Posts Categorized: Read in 2014

Banned Books Week – Brokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx

September 27, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 2 Comments

Banned Books Week – Brokeback Mountain by Annie ProulxBrokeback Mountain by Annie Proulx
Narrator: Campbell Scott
Published by Scribner on October 13, 1997
Length: 1 hour and 4 minutes
Genres: Contemporary, LGBTQIA, Romance, Western
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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three-stars

Annie Proulx has written some of the most original and brilliant short stories in contemporary literature, and for many readers and reviewers, "Brokeback Mountain" is her masterpiece.

Ennis del Mar and Jack Twist, two ranch hands, come together when they're working as sheepherder and camp tender one summer on a range above the tree line. At first, sharing an isolated tent, the attraction is casual, inevitable, but something deeper catches them that summer.

Both men work hard, marry, and have kids because that's what cowboys do. But over the course of many years and frequent separations this relationship becomes the most important thing in their lives, and they do anything they can to preserve it.

The New Yorker won the National Magazine Award for Fiction for its publication of "Brokeback Mountain," and the story was included in Prize Stories 1998: The O. Henry Awards. In gorgeous and haunting prose, Proulx limns the difficult, dangerous affair between two cowboys that survives everything but the world's violent intolerance.

‘There was some open space between what he knew and what he tried to believe, but nothing could be done about it, and if you can’t fix it you’ve got to stand it.’

 Brokeback Mountain is the well-known story, written by Annie Proulx, about two Wyoming ranch hands that fall in love one summer in 1963. The two inevitably separate and continue on with their lives, both marrying and starting their own families. Their affair continues though for the next twenty years and is a constant source of both anguish and bliss for both parties.

This story is a short one, just 64 pages, but Proulx’s writing manages to still fully express the tenacity of Ennis and Jack’s bond with one another. While that tenacity was fully expressed, I did still wish for more of an in-depth look at the two of them by the final page. Their ending came much too soon. I had never seen the movie before, only knowing it as the movie about the gay cowboys. Admittedly, sure, it is about two gay cowboys but setting aside that unnecessary description, what this story truly is at heart is a story about passion and longing. It’s about finding that one person that you can’t get enough of. That one person that without them, your life is missing a vital piece of the puzzle. It’s a touching and heartbreaking story that will leave you wishing for even half of that type of passion in your life.

In 2005, St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Austin, Texas returned a 3 million dollar donation rather than submit to that donor’s request that Brokeback Mountain be removed from the list of optional reading for twelfth graders.

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Banned Books Week – The Giver (The Giver Quartet #1) by Lois Lowry

September 26, 2014 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2014, YA 4 Comments

Banned Books Week – The Giver (The Giver Quartet #1) by Lois LowryThe Giver by Lois Lowry
Series: The Giver Quartet #1
Published by Listening Library on February 27, 2001
Length: 4 hours and 51 minutes
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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three-stars

December is the time of the annual Ceremony at which each twelve-year-old receives a life assignment determined by the Elders. Jonas watches his friend Fiona named Caretaker of the Old and his cheerful pal Asher labeled the Assistant Director of Recreation. But Jonas has been chosen for something special. When his selection leads him to an unnamed man, the man called only the Giver, he begins to sense the dark secrets that underlie the fragile perfection of his world.

Told with deceptive simplicity, this is the provocative story of a boy who experiences something incredible and undertakes something impossible. In the telling it questions every value we have taken for granted and reexamines our most deeply held beliefs.

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”

The Giver tells the story of Jonas, an eleven-year old boy living in an ‘ideal’ dystopian society where everyone lives complacently without pain, fear or emotion of any kind. Babies are born to Birthmothers and then become assigned to family units. Children are given medication daily in order to repress their sexual urges. People are assigned spouses based on their compatibility with one another. Each individuals purpose in society is also assigned at the Ceremony of Twelve where they are told what their job will be for the rest of their living lives. It’s at this Ceremony when Jonas is informed that he is being given the honor of becoming the new Receiver of Memory, the sole holder of all community memories, including the painful memories of the past. The Giver, the old man that Jonas will be replacing as the Receiver of Memory, begins to transfer all of his memories straight to Jonas. From these memories, Jonas is able to see the flaws of his world and of it could be, a world with emotion and where people have the freedom to choose.

The Giver opens with the understanding that all members of this society are living in a Utopia as everyone is content and satisfied living in their impossibly ideal living conditions. No one questions this, it’s just become a fact of their lives. When Jonas turns twelve and is introduced to a vastly different version of his world, he at least begins to understand how far from perfect their society truly is. Everything is pre-determined with everyone living their lives akin to a robot doing only what they are told and what is expected of them. In that regards, I had a similar reaction when I read The Handmaid’s Tale about the scary possibility of how different life ‘could be’. With that read though, the world-building aspects were much more on point. The Giver had a complete lack of explanation when it came to how this society came to be. The only thing we as a reader are given is that in order to eliminate pain and suffering they had to remove/give up their memories. The end result was society didn’t spend time dwelling on past pains and their lack of memories meant they would never be repeated again. But how did this happen? How did they transfer all past memories to one single individual? It’s an incredibly interesting concept but I needed a little bit more detail for it all to make good solid sense. Adding to that, once Jonas is in possession of the memories and history of the society, he immediately begins to rebel against it all. The reasoning behind his immediate decision was sketchy at best and slightly unbelievable but I think for the reader (especially a young reader) it was a hard one to question since we already knew that the society was flawed and knew if we were in that situation we would also run far, far away from it.

I’ve been meaning to read this book for a long time. Being a fan of dystopian I’ve come across too many books being compared to The Giver I had to see for myself whether these comparisons were accurate. My 13-year-old stepdaughter came home with it one day and told me about her class assigning it to read and a few days later after having finished it she praised it lavishly and recommended I read it so we could talk about it. Can’t say no to that. While I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as she did, I think it’s an important novel and an interesting concept to consider. It’s eye-opening in the sense that it makes us realize in comparison just how many freedoms we personally have. The Giver is all about controlling thoughts and feelings, the censorship of emotions. Kind of ironic that it’s being censored/banned in our school systems, no?

 

thegiverchart01

Photo courtesy of Slate

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Banned Books Week – Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

September 25, 2014 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2014, YA 12 Comments

Banned Books Week – Eleanor & Park by Rainbow RowellEleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell
Narrator: Rebecca Lowman, Sunil Malhotra
Published by Listening Library on February 26, 2013
Length: 8 hours and 56 minutes
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Attachments, Landline

three-stars

Two misfits.
One extraordinary love.

Eleanor... Red hair, wrong clothes. Standing behind him until he turns his head. Lying beside him until he wakes up. Making everyone else seem drabber and flatter and never good enough...Eleanor.

Park... He knows she'll love a song before he plays it for her. He laughs at her jokes before she ever gets to the punch line. There's a place on his chest, just below his throat, that makes her want to keep promises...Park.

Set over the course of one school year, this is the story of two star-crossed sixteen-year-olds—smart enough to know that first love almost never lasts, but brave and desperate enough to try.

 

“You saved my life, she tried to tell him. Not forever, not for good. Probably just temporarily. But you saved my life, and now I’m yours. The me that’s me right now is yours. Always.”

It’s 1986 and Eleanor is forever the odd girl out at school due to a combination of her weight, her crazy red hair (causing the nickname “Big Red”) and her eclectic fashion sense. Her home life isn’t any more glamorous where she lives with her mother, her cruel step-father and her group of siblings that all share a room with her. School might not be the sanctuary she might hope for but it’s still an escape. One day, not finding a single seat on the bus, she takes a seat next to half-Korean Park who is almost just as much of an outcast as Eleanor. They begin sitting next to each other every day, not saying a single word to one another and slowly but surely, their relationship grows over comic books and music without words being spoken.

I went a long time without picking this one up. Mostly because I’m extremely selective when it comes to contemporary YA but I had read (other than Fangirl) all of Rowell’s other books and I figured I should at least give it a shot. I didn’t find any real issue with it but it wasn’t a breakthrough novel for me. It likely didn’t help it that I had read Pushing the Limits earlier this year which is extremely similar: opposites attract, one of the two have a bad home life, they develop a strong and ‘unbreakable’ bond that changes their lives. I didn’t really care for Pushing the Limits and I felt about the same for Eleanor & Park. It must be said though that I appreciated the less than perfect girl, Eleanor was overweight with crazy hair and has a mad love for music. I wanted to love her. I loved how we didn’t have the obligatory insta-love, but rather a slow-building love that developed in silence. I wanted to love it, I really did.

When we aren’t given glimpses of Eleanor & Park falling in love, we’re shown just how awful and terrible Eleanor’s home life is. She has to make sure to take her baths when her step-father isn’t home since their bathroom is lacking a door, she can’t afford a toothbrush or batteries for her Walkman which is everything to her, she’s not allowed to have friends over and she’s interrogated fiercely if she leaves the house. Her mother, in fear of her husband, won’t help her and leaves her to suffer his wrath alone. It was heartbreaking yet resonated an honesty that I think is sorely lacking in most YA contemporary. While it was heartbreaking though, it was also hopeful, because Park gave Eleanor a much-needed spark that she needed in her life.

So where did it go wrong for me? I loved their slow-build love, their lack of vocalizing, it was obscure and different from any other love story I had read before. It didn’t stick to that same path though, it ended up veering off into typical territory with them declaring their undying love for one another after a few short weeks. I can completely understand finding that person that gives you that spark when you need it most in your life, but must it always transform into an “I simply cannot live without you. I will die.” It’s overboard and dramatic. Their bonding over comic books and music was wonderful and built a friendship between the two of them before the romantic feelings ever came. I kind of wish that it would have been kept as a friendship because I never truly felt the attraction between the two of them like I should have. The aspects of this book I loved, mostly the beginning, still made this well worth the read and I’m glad that I finally picked this up.

From a post on BookRiot “…members of the district’s Parents Action League deemed the Rowell’s breakout YA novel Eleanor & Park “dangerously obscene.” The”too hot for teens and taxpayer money” novel was ordered off school library shelves and there was a call to discipline the school librarians who chose the book.” Also, “The Parent Action League cited 227 instances of profanity in the book (including 67 “Gods”, 24 “Jesuses,” and four “Christs.”) as well as crude and sexually charged material that was inappropriate for students.” Despite my less than glamorous rating, I still feel like this is a valuable read that will open teens eyes and I would personally recommend it to my teens to read. Sure, there’s profanity. Sure, you’d like it if your teens don’t use it but regardless of how sheltered you keep them it’s simply not possible to shelter them from everything. Dangerously obscene. You know what’s dangerously obscene? Banning books. The only thing we’re accomplishing is making sure that our future generations are narrow-minded and in denial about the realities of the world.

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Book Review – Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne

September 20, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, Middle Grade, Read in 2014 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.

Book Review – Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma TrevayneFlights and Chimes and Mysterious Times by Emma Trevayne
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers on May 13th 2014
Pages: 320
Genres: Steampunk
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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three-stars

Ten-year-old Jack Foster has stepped through a doorway and into quite a different London.

Londinium is a smoky, dark, and dangerous place, home to mischievous metal fairies and fearsome clockwork dragons that breathe scalding steam. The people wear goggles to protect their eyes, brass grill insets in their nostrils to filter air, or mechanical limbs to replace missing ones.

Over it all rules the Lady, and the Lady has demanded a new son—a perfect flesh-and-blood child. She has chosen Jack.

Jack’s wonder at the magic and steam-powered marvels in Londinium lasts until he learns he is the pawn in a very dangerous game. The consequences are deadly, and his only hope of escape, of returning home, lies with a legendary clockwork bird.

The Gearwing grants wishes. Or it did, before it was broken. Before it was killed.

But some things don’t stay dead forever.

Jack Foster is your typical ‘dissatisfied with life ‘ ten-year-old boy who is constantly left to fend for himself, in terms of entertainment, by his mostly absent parents. When he follows a man by the name of Lorcan Havelock through a magical doorway set in a clock tower in London, he finds himself in a strange and mysterious ‘other’ version of London. This land is known as Londinium .

‘A land of brass and steel and clockwork, of steam and airships, cogs that turned and wheels that spin. He half wondered if he was dreaming, so perfect was this place, and would wake in his bed to the sound of Mrs. Pond clattering the breakfast things in the kitchen below.’

Jack is mesmerized by this new world he’s found himself in and has no desire to try to find his way back to where he came from, figuring that his parents won’t likely miss him anyways. The air quality is poor and causes his lungs to ache but all the wonderful things made out of metal far outweigh any bad aspects in his mind. After stumbling upon a cage containing a clockwork girl named Beth, she takes him to Dr. Snailwater who tells him the truth behind the man named Lorcan.

​’​Portraits lined the walls […] All were of boys who could pass for Jack’s brothers, had he any, the oils faded and cracked, some more than others. Dozens of them.’​

Lorcan Havelock was sent to London by the ruler of Londinium, a woman only known by the name of ‘Lady’, to procure for her a perfect human boy that she can play with and love. Lorcan was her previous (and not only) son but he has grown old, while the Lady has not, and she requires a new child. Lorcan was a surprisingly terrible and unforgivable type of villain that did truly awful things. I felt the acts of violence were extreme for a Middle-Grade book (including daily hangings that go on for far too long) but Lorcan was still a small child at heart that only wished to be loved again by the Lady. Nonetheless, his actions were shocking.

​​’Most of all, the open door beside the stairs, the maddeningly incomplete glimpses of the engine in the room beyond. He ran to it, through it, engulfed by the sound. It was like nothing Jack had ever seen. The enormity of it, the clouds of steam thick enough to blanket the whole sky, sucked from the room by a shaft that led upward. Every metal part, tiny and huge, playing its well-oiled part. Spinning, hissing, churning.’

The single most lovely thing about this book was the imaginative descriptions of this parallel world. Her descriptions of clockwork dragons and magic made it easy to understand what made Jack so spellbound. The descriptions alone will keep the reader invested but upon closer examination, one would have questions abound regarding what exactly makes this world tick. It lacks a clarity and feels akin to a hazy dream, but then again this is a magical world so maybe that’s to be expected. The characters were also written in a hazy, imprecise manner and added detail into who they were (most especially the Lady) would have been well-received. While I loved the world Travayne created, I didn’t feel it fulfilled it’s potential especially with the lackluster ending.

Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times will appeal to fans of steampunk (or readers looking to try out the genre) and middle-grade readers will likely be mesmerized just as Jack was.

The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making (Fairyland #1) by Catherynne M. Valente {PurchaseMy Review}
Liesl & Po by Lauren Oliver {Purchase}
Wildwood (Wildwood Chronicles #1) by Colin Meloy {Purchase}

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Early Review – The Ploughmen: A Novel by Kim Zupan

September 19, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2014 3 Comments

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

Early Review – The Ploughmen: A Novel by Kim ZupanThe Ploughmen: A Novel by Kim Zupan
Published by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) on September 30th 2014
Pages: 272
Genres: Western
Format: ARC
Source: Library Thing
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four-stars

A young sheriff and a hardened killer form an uneasy and complicated bond in this mesmerizing first novel set on the plains of Montana.

Steeped in a lonesome Montana landscape as unyielding and raw as it is beautiful, Kim Zupan's The Ploughmen is a new classic in the literature of the American West.

At the center of this searing, fever dream of a novel are two men—a killer awaiting trial, and a troubled young deputy—sitting across from each other in the dark, talking through the bars of a county jail cell: John Gload, so brutally adept at his craft that only now, at the age of 77, has he faced the prospect of long-term incarceration and Valentine Millimaki, low man in the Copper County sheriff’s department, who draws the overnight shift after Gload’s arrest. With a disintegrating marriage further collapsing under the strain of his night duty, Millimaki finds himself seeking counsel from a man whose troubled past shares something essential with his own. Their uneasy friendship takes a startling turn with a brazen act of violence that yokes together two haunted souls by the secrets they share, and by the rugged country that keeps them.

 ​”One thing I always did, Val, was to live my life. It wasn’t a particularly interesting life but it was on my terms. Now in here I’m just living it out. […] Now it’s just waiting. It’s only a life technically because you’re breathing in and out. Putting in the time until you clock out.”

The Ploughmen is a meandering tale that switches point of view between two men: John Gload, a 77 year old that has spent his life as a contract killer but is inevitably caught and his jailer, Valentine Millimaki who is a quiet and introspective man with a painful past and difficult personal issues he’s currently dealing with between him and his wife. These two men strike up a surprisingly quick bond between one another during Millimaki’s graveyard shifts at the jail, reminiscing on their lives, connecting in twilight over their shared bouts of insomnia.

​​​’Then he corrected himself, said no, that’s not quite exactly right, it wasn’t tricking himself but tricking the insomnia, which he imagined as a palpable thing, a kind of shade or haunt that bent over him in his repose, passing rattling hand bones in the air above him to ward off the visitation of sweet slumber.​’

There is violence but little action, mostly reflection, between the pages of this small yet potent novel. The Ploughmen is a somber story about life and hardships and learning to simply survive them. It’s written in such a way without a clear sequence of events, which I attributed to Millimaki’s continued sleepless days and nights, but doesn’t leave the reader feeling groggy but instead with that dreamy weightless feel.

​​’Perhaps she’d stood gazing uncomprehendingly at the emerging stars, in their milky light superimposing the enormous order wheeling overhead onto the map that seemed to hold her life in its obtuse loops and lines.’

Even if the story is not one you would typically read, the skillful writing style that Zupan possesses makes it completely worthwhile just for the experience alone. Stark yet completely stunning, the incredibly descriptive passages tell a story all on their own. The Ploughmen is an incredibly impressive debut and I can only hope that it’s not the last we’ve seen of this talented author.

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Book Review – Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard

September 18, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2014, YA 4 Comments

Book Review – Wanderlove by Kirsten HubbardWanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard
Published by Delacorte Books for Young Readers on March 13, 2012
Pages: 354
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Travel
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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two-stars

Are you a Global Vagabond?

No, but 18-year-old Bria wants to be. In a quest for independence, her neglected art, and no-strings-attached hookups, she signs up for a tour of Central America—the wrong one. Middle-aged tourists are hardly the key to self-rediscovery.

So when Bria meets Rowan, devoted backpacker and dive instructor, and his outspoken sister Starling, she seizes the chance to ditch her group and join them off the beaten path. Bria's a good girl trying to go bad. Rowan's a bad boy trying to stay good. As they travel through Mayan villages and remote Belizean islands, they discover they're both seeking to leave behind the old versions of themselves. The secret to escaping the past, Rowan's found, is to keep moving forward. But Bria realizes she can't run forever. At some point, you have to look back.

“See, wanderlust is like itchy feet.” […] “It’s when you can’t settle down. But Wanderlove is much deeper than that… it’s a compulsion. It’s the difference between lust and love.”

Wanderlove is a coming of age story about Bria, an 18 recent high school graduate who is getting over her first bad breakup. Her and her ex had been planning a trip together but after the breakup, she decides it’d still be a good idea to go off by herself to gain some much-needed independence.

So… Wanderlove. Easily one of those books I’ve been wanting to read forever but because of the hype, I had been putting it off. And so two years later, I finally picked it up. Gawd. Was this ever one giant massive disappointment. Baa Baa Black Sheep, I know.

I was initially interested in this because I have a strong desire to travel the world someday, but don’t we all? Given this fantastic opportunity to travel wherever she chose to before going off to college seemed like a dream come true. The one thing I loved about this novel was the vivid descriptions of her surroundings. They definitely made me want to see the sights first-hand. The one thing I did not love was Bria. Bria’s heart was in the right place, having the desire to gain some independence and feel like she could get out into the world and take proper care of herself without anybody else. I could understand and appreciate that need to prove to yourself that you can do it on your own.

The trip started off right, but it slowly morphed into Bria trying to be somebody completely different, somebody that wasn’t even close to her seemingly true personality. It felt out of character despite how little I knew of her as a character. Then issues started coming out about things that she refused to do, primarily swimming, which we’re told had something to do with her ex-boyfriend. I feared the worst, thinking some sort of violence happened to her in the water. No, it was far less dramatic than that.

View Spoiler »

There were other major issues I had and most of them had to do with Bria putting her trust into strangers and going off with them into the mountains of Central America without even informing her parents she was leaving her tour group. Now maybe I’m a little hardened having seen Taken one too many times, but that whole situation was a recipe for disaster. Of course, nothing of the sort happened and Liam didn’t need to come save her but the possibility of disaster ruined the whole ‘adventure’ for me. Add to that, as the book progressed it slowly became less about independence and more about the new guy she found.

Overall, I was massively disappointed. I wanted this to be more ‘coming-of-age’ and less ‘romance’ and I definitely wanted to love it like everyone else seems to. Bria’s desire for independence kept me reading in hopes that she’d truly find it but the end result had me wishing I had quit while I was ahead.

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Audiobook Review – Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher

September 13, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 3 Comments

Audiobook Review – Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) by Jim ButcherStorm Front by Jim Butcher
Narrator: James Marsters
Series: The Dresden Files #1
Published by Buzzy Multimedia Publishing Corp. on June 10, 2009
Length: 8 hours and 1 minute
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
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three-half-stars

Meet Harry Dresden, Chicago's first (and only) Wizard P.I. Turns out the "everyday" world is full of strange and magical things—and most of them don't play well with humans. That's where Harry comes in. Harry is the best at what he does—and not just because he's the only one who does it. So when the Chicago P.D. has a case that transcends mortal capabilities, they look to him for answers. There's just one problem. Business, to put it mildly, stinks. So when the police bring him in to consult on a grisly double murder committed with black magic, Harry's seeing dollar signs. But where there's black magic, there's a black mage behind it. And now that mage knows Harry's name. And that's when things start to get…interesting. Magic—it can get a guy killed.

‘I don’t want to live in a world where the strong rule and the weak cower. I’d rather make a place where things are a little quieter. Where trolls stay the hell under their bridges and where elves don’t come swooping out to snatch children from their cradles. Where vampires respect the limits, and where the faeries mind their p’s and q’s. My name is Harry Blackstone Copperfield Dresden. Conjure by it at your own risk. When things get strange, when what goes bump in the night flicks on the lights, when no one else can help you, give me a call. I’m in the book.’

Harry is a detective but also a wizard; the only one in the city of Chicago. He’s going through some hard times currently and haven’t worked enough jobs recently to pay the rent (or buy food for that matter) and when a job comes knocking on his door he doesn’t think twice. Monica Sells is the traditional damsel in distress that hires Harry to help her find her husband. Karrin Murphy is the head of the Special Investigations Department of the Chicago police department and needs Harry’s help in solving a recent double homicide where a man and woman had their hearts ripped out ‘mid-coitus’. In addition to homicides and missing husbands, Harry is dealing with Chicago’s crime boss who has a personal interest in seeing that Harry doesn’t solve the murder case. So basically just a typical day in the life of Harry Dresden.

Storm Front, the beginning of the massive fifteen (at the moment) installments in the widely known Harry Dresden series. Fifteen installments being the reason I’ve been so leery about picking this series but I’m so glad I finally did. I can count several Urban Fantasy series I love because of the empowered snarky main character with the best sense of humor but they all happy to be female. Not anymore.

‘Smiling always seems to annoy people more than actually insulting them. Or maybe I just have an annoying smile.’

“EASTER HAS BEEN CANCELED – THEY FOUND THE BODY” (T-Shirt worn by Harry)

While this isn’t the most solidly written detective/murder mystery (it was fairly easy to guess what was going on the whole time) it was still entertaining enough with an interesting cast of characters to avoid the urge to skip to the end. I loved the noir feel to Storm Front, Harry had a definite Sam Spade/Philip Marlowe feel to him just with a magical staff and a trench coat. The world-building was well-done without the typical info dump we receive at the beginning of any new series. There were various additions to this world that sets it apart from the rest: The White Council is the group which governs wizards, the Nevernever is a spirit realm and there are also vampires, faeries, demons and other assorted supernatural beasties. It was all very interesting and I look forward to the world being further explored in following installments.

I’ve been told that this is not the strongest installment and that they get better as they progress but I was sufficiently pleased with Storm Front that I will most definitely be picking up Fool Moon soon. The audiobooks made this even more of an entertaining read as they are narrated by James Marsters who does a fabulous job at conveying the proper amount of snarky into Harry’s tone (you can listen to the 1st chapter in full below). Don’t let the 15+ installments frighten you; if you love Urban Fantasy, The Dresden Files is one series you won’t want to miss out on.

Hounded (The Iron Druid Chronicles #1) by Kevin Hearne [PurchaseReview]
White Cat (Curse Workers #1) by Holly Black [PurchaseReview]
Mark of the Demon (Kara Gillian #1) by Diana Rowland [PurchaseReview]

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Early Review – Cry Father by Benjamin Whitmer

September 12, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2014 0 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 – Cry Father by Benjamin WhitmerCry Father by Benjamin Whitmer
Published by Gallery Books on September 16th 2014
Pages: 320
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads


three-half-stars

In the tradition of Cormac McCarthy and Larry Brown comes a haunting story about men, their fathers, their sons, and the legacy of violence.

For Patterson Wells, disaster is the norm. Working alongside dangerous, desperate, itinerant men as a tree clearer in disaster zones, he’s still dealing with the loss of his young son. Writing letters to the boy offers some solace. The bottle gives more.

Upon a return trip to Colorado, Patterson stops to go fishing with an old acquaintance, only to find him in a meth-induced delirium and keeping a woman tied up in the bathtub. In the ensuing chain of events, which will test not only his future but his past, Patterson tries to do the right thing. Still, in the lives of those he knows, violence and justice have made of each other strange, intoxicating bedfellows.

Hailed as "the next great American writer" (Frank Bill, author of Crimes in Southern Indiana), Benjamin Whitmer has crafted a literary triumph that is by turns harrowing, darkly comic, and wise.

“It’s been a hell of a summer for your drinking.”
“It’s been a hell of a summer,” he says, without looking at Patterson.

Patterson Wells is a tree trimmer in disaster zones and is returning home from a job when he stops off to see his friend Chase. He finds Chase “working on a heap of crystal meth the size of his shrunken head.” He also finds a woman hogtied in the bathtub. He sets her free and leaves Chase to work on his heap of meth but this single incident sets in motion a string of violent events that will leave a horrible and indelible mark on his life.

‘I still feel like I’m telling you stories, like it’s the only thing between you being here and not being here. That’s something I have to hold on to, you being here. If I don’t tell you these stories, I got nothing. if I stop, you’re gone.’

Wells has become a man without a purpose, ambling through life, after the death of his son. In order to ease the pain of his absence, he writes in a journal, pretending that he’s telling these stories to his son. These stories succeed in also providing Patterson’s back story and the sequence of events that brought him to this point in his life. When the writing doesn’t quite work to put him at ease he reaches for the bottle which happens more often than not. Not being comfortable with his solidarity, he becomes friends with a drug runner by the name of Junior that gets him far more trouble than he could have ever guessed. What proceeds is extreme gratuitous violence all conducted through the haze of massive amounts of drugs and alcohol.

‘The thought that he’ll probably end up facing a murder charge if he is pulled over does occur to him, but there’s no stopping it. Turns out there’s no better medicine for heartache than surviving a murder attempt and stealing a car.’

If you’re able to see past the violence (serious, there’s a shit ton of it, including animal violence for those that like to be warned) and not let it blur your vision, you’ll find there’s a captivating and well-written story of a man without anything to live for buried beneath it all. This is one for all southern gothic/country noir fans; fans of Donald Ray Pollock, Cormac McCarthy and Daniel Woodrell.

The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock {PurchaseMy Review}
Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell {PurchaseMy Review}
Blood Meridian: Or the Evening Redness in the West by Cormac McCarthy {Purchase}

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Book Review – Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander #8) by Diana Gabaldon

September 11, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 2 Comments

Book Review – Written in My Own Heart’s Blood (Outlander #8) by Diana GabaldonWritten in My Own Heart's Blood by Diana Gabaldon
Series: Outlander #8
Published by Delacorte Press on June 10th 2014
Pages: 848
Genres: Historical Fiction, Time Travel
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Exile: An Outlander Graphic Novel

three-stars

In her now classic novel Outlander, Diana Gabaldon told the story of Claire Randall, an English ex-combat nurse who walks through a stone circle in the Scottish Highlands in 1946, and disappears . . . into 1743. The story unfolded from there in seven bestselling novels, and CNN has called it “a grand adventure written on a canvas that probes the heart, weighs the soul and measures the human spirit across [centuries].” Now the story continues in Written in My Own Heart’s Blood.

1778: France declares war on Great Britain, the British army leaves Philadelphia, and George Washington’s troops leave Valley Forge in pursuit. At this moment, Jamie Fraser returns from a presumed watery grave to discover that his best friend has married his wife, his illegitimate son has discovered (to his horror) who his father really is, and his beloved nephew, Ian, wants to marry a Quaker. Meanwhile, Jamie’s wife, Claire, and his sister, Jenny, are busy picking up the pieces.

The Frasers can only be thankful that their daughter Brianna and her family are safe in twentieth-century Scotland. Or not. In fact, Brianna is  searching for her own son, who was kidnapped by a man determined to learn her family’s secrets. Her husband, Roger, has ventured into the past in search of the missing boy . . . never suspecting that the object of his quest has not left the present. Now, with Roger out of the way, the kidnapper can focus on his true target: Brianna herself.

Written in My Own Heart’s Blood is the brilliant next chapter in a masterpiece of the imagination unlike any other.

Outlander series

Outlander (Outlander #1) {Purchase}
Dragonfly in Amber (Outlander #2) {Purchase}
Voyager (Outlander #3) {Purchase}
Drums of Autumn (Outlander #4) {Purchase}
The Fiery Cross (Outlander #5) {Purchase}
A Breath of Snow and Ashes (Outlander #6) {Purchase}
An Echo in the Bone (Outlander #7) {Purchase}
The Outlander Series 7-Book Bundle on Kindle {Purchase}

After the dramatic conclusion in An Echo in the Bone and the five years it took for this installment to come out, I was expecting to swallow this whole as soon as I was afforded the opportunity. Instead? It took me upwards of almost THREE MONTHS to finish which is practically unheard of for me. When I finally read the last page, I ran joyously through the house a la Liz Lemon style.

But let’s back up and discuss what actually goes down in this book. There will be spoilers for previous installments.

So, there was drama. A lot of it. Written picks right up where Echo left off in 1778 with Claire discovering Jamie is, in fact, alive and kicking and her marriage (and consummation) to Lord John poses some mighty intense drama. Then there’s William who just recently discovered that Lord John is not actually his father, Jamie is, but raised him since Jamie was unable to. He proceeds to throw a tantrum about said drama for pretty much the full extent of the book making his chapters pretty interminable. We’ve got Ian and his dog Rollo, who have decidedly less drama but since he has become engaged to Rachel and just so happens to be well-liked by William, well there’s your drama for that storyline too. There are various other side stories too that are, you guessed it, full of drama. Oh, and we can’t forget about the fact that the American Revolutionary War is going on in the background of all this. Meanwhile, in 1980, Bree is frantic to find her son Jem whom she fears has been taken through the stones and back in time by an enemy who discovered that Jem knows the location of a priceless buried treasure. Roger has set off to follow them through the stones to get him back but his leaving brings more trouble for Bree back home.

Bree and Roger’s sections were my most favorite but were, unfortunately, the smallest part of the book as a whole. I’d say they got roughly 20% while the remaining 80% was spent in 1778. All of Gabaldon’s books have been large in size, Written clocking in at 848 pages of extremely tiny print, but this one honestly felt too long. An extreme amount of detail was placed on Claire’s methods for healing with the rudimentary tools available to her and some were extremely graphic and completely unnecessary for the storyline as a whole. There were several chapters spent on her saving Lord John’s brother from an asthma attack, the medical cases from various individuals that were injured in battle, an amputation, Lord John Grey’s eye injury which she heals with her fingers and honey and the worst of them all: the surgery she performs on a slave girl to fix her rectovaginal fistula. FYI? Don’t Google that. It was all super detailed and somewhat interesting for the most part but I wanted more actual story.

Yes, I did give this 3 stars so clearly there was some good to this. Again, like I said, Bree and Roger’s chapters were the best and I loved where their stories took them in this massive puzzle Gabaldon is masterminding. There were some terribly emotional scenes that managed to draw me back into the story: Ian and his dog Rollo, Henri Christian (Fergus’ son) and Jane’s whole sad story. I found the unrelenting drama too much but mainly because it didn’t manage to work my emotions like the other books always seemed to. Even though this one is most definitely my least favorite of the series there is no doubt that I’ll be continuing this series. I anxiously await the next installment (in a half dozen years or so if we’re lucky), especially after everything, got set up in the conclusion (but thankfully there wasn’t a dramatic cliffhanger).

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Audiobook Review – Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2) by Deborah Harkness

September 6, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2014 1 Comment

Audiobook Review – Shadow of Night (All Souls Trilogy #2) by Deborah HarknessShadow of Night by Deborah Harkness
Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
Series: All Souls Trilogy #2
Published by Penguin Audio on July 10th 2012
Genres: Fantasy, Occult & Supernatural
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Book of Life

two-half-stars

"Together we lifted our feet and stepped into the unknown"—the thrilling sequel to the New York Times bestseller A Discovery of Witches

Deborah Harkness exploded onto the literary scene with her debut novel, A Discovery of Witches, Book One of the magical All Souls Trilogy and an international publishing phenomenon. The novel introduced Diana Bishop, Oxford scholar and reluctant witch, and the handsome geneticist and vampire Matthew Clairmont; together they found themselves at the center of a supernatural battle over an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.

Now, picking up from A Discovery of Witches’ cliffhanger ending, Shadow of Night plunges Diana and Matthew into Elizabethan London, a world of spies, subterfuge, and a coterie of Matthew’s old friends, the mysterious School of Night that includes Christopher Marlowe and Walter Raleigh. Here, Diana must locate a witch to tutor her in magic, Matthew is forced to confront a past he thought he had put to rest, and the mystery of Ashmole 782 deepens.

Deborah Harkness has crafted a gripping journey through a world of alchemy, time travel, and magical discoveries, delivering one of the most hotly anticipated novels of the season.

All Souls Trilogy

11468955

A Discovery of Witches (All Souls Trilogy #1) {Purchase}

Shadow of Night picks up immediately after A Discovery of Witches ends (and I do mean immediately with little to no refresher. This was my second attempt at reading and I attribute my success at completing it solely because of this recap I found online which was an immense help.) with Matthew and Diana traveling back into the past to search for Ashmole 782 and to seek Diana help with her powers. For those that don’t remember: Ashmole 782: the bewitched alchemical manuscript that Diana found in Oxford’s Bodleian library. After the local witches, daemons, and vampires begin targeting Diana in order to find out how an unskilled witch was able to obtain the manuscript that they believe contains important information about the creation and future of all supernatural creatures.

Considering the fact that I loved A Discovery of Witches I was beyond ecstatic when I snagged an ARC copy of Shadow of Night. Diving into it right away in hopes to devour it whole I realized immediately that that’s not how this was going to work. Positively rife with historical detail regarding the Elizabethan era and historical figures as well (Christopher Marlowe, Sir Walter Raleigh, John Dee, William Shakespeare and of course Queen Elizabeth I), this is one that will take some time to get through not just because of the amount of pages. The historical tidbits were interesting but I felt they lacked any sort of purpose and ultimately overpowered the true story making it much denser and longer than it should have been. The name dropping, while interesting, caused a bit of an eye-roll for me because did Matthew not have a single uncool friend that failed to make it into the history books? Apparently not. I can appreciate the obvious extent of the research the author conducted but including every interesting person from the time period felt a little like ‘everything but the kitchen sink’  and should have been scaled back a little to focus more on Matthew and Diana.

Shadow of Night definitely had a case of middle book syndrome. Add to that there’s a real non-ending that will likely cause some grumbles. There was progress in the storyline but mostly things of little consequence. My favorite aspects by far were the slight glimpses of the present day and how Matthew and Diana’s actions were inevitably changing the future. It was extremely interesting but those passages were so few and far between that I kept hoping for more. The evolution of Diana’s powers was the most fascinating. Going back in time only resulted in throwing them into chaos and the slight control she did have over them dissipated but discovering the full extent of her powers was truly shocking.

Shadow of Night was definitely my least favorite of the trilogy so far but I’m looking forward to some resolution and seeing how everything turns out. I plan on picking up The Book of Life soon in case Harkness continues her non-recap trend.

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