Source: Edelweiss

Book Review – Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

Posted November 9, 2017 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2017 / 6 Comments

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

Book Review – Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste NgLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Published by Penguin Press on September 12th 2017
Pages: 352
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Goodreads

Also by this author: Everything I Never Told You

three-half-stars

In Shaker Heights, a placid, progressive suburb of Cleveland, everything is planned -- from the layout of the winding roads, to the colors of the houses, to the successful lives its residents will go on to lead. And no one embodies this spirit more than Elena Richardson, whose guiding principle is playing by the rules.

Enter Mia Warren -- an enigmatic artist and single mother -- who arrives in this idyllic bubble with her teenaged daughter Pearl, and rents a house from the Richardsons. Soon Mia and Pearl become more than tenants: all four Richardson children are drawn to the mother-daughter pair. But Mia carries with her a mysterious past and a disregard for the status quo that threatens to upend this carefully ordered community.

When old family friends of the Richardsons attempt to adopt a Chinese-American baby, a custody battle erupts that dramatically divides the town--and puts Mia and Elena on opposing sides. Suspicious of Mia and her motives, Elena is determined to uncover the secrets in Mia's past. But her obsession will come at unexpected and devastating costs.

“Sometimes you need to scorch everything to the ground, and start over. After the burning the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that, too. They start over. They find a way.”

In Shaker Heights, Ohio, the residents believe themselves to live in a pseudo-bubble of perfection. The garbage trucks collect trash in alleys so as to not create an eyesore on the streets, their children are all raised to be productive members of society, and any hint of wrongdoing is always brushed off as an impossibility. Mia Warren, a “starving artist” single mother, and her teenage daughter Pearl move to this small town surrounded by an air of mystery, peaking the inquisitiveness of the town’s inhabitants. The duo has lived a nomadic existence since Pearl was born, but they find something in Shaker Heights that they hadn’t found before: a reason to stay. Pearl befriends the Richardson children, whose mother is actually their landlord, and their friendship to Pearl is something that she had never experienced before. Pearl and Mia’s presence, in turn, is a curiosity to the children, not having witnessed anything less than a perfect family before. The secrets of Mia and Pearl’s past and the underlying tension when a family tries to adopt a Chinese-American baby will inadvertently leave an unending change in this community.

Little Fires Everywhere opens with, well, little fires everywhere. Months after Mia and her daughter have moved to town, Mrs. Richardson wakes to find her house on fire, with small fires having been started on each of her children’s beds. Izzy, her youngest, has always been the rebel of the family and is the only one missing and is, therefore, the likely culprit. But no mystery is ever that simple, and figuring out what led up to it is the best part. Flashback to Mia and Pearl’s arrival in her VW Rabbit with their only possessions contained within, they breeze into town much like the obscure Vianne and her daughter, Anouk, breezed into that small French town in Chocolat. They’re looked upon as outsiders, but they quickly make themselves at home in this sequestered community. But when the McCulloughs decide to adopt a Chinese-American baby that was abandoned at a fire station, Mia Warren begins to involve herself in the spectacle for more reasons than one. The sole issue I had with this story was that the topic of race is clearly meant to shine a spotlight on the intricacies of the situation but ended up becoming too simplified in order to achieve an “end” to the storyline. This is also clearly meant to be the main storyline but it’s muddied by Mia’s own story, even when its inclusion was meant to show a reasoning behind her involvement.

Celeste Ng’s sophomore novel proves herself to be incredibly perceptive at bringing contemporary America to life. The foundation of her plot is based on simple legitimacy without the unnecessary addition of drama making her stories feel wholly genuine. Her stories never lack for complexity with Little Fires Everywhere tackling race, class, adoption, abortion in addition to the intricacies of motherhood and the everlasting weight of secrets. Contemporary has never been my favorite genre, but Ng makes it so incredibly appealing that I’m not sure I’ll ever stop seeking out her stories.

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Ominous October – Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman

Posted October 6, 2017 by Bonnie in Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2017 / 6 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.

Ominous October – Black Mad Wheel by Josh MalermanBlack Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman
Narrator: Robertson Dean
Published by HarperAudio on May 23rd 2017
Length: 8 hours and 2 minutes
Genres: Horror, Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
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Also by this author: Bird Box, Unbury Carol

two-stars

From the author of the hit literary horror debut Bird Box (”Hitchcockian.” —USA Today) comes a chilling novel about a group of musicians conscripted by the US government to track down the source of a strange and debilitating sound

The Danes—the band known as the “Darlings of Detroit”—are washed up and desperate for inspiration, eager to once again have a number one hit. That is, until an agent from the US Army approaches them. Will they travel to an African desert and track down the source of a mysterious and malevolent sound? Under the guidance of their front man, Philip Tonka, the Danes embark on a harrowing journey through the scorching desert—a trip that takes Tonka into the heart of an ominous and twisted conspiracy.

Meanwhile, in a nondescript Midwestern hospital, a nurse named Ellen tends to a patient recovering from a near-fatal accident. The circumstances that led to his injuries are mysterious-and his body heals at a remarkable rate. Ellen will do the impossible for this enigmatic patient, who reveals more about his accident with each passing day.

Part Heart of Darkness, part Lost, Josh Malerman’s breathtaking new novel plunges us into the depths of psychological horror, where you can’t always believe everything you hear.

“The question is not what you found… but what found you?”

When Philip Tonka wakes in an Iowa hospital, he can’t remember how he got there or what happened to him, but his doctor informs him that he’s been in a coma for six months after breaking every single bone in his body. Prior to this, Philip and the rest of his bandmates, from the 1950s band called the Danes, are approached by government officials to investigate a peculiar sound emanating from the Namib Desert in Africa. The sound has been reported to make people sick when hearing it but most importantly has been the reason why a nuclear warhead was disarmed. Whether or not that sound is the reason for Philip’s injuries remains a mystery since he can’t remember if the source of the sound was ever actually found. Through alternating chapters told in past and present, it’s slowly revealed just what kind of bizarre answers Philip and his friends found in that desert.

After adoring Malerman’s debut novel Bird Box, he quickly became an “I’m reading anything and everything” author for me. I went on to read his short story Ghastle and Yule (I didn’t even finish those 54 pages), his novella A House at the Bottom of a Lake (2 stars), and now I’ve finished his second full-length novel and damn but I’m full of disappointment. Mysterious sounds in the middle of a desert, government conspiracies, memory loss, injuries that shouldn’t even be possible… it sounded like one badass episode of The Twilight Zone and I was all onboard.

Image result for twilight zone gif

I first tried to read this on my Kindle but Black Mad Wheel has quite the slow, meandering pace that made it difficult to stay invested. I opted to try it on audiobook before officially calling it quits and even if I didn’t end up loving the story as much as I had hoped, Robertson Dean thoroughly sold me on his narrative skills and I will definitely be seeking out more books narrated by him in the future. His various accents used for the different characters did wonders in helping to differentiate them because just from text alone, they all tended to blur together a bit. Once the pieces of the puzzle started coming together though, the story took a decidedly philosophical turn and while I loved the inclusion regarding the true power of music, it all just ultimately lost me in the end with Malerman opting instead to give only a vague hint at any concrete answers the reader may have been hoping for in the end.

“I wonder, soldier, if it’s our mind playing tricks. I wonder if we cannot comprehend a sound with no source and so we invent one. Each our own way to stave off the feelings of futility for having tracked a sourceless sound.”

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Early Review – White Hot (Hidden Legacy #2) by Ilona Andrews

Posted April 27, 2017 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2017 / 12 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 – White Hot (Hidden Legacy #2) by Ilona AndrewsWhite Hot by Ilona Andrews
Series: Hidden Legacy #2
Published by Avon on May 30th 2017
Pages: 384
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
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Also by this author: Magic Bites, Magic Rises, Burn for Me

four-half-stars

Nevada Baylor has a unique and secret skill—she knows when people are lying—and she's used that magic (along with plain, hard work) to keep her colorful and close-knit family's detective agency afloat. But her new case pits her against the shadowy forces that almost destroyed the city of Houston once before, bringing Nevada back into contact with Connor "Mad" Rogan.

Rogan is a billionaire Prime—the highest rank of magic user—and as unreadable as ever, despite Nevada's "talent." But there's no hiding the sparks between them. Now that the stakes are even higher, both professionally and personally, and their foes are unimaginably powerful, Rogan and Nevada will find that nothing burns like ice . . .

Hidden Legacy Series

Burn for Me (Hidden Legacy #1) by Ilona Andrews [Purchase|Review]

Nevada Baylor hasn’t spoken with Rogan in months and she’s slowly begun to move on with her life even though the maddening man (ha — see what I did there) is never far from her mind. She agrees to investigate the murder of Cornelius Harrison’s wife and Nevada not only finds herself in the middle of a massive conflict between multiple magical families (or “Houses”) but right back in the path of Rogan himself. This time around they realize that they simply get more done when they work together as allies.

‘Suddenly the past two months of normal life tore apart, like fragile paper, and I was right back next to Rogan, about to charge into a fight. And it felt right.’

The conflict between Houses puts the duo in serious danger when some of the most powerful members of the magical society become involved. When they’re not trying to keep one another from dying, they’re trying to work out what to do with the sparks flying between them.

“And now that I’m conveniently here, you decide to give it another shot. Is there a shortage of attractive women in your life, Connor?”
“There is a shortage of you in my life,” he said.

This is my 17th Ilona Andrews book and I feel I can safely declare myself a rabid fangirl. (I have yet to dive into her The Edge series but give me time.) Ilona Andrews stories are absolutely one of the reasons I remain as hardcore an Urban Fantasy fan as I am today and her Hidden Legacy series only helps solidify that. Their characterization is superb and no character is left without a role or sounding like a replica of another. Nevada is one awesome badass lady that can hold her own, Rogan is far more beyond being just a love interest placeholder and professional of zingy one-liners, and even the side characters (Nevada’s sniper mother, crazy sisters, and hilarious grandmother) are fantastic.

Grandma Frida burst through the door in her yellow rubber-ducky pajamas. 
“Grandma’s here,” I added.

What I love about this series is how developed her world-building is beyond “people have powers” — we meet some new players in the game: summoners, fulgurkinetics, elementalists, and even some magically created monsters not of this world. In lesser hands, these unique aspects would easily come across as cheesy and overwhelming but Andrews makes everything so fascinating. If I’m being real, the fantastic world-building is only an added bonus when it comes to the romance though and it’s rare that I say anything along those lines (worldbuilding is typically always first because if you don’t have worldbuilding… you’ve got yourself a bodice ripper, amirite?) Urban Fantasy typically always includes a romance in some shape or form but there’s some crazy sexual tension going on (and has since book 1) but View Spoiler » And also, some good news… the wait for book 3 is not long at all: Wildfire comes out July 25th, 2017. I’m already chomping at the bit and even contemplating reading both again because this series is that good (horrendously bad covers aside, but at least Rogan finally found a shirt by book 3.) 🙂

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Short & Sweet – Everything Box + Wrong Dead Guy

Posted March 23, 2017 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2017 / 2 Comments

Short & Sweet – Everything Box + Wrong Dead GuyThe Everything Box by Richard Kadrey
Series: Another Coop Heist #1
Published by Harper Voyager on April 19th 2016
Pages: 368
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Funny-ha-ha
Format: Hardcover
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: Dead Set, Sandman Slim

three-half-stars

Reminiscent of the edgy, offbeat humor of Chris Moore and Matt Ruff, the first entry in a whimsical, fast-paced supernatural series from the New York Times bestselling author of the Sandman Slim novels—a dark and humorous story involving a doomsday gizmo, a horde of baddies determined to possess its power, and a clever thief who must steal it back . . . again and again.

22000 B.C. A beautiful, ambitious angel stands on a mountaintop, surveying the world and its little inhabitants below. He smiles because soon, the last of humanity who survived the great flood will meet its end, too. And he should know. He’s going to play a big part in it. Our angel usually doesn’t get to do field work, and if he does well, he’s certain he’ll get a big promotion.

And now it’s time . . . .

The angel reaches into his pocket for the instrument of humanity’s doom. Must be in the other pocket. Then he frantically begins to pat himself down. Dejected, he realizes he has lost the object. Looking over the Earth at all that could have been, the majestic angel utters a single word.

“Crap.”

2015. A thief named Coop—a specialist in purloining magic objects—steals and delivers a small box to the mysterious client who engaged his services. Coop doesn’t know that his latest job could be the end of him—and the rest of the world. Suddenly he finds himself in the company of The Department of Peculiar Science, a fearsome enforcement agency that polices the odd and strange. The box isn’t just a supernatural heirloom with quaint powers, they tell him.

It’s a doomsday device. They think . . .

And suddenly, everyone is out to get it.

Thousands of years ago, God decided to destroy the Earth and all who resided on it. Fortunately, us pesky mortals are pretty good survivalists and we didn’t all perish as was intended. This time, God sends an angel named Qaphsiel to Earth with a special box that would take the rest of us out for good. Except all didn’t go as planned. Qaphsiel lost the box.

“So, you’re the angel of Death?” The angel shook his head, a little embarrassed. “I don’t have that honor. In Heaven, I’m the celestial who bears the great golden quills, the silver Chroma, the holy vellums upon which the Lord God inscribes the fate of the universe.” Tiras’s eyes narrowed. “You’re in charge of office supplies. You’re the angel of office supplies.”

Thousands of years after the box was lost, we’re introduced to Coop. Coop has had it a bit rough lately. He’s a thief who was hired to steal some documents because his natural aversion to magical booby traps made him the perfect man for the job… but things didn’t turn out so well and he was soon thrown in prison for an undetermined amount of time. An old friend pulled some strings to get him out but only because a man by the name of Mr. Babylon requires Coop for a job. A job to steal a mysterious box. But once he does steal it, he’s instructed to steal it back for a secret government group that goes by the name of the Department of Peculiar Science, or else it’s straight back to prison. Do not pass Go. Do not collect $200. Problem is, there are two doomsday cults trying to get the box so they can trigger the apocalypse, criminals who want to sell the box for money, a mysterious stranger that only brings destruction, and the original angel that misplaced the box in the first place trying to get it. Coop wants nothing to do with it but he’s soon embroiled in a world-ending conflict.

“I’m not sure I should smile at people anymore.”
“Yours is a little strained these days,” said Morty.
Sally came up with a drink in each hand. “Definitely don’t smile at people. You do look like you wonder what their liver tastes like.”

The pending apocalypse has never been more fun. Kadrey brings a bizarre sense of humor (and magic) to the end of the world and Coop is the hilariously witty spokesperson. The focus is less on worldbuilding and more on extending the hilarity for as long as possible (and sometimes beyond) but I can’t complain because this story made me laugh far more than I expected it to. The multiple storylines were handled well without getting too convoluted but again, the focus was on the humor at all times and the bit players were, for the most part, a ludicrous bunch and it wasn’t vital to keep a close track on exactly who was who. The Everything Box is a refreshing variation on the Urban Fantasy genre that feels much like a Men in Black/The Italian Job mashup in all the best ways.

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.

Short & Sweet – Everything Box + Wrong Dead GuyThe Wrong Dead Guy by Richard Kadrey
Series: Another Coop Heist #2
Published by Harper Voyager on February 28th 2017
Pages: 432
Genres: Urban Fantasy, Funny-ha-ha
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Also by this author: Dead Set, Sandman Slim

three-stars

In this fast paced sequel to The Everything Box—the second entry in Richard Kadrey’s comedic supernatural series—chaos ensues when Coop and the team at DOPS steal a not- quite-dead and very lovesick ancient Egyptian mummy wielding some terrifying magic

Coop, a master thief sort of gone legit, saved the world from an ancient doomsday device—heroism that earned him a gig working for the Department of Peculiar Science, a fearsome top secret government agency that polices the odd and strange. Now Woolrich, Coop’s boss at the DOPS, has Coop breaking into a traveling antiquities show to steal a sarcophagus containing the mummy of a powerful Egyptian wizard named Harkhuf. With the help of his pals Morty, Giselle, and a professor that’s half-cat, half-robotic octopus, Coop pulls off the heist without a hitch.

It’s not Coop’s fault that when DOPS opened the sarcophagus they didn’t find the mummy they were expecting. Well, it was the right mummy, but it wasn’t exactly dead—and now it’s escaped, using a type of magic the organization hasn’t encountered before. Being a boss, Woolrich blames his underling for the screw up and wants Coop to find the missing Harkhuf and make it right, pronto.

Digging into Harkhuf’s history, Coop thinks the mummy is hunting for an ancient magical manuscript that will help him bring his old lover back to life.
Which wouldn’t be so bad if she wasn’t a warrior sorceress hell-bent on conquering the world with her undead armies.

Coop would very much like to run from the oncoming chaos. It’s one thing to steal a mummy, but another to have to deal with head-hunting bureaucrats, down-on-their luck fortune tellers, undead mailroom clerks, and a rather unimpressed elephant. Unfortunately, there’s nowhere to run. If he wants the madness to stop, he’s going to have to suck it up and play hero one more time. But if Coop manages to save the world AGAIN, he’s definitely going to want a lot of answers. And a raise.

“Really, Cooper, you’re in good hands. We can’t afford any more employee homicides until the next fiscal quarter,” said Woolrich.
“If you try just a little harder, I think you can be even less reassuring.”

Coop is back! And this time, he’s left his days of thievery behind for a day job with the Department of Peculiar Science. He’s involved in yet another race against the clock to save the world just replace the box with a mummy and its undead army. When Coop and his team are instructed to steal a mummy from a museum, the plan, of course, does not go according to plan and Coop ends up being cursed by the newly awakened mummy, Harkhuf, they were supposed to steal. On the sidelines, Coop’s nemesis from the first installment, Nelson, is stirring up trouble at work by stealing office supplies and just being a general nuisance but is clearly leading up to something big.

The Wrong Dead Guy is yet another thrilling tale of humor and sarcasm, but it felt like the subdued version of the jokes already told in The Everything Box. Coop’s wit also proved to be infectious because every major and minor character seemed to sound exactly like him, making this wide cast a bit hard to differentiate at times. The one new bizarro character that proved to be quite a laugh was Dr. Lupinsky, the deceased Egyptologist that inhabited a robotic octopus and a cat that was constantly requiring new batteries. (Because that’s what happens when you mess with the wrong sort of magic.) Which brings me to what I love most about Kadrey’s stories: they all include these outrageously preposterous tidbits that make them so uniquely him. There isn’t very much room to breath, plot-wise, because of the non-stop action so take a big deep breath before diving into this one. You won’t want to put this one down till it’s all said and done.

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Early Review – The You I’ve Never Known by Ellen Hopkins

Posted December 29, 2016 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2016, 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 You I’ve Never Known by Ellen HopkinsThe You I've Never Known by Ellen Hopkins
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on January 24th 2017
Pages: 608
Genres: Contemporary, LGBTQIA, Verse
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Triangles, Crank, Burned

two-half-stars

How do you live your life if your past is based on a lie? A new novel in both verse and prose from #1 New York Times bestselling author, Ellen Hopkins.

Arielle’s life is a blur of new apartments, new schools, and new faces. Since her mother abandoned the family, Arielle has lived nomadically with her father as he moves from job to job. All she’s ever wanted is to stay in one place for an entire school year, and it looks like she might finally get her wish. With a real friend, Monica, who might be even more than a friend soon, things are starting to look up.

But Arielle’s life is upended—and not by her father, but by her mom, who reveals that she never left Arielle. Instead, Arielle’s father kidnapped her, and her mom has been left searching ever since. She wants to take Arielle away, but Arielle has no connection with her mother, and despite everything, still loves her father. How can she choose between the mother she’s been taught to mistrust and the father who sewed that suspicion?

Not one person
on this planet cares about you.

No one but Daddy, who loves you
more than anything in the whole wide
world, and would lay down his life
for you. You remember that, hear me?

I heard those words too often
in any number of combinations
Almost always they came floating
in a fog of alcohol and tobacco.

Arielle has only ever known her dad from an early age. Dependable yet temperamental, he’s taken care of her for years on his own. Bounced from house to house and different woman to woman, Arielle and her father have finally settled down long enough in a town for her to begin to get comfortable. She’s joined the girls basketball team, she’s made friends, and she’s discovered a side of her sexuality that she fears. She’s never had a mom because according to her dad, she left both of them for her lesbian lover. Coming out to her father as the same would be beyond reckless.

Maya has a difficult relationship with her mother. She ran her father out of the house and joined Scientology, expecting Maya to do the same. When her mother tells her they’ll be moving from Texas to Sea Org in Los Angeles, a Scientology organization, she concocts a way to avoid having to go: she gets pregnant. The father, Sergeant Jason Ritter, proposes to her and she feels relief at finally escaping her mother but she’s traded one bad situation for another.

Funny How the Brain
Manages damage control,
conveniently curtaining
windows that overlook
certain footpaths into the past.

I try to keep the shades drawn.

Anything by Ellen Hopkins is bound to pack a punch with the types of subjects she tackles and The You I’ve Never Known is no different. This time she deals with abandonment, sexuality, and abuse, but it felt much more passive than some of her past stories. I’m always incredibly fond of her dual storylines and trying to determine the connection before the big reveal. While her stories are always lengthy in page count, the time it took for that big reveal to happen seemed to be dragged out for longer than was necessary. Often with Hopkins’ writing style, you find yourself getting lost in the beauty of her words. She still used verse as her main writing style and her typical formatting is there but it was much less lyrical and much more dense with a lot of backstory that lacked the passion her stories usually have. The main issue was with how the parents are portrayed. Her villains come in many forms, but in this story, they were the parents of both Maya and Arielle. They were both written as manic and often terrifying people, with little to no redeeming qualities. It was all black, no white, and definitely no gray area, and this lack of complexity caused them to come off as caricatures and nothing more.

Hopkins has long been a favorite of mine and while I felt this one was lacking, her stories still manage to linger in my head long after finishing. She tackles the subjects that most often need to be brought to light, I only wish that she would also focus more on the poetic aspects that make these ugly subjects beautiful.

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Early Review – Nine of Stars (Dark Alchemy #3) by Laura Bickle

Posted December 3, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2016 / 6 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 – Nine of Stars (Dark Alchemy #3) by Laura BickleNine of Stars by Laura Bickle
Series: Dark Alchemy #3
Published by Harper Voyager on December 27th 2016
Pages: 384
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Dark Alchemy, Witch Creek

three-half-stars

Following on the heels of her critically acclaimed prequel novels Dark Alchemy and Mercury Retrograde comes the first installment in Laura Bickle’s dark contemporary fantasy series, Nine of Stars, a Wildlands Novel
Winter has always been a deadly season in Temperance, but this time, there’s more to fear than just the cold…

As the daughter of an alchemist, Petra Dee has faced all manner of occult horrors—especially since her arrival in the small town of Temperance, Wyoming. But she can’t explain the creature now stalking the backcountry of Yellowstone, butchering wolves and leaving only their skins behind in the snow. Rumors surface of the return of Skinflint Jack, a nineteenth-century wraith that kills in fulfillment of an ancient bargain.

The new sheriff in town, Owen Rutherford, isn’t helping matters. He’s a dangerously haunted man on the trail of both an unsolved case and a fresh kill—a bizarre murder leading him right to Petra’s partner Gabriel. And while Gabe once had little to fear from the mortal world, he’s all too human now. This time, when violence hits close to home, there are no magical solutions.
It’s up to Petra and her coyote sidekick Sig to get ahead of both Owen and the unnatural being hunting them all—before the trail turns deathly cold.

Dark Alchemy series

Dark Alchemy (Dark Alchemy, #1) by Laura Bickle [Review//Purchase]
Mercury Retrograde (Dark Alchemy, #2) by Laura Bickle [Purchase]

grey-review

*spoilers from the first two installments*

“There was a man, back in 1861. He came to be known as Skinflint Jack, the Jack of Harts.”

Petra Dee may be accustomed to the magical happenings in Temperance, Wyoming, but after the re-appearance of a man who was transformed through alchemy into a formidable creature in the 1800s, she knows she’s the only one that would be capable of overcoming him. Destroying an 18th-century monster isn’t the only thing troubling Petra these days though. Gabe is trying to both acclimate to being mortal once again and staying under the radar of the local authorities after Sal’s disappearance, Sal’s cousin being the sheriff and all. Petra is dealing with some health issues of her own which have her adjusting plans for her future. But when the wolves of Yellowstone are viciously attacked and Petra’s work colleague is left hospitalized after going to investigate, she knows that no one will have much of a future if this danger is left to roam.

“We all have our dark sides, I guess,” Gabe said, taking a swig of his beer.
“Yeah. And sometimes, the darkness finds us.”

Combining both ordinary and mystical mysteries, life is never dull for Petra Dee. I thoroughly enjoyed the complexity of the mystery behind the Luneria, the alchemical tree of life, but after its destruction in Mercury Retrograde, it seemed as if that storyline had finished. I was pleased to see it reintroduced in this installment, albeit in an extremely unsettling way. The death of Sal didn’t mean the end of the mysterious Rutherford family either. Temperance, Wyoming is, suffice it to say, a most enigmatic and peculiar town.

I’ve seen Nine of Stars marketed as both a brand new series and the third of the continued Dark Alchemy series. While I can see it working as a brand new start, the “prequel” novels as they’re being referred to, I feel, are an integral part of giving you the necessary context behind these characters. Whether you start here or with Dark Alchemy, Bickle still manages to properly introduce you to a world of magic and mystery which also incorporates Native American folklore that will appeal to any fantasy fan. There are no supernatural creatures in these stories, just by-products of alchemical experiments, the “magical process of transformation, creation, or combination,” a subject that has clearly been researched extensively by the author. Nine of Stars possessed an ending that was extremely abrupt that felt more like a chapter end than a story end but I am still eager for more Petra Dee.

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Book Review – Girls on Fire by Robin Wasserman

Posted May 27, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 1 Comment

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

Book Review – Girls on Fire by Robin WassermanGirls on Fire by Robin Wasserman
Published by Harper on May 17th 2016
Pages: 368
Genres: Contemporary, Coming-of-Age
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Waking Dark

two-half-stars

On Halloween, 1991, a popular high school basketball star ventures into the woods near Battle Creek, Pennsylvania, and disappears. Three days later, he’s found with a bullet in his head and a gun in his hand—a discovery that sends tremors through this conservative community, already unnerved by growing rumors of Satanic worship in the region.

In the wake of this incident, bright but lonely Hannah Dexter is befriended by Lacey Champlain, a dark-eyed, Cobain-worshiping bad influence in lip gloss and Doc Martens. The charismatic, seductive Lacey forges a fast, intimate bond with the impressionable Dex, making her over in her own image and unleashing a fierce defiance that neither girl expected. But as Lacey gradually lures Dex away from her safe life into a feverish spiral of obsession, rebellion, and ever greater risk, an unwelcome figure appears on the horizon—and Lacey’s secret history collides with Dex’s worst nightmare.

Like The Virgin Suicides or the novels of Elena Ferrante, Girls on Fire stalks the treacherous territory between girlhood and adulthood. By turns a shocking story of love and violence and an addictive portrait of the intoxication of female friendship, set against the unsettled backdrop of a town gripped by moral panic, it is an unflinching and unforgettable snapshot of girlhood: girls lost and found, girls strong and weak, girls who burn bright and brighter—and some who flicker away.

style-3 review

‘Origin stories are irrelevant. Nothing matters less than how you were born. What matters is how you die, and how you live. We live for each other, so anything that got us to that point must have been right.’

Girls on Fire left me incredibly conflicted and I sat on my review for several weeks hoping that time would help elucidate my feelings. (It did not. Yet here I am.) Girls on Fire consists of the types of teenagers of a Megan Abbott novel; Dare Me is the one that immediately comes to mind. These teenagers are not the teenagers of a Sarah Dessen novel. They are crude and vulgar, whose actions go well beyond shocking and insulting. I was constantly bouncing back and forth between being impressed by their brazenness and appalled by their impudence. It was a bit exhausting.

‘I loved it. Loved it like Shakespearean sonnets and Hallmark cards and all that shit, like I wanted to buy it flowers and light it candles and fuck it gently with a chainsaw.’

Girls on Fire is set in the early 90s when Nirvana was at the top and Real World was everyone’s obsession. A small town in Pennsylvania is horrified after the supposed suicide of the town jock, Craig Ellison. No one thinks he could have done it but the evidence clearly proves otherwise. While the story begins with Craig’s death and is constantly affected by it, the girls are center stage. Hannah Dexter is diffident and Lacey Champlain is fearless, so when Lacey takes “Dex” under her wing, their relationship becomes increasingly virulent the more time the duo spend together. Nikki Drummond is the requisite “mean girl” of the school and Lacey and Dex’s whole relationship is based on their shared hatred of her.

The writing was opulent and whenever the story lost me slightly in its meanderings, the writing always kept me enticed. The story though, there was something excessive and tiresome about the way these young women were written. Something superfluous about their actions and their demeanor in general. The relationship between Lacey and Dex was intense and so very exorbitant. It wasn’t that the writing didn’t properly portray their relationship with one another, but rather it was written with such detail that you became a part of them and a part of their relationship. The whole thing was distasteful and depleting and something that you definitely did not want to be a part of.

It’s a coming of age tale, about the metamorphose that, especially in individuals so young, can undergo because of the lives they’re forced to lead and the people they choose to surround themselves with. Bit by bit, each girl’s story unfolds and I once again found myself torn between how exactly I should be feeling. Despite my wavering opinion and low rating, this was certainly an audacious story to tell and is likely a very accurate portrayal (if a bit extreme) of female relationships and all the dark niches that are rarely exposed.

‘What matters isn’t how we found each other, Dex, or why. It’s that we did, and what happened next. Smash the right two particles together in the right way and you get a bomb. That’s us, Dex. Accidental fusion.’

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Early Review – The Fireman: A Novel by Joe Hill

Posted May 10, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2016 / 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 Fireman: A Novel by Joe HillThe Fireman: A Novel by Joe Hill
Published by William Morrow on May 17th 2016
Pages: 608
Genres: Horror
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: NOS4A2, Twittering from the Circus of the Dead, Strange Weather

three-half-stars

From the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of NOS4A2 and Heart-Shaped Box comes a chilling novel about a worldwide pandemic of spontaneous combustion that threatens to reduce civilization to ashes and a band of improbable heroes who battle to save it, led by one powerful and enigmatic man known as the Fireman.

The fireman is coming. Stay cool.

No one knows exactly when it began or where it originated. A terrifying new plague is spreading like wildfire across the country, striking cities one by one: Boston, Detroit, Seattle. The doctors call it Draco Incendia Trychophyton. To everyone else it’s Dragonscale, a highly contagious, deadly spore that marks its hosts with beautiful black and gold marks across their bodies—before causing them to burst into flames. Millions are infected; blazes erupt everywhere. There is no antidote. No one is safe.

Harper Grayson, a compassionate, dedicated nurse as pragmatic as Mary Poppins, treated hundreds of infected patients before her hospital burned to the ground. Now she’s discovered the telltale gold-flecked marks on her skin. When the outbreak first began, she and her husband, Jakob, had made a pact: they would take matters into their own hands if they became infected. To Jakob’s dismay, Harper wants to live—at least until the fetus she is carrying comes to term. At the hospital, she witnessed infected mothers give birth to healthy babies and believes hers will be fine too. . . if she can live long enough to deliver the child.

Convinced that his do-gooding wife has made him sick, Jakob becomes unhinged, and eventually abandons her as their placid New England community collapses in terror. The chaos gives rise to ruthless Cremation Squads—armed, self-appointed posses roaming the streets and woods to exterminate those who they believe carry the spore. But Harper isn’t as alone as she fears: a mysterious and compelling stranger she briefly met at the hospital, a man in a dirty yellow fire fighter’s jacket, carrying a hooked iron bar, straddles the abyss between insanity and death. Known as The Fireman, he strolls the ruins of New Hampshire, a madman afflicted with Dragonscale who has learned to control the fire within himself, using it as a shield to protect the hunted . . . and as a weapon to avenge the wronged.

In the desperate season to come, as the world burns out of control, Harper must learn the Fireman’s secrets before her life—and that of her unborn child—goes up in smoke.

style-3 (3) review

“There’s something horribly unfair about dying in the middle of a good story, before you have a chance to see how it all comes out. Of course, I suppose everyone ALWAYS dies in the middle of a good story, in a sense. Your own story. Or the story of your grandchildren. Death is a raw deal for narrative junkies.”

In my opinion, post-apocalyptic fiction could easily be considered a sub-genre of horror so it only makes sense for Joe Hill to be tackling it. In Hill’s version of the apocalypse, the world has drastically changed after a spore begins spreading that is quite literally burning everything (and everyone) to the ground. It’s known as Draco Incendia Trychophyton, or more commonly known as Dragonscale. The infected show signs on their skin in black and gold dragon scales which could be considered beautiful were it not for the fact it causes people, and those in close proximity, to spontaneously combust. Harper Grayson is a school nurse who begins volunteering at the local hospital at least until it too burns down. She returns home to her husband, Jakob, only to discover shortly after that she’s pregnant. Harper is intent on keeping the baby, convinced she’d be able to give birth to a healthy child, but Jakob disagrees and becomes exceedingly violent. Harper is forced to find a new safe place to see this pregnancy through which ends in a chance meeting with The Fireman, a man who straddles the line between hero and villain.

“Do you spend a lot of nights keeping the fire department in hysterics with creative acts of arson?”
“Everyone needs a hobby,” he said.

This was an immense and time-consuming book, however, if you’ve read a Joe Hill book before you know that the man can’t seem to write a bad book. While this one was not nearly my favorite (that award goes to Heart Shaped Box, always) it’s always fascinating to see a well-loved author tackle a new genre and watch the world he created unfold. He also once again proves his talents for writing fantastic female characters. Merrin Williams in Horns, Victoria McQueen in NOS4A2, and now Harper Grayson in The Fireman. Where he really excelled though was with his created contagion, Dragonscale, and how it was built up and developed far more than most end of world diseases I’ve read about. Typically, stories such as these have a failure of sufficiently developing what led to the downfall of civilization and instead focuses on the world after instead. I could easily compare the time spent explaining and detailing Dragonscale (including the origins and scientific explanations) to how flawlessly Mira Grant handled Kellis-Amberlee in her Newsflesh trilogy.

‘Her Dragonscale pulsed with a disagreeable warmth, in a way that made her think of someone breathing on coals.’

Camp Wyndham ends up being Harper’s “safe” place for her to continue her pregnancy but once she arrives there the pacing of the book seemed to suffer. Camp drama, strange religious aspects that are pretty standard for any end of world story, and various other plot lines were ongoing but I felt that much of it was often superfluous and ultimately never amounted to much when you consider how much time was spent exploring said plots. I applaud his effort for writing such a tome, but alas, I feel it could have been trimmed down just a bit. There was also the requisite yet under-developed bad guy that I’ve already mentioned: Jakob. To summarize, Jakob was a big bag of dicks.

“I’ve never once met a woman who had any true intellectual rigor. There’s a reason things like Facebook and airplanes and all the other great inventions of our time were made by men.”

And that’s just one example. Basically, he went a little psycho after he discovered Harper had contracted Dragonscale. They had touched one another in recent days so he became a hypochondriac, convinced that she had also infected him and sentenced him to his death. I felt that there wasn’t enough basis for him as a villain and wanted a bit more backstory to find out how his perverse mind worked, even though I doubt it would have been an enjoyable experience.

Hill created a most enticing world full of love, bravery, and adventure in The Fireman. He also set the tone for possible future installments. I’ll admit, I did groan a bit because that’s just what this world needs more of: series. But this is Joe Hill, and I can’t not be curious.

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Early Review – Sweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser

Posted January 29, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2016 / 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 – Sweetgirl by Travis MulhauserSweetgirl by Travis Mulhauser
Published by Ecco on February 2nd 2016
Pages: 256
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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four-stars

With the heart, daring, and evocative atmosphere of Winter’s Bone and True Grit, and driven by the raw, whip-smart voice of Percy James, a blistering debut about a fearless sixteen-year old girl whose search for her missing mother leads to an unexpected discovery, and a life or death struggle in the harsh frozen landscape of the Upper Midwest.

As a blizzard bears down, Percy James sets off to find her troubled mother, Carletta. For years, Percy has had to take care of herself and Mama—a woman who’s been unraveling for as long as her daughter can remember. Fearing Carletta is strung out on meth and that she won’t survive the storm, Percy heads for Shelton Potter’s cabin, deep in the woods of Northern Michigan. A two-bit criminal, as incompetent as he his violent, Shelton has been smoking his own cook and grieving the death of his beloved Labrador, Old Bo.

But when Percy arrives, there is no sign of Carletta. Searching the house, she finds Shelton and his girlfriend drugged into oblivion—and a crying baby girl left alone in a freezing room upstairs. From the moment the baby wraps a tiny hand around her finger, Percy knows she must save her—a split-second decision that is the beginning of a dangerous odyssey in which she must battle the elements and evade Shelton and a small band of desperate criminals, hell-bent on getting that baby back.

Knowing she and the child cannot make it alone, Percy seeks help from Carletta’s ex, Portis Dale, who is the closest thing she’s ever had to a father. As the storm breaks and violence erupts, Percy will be forced to confront the haunting nature of her mother’s affliction and finds her own fate tied more and more inextricably to the baby she is determined to save.

Filled with the sweeping sense of cultural and geographic isolation of its setting—the hills of fictional Cutler County in northern Michigan—and told in Percy’s unflinching style, Sweetgirl is an affecting exploration of courage, sacrifice, and the ties that bind—a taut and darkly humorous tour-de-force that is horrifying, tender, and hopeful.

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Percy James is used to her mother disappearing, but something unspoken urges her to go off in search for her, despite the approaching blizzard. Shelton Potter is the maker and dealer of the local methamphetamine trade and his house is her first stop. She doesn’t find her mother but she does find a baby, laying in front of an open window as the snow begins to pile on top of her. Not knowing what to do but knowing she can’t leave the baby, she bundles her up and begins a tragic excursion through a blizzard in Northern Michigan.

This story seems like one that has been done time and time again, but it’s one that continues to work for me. Sweetgirl is being compared to Winter’s Bone, and it isn’t wrong, but there’s a wonderful touch of humor amidst the bleakness that also reminds me of Justified. Shelton Potter is a drug-addled character that sets off in the blizzard to find baby Jenna in a misguided attempt at being a hero. At one point he’s sucking on helium balloons and whiskey when he runs out of gas in his snowmobile in the middle of nowhere while pondering the complexities of our existence.

‘His head was throbbing. He wondered if he got worse headaches on account of how big his head was. It stood to reason that he would.’

Deep thoughts, right? He reminded me greatly of Dewey Crowe (Justified) for obvious reasons.

Percy James was a headstrong girl that was clearly used to taking care of herself. Despite moments where she appeared far too articulate for a sixteen-year-old girl, she was still written genuinely and made the sort of decisions one would expect from a teenager. Like instead of hiking into town to find help for the baby, she sets off deeper into the hills to enlist the help of her mother’s ex, Portis Dale, a kind but troubled man. Together, they traverse the snow-covered hills attempting to survive nature and survive Shelton Potter’s men. Portis Dale was a welcome addition and added another level of wittiness to the story.

“Am I being testy? I’m sorry, Percy. As your cruise director I deeply regret any momentary discomfort my tone may have caused you.”

Sweetgirl impressed me most with its striking descriptiveness and how vividly the scenery was brought to life. There may have been some slight issues in general, but it triumphed in terms of Percy’s personal evolution. For such a short novel, she manages to overcome adversity while learning how to know when to do the right thing and realizing her potential for a brighter future outside of the hills of Cutler County Michigan.

‘Mama loved me. I knew that she did. She loved me in a way not even Starr could, but it had been a long time, maybe as far back as that day at Spring Lake, that her love had not felt confused and undercut with sadness. This had always been the torment of Mama’s love and it remained so now – it was both the sun that had borne me and the endless orbit I tread around its burning.’

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Book Review – Traffick (Tricks #2) by Ellen Hopkins

Posted November 21, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA / 1 Comment

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

Book Review – Traffick (Tricks #2) by Ellen HopkinsTraffick by Ellen Hopkins
Series: Tricks #2
Published by Margaret K. McElderry Books on November 3rd 2015
Pages: 528
Genres: Realistic YA Fiction, Verse
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Triangles, Crank, Burned

three-stars

Five teens victimized by sex trafficking try to find their way to a new life in this riveting companion to the New York Times bestselling Tricks from Ellen Hopkins, author of Crank.

In her bestselling novel, Tricks, Ellen Hopkins introduced us to five memorable characters tackling these enormous questions: Eden, the preacher’s daughter who turns tricks in Vegas and is helped into a child prostitution rescue; Seth, the gay farm boy disowned by his father who finds himself without money or resources other than his own body; Whitney, the privileged kid coaxed into the life by a pimp and whose dreams are ruined in a heroin haze; Ginger, who runs away from home with her girlfriend and is arrested for soliciting an undercover cop; and Cody, whose gambling habit forces him into the life, but who is shot and left for dead.

And now, in Traffick, these five are faced with the toughest question of all: Is there a way out?How these five teenagers face the aftermath of their decisions and experiences is the soul of this story that exposes the dark, ferocious underbelly of the child trafficking trade. Heartwrenching and hopeful, Traffick takes us on five separate but intertwined journeys through the painful challenges of recovery, rehabilitation, and renewal to forgiveness and love. All the way home.

‘How am I supposed to stay clean
when the truth of what I’ve done
closes in around me, squeezing
hideous memories from the deep
recesses of my brain […]’

Tricks is a novel that leaves you haunted for a group of incredibly real individuals that wound up in unimaginable situations. It told the story of five individuals: Seth is kicked out of his home after his father finds out he’s gay. Ginger is forced to run away after she’s raped and finds out that her mother collected cash from the experience. Eden is sent to a religious reform camp after her parents discover she has a boyfriend. Cody and his family find themselves in a financial hole after the death of his stepfather and he begins collecting money anyway he can. And Whitney who ends up with an older man simply because he gives her the attention she craves. What’s most shocking is how vastly different their stories are yet how they all seem to wind up in the same situations: selling their bodies in order to survive.

Traffick is their follow-up story that once again forces these same characters to face their demons while giving them the opportunity to find some semblance of a future that none of them ever thought they would live to witness. It’s no doubt a bleak tale but it effectively brings to life the harsh realities of sex trafficking and child prostitution and what many are forced to undergo. It also productively breaks many of the stereotypes surrounding the beliefs regarding how individuals find themselves in these situations. They aren’t all doing this work of their own free will, some are forced into it by intimidation, some do it out of a misguided act of love, and some do it out of sheer desperateness and being unable to do anything else with their lives.

Ellen has said that she worked with rescue groups and survivors of sex trafficking to make this story as honest as possible, and it’s obvious. While Traffick doesn’t give these victims a complete happily ever after, I appreciated it more because it didn’t. What these individuals endured is something that will stay with them eternally and forever change who they are. What this story did do was give these characters, and any individuals that find themselves in similar circumstances, the possibility of hope. Hope that there is a future for them, no matter what, despite their experiences.

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