Publisher: Riverhead

Early Review – Local Girls: A Novel by Caroline

April 18, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015 0 Comments

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

Early Review – Local Girls: A Novel by CarolineLocal Girls: A Novel by Caroline Zancan
Published by Riverhead on June 30th 2015
Pages: 288
Genres: Contemporary
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
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three-stars

The first person to break your heart isn’t always your boyfriend. Sometimes it’s your best friend.

Maggie, Lindsey, and Nina have been friends for most of their lives. The girls grew up together in a dead-end Florida town on the outskirts of Orlando, and the love and loyalty they have for one another have been their only constants. Now nineteen and restless, the girls spend empty summer days bouncing between unfulfilling jobs, the beach, and their favorite local bar, The Shamrock. It’s there that a chance encounter with a movie star on the last night of his life changes everything.

Passing through Orlando, Sam Decker comes to The Shamrock seeking anonymity, but finds Maggie, Lindsey, and Nina instead. Obsessed with celebrity magazines that allow them a taste of the better lives they might have had, the girls revel in his company. But the appearance of Lila, the estranged former member of the girls’ group, turns the focus to their shared history, bringing all their old antagonisms to the surface—Lila’s defection to Orlando’s country club school when her father came into some money, and the strange, enchanting boy she brought into their circle, who fundamentally altered dynamics that had been in play for years. By the night’s end, the escalation of these long-buried issues forces them to see one another as the women they are now instead of the girls they used to be.

With an uncanny eye for the raw edges of what it means to be a girl and a heartfelt sense of the intensity of early friendship, Local Girls is a look at both the profound role celebrity plays in our culture, and how the people we know as girls end up changing the course of our lives.

‘We loved one another purely, without the complications teenage girls so often bring to everything. But I wouldn’t be telling it right if I didn’t also tell you that it felt, by that night, that a sense of uneasy anticipation filled any room the three of us were in.’

Local Girls centers around the lives of three girls that have become reluctantly resigned to a monotonous life in their small hometown that sits on the outskirts of Orlando, Florida. Their jobs are ultimately unsatisfying and are only kept as a necessity since the majority of their time is spent at the local bar named The Shamrock. When they walked into the bar Saturday night, a bar that smelled of cheap beer and salty ocean air, the last person they ever would have expected to see sitting at the bar was an actual celebrity by the name of Sam Decker. Sam Decker, a celebrity the trio knew everything about him there was to know from celebrity magazines, changed their perception of everything and they saw the life they had already resigned themselves to from a fresh set of eyes. His presence changed everything.

Zancan creates an impressive analysis of multiple characters, the intricacies of friendship and ultimately the void left when those friendships unravel. Maggie, Lindsey, and Nina have been best friends for as long as they can remember. They weren’t always just a trio; their group used to number five. The presence of celebrity Sam Decker and his awareness of the animosity between the trio and a new girl that arrived at the bar that Saturday night stirred up questions of the past and what ultimately caused the rift. As the girls begin to share bits and pieces of their story with him, they begin to reevaluate how the simplest of actions caused them to get to where they are now and as the story progresses they begin to realize that maybe they aren’t quite as resigned to how their lives ended up as they once thought they were.

‘Maybe I had reached the point of drunkenness where you talk just to hear yourself and reckless ideas take shape, but it suddenly occurred to me that if even a movie star joining our table couldn’t change the routines and settings of our Saturday night, maybe we were doomed to a life where nothing ever changes.’

The addition of the celebrity character, which ultimately caused them to dredge up their full story initially, still managed to feel like an irrelevant inclusion since I felt these characters were already on the path of self-reflection. And while I loved how crass and unrepentant the trio was, the story coalesced into something much less intense than I had foreseen. I hoped for more for these characters; that they would overcome their small-town mentality and their complete acceptance of what they saw as their fate. This story will leave you only a twinkle of hope for these girls but it seems as if that’s the best we can hope for.

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Early Review – The Fair Fight: A Novel by Anna Freeman

April 11, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015 1 Comment

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

Early Review – The Fair Fight: A Novel by Anna FreemanThe Fair Fight: A Novel by Anna Freeman
Published by Riverhead on April 14th 2015
Pages: 480
Format: eARC
Source: First to Read Program
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads


two-half-stars

The Crimson Petal and the White meets Fight Club: A page-turning novel set in the world of female pugilists and their patrons in late eighteenth-century England.
Moving from a filthy brothel to a fine manor house, from the world of street fighters to the world of champions, The Fair Fight is a vivid, propulsive historical novel announcing the arrival of a dynamic new talent.

Born in a brothel, Ruth doesn’t expect much for herself beyond abuse. While her sister’s beauty affords a certain degree of comfort, Ruth’s harsh looks set her on a path of drudgery. That is until she meets pugilist patron George Dryer and discovers her true calling—fighting bare knuckles in the prize rings of Bristol.

Manor-born Charlotte has a different cross to bear. Scarred by smallpox, stifled by her social and romantic options, and trapped in twisted power games with her wastrel brother, she is desperate for an escape.

After a disastrous, life-changing fight sidelines Ruth, the two women meet, and it alters the perspectives of both of them. When Charlotte presents Ruth with an extraordinary proposition, Ruth pushes dainty Charlotte to enter the ring herself and learn the power of her own strength.

A gripping, page-turning story about people struggling to transcend the circumstances into which they were born and fighting for their own places in society, The Fair Fight is a raucous, intoxicating tale of courage, reinvention, and fighting one’s way to the top.

“I’d like to say that my beginnings were humble, but they weren’t beginnings, because I never really left them but for a short while.”

The Fair Fight is told from three separate points of view that details the way of life for three very different individuals in diverse social classes in 18th century Bristol. We’re first given Ruth’s tale which starts this book off with a bang. Born in a brothel, Ruth never had any aspirations of ever rising her station until one day she’s seen fighting her sister and she’s suddenly being trained and thrust into a boxing ring. She becomes near unstoppable and becomes known everywhere as Miss Matchet from The Hatchet. Ruth was quite a compelling and gutsy woman with a gripping story told in lower-class slang and I would have gladly read this book told entirely from her point of view. In fact, I think I actually would have preferred it.

Next, we shift down a few gears and are taken inside the walls of an English boarding school where we are introduced to roommates and friends, George and Perry. Their tale was extremely long and sordid and went on for so long that I quickly lost interest after Ruth’s fascinating tale. We’re then given the story of Perry’s sister, Charlotte. Her story is one chock full of torment at the hands of her brother. After surviving the pox yet being left dreadfully scarred, her scars becomes the sole focus of Perry’s cruelty. It was a vast change from the Perry we see through the “rose-colored” eyes of George. The multiple storylines left things quite convoluted and excessively long and drawn out and none of them quite compared to the fascinating parts of the story centered around Ruth.

When a book is being called the “female Fight Club“, well, those are some mighty big boots to fill. Also, it’s a bit misleading since in all actuality very little of this story truly focused on female pugilists (I felt more focus actually ended up being given to the male fighters when it was all said and done). The majority of the story is comprised of nothing more than Victorian drama and of the way of life in the 18th century. It wasn’t that it was all terribly uninteresting because there were aspects that I did enjoy, the problem was that everything was all so long and drawn out. I understand the need to set the scene, explain everyone’s back-story, but it was so overdone that it threw off the pacing, caused me to get a bit lost in the detail and detracted from my ultimate enjoyment of the story itself. The writing was brilliant at times and I got definite Sarah Waters vibes but while there were parts of this that I thoroughly enjoyed, there were much more that I didn’t.

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Waiting on Wednesday – The Fair Fight: A Novel by Anna Freeman

February 18, 2015 Bonnie Adult, Waiting on Wednesday 1 Comment

Waiting on Wednesday – The Fair Fight: A Novel by Anna FreemanThe Fair Fight: A Novel by Anna Freeman
Published by Riverhead on April 14th 2015
Pages: 480
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Fair Fight: A Novel

The Crimson Petal and the White meets Fight Club: A page-turning novel set in the world of female pugilists and their patrons in late eighteenth-century England.

Moving from a filthy brothel to a fine manor house, from the world of street fighters to the world of champions, The Fair Fight is a vivid, propulsive historical novel announcing the arrival of a dynamic new talent.

Born in a brothel, Ruth doesn’t expect much for herself beyond abuse. While her sister’s beauty affords a certain degree of comfort, Ruth’s harsh looks set her on a path of drudgery. That is until she meets pugilist patron George Dryer and discovers her true calling—fighting bare knuckles in the prize rings of Bristol.

Manor-born Charlotte has a different cross to bear. Scarred by smallpox, stifled by her social and romantic options, and trapped in twisted power games with her wastrel brother, she is desperate for an escape.

After a disastrous, life-changing fight sidelines Ruth, the two women meet, and it alters the perspectives of both of them. When Charlotte presents Ruth with an extraordinary proposition, Ruth pushes dainty Charlotte to enter the ring herself and learn the power of her own strength.

A gripping, page-turning story about people struggling to transcend the circumstances into which they were born and fighting for their own places in society, The Fair Fight is a raucous, intoxicating tale of courage, reinvention, and fighting one’s way to the top.

About Anna Freeman

Anna is a lecturer in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University, as well as a multiple slam-winning performance poet who has appeared at festivals and venues across Britain including Latitude, The Eden Project Festival, Shambala, Cheltenham Poetry Festival, Bristol Poetry Festival and Glastonbury. She is also the author of a volume of poetry Gingering The World From The Inside (Burning Eye Books).

The Fair Fight is her first novel

Anna began writing The Fair Fight whilst completing her Creative Writing MA at Manchester Metropolitan University. It’s a historical novel set around the lives of bare-knuckle prize-fighters and their patrons, in Bristol in 1800. It won the Tibor Jones Pageturner Prize 2013.

A female fight club? Um, where has this been all my life?

What are you waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me a link to your post and I’ll be sure to stop by!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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Early Review – Funny Girl by Nick Hornby

January 31, 2015 Dani Dani's Reviews 2 Comments

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

Early Review – Funny Girl by Nick HornbyFunny Girl by Nick Hornby
Published by Riverhead on February 3rd 2015
Pages: 464
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: First to Read Program
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

From the bestselling author of High Fidelity, About a Boy, and A Long Way Down comes a highly anticipated new novel.

Set in 1960's London, Funny Girl is a lively account of the adventures of the intrepid young Sophie Straw as she navigates her transformation from provincial ingénue to television starlet amid a constellation of delightful characters. Insightful and humorous, Nick Hornby's latest does what he does best: endears us to a cast of characters who are funny if flawed, and forces us to examine ourselves in the process.

Barbara, a newly crowned beauty queen, leaves her hometown of Blackpool for London, where she hopes to become the next Lucille Ball. She rebrands herself as Sophie Straw – only to be cast as “Barbara from Blackpool” on a new BBC sitcom. Her new show is met with wide appeal for being the first comedy to shed light on more realistic wedded bliss.

“She didn’t want to be a queen at all. She just wanted to go on television and make people laugh.”

Readers of classic Nick Hornby novels, like High Fidelity and About a Boy, will likely have high expectations when approaching this book, as I did. Funny Girl has several very hard acts to follow and with the precedent of such charming, complex characters, this novel simply did not measure up. Barbara/Sophie has the same funny yet flawed characterization common among Hornby’s creations, but instead of coming off as relatable or interesting, she’s more brash and seems to desperately seek attention – like the annoying girl you try to avoid at a party.

Funny Girl has in no way deterred me from (eagerly) getting my hands on Hornby’s next book. I am still hopeful to find a glimmer of those all-too-human characters I fell in love with a decade ago that propelled Hornby on my list of favorite authors.

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Waiting on Wednesday – The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

May 28, 2014 Bonnie Waiting on Wednesday 8 Comments

Waiting on Wednesday – The Paying Guests by Sarah WatersThe Paying Guests by Sarah Waters
Published by Riverhead on September 16th 2014
Pages: 560
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Tipping the Velvet

From the bestselling author of The Little Stranger and Fingersmith, an enthralling novel about a widow and her daughter who take a young couple into their home in 1920s London.

It is 1922, and London is tense. Ex-servicemen are disillusioned; the out-of-work and the hungry are demanding change. And in South London, in a genteel Camberwell villa—a large, silent house now bereft of brothers, husband, and even servants—life is about to be transformed as impoverished widow Mrs. Wray and her spinster daughter, Frances, are obliged to take in lodgers.

With the arrival of Lilian and Leonard Barber, a modern young couple of the “clerk class,” the routines of the house will be shaken up in unexpected ways. Little do the Wrays know just how profoundly their new tenants will alter the course of Frances’s life—or, as passions mount and frustration gathers, how far-reaching, and how devastating, the disturbances will be.

Short-listed for the Man Booker Prize three times, Sarah Waters has earned a reputation as one of our greatest writers of historical fiction, and here she has delivered again. A love story, a tension-filled crime story, and a beautifully atmospheric portrait of a fascinating time and place, The Paying Guests is Sarah Waters’s finest achievement yet.

About Sarah Waters

Sarah Waters is a British novelist. She is best known for her first novel, Tipping the Velvet, as well the novels that followed, including Affinity, Fingersmith, and The Night Watch.

Waters attended university, earning degrees in English literature. Before writing novels Waters worked as an academic, earning a doctorate and teaching. Waters went directly from her doctoral thesis to her first novel. It was during the process of writing her thesis that she thought she would write a novel; she began as soon as the thesis was complete.

I have yet to read all of Sarah Waters books but I truly adored Affinity and Tipping the Velvet. The Paying Guests is bound to be amazing based on that summary.

What are you waiting on this Wednesday? Leave me a link to your post and I’ll be sure to stop by!

Waiting on Wednesday is hosted by Jill @ Breaking the Spine

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Early Review – The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls: A Novel by Anton DiSclafani

June 1, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013 2 Comments

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

Early Review – The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls: A Novel by Anton DiSclafaniThe Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls by Anton DiSclafani
Published by Riverhead on June 4th 2013
Pages: 390
Genres: Contemporary, Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: Library Thing, the Publisher
Amazon
Goodreads


one-star

A lush, sexy, evocative debut novel of family secrets and girls’-school rituals, set in the 1930s South.

It is 1930, the midst of the Great Depression. After her mysterious role in a family tragedy, passionate, strong-willed Thea Atwell, age fifteen, has been cast out of her Florida home, exiled to an equestrienne boarding school for Southern debutantes. High in the Blue Ridge Mountains, with its complex social strata ordered by money, beauty, and girls’ friendships, the Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is a far remove from the free-roaming, dreamlike childhood Thea shared with her twin brother on their family’s citrus farm—a world now partially shattered. As Thea grapples with her responsibility for the events of the past year that led her here, she finds herself enmeshed in a new order, one that will change her sense of what is possible for herself, her family, her country.

Weaving provocatively between home and school, the narrative powerfully unfurls the true story behind Thea’s expulsion from her family, but it isn’t long before the mystery of her past is rivaled by the question of how it will shape her future. Part scandalous love story, part heartbreaking family drama, The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls is an immersive, transporting page-turner—a vivid, propulsive novel about sex, love, family, money, class, home, and horses, all set against the ominous threat of the Depression—and the major debut of an important new writer.

The authors childhood fondness for horseback riding sets the scene of this story about teenage angst, boarding school drama and a family scandal that changes a girl forever. Thea Atwell has lived with her family on their Florida farm since she was born but after a recent scandal her parents have sent her to The Yonahlossee Riding Camp for Girls. The back story slowly unfurls as her time at camp passes.

Going in to this novel I had already seen many rave reviews for it and that it was also on several Summer Reading Lists. It’s quoted as being ‘lush, sexy and evocative‘. Entertainment Weekly says ‘…the lovely descriptions of riding and adolescence have a spellbinding effect.‘ Kirkus Reviews called it “an unusually accomplished and nuanced coming-of-age drama.” Suffice it to say I went into this with extremely high expectations. My overall opinion? This is one terribly dull book that is not helped by the attempts to shock and disgust by the author.

100+ pages in and it’s brought to our attention that 2 months have passed but you could have fooled me considering nothing of consequence had actually occurred. (But honestly, nothing of consequence EVER seems to happen. The entire book.) The majority of those 100+ introductory pages felt like a whole bunch of inconsequential filler. It’s also extremely disjointed and lacks a much needed flow. There’s a dance, then they have riding lessons, and now it’s bath time. It’s never a full day though so it’s difficult to grasp exactly how much time has even passed.

‘I knew what it was like, to love horses. But I also knew what it was like to love humans. I knew what it was like to want, to desire so intensely you were willing to throw everything else into its fire.’

Lines like that if read without context would make me think this was a fascinating book about a headstrong and passionate girl. But the rest of the lines spoke of a girl that wasn’t raised around anyone but family and had terrible trouble adapting with suddenly being shipped off to camp. Thea is a terribly awkward girl that seems extraordinarily confused with life in general and her purpose in it. It was not a joyful story to read about.

The writing was at times extremely well done but as a whole ended up being excessively descriptive and made the story feel long and drawn out. This was an extremely lackluster and disjointed story that only managed to keep me interested enough to find out the ‘scandal’ that caused her to be sent to camp in the first place. The shock factor was there, however, it lacked any significance and essentially ended up being overly superfluous and just left a bad taste in my mouth.

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Book Review – Tipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters

November 12, 2011 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2011 0 Comments

Book Review – Tipping the Velvet by Sarah WatersTipping the Velvet by Sarah Waters
Published by Riverhead on May 24, 1999
Pages: 472
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


four-half-stars

"Lavishly crammed with the songs, smells, and costumes of late Victorian England" (The Daily Telegraph), this delicious, steamy debut novel chronicles the adventures of Nan King, who begins life as an oyster girl in the provincial seaside town of Whitstable and whose fortunes are forever changed when she falls in love with a cross-dressing music-hall singer named Miss Kitty Butler.

When Kitty is called up to London for an engagement on "Grease Paint Avenue", Nan follows as her dresser and secret lover, and, soon after, dons trousers herself and joins the act.In time, Kitty breaks her heart, and Nan assumes the guise of butch roue to commence her own thrilling and varied sexual education - a sort of Moll Flanders in drag - finally finding friendship and true love in the most unexpected places.

Drawing comparison to the work of Jeanette Winterson, Sarah Waters's novel is a feast for the senses - an erotic, lushly detailed historical novel that bursts with life and dazzlingly casts the turn of the century in a different light.

Sarah Water’s debut novel set in 1890s London is a delightfully shocking tale of exploring the boundaries of gender roles in the Victorian era. It’s about finding out who you really are and being comfortable in your own skin and about overcoming heartache and finding love again.

’And was there at her side a slender, white-faced, unremarkable-looking girl, with the sleeves of her dress rolled up to her elbows, and a lock of lank and colourless hair forever falling into her eye, and her lips continually moving to the words of some street-singer’s or music-hall song?

That was me.’

Nancy is an oyster girl who works quite dutifully in her parent’s restaurant. It’s not until she goes with her sister Alice to Palace, an old-fashioned music hall, that her life is changed forever when she sets eyes on Kitty and sees her performance for the first time.

’Piercing the shadows of the naked stage was a single shaft of rosy limelight, and in the centre of this there was a girl: the most marvelous girl – I knew it at once! – that I had ever seen.’

When Nancy becomes intent on catching Kitty’s eye and having her notice her she begins going back to the Palace every night just to see her again and again. When Kitty throws a flower to Nancy in the crowd the two finally meet afterwards and a friendship is cultivated that slowly becomes much much more. Nancy becomes Kitty’s dresser and when she is offered a job in London Nancy decides she simply must go with her.

The story continues to develop and as time progresses the two become even closer and eventually become lovers as the two eventually team up together on stage.

’The act, I knew, was still all hers. When we sang, it was really she who sang, while I provided a light, easy second. When we danced, it was she who did the tricky steps: I only strolled or shuffled at her side. I was her foil, her echo; I was the shadow which, in all her brilliance, she cast across the stage. But, like a shadow, I lent her the edge, the depth, the crucial definition, that she lacked before.

What follows is simply the beginning of Nancy’s story and it’s quite a memorable one. I must admit there were parts that were quite shocking that I wasn’t expecting (like when I found out what Tipping the Velvet really meant… haha!), but that was the beauty of the story, the beauty of Nancy’s story. The writing was honest, the characters were vibrant, and I loved each and every page. Sarah Waters is an absolutely gorgeous writer. Her words will intrigue you, they will astound you, and you won’t be able to get them out of your head. I can’t wait to get my hands on more from her.

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