Publisher: HarperCollins

Book Review – Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho

January 15, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 3 Comments

Book Review – Veronika Decides to Die by Paulo CoelhoVeronika Decides to Die by Paulo Coelho
Published by HarperCollins on March 17, 2009
Pages: 191
Genres: Philosophy, Literary Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
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two-stars

Twenty-four-year-old Veronika seems to have everything -- youth and beauty, boyfriends and a loving family, a fulfilling job. But something is missing in her life. So, one cold November morning, she takes a handful of sleeping pills expecting never to wake up. But she does -- at a mental hospital where she is told that she has only days to live.

Inspired by events in Coelho's own life, Veronika Decides to Die questions the meaning of madness and celebrates individuals who do not fit into patterns society considers to be normal. Bold and illuminating, it is a dazzling portrait of a young woman at the crossroads of despair and liberation, and a poetic, exuberant appreciation of each day as a renewed opportunity.

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You know how there are just certain things in life that your brain simply cannot comprehend no matter how hard you try? For me, that’s philosophy. Philosophy seems like something that should totally work for me, but the bigger picture, that moment of clarity, of understanding, NEVER comes. I signed up for Philosophy 101 in University and I’m not sure if I had the worst teacher known to man but I walked out less than halfway through the first class. The sole exception to this has been The Tao of Pooh and The Te of Piglet. Say what you want, but that shit is legit. Veronika could take a lesson or two from Pooh Bear.

So, Veronika decides to die. That’s not a spoiler, clearly.

‘When she had achieved almost everything she wanted in life, she had reached the conclusion that her existence had no meaning, because every day was the same. And she had decided to die.’

She decides, over a period of months where she begins collecting sleeping pills, that there is essentially no more point to life because she’s already accomplished everything. So why continue to live it? Veronika takes the pills yet she’s discovered by an unknown individual and wakes to find herself in Villete, the infamous mental hospital. She’s devastated to find that she didn’t succeed in her task but is informed by the doctor that she damaged her heart irreparably and that she has less than a week to live. Initially, this book started off strong and it seemed as if it would be an interesting look into the workings of a mental illness but Paulo Coelho opted to go for a philosophical angle instead which flawed the whole point he was trying to make. Within these short 191 pages, we’re introduced to other individuals currently staying at Villete: a woman with acute anxiety and a man with schizophrenia which are all meant to be traits of Coelho himself who was institutionalized when he was young.

‘In a world where everyone struggles to survive whatever the cost, how could one judge those people who decide to die? No one can judge. Each person knows the extent of their own suffering, or the total absence of meaning in their lives.’

There is much confusion when it comes to the medical aspects of the novel and the even more ridiculous plot twist. In a nutshell, this story is about reveling in our differences, the fact that what society views as “insanity” isn’t necessarily so, and the necessity for finding the beauty in each new day of life. While I understand what Paulo Coelho was intending with this story, taking a serious subject like attempted suicide and giving it a picture perfect (and unrealistic) ending made it all so very contrived.

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Classic Curiosity – Hallowe’en Party (Hercule Poirot Series #36) by Agatha Christie

October 30, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Classic Curiosity, Ominous October, Read in 2014 0 Comments

Classic Curiosity – Hallowe’en Party (Hercule Poirot Series #36) by Agatha ChristieHallowe'en Party by Agatha Christie
Series: Hercule Poirot Series #36
Published by HarperCollins on November 1969
Pages: 336
Genres: Classics, Mystery
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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Also by this author: And Then There Were None

two-stars

A teenage murder witness is drowned in a tub of apples...At a Hallowe'en party, Joyce - a hostile thirteen-year-old - boasts that she once witnessed a murder. When no-one believes her, she storms off home. But within hours her body is found, still in the house, drowned in an apple-bobbing tub. That night, Hercule Poirot is called in to find the 'evil presence'. But first he must establish whether he is looking for a murderer or a double-murderer...

While preparing for the upcoming Hallowe’en Party, thirteen-year-old Joyce Reynolds begins boasting about a murder she claims to have been a witness to many years ago. The reason she gives for not coming forward sooner was she didn’t realize it was an actual murder until recently. For the most part, no one took much notice of her ramblings but someone apparently did. At the Hallowe’en Party, Joyce was found drowned in the apple-bobbing tub. The immediate reasoning for her own death seems to be the death that she witnessed.

Tis the season for a good murder mystery and what better than a murder mystery which occurs at a Halloween Party? This was my train of thought going into this one but that thought quickly derailed. This is my second Agatha Christie book (my first being And Then There Were None — it pains me to rate a Christie book so low after that one) and my first foray into the Hercule Poirot series and even though I’ve been told that they all manage well as stand alone’s, that you can jump right in at any point, Hallowe’en Party was clearly a poor starting point. I started reading this in print and was at first enjoying it but once Poirot began his investigation I kept wanting to put the book down in favor of more interesting things like laundry and vacuuming. I tried powering through but I failed when I began to think I was so out of it I was forgetting to turn the pages and was reading the same passages all over again because the many people he interviewed all had the same. exact. things to say about Joyce. Poirot’s investigation seemingly led no-where yet he was able to postulate exactly who the killer was with little to nothing to go on. Good for you, Poirot. I guess that’s why you’re the detective and I am not. It was all very wearisome though. I switched to listening to the audio after a bit so I could multitask and have exciting times in laundry folding as well.

Poirot was quite a character but I haven’t given up completely on him; I do still anticipate reading the earlier installments (Yes, Dani, like Murder on the Orient Express). He was like a quirky, French version of Sherlock. I’m at least thankful that Sherlock isn’t weird about his facial hair as Poirot clearly is.

‘There was only one thing about his own appearance which really pleased Hercule Poirot, and that was the profusion of his moustaches, and the way they responded to grooming and treatment and trimming. They were magnificent. He knew of nobody else who had any moustache half as good.’

I’m not sure I’d call it “magnificent” but it’s certainly something.

For those of you that are looking for a perfect theme read for Halloween night, alas this isn’t one I’d recommend. Not only because it’s one of the least interesting mysteries I’ve read as of late but even though the murder takes place on Halloween and the rest of the book centers around that, the actual “Halloween” aspects of it last only a few short pages.

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Early Review – The Terror of the Southlands (The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #2) by Caroline Carlson

August 28, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Middle Grade, Read in 2014 2 Comments

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

Early Review – The Terror of the Southlands (The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #2) by Caroline CarlsonThe Terror of the Southlands by Caroline Carlson
Illustrator: Dave Phillips
Series: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #2
Published by HarperCollins on September 9th 2014
Pages: 336
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
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Also by this author: Magic Marks the Spot

three-stars

Hilary Westfield is a pirate. In fact, she’s the Terror of the Southlands! She’s daring, brave, fearless, and . . . in a rut. Maybe she hasn’t found any treasure lately. And maybe she isn’t fighting off as many scallywags as she’d like. But does that mean she and her loyal crew (including a magical gargoyle) deserve to be kicked out of the ranks of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates?

There is only one thing to do—find a daring mission worthy of her fearless reputation. With the help of first mate Charlie, finishing-school friend Claire, and the self-proclaimed intrepid gargoyle, Hilary sets sail on a swashbuckling expedition that may or may not involve a kidnapped Enchantress, bumbling inspectors, a mysterious group called the Mutineers, and—the most terrifying thing of all—a High Society ball.

Caroline Carlson brings just as much rollicking fun, laughter, and action to this second book of the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates as she did with the first, Magic Marks the Spot.

The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series

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Magic Marks the Spot (The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1) by Caroline Carlson [PurchaseReview]

Hilary Westfield has finally achieved her ultimate goal in life: she’s an official member of The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates. But life as a pirate has been, as of late, not exactly full of thrills. This has clearly not gone unnoticed as she’s just received her first warning from the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates that her membership is about to be revoked if she doesn’t start acting more pirate-y. Hilary and her crew head off on a search to find the lost Enchantress and she can only hope that this mission helps her reputation as a pirate.

While reading this, the one thing I kept thinking was this would be one adorable Disney movie. We’ve got Hilary, the young girl who wants nothing more than to be a world renowned pirate. There’s her unlikely companion, a talking gargoyle rather than the much-expected parrot. Add to that is the goofy rather than dangerous pirates, the clueless police inspectors, the snobbish patricians that frown upon pirates and the all-together light-hearted storyline that is quite delightful indeed. Definitely a perfect storyline for a Disney movie.

More pirates, more adventures, more magic and of course more gargoyle make this an entertaining second installment in The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates series. There isn’t much in the way of advancement in overall plot but this is such a fun read that readers of this series aren’t likely to mind.

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Book Review – Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3) by Tahereh Mafi

March 21, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2014, YA 6 Comments

Book Review – Ignite Me (Shatter Me #3) by Tahereh MafiIgnite Me by Tahereh Mafi
Series: Shatter Me #3
Published by HarperCollins on February 4th 2014
Pages: 408
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Romance
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Shatter Me, Unravel Me, Fracture Me

one-star

The heart-stopping conclusion to the New York Times bestselling Shatter Me series, which Ransom Riggs, bestselling author of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, called “a thrilling, high-stakes saga of self-discovery and forbidden love.”

With Omega Point destroyed, Juliette doesn’t know if the rebels, her friends, or even Adam are alive. But that won’t keep her from trying to take down The Reestablishment once and for all. Now she must rely on Warner, the handsome commander of Sector 45. The one person she never thought she could trust. The same person who saved her life. He promises to help Juliette master her powers and save their dying world . . . but that’s not all he wants with her.

The Shatter Me series is perfect for fans who crave action-packed young adult novels with tantalizing romance like Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Legend by Marie Lu. Tahereh Mafi has created a captivating and original story that combines the best of dystopian and paranormal, and was praised by Publishers Weekly as “a gripping read from an author who’s not afraid to take risks.” Now this final book brings the series to a shocking and satisfying end.

Shatter Me series

Shatter Me (Shatter Me #1) {Purchase – My Review}
Destroy Me (Shatter Me #1.5) {Purchase}
Unravel Me (Shatter Me #2) {PurchaseMy Review}
Fracture Me (Shatter Me #2.5) {PurchaseMy Review}

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YOU’VE BEEN WARNED.

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Yes, I ended this with a smile on my face. But for all the wrong reasons. I was smiling because I would no longer have to subject myself to reading more of these books in hopes that they’ll finally start being worth the time and in hopes it’ll start giving me the answers I’ve yearned for. The end did not give me all of those answers but whatever, I’m done with it.

Let’s talk about Adam. I touched on this in my review of Fracture Me but I’m feeling the need to discuss it further because I clearly missed the part where Adam got hit in the head with a semi and all his brain pieces got jiggled around causing him to transform into a completely different person. That happened, right? Because that’s the only excuse I’m willing to accept. I can’t for one second buy that this has been Adam’s ‘true self’ this whole series because he did a complete 180 from anything I’ve come to expect from him. Ohhhhhh… maybe he was abducted by aliens? I might be willing to accept that too. But seriously, he’s supposed to care about Juliette. I could understand some animosity between the two since they did break up but he still claims to care about her. Something tells me you’re confused.

“[…] Adam-I’m not stupid-“
“Are you sure?”
“What?” I can’t believe he just insulted me.
“I asked you if you were sure,” he snaps. “Because you’re acting pretty damn stupid right now […]”

or

“No-you don’t understand anything,” he snaps. “You don’t understand me, you don’t understand yourself and you don’t understand that you’re acting like a stupid child […]”

or

“I was happier,” Adam says, “when I thought she was dead.” […] He finally looks at me. “Thinking you were dead,” he says to me, “was so much better. It hurt so much less than this.”

You get the picture. What made it even worse was there were people standing around while all this is going on. Listening to him verbally abuse her again and again. Kenji KIND OF sticks up for her but for the most part they let him rant and rave and treat her like she’s a piece of trash. Hello? You just going to let that happen? I kept reading in hopes that either someone (or Juliette) would finally stand up to the prick and say:

Now onto Warner. Let’s talk about the fact that every time he called Juliette ‘love’ he only succeeded in making himself sound like a pretentious blowhard. I mean seriously, unless you’re British I don’t think you can really get away with calling anyone ‘love’ and since there was no reference to his British-ness then pretentious blowhard it is. Warner becomes Mr. Perfect in Ignite Me because the love triangle problem needed to be solved suddenly every issue is revealed to have been one giant misunderstanding this entire time!

“…do not presume to understand my actions. […] Because if you do, I can assure you you’ll only be met with disappointment. And if you insist on continuing to make assumptions about my character, I’ll advise you only this: assume you will always be wrong.”

Yes, so basically he was maintaining pretenses this entire time. Naturally. But it was pretty ridiculous that he managed to be as shocked as he was that Juliette thought so little of him. Because really what did he expect? Oh, he just shot his soldier in the head. It was seemingly done for no legit reason. Oh, he just almost made me kill a baby. No explanation given. She was really supposed to surmise that it was all a simulation? Add to that there were so many other things that Warner did do wrong yet because all of his larger misdeeds were explained and forgiven everything else was brushed under the rug? No bueno.

And as a side note, how come we’re ignoring the fact that the only reason he even knows Juliette is because he stole her extremely personal diary? It’s not like they spent quality time together having conversations and getting to know one another. He literally knows nothing about this girl that he claims to love other than what was written in the pages of her diary. And what a terrible invasion of privacy! Even when she tries to take it back from him he claims he’s not done reading and promptly takes it from her again.

I’ve never been Team Adam or Team Warner because I don’t do teams, sorry. But I didn’t expect Adam to start acting completely out of character for no legitimate reason and I didn’t expect a nice, neat resolution to redeem Warner for all his wrong doing. It just felt like a quick resolution and was the ultimate of cop-outs.

Fairly exciting stuff finally starts happening in the last like, 75 pages. They’re going to battle and Juliette is acting like a total badass and I’m loving it. I understand Juliette needed to develop in order to become this newly empowered individual but the last 75 pages of the last book in the trilogy?? Too. Freaking. Late. And that’s what upset me the most and what caused my rock bottom rating: those final pages afforded me a glimpse of what could have been. It was exciting and thrilling with characters I really enjoyed. It made me dislike the other 1,000 or so pages of this series even more than I already did. It could have been an awesome ending to a trilogy and while it was admittedly the best part of the entire series for me, it was still incredibly rushed. If the ending wasn’t quite so rush, if Adam’s character hadn’t been completely razed, if there was more focus on the craziness of the world and not the craziness of Juliette’s ridiculous love-life this could have been an impressive series. If, if, if. I know. But those last pages did showcase the potential that Mafi has and regardless of my opinion of this book or the overall series as a whole I would not be against giving her future novels a shot. I can only hope and pray that the exciting bits happen much, much sooner.

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Short Story Review – Fracture Me (Shatter Me #2.5) by Tahereh Mafi

March 7, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2014, Short Stories, YA 5 Comments

Short Story Review – Fracture Me (Shatter Me #2.5) by Tahereh MafiFracture Me by Tahereh Mafi
Series: Shatter Me #2.5
Published by HarperCollins on December 17, 2013
Pages: 72
Format: eBook
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Shatter Me, Unravel Me, Ignite Me

one-star

In this electrifying sixty-page companion novella to the New York Times bestselling Shatter Me series, discover the fate of the Omega Point rebels as they go up against The Reestablishment. Set during and soon after the final moments of Unravel Me, Fracture Me is told from Adam's perspective.

As Omega Point prepares to launch an all-out assault on The Reestablishment soldiers stationed in Sector 45, Adam's focus couldn't be further from the upcoming battle. He's reeling from his breakup with Juliette, scared for his best friend's life, and as concerned as ever for his brother James's safety. And just as Adam begins to wonder if this life is really for him, the alarms sound. It's time for war.

On the battlefield, it seems like the odds are in their favor—but taking down Warner, Adam's newly discovered half brother, won't be that easy. The Reestablishment can't tolerate a rebellion, and they'll do anything to crush the resistance . . . including killing everyone Adam has ever cared about.

Fracture Me sets the stage for Ignite Me, the explosive finale in Tahereh Mafi's epic dystopian series. It's a novella not to be missed by fans who crave action-packed stories with tantalizing romance like Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Legend by Marie Lu.

I usually skip on writing reviews for short stories because I tend to think of them as nothing more than filler to tide us readers over till the next installment. But I’m making an exception. Because this short story pissed me off.

Fracture Me is told from the POV of Adam and tells his part of the story that we don’t see at the end of Unravel Me. Adam is still upset about losing Juliette, he’s concerned about what happened to Kenji and he’s worried about leaving his little brother James. All understandable things to be concerned about.

My issue with this short story is it presented Adam in a completely different light than what we’ve come to expect. Adam was crazy with feelings for Juliette. Remember?

“It’s been me and you against the world forever,” he says.”It’s always been that way. It’s my fault I took so long to do something about it.”

There’s even the tagline on the cover! “I WILL NOT LOSE HER.” But in Fracture Me, he’s completely changed his tune. And he’s become a bit of a dick. The scene where Adam, Juliette and Kenji are on the battlefield is when his supposed true colors towards Juliette show.

‘The smart thing to do would be to hide her somewhere. Keep her safe. Out of danger. A weak link can bring everything down with it, and I don’t think this is the time to be taking chances.’

‘Kenji and Castle are always blowing smoke up her ass when they shouldn’t, and honestly? It’s dangerous. It’s not good to make her think she can do this kind of thing when really, it’ll probably get her killed.’

And this is where I get pissed because this is not how his character has been written in the previous two novels and is not what I think anyone would have expected from him at this point. Sure, I get it, this is the first we’re truly seeing things from his POV so there’s always the possibility that we read him wrong. But that’s not it. The issue here is, it all feels like one giant cop-out to solidify the ongoing issue the love triangle caused because clearly she’s gotta pick one. So let’s solve that by turning one of the guys into a total prick who thinks so highly of Juliette. Problem solved. We now have a clear winner.

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Book Review – Unravel Me (Shatter Me #2) by Tahereh Mafi

March 6, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2014, YA 17 Comments

Book Review – Unravel Me (Shatter Me #2) by Tahereh MafiUnravel Me by Tahereh Mafi
Series: Shatter Me #2
Published by HarperCollins on February 5, 2013
Pages: 480
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Shatter Me, Fracture Me, Ignite Me

two-stars

The New York Times bestselling sequel to the groundbreaking dystopian novel Shatter Me! Kami Garcia, coauthor of the #1 New York Times bestselling Beautiful Creatures series, says Unravel Me is "dangerous, sexy, romantic, and intense. I dare you to stop reading."

Juliette is still haunted by her deadly touch. But now that she has teamed up with other rebels with powers of their own, she'll be able to fight back against The Reestablishment to save her broken world. With the help of these new allies, she'll also finally learn the secret behind Adam's—and Warner's—immunity to her killer skin.

Unravel Me is perfect for fans who crave action-packed young adult novels with tantalizing romance like Divergent by Veronica Roth, The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, and Legend by Marie Lu. Ransom Riggs, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, raves: "A thrilling, high-stakes saga of self-discovery and forbidden love, the Shatter Me series is a must-read for fans of dystopian young-adult literature—or any literature!"

Shatter Me series

Shatter Me (Shatter Me #1) {PurchaseMy Review}
Destroy Me (Shatter Me #1.5) {Purchase}

‘I don’t understand what’s happening or why he seems so uncertain about me and us and him and me and he and I and all of those pronouns put together.’

What. The. Fuck. Just stop talking.

Yeah, I don’t understand why I’m still reading this series either. I’m clearly the black sheep. Baa.

Unravel Me picks up where Shatter Me left off with Juliette trying desperately to get along with the rebel resistance that saved her life. Despite being surrounded by people just like her, she’s never felt like more of an outcast. Her powers are far more dangerous than any of the others and it’s easy for them to fear the unknown. Adam is also acting differently towards her and Juliette fears that the tests he’s been undergoing to determine why he’s able to touch her means their relationship will never be the same.

So my biggest issue with this book is lack of overall development in each and every part of this story. The storyline itself, the characters, etc. Nothing made progress. I think Juliette actually did some backtracking back to the weakling she was when she was alone in her cell. Not having the connection with Adam caused her to become this whiny, sniveling character that drove me absolutely batty. She spent a tremendous amount of time keeping secrets from everyone that obviously would have helped the situation the resistance found themselves in. It was ridiculous.

The love triangle continued, of course, and that was of course the sole focus of Unravel Me even when there were far greater concerns that could have been delved into. I’m sure if you’re into a more romance focused story then this will be your thing but if you’re going to slap a dystopian genre tag on a book I’m going to expect some detailed exploration into the world-building. The drama and angst was great and Juliette was so beyond ridiculous that she stopped caring completely for her future because she was determined to ‘live in the moment’.

‘His right hand slides up my spine and tugs on the zipper holding my suit together until its halfway down my back and I don’t care. I have 17 years to make up for and I want to feel everything. I’m not interested in waiting around and risking the who-knows and the what-ifs and the huge regrets.’

hahaha Just remember to wear a condom!

So by this point I’m obviously in for the long haul so I will be picking up Ignite Me. I don’t have much hope for Juliette making a noble sacrifice and putting her out of my misery but I do retain hope that the dystopian society will be explored in more detail considering this is the final installment. My hopes are not high though.

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Banned Books Week – The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

September 28, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 2 Comments

Banned Books Week – The Bell Jar by Sylvia PlathThe Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
Narrator: Maggie Gyllenhaal
Published by HarperCollins on 1963
Length: 7 hours and 30 minutes
Genres: Classics, Contemporary
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


four-half-stars

Esther Greenwood: brilliant, beautiful, enormously talented, and successful, but slowly going under -- maybe for the last time. Sylvia Plath masterfully draws the reader into Esther's breakdown with such intensity that Esther's insanity becomes completely real and even rational, as probable and accessible an experience as going to the movies. Such deep penetration into the dark and harrowing corners of the psyche is an extraordinary accomplishment and has made The Bell Jar a haunting American classic.

‘Sylvia Plath’s only novel, The Bell Jar, has, on several occasions, been on banned book lists. […] Well, the first reason is due to the suicidal tendencies and attempted suicide scene. It has been said that some find it inappropriate to read about for it may entice readers to do the same. A few other reasons that Plath’s book has been subjected to being banned is, according to the University of Virginia’s Censored Exhibit online, is that “in the late 1970s, The Bell Jar was suppressed for not only its profanity and sexuality but for its overt rejection of the woman’s role as wife and mother.'”‘

‘The silence drew off, baring the pebbles and shells and all the tatty wreckage of my life. Then, at the rim of vision, it gathered itself, and in one sweeping tide, rushed me to sleep.’

Esther Greenwood is a promising young editorial intern at a popular women’s magazine in New York City. Despite the potential of a bright life ahead of her, Esther remains discouraged and almost intimidated by the future. She’s a very independent and strong-minded woman in a time where social expectations for a woman of her age are vastly different than her mindset. This expectancy that is placed on her only increases her discouragement in life and a deep depression begins to shape.

‘I felt myself melting into the shadows like the negative of a person I’d never seen before in my life.’

The bell jar is an object used in physics experiments in order to preserve something as it creates a vacuum effect and things inside become hermetically sealed. The metaphor here is that everything placed inside becomes unaffected by anything that occurs on the outside, much as Esther’s feelings form a sort of trap that contain her. Her feelings of doubt and discouragement overtake her and she’s unable to see reason and no amount of outside influence can change that. This would typically make for an extremely depressing tone however Esther is a surprisingly humorous, albeit dark, character. The Bell Jar is actually a retelling of events after they have already occurred so in essence Esther is looking back over her life and is realizing the naivety of her actions.

Sylvia Plath skillfully incorporates her gorgeous prose into her first and only novel. The writing style itself is extremely clever and seamless with a somewhat unreliable narrator. The story is not told in chronological order so the story is often hard to extrapolate but must be reminisced on after it’s all said and done. Esther Greenwood is meant to be the semi-autobiographical of Sylvia Plath herself and if you know anything about her actual biography that may explain the cryptic ending we’re given.

The narration by Maggie Gyllenhaal is superb and emulates the words of Esther Greenwood flawlessly. I had actually attempted reading this one in a physical copy and couldn’t get hooked on it but the audio was such a treat.

The reasons why this eye-opening novel has been banned span from ‘it encourages suicide’ and ‘it encourages a non-traditional way of life (mainly for women)’. As far as this novel ‘encouraging’ suicide that’s positively absurd. The Bell Jar does not encourage suicide it simply showcases how deep depression can be, how strong a hold it can have on you and gives you a firsthand view of what it means to unravel. I see nothing wrong with the subject matter and I personally find it to be more educational than anything.

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Early Review – Magic Marks the Spot (The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1) by Caroline Carlson

July 6, 2013 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013, YA 3 Comments

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

Early Review – Magic Marks the Spot (The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1) by Caroline CarlsonMagic Marks the Spot by Caroline Carlson
Series: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1
Published by HarperCollins on September 10th 2013
Pages: 368
Genres: Fantasy, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Terror of the Southlands

three-half-stars

Pirates! Magic! Treasure! A gargoyle? Caroline Carlson's hilarious tween novel The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates #1: Magic Marks the Spot is perfect for fans of Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events and Trenton Lee Stewart's Mysterious Benedict Society.

Hilary Westfield has always dreamed of being a pirate. She can tread water for thirty-seven minutes. She can tie a knot faster than a fleet of sailors, and she already owns a rather pointy sword.

There's only one problem: The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates refuses to let any girl join their ranks of scourges and scallywags.

But Hilary is not the kind of girl to take no for answer. To escape a life of petticoats and politeness at her stuffy finishing school, Hilary sets out in search of her own seaworthy adventure, where she gets swept up in a madcap quest involving a map without an X, a magical treasure that likely doesn't exist, a talking gargoyle, a crew of misfit scallywags, and the most treacherous—and unexpected—villain on the High Seas.

Written with uproarious wit and an inviting storyteller tone, the first book in Caroline Carlson's quirky seafaring series is a piratical tale like no other.

After recently being denied admittance to The Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates simply because she’s a girl, Hilary is now being forced into attending Miss Pimm’s Finishing School for Delicate Ladies. Not that she has any desire to become a Delicate Lady. She can tread water for 37 minutes, can tie a knot that cannot be undone and hates dresses because dresses make climbing ship’s rigging next to impossible.

While Hilary is quite the vibrant character on her own, her gargoyle side-kick provided the comic relief when the story veered too far into weighty territory. The weighty territory mostly involved the odd choice in bad guy, which was a bit of a shock and surprise, however it was handled well. While the story was only occasionally serious, the remaining characters were still just as lighthearted making this a perfect read for young kids. In addition to the story there are between chapter snippets of letters, newspaper articles and other assorted information that was a charming addition.

Magic Marks the Spot is an extremely cute Middle Grade novel that comes equipped with a super spunky heroine, entertaining pirates, magical gargoyles and treasure hunting adventures. While this works as a stand-alone novel with its solid wrap-up ending, it’s actually a brand new start to a planned trilogy. Definitely looking forward to future mischief from Ms. Hilary!

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Early Review – Asylum by Madeleine Roux

July 5, 2013 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013, YA 2 Comments

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

Early Review – Asylum by Madeleine RouxAsylum by Madeleine Roux
Published by HarperCollins on August 20th 2013
Pages: 320
Genres: Horror
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads


one-star

Asylum is a thrilling and creepy photo-novel perfect for fans of the New York Times bestseller Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children.

For sixteen-year-old Dan Crawford, New Hampshire College Prep is more than a summer program—it's a lifeline. An outcast at his high school, Dan is excited to finally make some friends in his last summer before college. But when he arrives at the program, Dan learns that his dorm for the summer used to be a sanatorium, more commonly known as an asylum. And not just any asylum—a last resort for the criminally insane.

As Dan and his new friends, Abby and Jordan, explore the hidden recesses of their creepy summer home, they soon discover it's no coincidence that the three of them ended up here. Because the asylum holds the key to a terrifying past. And there are some secrets that refuse to stay buried.

Featuring found photos of unsettling history and real abandoned asylums and filled with chilling mystery and page-turning suspense, Madeleine Roux's teen debut, Asylum, is a horror story that treads the line between genius and insanity.

The word Asylum alone evokes a feeling of dread. A twinge of apprehension. Unfortunately the title was the only thing that elicited that expected response, because the book was honestly extremely dry and wearisome.

The idea behind the story was solid: 16 year-old Dan comes to stay for several weeks over the summer at a college prep program and he finds out their dorms are located in what once was an asylum for the criminally insane. I’m on board with that. The characters completely destroyed this story though. They were dull, uninteresting and lacking in any sort of dimension.

The inconsistency of maturity was awful. Dan would be contemplating Jung one minute and acting like a 12 year old boy the next. He is supposed to be this incredibly socially awkward guy that has the hardest time making friends, yet he finds two people and they’re the bestest of friends… instantly. They spend all their time together and they even decide to take some of the same classes together and they talk about their family problems with one another and… it just didn’t feel authentic. Their friendship itself may have worked, but the fact that we knew they had JUST met ruined it all. Within a week even the teachers have nicknamed them ‘The Hydra’.

Dan’s two friends, Abby and Jordan, also met each other for the first time on the bus that brought them to the school. The nail in the coffin happened for me when about a week into their stay, Abby forgets to tell Jordan that she won’t be able to study with him because she’s hanging out with Dan instead. She comes home to find him waiting for her outside her dorm door, drinking, proclaiming that she drove him to drink.

Their friendship lacked a necessary composition that would generate these types of responses. But honestly, I’m not sure when I would ever put up with that type of behavior from a friend; it was just unnecessary and dramatic. (Also unnecessary was the incredibly forced romance that could have completely been done without.) It seemed incredibly unrealistic how advanced their relationship seemed to be after such a short amount of time and considering this was a huge basis of the story, it practically ruined the story as a whole for me.

The comparison to Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is a bit far-fetched and the only link between the two I could determine was the inclusion of black and white pictures. With Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children though, the pictures felt like they fit with the story much more and appeared to be incredibly authentic. While my ARC copy didn’t contain all pictures, the ones I was able to view looked digitally created and many didn’t even match up to what was being described which completely defeated the whole purpose. I would consider this to be a far closer match-up to Dennis Lehane’s ‘Shutter Island’- the YA Version with extremely bad characters.

The story was interesting enough but I was really anticipating a much more intense reading experience. The ending doesn’t give you all the answers, because apparently this is being made into a series which is completely unnecessary; this could have been a perfect stand-alone story (if it had more solid of characters and maybe a bit more creepy thrown in for flavor). Suffice it to say this was an epic disappointment and I don’t consider myself to be interested enough in continuing.

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Early Review – The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

May 3, 2013 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013, YA 2 Comments

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

Early Review – The School for Good and Evil by Soman ChainaniThe School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani
Series: The School for Good and Evil #1
Published by HarperCollins on May 14th 2013
Pages: 496
Genres: Fairy-Tales/Retellings, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads


three-half-stars

This year, best friends Sophie and Agatha are about to discover where all the lost children go: the fabled School for Good & Evil, where ordinary boys and girls are trained to be fairy tale heroes and villains. As the most beautiful girl in Gavaldon, Sophie has dreamed of being kidnapped into an enchanted world her whole life. With her pink dresses, glass slippers, and devotion to good deeds, she knows she’ll earn top marks at the School for Good and graduate a storybook princess. Meanwhile Agatha, with her shapeless black frocks, wicked pet cat, and dislike of nearly everyone, seems a natural fit for the School for Evil.

But when the two girls are swept into the Endless Woods, they find their fortunes reversed—Sophie’s dumped in the School for Evil to take Uglification, Death Curses, and Henchmen Training, while Agatha finds herself in the School For Good, thrust amongst handsome princes and fair maidens for classes in Princess Etiquette and Animal Communication.. But what if the mistake is actually the first clue to discovering who Sophie and Agatha really are…?

The School for Good & Evil is an epic journey into a dazzling new world, where the only way out of a fairy tale is to live through one.

‘[…]whether you are Good or Evil, an Ever or a Never, you must learn to respect one another, for no matter how different you may seem, you cannot exist without the other. The line between princess and witch is a thin one indeed…’

The residents of the small town of Gavaldon are all raised on fairy tales, and they all believe them to be real. Every four years, The School Master takes two children over the age of 12 and one child is placed in The School of Good and the other Evil. It’s been four years.

Sophie, lover of pink and a self-proclaimed princess, dreams of going to The School of Good and meeting her Prince and living happily ever after. Agatha, lover of black and silence and solitude with her cat, isn’t quite sure if she believes in the schools but she knows if she was destined to go there would be no better place for her than The School of Evil. Sophie and Agatha are best friends and when both are chosen for The School’s, it comes as quite a shock when their placements are switched. Agatha is definitely not Good and Sophie can’t possibly be Evil…

What worked for me: The writing is vibrant and extremely visual with alternating POV’s between Sophie and Agatha which provided the reader with a glimpse of both schools through their eyes. Sophie was quite an unbearable character but I do believe that was the purpose (and only solidified her position with The School of Evil). Agatha managed to become the real heart of the story and a truly good person. Both girls struggle throughout the story to retain their friendship due to the constant stereotype that Good can’t possibly be friends with Evil.

What didn’t work for me: The story was excessively long and would have benefited from some additional editing. Also, once I got the gist of the backwards type fairy tale going on it did become a tad predictable. I understand that it was a Grimm-type fairy tale and was dark and malevolent, but I really hated the way Sophie treated Agatha considering they were supposed to be best friends and considering Sophie was Agatha’s only friend. The biggest flaw in my opinion was the ending though. It was so strange and seemed a bit out of left field. There’s ‘didn’t see that coming! wow what a shocker!’ and ‘didn’t see that coming because that doesn’t even make any sense.’ I requested this book solely because of that fabulous book trailer so my expectations were high from the start. This wasn’t a disappointment but it didn’t live up to my high expectations.

Truer to a Grimm Fairy Tale rather than Disney, The School for Good and Evil was intense and distressingly amoral yet still contained what all fairy tales possess: a valuable lesson. One surety about this book, there is truly nothing like it. The School for Good and Evil is a fairy tale that’s been shaken up; it’s all backwards and mismatched but still manages to retain at least the structure of the classic fairy tale that we all know and love. If you’re a fan of fairy tales (especially of the Grimm nature) then this is a story for you.

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