Category: Book Reviews

Early Review | The Ex Hex (Ex Hex #1) by Erin Sterling

Posted September 2, 2021 by Bonnie in 2021, Book Reviews, Early Review / 2 Comments

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

Early Review | The Ex Hex (Ex Hex #1) by Erin SterlingThe Ex Hex by Erin Sterling, Rachel Hawkins
Series: Ex Hex #1
Published by Avon on September 28, 2021
Pages: 320
Genres: Fantasy, Witches
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: Hex Hall, Demonglass, Spell Bound

four-stars

New York Times bestselling author Rachel Hawkins, writing as Erin Sterling, casts a spell with a spine-tingling romance full of wishes, witches, and hexes gone wrong.

Nine years ago, Vivienne Jones nursed her broken heart like any young witch would: vodka, weepy music, bubble baths…and a curse on the horrible boyfriend. Sure, Vivi knows she shouldn’t use her magic this way, but with only an “orchard hayride” scented candle on hand, she isn’t worried it will cause him anything more than a bad hair day or two.

That is until Rhys Penhallow, descendent of the town’s ancestors, breaker of hearts, and annoyingly just as gorgeous as he always was, returns to Graves Glen, Georgia. What should be a quick trip to recharge the town’s ley lines and make an appearance at the annual fall festival turns disastrously wrong. With one calamity after another striking Rhys, Vivi realizes her silly little Ex Hex may not have been so harmless after all.

Suddenly, Graves Glen is under attack from murderous wind-up toys, a pissed off ghost, and a talking cat with some interesting things to say. Vivi and Rhys have to ignore their off the charts chemistry to work together to save the town and find a way to break the break-up curse before it’s too late.

“Never mix vodka and witchcraft.”

Valuable advice, but advice that Vivi fails to heed. Nine years ago, after falling hard for Rhys Penhallow only to find out too late of his betrothal, Vivi shouts frivolous curses into the night not realizing there was actual magic behind them. When Rhys returns to town for the first time since that fateful night his luck is exceptionally bad and he has no idea why until he finds out the truth behind his misfortune. Vivi, feeling most apologetic for her role in this debacle, decides to set aside past grievances to find out how to reverse the curse especially when they discover the curse is going to destroy the very town itself. It doesn’t help matters when she realizes Rhys Penhallow is just as distracting as he was when she fell in love with him nine years ago.

The Hex Hall series and the spin-off novel School Spirits are some of my favorite YA books so discovering that Erin Sterling (a.k.a. Rachel Hawkins) was writing a witchy adult novel had me thrilledI found this story to be extremely delightful overall (and well worth the read) but there were some aspects that I wish had been better. There’s plastic skulls that come to life, a talking cat that won’t stop asking for treats, and even a ghost that haunts a library. The magical bits were absolutely, well, magical, but considering this has been pitched as “Hocus Pocus but they fuck” (hahaha…) I wanted, and rather anticipated, this book to be straight imbued with magic. The romance was far from lacking in chemistry but I expected more tension between the two since Vivi had been pining over Rhys for the entire nine years but they acted almost as if their issues never happened.

I adored the family aspects of this though (it felt very much like Practical Magic) and the light humor was on point. Apparently this is the first in an anticipated series and I am here for it. Bottom Line: this was an incredibly cute, delightfully whimsical, and overall perfect read for the Halloween season (or when you need a little magic with your romance.)

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Short & Sweet | Summer 2021 Mystery Trio

Posted August 26, 2021 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Short & Sweet 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.

Short & Sweet | Summer 2021 Mystery TrioThe Other Me by Sarah Zachrich Jeng
Published by Berkley Books on August 10th 2021
Pages: 352
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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two-half-stars

Two lives. The one you wanted. The one that wanted you.

Her birthday should be like any other night.

One minute Kelly’s a free-spirited artist in Chicago going to her best friend’s art show. The next, she opens a door and mysteriously emerges in her Michigan hometown. Suddenly her life is unrecognizable: She's got twelve years of the wrong memories in her head and she's married to Eric, a man she barely knew in high school.

Racing to get back to her old life, Kelly's search leads only to more questions. In this life, she loves Eric and wants to trust him, but everything she discovers about him—including a connection to a mysterious tech startup—tells her she shouldn't. And strange things keep happening. The tattoos she had when she was an artist briefly reappear on her skin, she remembers fights with Eric that he says never happened, and her relationships with loved ones both new and familiar seem to change without warning.

But the closer Kelly gets to putting the pieces together, the more her reality seems to shift. And if she can't figure out what happened on her birthday, the next change could cost her everything...

“This life, I didn’t choose. It was chosen for me. But would it be so bad if I had to stay here?”

Is readbait a thing? Well, comparing this as Russian Doll meets Black Mirror is major readbait for me.

Kelly is attending her best friend’s art show in Chicago when she opens the bathroom door and steps into another life. Her hair is long, her tattoos have disappeared, and she’s married to a guy she barely remembers from high school. Kelly possesses all of the memories from her Chicago life but they’re now overlayed with memories of a life, a good life, but a life she doesn’t remember actually living. Desperate to get back to her old life but having no clue how to make that happen, she’s confronted with the possibility that she might be stuck in this life, but would that be the worst thing?

“[…]I remembered, eventually, everything that had happened to me in both lives. How they’re both still there, uneasily coexisting in my head.”

Jeng handled the various similarities and differences between the timelines well and the scenes where Kelly’s world began to “glitch” (her tattoos would reappear on her arm only to disappear again) really heightened the intensity of the story. I do feel though it would have been even more intense (and engaging) if Kelly had been glitching out of one life and the other, but alas, she did not. What really failed for me was the backstory behind why this was happening and who was responsible. If I was glitched out of one life and put into another that I didn’t choose, I doubt my nutshell response would be “it’s okay, they meant well.”

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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.

Short & Sweet | Summer 2021 Mystery TrioThe Quiet Boy by Ben H. Winters
Published by Mulholland Books on May 18th 2021
Pages: 448
Genres: Mystery, Sci-fi
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Countdown City, World of Trouble, Golden State

three-stars

From the bestselling author of Underground Airlines and Golden State,

a sweeping legal thriller about a sixteen-year-old who suffers from a neurological condition that has frozen him in time, and the team of lawyers, doctors, and detectives who are desperate to wake him up.

Wesley Keener lies in bed: not dead, not alive, not in a coma or vegetative state, but simply frozen at an unchanging 16 years old, the forward course of his existence having simply stopped midway through sophomore year. His condition is the result of something called Syndrome J, an extraordinarily rare neurological event, at least according to the brilliant young neurologist Anna Pileggi.

When Wes was first hospitalized, his parents Beth and David Keener hired acclaimed PI Jay Shenk to help find answers about the illness that befell their beloved son. Now, years later, when David is accused of murdering the brilliant young doctor who served as expert witness in the hospital case, Shenk and his son Ruben discover that this standard malpractice suit is part of something more sinister than anyone imagined. An alternate explanation, brought forth by a mysterious older man, suggests an inter-dimensional entity wrecking havoc on the community. The child is not a prisoner, this stranger insists, he is a prison.

Told from alternating perspectives, The Quiet Boy explores the tensions between justice and compassion, in heart-pounding prose. With clever plotting, and a knack for character, Winters expertly weaves a group of misfits together in a race to save themselves, and an innocent life.

In 2008, a boy named Wesley Keener suffered a traumatic head injury at school. Following his brain surgery, he begins pacing the small confines of his hospital room without reprieve. He doesn’t stop to eat or sleep. And as time unfolds, the careful observations of the boy reveal that his hair doesn’t ever seem to get any longer and he never seems to get any older. Personal injury attorney Jay Shenk rushes to the hospital after getting word about this case, intending on trying to pick up a medical malpractice case that seems like a slam dunk but he ends up with something far more on his hands.

This is my fifth book by Winters and I’m pretty sure if it was my first it would’ve been a DNF. The Quiet Boy is a very slow-to-build story and at first glance, it’s a bit deceiving. It comes across as nothing more than a courtroom legal thriller but it’s definitely more than meets the eye and deserves a little patience. It’s a dense yet captivating story that will keep you guessing till the very ambiguous ending where you’ll have to just keep on guessing. I appreciated the subtle hint at answers, the suggestion that nothing is ever just black and white, that nothing has just a single interpretation, that it’s all based on your own perception… but I wanted (or needed) less ambiguity and more transparency.


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.

Short & Sweet | Summer 2021 Mystery TrioJust One Look by Lindsay Cameron
Published by Ballantine Books on July 27th 2021
Pages: 304
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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two-half-stars

A young woman's escalating obsession with a seemingly perfect man leads her down a dangerous path in this novel of suspense brimming with envy, desire, and deception.

Cassie Woodson is adrift. After suffering an epic tumble down the corporate ladder, Cassie finds the only way she can pay her bills is to take a thankless temp job reviewing correspondence for a large-scale fraud suit. The daily drudgery amplifies all that her life is lacking--love, friends, stability--and leaves her with too much time on her hands, which she spends fixating on the mistakes that brought her to this point.

While sorting through a relentless deluge of emails, something catches her eye: the tender (and totally private) exchanges between a partner at the firm, Forest Watts, and his enchanting wife, Annabelle. Cassie knows she shouldn't read them. But it's just one look. And once that door opens, she finds she can't look away.

Every day, twenty floors below Forest's corner office, Cassie dissects their emails from her dingy workstation. A few clicks of her mouse and she can see every adoring word they write to each other. By peeking into their apparently perfect life, Cassie finds renewed purpose and happiness, reveling in their penchant for vintage wines, morning juice presses, and lavish dinner parties thrown in their stately Westchester home. There are no secrets from her. Or so she thinks.

Her admiration quickly escalates into all-out mimicry, because she wants this life more than anything. Maybe if she plays make-believe long enough, it will become real for her. But when Cassie orchestrates a "chance" meeting with Forest in the real world and sees something that throws the state of his marriage into question, the fantasy she's been carefully cultivating shatters. Suddenly, she doesn't simply admire Annabelle--she wants to take her place. And she's armed with the tools to make that happen.

“Eyes aren’t the windows to the soul. Emails are.”

Cassie Woodson had a promising legal career until a breakup with her boyfriend led to some workplace violence that went viral. The incident got her fired and blacklisted and the only job she could get was a temp job reviewing documents where she sat in a windowless room with scheduled bathroom breaks. Her sudden and disastrous fall from grace has transformed her into an angry individual with a drinking problem but when she stumbles upon some personal correspondence between a husband and wife in her work documents, she develops a mild obsession with the couple. The mild obsession only grows and Cassie is no longer satisfied with simply reading about their lives: she wants it for herself.

As can be determined based on my review, this wasn’t a home run for me. I give this book enormous credit for pulling me out of the reading rut I found myself in when I decided to pick this up though. The beginning of this is entertaining as shit and Cassie and all her crazy actually reminded me a lot of good ol’ Joe from You. It was basically like watching a train wreck because you know nothing is going to end well so you might as well grab the popcorn.

The ending quite literally fell apart for me, thus my low rating. Oddly enough, still entertaining and I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for what’s next from this debut author.

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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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Book Review | The Turnout by Megan Abbott

Posted August 12, 2021 by Bonnie in 2021, Adult, 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.

Book Review | The Turnout by Megan AbbottThe Turnout by Megan Abbott
Published by G.P. Putnam's Sons on August 3, 2021
Pages: 352
Genres: Thriller
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Dare Me, The Fever

two-stars

Bestselling and award-winning author Megan Abbott's revelatory, mesmerizing, and game-changing new novel set against the hothouse of a family-run ballet studio, and an interloper who arrives to bring down the carefully crafted Eden-like facade.

Ballet flows through their veins. Dara and Marie Durant were dancers since birth, with their long necks and matching buns and pink tights, homeschooled and trained by their mother. Decades later the Durant School of Dance is theirs. The two sisters, together with Charlie, Dara's husband and once their mother's prize student, inherited the school after their parents died in a tragic accident nearly a dozen years ago. Marie, warm and soft, teaches the younger students; Dara, with her precision, trains the older ones; and Charlie, back broken after years of injuries, rules over the back office. Circling around each other, the three have perfected a dance, six days a week, that keeps the studio thriving. But when a suspicious accident occurs, just at the onset of the school's annual performance of The Nutcracker, a season of competition, anxiety, and exhilaration, an interloper arrives and threatens the delicate balance of everything they've worked for.

Taut and unnerving, The Turnout is Megan Abbott at the height of her game. With uncanny insight and hypnotic writing, it is a sharp and strange dissection of family ties and sexuality, femininity and power, and a tale that is both alarming and irresistible.

“It was the three of them. Always the three of them. Until it wasn’t. And that was when everything went wrong.”

Marie, Dara, and her husband Charlie all work together at the Durant School of Dance in addition to living together in the girls’ childhood home until Marie moved out abruptly a few short months ago. She didn’t go far, however, taking up residence on the third floor of the school; an area only accessible via an old spiral staircase. The third floor used to be the domain of their late mother, a woman that even in death holds a strange thrall over the trio. After an ancient space heater caused a fire at the school, they’re forced to shut down one of the studio’s because of the excessive damage. They hire a contractor that woos them with wondrous imaginings of what their school could become, a far cry from the antiquated state that its been in since their mother was a teacher. He ends up becoming a far larger part of their lives when Marie develops an eerie obsession with him.

“What is it, Dara kept asking herself. What is it we’ve let in our studio, our mother’s studio. My sisters’ bed. My sister’s body. Our lives.”

The dynamic between the sisters was incredibly unusual, ripe with the feeling that you were missing something, some story, to clarify the strangeness. But honestly, “strangeness” is putting it lightly. The abundant amount of sexual references and detailed descriptions permeated this story and it was more than just a little disconcerting especially when it involved the children in their classes or recollections of their own sexual experiences as children.

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“You build this family. And it’s perfect. It’s everything you wanted. And then something goes wrong. Slowly or all at once.”

Abbott’s stories always have a creeping wrongness to them, stories that go wrong slowly. You know it would be foolish to expect anything resembling a happy ending but the path to get there is languid and full of holes. There was a time when I enjoyed that type of story, one that simmers endlessly, with no boiling point in sight. I think that time has passed for me because Abbott’s stilted and fragmented way of storytelling has become more grating than anything. As always with Abbott, the twist was quite unpredictable, but I disliked such a large portion of the book that any twist was unlikely to change my mind.

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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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Rapid Fire Reviews | Hail Mary, The Soulmate Equation, The Halloween Tree, You Love Me

Posted July 31, 2021 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Rapid Fire Reviews / 2 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 | Hail Mary, The Soulmate Equation, The Halloween Tree, You Love MeProject Hail Mary by Andy Weir
Published by Ballantine Books on May 4, 2021
Pages: 476
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Goodreads

Also by this author: The MartianArtemis

Thoughts: I don’t give out five stars too often, but this one was one spectacular book. I was a bit apprehensive at first: the plot centers around an astronaut that wakes up alone on a spaceship with no memory of where he is, or even who he is. Rather than being provided a backstory, we’d suddenly get these bursts of memory, but they were written kind of sloppily I felt. He’d be doing something on the spaceship, have some memory, and realize oh! That’s because I was a science teacher, or whatever. It was really off-putting and happened frequently in the first several hundred pages. The rest of the book was so amazing that I was able to overlook the issues I had with that.

Verdict: The major aspect of this book is actually a huge spoiler and it is 100% better to experience it firsthand, so, I’m going to do my part and not even try to allude to it. Well worth a read.

In a nutshell, GIF style:

Gif space loop 5 » GIF Images Download

five-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 Fire Reviews | Hail Mary, The Soulmate Equation, The Halloween Tree, You Love MeThe Soulmate Equation by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on May 18, 2021
Pages: 368
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: My Favorite Half-Night StandJosh and Hazel’s Guide to Not DatingLove and Other WordsThe UnhoneymoonersTwice in a Blue Moon

Thoughts: I’m always on board for new CL, and I was completely in love with this plot when I read the blurb. Not only do we have some fun science shit, but we’ve got an enemies-to-lovers thing going on (which I l-o-v-e). Unfortunately, there’s usually a lot more sizzle between a pair when they realize that they don’t actually hate one another as much as they thought. The sizzle fizzled instead, and we were left with a whole lot of talk of soulmates but not much showing.

Verdict: Being able to find your soulmate through a scientific experiment is quite an intriguing concept: too bad the soulmates in this story have practically no chemistry.

In a nutshell, GIF style:

Soulmates GIF | Gfycat

three-half-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 | Hail Mary, The Soulmate Equation, The Halloween Tree, You Love MeThe Halloween Moon by Joseph Fink
Published by Quill Tree Books on July 20, 2021
Pages: 288
Genres: Horror
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Goodreads

Thoughts: The Halloween Queen has frozen time in Esther’s small town and it’s up to her and a few friends to break the curse. The premise of this was really creepy and perfect for Goosebumps fans, young and old alike, but Fink tried to do a little too much within these pages. I appreciated the thought he put into the diversity of the characters and the progress of Esther’s coming-of-age story, however, it definitely detracted from reaching peak horror. ​Being chased through town by a guy throwing razor blade-filled apples was quite creepy but there was so much other stuff going on it was hard to determine whether or not there was actually any threat.

Verdict: I’m not actually sure if this would have just been better suited to the targeted age group, but either way, it was still a thrilling little Halloween in July sort of tale.

In a nutshell, GIF style:

Top 30 Poison Apple GIFs | Find the best GIF on Gfycat

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 Fire Reviews | Hail Mary, The Soulmate Equation, The Halloween Tree, You Love MeYou Love Me (You, #3) by Caroline Kepnes
Published by Random House on April 6, 2021
Pages: 385
Genres: Thriller
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Goodreads

Also by this author: Hidden Bodies

Thoughts: Joe and his stalker romantic tendencies are still going strong. He’s moved to a new town, has a new job at the library, and has a new woman to become weirdly obsessed over for no particular reason. Honestly, despite the occasional curve balls that kept this installment slightly interesting, You Love Me just felt like a recycled version of what’s been told twice before now. The only difference was the excessive use of “lemonhead” and “Murakami”. 🤢

Verdict: I believe this is one of the rare cases where the show is actually better than the book so I’ll be sticking with that from this point on.

In a nutshell, GIF style:

The Office Ugh GIF by Romy - Find & Share on GIPHY

two-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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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
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
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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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Life’s Too Short | The Final Girl Support Group, To Sir, with Love, The Apocalypse Seven

Posted July 3, 2021 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Life's Too Short / 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.

Life’s Too Short | The Final Girl Support Group, To Sir, with Love, The Apocalypse SevenThe Final Girl Support Group by Grady Hendrix
Published by Berkley Books on July 13, 2021
Pages: 352
Genres: Horror
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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dnf

A fast-paced, thrilling horror novel that follows a group of heroines to die for, from the brilliant New York Times bestselling author of The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying Vampires.

In horror movies, the final girl is the one who's left standing when the credits roll. The one who fought back, defeated the killer, and avenged her friends. The one who emerges bloodied but victorious. But after the sirens fade and the audience moves on, what happens to her?

Lynnette Tarkington is a real-life final girl who survived a massacre twenty-two years ago, and it has defined every day of her life since. And she's not alone. For more than a decade she's been meeting with five other actual final girls and their therapist in a support group for those who survived the unthinkable, putting their lives back together, piece by piece. That is until one of the women misses a meeting and Lynnette's worst fears are realized--someone knows about the group and is determined to take their lives apart again, piece by piece.

But the thing about these final girls is that they have each other now, and no matter how bad the odds, how dark the night, how sharp the knife, they will never, ever give up.

DNF @ 10%

The concept of this book was interesting: all of the cult classic 80s horror movies are all true stories and all of the final girls are in a support group together. It was the basis of the plot, however, the author doesn’t really expound on it past that. The main character, Lynette, doesn’t have much of a life outside of the support group. She follows the same routes home, only goes to get groceries or the mail on certain days, and still lives every day with the expectation that someone is going to kill her. It’s gotta be hard living with that mindset day in and day out… and it was hard reading about. We’re introduced to other final girls that had managed to heal and form some semblance of a life, but Lynette acted like the incident that scarred her happened recently. Reading this story through the eyes of someone constantly on edge was more than a bit unsettling. It was especially frustrating (and what ultimately had me calling it quits) when she started falling into the stereotype trap: doing stupid shit like the girls in horror movies that think running upstairs from the maniac with a knife is a great idea.

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.

Life’s Too Short | The Final Girl Support Group, To Sir, with Love, The Apocalypse SevenThe Apocalypse Seven by Gene Doucette
Published by John Joseph Adams/Mariner Books on May 25, 2021
Pages: 432
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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dnf

Scott Sigler called Doucette’s cozy apocalypse story, “entertaining as hell.” Come see how the world ends, not with a bang, but a whatever...

The whateverpocalypse. That’s what Touré, a twenty-something Cambridge coder, calls it after waking up one morning to find himself seemingly the only person left in the city. Once he finds Robbie and Carol, two equally disoriented Harvard freshmen, he realizes he isn’t alone, but the name sticks: Whateverpocalypse. But it doesn’t explain where everyone went. It doesn’t explain how the city became overgrown with vegetation in the space of a night. Or how wild animals with no fear of humans came to roam the streets.

Add freakish weather to the mix, swings of temperature that spawn tornadoes one minute and snowstorms the next, and it seems things can’t get much weirder. Yet even as a handful of new survivors appear—Paul, a preacher as quick with a gun as a Bible verse; Win, a young professional with a horse; Bethany, a thirteen-year-old juvenile delinquent; and Ananda, an MIT astrophysics adjunct—life in Cambridge, Massachusetts gets stranger and stranger.

The self-styled Apocalypse Seven are tired of questions with no answers. Tired of being hunted by things seen and unseen. Now, armed with curiosity, desperation, a shotgun, and a bow, they become the hunters. And that’s when things truly get weird.

DNF @ 13%

I was admittedly quite curious about this one (in the beginning) but having given up the ghost at a mere 13%, that curiosity clearly died quite rapidly. The Apocalypse Seven opens from the POV of a college freshman who woke up confused as to where he was, thinking that he was late for class, and worrying about how he smelled because he fell asleep in yesterday’s clothes. The sympathy is not strong for this one. But there were subtle curiosities, like the fact that he couldn’t find any of his personal belongings in the room, but he was for sure in the dorm room he was assigned. The world outside his dorm has become overgrown with vegetation and animals roam freely, a far cry from the world that he fell asleep in just a few hours prior. The subtle curiosities kept popping up (the strange wolves, the breakfast place that was a completely different business, the lack of electronics, and more so, the complete lack of people) but everything else about this “whateverpocalypse” (a name given by one of the characters) was unfortunately too dry for my liking.

This “whateverpocalypse” may very well have developed into a full-fledged story if I had actually given this one more of a chance, but unfortunately, I just felt, well, whatever about it.

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.

Life’s Too Short | The Final Girl Support Group, To Sir, with Love, The Apocalypse SevenTo Sir, with Love by Lauren Layne
Published by Gallery Books on June 29, 2021
Pages: 288
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Goodreads


dnf

Love Is Blind meets You’ve Got Mail in this laugh-out-loud romantic comedy following two thirty-somethings who meet on a blind dating app—only to realize that their online chemistry is nothing compared to their offline rivalry.

Perpetually cheerful and eager to please, Gracie Cooper strives to make the best out of every situation. So when her father dies just months after a lung cancer diagnosis, she sets aside her dreams of pursuing her passion for art to take over his Midtown Manhattan champagne shop. She soon finds out that the store’s profit margins are being squeezed perilously tight, and complicating matters further, a giant corporation headed by the impossibly handsome, but irritatingly arrogant Sebastian Andrews is proposing a buyout. But Gracie can’t bear the thought of throwing away her father’s dream like she did her own.

Overwhelmed and not wanting to admit to her friends or family that she’s having second thoughts about the shop, Gracie seeks advice and solace from someone she’s never met—the faceless “Sir”, with whom she connected on a blind dating app where matches get to know each other through messages and common interests before exchanging real names or photos.

But although Gracie finds herself slowly falling for Sir online, she has no idea she’s already met him in real life…and they can’t stand each other.

DNF @ 16%

I feel like the entire summary of this book was deceiving.

Gracie is trying to save her deceased father’s business while a corporation, by way of Sebastian, is trying to buy her out to build a parking garage. Around the same time, she’s quickly falling for a guy she met on a dating app but she’s never even seen a picture of him nor learned his name; she only refers to him as Sir (which is full of cringe). I’m sure you can guess who Sir ends up being. The part of the summary that was deceiving was the fact that while she’s chatting with Sir, he’s got a girlfriend and she knows it. I recently DNF’d another contemporary romance that also had a cheating subplot. There’s just no justifying this for me and I don’t want this a part of any of my romance reads. Hard pass.

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Release Day Feature | The Hunting Wives by May Cobb

Posted May 18, 2021 by Bonnie in 2021, Adult, Book Reviews, Release Day Feature / 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.

Release Day Feature | The Hunting Wives by May CobbThe Hunting Wives by May Cobb
Published by Berkley on May 18, 2021
Pages: 368
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Goodreads

The Hunting Wives share more than target practice, martinis, and bad behavior in this novel of obsession, seduction, and murder.

Sophie O’Neill left behind an envy-inspiring career and the stressful, competitive life of big-city Chicago to settle down with her husband and young son in a small Texas town. It seems like the perfect life with a beautiful home in an idyllic rural community. But Sophie soon realizes that life is now too quiet, and she’s feeling bored and restless.

Then she meets Margot Banks, an alluring socialite who is part of an elite clique secretly known as the Hunting Wives. Sophie finds herself completely drawn to Margot and swept into her mysterious world of late-night target practice and dangerous partying. As Sophie’s curiosity gives way to full-blown obsession, she slips farther away from the safety of her family and deeper into this nest of vipers.

When the body of a teenage girl is discovered in the woods where the Hunting Wives meet, Sophie finds herself in the middle of a murder investigation and her life spiraling out of control.

About May Cobb

May Cobb earned her MA in literature from San Francisco State University, and her essays and interviews have appeared in the Washington Post, the Rumpus, Edible Austin, and Austin Monthly. Her previous novel is The Hunting Wives. A Texas native, she lives in Austin, Texas, with her family.

“…the pool was the first place I saw her. A week later, she was dead.”

Tired of the hustle and bustle of Chicago life, Sophie and her husband move their young son to the town of Mapleton, Texas in the hopes of creating a simpler life. Sophie becomes a stay-at-home mom, hoping to be the kind of mom that she never had, to her son and she spends her free time writing blog posts and sharing snippets of her life on Instagram. This quiet life that she thought she wanted begins to take on a dull sheen but then Sophie becomes engrossed in a local socialite named Margot Banks who invites her to become a part of The Hunting Wives.

“It wasn’t envy, though; I didn’t want to be her. It was so much more than that. I wanted to be near her. For her to notice me, too. The idea of it took my breath away. It became powerful and even consuming.”

I was drawn to the very Desperate Housewives meets Real Housewives sound this book had and I got to say, it pretty much fits the bill. The Hunting Wives consists of Callie, Jill, Tina, and of course Margot, their de facto leader. None of these women are exactly likable but they’re certainly interesting. They love drinking, shooting guns, and men… and not necessarily in that order. When Sophie is invited to Margot’s lake house to have some drinks and shoot some skeet, she’s intrigued by these wild women that don’t seem to have a care in the world but doing what they want to do. After the past months where she only had herself for company, being around these women makes Sophie realize just how stifled she really was. Each new night she spends with them, the wilder they get, but when a local teenager turns up murdered, the excitement comes to a dead stop.

The Hunting Wives starts out as a tale of suburban ennui but shifts gears into a murder mystery without missing a beat. It was undeniably one wild ride.

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Top Ten Tuesday | Ten Mini (Review) Reads + A Ton of DNFs

Posted May 4, 2021 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Top Ten Tuesday, Uncategorized / 5 Comments

Of This River by Noah Davis | Published August 1st 2020 by Wheelbarrow Books
four-stars

Of This River is an impressive debut collection of poetry with a distinct Appalachian theme. Noah Davis is one to watch.

This Time Next Year by Sophie Cousens | Published December 1st 2020 by G.P. Putnam’s Sons
four-stars

An adorable story of missed chances that is full of convenient coincidences but will still manage to melt even the hardest of hearts.

Highway Blue by Ailsa McFarlane | Expected publication: May 18th 2021 by Hogarth Press
two-stars

This book lacked a pulse. The plot seemed to meander despite the intriguing blurb, the characters were one-dimensional, and the ending only gave the guise of a resolution.

Love Your Life by Sophie Kinsella | Published October 27th 2020 by Dial Press
dnf

I think I quit this book faster than the main character’s date did after she started talking about butternut squash soup having a soul on their first date.

The Mysterious Disappearance of Aidan S. (as told to his brother) by David Levithan | Published February 2nd 2021 by Knopf Books for Young Readers
dnf

While I’m clearly not the targeted reader for this novel, I love the occasional Middle Grade and I’m always up for anything by Levithan. This story felt like an ode to The Chronicles of Narnia but one that never really went anywhere and I just wanted more from this fun concept of a story.

Broken (In the Best Possible Way) by Jenny Lawson | Published April 6th 2021 by Henry Holt and Co.
dnf

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened remains one of my favorite books of all time, however, Broken was a massive disappointment. I’m not sure if Lawson’s sense of humor changed (or mine) but I found her antics to be far more preposterous than entertaining.

Astrid Sees All by Natalie Standiford | Published April 6th 2021 by Atria Books
dnf

This was recommended for fans of Fleabag and this couldn’t be further off base. I personally loved Fleabag because of the realness and how darkly comedic it is and honestly, this book didn’t possess a single funny bone in its pages. It was dreary and pretentious and none of the characters left any semblance of an impression on me.

The Ghost Variations: One Hundred Stories by Kevin Brockmeier | Published March 9th 2021 by Pantheon Books
dnf

I’ve developed a taste for short stories only recently, but flash fiction is something different entirely. There simply wasn’t enough substance in any of these snippets to keep me invested.

 

Migrations by Charlotte McConaghy | Published August 4th 2020 by Flatiron Books
two-stars

Migrations is definitely your standard literary fare full of fanciful descriptions and an oftentimes hard-to-follow storyline that likes to bounce between the present day and flashbacks. I don’t think I was in the right mood to try this one (or if I honestly even possess a mood that is “right” for reading literary fiction.)

We Keep the Dead Close: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence by Becky Cooper | Published November 10th 2020 by Grand Central Publishing
two-stars

I got major I’ll Be Gone in the Dark vibes from this true crime tale, but I’m not sure I mean that as a compliment. There’s an exceptional amount of information regarding the investigation within these pages, however, once I discovered that this case was actually solved in 2018 it made me wonder why the story seemed to have been written as if this wasn’t knowledge the author possessed. I’m unclear when the author started writing this story, but I felt like at the very least an addendum could have been added prior to publication.

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