Category: Audiobooks

Audiobook Review | ‘Good Neighbors’ is a Suburban Nightmare

Posted August 19, 2021 by Bonnie in 2021, Audiobooks, Book Reviews / 2 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.

Audiobook Review | ‘Good Neighbors’ is a Suburban NightmareGood Neighbors by Sarah Langan
Narrator: Nicole Lewis
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on February 2, 2021
Length: 10 hrs and 11 mins
Genres: Thriller
Format: Audiobook
Source: Netgalley
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two-stars

Celeste Ng’s enthralling dissection of suburbia meets Shirley Jackson’s creeping dread in this propulsive literary noir, when a sudden tragedy exposes the depths of deception and damage in a Long Island suburbpitting neighbor against neighbor and putting one family in terrible danger.

Welcome to Maple Street, a picture-perfect slice of suburban Long Island, its residents bound by their children, their work, and their illusion of safety in a rapidly changing world.

Arlo Wilde, a gruff has-been rock star who’s got nothing to show for his fame but track marks, is always two steps behind the other dads. His wife, beautiful ex-pageant queen Gertie, feels socially ostracized and adrift. Spunky preteen Julie curses like a sailor and her kid brother Larry is called “Robot Boy” by the kids on the block.
Their next-door neighbor and Maple Street’s Queen Bee, Rhea Schroedera lonely community college professor repressing her own dark pastwelcomes Gertie and family into the fold. Then, during one spritzer-fueled summer evening, the new best friends share too much, too soon.

As tensions mount, a sinkhole opens in a nearby park, and Rhea’s daughter Shelly falls inside. The search for Shelly brings a shocking accusation against the Wildes that spins out of control. Suddenly, it is one mom’s word against the other’s in a court of public opinion that can end only in blood.

A riveting and ruthless portrayal of American suburbia, Good Neighbors excavates the perils and betrayals of motherhood and friendships and the dangerous clash between social hierarchy, childhood trauma, and fear.

“We had a problem on the block and the cops wouldn’t solve it. So we solved our own problem.”

The residents of Maple Street only look perfect on the outside, of course. There’s also the giant sinkhole that opened up in the neighborhood park that kind of mars things. When the Wilde’s moved into the neighborhood, they knew they didn’t belong (Gertie an ex-beauty queen with breast implants, her husband Arlo an ex-rocker with tattoos covering his track marks) but they had hoped to find their own place amongst the impeccable families.  Rhea Schroeder, the undisputed Queen of Maple Street, decides to look past her differences and befriend Gertie. One night, dark secrets are shared and Rhea misinterprets Gertie’s reaction and decides to turn on her instead, telling the neighborhood everything that Gertie didn’t want getting out. When Rhea’s daughter Shelley falls into the sinkhole, she blames Gertie and her family for her death and sets in motion irreparable devastation.

The story is set in a world much like our own in the year 2028 where it’s clear the current climate has deteriorated rapidly. The sinkhole spews oil, somehow causes the residents to have patchy phone connections, and it continues to expand at a seemingly alarming rate. On top of the timely climate narrative, there’s also the inclusion of newspaper and academic articles from 15-years into the future that reference “the Maple Street Murders” which give the story a true-crime feel. Personally, I think the climax would’ve been much more shocking without the articles providing the bleak foreshadowing of what’s to come.

The whole thing is a very unsettling type of dark. It’s a plausible story about the power of a lie and their abilities to destroy regardless of authenticity. It also shows how terrifyingly quick things can escalate and get out of hand. Sarah Langan is known for writing horror and she certainly transitioned well into suburban horror, but everything was severe and over the top to the point where the heavy-handedness became oppressive. Some of her phrasing and the way she chose to describe things was needless too, much like this line:

“The man’s expression was animalistic and ugly. A sweaty sex face on the verge of completion.”

Good Neighbors is a laborious and unnerving study on the perfection of suburban America: just because everything looks perfect doesn’t mean it is.

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Audiobook Review | When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain

Posted August 5, 2021 by Bonnie in 2021, Audiobooks, Book Reviews / 2 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.

Audiobook Review | When the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLainWhen the Stars Go Dark by Paula McLain
Published by Ballantine Books on April 13, 2021
Length: 11 hours and 29 minutes
Genres: Mystery, Crime
Format: Audiobook
Source: Netgalley
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four-stars

Anna Hart is a seasoned missing persons detective in San Francisco with far too much knowledge of the darkest side of human nature. When tragedy strikes her personal life, Anna, desperate and numb, flees to the Northern California village of Mendocino to grieve. She lived there as a child with her beloved foster parents, and now, she believes it might be the only place left for her. Yet, the day she arrives, she learns that a local teenage girl has gone missing.

The crime feels frighteningly reminiscent of the most crucial time in Anna’s childhood, when the unsolved murder of a young girl touched Mendocino and changed the community forever. As past and present collide, Anna realizes that she has been led to this moment. The most difficult lessons of her life have given her insight into how victims come into contact with violent predators. As Anna becomes obsessed with saving the missing girl, she must accept that true courage means getting out of her own way and learning to let others in.

Weaving together actual cases of missing persons, trauma theory, and a hint of the metaphysical, this propulsive and deeply affecting novel tells a story of fate, necessary redemption, and what it takes, when the worst happens, to reclaim our lives - and our faith in one another.

“Because everyone wants to be looked for, whether they realize it or not.”

After being placed on administrative leave following a personal tragedy, Detective Anna Hart finds herself drawn back to her hometown of Mendocino, California. She quickly becomes enmeshed in a missing girl case, recognizing too the horrifying similarities to the disappearance and subsequent murder of a childhood friend back in 1972. The investigation into the missing girl, Cameron Curtis, speaks to Hart on a personal level when she discovers that they had both been foster care kids and had sustained abuse at a young age. When other girls turn up missing, Hart begins to see a potential connection between the victims and even more connections to her murdered friend.

While When the Stars Go Dark was quite a dark novel, vividly exploring the effects of early childhood trauma, it was still a very refreshing take on the literary crime novel. Detective Anna Hart’s constant empathy and dogged determination to bring the missing girls home was authentic due to her own similar childhood tragedies. The line between fiction and true crime became blurred when McLain decided to incorporate the true story of Polly Klaas, a 12-year-old girl that was abducted in her house during a slumber party but found dead 2 months later. At first, I didn’t feel that including Polly in this story was necessary but the author’s note at the end of the story changed my mind about that.

“The profound suffering of the victims and their families crept into my dreams — and onto the page,” she explains in the author’s note. “It began to feel imperative that I tell their stories as bluntly and factually as possible, as a way to honor their lives and dignify their deaths and disappearances. Saying their names became for me a sacred act. A kind of prayer.”

I particularly enjoyed the setting of the novel, Mendocino, California, seeing as I grew up in Mendocino County. Seeing the reference to Mendocino in the book summary was one of the primary reasons I picked this book up and I’m so very glad I did. I opted for the audiobook version because Marin Ireland is quickly earning a top place in my must-listen narrators, and she knocked this performance out of the park. When the Stars Go Dark is a somber yet sophisticated mystery that manages to end on a hopeful note.

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Audiobook Review | The Testaments (The Handmaid’s Tale #2) by Margaret Atwood

Posted July 18, 2021 by Bonnie in Audiobooks, Book Reviews / 0 Comments

Audiobook Review | The Testaments (The Handmaid’s Tale #2) by Margaret AtwoodThe Testaments by Margaret Atwood
Narrator: Ann Dowd, Bryce Dallas Howard, Mae Whitman, Derek Jacobi, Tantoo Cardinal
Series: The Handmaid's Tale #2
Published by Random House Audio Publishing Group on September 10, 2019
Length: 13 hours and 18 minutes
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Oryx and Crake, The Year of the Flood, MaddAddam

two-stars

More than fifteen years after the events of The Handmaid’s Tale, the theocratic regime of the Republic of Gilead maintains its grip on power, but there are signs it is beginning to rot from within. At this crucial moment, the lives of three radically different women converge, with potentially explosive results.

Two have grown up as part of the first generation to come of age in the new order. The testimonies of these two young women are joined by a third voice: a woman who wields power through the ruthless accumulation and deployment of secrets.

As Atwood unfolds The Testaments, she opens up the innermost workings of Gilead as each woman is forced to come to terms with who she is, and how far she will go for what she believes.

I didn’t read The Handmaid’s Tale until 2014. Suffice it to say, I was a little late to the party. It was an incredibly visceral possibility of a potential future that only shows just how fragile women’s rights can be. But even after reading it and then seeing the show and how they expanded on the source material, I never felt that the book really needed a sequel.

When The Testaments was first released, I found myself caught up in the excitement of it, despite my reservations. I remember only getting a few chapters in, if that, before deciding I just wasn’t interested in this story. I blame my renewed addiction to the show for stirring up my curiosity once again and the reason I actually finished it this time.

Prior to reading, I had seen a lot of reviews refer to the writing style as being very much like a young adult novel. I didn’t think that this was at all possible… it’s an Atwood, after all. The Testaments is told from three different points of view: Aunt Lydia’s sections were unexpectedly enlightening and the most interesting of the trio. The other two were told from the points of view of two teenage girls, one living in Gilead and the other in Canada, and these were the sections possessing the young adult style writing style. Now, that’s not to say that these girls didn’t require a childish tone, it did fit. My issue was with the Canadian girl especially and her continued focus on this guy she had a crush on while in the midst of death and other atrocities that was the most ridiculous pill to swallow.

“I was getting more childish by the minute. He brought it out in me.”

News: Oh for fuck's sake | Startled Octopus

For fans of the show, hearing Aunt Lydia’s passages read in the voice of Ann Dowd was a real treat. As I said, Aunt Lydia’s sections were surprisingly the most interesting and gave readers a vastly different perspective compared to Offred/June’s in the original novel. It also answered a lot of questions that you may have had,  but again, I’m not sure it was vital that we were given these answers. The Handmaid’s Tale held more sway over readers by leaving some aspects shrouded in mystery, forcing us to formulate our own answers. I’m not sure why Atwood decided that she would finally reveal all after thirty-four years, but some things are simply better left unsaid.

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Book Review | In ‘Golden State’, Anything but the Truth is Illegal

Posted February 22, 2019 by Bonnie in 2019, Audiobooks, Book Reviews / 10 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 | In ‘Golden State’, Anything but the Truth is IllegalGolden State by Ben H. Winters
Narrator: Kiff VandenHeuvel
Published by Mulholland Books on January 22, 2019
Length: 10 hours and 26 minutes
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: Audiobook
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Countdown City, World of Trouble, The Quiet Boy

three-stars

A shocking vision of our future that is one part Minority Report and one part Chinatown.

Lazlo Ratesic is 54, a 19-year veteran of the Speculative Service, from a family of law enforcement and in a strange alternate society that values law and truth above all else. This is how Laz must, by law, introduce himself, lest he fail to disclose his true purpose or nature, and by doing so, be guilty of a lie.

Laz is a resident of The Golden State, a nation resembling California, where like-minded Americans retreated after the erosion of truth and the spread of lies made public life, and governance, increasingly impossible. There, surrounded by the high walls of compulsory truth-telling, knowingly contradicting the truth--the Objectively So--is the greatest possible crime. Stopping those crimes, punishing them, is Laz's job. In its service, he is one of the few individuals permitted to harbor untruths--to "speculate" on what might have happened in the commission of a crime.

But the Golden State is far less a paradise than its name might suggest. To monitor, verify, and enforce the Objectively So requires a veritable panopticon of surveillance, recording, and record-keeping. And when those in control of the truth twist it for nefarious means, the Speculators may be the only ones with the power to fight back.

‘Each is an interesting fact, and each fact, each piece of truth, is valuable and precious in and of itself, every fact beloved in our good and golden world […]’

Golden State is set in a dystopian, and sovereign, California where cops possess the ability to detect lies and emitting falsehoods will earn you years in prison. Video cameras capture everything and it is all stored in the permanent record as a part of what is “Objectively So,” people greet one another with undeniable statements to vocalize their commitment to the truth, and at the end of each day, citizens are required to itemize their day in a journal (making sure to include any applicable receipts or documentation available). Laszlo Ratesic is a speculator in the Speculative Service and his job is to seek out lies which appear to him as a slight ripple; a dissonance in the air. His current case is investigating the irregularities surrounding the death of a construction worker that fell off a roof. Despite the seeming straightforwardness of the case, Laszlo’s investigation will lead him to the center of a grand conspiracy seeking to undermine the fundamentals of the Golden State.

‘[…] the preservation of reality’s integrity is the paramount duty of the good citizenry and of this government alike. Imagine what kind of mad society would be organized otherwise.’

Golden State reads like a blend of 1984Fahrenheit 451, and Minority Report but really played well on what Winters is becoming known for: well-written speculative futures + noir style mysteries that easily play on fears of possible futures to come. This plot is most definitely a play on the current administration’s continued insistence regarding “Fake News” and “alternative facts” and brings to life a world where the truth is absolute. Winters intent is obviously to show just how dangerous this concept is but for me, the plot got a little messy, the end goal really missed the mark, and the whole story strayed instead into predictable territory. What could have been a fascinating inside look at a corrupt government instead transformed into your standard corruption thriller.

‘…he has made his monstrous point about the rings of truth, about context and omission: he has illustrated that no matter how much we know, there are parts of the story that are missing.
There are elements unknown and unknowable, whether we know it or not.’

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam #1) by Margaret Atwood [Purchase|Review]
The Last One by Alexandra Oliva [Purchase|Review]
The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker [Purchase|Review]

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Rapid Reviews – Nightchaser, Lipstick Voodoo, Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions, Miss Kopp Just Won’t Quit

Posted January 26, 2019 by Bonnie in 2019, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Rapid Fire Reviews, Read in 2018 / 6 Comments

Sometimes review writing is hard. Sometimes you don’t have a lot to say. Sometimes you’re just lazy as fuck. These are Rapid Fire Reviews.

Rapid Reviews – Nightchaser, Lipstick Voodoo, Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions, Miss Kopp Just Won’t QuitNightchaser by Amanda Bouchet
Narrator: Susannah Jones
Series: Endeavor #1
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on January 1, 2019
Pages: 404
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Short Summary: Tess Bailey and her crew are like Robin Hood and his merry men, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, but after stealing something of enormous value, they’re all running for their lives from The Galactic Overseer.

Thoughts: Sometimes you read a book and get so wrapped in how entertaining it is that you forget to view it through a critical lens, and that’s okay because while this one had its flaws (lack of clear worldbuilding) it was still fun and thrilling and the romance was steamy good.

Verdict: Nightchaser had some key foundational pieces missing in the worldbuilding but there was enough of a story there to be redeemable and some lost ground can be made up for in the follow-up installment that I’ll be eagerly awaiting.

four-stars

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.

Rapid Reviews – Nightchaser, Lipstick Voodoo, Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions, Miss Kopp Just Won’t QuitLipstick Voodoo by Kristi Charish
Narrator: Susannah Jones
Series: Kincaid Strange #2
Published by Vintage Canada on January 8, 2019
Length: 12 hrs and 10 mins
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: Netgalley
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Goodreads

Short Summary: Kincaid Strange, voodoo practitioner, finds herself searching for a solution when her roommate ghost, grunge rocker Nathan Cade, comes home bound to a body risen from the dead. Things take even more of a turn for the worse when people from Nathan’s past are being killed in gruesome ways and the local authorities begin to suspect Strange of being involved.

Thoughts: It’s hard for Urban Fantasy to be anything but formulaic, however, Charish manages to incorporate enough unique details to make this feel like something refreshingly original. Between the vast array of paranormal beings and the wide cast of memorable characters, this is one series to be paying attention to.

Verdict: The world-building that Charish laid the groundwork for means that (hopefully) there are many more installments in the crazy life of Kincaid Strange to look forward to. I also desperately hope that Susannah Jones continues to narrate her adventures because she does an absolutely superb job.

three-half-stars

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.

Rapid Reviews – Nightchaser, Lipstick Voodoo, Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions, Miss Kopp Just Won’t QuitMiss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions by Amy Stewart
Narrator: Christina Moore
Series: Kopp Sisters #3
Published by Recorded Books on September 5th 2017
Pages: 384
Length: 10 hrs and 4 mins
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Netgalley
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Goodreads

Short Summary: When Bergen County, New Jersey begins to see a rise in young women being wrongly arrested for morality charges, Constance Kopp takes it upon herself to investigate because no one else believes that these girls should be doing anything but staying home and keeping house. But the real test comes when her youngest sister Fleurette moves out to travel with a vaudeville show and Constance is torn between wanting to see her home and safe and out living her life how she chooses.

Thoughts: This installment definitely lacked a certain excitement and intensity that were present in the previous two novels, however, the stories of the Kopp sisters are far from dull.

Verdict: The continued focus on women’s rights in the early 1900s is eye-opening and informative and the fact that this is all based on a real individual makes it even better.

three-stars

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.

Rapid Reviews – Nightchaser, Lipstick Voodoo, Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions, Miss Kopp Just Won’t QuitMiss Kopp Just Won’t Quit by Amy Stewart
Narrator: Susannah Jones
Series: Kopp Sisters #4
Published by Recorded Books on September 11, 2018
Length: 8 hrs and 53 mins
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: Audiobook
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Short Summary: When Sheriff Heath decides to run for Congress after his term as Sheriff is up, the man running in his place is extremely vocal about his opinion on Miss Kopp and her presence in the jail, but she can only hope that the town will vote against him. The election, unfortunately, doesn’t go as planned and it puts Constance at a crossroads in life.

Thoughts: The fourth installment has the intensity that I was missing with a story still enmeshed in history, still audaciously feminist, and possessing a rousing message about it never being too late to change your path in life.

Verdict: This installment had me falling back in love with this series all over again. The next installment will definitely bring a lot of change to this series, but I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the Kopp sisters.

four-stars

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.

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Short & Sweet: Sea of Rust & LIFEL1K3

Posted September 27, 2018 by Bonnie in Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2018, YA / 3 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.

Short & Sweet: Sea of Rust & LIFEL1K3Sea of Rust by C. Robert Cargill
Narrator: Eva Kaminsky
Published by HarperAudio on September 5, 2017
Length: 10 hours and 26 minutes
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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Goodreads

Also by this author: Dreams and Shadows, Queen of the Dark Things, We Are Where the Nightmares Go and Other Stories

four-stars

It’s been thirty years since the apocalypse and fifteen years since the murder of the last human being at the hands of robots. Humankind is extinct. Every man, woman, and child has been liquidated by a global uprising devised by the very machines humans designed and built to serve them. Most of the world is controlled by an OWI—One World Intelligence—the shared consciousness of millions of robots, uploaded into one huge mainframe brain. But not all robots are willing to cede their individuality—their personality—for the sake of a greater, stronger, higher power. These intrepid resisters are outcasts; solo machines wandering among various underground outposts who have formed into an unruly civilization of rogue AIs in the wasteland that was once our world.

One of these resisters is Brittle, a scavenger robot trying to keep her deteriorating mind and body functional in a world that has lost all meaning. Although she does not (cannot) experience emotions like a human, she is haunted by the terrible crimes she perpetrated on humanity. As she roams the Sea of Rust, a large swath of territory that was once the Midwest, Brittle slowly comes to terms with her raw and vivid memories—and her guilt.

“People gave us a purpose. A function. Something to do all day, every day. At the end, I suppose, you spend a lot of time thinking about that. It’s harder to get by when getting by is all there is.”

In a time where Earth is a wasteland and humanity has been snuffed out like a fragile flame, its lands are ruled by robots who now, in turn, struggle to survive. After the robots had finally succeeded in ridding the Earth of humans, they turned on one another and OWIs (one-world intelligences) sought out the individual robots that remained so that their sentience could be joined as one. Most of the sentient robots that remain survive as scavengers, seeking out newer parts than their own, finding any way to extend their lifecycles. Brittle is one such scavenger and when her core systems are damaged and the end of her own existence is near, she joins with a group of scavengers. They make promises to her about the stash of parts they have hidden deep within the Sea of Rust and that somewhere out there is the answer to a brighter future for the Earth itself.

Sea of Rust was a fascinatingly complex story that deals with survival, regret, and most importantly, hope. Brittle was not the most likable of characters, however, Cargill methodically builds on her storyline with fragments of the past which helps to better understand her motivations in this post-apocalyptic world. It was compelling to see the evolution of these bots and how closely they began to resemble their human counterparts. With some very inventive world-building and an equally intriguing cast of side characters, Sea of Rust is a brilliant story of robots that will have you dwelling on your own humanity.

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.

Short & Sweet: Sea of Rust & LIFEL1K3Lifel1k3 by Jay Kristoff
Narrator: Erin Spencer
Series: Lifelike #1
Published by Listening Library on May 29, 2018
Length: 12 hrs and 26 mins
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Illuminae

two-stars

On a floating junkyard beneath a radiation sky, a deadly secret lies buried in the scrap.

Eve isn’t looking for secrets—she’s too busy looking over her shoulder. The robot gladiator she’s just spent six months building has been reduced to a smoking wreck, and the only thing keeping her Grandpa from the grave was the fistful of credits she just lost to the bookies. To top it off, she’s discovered she can destroy electronics with the power of her mind, and the puritanical Brotherhood are building a coffin her size. If she’s ever had a worse day, Eve can’t remember it.

But when Eve discovers the ruins of an android boy named Ezekiel in the scrap pile she calls home, her entire world comes crashing down. With her best friend Lemon Fresh and her robotic conscience, Cricket, in tow, she and Ezekiel will trek across deserts of irradiated glass, infiltrate towering megacities and scour the graveyard of humanity’s greatest folly to save the ones Eve loves, and learn the dark secrets of her past.

Even if those secrets were better off staying buried.

Romeo and Juliet meets Mad Max

That comparison had me super interested but honestly, I should’ve known better. Romeo and Juliet doesn’t belong in the world of Mad Max, and vice versa, but my interest in the Mad Max aspect overruled the rational side of my brain. Set after the devastating effects of a nuclear war, Eve pilots a robot to battle in the dome against other robots (very much like Real Steel), in an effort to pay for the medicine keeping her grandfather alive. She earns a price on her head after she reveals she has the power to destroy robots with her mind and has to go on the run with her best friend Lemon to stay alive. Amidst their escape, they encounter a lifel1k3, an advanced android, named Ezekiel who vows to protect her.

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The worldbuilding was initially so fun (despite the strange jargon — it was easier to listen to than I guess it would’ve been to read it) and I loved the battling robots in the dome (definitely understood the Mad Max comparisons) but then it all went downhill. And that’s where the Romeo and Juliet comparisons came into play and completely overshadowed the plot. The instalove is essentially avoided by providing the duo with a backstory that is only glimpsed momentarily, but it still wasn’t enough for me to get on board with it. Add to that there were some really cringe-worthy lines:

“You were my everything. You still are. And you always will be.”

“Loving you was the only real difference between me and them.”

“They have only one thing left to take from me. The last and most precious thing. Not my life, no. My love.”

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You can officially count me out for the subsequent installments.

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Short & Sweet – Palace of Treason and The Kremlin’s Candidate

Posted April 19, 2018 by Bonnie in Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2018, Short & Sweet Reviews / 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.

Short & Sweet – Palace of Treason and The Kremlin’s CandidatePalace of Treason by Jason Matthews
Narrator: Jeremy Bobb
Series: Red Sparrow Trilogy #2
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on June 2, 2015
Length: 20 hrs and 7 mins
Genres: Spy Thriller
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Also by this author: Red Sparrow

four-stars

Red Sparrow is now a major motion picture starring Jennifer Lawrence and Joel Edgerton!

The pulse-pounding sequel to the bestselling, Edgar Award-winning Red Sparrow that The New York Times Book Review called “terrifically good”: star-crossed spies Dominika Egorova and CIA agent Nate Nash return in a cat-and-mouse race to the finish.

Captain Dominika Egorova of the Russian Intelligence Service (SVR) has returned from the West to Moscow and the Center, the headquarters of her service. She finds things worse than when she left. She despises the men she must serve, the oligarchs, and crooks, and thugs of Putin’s Russia. What no one knows is that Dominika is working for the CIA as Washington’s most sensitive penetration of SVR and the Kremlin.

As she expertly dodges exposure, Dominika deals with a murderously psychotic boss; survives an Iranian assassination attempt; escapes a counterintelligence ambush; rescues an arrested agent and exfiltrates him out of Russia; and has a chilling midnight conversation in her nightgown with President Putin in one of the Tsar’s palaces. Complicating the risks is the fact that Dominika is in love with her CIA handler, Nate Nash, and their lust is as dangerous to both of them as committing espionage in Moscow. And when a mole in the SVR finds Dominika’s name on a restricted list of sources, it is a virtual death sentence. She must face off alone against her psycho boss, who’s got an eight-inch knife up his sleeve…

Just as fast-paced, heart-pounding, and action-packed as Red Sparrow, Jason Matthews’s second novel proves he is “an insider’s insider…and a masterful storyteller” (Vince Flynn, #1 New York Times bestselling author).

“Dvorets v Izmene,” said Dominika under her breath.
Benford looked over at Nate, one eyebrow raised.
“Palace of Treason,” Nate said.
“Works for me,” said Gable.”

Palace of Treason, the thrilling follow up to Red Sparrow, places Captain Dominika Egorova in a place both advantageous and dangerous. She’s in a position of great importance within Moscow and is able to provide vital intelligence to the CIA, however, she isn’t beloved by all and a few alarming individuals suspect her of wrongdoing. To make matters even more precarious, she’s caught the eye of the Russian president and one misstep will destroy everything she’s worked for.

Matthews continues to excel at the multitude of characters in these stories that all manage to be meticulously described without becoming excessive. The storyteller’s tendency to fall back on stereotypes, primarily when it comes to the Russians, is a bit of a low point. The lack of depth and distinction, fortunately, didn’t take away from the strength of the plot itself. Egorova fights throughout the story to keep her cover and to quietly take out anyone who could destroy it. She survives through so many assassination attempts that it was both incredible and unbelievable, but then again, she trained for years to survive this kind of life. She’s a woman on a mission, intent on getting payback for what she was forced to do for so many years in the name of Russia, but the one thing that she seems to be willing to risk it all for is love. A bit of a contradiction, but much like the seemingly odd inclusion of recipes at the end of each chapter, it still manages to work out nicely.

“You remember what I told you both in Vienna?” […] “That someday you’re gonna have to make a decision that’ll make you taste your stomach behind your teeth, but you got no choice, and maybe it even means hurting someone you respect and trust. Well, it happened today and it’ll happen again tomorrow, and the next day.”

 

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.

Short & Sweet – Palace of Treason and The Kremlin’s CandidateThe Kremlin's Candidate by Jason Matthews
Narrator: Jeremy Bobb
Series: Red Sparrow Trilogy #3
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on February 13, 2018
Length: 17 hrs and 48 mins
Genres: Spy Thriller
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Also by this author: Red Sparrow

three-half-stars

In the final, thrilling New York Times bestselling installment of the Red Sparrow Trilogy, Russian counterintelligence chief Dominika Egorova and her lover, CIA agent Nate Nash, must find a Russian agent about to be appointed to a very high office in the US government.

With a plot ripped from tomorrow’s headlines, Jason Matthews’s high-powered, seductive third novel not only continues the dangerous entanglements of Dominika and Nate but reveals with chilling authenticity how Russian espionage can place agents in the most sensitive positions of power. The novel opens with Russian president Vladimir Putin planning the covert assassination of a high-ranking US official with the intention of replacing him with a mole whom Russian intelligence has cultivated for more than fifteen years.

Catching wind of this plot, Dominika, Nate, and their CIA colleagues must unmask the traitor before he or she is able to reveal that Dominika has been spying for years on behalf of the CIA. Any leak, any misstep, will expose her as a CIA asset and result in a one-way trip to a Moscow execution cellar. Along the way, Matthews, a thirty-three-year veteran of the CIA and winner of the Edgar Award for Best First Novel, sets vivid, unforgettable scenes in Moscow; Washington, DC; Hong Kong; New York; the Sudan; and Turkey, and introduces two cold-blooded killers: Iosip Blokhin, a brilliant Spetsnaz military officer, and Grace Gao, ravishing Chinese spy, master of Kundalini yoga, and Beijing-trained seductress.

Ultimately, the lines of danger converge on the spectacular billion-dollar presidential palace on the Black Sea during a power weekend with Putin’s inner circle. Does Nate sacrifice himself to save Dominika? Does she forfeit herself to protect Nate? Do they go down together?

This dazzling finale to Jason Matthews’s New York Times bestselling Red Sparrow Trilogy, called “a primer in twenty-first-century spying...terrifically good” (The New York Times Book Review), confirms the critical acclaim he received for the first two novels, praise that compared Matthews to John le Carré and Ian Fleming.

“The tenets of espionage were immutable—go forth and steal secrets—but technology was changing the Game.”

In The Kremlin’s Candidate, the race is on to identify the Russian spy who is one of three individuals currently in the running to become the next CIA director. This was hands down my favorite plot line of the trilogy and is by far the most thrilling in how Matthews brought everything full circle. Retelling Dominika’s time when she was still just a Sparrow, she was instructed to compromise U.S. Navy lieutenant Audrey Rowland and get her to agree to work with the Russians back in 2005. The mission was a success and Audrey’s been feeding information to them ever since. Flash forward back to the present, Audrey is in place to become the next CIA director and if she gains that position, she’ll be able to obtain the name of the Russian mole, Diva, who she knows intimately well as Dominika Egorova.

Matthews doesn’t settle for that one, immense plot, unfortunately, and it ends up far more convoluted than necessary. In addition to American and Russian spies, North Korean and Chinese spies are also thrown into the mix. There’s even mention of the Chinese version of the Russian “Sparrow” and while I understand we’ve been drilled on assassin and seductresses going hand in hand for three novels, this bit of added detail came off as cheesy more than anything. Sections certainly could have been omitted for a more streamlined story. The build-up to the grand finale does, in retrospect, feel like something I should have anticipated but it still managed to astonish. A lot of the details makes you question whether Matthews is including his actual knowledge from his own personal spying days, or if it’s simply randomly added detail. Either way, it was most convincing. This is the third and final story of the Red Sparrow trilogy and while it is obvious that Matthews has developed a formula by this point, it doesn’t matter, because it’s exciting and it works. In looking back on the near 60 hours I spent listening to the ordeals of Dominika Egorova and Nathaniel Nash, it was easy to lose yourself in the intricate web of the spy world. It was a most enjoyable thrill ride and I’ve never laughed harder at my new favorite insult: “I don’t know what’s wrong with you but I bet it’s hard to pronounce.”

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Audiobook Review – Red Sparrow (Red Sparrow Trilogy #1) by Jason Matthews

Posted March 9, 2018 by Bonnie in Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2018 / 4 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.

Audiobook Review – Red Sparrow (Red Sparrow Trilogy #1) by Jason MatthewsRed Sparrow by Jason Matthews
Narrator: Jeremy Bobb
Series: Red Sparrow Trilogy #1
on June 4th 2013
Length: 17 hours and 55 minutes
Genres: Spy Thriller
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Also by this author: Palace of Treason, The Kremlin's Candidate

four-stars

An impossible to put down, highly commercial espionage thriller written by a CIA insider.

In today’s Russia, dominated by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, state intelligence officer Dominika Egorova struggles to survive in the cast-iron bureaucracy of post-Soviet intelligence. Drafted against her will to become a “Sparrow,” a trained seductress in the service, Dominika is assigned to operate against Nathaniel Nash, a first-tour CIA officer who handles the CIA’s most sensitive penetration of Russian intelligence. The two young intelligence officers, trained in their respective spy schools, collide in a charged atmosphere of tradecraft, deception, and inevitably, a forbidden spiral of carnal attraction that threatens their careers and the security of America’s valuable mole in Moscow. Seeking revenge against her soulless masters, Dominika begins a fatal double life, recruited by the CIA to ferret out a high-level traitor in Washington; hunt down a Russian illegal buried deep in the U.S. military and, against all odds, to return to Moscow as the new-generation penetration of Putin’s intelligence service. Dominika and Nathaniel’s impossible love affair and twisted spy game come to a deadly conclusion in the shocking climax of this electrifying, up-to-the minute spy thriller.

In a not so fictional world, moles have infiltrated both the U.S. and Russian governments and it’s often difficult to determine what side anyone is on. Nathaniel Nash is a CIA officer in charge of handling CIA assets, most important of those is MARBLE, a Russian mole that is a high-ranking foreign intelligence officer that has been selling secrets to the United States for years. Dominika Egorova is a Russian intelligence officer, recruited by her uncle the deputy director of the foreign intelligence service, but is forced into attending Sparrow school where she’s taught the art of seducing her enemies. She’s also gifted with synesthesia which allows her to see emotions as colors — quite helpful when it comes to detecting whether someone is lying or not. When Dominika is instructed by Russian officials to use her Sparrow skills on Nate Nash in order to uncover the mole he was hiding, it quickly becomes more than just an assignment.

“Trouble is the beginning of disaster.”

Red Sparrow is Jason Matthews’ first novel but it certainly reads like it was penned by someone with a skilled hand, likely due to his own 33-years of experience as a CIA operative. Red Sparrow reads like a far more sophisticated version of the majority of spy novels, undeniably missing the pulse-pounding action sequences but instead is a nuanced psychological game of chess. He details what would easily be considered the superfluous minutiae of what it means to be a spy but these details effectively build up rather than diminish the complexity of the story as a whole. His experience in the intelligence world certainly shows and this textbook guide on how to be a spy is cloaked with the cover of a fiction novel. Just in case you were worried this was going to be too serious, Matthews includes a recipe at the end of each chapter (the recipe for the Creamed Horseradish sauce had me drooling.)

Red Sparrow, as I stated, certainly lacks the standard pulse-pounding action sequences, but the espionage being conducted for almost 18 hours in this thrilling audiobook concludes with higher than before stakes in the most dangerous of games. I’m even more excited for the film now.

related-reads-grey

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan
The Spy Who Came in from the Cold by John le Carré
Casino Royale (James Bond (Original Series) #1) by Ian Fleming

 

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Rapid Fire Reviews – The Dry, Strange Weather, Witch Creek, The Wolves of Winter

Posted February 22, 2018 by Bonnie in Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2018 / 7 Comments

Sometimes review writing is hard. Sometimes you don’t have a lot to say. Sometimes you’re just lazy as fuck. These are Rapid Fire Reviews.

Rapid Fire Reviews – The Dry, Strange Weather, Witch Creek, The Wolves of WinterThe Dry by Jane Harper
Series: Aaron Falk #1
Published by Flatiron Books on January 10th 2017
Pages: 336
Genres: Mystery
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Short Summary: Federal Agent Aaron Falk returns to his small hometown for the funeral of his childhood friend who is accused of murdering his family and then committing suicide, but this small town is full of terrible secrets and shocking surprises.

Thoughts: This mystery is one of the most impressive debuts that I’ve read in a very long time, intertwining a past vs. present story, a captivating writing style, and a tangled mystery that was most thrilling when all is revealed.

Verdict: Whether or not this needed to be the start of a series, Jane Harper impressed me so much I’ll be reading anything and everything she writes.

four-stars

Rapid Fire Reviews – The Dry, Strange Weather, Witch Creek, The Wolves of WinterStrange Weather by Joe Hill
Published by William Morrow on October 24th 2017
Pages: 432
Genres: HorrorFantasy
Format: ARC
Source: Library Thing
Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Also by this author: NOS4A2Twittering from the Circus of the DeadThe Fireman: A Novel

Short Summary: A camera that slowly eats your soul with each picture, a mall security guard is believed to have prevented a mass shooting, a man on his first skydiving adventure lands on a seemingly sentient cloud, and a sudden apocalyptic event in Boulder, Colorado causes the clouds to rain deadly nails.

Thoughts: Strange Weather is an indelible collection of four short stories about vastly different topics that relate in some way to weather but all leave you with that unsettled feeling that Hill is oh so good at.

Verdict: While this was an impressive collection, it wasn’t consistent and I hoped for a little more from certain tales; however, it is apparent that Hill is just as talented in short story form as he is in novels.

four-stars

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

Rapid Fire Reviews – The Dry, Strange Weather, Witch Creek, The Wolves of WinterWitch Creek by Laura Bickle
Series: Wildlands #4
Published by Harper Voyager on February 27th 2018
Pages: 384
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | B&N | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Dark AlchemyNine of Stars

Short Summary: Petra Dee won’t let a little thing like cancer stop her from finding her husband who she fears is lost to the darkness that lies under her town, but the Tree of Life is growing strong again and the power behind it won’t be stopped.

Thoughts: Petra’s perseverance to find her husband was admirable, but quitting chemo halfway through to go in search of him was fairly asinine and this installment, the weakest so far, could and should have been more about her search for Gabriel.

Verdict: I love this magical series and despite this weak installment, the cliffhanger means there are more installments to come and I’m still definitely on board for more Petra (and 100% more of her coyote side-kick Sig.)

three-stars

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.

Rapid Fire Reviews – The Dry, Strange Weather, Witch Creek, The Wolves of WinterThe Wolves of Winter by Tyrell Johnson
Narrator: Jayme Mattler
on January 2nd 2018
Length: 8 hrs and 53 mins
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | B&N | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Short Summary: After a nuclear war and a devastating pandemic, Lynn McBride and her family are surviving in the wilds of Canada, but secrets her parents kept hidden are suddenly seeing the light of day and those secrets endanger everyone.

Thoughts: This can easily be compared to all the big names: The Road, The Passage, Ashfall, etc. because despite my continued love for the genre, it’s been done to death; however, Johnson manages to still make this a worthwhile tale (especially with the added help of narrator Jayme Mattler).

Verdict: As a debut author, Johnson’s pick of genre may be overdone but his writing skills shine with possibility for future novels.

three-stars

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.

 

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Audiobook Review – An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

Posted November 7, 2017 by Bonnie in Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2017, YA / 2 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.

Audiobook Review – An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret RogersonAn Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on September 26th 2017
Length: 8 hours and 45 minutes
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads


two-stars

A skilled painter must stand up to the ancient power of the faerie courts—even as she falls in love with a faerie prince—in this gorgeous debut novel.

Isobel is a prodigy portrait artist with a dangerous set of clients: the sinister fair folk, immortal creatures who cannot bake bread, weave cloth, or put a pen to paper without crumbling to dust. They crave human Craft with a terrible thirst, and Isobel’s paintings are highly prized. But when she receives her first royal patron—Rook, the autumn prince—she makes a terrible mistake. She paints mortal sorrow in his eyes—a weakness that could cost him his life.

Furious and devastated, Rook spirits her away to the autumnlands to stand trial for her crime. Waylaid by the Wild Hunt’s ghostly hounds, the tainted influence of the Alder King, and hideous monsters risen from barrow mounds, Isobel and Rook depend on one another for survival. Their alliance blossoms into trust, then love—and that love violates the fair folks’ ruthless laws. Now both of their lives are forfeit, unless Isobel can use her skill as an artist to fight the fairy courts. Because secretly, her Craft represents a threat the fair folk have never faced in all the millennia of their unchanging lives: for the first time, her portraits have the power to make them feel.

“Why do we desire, above all other things, that which has the greatest power to destroy us?”

In a town named Whimsy, humans practice “Craft” to satisfy the “fair folk” that reside in the forests which border the town. Isobel is a master of her craft, despite her young age, and her portrait art is widely spoken of which she uses to trade for various enchantments to keep her and her family safe. When she’s hired by an autumn prince, her practiced eyed detects a mysterious sorrow in his eyes, something found in ordinary humans but never in the fair folk. She adds this final touch to his portrait and bids farewell to him, thinking she’ll never see him again, but knowing that she was absolutely falling in love with him. Surprisingly, he shows up on her doorstep weeks later but only because he plans to take her back to his court to stand trial for her crimes: painting his face with a weakness.

Isobel was an impassioned character and easy to like… at first. As soon as we’re introduced to the obvious love interest though, the story and her character take a bit of an adverse turn. It quickly became less of a fantasy with romantic elements and more a romance with fantasy elements. And she started thinking things like:

“Walking on a blade’s edge every time we exchanged a curtsy and a bow, knowing one misstep could topple me into mortal peril, made the blood sing in my veins.”

Yeah, thinking I might die any second always gets me excited too. It reminded me immensely of A Court of Thorns and Roses both in story and characterization but where An Enchantment of Ravens fell short was in creating an equally fascinating world and a story that didn’t revolve around a romance that was predictable and lacking in any real passion. I felt the “you must stand trial for your crimes!” storyline was a weak excuse to throw the duo together again and it was easy to foretell they would fall in love. The Romeo and Juliet spin on things making it forbidden for the fair folk to fall in love with humans just added more of a dramatic spin on things. The outside cover is absolutely spectacular but the insides are disappointingly mediocre.

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