Posts Categorized: Read in 2018

Early Review – An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

November 29, 2018 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2018 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.

Early Review – An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks &  Sarah PekkanenAn Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks, Sarah Pekkanen
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 8, 2019
Pages: 384
Genres: Mystery
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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three-stars

The next novel of psychological suspense and obsession from the authors of the blockbuster bestseller The Wife Between Us

Seeking women ages 18–32 to participate in a study on ethics and morality. Generous compensation. Anonymity guaranteed.

When Jessica Farris signs up for a psychology study conducted by the mysterious Dr. Shields, she thinks all she’ll have to do is answer a few questions, collect her money, and leave. But as the questions grow more and more intense and invasive and the sessions become outings where Jess is told what to wear and how to act, she begins to feel as though Dr. Shields may know what she’s thinking…and what she’s hiding. As Jess’s paranoia grows, it becomes clear that she can no longer trust what in her life is real, and what is one of Dr. Shields’ manipulative experiments. Caught in a web of deceit and jealousy, Jess quickly learns that some obsessions can be deadly.

From the authors of the blockbuster bestseller The Wife Between Us comes an electrifying new novel about doubt, passion, and just how much you can trust someone.

“We all have reasons for our actions. Even if we hide the reason from those who think they know us best. Even if the reasons are so deeply buried we can’t recognize them ourselves.”

Jessica Farris is a makeup artist in New York City and when she overhears information about a psychological study for some quick cash she finds a way to get into it. Sitting in an empty room she answers questions on a computer on ethics and morality. She’s prompted to be as honest as possible and she is; she has no reason not to be. This is an anonymous study after all where she is referred to only as Subject 52. She’s generously paid and when the individual in charge of the study, Dr. Shields, dangles the carrot of further payment if she continues the study outside of the classroom she accepts. The things Jess is asked to do are slightly unnerving and confusing, unsure how it has anything to do with ethics and morality, but the desire to help her struggling family out is more than enough incentive to quiet the discontent in her mind. The more studies she completes though, the more the discontent grows.

Most mysteries these days tend to count on unreliable narrators to keep the reader guessing. In the end, you’re thrown a curveball of an answer that causes you to question the hundreds of pages you’ve just consumed. It can be just as fun to work your way back through the story, reevaluating everything you assumed but now with a new understanding. That’s what I enjoyed most about An Anonymous Girl, you think you know exactly what’s going on, and you might be right, but there’s just enough uncertainty that you can’t be sure, so you keep reading. Alas, the lead up was great, but the ending wasn’t quite the shocker that I had anticipated and felt a little too ‘easy’ of a conclusion when compared to the chaos that led up to it. I sometimes feel that by reading too many mysteries that I’m dulling any future enjoyment, that I become too adept at deciphering what’s truly going on. Or maybe this was simply a mediocre mystery.

For more unreliable narrators…

Night Film by Marisha Pessl [Purchased|Review]
The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan [Purchased|Review]
Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough [Purchased|Review]

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Rapid Reviews – 2018 Christina Lauren Releases

November 23, 2018 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Rapid Fire Reviews, Read in 2018 4 Comments

Sometimes review writing is hard. Sometimes you don’t have a lot to say. Sometimes you’re just lazy as fuck. These are Rapid Fire Reviews.

I only just discovered the wonders of Christina Lauren this year and am so glad that they write as fast as they do! I’ve got quite a backlist to look forward to as well. But here are my mini-reviews for their three 2018 releases.

Rapid Reviews – My Favorite Half-Night Stand, Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, Love and Other WordsMy Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on December 4, 2018
Pages: 400
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Short Summary: When Millie and her four male friends all realize they need dates for an upcoming banquet, they make a pact to join an online dating site thinking that’ll be a quick fix but Millie finds herself matched with one of her friends and decides to keep her identity secret from him.

Thoughts: I really love how consistently the authors develop their characters, but I definitely felt a kinship with Millie’s dry sense of humor and fascination with serial killers. My Favorite Half-Night Stand highlights the perils of online dating (and falling for your best friend) in the most hilarious of fashions.

Verdict: My love for Christina Lauren books was definitely not a phase — this hilarious swoon-fest gets all 5 stars from me (and is the current reigning favorite).

five-stars

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.

Rapid Reviews – My Favorite Half-Night Stand, Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, Love and Other WordsJosh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on September 4, 2018
Pages: 320
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Short Summary: Josh and Hazel have known each other since college but after Josh gets unceremoniously dumped, Hazel decides to agree to go on a bunch of double dates with him to get him back in the game. Even though the sparks fly, they’re dating other people, they’re definitely not dating each other.

Thoughts: Josh (quiet, professional) and Hazel (quirky, one of a kind) were the perfect counterpoints to one another and their double dates were a super cringe-y good time. The humor is never over the top as it is paired with Hazel learning how to stand up for herself and not let people change her colorful nature.

Verdict: This one is great, of course, but the ending was not one I expected (and I’ve heard this is definitely not the norm in CL endings). I must say that despite the curveball ending, it was handled surprisingly well.

four-half-stars

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.

Rapid Reviews – My Favorite Half-Night Stand, Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, Love and Other WordsLove and Other Words by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on April 10, 2018
Pages: 432
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Short Summary: Macy and Elliot fell in love when they were just teenagers but tragic events separate the two and they don’t have the opportunity to reconnect until a chance run-in gives them a second chance to fix what broke 10 years prior.

Thoughts: This book made me realize that I’m a super fan of the friends to lovers trope and that I love a good dual timeline story but I hate stories where there is unnecessary drama simply because people don’t know how to communicate.

Verdict: Having read more CL stories, this one is definitely heavier and angstier in terms of plot, but it will definitely put you through the emotional ringer (in a good way).

four-stars

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.

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Book Review – Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling

November 17, 2018 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2018, YA 4 Comments

Book Review – Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald – The Original Screenplay by J.K. RowlingFantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald - The Original Screenplay by J.K. Rowling
Illustrator: MinaLima
Series: Fantastic Beasts The Original Screenplay #2
Published by Arthur A. Levine Books on November 16, 2018
Pages: 304
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: The Cuckoo's Calling, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, Parts 1 & 2, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

two-stars

J.K. Rowling’s five-film Fantastic Beasts adventure series continues with the original screenplay for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

At the end of Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, the powerful Dark wizard Gellert Grindelwald was captured in New York with the help of Newt Scamander. But, making good on his threat, Grindelwald escapes custody and sets about gathering followers, most unsuspecting of his true agenda: to raise pure-blood wizards up to rule over all non-magical beings.

In an effort to thwart Grindelwald’s plans, Albus Dumbledore enlists Newt, his former Hogwarts student, who agrees to help once again, unaware of the dangers that lie ahead. Lines are drawn as love and loyalty are tested, even among the truest friends and family, in an increasingly divided wizarding world.

This second original screenplay from J.K. Rowling, illustrated with stunning line art from MinaLima, expands on earlier events that helped shape the wizarding world, with some surprising nods to the Harry Potter stories that will delight fans of both the books and films.

What the fuck even was that.

I haven’t watched the movie yet so this is solely a review of the book, but wow, I’m certainly not rushing to the theatres anytime soon.

The story is seriously a big hot mess though and while I loved the first installment, the follow-up really threw everything I liked about it into a blender. The characters changed in ludicrous fashion, the motivations behind the characters themselves were murky at best, and there was little to no plot development. This feels like the middle book of a trilogy but apparently, we have three more books to “look forward to.”

The biggest issue I had was the very clear attempt to merge these “prequel” stories with the original Harry Potter series. I felt if the writers simply focused on telling these stories and letting them stand on their own merits they might not have felt the need to remind us every so often that hey! This is set in the Harry Potter world! It just felt messy. The biggest flaw was McGonagall’s cameo. She was in her 70s in the original stories, which began in 1997, yet in The Crimes of Grindewald she’s a Hogwarts professor in a story set in the mid-20s. I can imagine the cameos are far more exciting in film, but the timeline super doesn’t match, at least in accordance with what Rowling has stated previously about her characters. Seriously, so unnecessary.

There are also additions to the story that simply don’t end up making a whole lot of sense. Like that bit about Nagini having been an actual human at one point in her life? It’s revealed that she’s a Maledictus, able to transform into a snake but due to a blood curse passed down in her family, she’ll transform into a snake one day and never be able to transform back. Sure, it was interesting tidbits and expands on Nagini’s story, and sure, maybe this all becomes more vital later on in this series, but the small bit we’re given seemed pretty inconsequential.

But the icing on the cake was the “twist” at the end. Serious spoiler, beware. View Spoiler »

The original stories are already so fascinatingly complex and these attempts to expand on what has already been drilled into our brains from many a re-reads just comes across as lazy and is really destroying the magic of Harry Potter for me.

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Short & Sweet: Sea of Rust & LIFEL1K3

September 27, 2018 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2018, YA 3 Comments

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

Short & Sweet: Sea of Rust & LIFEL1K3Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill
Narrator: Eva Kaminsky
Published by HarperAudio on September 5, 2017
Length: 10 hours and 26 minutes
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Dreams and Shadows, Queen of the Dark Things, We Are Where the Nightmares Go and Other Stories

four-stars

It’s been thirty years since the apocalypse and fifteen years since the murder of the last human being at the hands of robots. Humankind is extinct. Every man, woman, and child has been liquidated by a global uprising devised by the very machines humans designed and built to serve them. Most of the world is controlled by an OWI—One World Intelligence—the shared consciousness of millions of robots, uploaded into one huge mainframe brain. But not all robots are willing to cede their individuality—their personality—for the sake of a greater, stronger, higher power. These intrepid resisters are outcasts; solo machines wandering among various underground outposts who have formed into an unruly civilization of rogue AIs in the wasteland that was once our world.

One of these resisters is Brittle, a scavenger robot trying to keep her deteriorating mind and body functional in a world that has lost all meaning. Although she does not (cannot) experience emotions like a human, she is haunted by the terrible crimes she perpetrated on humanity. As she roams the Sea of Rust, a large swath of territory that was once the Midwest, Brittle slowly comes to terms with her raw and vivid memories—and her guilt.

“People gave us a purpose. A function. Something to do all day, every day. At the end, I suppose, you spend a lot of time thinking about that. It’s harder to get by when getting by is all there is.”

In a time where Earth is a wasteland and humanity has been snuffed out like a fragile flame, its lands are ruled by robots who now, in turn, struggle to survive. After the robots had finally succeeded in ridding the Earth of humans, they turned on one another and OWIs (one-world intelligences) sought out the individual robots that remained so that their sentience could be joined as one. Most of the sentient robots that remain survive as scavengers, seeking out newer parts than their own, finding any way to extend their lifecycles. Brittle is one such scavenger and when her core systems are damaged and the end of her own existence is near, she joins with a group of scavengers. They make promises to her about the stash of parts they have hidden deep within the Sea of Rust and that somewhere out there is the answer to a brighter future for the Earth itself.

Sea of Rust was a fascinatingly complex story that deals with survival, regret, and most importantly, hope. Brittle was not the most likable of characters, however, Cargill methodically builds on her storyline with fragments of the past which helps to better understand her motivations in this post-apocalyptic world. It was compelling to see the evolution of these bots and how closely they began to resemble their human counterparts. With some very inventive world-building and an equally intriguing cast of side characters, Sea of Rust is a brilliant story of robots that will have you dwelling on your own humanity.

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

Short & Sweet: Sea of Rust & LIFEL1K3Lifel1k3 by Jay Kristoff
Narrator: Erin Spencer
Series: Lifelike #1
Published by Listening Library on May 29, 2018
Length: 12 hrs and 26 mins
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Illuminae

two-stars

On a floating junkyard beneath a radiation sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap.

Eve isn’t looking for secrets—she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she’s just spent six months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her Grandpa from the grave was the fistful of credits she just lost to the bookies. To top it off, she’s discovered she can destroy electronics with the power of her mind, and the puritanical Brotherhood are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.

But when Eve discovers the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls home, her entire world comes crashing down. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic conscience, Cricket, in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, infiltrate towering megacities and scour the graveyard of humanity’s greatest folly to save the ones Eve loves, and learn the dark secrets of her past.

Even if those secrets were better off staying buried.

Romeo and Juliet meets Mad Max

That comparison had me super interested but honestly, I should’ve known better. Romeo and Juliet doesn’t belong in the world of Mad Max, and vice versa, but my interest in the Mad Max aspect overruled the rational side of my brain. Set after the devastating effects of a nuclear war, Eve pilots a robot to battle in the dome against other robots (very much like Real Steel), in an effort to pay for the medicine keeping her grandfather alive. She earns a price on her head after she reveals she has the power to destroy robots with her mind and has to go on the run with her best friend Lemon to stay alive. Amidst their escape, they encounter a lifel1k3, an advanced android, named Ezekiel who vows to protect her.

Image result for yeah okay gif

The worldbuilding was initially so fun (despite the strange jargon — it was easier to listen to than I guess it would’ve been to read it) and I loved the battling robots in the dome (definitely understood the Mad Max comparisons) but then it all went downhill. And that’s where the Romeo and Juliet comparisons came into play and completely overshadowed the plot. The instalove is essentially avoided by providing the duo with a backstory that is only glimpsed momentarily, but it still wasn’t enough for me to get on board with it. Add to that there were some really cringe-worthy lines:

“You were my everything. You still are. And you always will be.”

“Loving you was the only real difference between me and them.”

“They have only one thing left to take from me. The last and most precious thing. Not my life, no. My love.”

Image result for ugh gif

You can officially count me out for the subsequent installments.

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Rapid Reviews – Foundryside, Diamond Fire, Night and Silence, Magic Triumphs

September 21, 2018 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Rapid Fire Reviews, Read in 2018 3 Comments

Sometimes review writing is hard. Sometimes you don’t have a lot to say. Sometimes you’re just lazy as fuck. These are Rapid Fire Reviews.

Rapid Reviews – Foundryside, Diamond Fire, Night and Silence, Magic TriumphsFoundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
Series: Founders #1
Published by Crown Publishing Group (NY) on August 21, 2018
Pages: 505
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Also by this author: American Elsewhere

Short Summary: In the city of Tevanne, a thief gets embroiled in more than she bargained for when she steals an item of imaginable power and the individuals she stole it from will stop at nothing to get it back.

Thoughts: I thoroughly enjoyed American Elsewhere and absolutely planned on reading Bennett’s The Divine Cities trilogy, but Foundryside fell in my lap first and, oh man, Bennett is such a spectacular storyteller. Everything from the world building to the characters to the magic was vividly imagined, felt fresh and new, and was incredibly thrilling to read.

Verdict: I never would have thought I’d say that a talking key was my favorite character in a book but a talking key was absolutely my favorite character in this book. I LOVED this and I’m so anxious for the continued stories in this fascinating world.

five-stars

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.

 

Rapid Reviews – Foundryside, Diamond Fire, Night and Silence, Magic TriumphsDiamond Fire by Ilona Andrews
Series: Hidden Legacy #3.5
Published by Avon Impulse on November 6, 2018
Pages: 160
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Magic BitesMagic RisesBurn for Me

Short Summary: *This is #3.5 — Spoilers for the first 3 installments!* Nevada’s sister, Catalina, is the new star in this novella and the upcoming trilogy of the continued Hidden Legacy series. The plans for Nevada and Rogan’s wedding are well underway but when the family tiara is discovered to be missing, Nevada’s future mother-in-law requests that Catalina conduct the investigation behind it because it’s clear there’s at least one family member that doesn’t want this wedding to happen.

Thoughts: I was worried that this spinoff wouldn’t work after the latest spinoff fiasco I read and I was worried that I wouldn’t love Catalina as much as I loved Nevada but my worries were completely unfounded. Catalina is going to be an exceptionally strong lead and I can’t wait for the story to further explore her powers.

Verdict: This was a fantastically fun snippet of future Catalina stories and fans of the author duo are definitely going to be pleased.

four-half-stars

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.

Rapid Reviews – Foundryside, Diamond Fire, Night and Silence, Magic TriumphsNight and Silence by Seanan McGuire
Series: October Daye #12
Published by DAW on September 4, 2018
Pages: 368
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Also by this author: IndexingRosemary and RueA Local Habitation

Short Summary: Toby is once again faced with the kidnapping of her mortal daughter, Gillian, terrified that she’s once again responsible for her daughter being in danger. During her investigation, she manages to uncover a few jaw-dropping mysteries that will no doubt play a role in Toby’s future.

Thoughts: I swear, just when I feel like I couldn’t love this series more, McGuire manages to sneak in a new facet to the story that opens up whole new avenues and makes the anticipation for the next installment even worse. I have no idea how far she plans to take this series but even with twelve installments under her belt, this series doesn’t seem to be heading towards an end anytime soon, and I’m certainly not complaining.

Verdict: I read the first two installments in 2017 and the remaining nine this year so I could finally be caught up in time for the new release of Night and Silence. I now have to wait for the next release of this ridiculously good series like a PEASANT. BAH.

four-half-stars

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.

Rapid Reviews – Foundryside, Diamond Fire, Night and Silence, Magic TriumphsMagic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels #10
Published by Ace on August 28, 2018
Pages: 327
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Also by this author: Magic BitesMagic RisesBurn for Me

Short Summary: In the final installment of the husband and wife co-authored Kate Daniels series, Kate is battling an ancient enemy that almost succeeded in destroying her family once before and this time seeks to raze Atlanta and everyone in it.

Thoughts: This series began back in 2007 and while I was late to the party (finally started in 2011), Kate Daniels will always be one of the integral series that turned me into such a diehard Urban Fantasy fan. As a final installment, Magic Triumphs still manages to throw in some unexpected surprises, new monsters, and an open enough ending to pave way for future stories (or spinoffs more likely).

Verdict: While the story started off with the standard formula with Kate researching a crime, it was far from what I was expecting from a final installment (I assumed it would be full of verbal sparring between her and Roland — I would have been a-okay with that). The first 2/3 felt like the story was dragging its feet (yet still managed to read very clipped and rushed somehow?), the final 1/3 was full of the action I would have appreciated reading about for the entire book, yet the end was ultimately satisfying and fans of the series will no doubt be pleased with the ending the duo writers bestowed upon her.

three-half-stars

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.

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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
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads


dnf

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
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads


dnf

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
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Also by this author: Mayhem, Murder, The Language of Dying

dnf

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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Release Day Feature: Sadie by Courtney Summers

September 4, 2018 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2018, Release Day Feature, YA 4 Comments

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

Release Day Feature: Sadie by Courtney SummersSadie by Courtney Summers
Published by Wednesday Books on September 4, 2018
Pages: 320
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Also by this author: This is Not a Test, All the Rage

five-stars

Sadie hasn't had an easy life. Growing up on her own, she's been raising her sister Mattie in an isolated small town, trying her best to provide a normal life and keep their heads above water.

But when Mattie is found dead, Sadie's entire world crumbles. After a somewhat botched police investigation, Sadie is determined to bring her sister's killer to justice and hits the road following a few meagre clues to find him.

When West McCray—a radio personality working on a segment about small, forgotten towns in America—overhears Sadie's story at a local gas station, he becomes obsessed with finding the missing girl. He starts his own podcast as he tracks Sadie's journey, trying to figure out what happened, hoping to find her before it's too late.

About Courtney Summers

Courtney Summers was born in Belleville, Ontario, Canada in 1986 and currently resides in a small town not far from there. At age 14, and with her parents' blessing, Courtney dropped out of high school to pursue her education independently. At age 18, she wrote her first novel and never looked back. Her first book, Cracked Up to Be, was published in 2008, when she was 22. To date, she has authored five novels and is best known for her unapologetic, difficult female protagonists. In 2016, Courtney was named one of Flare Magazine's 60 under 30.

“Sometimes I don’t know what I miss more; everything I’ve lost or everything I never had.”.

When Sadie’s 13-year-old sister Mattie is murdered and left in an apple orchard, Sadie is determined to take on the responsibility of her death just as she took on the responsibility of keeping her alive. Their mother, Claire, was a drug addict and never cared for the girls the way they should have been and for years now, Sadie has been the one to care for Mattie and to make sure that life didn’t end up being nearly as bad as it could have been. And then one day Claire disappeared. She sent a postcard 3 months later from Los Angeles, addressed only to Mattie, and from that point on Mattie was convinced that the girls had to find their mother but Sadie knew that was impossible for so many reasons. And then one day Mattie got into a truck headed to California and she was next found in an apple orchard.

“Mattie never would’ve done something like that if she’d never got that postcard. I know it haunted Sadie and I know … I know if Sadie’s out there right now, it’s still haunting her.”

Courtney Summers writes some of the most gritty and uncompromising stories that manage to get under your skin with their unrelenting realism. Sadie was such a difficult yet mesmerizing read that completely captured my attention until the final page. This story is a brilliant combination of a coming of age/gritty crime mystery and podcasts which have become so incredibly popular in this day and age. Despite the audio aspects of podcasts, this book worked just as brilliantly in print. Sadie’s chapters are told in first-person narration as she leaves her small town of Cold Creek, Colorado in search of the man she believes is responsible for the death of her sister. Sadie’s thoughts are imbued with a single-minded determination to avenge her sister despite her own harrowing backstory. Her story is full of retrospection on everything that transpired and how it led up to the moment she finds herself in. She never berates herself for things that occurred, knowing that doing so won’t change anything, but only continue walking the dark path of revenge she’s set herself on.

Mixed into Sadie’s story, are transcripts from the (fictional) podcast The Girls hosted by radio reporter West McCray who is investigating Sadie’s disappearance. McCray’s investigation manages to fill in the blanks of Sadie’s story as he follows the evidence she left in her wake. These transcripts also served to make Sadie and Mattie’s stories feel both personal and factual in a way that was almost unsettling. It reads much like any true crime podcast where McCray discusses his investigation, the evidence he uncovers, and the interviews he conducts. There are six episodes in total and they can be listened to before or after the book’s release, but only the book will include Sadie’s first-person accounting. Either way, it’s definitely worth a listen. Whoever came up with the concept to actually produce the podcast in correlation with the book’s release is a genius. You can listen to the first episode embedded in this post below with the other episodes available on Apple Podcasts and Stitcher.

Sadie is a haunting yet must-read thriller for readers of all ages that tells the empowering story of a ‘victim’ who refuses to conform to the label.

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Release Day Feature – Rust & Stardust by T. Greenwood

August 7, 2018 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2018, Release Day Feature 2 Comments

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

Release Day Feature – Rust & Stardust by T. GreenwoodRust & Stardust by T. Greenwood
Published by St. Martin's Press on August 7, 2018
Pages: 352
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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four-half-stars

Camden, NJ, 1948. When 11 year-old Sally Horner steals a notebook from the local Woolworth's, she has no way of knowing that 52 year-old Frank LaSalle, fresh out of prison, is watching her, preparing to make his move. Accosting her outside the store, Frank convinces Sally that he's an FBI agent who can have her arrested in a minute - unless she does as he says.

This chilling novel traces the next two harrowing years as Frank mentally and physically assaults Sally as the two of them travel westward from Camden to San Jose, forever altering not only her life, but the lives of her family, friends, and those she meets along the way.

Based on the experiences of real-life kidnapping victim Sally Horner and her captor, whose story shocked the nation and inspired Vladimir Nabokov to write his controversial and iconic Lolita, this heart-pounding story by award-winning author T. Greenwood at last gives a voice to Sally herself.

About T. Greenwood

T. Greenwood is the author of twelve novels. She has received grants from the Sherwood Anderson Foundation, the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and, most recently, the Maryland State Arts Council. She has won three San Diego Book Awards. Five of her novels have been BookSense76/IndieBound picks. BODIES OF WATER was finalist for a Lambda Foundation award. Her twelfth novel, RUST & STARDUST, will be published in August 2018.

She teaches creative writing for San Diego Writer's Ink and online for The Writer's Center. She and her husband, Patrick, live in San Diego, CA with their two daughters. She is also a photographer.

“She couldn’t ever tell anyone the things he had done and said to her. The secrets her skin kept now, the horror that flowed in her veins. Her marrow poisoned.”

Rust & Stardust is an affecting novelization of the true crime story that ultimately inspired Nabokov’s writing of Lolita. The facts: Sally Horner was kidnapped from Camden, New Jersey, in the summer of 1948, by a man claiming to be with the FBI after he caught her stealing a five-cent notebook. The man’s real name was Frank La Salle who had been released from state prison in January of the same year for sex crimes against young girls. The unknown: All of the tiny details that Greenwood had to infer in order to recreate the tragic story of Sally Horner.

The story melds the horrifying point of view of Sally Horner with that of the family she left behind and various individuals that were unwittingly impacted by La Salle’s crimes. Sally’s story is, of course, heinous especially when you consider this girl was a mere 11-years-old and the ease with which she was convinced that her minor crime was worth what she endured was heartbreaking. But it was the normalcy of life that her family was forced to revert back to that was the most heartbreaking for me. The efforts they were forced to exude, all because of the continuous passing of time with the vestiges of hope deteriorating with each passing day.

‘How sad it is that grief has a shelf life […]. It’s only fresh and raw for so long before it begins to spoil. And soon enough, it will be replaced by a newer, brighter heartache – the old one discarded and eventually forgotten.’

Within the first 100 pages you start to feel as if Sally had already endured a lifetime of suffering, but of course, the book was far from over. Her story, far from over. It’s hard to understand how an 11-year-old could be convinced the situation was credible, but then again, this happened in the year 1948 when crime wasn’t quite so common and it was normal for children to be mostly sheltered from the nightmares of the world. Also, we’re taught at a very early age to respect authority, especially police officers, so I can understand even if something seemed wrong, how would someone at that age really know? And of course, it wasn’t until months into her abduction as Sally grew up that she finally started asking the questions that you, as the reader, were no doubt screaming at her to question when this all began.

Rust & Stardust was, as expected, a most difficult read but Sally’s story was gracefully told. Do yourself a favor and don’t go searching for Sally’s story to find out what became of her; I made the mistake of doing just this and I wish I hadn’t so that the ending could have remained elusive.

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Rapid Reviews – The Line That Held Us, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Awakened

July 29, 2018 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Non-Fiction, Rapid Fire Reviews, Read in 2018 2 Comments

Sometimes review writing is hard. Sometimes you don’t have a lot to say. Sometimes you’re just lazy as fuck. These are Rapid Fire Reviews.

Rapid Reviews – The Line That Held Us, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, AwakenedThe Line That Held Us by David Joy
Illustrator: David Palumbo
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons on August 14, 2018
Pages: 272
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Also by this author: Where All Light Tends to GoThe Weight of This World

Short Summary: Darl Moody knows that he’s poaching when he sets out to go hunting late one night but he’s got many mouths to feed. The bullet he fires intended for an animal turns out to be none other than Carol Brewer who was also poaching on the same land, and instead of owning up to his mistake he buries the body and hopes that his terrifying brother Dwayne doesn’t ever connect the dots.

Thoughts: David Joy’s novels are impressively engaging and invoke the essence of the South in all the best (and terrible) ways

Verdict: The Line That Held Us was a riveting story of the reverberations of vengeance that was poignantly written. In his third novel, David Joy is clearly only getting better.

four-stars

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.

Rapid Reviews – The Line That Held Us, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, AwakenedI’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
Published by Harper on February 27, 2018
Pages: 328
Genres: True Crime
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Short Summary: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is the posthumous culmination of Michelle McNamara’s research into the identity of the Golden State Killer, a man who committed at least 12 murders and more than 50 rapes.

Thoughts: The shining light of this true crime story is the passion and drive that McNamara possessed to uncover the mystery of a serial killer that haunted people for decades, and how heartbreaking it is that she wasn’t able to witness the day that he was finally found.

Verdict: Despite this being very obviously incomplete, I understand why the publication was so important. Did her research point directly to the killer? I would say no, however, the continued interest in the investigation clearly kept it alive when so many cases would have normally been forgotten, relegated to a basement alongside other cold cases.

three-half-stars

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.

Rapid Reviews – The Line That Held Us, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, AwakenedNightflyers by George R.R. Martin
Illustrator: David Palumbo
Published by Bantam on May 29, 2018
Pages: 208
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Short Summary: A group of individuals set out on a scientific expedition to uncover the mysteries of an alien race but along the way, an alien presence makes itself known and the group is fighting for their lives while trying to figure out if this is the same alien presence that they sought.

Thoughts: This novella has an impressive concept but the wide cast of characters that went without proper development and the strange focus on the sex lives of these 9 individuals was needless and I would’ve much preferred more details on the mysterious alien race instead.

Verdict: Nightflyers is a very unsettling little read and I’m very much looking forward to the visual aspects of bringing this novella to life on the small screen.

three-half-stars

Rapid Reviews – The Line That Held Us, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Awakened

Awakened by James S. MurrayDarren Wearmouth
Series: Awakened #1
Published by Harper Voyager on June 26, 2018
Pages: 287
Genres: HorrorSci-fi
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Short Summary: When a new subway line connecting New Jersey and New York makes its inaugural journey, it arrives in the station to a crowd of spectators that watch in horror as they realize that the train is completely empty but there’s blood everywhere.

Thoughts: This one was a ton of fun and full of creepy moments but the shift in the second half where the story focused primarily on political drama/conspiracies instead was somewhat disappointing.

Verdict: With similarities to The Strain and the very script-like way this was written, this would be a most excellent tv show.

three-half-stars

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.

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Book Review – An Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim

July 20, 2018 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2018 4 Comments

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

Book Review – An Ocean of Minutes by Thea LimAn Ocean of Minutes by Thea Lim
Published by Touchstone on July 10, 2018
Pages: 320
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Time Travel
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads


three-stars

In the vein of The Time Traveler’s Wife and Station Eleven, a sweeping literary love story about two people who are at once mere weeks and many years apart.

America is in the grip of a deadly flu pandemic. When Frank catches the virus, his girlfriend Polly will do whatever it takes to save him, even if it means risking everything. She agrees to a radical plan—time travel has been invented in the future to thwart the virus. If she signs up for a one-way-trip into the future to work as a bonded laborer, the company will pay for the life-saving treatment Frank needs. Polly promises to meet Frank again in Galveston, Texas, where she will arrive in twelve years.

But when Polly is re-routed an extra five years into the future, Frank is nowhere to be found. Alone in a changed and divided America, with no status and no money, Polly must navigate a new life and find a way to locate Frank, to discover if he is alive, and if their love has endured.

An Ocean of Minutes is a gorgeous and heartbreaking story about the endurance and complexity of human relationships and the cost of holding onto the past—and the price of letting it go.

“TimeRaiser is a good company. We’ll protect you. Today, or rather tomorrow, is the first day of the rest of your life. It’s a gift.”

In the year 1981, the flu has devastated the world. When the ability to time travel becomes a reality, doctors attempt to go back to the beginning to prevent the flu from ever becoming an issue but limitations on travel prevent them from going back that far. Being infected is certain death and when Polly’s boyfriend Frank becomes infected, she agrees to a 32-month contract with TimeRaiser: in exchange for medical aid to cure Frank, Polly will travel to the year 1993 to help rebuild the physical elements of society. Goodbyes are conducted quickly with the two promising to meet the year she was due to arrive except Polly finds herself in the year 1998 instead. Filled with uncertainty in a world that used to be familiar, Polly must learn to cope with the past decisions that have changed her future irrevocably.

‘She had done it all without understanding the weight of what she was doing. Until this moment, the choice she’d made had kept its true, perverse nature secret: it was irreversible, and only comprehensible after it was done.’

With flashes between past and present, An Ocean of Minutes tells the story of Frank and Polly and why Polly would be willing to make such a monumental decision so that the two of them had a chance for a shared future. This story shares many genres, time travel, post-apocalyptic, and romance, but Lim balances the elements nicely and one never overwhelmed the other. The post-apocalyptic aspects were eerie, with the United States of America being divided into a section called The United States and a separate section called America. TimeRaiser’s employees are assigned codes based on the type of work they are assigned to do with some individuals making new tiles for new flooring, or other individuals ride exercise bikes all day to power resorts (reminding me vividly of Fifteen Million Merits. Any Black Mirror fans?) Polly is fortunate enough to be a skilled laborer and is assigned to restore old furniture where she’s granted certain liberties that regular “Journeymen” are not.

Life is still far from easy and nothing like the life that she left behind and Polly is forced to deal with far more than she ever anticipated when she signed up. Finding Frank is always at the forefront of her mind and was what kept these pages turning most for me: I was eager to know if Polly’s sacrifices would pay off for her and possibly Frank as well. The story’s pace is admittedly unhurried and despite the shocking nature of the world Polly finds herself in, it’s not exactly what I would call thrilling. Despite all this, I found myself completely enthralled in finding out the ending. The story concludes instead with a life lesson on impermanence, the reality of change, and a bit of a cynical approach to love. Realistic or not, I found it concluded most disappointingly.

‘In her heart, the past was not another time, but another place that still existed. It was just that she had taken a wrong turn.’

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva [Review]
The Last Policeman (The Last Policeman #1) by Ben H. Winters
The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan [Review]

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