Genre: Magical Realism

Can’t Wait Wednesday | The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie by Rachel Linden

Posted April 13, 2022 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday / 5 Comments

Can’t Wait Wednesday | The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie by Rachel LindenThe Magic of Lemon Drop Pie by Rachel Linden
Published by Berkley Books on August 2, 2022
Pages: 352
Genres: Foodie Fiction, Magical Realism
Format: Paperback
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"Heartfelt, heartwarming, joyful, and uplifting. You can't go wrong with a Rachel Linden book."--#1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber

An uplifting novel about a heartbroken young pie maker who is granted a magical second chance to live the life she didn't choose. . . . from the bestselling author of The Enlightenment of Bees.

Lolly Blanchard's life only seems to give her lemons. Ten years ago, after her mother's tragic death, she broke up with her first love and abandoned her dream of opening a restaurant in order to keep her family's struggling Seattle diner afloat and care for her younger sister and grieving father. Now, a decade later, she dutifully whips up the diner's famous lemon meringue pies each morning while still pining for all she's lost.

As Lolly's thirty-third birthday approaches, her quirky great-aunt gives her a mysterious gift--three lemon drops, each of which allows her to live a single day in a life that might have been hers. What if her mom hadn't passed away? What if she had opened her own restaurant in England? What if she hadn't broken up with the only man she's ever loved? Surprising and empowering, each experience helps Lolly let go of her regrets and realize the key to transforming her life lies not in redoing her past but in having the courage to embrace her present.

About Rachel Linden

Rachel Linden is a novelist and international aid worker whose adventures in over fifty countries around the world provide excellent grist for her writing. She is the author of The Magic of Lemon Drop Pie, The Enlightenment of Bees, Becoming the Talbot Sisters, and Ascension of Larks. Currently Rachel lives with her family on a sweet little island near Seattle, WA where she enjoys creating stories about strong women facing big challenges, travel, food, and second chances at love. She promises her readers a happy, or at least very hopeful, ending and infuses each of her stories with a touch of magical realism.

Is there anything better than foodie fiction with a dose of magical realism mixed in? I think not.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Can’t Wait Wednesday | Other Birds by Sarah Addison Allen

Posted February 2, 2022 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday / 2 Comments

Can’t Wait Wednesday | Other Birds by Sarah Addison AllenOther Birds by Sarah Addison Allen
Published by St. Martin's Press on September 13, 2022
Pages: 304
Genres: Magical Realism
Format: Hardcover
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Also by this author: Lost Lake, Garden Spells, First Frost

From the New York Times bestselling author of Garden Spells comes an enchanting tale filled with magical realism and moments of pure love that won’t let you go.

Between the real and the imaginary, there are stories that take flight in the most extraordinary ways.

Right off the coast of South Carolina, on Mallow Island, The Dellawisp sits—a stunning old cobblestone building shaped like a horseshoe, and named after the tiny turquoise birds who, alongside its human tenants, inhabit an air of magical secrecy.

When Zoey comes to claim her deceased mother’s apartment on an island outside of Charleston she meets her quirky and secretive neighbors, including a girl on the run, two estranged middle-aged sisters, a lonely chef, a legendary writer, and three ghosts. Each with their own story. Each with their own longings. Each whose ending isn’t yet written.

About Sarah Addison Allen

New York Times bestselling novelist Sarah Addison Allen was born and raised in Asheville, North Carolina, in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, Sarah grew up with a love of books and an appreciation of good food (she credits her journalist father for the former and her mother, a fabulous cook, for the latter). In college, she majored in literature.

It warms my heart to know a Sarah Addison Allen is upcoming. This one sounds wonderfully magical as always.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Life’s Too Short | The Honey-Don’t List, Follow Me to Ground, The Starless Sea

Posted December 26, 2019 by Bonnie in 2019, Book Reviews, Life's Too Short / 8 Comments

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

Life’s Too Short | The Honey-Don’t List, Follow Me to Ground, The Starless SeaThe Honey-Don't List by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on March 24, 2020
Pages: 320
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: My Favorite Half-Night Stand, Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating, Love and Other Words, The Unhoneymooners, Twice in a Blue Moon

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Carey Douglas has worked for home remodeling and design gurus Melissa and Rusty Tripp for nearly a decade. A country girl at heart, Carey started in their first store at sixteen, and—more than anyone would suspect—has helped them build an empire. With a new show and a book about to launch, the Tripps are on the verge of superstardom. There’s only one problem: America’s favorite couple can’t stand each other.
James McCann, MIT graduate and engineering genius, was originally hired as a structural engineer, but the job isn’t all he thought it’d be. The last straw? Both he and Carey must go on book tour with the Tripps and keep the wheels from falling off the proverbial bus.
Unfortunately, neither of them is in any position to quit. Carey needs health insurance, and James has been promised the role of a lifetime if he can just keep the couple on track for a few more weeks. While road-tripping with the Tripps up the West Coast, Carey and James vow to work together to keep their bosses’ secrets hidden, and their own jobs secure. But if they stop playing along—and start playing for keeps—they may have the chance to build something beautiful together…
From the “hilariously zany and heartfelt” (Booklist) Christina Lauren comes a romantic comedy that proves if it’s broke, you might as well fix it.
From the New York Times bestselling author behind the “joyful, warm, touching” (Jasmine Guillory, New York Times bestselling author) The Unhoneymooners comes a delightfully charming love story about what happens when two assistants tasked with keeping a rocky relationship from explosion start to feel sparks of their own.

DNF @ 23%

I’ve read a ton of Christina Lauren books and my ratings have gone steadily down with each new release, however, this is my first official DNF. I just couldn’t do it. This one rubbed me the wrong way right from the beginning with how similar the plot was to Chip and Joanna Gaines and their home improvement show, Fixer Upper. In The Honey-Don’t List, they’re Rusty and Melissa, with their home improvement show and their perfect life… except it’s all a lie. I don’t know, for me, it felt like they were just taking something good and wholesome and ruining it. But I kept reading. Until I got to this quote which is referencing Rusty’s extra-marital affairs:

“I know her well enough to get that she doesn’t like my intrusion, but we’re all in this awkwardness together, and there’s no one to blame but Rusty. And to be fair, probably Melly, too.”

Oh, I’m sorry, what was that? We’re blaming Melissa for being the reason Rusty cheated on her?

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

Life’s Too Short | The Honey-Don’t List, Follow Me to Ground, The Starless SeaFollow Me to Ground by Sue Rainsford
Published by Scribner on January 21, 2020
Pages: 208
Genres: Magical Realism
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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A haunted, surreal debut novel about an otherworldly young woman, her father, and her lover that culminates in a shocking moment of betrayal—one that upends our understanding of power, predation, and agency.
Ada and her father, touched by the power to heal illness, live on the edge of a village where they help sick locals—or “Cures”—by cracking open their damaged bodies or temporarily burying them in the reviving, dangerous Ground nearby. Ada, a being both more and less than human, is mostly uninterested in the Cures, until she meets a man named Samson. When they strike up an affair, to the displeasure of her father and Samson’s widowed, pregnant sister, Ada is torn between her old way of life and new possibilities with her lover—and eventually comes to a decision that will forever change Samson, the town, and the Ground itself.
Follow Me to Ground is fascinating and frightening, urgent and propulsive. In Ada, award-winning author Sue Rainsford has created an utterly bewitching heroine, one who challenges conventional ideas of womanhood and the secrets of the body. Slim but authoritative, Follow Me to Ground lingers long after its final page, pulling the reader into a dream between fairytale and nightmare, desire and delusion, folktale and warning.

DNF @ 29%

This is one of those books that’s going to be amazing for a certain kind of reader. I am not that certain kind of reader. This was magical realism with a dash of weirdness but the more you keep reading you realize that the lid must’ve come off and the whole bottle of weirdness ended up in there. The utter strangeness of this reminded me a lot of The Library at Mount Char, so if you were a fan of that, definitely pick this one up. (That one also didn’t work for me. lol) Here’s a quick summary of the weirdness: this girl and her father were both “born from the dirt” or something, her father transforms into a beast at night and eats the local wildlife, they take out the yucky stuff from people that causes them pain/sickness, etc. The writing is lyrical and the only reason I got to 29% but the story is extremely weird. Take this scene for instance:

“First time I tried to lie down with a boy, I didn’t know what I was doing. I lay down and he lay down over me and I held on tight. He went to put it in and there was nowhere for it to go and he got scared and bit me. […] By the time I took Samson inside, I’d grown myself an opening that I’d a dozen names for.”

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Life’s Too Short | The Honey-Don’t List, Follow Me to Ground, The Starless SeaThe Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
Narrator: Dominic Hoffman, Dion Graham, Bahni Turpin, Allan Corduner, Fiona Hardingham, Jorjeana Marie
on November 5, 2019
Length: 18 hrs and 37 mins
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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Far beneath the surface of the earth, upon the shores of the Starless Sea, there is a labyrinthine collection of tunnels and rooms filled with stories. The entryways that lead to this sanctuary are often hidden, sometimes on forest floors, sometimes in private homes, sometimes in plain sight. But those who seek will find. Their doors have been waiting for them.
Zachary Ezra Rawlins is searching for his door, though he does not know it. He follows a silent siren song, an inexplicable knowledge that he is meant for another place. When he discovers a mysterious book in the stacks of his campus library he begins to read, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, lost cities, and nameless acolytes. Suddenly a turn of the page brings Zachary to a story from his own childhood impossibly written in this book that is older than he is.
A bee, a key, and a sword emblazoned on the book lead Zachary to two people who will change the course of his life: Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired painter, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances. These strangers guide Zachary through masquerade party dances and whispered back room stories to the headquarters of a secret society where doorknobs hang from ribbons, and finally through a door conjured from paint to the place he has always yearned for. Amid twisting tunnels filled with books, gilded ballrooms, and wine-dark shores Zachary falls into an intoxicating world soaked in romance and mystery. But a battle is raging over the fate of this place and though there are those who would willingly sacrifice everything to protect it, there are just as many intent on its destruction. As Zachary, Mirabel, and Dorian venture deeper into the space and its histories and myths, searching for answers and each other, a timeless love story unspools, casting a spell of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a Starless Sea.

DNF @ 30 minutes into the audio

I knew quickly that this one wasn’t going to work out for me. I know I didn’t really give it a chance, but I was completely lost and had no idea what was going on and there didn’t even seem to be a freaking plot. It was full of extremely beautiful writing that was always describing something in explicit detail and never actually amounting to much. Maybe this would be better in print but I’m not sure I’ll be giving it that opportunity. Truth is, I DNF’d The Night Circus in print AND in audio (I tried it in both ways just to make sure it wasn’t a format problem) and I’m just not sure Morgenstern is the author for me.

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Waiting on Wednesday – A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma

Posted July 25, 2018 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday / 2 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – A Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren SumaA Room Away From the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma
Published by Algonquin Young Readers on September 4, 2018
Pages: 304
Genres: Magical Realism, Ghosties
Format: Hardcover
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Also by this author: Imaginary Girls, The Walls Around Us

Bina has never forgotten the time she and her mother ran away from home. Her mother promised they would hitchhike to the city to escape Bina’s cruel father and start over. But before they could even leave town, Bina had a new stepfather and two new stepsisters, and a humming sense of betrayal pulling apart the bond with her mother—a bond Bina thought was unbreakable.

Eight years later, after too many lies and with trouble on her heels, Bina finds herself on the side of the road again, the city of her dreams calling for her. She has an old suitcase, a fresh black eye, and a room waiting for her at Catherine House, a young women’s residence in Greenwich Village with a tragic history, a vow of confidentiality, and dark, magical secrets. There, Bina is drawn to her enigmatic downstairs neighbor Monet, a girl who is equal parts intriguing and dangerous. As Bina’s lease begins to run out, and nightmare and memory get tangled, she will be forced to face the terrible truth of why she’s come to Catherine House and what it will take for her to leave...

About Nova Ren Suma

Nova Ren Suma is the author of the YA novels THE WALLS AROUND US as well as the YA novels IMAGINARY GIRLS and 17 & GONE, which were both named 2014 Outstanding Books for the College Bound by YALSA. Her middle-grade novel, DANI NOIR, was reissued for a YA audience under the title FADE OUT. She has a BA in writing & photography from Antioch College and an MFA in fiction from Columbia University and has been awarded fiction fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, the Djerassi Resident Artists Program, the Millay Colony, and an NEA fellowship for a residency at the Hambidge Center. She worked for years behind the scenes in publishing, at places such as HarperCollins, Penguin, Marvel Comics, and RAW Books, and now she teaches writing workshops. She is from various small towns across the Hudson Valley and lives and writes in New York City.

Find Nova online at novaren.com and on her blog distraction99.com.

I adore Nova Ren Suma’s stories and I’ve been so anxious for new stuff from her!

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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Rapid Fire Reviews – Lightwood, The Weight of This World, Wildfire, The Rules of Magic

Posted December 28, 2017 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Rapid Fire Reviews, Read in 2017 / 8 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 Fire Reviews – Lightwood, The Weight of This World, Wildfire, The Rules of MagicLightwood by Steph Post
Published by Polis Books on January 24th 2017
Pages: 336
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: eBook
Source: the Author
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Short Summary: When Judah Cannon is released from prison and returns to his hometown of Silas, Florida, he finds himself swiftly wrapped up in the troublesome workings of his family once again except this time may not result in prison, but death.

Thoughts: Steph Post has written a riveting noir-style story about revenge and betrayal that switches up the typical Appalachian setting of most Southern Gothic novels and gives us a peek at the dynamic and dangerous world of Florida scrub country.

Verdict: Daniel Woodrell, Donald Ray Pollock, and Cormac McCarthy are all big names of the often lurid genre but Steph Post proves with Lightwood that her name is just as deserving to be listed amongst them.

four-stars

Rapid Fire Reviews – Lightwood, The Weight of This World, Wildfire, The Rules of MagicThe Weight of This World by David Joy
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons on March 7th 2017
Pages: 260
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Short Summary: Aiden McCall and Thad Broom have been best friends since they were children, both trapped by the imaginary confines of their hometown even after a huge amount of money ends up in their possession after witnessing the violent death of their drug dealer.

Thoughts: Joy’s graceful prose is all the more evident when its backdrop is a brutal tale but the two pair perfectly by focusing on the powerful loyalty between two lifelong friends.

Verdict: There’s no sophomore slump to be had here; The Weight of the World is just as fantastic as Where All Light Tends to Go which makes the wait for The Line That Held Us all the more interminable.

four-stars

Waiting on Wednesday – Wildfire (Hidden Legacy #3) by Ilona AndrewsWildfire by Ilona Andrews
Series: Hidden Legacy #3
Published by Avon on July 25th 2017
Pages: 400
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Goodreads

Short Summary: Life is never quiet for Nevada Baylor who realizes she’s in love with Mad Rogan, has to contend with being hired for a job by his beautiful ex, but she’s also dealing with her evil grandmother trying to kidnap her solely because of the power she possessed.

Thoughts: The intricate world-building, passionate romance, and overall excitement of this series continue in this installment that just might not be the last in the trilogy as first presumed.

Verdict: This is the 19th Ilona Andrews story so clearly I’m a bit of a fangirl; however, it never ceases to amaze me the originality of their stories and how I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of them.

four-stars

Rapid Fire Reviews – Lightwood, The Weight of This World, Wildfire, The Rules of MagicThe Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman
Series: Practical Magic #2
Published by Simon & Schuster on October 10th 2017
Pages: 384
Genres: Historical FictionMagical Realism
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Short Summary: In Practical Magic we learn about the Owens sisters in the present day and in this unexpected prequel, we learn about their ancestors and the curse on the family that dates back to the early 1600s.

Thoughts: The Rules of Magic is an enchanting story that flows softly, never with any sense of urgency or climax, but delineates on a family that we never quite knew we wanted (or needed) to know more of until this was released.

Verdict: I was worried that this prequel (released twenty-two years after Practical Magic would feel stale and wouldn’t possess the same magic as its predecessor: I was wrong.

four-stars

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

Posted December 21, 2017 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Life's Too Short / 4 Comments

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DNF @ 20%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DNF @ 15%

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

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

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

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

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It only takes a spark.

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

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

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

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

DNF @ 10%

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

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

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Waiting on Wednesday – The Past Is Never by Tiffany Quay Tyson

Posted December 13, 2017 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday / 4 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – The Past Is Never by Tiffany Quay TysonThe Past Is Never: A Novel by Tiffany Quay Tyson
Published by Skyhorse Publishing on March 6th 2018
Pages: 304
Genres: Magical Realism, Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: Hardcover
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A compelling addition to contemporary Southern Gothic fiction, deftly weaving together local legends, magical realism, and the search for a missing child.

Siblings Bert, Willet, and Pansy know better than to go swimming at the old rock quarry. According to their father, it's the devil's place, a place that's been cursed and forgotten. But Mississippi Delta summer days are scorching hot and they can't resist cooling off in the dark, bottomless water. Until the day six-year-old Pansy disappears. Not drowned, not lost . . . simply gone.

After years with no sign, no hope of ever finding Pansy alive, Bert and Willet have tried to move on. But as surely as their mother died of a broken heart, they can't let go. So when clues surface drawing them to the remote tip of Florida, they drop everything and drive south. Deep in the murky depths of the Florida Everglades they may find the answer to Pansy's mysterious disappearance . . . but truth, like the past, is sometimes better left where it lies.

Perfect for fans of Flannery O'Connor and Dorothy Allison, The Past Is Never is an atmospheric, haunting story of myths, legends, and the good and evil we carry in our hearts.

About Tiffany Quay Tyson

Tiffany Quay Tyson was born and raised in Mississippi, where most of her fiction is set. Her debut novel, THREE RIVERS, was a Mississippi bestseller and a finalist for both the Mississippi Institute of Arts and Letters Fiction Award and the Colorado Book Award for Literary Fiction. Her second novel, THE PAST IS NEVER, is forthcoming March 6, 2018. She currently lives and writes in Denver. Colorado, where she serves on the faculty of Lighthouse Writers Workshop.

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a sucker for anything Southern Gothic. Adding in Magical Realism? Now that’s a combination I haven’t come across before.


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What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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

Posted December 8, 2017 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Life's Too Short / 5 Comments

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

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

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

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

DNF @ 25%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DNF @ 6%

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

DNF @ page 42

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Posted March 30, 2017 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Life's Too Short / 10 Comments

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

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

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

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

DNF @ 3%

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

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

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

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

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

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

DNF @ 15%

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

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

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

…hilariously reminded me of this meme:

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

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

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

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

DNF @ 5%

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

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Waiting on Wednesday – The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert

Posted February 15, 2017 by Bonnie in Waiting on Wednesday / 8 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – The Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. ReichertThe Simplicity of Cider by Amy E. Reichert
Series: , ,
Published by Gallery Books on May 16th 2017
Pages: 336
Format: Paperback
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Also by this author: The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, The Simplicity of Cider, The Kindred Spirits Supper Club

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

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

Isaac Banks has spent years singlehandedly trying to shield his son Sebastian from his troubled mother. Fleeing heartbreak, Isaac packed up their lives and the two headed out on an adventure, taking odd jobs as they drove across the country from California, pulling up to Sanna’s orchard at exactly the right time...

Isaac’s helping hands are much appreciated at the apple farm, even more when Sanna’s father is injured in an accident, leaving her as his sole caretaker. As Sanna’s formerly simple life becomes increasingly complicated, she finds solace in unexpected places—friendship with young Sebastian and something more deliciously complex with Isaac—until an outside threat infiltrates the farm. Can Sanna save the orchard and her budding romance? Or will she lose more than she knew she had?

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

About Amy E. Reichert

Amy Reichert earned her MA in Literature from Marquette University, and honed her writing and editing skills as a technical writer (which is exactly as exciting as it sounds). As a newly minted member of the local library board, she loves helping readers find new books to love. She’s a life-long Wisconsin resident with (allegedly) a very noticeable accent, a patient husband, and two too-smart-for-their-own-good kids. When time allows, she loves to read, collect more cookbooks than she could possibly use, and test the limits of her DVR.

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Reichert’s debut, The Coincidence of Coconut Cake, was sweet, simple fun. The Simplicity of Cider, her third novel, looks to add a touch of magic mixed in with the romance which is one of my most favorite genre combinations.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday?

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