Posts Categorized: Adult

Early Review – Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9) by Ilona Andrews

August 26, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2016 1 Comment

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

Early Review – Magic Binds (Kate Daniels #9) by Ilona AndrewsMagic Binds by Ilona Andrews
Series: Kate Daniels #9
Published by Ace on September 20th 2016
Pages: 336
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Goodreads

Also by this author: Magic Bites, Magic Rises, Burn for Me

four-stars

The latest novel in the New York Times bestselling series that “stands apart.” (Library Journal)

Kate and the former Beast Lord Curran Lennart are finally making their relationship official. But there are some steep obstacles standing in the way of their walk to the altar…

Kate’s father, Roland, has kidnapped the demigod Saiman and is slowly bleeding him dry in his never-ending bid for power. A Witch Oracle has predicted that if Kate marries the man she loves, Atlanta will burn and she will lose him forever. And the only person Kate can ask for help is long dead.

The odds are impossible. The future is grim. But Kate Daniels has never been one to play by the rules…

Kate Daniels series

Magic Bites (Kate Daniels #1) [Review]
Magic Burns (Kate Daniels #2)
Magic Strikes (Kate Daniels #3)
Magic Bleeds (Kate Daniels #4)
Magic Slays (Kate Daniels #5)
Magic Rises (Kate Daniels #6) [Review]
Magic Breaks (Kate Daniels #7) [Review]
Magic Shifts (Kate Daniels #8)

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Kate is back!!

It pleases me to no end how fantastic and thrilling this installment was. Things got a little rocky for me in the Kate Daniels fan club with installments 6 and 7 so if any of you happen to feel the same, don’t give up hope. While the tenth installment will be the last, you heard me, Magic Binds is the PENULTIMATE installment, I’m still oh so very excited to see how the chips fall. But yes, very soon, Kate Daniels’ story will be coming to an end.

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This both breaks my heart and reinforces just how fast time flies. Kate Daniels was one of the very first Urban Fantasy series I read and I only discovered it after joining Goodreads (in 2011!) and making friends with people who recommended some excellent books. It will be most sad to see this come to an end because this is hands down one of the top five best Urban Fantasy series of all time. This series has elaborate world building bringing total fantasy to the real world, complex characters that make it easy to grow to love them over time, exciting storylines in every installment, and I can’t forget to mention the unbelievable chemistry between Kate and Curran. It’s some steamy shit, people. If any of these descriptions seem mildly entertaining to you, get on it. But I’m getting sidetracked, back to Magic Binds.

I already said this, but this was one action-packed and exciting installment. We’ve got wedding planning shenanigans, we get to see Kate and Curran work through their relationship drama (showing a lack of perfection which is always appreciated), an oracle that comes bearing quite a bit of bad news, Kate’s ongoing understanding of her vast powers and fighting against the lure of becoming exactly like her father, and the hilarious dynamic between Kate and her father, Roland. Sure, Roland is setting up a future war between him and Kate, but their banter back and forth is laugh out loud funny.

“Father, you are sending mixed signals. You dispatched a woman to murder me today and now you’re upset about my wedding reception?”

There’s additional amusing banter between Kate and… well, it’s a bit of a spoiler. But just be aware that there is much banter. And it’s oh so good. There’s also a Pegasus named Sugar that is QUITE a character.

‘At least I had stopped worrying about Sugar flying off and leaving me to fend for myself. She seemed to find me amusing and stuck around. I’d learned to sneak off before taking a bathroom break, however, because she decided that pawing at me with a hoof after I found a secluded spot to pee was the funniest thing ever.’

We’re given a bit of a cliffhanger which was honestly to be expected with the second to last installment but it left me feeling CONFLICTED.

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Both. Definitely both.

We’ll see how it all plays out… sometime in 2017. Until then, let’s all start hoping and wishing for a spin-off series.

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Book Review – The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan

August 19, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 4 Comments

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

Book Review – The Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni FaganThe Sunlight Pilgrims by Jenni Fagan
Published by Hogarth on July 19th 2016
Pages: 288
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Magical Realism, LGBTQIA
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: The Panopticon: A Novel

four-stars

The stunning new novel from the highly-acclaimed author of The Panopticon

It's November of 2020, and the world is freezing over. Each day colder than the last. There's snow in Israel, the Thames is overflowing, and an iceberg separated from the Fjords in Norway is expected to drift just off the coast of Scotland. As ice water melts into the Atlantic, frenzied London residents evacuate by the thousands for warmer temperatures down south. But not Dylan. Grieving and ready to build life anew, he heads north to bury his mother's and grandmother's ashes on the Scottish islands where they once lived.

Hundreds of miles away, twelve-year-old Estella and her survivalist mother, Constance, scrape by in the snowy, mountainous Highlands, preparing for a record-breaking winter. Living out of a caravan, they spend their days digging through landfills, searching for anything with restorative and trading value. When Dylan arrives in their caravan park in the middle of the night, life changes course for Estella and Constance. Though the weather worsens, his presence brings a new light to daily life, and when the ultimate disaster finally strikes, they'll all be ready.

Written in incandescent, dazzling prose, The Sunlight Pilgrims is a visionary story of courage and resilience in the midst of nature's most violent hour; by turns an homage to the portentous beauty of our natural world, and to just how strong we can be, if the will and the hope is there, to survive its worst.

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‘The North Atlantic Drift is cooling and Dylan MacRae has just arrived in Clachan Fells caravan park and there are three suns in the sky.
That’s how it all begins.’

The North Atlantic Drift is a wind driven current of warm water that is responsible for the warmer climates in Europe. The ongoing thaw of the polar ice caps result in massive amounts of fresh water being released in the oceans, vastly changing its salinity. Changes in salinity have the potential to unsettle ocean currents and thus our weather. A decrease in salinity would cause the North Atlantic Drift to slacken, subsequently changing Europe’s climate slowly over time. We’re experiencing this subtle climate change now and have been for many years, but in The Sunlight Pilgrims, Fagan brings us to the year 2020 where the worst case scenario has finally become a reality. It’s November, before true winter has even arrived and the weather outside is -6°F. By the end of January temperatures will have dropped to -38° and a small village in Scotland is struggling to endure.

‘Dark is following them. It’s coming to cloak everything. Each day it will eat a little more light until they will wake up one morning to find the sun won’t rise again.’

The alarming Ice Age chronicled in these pages never quite becomes the focal point for this story. It’s the aura surrounding the true story. The dire circumstances help to establish the characters and showcases their most base natures, but at center stage is twelve year old Stella Fairbairn, who thirteen months ago used to be referred to as ‘he’.

‘Cael Fairbairn has ceased to exist. Thirteen months ago the girl that wore his body got up and told everyone to quit calling her by the wrong pronoun.’

Stella has finally found some form of peace after no longer having to show the world one person when the person she feels she is on the inside is completely different. She’s headstrong and determined to find her new place in the world amidst all the appalling bullying she’s forced to deal with from her classmates who she used to call friends. She resorts to finding people with similar stories on the internet to make her feel less alone and to find people that will accept her for how she is. Meanwhile, her and everyone else fights to stay alive in the rapidly changing climate. And at heart, that’s what this story is all about: surviving. Whether it’s surviving growing up in a society that refuses to accept you for who you are or whether it’s surviving in a harsh and unforgiving climate, it’s all the same.

Stella isn’t the only enticing character in the book; its chock-full of them. Constance, Stella’s free-spirited, survivalist mother, Dylan, the giant of a man who arrives in the village carrying the ashes of his mother and grandmother, and their neighbors which include a porn star, lesbian school teachers, some Satan worshipers, and a guy determined to prove the existence of aliens. While their descriptions alone would seem to guarantee a most quirky read, The Sunlight Pilgrims was a surprisingly subdued and almost peaceful read about the possible end of the world as we know it. Fagan has once again placed the spotlight on individuals that would typically be relegated to darkened corners. The Panopticon gave juvenile offenders the spotlight and now The Sunlight Pilgrims displays the marginalization of individuals undergoing a gender transition. Between the doctors that suggested anti-depressants to her instead of the hormone blockers she requested and the majority of the community that looks on her with nothing but disdain. All while this is happening, the Ice Age is still coming on slowly but surely. It all seems so insignificant that these individuals are still able to maintain their scorn and self-righteousness while there are more important things going on outside; like the world ending.

Fagan’s writing is almost restrained yet still remains vibrant and descriptively lush. She aptly describes icicles growing to the size of narwhal tusks, “…the long bony finger of winter herself.” While the world around them is being encased in ice, there is still a remarkable beauty to be found.

‘Sun spirals down through treetops showing up sediments of silver and amber dust. A frozen pond. Curls of ice make a frost flower on a fallen bough. Each iced petal is perfectly curled and see-through. Winter has been hand-carving them overnight. Placing them here.’

‘A flock of birds fly low overhead.
Mossy greens and purples and red-golds have faded to brown.
Sleet billows off the mountain.
Treetops disappear in one blink as the white owerblaw races over the mountaintop and drifts down thicker and faster, painting everything white until within seconds the whole landscape is utterly changed.’

While the mere concept of negative double digit temperatures is horrifying, Fagan manages to make it a poetic experience. There’s even a pinch of magical realism added to this most realistic world, when Dylan first sets eyes on Constance, “…she reaches up a pale arm up into the sky and polishes the moon.” It was a frivolous addition to the story, however, it added a touch of magic to the existing beauty and I loved it.

When I sat down to write this review tonight, I was distressed because I didn’t have any idea what to say about this story or if I’d even be able to successfully explain what made it so special. I spent over an hour researching salinity and the North Atlantic Drift so that I could understand just how something like what happened in this story could actually happen. My research took me right back to how this story made me feel: aghast yet somehow sanguine. Survival is always a possibility, no matter the circumstances.

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Early Review – Bury the Living (The Revolutionary Series #1) by Jodi McIsaac

August 13, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2016 1 Comment

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

Early Review – Bury the Living (The Revolutionary Series #1) by Jodi McIsaacBury the Living by Jodi McIsaac
Series: The Revolutionary Series #1
Published by 47North on September 6th 2016
Pages: 302
Genres: Time Travel
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
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one-half-stars

Rebellion has always been in the O’Reilly family’s blood. So when faced with the tragic death of her brother during Northern Ireland’s infamous Troubles, a teenage Nora joined the IRA to fight for her country’s freedom. Now, more than a decade later, Nora is haunted by both her past and vivid dreams of a man she has never met.

When she is given a relic belonging to Brigid of Kildare, patron saint of Ireland, the mystical artifact transports her back eighty years—to the height of Ireland’s brutal civil war. There she meets the alluring stranger from her dreams, who has his own secrets—and agenda. Taken out of her own time, Nora has the chance to alter the fortunes of Ireland and maybe even save the ones she loves. In this captivating and adventurous novel from Jodi McIsaac, history belongs to those with the courage to change it.

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*spoilers are hidden in spoiler tags*

In 1990, Nora O’Reilly is fifteen years old with an unruly temper that gets her into far more trouble than would be otherwise necessary. Being angry at the poor situation her family finds itself in, a murdered father, a mother that can’t put down the bottle, and a brother that is the sole breadwinner, Nora takes it upon herself to start selling pills in order to make some side cash. Cash that will hopefully one day get her family out of Ireland and away from the ongoing war for freedom. The only thing it does it get her into more trouble than her temper ever did and before long, she’s signed up to be a member of the Irish Republican Army, and won’t manage to leave Ireland for another 10 years. Flash forward to the year 2004, Nora is now thirty years old and has been spending the last several years of her life as a relief worker in various foreign countries. She’s been having strange dreams for many months which feature the same man who never actually says anything to her yet leaves her with a sense of urgency that has her puzzled. When she dreams of him one night and he actually speaks, asking her to go to a town in Ireland because he needs her help, she brushes it off as nothing but a dream but she can’t completely shake off the pull to follow through on his request. When she does as the man in her dream requested, she ends up on an adventure through time itself, ending up in the year 1923.

Bury the Living was initially tempting to me because it’s a time travel adventure and marketed to fans of Outlander. It’s an understandable similarity, yet, Living falls undeniably short of living up to the comparison. The writing was enjoyable and kept me reading till the end but the characters themselves really blurred together after a point, except for the main character who seemed to have never grown out of her teenage temper. There’s an extensive focus on the historical detailing of the time as well as a romance, but the confusing aspects of the time travel itself, the inclusion of some puzzling fantasy aspects, and the lack of a logical plot made any positive aspects of this story fall by the wayside.

The historical detailing: This was the best part of the story. This is all information I had to take at face value because I knew little to nothing about the history of Ireland and the wars and strife they went through for decades. It was terrible yet fascinating but quite clear that the author did a lot of research for this book.

The romance: There isn’t a Claire and Jamie type of love, although, they’re truly incomparable. The building blocks were established for the romance in this first installment of the planned series, but I can’t say I felt any sort of chemistry between our two supposed love birds. I expect that will come later.

The time travel: After Nora’s dreams send her to a church in Kildare to find ‘Brigid’, a nun there is prepped and ready because she also had been having dreams warning her of Nora’s impending arrival. With the help of an ancient relic View Spoiler » from Saint Brigid herself, Nora is sent back to the year 1923. I don’t know, it was all just a little too methodical for my liking.

The fantasy aspects/Plot: The majority of this is quite spoilery so I’ll just include these bits in spoiler tags. View Spoiler »

Bury the Living is an informative time travel adventure through the arduous 1920s of Ireland. It’s evident this is the first installment of a planned series and the ending definitely leaves you hanging whether Nora will ever manage to accomplish her goal of changing the future. Unfortunately, I doubt I’ll be picking up the next book to find out.

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Book Review – Good as Gone by Amy Gentry

August 11, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 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.

Book Review – Good as Gone by Amy GentryGood as Gone by Amy Gentry
Published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt on July 26th 2016
Pages: 288
Genres: Mystery
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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three-half-stars

Thirteen-year-old Julie Whitaker was kidnapped from her bedroom in the middle of the night, witnessed only by her younger sister. Her family was shattered, but managed to stick together, hoping against hope that Julie is still alive. And then one night: the doorbell rings. A young woman who appears to be Julie is finally, miraculously, home safe. The family is ecstatic—but Anna, Julie’s mother, has whispers of doubts. She hates to face them. She cannot avoid them. When she is contacted by a former detective turned private eye, she begins a torturous search for the truth about the woman she desperately hopes is her daughter.

Propulsive and suspenseful, Good as Gone will appeal to fans of Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train, and keep readers guessing until the final pages.

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‘It’s so easy to forget how terrible the world is. Tragedy reminds us. It is purifying in that way. But when it starts to fade, you have to return to the source, over and over.’

When Julie Whitaker was just 13 years old, she was walked silently out of her house by knifepoint. The last person to see her alive was her 10 year old sister, Jane. Eight years have gone by and the time for hope, hope that Julie could ever be found, has long since passed. A knock on their door one night just may prove that there is always a reason to keep hoping: Julie finally found her way home. …or did she? The girl at the front door is about the same age as Julie would be and looks like how they imagine she would, but after 8 years, how do you really know? She tells stories of being held captive, of being raped, of being kept at a drug lords compound in Mexico. But something about her entire story rings false and as the story continues unfolding, more suspicions arise. If this isn’t Julie, who is it and what could she possibly gain from pretending to be someone she’s not?

‘If there is something missing—if I am afraid to love her quite as much as before—it is only because the potential for love feels so big and so intense that I fear I will disappear in the expression of it, that it will blow my skin away like clouds and I will be nothing.’

It’s clear that the inspiration for this story came from Elizabeth Smart’s tragic story, but Gentry’s debut novel impressively builds off inspiration and stands strong on its own merits. To me, the definition of a good mystery is one that continues to keep you riveted while also keeps you guessing. Good as Gone seems to reveal far more than it should early on, however, nothing is simple and straight forward about this mystery. Gentry throws continuous curve balls, introducing many girls all with heartbreaking stories like Julie’s. Of the experiences they endured just to survive and how those experiences altered their very being making it near impossible to remember a time before. Before their lives were irrevocably obliterated.

Good as Gone was a surprising read that stood out in a sea of mediocre mysteries with an abundant amount of effectively written plot twists, keeping the reader hypothesizing. The ending felt mildly flat only because there were so many diversions, I was on the edge of my seat expecting a final one to end it on a shocker. Good as Gone is a tangled family drama with an outstanding mystery from a promising debut author.

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Early Review – The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell

August 5, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2016 3 Comments

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

Early Review – The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop CrispellThe Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on September 6th 2016
Pages: 304
Genres: Foodie Fiction, Magical Realism
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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two-half-stars

26-year-old Rachel Monroe has spent her whole life trying to keep a very unusual secret: she can make wishes come true. And sometimes the consequences are disastrous. So when Rachel accidentally grants an outlandish wish for the first time in years, she decides it’s time to leave her hometown―and her past―behind for good.

Rachel isn’t on the road long before she runs out of gas in a town that’s not on her map: Nowhere, North Carolina―also known as the town of “Lost and Found.” In Nowhere, Rachel is taken in by a spit-fire old woman, Catch, who possesses a strange gift of her own: she can bind secrets by baking them into pies. Rachel also meets Catch’s neighbor, Ashe, a Southern gentleman with a complicated past, who makes her want to believe in happily-ever-after for the first time in her life.

As she settles into the small town, Rachel hopes her own secrets will stay hidden, but wishes start piling up everywhere Rachel goes. When the consequences threaten to ruin everything she’s begun to build in Nowhere, Rachel must come to terms with who she is and what she can do, or risk losing the people she’s starting to love―and her chance at happiness―all over again.

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Rachel Monroe is something of a modern day fairy godmother: she can make wishes come true. Whenever someone makes a wish, a slip of paper flutters down out of nowhere and as soon as she reads the words on the paper, their wish is granted. When Rachel was younger, one of her own wishes came true and it was terribly life changing and she vowed never to make any other wishes come true. That is, until the day her friend’s daughter wished for a unicorn and a pony with a sugar cone strapped to its head appeared on her doorstep.

Terrified that she’s going to cause everything to go wrong again, she packs a bag and leaves town immediately. She finds herself stranded and out of gas in a town in North Carolina ironically named Nowhere. Rachel is taken in by a kind elderly lady named Catch and meets a man named Ashe. Feeling like she’s finally found someplace to call home, she hopes that her wishes cease to plague her.

I am an absolute sucker for any book that manages to include tasty foods. Sure, the summary sounded all sorts of fluffy cute with the fun magical realism bits and a cutesy romance to get all swoony over that completely reminded me of a Sarah Addison Allen novel, but when it was all said and done I was really only thinking one thing:

I was so eager to get my hands on a copy of this because I was completely prepared to adore this one because it had everything I typically love. It really would have been great but there were far too many plot holes and aspects that continued to be distracting to the storyline as a whole. On top of that there was just a bit too much cheesiness for my liking. Let me explain.

So Rachel up and leaves her stable home and job because she made a wish come true. The story started off shockingly somber (not a spoiler — revealed within first 5%) when it’s revealed that the wish that Rachel made come true, that changed her life forever, was the wish that her little brother would disappear. And he did. Literally. Her parents completely forget he ever existed, he was erased from every photograph, even the door to his bedroom disappeared like there was never a room there to begin with. Every last trace of him, gone. Rachel continues to insist she has a brother and she ends up getting institutionalized, her dad leaves the family, and her mother ends up committing suicide. For fucks sake.

So… moving on.

So Rachel up and leaves town and basically begins a new life in a new town thinking that people in a small town won’t have wishes or something. Personally, that just seemed a little drastic and far fetched to me. Especially since it’s not like she went out to live by herself in the boonies to get away from people whose lives she could potentially ruin or something. Suspension of disbelief is mildly required. I trudged on though, continuing to refocus on the important parts: the pie. Alas, the story continued to reveal itself as something akin to a Lifetime movie. Sorry, Lifetime movies just aren’t my thing. But we have the oh so perfect love interest, except he’s carrying some serious baggage. The townsfolk that go to great lengths (minus actual pitchforks) to run Rachel out of town. The mysterious person from Rachel’s past that knows everything and tries to blackmail her. The old lady that meets her and invites her to live with her the same day. There was just a lot of silly and unnecessary drama involved that was more far fetched than anything and really detracted from what could have been a really delightful story. All I know is, I didn’t sign up for all that. I came for the pie, dammit.

Honestly though, there is a ton of pie in this book and the descriptions will have you racing to the closest bakery. My favorite was by far the “salted chocolate tart with a potato chip crust. Drool. But holy hell, other than a single rib cook-off mentioned, pie is all this town seemed to eat. Then again, with all their daily drama, I’d probably eat nothing but pie too.

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Audiobook Review – Deceptive Cadence (The Virtuosic Spy #1) by Kathryn Guare

August 4, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 1 Comment

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

Audiobook Review – Deceptive Cadence (The Virtuosic Spy #1) by Kathryn GuareDeceptive Cadence by Kathryn Guare
Narrator: Wayne Farrell
Series: The Virtuosic Spy #1
on March 11th, 2016
Length: 11 hours and 19 minutes
Genres: Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Author
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads


three-half-stars

Meet Conor McBride. He's even more interesting than the trouble he gets into.

A talented Irish musician reluctantly reinvents himself, disappearing into an undercover identity to search for the man who ruined his career: his own brother. On a journey from the west of Ireland to the tumultuous city of Mumbai, Conor McBride's only goal is to redeem the brother who betrayed him. But he's becoming a virtuoso of a different kind in a dangerous game where the rules keep changing - and where the allies he trusted to help him may be the people he should fear the most.

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At one point his life, Conor McBride was a successful concert violinist, but he’s reverted back to his roots and has gone home to Ireland to care for his mother and the family farm. This life change came after his brother, Thomas, was involved in an international case of fraud that just so happened to involve Conor after he signed documents that he didn’t bother to review. Thomas disappeared and Conor spent the next several years living a life of simplicity, paying the fines that the McBride family became stuck with. Five years go by and a gentleman from the British intelligence agency knocks on Conor’s door requisitioning his assistance in locating the brother he presumed was long gone. Suddenly, his life of simplicity gets very complicated.

While Deceptive Cadence is a fast paced spy thriller, however, the real essence of the story centers around family and the lengths that you would go for them regardless of history. The idea of a simple farmer (or even musician) being commissioned to become a member of MI6 at the drop of the hat may be far fetched, but Conor McBride is one of those individuals that catch on quick but the fact that he has to do well in order to protect his brother is never far from his mind. His fast-paced training takes him out of the villages in Ireland and thrusts him into a new world. While searching for his brother he experiences religious retreats known as ashrams in Rishikesh India to the cities of Mumbai.

‘For the first time his senses began to register the exotic, heady atmosphere of Mumbai…the odors most insistently demanded his attention. There were layers upon layers of them, all present at once but individually distinct. They shifted in strength and character with the ocean breeze that blew soft, irregular gusts across his face. First came the sharp tang of engine fuel mingled with an even more acrid burning smell, as though something unnatural had been set alight to blanket the city with a smoldering stench. A shift in the air’s direction brought a fresher aroma of salt and brine floating in from the sea. It gave way to the hot smell of spices frying in oil, which in turn incongruously merged with the subtle reek of garbage.’

The authors clear research into this part of the globe takes the reader on a fascinating journey to far off parts of the world and describes Conor’s surroundings in fantastic detail. Conor was an enjoyable character that managed to contribute a dash of whimsy to a story that could have been nothing but dark and mysterious.

‘His instructions for the flight had been unequivocal. He was to remain quiet and anonymous, avoiding unnecessary conversation and making every effort to appear as invisible as possible. He presumed this meant someone had ensured that the aisle seat would remain empty. Surely an intelligence expert of any quality – particularly a British one – would not expect an Irishman to sit next to someone for nine hours without talking.’

In addition to a compelling main character and an enticing storyline, the Ireland born audiobook narrator, Wayne Farrell, only further impressed me with his storytelling ability. If you’re a fan of John le Carré and/or spy-thrillers, Deceptive Cadence could be an unexpected treat.

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Early Review – The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough

July 29, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2016 1 Comment

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

Early Review – The Language of Dying by Sarah PinboroughThe Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough
Published by Jo Fletcher Books on August 2nd 2016
Pages: 144
Genres: Magical Realism, Horror
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Mayhem, Murder, Behind Her Eyes

three-stars

In this emotionally gripping, genre-defying novella from Sarah Pinborough, a woman sits at her father's bedside, watching the clock tick away the last hours of his life. Her brothers and sisters--she is the middle child of five--have all turned up over the past week to pay their last respects. Each is traumatized in his or her own way, and the bonds that unite them to each other are fragile--as fragile perhaps as the old man's health.

With her siblings all gone, back to their self-obsessed lives, she is now alone with the faltering wreck of her father's cancer-ridden body. It is always at times like this when it--the dark and nameless, the impossible, presence that lingers along the fringes of the dark fields beyond the house--comes calling.

As the clock ticks away in the darkness, she can only wait for it to find her, a reunion she both dreads and aches for...

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‘There is a language to dying. It creeps like a shadow alongside the passing years and the taste of it hides in the corners of our mouths. It finds us whether we are sick or healthy. It is a secret hushed thing that lives in the whisper of the nurses’ skirts as they rustle up and down our stairs. They’ve taught me to face the language one syllable at a time, slowing creating an unwilling meaning.’

The Language of Dying is a multi-genre novella which tells the story of a dying father and his five children that come together to be with him in his final moments. Blending a contemporary tale of family life with aspects of magical realism and horror, Sarah Pinborough focuses on an unnamed narrator, the middle child of five who has been the one to remain home and care for her father once he realized that cancer was ravaging his body. It’s not until she receives word that her father has mere days to live do her siblings finally return to pay their respects, leaving it up to her to handle things until they can no longer say no. Her siblings have always found her to be something of an odd duck, always has her head in the clouds, but not only is she constantly haunted by a creature she once saw out her bedroom window but of the darkened past that she keeps hidden while is continues to consume her.

‘A black horn grows twisted from between its eye, a thick, deformed, calloused thing, a tree root erupting from the earthy ground of its forehead, the matt texture oppositional to the sweaty shine on its dark hide. I stare at it and our souls meet. It is power and anger and beauty and nature rolled into something other-worldly, waging a war with the night on its four thick hooves.’

The magical realism/horror aspects of this novel were initially curious yet ultimately left me perplexed. The novella mainly centers around the narrators relationship with her father and her siblings as well as her own tragically distressing story that has changed her as a person. Bouncing between past and present tense, the story is a nostalgic one, recalling past times with both fondness and animosity. The inclusion of the fantasy aspect, oddly, never seemed out of place in this contemporary story yet felt mostly like a metaphor that I never fully understood. The Language of Dying is an outlandish yet beautifully written story that effectively illustrates the power of grief and the indelible mark it leaves on us.

 ‘Sometimes there are just too many words filling up space and not enough emptiness left for thinking. I keep a little emptiness inside for when I need it.’

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Book Review – The Last One: A Novel by Alexandra Oliva

July 28, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 6 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.

Book Review – The Last One: A Novel by Alexandra OlivaThe Last One: A Novel by Alexandra Oliva
Published by Ballantine Books on July 12th 2016
Pages: 304
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads


four-stars

Survival is the name of the game, as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself—and one woman’s mind and body are pushed to the limit. A thrilling, unsettling, high-concept debut novel for readers of Station Eleven and The Passage.

She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far.

It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it man-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game.

Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all of her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes.

But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will either be her triumph or her undoing.

Sophisticated and provocative, harrowing and surprising, The Last One is a novel that forces us to confront the role that media plays in our perception of what is real—how readily we cast our judgments, and how easily we are manipulated.

style-3 (3) review

“The contestants don’t know everything. […] They know no one gets voted off, that this is a race – or, rather, a series of small races during which they accumulate advantages and disadvantages. What they don’t know is that this race does not have a finish line. […] The game will continue until only one person remains, and the only way out is to quit.”

When twelve individuals sign up for a wilderness survival television show called In the Dark, they never could have imagined that they’d actually be fighting for their lives. While the show continues, a fierce contagion of unknown origin is decimating the population of the outside world which they’ve been disconnected from. As we see through the eyes of the contestants, things begin to change in shocking ways, the clues they find and the challenges they’re given, but this is still just a game… right?

I don’t watch a lot of television in general and I especially don’t watch a lot of reality television despite its massive increase in popularity in recent years. The Last One has been recommended to fans of reality television, however, this is definitely not a requirement because I still found this to be a most curious and unique take on the typical post apocalyptic tale. There are twelve contestants but the story is told primarily from the point of view of a female dubbed ‘Zoo’ by the shows producers seeing as she works at a wildlife sanctuary. All individuals are given nicknames: there’s Biology, Carpenter Chick (originally known as Asian Chick), Tracker, Black Doctor, Waitress, Rancher, Exorcist, Air Force, Cheerleader Boy, and Banker. The names are clearly only given as an easily identifiable label without giving consideration to the fact that these individuals have actual names, but this is a reality television show they’re a part of after all. The story switches between the start of the competition and to the time when the competition was over, yet the contestants, mainly Zoo, were quite literally left in the dark. This build-up to knowing what she underwent in the competition becomes vital to understanding how it’s possible for her to have endured the things she did while still smoothing these incidents over mentally, assuring herself that this isn’t real, it’s just a prop for the show.

‘Nothing can be worse than what they’ve already put me through. I’d never choose this, not again. But I’m here and I’m a woman of my word and I promised myself I wouldn’t quit.’

Zoo is a highly developed female character despite the fact that we primarily see her from a would be position behind the lens of a camera. If the world hadn’t been ending and the show had actually gone on, she would have been my bet for last one standing. Oliva’s writing was first-rate in describing the psychological trauma that Zoo withstands in sorting through fact and fiction when the two become muddied. She convinces herself despite clear contradictions that this is still the game in a failed attempt to shelter her from the reality of her situation. Making reality television as the primary plot point as well as the inclusion of snippets of a chat forum where viewers are able to discuss their thoughts and opinions on the episodes was a crafty way of integrating a modern tale with credible post-apocalyptic elements. The story may not have delved into the origins of the contagion, however, The Last One smartly focused on the psychological aspects of a modern society being confronted with the world ending instead.

It would be easy to say that post-apocalyptic stories are overdone what with the hoards of them in existence but The Last One only confirms that it’s still a genre worth reading.

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Book Review – The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock

July 22, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 4 Comments

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

Book Review – The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray PollockThe Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock
Published by Doubleday on July 12th 2016
Pages: 384
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Devil All the Time

two-half-stars

From Donald Ray Pollock, author of the highly acclaimed The Devil All the Time and Knockemstiff, comes a dark, gritty, electrifying (and, disturbingly, weirdly funny) new novel that will solidify his place among the best contemporary American authors.

It is 1917, in that sliver of border land that divides Georgia from Alabama. Dispossessed farmer Pearl Jewett ekes out a hardscrabble existence with his three young sons: Cane (the eldest; handsome; intelligent); Cob (short; heavy set; a bit slow); and Chimney (the youngest; thin; ill-tempered). Several hundred miles away in southern Ohio, a farmer by the name of Ellsworth Fiddler lives with his son, Eddie, and his wife, Eula. After Ellsworth is swindled out of his family’s entire fortune, his life is put on a surprising, unforgettable, and violent trajectory that will directly lead him to cross paths with the Jewetts. No good can come of it. Or can it?

In the gothic tradition of Flannery O’Connor and Cormac McCarthy with a healthy dose of cinematic violence reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah, Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers, the Jewetts and the Fiddlers will find their lives colliding in increasingly dark and horrific ways, placing Donald Ray Pollock firmly in the company of the genre’s literary masters.

style-3 review

“That’s the one good thing about this here life. Nothin’ in it lasts for long.”

The Heavenly Table‘s cast of characters is extremely large and despite the extravagant and grandiose picture attempting to be painted, most characters were superfluous. There were two main stories, the first being the story of Pearl Jewett and his three sons, Cane, Chimney, and Cobb. Their father is something of a religious man and believed that the harder they lived here on Earth, the higher chance they would earn a seat at the heavenly table. They lived the hardest existence possible without succumbing to it. Until the day that Pearl did, and his boys decided to hell with the heavenly table, they wanted to live good now. They began with a  murder, followed it up with a bank robbery, and went on from there.

The second is the story of a farmer named Ellsworth Fiddler, a farmer in Ohio, who also leads a hard existence but only because he got swindled out of his life savings. On top of that, his son, who was the only help he had with farm work, has up and disappeared. The year is 1917 and war is brewing and Ellsworth believes he joined up and hopes that he can finally make something of himself.

These stories were all well and good but we’re given full accounts of several other storylines that never really ended up amounting to much. The military officer that gets dumped, discovers he’s gay, decides to kill himself but decides at the last minute to enlist so he can die honorably in the war instead. The black man that uses and abuses women travels home to visit his family but finds himself mixed up with the Jewett’s. The bar keep in a small town that likes kidnapping and torturing people for the hell of it. And last but certainly not least, the sanitation inspector with a giant penis. I’m not kidding. At one point it’s referred to as a “long slab of meat.” I think that about covers everything but goddamn was it convoluted. The chapters, of which there are 72 in total, are short and to the point which didn’t exactly help when you’re trying to connect and under such an extensive cast of characters. All in all it made for quite the rocky read.

The Devil All the Time, Pollock’s debut novel, is one of my all time favorites and is the book that solidified my love of southern gothic fiction. It hosted a cast of perverse characters and was extremely violent brash, but damn was it brilliant. The Heavenly Table introduces a brand new cast of perverse characters but there was a distinctly vulgar quality to Pollock’s sophomore effort that I found fairly unpleasant. Here are just a few examples:

‘Even Esther, probably the least self-conscious person he’d ever met, occasionally got the jitters if too many voyeurs crowded into her tent to watch her play a tune on some john’s skin flute.’

and

‘Bovard had stumbled to his quarters so aroused from what Malone had said that he was still awake at reveille, his handkerchief stiff with ejaculate and his hand cramped so badly that he had a difficult time lacing up his boots.’

Pollock excels at portraying the backwoods down South mentality. He highlights just how poor the poor were and the lengths they would go just to climb out of the station assigned to them at birth. It’s sad and devastating when you really think about it, but Pollock’s delivery is done in such a way so as to not garner sympathy. He simply tells it like it is. The added facet of WWI seemed an unnecessary inclusion at first but it only aided in highlighting the small mindedness of these people and how unaware they are of the vastness of the world around them.

“And what’s this?” Eula said, pointing at the broad expanse of blue that separated America from Europe while waving gnats away from her face.
“That’s the Atlantic Ocean.”
Ellsworth leaned in for a closer look. “Why, that don’t look no bigger than Clancy’s pond,” he said.

Times were changing for these people, whether they liked it or not. Not just with the war either but with new technology and even evolving mindsets. It was a time of change and seeing these characters confronted with it was most fascinating.

I never thought to expect more novels from Pollock, I was sure that The Devil All the Time was destined to be his only one, and while this one was quite a disappointment overall it’s still fantastic to see southern gothic continue to grow in popularity.

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Audiobook Review – The Voodoo Killings (Kincaid Strange #1) by Kristi Charish

July 21, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 10 Comments

Audiobook Review – The Voodoo Killings (Kincaid Strange #1) by Kristi CharishThe Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish
Narrator: Susannah Jones
Series: Kincaid Strange #1
Published by Audible on May 10th 2016
Length: 11 hrs and 43 mins
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: a Giveaway
Amazon | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Lipstick Voodoo

four-half-stars

For the first time since we launched Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, Random House Canada is thrilled to announce the debut of a new urban fantasy series. Kristi Charish's The Voodoo Killings introduces Kincaid Strange, not your average voodoo practitioner...

For starters, she's only 27. Then there's the fact that she lives in rain-soaked Seattle, which is not exactly Haiti. And she's broke. With raising zombies outlawed throughout the continental USA, Kincaid has to eke out a living running seances for university students with more money than brains who are desperate for guitar lessons with the ghost of a Seattle grunge rocker--who happens to be Kincaid's on-again, off-again roommate.

Then a stray zombie turns up outside her neighbourhood bar: Cameron Wight, an up-and-coming visual artist with no recollection of how he died or who raised him. Not only is it dangerous for Kincaid to be caught with an unauthorized zombie, she soon realizes he's tied to a spate of murders: someone is targeting the zombies and voodoo practitioners in Seattle's infamous Underground City, a paranormal hub. When the police refuse to investigate, the City's oldest and foremost zombie asks Kincaid to help. Raising ghosts and zombies is one thing, but finding a murderer? She's broke, but she's not stupid.

And then she becomes the target...As the saying goes, when it rains it pours, especially in Seattle.

style-3 review

The Voodoo Killings is a brand new Urban Fantasy series by Kristi Charish which introduces Kincaid Strange, a voodoo practitioner living in Seattle, Washington. Struggling to make ends meet after losing her job with the Seatle PD and now that raising zombies is technically illegal, Kincaid resorts to making the rent by performing seances. Her roommate, a deceased Seattle grunge rocker by the name of Nate Cade, occasionally assists her with these but it’s often difficult for her to persuade him to stop playing video games to do so. When a local bar owner calls to inform her that an abandoned zombie was discovered in his alley, Kincaid Strange becomes his temporary guardian while she tries to not only find out who turned him and why but to keep others from finding out, mainly her ex-boyfriend Aaron who still works for the Seattle PD.

This book didn’t even make it onto my radar (and I compile an entire list of book releases on my blog so I don’t know how I missed this) but thankfully a blogger friend (Thanks, Tammy!) brought this to my attention and I’m so very glad. I knew next to nothing about this story or the author, only discovering it was about zombies (and ghosts!) and I immediately was all on board. With an intriguing form of magic in addition to a fascinating mystery and a most charming cast of characters, The Voodoo Killings was enticing and incredibly entertaining.

“I mean, there’s hell freezing over, pigs flying, and then there’s me and responsibility.”

It’s so refreshing to read about a heroine that is not only a total badass but has flaws and power limitations and isn’t some perfect superhuman, and that’s exactly how Kincaid Strange is written. She’s brazen, headstrong, and isn’t afraid of handling business. In addition to a lead character that can hold her own, her roommate Nate is all that was needed to make up the perfect dynamic duo. But wait, there’s more! The zombies practically adopts, Cameron, fits right into the group. Kindcaid is constantly finding herself in a bind (or three) and her two sidekicks have her back and are constantly keeping her out of trouble. And even better, there is zero romantic inclinations, just pure, unadulterated friendship.

I loved the characters far more than I expected, but I really relished the intricate details of Charish’s magical world. Rather than your typical post-apocalyptic world where some virus has been unleashed causing the existence of zombies, these zombies only come alive because a voodoo practitioner makes it so. The added details regarding the dead being brought back to life to solve land disputes or to discover who murdered them was an amusing concept. Just as long as they consumed a steady supply of brains (animals brains worked in a pinch but human brains really did the trick) they remained fairly coherent for the most part. Additional interesting tidbits included details about different bindings as well as much discussion about Otherside or the energy Kindcaid draws from which comes from the land of the dead.

It was an incredibly compelling story and I enjoyed every minute of it and I do mean every minute in the literal sense. I listened to the audiobook and Susannah Jones’ narration was absolutely brilliant. I am not a night owl at all but I found myself staying up till 1:30am one night because I couldn’t stop listening. Her various voices and accents for both male and female was phenomenal and she no doubt made this already fantastic story into something even better.

Urban Fantasy fans, don’t let this one go unnoticed! The Voodoo Killings possesses a mystery that will keep you guessing, a cast of character you wish you could call friends, and a unique magic system. The ending will leave you hoping there was a second installment ready and waiting. Alas, there isn’t yet. I definitely wont be letting that one fly under my radar though.

It’s a bit difficult to find a copy of this one considering it was published by Random House Canada and currently the only format that can be purchased in the US is the audible version (but I highly recommend the audio!)

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