. But Tess is guarding a troubling secret. Her tumultuous past is a heavy burden to carry, and the memories she’s tried to forget threaten to expose her to the world in more ways than one.

Returning to the fascinating world she created in the award-winning and New York Times bestselling Seraphina, Rachel Hartman introduces readers to a new character and a new quest, pushing the boundaries of genre once again in this wholly original fantasy.

DNF @ 15%

Blogger Problem #74: Being blinded by the excitement surrounding an ARC that you accept it without completely thinking it through.

Seraphina was a real struggle for me to get through, especially when all my blogger friends were raving about it. Despite this, I still picked up Shadow Scale (Seraphina #2) and ended up DNF-ing. Even though Tess of the Road is not classified as Seraphina #3, it really is. It’s set in the same world, most of the same characters, just focusing on a different main character. Same series, spin-off series, either way… I really should have skipped over this one. Hartman’s world building is spectacular but I continue to struggle with the pacing of her stories.

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

Life’s Too Short – The Simplicity of Cider, Tess of the Road, Strange FireStrange Fire by Tommy Wallach
Narrator: Julia Whelan, Joy Osmanski, Madeleine Maby, Corey Brill, Jacques Roy, Gibson Frazier
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on October 3rd 2017
Pages: 386
Length: 9 hours and 35 minutes
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: We All Looked Up, Thanks for the Trouble

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It only takes a spark.

They said that the first generation of man was brought low by its appetites: for knowledge, for wealth, for power. They said mankind’s voracity was so great, the Lord sent his own Daughter to bring fire and devastation to the world.

The survivors were few, but over the course of centuries, they banded together to form a new civilization—the Descendancy—founded on the belief that the mistakes of the past must never be repeated.

Brothers Clive and Clover Hamill, the sons of a well-respected Descendant minister, have spent their lives spreading that gospel. But when their traveling ministry discovers a community intent on rediscovering the blasphemous technologies of the past, a chain of events will be set in motion that will pit city against city…and brother against brother.

Along with Gemma Poplin, Clive’s childhood sweetheart, and Paz Dedios, a revolutionary who dreams of overthrowing the Descendancy, Clive and Clover will each play a pivotal role in determining the outcome of this holy war, and the fate of humanity itself.

DNF @ 10%

I understand that the whole purpose of a blurb is to quickly encourage readers to pick it up, but when you do, and the blurb is nothing like it promised, that’s mighty disappointing. Oregon Trail meets Westworld was what hooked me and caused me so much excitement I admittedly didn’t even read the rest of the blurb (although this is a rampant problem for me.) If I had read the entire blurb I would have been immediately put off by the excessive religiousness and would’ve skipped this. But nooooo…. my 10-year-old brain started daydreaming of Oregon Trail instead.

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Strange Fire is told from the point of view of two brothers from a religious society that views technology to be the root of all evil. It’s less fantasy and more futuristic dystopian but possessed an essence of more popular dystopian novels (Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, Handmaid’s Tale, as well as the more recent Blood Red Road.) The writing was well done but the plot was slow to build which makes more sense when you consider it’s the start of a series. I tried to keep an open mind regarding the religious aspects but this ultimately just failed to capture my interest.

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Life’s Too Short – Lost Boy, The Afterlife of Holly Chase, Catalina

December 14, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, Life's Too Short 4 Comments

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

Life’s Too Short – Lost Boy, The Afterlife of Holly Chase, CatalinaLost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry
Published by Berkley Books on July 4th 2017
Pages: 292
Genres: Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Alice, Red Queen

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From the national bestselling author of Alice comes a familiar story with a dark hook—a tale about Peter Pan and the friend who became his nemesis, a nemesis who may not be the blackhearted villain Peter says he is…

There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. This is how it happened. How I went from being Peter Pan’s first—and favorite—lost boy to his greatest enemy.

Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter's idea of fun is sharper than a pirate’s sword. Because it’s never been all fun and games on the island. Our neighbors are pirates and monsters. Our toys are knife and stick and rock—the kinds of playthings that bite.

Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever.

DNF @ page 77

I went into this with insanely high hopes because 1. I love a good villain retelling and 2. I loved The Chronicles of Alice but despite this, I don’t think high expectations is what caused me to DNF. I was fine with Peter being a more tarnished version of the Peter we all already know and I was fine with Jamie being a decent human being because that just means we get to see the path he ended up on that resulted in Captain Hook. No, what was disappointing was the writing. This was an extremely violent retelling (not an issue for me) but it’s written like it’s a Young Adult novel. Lost Boy was also marketed somewhat towards the YA crowd, what with the influx of fairy tale popularity, which would possibly explain the difference in writing styles between Alice and Lost Boy. It could also be argued that it was written in such a way because the characters themselves were children, however, these are “children” that have been children for many decades, locked in their children bodies while they remain in Neverland. I feel like they would have still matured in some sense over time. Regardless of why it was written this way, I didn’t care for it, it was slow and plodding and the characters and world were under-developed relying on existing impressions of a widely known tale.

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

Life’s Too Short – Lost Boy, The Afterlife of Holly Chase, CatalinaThe Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
Published by HarperTeen on October 24th 2017
Pages: 389
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: Unearthly, Hallowed, Boundless

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On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she'd become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn't.

And then she died.

Now she's stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge--as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly's afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . .

DNF @ 3%

No, I didn’t get far enough into this story for it to begin to differentiate between its classic inspiration, but Holly Chase is a horrid brat. Much like Ebeneezer Scrooge but I guess I can handle that kind of behavior in a horribly cranky old man versus a self-entitled teenager who is cruel to the housekeeper. Honestly, this is Mean Girls: the Christmas version; if Regina George was visited by the three ghosts of Christmas. I’m not here for that.

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

Life’s Too Short – Lost Boy, The Afterlife of Holly Chase, CatalinaCatalina: A Novel by Liska Jacobs
Published by FSG Originals on November 7th 2017
Pages: 240
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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A magnetic, provocative debut novel chronicling a young woman's downward spiral following the end of an affair

Elsa Fisher is headed for rock bottom. At least, that's her plan. She has just been fired from MoMA on the heels of an affair with her married boss, and she retreats to Los Angeles to blow her severance package on whatever it takes to numb the pain. Her abandoned crew of college friends (childhood friend Charlotte and her wayward husband, Jared; and Elsa's ex-husband, Robby) receive her with open arms, and, thinking she's on vacation, a plan to celebrate their reunion on a booze-soaked sailing trip to Catalina Island.

But Elsa doesn't want to celebrate. She is lost, lonely, and full of rage, and only wants to sink as low as the drugs and alcohol will take her. On Catalina, her determined unraveling and recklessness expose painful memories and dark desires, putting everyone in the group at risk.

With the creeping menace of Patricia Highsmith and the bender-chic of Bret Easton Ellis, Liska Jacobs brings you inside the mind of an angry, reckless young woman hell-bent on destruction--every page taut with the knowledge that Elsa's path does not lead to a happy place. Catalina is a compulsive, deliciously dark exploration of beauty, love, and friendship, and the sometimes toxic desires that drive us.

DNF @ 3%

I read a single chapter of this book. It was enough. Catalina is the story of Elsa Fisher, a woman that spirals out of control after her affair with her married boss is discovered. She returns home, to a place where she never wanted to return to, to people she never wanted to see again, but she slips easily back into that life. Except everything is a tragedy because well, life is just so hard.

“Charly? She will definitely want to go shopping. And we will get Frappuccinos with skim milk, and try on dresses, and talk about whatever argument she and Jared are currently in the middle of. God, how exhausting to be back.”

I guess I never really understood why she HAD to go back home. Sure, maybe that’s explained in a later chapter, but she’s introduced as this martyr that loses her job and just gives up and goes back home. Why didn’t she try to get a new job? Why do I care? Oh wait, I don’t.

“The room-service boy lingers, saying he thinks redheads are pretty. He’s young and breakable and it would feel so goddamn good to break something.”

Yeah, Elsa Fisher is a pleasant individual. Real likable.

“I shower with my drink and take one of Mother’s Vicodins.”

Oh goodie. I picked up the novelization of a soap opera. Hard pass.

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Life’s Too Short – Surprise Me, Ultraluminous, All the Crooked Saints

December 8, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, Life's Too Short 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.

Life’s Too Short – Surprise Me, Ultraluminous, All the Crooked SaintsSurprise Me by Sophie Kinsella
Published by Dial Press on February 13th 2018
Pages: 432
Genres: Chick-Lit
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Wedding Night, My Not So Perfect Life

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After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other's sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. They never expected "until death do us part" to mean seven decades.

In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprise Me, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that question some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all.

DNF @ 25%

The only thing that came as a surprise was this DNF.

Honestly, I only read as much as I did because of my love of Kinsella. You know those stories that start off fairly mediocre and you just keep thinking (in this case, HOPING) that it’ll get better? It started off mildly intriguing: life is perfect for this couple, they have two beautiful children, good jobs, a happy life, and they even complete one another’s sentences. *groan* The two go to the doctor to get physicals at which point the doctor informs them they are perfectly healthy and they should plan on living long, long lives. Then he says: “You should have sixty-eight more wonderful years of marriage!” And then everything goes wrong. Because of course, they didn’t even consider the fact that they’d live that long, never thought about long-term being that long when it came to being married.

“We’ve got so much time.”
“But what are we going to do with it, Sylvie? How are we going to fill the endless, soulless years of mindless drone work? Where’s the joy in our lives?” He looks around the kitchen with a questing gaze, as though it might be in a jar labeled joy, next to turmeric.

Even though everything is perfectly fine and they have happy lives, now they have to deal with the concept that they’re going to have to be with one another for SO LONG. Come on. Hello, till death do us part? This is why everyone fucking gets divorced these days. Nobody stops to consider what it actually means, what you’re committing to, argh. I just found the whole concept stupid. And I’m sure they get over it and get back to being perfectly happy with their kids and white picket fence but I didn’t really care if they worked it out or not. Plus? There was this weird obsession with her dead father and lines like this:

‘Here in the privacy of my own mind, where no one else can hear, I can say it: To the outside world, Dan isn’t in the same league as my father. He doesn’t have the gloss, the money, the stature, the charitable achievements.’

Not just comparing your father to your husband, who in your mind is lacking in comparison, but comparing your dead father to your husband… nope. I’m done.

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

Life’s Too Short – Surprise Me, Ultraluminous, All the Crooked SaintsUltraluminous: A Novel by Katherine Faw Morris, Katherine Faw
Published by MCD on December 5th 2017
Pages: 176
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Young God

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Girlfriend. Prostitute. Addict. Terrorist? Who is K?

Ultraluminous, the daring new novel from Katherine Faw, the brilliant author of Young God, follows one year in the life of a high-end, girlfriend-experience prostitute. She has just returned to her native New York City after more than a decade abroad—in the capitals of Asia and the Middle East, her last stop Dubai, with a man she recalls only as the Sheikh—but it’s unclear why exactly she’s come back. Did things go badly for her? Does she have scores to settle?

Regardless, she has quickly made herself at home. She’s set up a rotation of clients—all of them in finance, and each of whom has different delusions of how he is important to her. And she’s also met a man whom she doesn’t charge—a damaged former Army Ranger, back from Afghanistan, and a fellow long-time heroin addict.

Her days are strangely orderly: a repetition of dinners, personal grooming, museum exhibitions, sex, Duane Reades (she likes the sushi), cosmology, sex, gallery shows, heroin, sex, and art films (which she finds soothing). The pattern is comforting, but does she really believe it’s sustainable? Or do the barely discernible rifts in her routine suggest that something else is percolating under the surface? Could she have fallen for one of her bankers? Or do those supposed rifts suggest a pattern within the pattern, a larger scheme she’s not showing us, a truth that won’t be revealed until we can see everything?

DNF @ 6%

I read Young God, so I did know what I was getting into by requesting this one. Or at least I thought I did. Ultraluminous is the story of a prostitute named K who makes up a different name for each new guy. No one else in this story has an actual name either. There’s the bodega guy. The art guy. The calf’s brain guy. The guy who buys’s me things. The junk-bond guy. I understand that the character herself named these characters as such as a lack of caring, deeming it unnecessary to know them personally given her job, but it resulted in an odd experience when reading about it. Her stories about each guy are told in snippets with little to no differentiation between each, almost as if it was a string of her recalling these memories instead of living them in real-time. It was easy to fall into this story and ride this strange stream of consciousness type wave but it was hard to find any entertainment in the sparseness.

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

Life’s Too Short – Surprise Me, Ultraluminous, All the Crooked SaintsAll the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Published by Scholastic Press on October 10th 2017
Pages: 320
Genres: Magical Realism
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Shiver, Forever, The Raven Boys

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Here is a thing everyone wants: a miracle.Here is a thing everyone fears: what it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

DNF @ page 42

The moment I realized I wasn’t going to be able to finish a Stiefvater and I’d be forced to DNF:

I started this immediately when I got it but set it aside after a few pages. I thought it was because, at the time, I was in the midst of a major book slump so I attributed it to that but I had serious problems this time around as well. All the Crooked Saints is this strange, unexpected sort of magical realism. For me though, magical realism needs to be centered in realism. The magical aspects need to feel like a different type of reality but something that’s wholly possible. The magical realism here was just bizarre and out there and simply didn’t work for me. Also, the characters themselves were completely unlikable and were ridiculously pretentious. But there were a few lines I saved and a few lines I saw saved on Goodreads that caused a raised eyebrow or two:

‘She was so mean that she even killed her own name, and now people just pointed to her.’

‘She had been wearing artificial eyelashes in the womb and when they had fallen off in the birth canal, she had lost no time in replacing them.’

‘She formed pots out of clay that were so striking that sometimes, when she went to gather clay for a new one, she discovered that the clay had eagerly already begun to shape itself for her. Her voice was so well trained that bulls would lie down when they heard her sing. […] She could ride two horses at the same time, one leg on each horse, and still hold down her skirt to maintain her modesty, if she felt like it. Her segueza, developed from an ancient recipe, was so excellent that time itself stood still while you were eating it in order to savor the flavor along with you.’

Some may read these lines and think they’re gorgeous, but I can’t deal with an entire book full of that. Even a Stiefvater.

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

June 2, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Life's Too Short, YA 8 Comments

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

Life’s Too Short – If We Were Villains, Ill Will, YesternightIf We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
Published by Flatiron Books on April 11th 2017
Pages: 352
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Enter the players. There were seven of us then, seven bright young things with wide precious futures ahead of us. Until that year, we saw no further than the books in front of our faces.

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

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

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

DNF @ 10%

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

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

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

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

Life’s Too Short – If We Were Villains, Ill Will, YesternightIll Will by Dan Chaon
Published by Ballantine Books on March 7th 2017
Pages: 480
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Two sensational unsolved crimes—one in the past, another in the present—are linked by one man’s memory and self-deception in this chilling novel of literary suspense from National Book Award finalist Dan Chaon.

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

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

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

DNF @ 25%

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

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

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

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

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

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

DNF @ 10%

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

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

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

Life’s Too Short: Lincoln in the Bardo, Exit West, The WanderersLincoln in the Bardo: A Novel by George Saunders
Published by Random House Audio Publishing Group on February 14th 2017
Length: 7 hours and 25 minutes
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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The long-awaited first novel from the author of Tenth of December: a moving and original father-son story featuring none other than Abraham Lincoln, as well as an unforgettable cast of supporting characters, living and dead, historical and invented

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

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

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

DNF @ 3%

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

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

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

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

Life’s Too Short: Lincoln in the Bardo, Exit West, The WanderersExit West: A Novel by Mohsin Hamid
Published by Riverhead Books on March 7th 2017
Pages: 240
Genres: Magical Realism, Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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In a country teetering on the brink of civil war, two young people meet—sensual, fiercely independent Nadia and gentle, restrained Saeed. They embark on a furtive love affair and are soon cloistered in a premature intimacy by the unrest roiling their city. When it explodes, turning familiar streets into a patchwork of checkpoints and bomb blasts, they begin to hear whispers about doors—doors that can whisk people far away, if perilously and for a price. As the violence escalates, Nadia and Saeed decide that they no longer have a choice. Leaving their homeland and their old lives behind, they find a door and step through.

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

DNF @ 15%

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

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

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

…hilariously reminded me of this meme:

Life’s Too Short: Lincoln in the Bardo, Exit West, The WanderersThe Wanderers by Meg Howrey
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on March 14th 2017
Pages: 384
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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In four years Prime Space will put the first humans on Mars. Helen Kane, Yoshi Tanaka, and Sergei Kuznetsov must prove they’re the crew for the job by spending seventeen months in the most realistic simulation every created.

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

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

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

DNF @ 5%

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

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