Genre: Historical Fiction

Book Review – The Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters

September 2, 2016 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2016, YA 5 Comments

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

Book Review – The Steep & Thorny Way by Cat WintersThe Steep & Thorny Way by Cat Winters
Published by Amulet Books on March 8th 2016
Pages: 352
Genres: Historical Fiction, Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: In the Shadow of Blackbirds, The Cure for Dreaming, The Uninvited: A Novel

two-stars

Prohibition, the KKK, and Hamlet collide in this richly imagined historical mystery by Morris Award finalist Cat Winters

A thrilling reimagining of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, The Steep and Thorny Way tells the story of a murder most foul and the mighty power of love and acceptance in a state gone terribly rotten.

1920s Oregon is not a welcoming place for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a white woman and an African-American man. She has almost no rights by law, and the Ku Klux Klan breeds fear and hatred in even Hanalee’s oldest friendships. Plus, her father, Hank Denney, died a year ago, hit by a drunk-driving teenager. Now her father’s killer is out of jail and back in town, and he claims that Hanalee’s father wasn’t killed by the accident at all but, instead, was poisoned by the doctor who looked after him—who happens to be Hanalee’s new stepfather.

The only way for Hanalee to get the answers she needs is to ask Hank himself, a “haint” wandering the roads at night.

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 The year is 1923 and in a small town in Oregon, hate spreads like wildfire. Life is challenging for Hanalee Denney, the daughter of a black man and a white woman, but she has learned to persevere. When her father is killed by a drunk driver, she’s devastated by his absence from her life, especially after her mother quickly remarries. The boy responsible for his death, Joe Adder, is released from prison a mere seventeen months after being sentenced and once Hanalee finds out she takes her anger and a loaded gun to pay him a visit. After speaking with Joe, she leaves with her entire perception changed after hearing a vastly different story about what happened the night her dad died: he didn’t die from an automobile accident and that the man her mom remarried is the one truly responsible for his death.

I’ve read every Cat Winters book at this point but they seem to be hit or miss for me. I loved both In the Shadow of Blackbirds and The Uninvited, but felt The Cure for Dreaming was slightly mediocre in comparison. The Steep & Thorny Way falls in the latter category. Much like Dreaming, I felt that the subject matter was something I would normally welcome, however, overall it ended up feeling incredibly flat and listless. Cat Winters signature style has always been a fusion of stories with historical importance and a flair of paranormal, and it’s something that she does quite well. With, Thorny though, the Hamlet retelling comparisons as well as the paranormal aspects were elements which could have been left out entirely without affecting the story. A story about a half black/half white girl living during the rise of the Ku Klux Klan and a homosexual boy that is struggling to survive in a time where the study of eugenics has many thinking the issue of homosexuality is something that can be “fixed” is absolutely a strong enough story on its own.

I always appreciate the lesser known periods of history being given a spotlight and it’s interesting to see a story focus on the influence of the Ku Klux Klan extending far past the deep South, clear into Oregon. Tackling both race and sexuality prejudices in addition to touching on the topic of eugenics was edifying without feeling overwhelming, except I kept feeling off and on as if these characters were simplistic versions of their true potential. I suppose what it all boils down to though is Winters definitely demonstrates the ugliness of the times, yet it’s covered in a glossy veneer that hides the true grotesqueness doing the seriousness of the story somewhat of a disservice.

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Waiting on Wednesday – Yesternight by Cat Winters

July 20, 2016 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday 2 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – Yesternight by Cat WintersYesternight by Cat Winters
Published by William Morrow on October 4th 2016
Pages: 400
Genres: Historical Fiction, Paranormal
Format: Paperback
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Also by this author: In the Shadow of Blackbirds, The Cure for Dreaming, The Uninvited: A Novel

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

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

Seven-year-old Janie O’Daire is a mathematical genius, which is surprising. But what is disturbing are the stories she tells: that her name was once Violet, she grew up in Kansas decades earlier, and she drowned at age nineteen. Alice delves into these stories, at first believing they’re no more than the product of the girl’s vast imagination. But, slowly, Alice comes to the realization that Janie might indeed be telling a strange truth.

Alice knows the investigation may endanger her already shaky professional reputation, and as a woman in a field dominated by men she has no room for mistakes. But she is unprepared for the ways it will illuminate terrifying mysteries within her own past, and in the process, irrevocably change her life.

About Cat Winters

Cat Winters is an award-winning, critically acclaimed author of fiction that blends history with the supernatural. Her young adult works include IN THE SHADOW OF BLACKBIRDS, THE CURE FOR DREAMING, THE STEEP AND THORNY WAY, and the forthcoming ODD & TRUE (Sept. 2017). Her adult novels are THE UNINVITED and YESTERNIGHT. She has been named a Morris Award finalist, a Bram Stoker Award nominee, and an Oregon Spirit Book Award winner, and her books have appeared on numerous state and "best of" lists.

Winters was born and raised in Southern California, just a short drive down the freeway from Disneyland, which may explain her love of haunted mansions, bygone eras, and fantasylands. She currently lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and two kids.

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I absolutely adored The Uninvited. Adored. It wasn’t quite as popular as her Young Adult novels, being her first targeted solely towards Adults, but I feel like her books really straddle the line and can be equally appreciated by all. Can’t wait for this one though!

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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

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

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

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

two-half-stars

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

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

Long Lankin Series

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Book Review – Once Was a Time by Leila Sales

April 7, 2016 Bonnie Book Reviews, Middle Grade, Read in 2016 0 Comments

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

Book Review – Once Was a Time by Leila SalesOnce Was a Time by Leila Sales
Published by Chronicle Books on April 5th 2016
Pages: 272
Genres: Historical Fiction, Contemporary, Time Travel
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: This Song Will Save Your Life

two-stars

In the war-ravaged England of 1940, Charlotte Bromley is sure of only one thing: Kitty McLaughlin is her best friend in the whole world. But when Charlotte's scientist father makes an astonishing discovery that the Germans will covet for themselves, Charlotte is faced with an impossible choice between danger and safety. Should she remain with her friend or journey to another time and place? Her split-second decision has huge consequences, and when she finds herself alone in the world, unsure of Kitty's fate, she knows that somehow, some way, she must find her way back to her friend. Written in the spirit of classic time-travel tales, this book is an imaginative and heartfelt tribute to the unbreakable ties of friendship.

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“What do you do when you learn, without a doubt, that you’ve lost everyone you love and you’re trapped by time forever?”

Charlotte “Lottie” Bromley has been raised to believe in time travel. Her father is an illustrious scientist who has been tasked with learning the secrets of time travel in hopes of gaining a leg up in the war. The year is 1940 and ten-year-old Lottie and her best friend Kitty are kidnapped by Nazis in an effort to coerce the secret of time travel from her father. When a shimmering portal appears in front of Lottie, she takes advantage of an opportunity that might never present itself again, even though that means leaving Kitty behind. Lottie finds herself in a place called Wisconsin in the year 2013 clad only in her pajamas. Her only desire is to find some way to return to Kitty and hope that her and her father survived after she escaped.

Once Was a Time intrigued me from the very beginning with the portrayal of a war-ravaged England through the perspective of a ten-year-old girl. Add in a scientist researching the existence of time travel and I was more than ready for an adventurous and entertaining story. Unfortunately, that feeling was tragically short-lived. I am ready and willing to read anything to do with time travel, however, in looking at the time travel books I have read and loved, there was one similarity between them all: the characters were time traveling to a fascinating time and place. Alas, Wisconsin circa 2013 does not scream fascinating to me.

The numerous genres also made this a difficult one for me. We’re introduced to this as historical fiction upon which it’s given a dash of science fiction and mystery. As soon as you’ve got comfortable with this interesting blend, the reader is then thrust into a contemporary, coming-of-age setting where Lottie is adapting to a modern age where everything is unknown. It was an interesting switch from what you typically find in time travel books, where a modern person is forced to adapt to the past but her dealing with mean girl cliques was too much. She makes friends with these girls even though she never seems to actually care for them because of she believes she doesn’t deserve to have good friends because she left her best friend behind with the Nazis. I could understand her mindset, it just ended up being far too long and drawn out for a meager 272 pages. The pacing picked up speed and seemed to be making a comeback at the end but seemed to lose control making the ending feel avoidably rushed.

I fell in love with Leila Sales’ writing after her novel This Song Will Save Your Life. Yes, that story touched on personal experiences so of course, it would be special to me but it was so passionately written, personal experiences or no, it was an incredible story. Unfortunately, I think it set the bar astronomically high for any future read I picked up from her. That spark that made that such an incredible story seemed to be absent here and while I loved the concept of it all, it could have been so much more than it was.

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Early Review – Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Audiobook Review – Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

January 7, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 1 Comment

Audiobook Review – Go Set a Watchman by Harper LeeGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Narrator: Reese Witherspoon
Series: To Kill a Mockingbird
Published by Harper Audio on July 14th 2015
Length: 6 hours and 57 minutes
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: To Kill a Mockingbird

two-stars

From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch--"Scout"--returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise's homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past--a journey that can be guided only by one's conscience.

Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor and effortless precision--a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to an American classic.

To Kill a Mockingbird series

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To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee [Review]

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This book will be discussed in detail, so please do not read unless you wanted to be spoiled.

When Go Set a Watchman was announced and released in the summer of 2015, it had its fair share of controversy. It was heavily questioned initially whether Harper Lee had authorized the book’s release, or if she had even written it at all. But then the release came, and the outrage became even more substantial: Atticus Finch is racist. I couldn’t help but feel that the quotations that were shared were being taken out of context, but it was some pretty solid evidence that was hard to refute. Bottom line, my curiosity was great and I had to experience the truth myself.

Readers are mad, and rightly so in my opinion, that Atticus Finch’s character has been dramatically transposed from the interpretation we were given in To Kill A Mockingbird. But that’s just what it was, an interpretation. If you remember, the story was written entirely from the point of view of Scout, who was just six years old and at that young age, it is easy for parental idolatry to occur. Go Set a Watchman takes place years later, where Jean Louise Finch “Scout” is now twenty-six years old and coming home from New York to visit her aging father. She’s confronted with the fact that she’s understood her father to be of one frame of mind about the world, that she has modeled her own mindset after his, and her beliefs are now crumbling when she discovers him in a “citizens’ council” meeting hosting a racist preacher. When she has it out with him later, she finds out that her father is a card-carrying member of the KKK as well. Atticus was that one shining beacon of hope in a sea of racism and to find out he’s no different than the majority of individuals in this era caused a complete loss of innocence. And here we all thought that To Kill A Mockingbird was the coming-of-age tale.

I did a re-read of To Kill A Mockingbird just last year, so it was all still very clear in my mind. This is a direct line from my review which posted last March:

“Atticus Finch, by far my favorite character, is a man that saw everyone as his equal. He believed this wholeheartedly and was willing to put his very livelihood on the line to fight for those rights. He was able to accept the differences in all of us and see the true bottom line: regardless of race, color, gender or any of the multitudes of ways that not only make us who we are but also separates us from the rest, at the end of the day we are all the same; we’re all human beings. This world would be a far better place with a few more Atticus Finch’s in existence.”

Go Set a Watchman has definitely caused me to examine my own mindset, much like Scout. So other than our preconceived notions that Atticus was anything but racist, what do we know about him actually? He’s honest and fair, he’s a great father and a fantastic lawyer. He views his job less as a job but more as a personal pledge to upholding the law, regardless of race. And there’s the rub. Atticus chose to defend Tom Robinson solely because of his personal obligation to upholding justice because he felt that no one would properly defend him like Atticus would.

“I remember that rape case you defended, but I missed the point. You love justice, all right. Abstract justice written down item by item on a brief – nothing to do with that black boy, you just like a neat brief. His cause interfered with your orderly mind, and you had to work order out of disorder. It’s a compulsion with you, and now it’s coming home to you – “

He goes on to explain his membership to the KKK as a way of being aware of who is also a member and who holds those beliefs. Jean Louise’s love interest, Henry, is also a card-carrying member and he explains to her his presence in the citizen’s council meeting be saying it allows him to continue to be of use to the community. That he isn’t necessarily agreeing with their beliefs, but he’s not going against them because calling them out would cast him out and being a part of the norm is safe. In a nutshell. So, conform to the norm and don’t voice your differing opinions because that’s not safe, is the belief. Of course, this is an extremely accurate interpretation of the typical mindset during this period in history and having Atticus come out as having racist beliefs just makes more sense even if I’d prefer to stick with my illustrious views of him, rather than these dispiriting quotes:

“Have you ever considered that you can’t have a set of backward people living among people advanced in one kind of civilization and have a social Arcadia?”

“You realize that our Negro population is backward, don’t you? You will concede that? You realize the full implications of the word ‘backward’, don’t you?”

“You realize that the vast majority of them here in the South are unable to share fully in the responsibilities of citizenship, and why?”

“Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world? […] Do you want your children going to school that’s been dragged down to accommodate Negro children?”

“…you do not seem to understand that the Negroes down here are still in their childhood as people.”

Jean Louise is naturally irate at what’s coming out of his mouth, but instead of voicing her dissension, explains her anger to him by asking him why he didn’t just raise her right.

“…I grew up right here in your house, and I never knew what was in your mind. I only heard what you said. You neglected to tell me that we were naturally better than the Negroes, bless their kinky heads, that they were able to go so far but so far only.”

Because if he had raised her to not be “colorblind”, as she says, and to be able to recognize the differences in the races then she wouldn’t be so conflicted because she’d be like-minded with everyone else in the town.

I loved To Kill a Mockingbird. I loved the hope it presented, but again, it was all being viewed from the point of view of a child so it had that sense of innocence. To Kill a Mockingbird has grown up, Scout has grown up, and that same world is now viewed with a devastating sense of realism that I think is a difficult thing to stomach. I have read many reviews that state even if this tarnishes Atticus for you, it is still a must-read because of how it views the world harshly but honestly. I have to disagree. For me, I think even if we enjoyed Scout’s innocent interpretation of the world, we’re all still fully aware of how the world truly is. We’re all aware of the masks that people can wear and the secrets that they hide from the public and even from those they love. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with continuing to hope that there was at least one good man in the South that was willing to stand up for his beliefs even if they didn’t manage to fit the norm.

‘I did not want my world disturbed, but I wanted to crush the man who’s trying to preserve it for me. I wanted to stamp out all the people like him. I guess it’s like an airplane: they’re the drag and we’re the thrust, together we make the thing fly. Too much of us and we’re nose-heavy, too much of them and we’re tail-heavy—it’s a matter of balance. I can’t beat him, and I can’t join him–’

Note on the Narration: I listened to Sissy Spacek’s narration of To Kill a Mockingbird and I couldn’t imagine Scout’s story being told any other way. But this book wouldn’t have been anything without the narration of Reese Witherspoon. Her southern accent is perfection and somebody has got to tell her she really must narrate more audiobooks. Listen below for a clip.

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Waiting on Wednesday – To The Bright Edge of the World: A Novel by Eowyn Ivey

November 25, 2015 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday 6 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – To The Bright Edge of the World: A Novel by Eowyn IveyTo The Bright Edge of the World: A Novel by Eowyn Ivey
Published by Little Brown and Company on August 2nd 2016
Pages: 432
Genres: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
Format: Hardcover
Book Depository
Goodreads

Set again in the Alaskan landscape that she bought to stunningly vivid life in THE SNOW CHILD, Eowyn Ivey's new novel is a breathtaking story of discovery and adventure, set at the end of the nineteenth century, and of a marriage tested by a closely held secret.

Colonel Allen Forrester receives the commission of a lifetime when he is charged to navigate Alaska's hitherto impassable Wolverine River, with only a small group of men. The Wolverine is the key to opening up Alaska and its huge reserves of gold to the outside world, but previous attempts have ended in tragedy.

For Forrester, the decision to accept this mission is even more difficult, as he is only recently married to Sophie, the wife he had perhaps never expected to find. Sophie is pregnant with their first child, and does not relish the prospect of a year in a military barracks while her husband embarks upon the journey of a lifetime. She has genuine cause to worry about her pregnancy, and it is with deep uncertainty about what their future holds that she and her husband part.

A story shot through with a darker but potent strand of the magic that illuminated THE SNOW CHILD, and with the sweep and insight that characterised Rose Tremain's The Colour, this new novel from Pulitzer Prize finalist Eowyn Ivey singles her out as a major literary talent.

About Eowyn Ivey

Eowyn LeMay Ivey was raised in Alaska and continues to live there with her husband and two daughters. She received her BA in journalism and minor in creative writing through the honors program at Western Washington University, studied creative nonfiction at the University of Alaska Anchorage graduate program, and worked for nearly 10 years as an award-winning reporter at the Frontiersman newspaper. This is her first novel.

The Snow Child was such an absolutely incredible read and I’ve been anxious for more from this author ever since. With that beyond gorgeous cover and intriguing storyline, I’ll be eagerly awaiting August for sure.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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Book Review – A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

November 20, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA 4 Comments

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

Book Review – A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnisA Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on October 6th 2015
Pages: 384
Genres: Gothic, Historical Fiction, Mental Health
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: Not a Drop to Drink

two-stars

Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.

‘They all had their terrors, but at least the spiders that lived in the new girl’s veins were imaginary. Grace has learned long ago that the true horrors of this world were other people.’

A Madness So Discreet introduces Grace Mae, a young woman who has been placed in an asylum in an attempt to hide her out of wedlock pregnancy in addition to the horrible secret to how she came to be pregnant in the first place. She is certainly of sound mind, however, the long nights spent listening to the screams of patients echoing the corridors is enough to effect even the toughest of individuals. When an opportunity to leave the asylum is presented to her she jumps at the opportunity for a fresh start, but Grace soon finds that sometimes your past finds a way to sneak up on you.

The beginning is one of the most shocking and audacious introductions I have come across in YA. We’re introduced to Grace and the patients in the Wayburne Lunatic Asylum of Boston and a terrifying picture is quickly painted. This is set in the 19th century and patients are not treated as people, they are not given sufficient food or clothing, and they are thrown into the basement cells which leak rainwater from outside as a form of punishment. There are other far worse punishments described as well. It was grisly and utterly distressing but considering grisly and distressing are totally my thing, I was immediately foreseeing a first-rate reading experience. Alas, the book took an odd turn after that.

‘They work their discreet types of madness on us, power and pain, and we hold on to our truths in the darkness.’

Going from a decidedly Gothic feel and leaving the confines of the asylum, it quickly transforms into a something of a crime thriller, just minus the thrill. Grace is placed in the care of Dr. Thornhollow after he takes a keen interest in her sharp mind and believes she can be of assistance to him. Why he goes to such dramatic lengths to get her out of the asylum is beyond me though. See, Dr. Thornhollow believes himself to be Sherlock in his spare time, investigating crimes and catching killers. Towards the end we once again take an odd turn and it quickly becomes an episode of Law & Order.

Referencing a book as having a Gothic feel, set in an asylum with crime and legal aspects should have been a home-run for me and I can’t decide whether all aspects combined were simply too much or it was simply too far-fetched for it to feel any way authentic. I would have much preferred Grace’s story to play out within the asylum walls, wrestling her inner-demons.

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Waiting on Wednesday – A Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly

November 11, 2015 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday 2 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – A Criminal Magic by Lee KellyA Criminal Magic by Lee Kelly
Published by Saga Press on February 2nd 2016
Pages: 432
Genres: Historical Fiction, Magical Realism
Format: Hardcover
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THE NIGHT CIRCUS meets THE PEAKY BLINDERS in Lee Kelly's new magical realism, crossover novel.

Magic is powerful, dangerous and addictive - and after passage of the 18th Amendment, it is finally illegal.

It's 1926 in Washington, DC, and while Anti-Sorcery activists have achieved the Prohibition of sorcery, the city's magic underworld is booming. Sorcerers cast illusions to aid mobsters' crime sprees. Smugglers funnel magic contraband in from overseas. Gangs have established secret performance venues where patrons can lose themselves in magic, and take a mind-bending, intoxicating elixir known as the sorcerer's shine.

Joan Kendrick, a young sorcerer from Norfolk County, Virginia accepts an offer to work for DC's most notorious crime syndicate, the Shaw Gang, when her family's home is repossessed. Alex Danfrey, a first-year Federal Prohibition Unit trainee with a complicated past and talents of his own, becomes tapped to go undercover and infiltrate the Shaws.

Through different paths, Joan and Alex tread deep into the violent, dangerous world of criminal magic - and when their paths cross at the Shaws' performance venue, despite their orders, and despite themselves, Joan and Alex become enchanted with one another. But when gang alliances begin to shift, the two sorcerers are forced to question their ultimate allegiances and motivations. And soon, Joan and Alex find themselves pitted against each other in a treacherous, heady game of cat-and-mouse.

A CRIMINAL MAGIC casts a spell of magic, high stakes and intrigue against the backdrop of a very different Roaring Twenties.

About Lee Kelly

Lee Kelly has wanted to write since she was old enough to hold a pencil, but it wasn’t until she began studying for the California Bar Exam that she conveniently started putting pen to paper.

An entertainment lawyer by trade, Lee has practiced law in Los Angeles and New York.

She lives with her husband and son in Millburn, New Jersey, though after a decade in Manhattan, she can’t help but still call herself a New Yorker.

City of Savages is her first novel. Visit her at NewWriteCity.com.

I never got around to reading this authors debut, but A Criminal Magic is most definitely on my TBR. Magical Realism and Alternate Reality in the 20s? Oh, yes, please.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

dvd-pearl

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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Early Review – The Marvels by Brian Selznick

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

Early Review – The Marvels by Brian SelznickThe Marvels by Brian Selznick
Illustrator: Brian Selznick
Published by Scholastic Press on September 15th 2015
Pages: 640
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: Gifted
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five-stars

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

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

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

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

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

Many thanks to Wendy for gifting me this lovely story.

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