Posts Categorized: Book Reviews

Book Review – One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3) by Ilona Andrews

November 2, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2017 3 Comments

Book Review – One Fell Sweep (Innkeeper Chronicles #3) by Ilona AndrewsOne Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews
Series: Innkeeper Chronicles #3
Published by NYLA on December 20th 2016
Pages: 340
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: Magic Bites, Magic Rises, Burn for Me

five-stars

Dina DeMille may run the nicest Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas, but she caters to a very particular kind of guest… the kind that no one on Earth is supposed to know about. Guests like a former intergalactic tyrant with an impressive bounty on her head, the Lord Marshal of a powerful vampire clan, and a displaced-and-superhot werewolf; so don’t stand too close, or you may be collateral damage.

But what passes for Dina’s normal life is about to be thrown into chaos. First, she must rescue her long-distant older sister, Maud, who’s been exiled with her family to a planet that functions as the most lawless penal colony since Botany Bay. Then she agrees to help a guest whose last chance at saving his civilization could bring death and disaster to all Dina holds dear. Now Gertrude Hunt is under siege by a clan of assassins. To keep her guests safe and to find her missing parents, Dina will risk everything, even if she has to pay the ultimate price. Though Sean may have something to say about that!!

“Yes, the princess you were expecting put on her armor and left to kill the dragon. So sorry.”

Dina Demille is at it again and doing anything and everything it takes to save the guests staying at her inn, Gertrude Hunt, a Bed and Breakfast in Red Deer, Texas. Her guests are anything but ordinary individuals though, coming from a multitude of different universes that Earth’s inhabitants don’t even exist and Dina intends to keep it that way. Each story centers around this continued issue of saving her guests, but in One Fell Sweep, we get back to the major plot: Dina’s missing parents. The Hiru was an ancient alien race that flourished until the Draziri declared a holy war on them; few still remained in existence. When a Hiru visits Gertrude Hunt requesting Dina’s assistance with something in exchange for information on her parent’s whereabouts, she wants to say yes for her parent’s sake but knows that saying yes would also bring the Draziri down on all their heads. Naturally, she says yes.

I’ve been a book rut for many months and this was one of the first books to give me a glimmer of hope that maybe this rut isn’t going to last a lifetime. I can always count on Ilona Andrews for that but I’m almost running out of her books so I’m getting a bit nervous. One Fell Sweep was an absolute delight though, between the fascinating world-building, the epic battle scenes, the full-cast of characters that are so well written not a single one ever manages to feel like a secondary character, the subtle inclusion of humor despite the serious storyline:

“Will you take this seriously? The future of an entire species is at stake.”
“Yes, we’re going to save them with a fart gun.”

Oh and the romance. This romance will make even the hardest of hearts swoon.

“You taught me the meaning of loneliness, because when I don’t see you, I feel alone.”

I read this in its finished form (it was also available as a weekly serial released free to read on their website) but I was glad I was able to immerse myself from start to finish. We got to meet Maud, Dina’s sister (who is just as bad ass as her sister) and her daughter Helen who is more badass than both of them combined. Maud married a vampire so Helen is naturally a bit wild around the edges. And has fangs. And is only five-years-old. There’s one particular scene where she sees the Maine Coon that Dina had adopted for the first time that cracked me up to no end:

“He has fangs,” Helen said.
“That’s a kitty,” Maud said. “Be careful. They have sharp claws.”
“What’s his name?”
“He doesn’t have one,” I told her. I hadn’t gotten around to it. “I tell you what, you can name him.”
Helen’s eyes got almost as big as the cat’s. “I can?”
“Yes.”
“I’m going to name him Olasard, after he who hunts the evildoers and rips out their souls.”

I think I need a cat named Olasard too. 😂 I still think there’s something about Olasard, he who hunts evildoers and rip out their souls, that we don’t know yet. And what’s going to happen with Maud and Helen? And where are their parents? So many questions! Next book, please.

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Top Ten Tuesday – The Best Foodie Books

October 17, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, Top Ten Tuesday 2 Comments

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

I love food-related books. Fiction, Non-Fiction, it doesn’t matter.

Image result for food gif

These ten are my favorites of the bunch.

Non-Fiction

Paris, My Sweet: A Year in the City of Light (and Dark Chocolate) by Amy Thomas
This book made me want to visit Paris like never before. On top of tales of wonderful sweets, the author shares her own personal story about finding her way in a foreign place, gaining a new perspective on life, and simply learning to be thankful for what life dishes out to you.

Tender at the Bone: Growing Up at the Table by Ruth Reichl
This is my most favorite of foodie memoirs and Reichl is such a captivating writer. Effortlessly combining her love of food and her most interesting childhood, Tender at the Bone is an absolute must-read for foodie fans.

Kitchen Confidential: Adventures in the Culinary Underbelly by Anthony Bourdain
Bourdain is known for his no-bullshit attitude and it’s evident in Kitchen Confidential. He even narrates this audiobook which is an added perk. KC is his story of developing his passion for food but is also an overly honest portrayal of just what life inside a restaurant is really like. (Insane as fuck.)

Give a Girl a Knife by Amy Thielen
Much like Kitchen Confidential, Amy Thielen delivers an inside look at life inside the world of New York fine-dining. The difference being the perspective shift from a female’s point of view and her story of learning to cook in an off-the-grid cabin deep in the woods of Minnesota. The New York life was interesting, but I would have preferred more of her time developing her cooking skills when she had to pump her own water, didn’t have electricity, and grew most of everything that she cooked.

My Life in France by Julia Child
Julia Child is one of the originals so she had to make this list, it was just a given. This is not one to read on an empty stomach though.

Fiction

All Four Stars (All Four Stars #1) by Tara Dairman
One of my favorite middle-grade books ever. All Four Stars is the story of Gladys Gatsby who, even in just the sixth grade, knows exactly what she wants to do in life: cook. When she enters a writing contest in school, her entry ends up in the hands of the Dining Editor at a prestigious New York newspaper and she’s offered a job as a food critic. Hilarity ensues as she tries to keep her age a secret.

The Coincidence of Coconut Cake by Amy E. Reichert
The Coincidence of Coconut Cake is a delightful, lighthearted romance story that is also a love story to delicious foods and the city of Milwaukee. There’s even a delicious recipe in the back of the book for Coconut cake that I have to try myself someday.

Sweet Nothings by Janis Thomas
Ruby’s bakery is failing and after her husband leaves her for another woman, she picks herself back up and begins to teach cooking classes to make ends meet. This was such a fun and light-hearted read despite the serious nature of the topic. And the food descriptions are insanely drool-worthy.

The Sugar Queen by Sarah Addison Allen
My favorite Sarah Addison Allen. Less of a foodie book than the others on this list, but more about the comforting aspects of food in trying times. Josey Cirrini isn’t leading the life she planned, but she consoles herself by escaping to the closet in her room each night where she’s stockpiled it with sugary treats and romance novels. Sounds pretty wonderful, actually. 🙂

Hello, Sunshine by Laura Dave
Sunshine Mackenzie has a popular cooking show on YouTube based around her being a Southern farmer’s daughter and is geared towards becoming the next Food Network star when someone hacks her Twitter account and reveals to the world that Sunshine is nothing but a fraud. Cute foodie novel about re-discovering the real you amidst all the fakery in this day and age.

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Ominous October – Sleeping Beauties By Stephen King and Owen King

October 12, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2017 13 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.

Ominous October – Sleeping Beauties By Stephen King and Owen KingSleeping Beauties by Stephen King, Owen King
Narrator: Marin Ireland
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on September 26th 2017
Length: 25 hours and 20 minutes
Genres: Horror, Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Doctor Sleep, Cujo, Pet Sematary

two-stars

In this spectacular father-son collaboration, Stephen King and Owen King tell the highest of high-stakes stories: what might happen if women disappeared from the world of men?

In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain? Set in a small Appalachian town whose primary employer is a women’s prison, Sleeping Beauties is wildly provocative and gloriously absorbing.

“The elms made him think of brothers, of sisters, of husbands and wives—he was sure that, beneath the ground, their roots were mortally entwined.”

What would happen to the world if all the women fell asleep?

In rural Appalachia, the Aurora Sleeping Sickness only affects individuals with the XX chromosome. When women drift off to sleep they begin growing tendrils of webbing that cocoon their bodies completely and while they remain alive in this world they wake up in a different one entirely. In this world though, there’s one single woman named Eve Black that remains able to still sleep and wake up but she possesses mysterious powers and seems to be the reason why all other women are in the state they’re in.

This started off so incredibly fascinating and reminded me strongly of The Stand with this mysterious sickness slowly infecting the world. The Aurora Sleeping Sickness was chilling in its descriptions, affecting only women and the reverberations throughout the community that results from their absence was brilliant and no doubt made any woman reader leary about putting the book down and going to sleep. I especially loved the inclusion regarding the “Mother’s Instinct” described as such:

‘This phenomenon proved to be one of the most curious and most analyzed enigmas of Aurora – the so-called “Mother’s Instinct” or “Foster Reflex.” While reports of violent interactions between sleepers and other adults ultimately numbered in the millions, and unreported interactions millions more, few if any occurrences of aggression between a sleeper and her pre-adolescent child were ever confirmed. Sleepers handed over their male infants and toddlers to the closest person they could find, or simply put them out of doors. They then returned to their places of slumber.’

The story starts off unhurriedly as the authors build up the intensity but it ended up being my favorite part of the story (aside from the narration itself; Marin Ireland knocked this one out of the park. 5 stars.) The slow, steady pace building up this world where such a thing could possibly occur was all necessary to make this as credible as it could be. The most problematic bit was the vast array of characters that we were expected to keep track of. When reading stories that include far too many characters to keep straight, I’ll occasionally write myself little bullet point lists or draw family trees just to keep things straight. If I had even attempted something like that with this story my desk (and myself) would have ended up looking something like this:

One of the main female characters, Lila, resulted in some great passages from her point of view. Ironically though, her husband Clint ends up taking over as the main act in the final half of the book. Not only does he take over as the main character but he ends up playing an important role in the vast scheme of things and wait, wasn’t this supposed to be about the females? How come a dude once again gets to take center stage? I had worried about this possibility before I even picked this one up, but alas, the book is definitely less about what would happen to the females and more about what would happen to the men. They resort to violence and guns and explosions and everything in between, surprising no one. The authors also seem to miss making any solid point regarding why this happened and what was learned from the experience. Suffice it to say, the descriptions of the sickness and the infected were eerie and great to read but when it came down to breaking any gender stereotypes there’s certainly nothing new here.

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Ominous October – Black Mad Wheel by Josh Malerman

October 6, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2017 6 Comments

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

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

two-stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Image result for twilight zone gif

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

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

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Ominous October – The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5) by Jonathan Stroud

October 5, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, Ominous October, Read in 2017, YA 8 Comments

Ominous October – The Empty Grave (Lockwood & Co. #5) by Jonathan StroudThe Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud
Series: Lockwood & Co. #5
Published by Disney Hyperion on September 12th 2017
Pages: 448
Genres: Horror, Ghosties
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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Also by this author: The Screaming Staircase, The Whispering Skull, The Hollow Boy

five-stars

After the dramatic events of The Creeping Shadow, the Lockwood team (plus Quill Kipps) deserve some well-earned rest.

So naturally they break into the Fittes Mausoleum, on a perilous mission to discover the truth about London's top ghost-hunting agency, and its sinister leader.

What they discover will change everything.

But there's little time to ponder. A near-miss at a haunted fairground is only the start - as the Fittes agency closes in on the team, an epic struggle commences.

With the help of some unexpected, and rather ghostly, allies, Lockwood & Co must battle their greatest enemy yet, as they move ever closer to the moment when the earth-shattering secret of 'the problem' will finally be revealed.

Jonathan Stroud once again delivers a rousing adventure full of danger, laughs, twists, and frights. The revelations will send readers back to Book 1 to start the series all over again.

Lockwood & Co. Series

The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1) by Jonathan Stroud [Purchase|Review]
The Whispering Skull (Lockwood & Co. #2) by Jonathan Stroud [Purchase|Review]
The Hollow Boy (Lockwood & Co. #3) by Jonathan Stroud [Purchase|Review]
The Creeping Shadow (Lockwood & Co. #4) by Jonathan Stroud [Purchase|Review]

“It was a time of beginnings, and a time of endings.”

After the events of The Creeping Shadow, the group set off to prove the Skull’s story right: that Marissa Fitts hasn’t actually been laid to rest and she’s been posing as her granddaughter Penelope for years. As the title implies, they do indeed find an empty grave. How Marissa could possibly remain alive and looking as young as she does remains a mystery. The mystery of the empty grave isn’t the only thing occupying their time though. They’re battling the Fitts agency to remain in business when Marissa announces that all small agencies will be absorbed into one and they must also deal with a fairground haunted by La Belle Dame Sans Merci (The Beautiful Lady Without Mercy) who psychically enchain her victims after alluring them with her beauty. Never a dull moment with Lockwood & Co.

“We’ve worked wonders to get here, and we won’t panic now. If we’re right, there won’t be anything to worry about. If we’re wrong, we deal with it, as we always do. […] But we won’t be wrong. We’re on the verge of something big here. It’s going to be good!”

Kipps adjusted his goggles dolefully. “Since when has anything good happened in a crypt? It’s going to be bad by definition.”

It seems rare that a series possesses such a fantastic story in addition to a brilliant cast of characters. It always makes me cringe when books are constantly being compared to Harry Potter, but the friendship dynamic in Lockwood & Co. is certainly comparable. Of course, it also has that Ghostbusters/X-Files angle that sets it apart. Lockwood himself is quite the complex character with a growing death wish that comes to a peak in this final story. His dark backstory gets dealt out in small servings involving a sister that was ghost-touched at a young age and parents that both died under mysterious circumstances. We see all this through the eyes of Lucy and while the two have been developing an almost reluctant romance since the start of the series, it deserves mention that it never overwhelms the story itself or any of the supporting characters. I originally picked this series up because of my love for a good ghost story and while I’m not often scared by them these days, Stroud still manages to include lines that’ll leave tingles down your spine.

“Her jagged mouth opened in welcome; she was like a deep-sea fish swallowing her prey. As she hugged him close, blue veins of ice ran swiftly down his skin. [Name omitted] limbs jerked and thrashed; he tried to speak, but could only make a gargling sound as he was drawn back into the dark.”

Being that this is the series finale, there’s always the issue with wrapping up all loose ends. What happened to Lockwood’s parents? What caused the rampant increase in hauntings in recent years? How has Marissa Fitts managed to retain her youth for so long? Who is the skull in the jar and what will become of him? And of course, what will become of Lockwood & Co.? I’m notoriously displeased with the majority of series endings but I’m so relieved that this wasn’t the case with The Empty Grave since I’ve been a diehard fan from the very beginning. It retained the perfect balance of creepy and humor (with help in that department from Skull) and resolved unanswered questions without giving it that “and they all lived happily ever after” type of ending that I so dislike. I started Ominous October back in 2014 and The Screaming Staircase was one of the first books I posted about. It’s always heartbreaking to see an amazing story come to an end but I was so pleased to see these fantastic characters get the story they deserve. Lockwood, Lucy, George, Holly, and even Kipps… but I’ll still miss Skull the most.

“These spirits are a bit showy,” the skull said. “All that hooting and cackling. You don’t see me doing that. I ask you, where’s the class?”

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Short & Sweet – River of Teeth Duology

September 22, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2017 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 – River of Teeth DuologyRiver of Teeth by Sarah Gailey
Published by Tantor Audio on August 22nd 2017
Length: 4 hours and 1 minute
Genres: Alternate Reality, Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
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three-half-stars

In the early 20th Century, the United States government concocted a plan to import hippopotamuses into the marshlands of Louisiana to be bred and slaughtered as an alternative meat source. This is true.

Other true things about hippos: they are savage, they are fast, and their jaws can snap a man in two.

This was a terrible plan.

Contained within this volume is an 1890s America that might have been: a bayou overrun by feral hippos and mercenary hippo wranglers from around the globe. It is the story of Winslow Houndstooth and his crew. It is the story of their fortunes. It is the story of his revenge.

In 1909, Robert F. Broussard, a congressman from Louisiana introduced a bill for $250,000 in funding to deal with the invasive Water Hyacinth that was clogging the Louisiana waterways by introducing hippos into the wild to eat them. True story. The bill failed to pass but Sarah Gailey’s novella portrays a world where the opposite happened and the hippopotami have quickly become a bigger problem than the Water Hyacinth ever thought to be. Winslow Remington Houndstooth was a former hippo rancher who lost his ranch after it was razed to the ground by an enemy. He’s been hired by the government to herd the feral hippo population into the Gulf because they’re currently wreaking havoc on the trading route potential the Harriet area boasts. He puts together a crew of hippo-riding “hoppers” consisting of Regina “Archie” Archambault, a con artist, Cal Hotchkiss, a dangerous sharpshooter, Hero Schackleby, a demolition expert, and contract killer Adelia Reyes. Nothing good can come of a group of such people.

“It’s not a caper,” Houndstooth replied, sounding irritated. “It’s an operation. All aboveboard.”

This novella was honestly a ton of fun. It was very much an Oceans 11 style caper, excuse me, operation, with revenge, murder, and treachery aplenty. I don’t care what kind of genre you typically read, hearing that a book is about man-eating hippos should entice just about anyone. The lively team is quickly assembled and the mission plan is immediately put into effect which definitely limited the time spent on these interesting people but Sarah Gailey still did a fantastic job in bringing their personalities to life. The mission itself is full of twists and turns and a level of excitement that only made me want more of everything in terms of length and detail that could have been possible with this story. The narrator Peter Berkrot was a pleasure to listen to despite the various accents and French ladies he was forced to attempt. ‘A’ for effort and for making this spirited story that much more fun to listen to.

“I regret nothing: it was worth it for the hats alone.”

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 – River of Teeth DuologyTaste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey
Published by Tantor Audio on September 12th 2017
Length: 4 hrs and 15 mins
Genres: Alternate Reality, Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads


three-stars

A few months ago, Winslow Houndstooth put together the damnedest crew of outlaws, assassins, cons, and saboteurs on either side of the Harriet for a history-changing caper. Together they conspired to blow the damn that choked the Mississippi and funnel the hordes of feral hippos contained within downriver, to finally give America back its greatest waterway.

Songs are sung of their exploits, many with a haunting refrain: "And not a soul escaped alive."

In the aftermath of the Harriet catastrophe, that crew has scattered to the winds. Some hunt the missing lovers they refuse to believe have died. Others band together to protect a precious infant and a peaceful future. All of them struggle with who they've become after a long life of theft, murder, deception, and general disinterest in the strictures of the law.

“And not a soul escaped alive, and not a soul escaped alive, hi-ho hop-whoa! And everybody died.”
Not everybody, asshole, she thought tartly.

The devastation may have been severe, but our ragtag bunch of hoppers did, in fact, survive despite the songs now sung about the Harriet catastrophe. The only problem is, they’ve been split up and remain uncertain about who survived and where they could possibly be. Houndstooth and Adelia remain together and are both searching for lost loves. Archie and Hero have remained together despite Archie’s attempt on Hero’s life. But the explosion at the Harriet changed much more than the situation of the hippo population, it changed the surviving individuals too and their emotional advancement is the primary focus in Taste of Marrow.

‘Alone and lonely ain’t the same thing at all,’ Hero said, shaking their head.”

Taste of Marrow certainly lacked the focus of its predecessor, since its focus was on a group of individuals that had lost their own focus in life. Emotions were all over the place and it often felt like a bit of a scatterbrained read. The heart of this alternate history, the hippo population, took a bit of a back seat to focus more on the hoppers themselves. Also missing was the excitement of the caper/operation. While I felt this was definitely lacking when compared to River of Teeth, it still had its own individual charm and was a satisfying conclusion to the stories of these colorful individuals. Sarah Gailey is definitely one to keep an eye out for.

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Life’s Too Short – If We Were Villains, Ill Will, Yesternight

June 2, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Life's Too Short, YA 8 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 – If We Were Villains, Ill Will, YesternightIf We Were Villains by M.L. Rio
Published by Flatiron Books on April 11th 2017
Pages: 352
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Goodreads


dnf

Enter the players. There were seven of us then, seven bright young things with wide precious futures ahead of us. Until that year, we saw no further than the books in front of our faces.

On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

Ten years ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent.

Part coming-of-age story, part confession, If We Were Villains explores the magical and dangerous boundary between art and life. In this tale of loyalty and betrayal, madness and ecstasy, the players must choose what roles to play before the curtain falls.

DNF @ 10%

I overlooked the Shakespearean focus of this novel in favor of the comparisons to The Secret History. My mistake. Shakespeare has just never, and I’m resigned to believe will never, be my thing. The opening gives the reader a glimpse at the future, of one of the main characters being released for jail for an unknown crime, and it’s a hook that works. But then we’re introduced to seven characters: Richard, Meredith, Filippa, Alexander, Wren, James, and Oliver. Every single one of these characters, regardless of gender, all blended together without any helpful differentiation to keep track of who was who. The theater kid stereotypes were excessive in my opinion and you practically had to be a theater kid to understand and/or appreciate most of it.

“That was ruthless,” I said, sotto voce.

The author holds a Masters in Shakespeare studies so, being as far from a theater kid as one can get, I can only assume she knows what she’s talking about. Constantly quoting Shakespeare in conversation got old, fast, and by 10% I put on my hipster glasses and called it quits.

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 – If We Were Villains, Ill Will, YesternightIll Will by Dan Chaon
Published by Ballantine Books on March 7th 2017
Pages: 480
Genres: Mystery
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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dnf

Two sensational unsolved crimes—one in the past, another in the present—are linked by one man’s memory and self-deception in this chilling novel of literary suspense from National Book Award finalist Dan Chaon.

“We are always telling a story to ourselves, about ourselves,” Dustin Tillman likes to say. It’s one of the little mantras he shares with his patients, and it’s meant to be reassuring. But what if that story is a lie?

A psychologist in suburban Cleveland, Dustin is drifting through his forties when he hears the news: His adopted brother, Rusty, is being released from prison. Thirty years ago, Rusty received a life sentence for the massacre of Dustin’s parents, aunt, and uncle. The trial came to symbolize the 1980s hysteria over Satanic cults; despite the lack of physical evidence, the jury believed the outlandish accusations Dustin and his cousin made against Rusty. Now, after DNA analysis has overturned the conviction, Dustin braces for a reckoning.

Meanwhile, one of Dustin’s patients gets him deeply engaged in a string of drowning deaths involving drunk college boys. At first Dustin dismisses talk of a serial killer as paranoid thinking, but as he gets wrapped up in their amateur investigation, Dustin starts to believe that there’s more to the deaths than coincidence. Soon he becomes obsessed, crossing all professional boundaries—and putting his own family in harm’s way.
From one of today’s most renowned practitioners of literary suspense, Ill Will is an intimate thriller about the failures of memory and the perils of self-deception. In Dan Chaon’s nimble, chilling prose, the past looms over the present, turning each into a haunted place.

DNF @ 25%

Dan Chaon is one of those literary writers everyone raves about. Ill Will has received many spectacular reviews but I’ve realized that he has a style that is very eclectic and definitely isn’t for everyone and that unique writing style is what ultimately did me in. I understand the reason for writing it this way (bouncing between narrators and time) because it caused a sense of disorientation regarding the mystery already surrounding the crime (when Dustin was a teen, his mother, father, aunt, and uncle were murdered and he accused his adopted older brother). Not only did the story bounce rapidly between narrators and between time but often there were sentences left incomplete and particular chapters where text was written in columns and you had to flip back and forth between pages to finish the one column before starting the next which was very difficult on Kindle. I’m not sure if Chaon was going for some House of Leaves-esque formatting or what but it left me so confused in trying to figure out how to read it that I failed to get lost in the story itself.

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.

Life’s Too Short – If We Were Villains, Ill Will, YesternightYesternight by Cat Winters
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on October 4th 2016
Pages: 374
Genres: Mystery, Historical Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: Library Thing
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Also by this author: In the Shadow of Blackbirds, The Cure for Dreaming, The Uninvited: A Novel

dnf

From the author of The Uninvited comes a haunting historical novel with a compelling mystery at its core.  A young child psychologist steps off a train, her destination a foggy seaside town. There, she begins a journey causing her to question everything she believes about life, death, memories, and reincarnation.

In 1925, Alice Lind steps off a train in the rain-soaked coastal hamlet of Gordon Bay, Oregon. There, she expects to do nothing more difficult than administer IQ tests to a group of rural schoolchildren. A trained psychologist, Alice believes mysteries of the mind can be unlocked scientifically, but now her views are about to be challenged by one curious child.

Seven-year-old Janie O’Daire is a mathematical genius, which is surprising. But what is disturbing are the stories she tells: that her name was once Violet, she grew up in Kansas decades earlier, and she drowned at age nineteen. Alice delves into these stories, at first believing they’re no more than the product of the girl’s vast imagination.  But, slowly, Alice comes to the realization that Janie might indeed be telling a strange truth.
Alice knows the investigation may endanger her already shaky professional reputation, and as a woman in a field dominated by men she has no room for mistakes. But she is unprepared for the ways it will illuminate terrifying mysteries within her own past, and in the process, irrevocably change her life.

DNF @ 10%

I’d say that I simply picked this up at the wrong time, mood-wise, except I tried to read this book a handful of times on different occasions and never got past 10%. The pacing was the hardest for me because from the very beginning it’s a slow-build and simply didn’t grab my attention in that 10% enough that I felt the need to keep going. The main character, Alice, was also strangely distant and she never quite captured my interest. Cat Winters is typically a favorite of mine but this one just didn’t do it for me.

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Better Late Than Never: The Dead Zone by Stephen King

May 26, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Better Late Than Never, Book Reviews, Read in 2017 6 Comments

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

Better Late Than Never: The Dead Zone by Stephen KingThe Dead Zone by Stephen King
Narrator: James Franco
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on April 25th 2017
Length: 16 hours and 11 minutes
Genres: Horror
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Doctor Sleep, Cujo, Pet Sematary

three-half-stars

Never before on audio! A #1 national bestseller about a man who wakes up from a five-year coma able to see people’s futures and the terrible fate awaiting mankind in The Dead Zone—a “compulsive page-turner” (The Atlanta Journal-Constitution).

Johnny Smith awakens from a five-year coma after his car accident and discovers that he can see people’s futures and pasts when he touches them. Many consider his talent a gift; Johnny feels cursed. His fiancé married another man during his coma and people clamor for him to solve their problems.

When Johnny has a disturbing vision after he shakes the hand of an ambitious and amoral politician, he must decide if he should take drastic action to change the future. The Dead Zone is a “faultlessly paced…continuously engrossing” (Los Angeles Times) novel of second sight.

*First published in 1979, this is my first time reading The Dead Zone. Better late than never.

Johnny Smith has lived with physic abilities his entire life but it isn’t until the car accident in his 20s that they become an undeniable ability. He lay in a coma before waking to discover that his girlfriend at the time is now married, that he’s lost four years of his life, and that he now possesses the ability to witness the future of any individual (and sometimes even objects) he touches. Sometimes the future he sees is only a few minutes ahead of the present time but sometimes it’s years ahead. The truth of his abilities are revealed to the public after the highly publicized account of him waking after a four-year coma, and the limelight changes his life irrevocably. He sequesters himself from the public after the demands for his assistance in finding lost loved ones/missing persons, despite his mother, Vera Smith, and her insistence that he was brought back “to do God’s work.” When news of a high-profile serial killer hits his radar, he begins to feel morally obligated to at least try to help. And when he shakes the hand of an up and coming politician and foresees not just his future but the future of the human race, Johnny has to decide what is “right” and if he’s now duty-bound to changing the future so it never becomes our present.

“We all do what we can, and it has to be good enough, and if it isn’t good enough, it has to do.”

First published in 1979, The Dead Zone ended up being far more relevant to today’s time than I ever would have predicted. The future of the dirty politician that Johnny foresaw is a man by the name of Greg Stillson who started off as a nobody yet rose up in the ranks and quickly became the popular vote for the next President of the United States. His political platform and personal style were aimed towards the working class and he was prided on his honesty but had a definite lack of tact. He completely lacks any political knowledge, has big plans for America (albeit most of them beyond ludicrous), and is a devoutly religious man. Stillson is first introduced almost as a caricature of a real villain, someone that can’t possibly be taken seriously, but you slowly realize his influence on the vast population is something that cannot be brushed off as having little consequence. The ludicrousness didn’t last long after realization dawned. As I said… most relevant, right?

The Dead Zone is many stories in one. The beginning is a long drawn out section detailing Johnny’s recuperation in the hospital and the subsequent surgeries that were required for him to ever be able to walk again. Once he’s back on his feet, literally, the story switches focus to catching the serial killer, and you begin to think that that’s the plot except that story finds resolution and hundreds of pages remain. It came off slightly clunky, almost like we were being left out on parts of Johnny’s life that weren’t interesting enough for the page, but at least in this instance, James Franco’s narration gives these characters life. His acting skills are on full display to helpfully differentiate the characters, making Johnny a mellow smooth-talker, and giving Stillson a villainous voice that accurately matches his vile actions. Despite the definite lack of any type of horror (unless you count the potentially horrific reality of it all) and the obvious backpedaling done on that ending, The Dead Zone ended up being a vastly different King than I’ve come to expect but was still no doubt a thrilling story.

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Book Review – A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J. Maas

May 19, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, New Adult, Read in 2017 5 Comments

Book Review – A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3) by Sarah J. MaasA Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #3
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on May 2nd 2017
Pages: 720
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: Queen of Shadows, A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury

three-half-stars

Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit—and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.
As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords—and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

A Court of Thorns and Roses series

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1) by Sarah J. Maas
A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) by Sarah J. Maas

Well, it’s finally here.

I’m so exasperated and everyone and their mother has given this 5 stars at this point so I’m feeling like quite the outcast. I liked A Court of Thorns and Roses, adored A Court of Mist and Fury, and A Court of Wings and Ruin was quite possibly my most anticipated book of the year. I took the day off work to read this and while I can’t say that I regret doing so or that the book was bad, it just wasn’t what I was expecting. There were things I liked and things I didn’t like, so I’ll start with the good.

The best parts of this book were, surprisingly, the war scenes. We all knew a war was coming in this installment but I never quite expected it to be nearly as epic and for all the fae and their magical powers to be quite as badass as they were. Savage, brutal, and thrilling (and the war makes up a large chunk of this book). In terms of the best (non-violent) parts, Feyre getting to explore more that the Court of Dreams has to offer was lovely. Her depictions of the city were enough to form magical cities in my mind, but the library carved inside an actual mountain? The shelves built into the stone walls, the reading nooks, the low-burning lamps, the cozy chairs, and the fireplaces.

And lastly, I loved how she incorporates all of the lesser characters that seemed to have minor roles in the conclusion: the Suriel, the Weaver, the Bone Carver, and even a new terrifying beastie.

And now onto the bad.

I’ll do my best.

My first issue: the beginning. The story opens where the ending of Mist left off with Feyre returning to the Spring Court. She’s intent on gathering information about King Hybern and his armies but it turned into this long and drawn out affair that transformed Feyre into this cruel and vindictive person that I didn’t much care for. What she intended to achieve simply didn’t seem necessary to the story as a whole either. My second issue was actually with the writing itself. I’m not sure if less editing was done, or time constraints to get this done and published (or a combination of the two) but this read incredibly uneven. There’s so much to accomplish with a final book in a series and it felt like Maas had a checklist of things that needed to be answered, actions that the characters had to take to set up certain events, etc. and we bounced hurriedly onto the next task on her list just as soon as one was completed. The story lacked a grace and flow that was needed to draw these three stories together in order to give it the final farewell it deserved. And lastly, in terms of farewells, the ending caused the majority of my grumbles. Maas implied throughout the entire book of things impending that never came to fruition and things ended all nice and neat with a pretty little bow on top. Clearly, many (and I mean many) fans were perfectly content, I, unfortunately, was not. But as I said, it wasn’t a bad ending but it wasn’t the ending I expected.

Maas has already announced that there are two additional trilogies to come set in this same world and while I was originally excited, I’d really like to know the focus on those stories before committing to more. What started as a beauty and the beast retelling turned into a fascinating world full of magic and fae. While I don’t give this final installment the highest of marks, this was still a most engrossing trilogy.

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Short & Sweet (Beauty & the Beast Retellings) – A Court of Thorns and Roses, Hunted, Lost in a Book

April 28, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, New Adult, Read in 2017, Short & Sweet Reviews, YA 10 Comments

Short & Sweet (Beauty & the Beast Retellings) – A Court of Thorns and Roses, Hunted, Lost in a BookA Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Narrator: Jennifer Ikeda
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
Published by Recorded Books on May 5th 2015
Length: 16 hrs and 7 mins
Genres: Fantasy, Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
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Also by this author: Queen of Shadows, A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Mist and Fury

four-stars

Feyre's survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price ...

Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest. Feyre's presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever.

‘I was as unburdened as a piece of dandelion fluff, and he was the wind that stirred me about the world.’

Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales and it’s always so fascinating to see how authors mold fairy tales into a unique story of their own. A Court of Thorns and Roses definitely veers off the standard path making “Beast/Tamlin” a member of the fae court, making “Belle/Feyre” a badass female hunter, and removing the animated furniture entirely. The story still revolves around the curse and the time ticking down before it’s too late, but Maas adds a magical element (and a deviant female villain) to this already magical fairytale that I absolutely adored. What I loved most was the incredibly dark turn she took the tale which gave the added opportunity of adding a new level of complexity and intrigue to Feyre’s character.

“Don’t feel bad for one moment about doing what brings you joy.”

Like spending time re-reading. I occasionally get hang-ups about “wasting” time re-reading when I should be spending my time reading stories that I haven’t yet experienced. But sometimes a re-read is necessary (like when you’re gearing up for the final installment of a beloved trilogy!!) and sometimes the second time is even better than the first. I read A Court of Thorns and Roses for the first time in June 2016 and it was far from love at first sight (mostly because I was never Team Tamlin) but during this re-read I was able to set aside my issues with the romance and focus more on the world building and the fascinating aspects of the story itself that I didn’t pay much attention to the first time. I also decided to splurge and bought the audiobook copies and guys, let me tell you, these are fantastic on audio with Jennifer Ikeda’s narration. I’m pretty devastated that she won’t be returning to narrate A Court of Wings and Ruin but it’s still well worth listening to her narrate the first two installments, I’ll just be reading the third one with my eyeballs instead. 🙂

Short & Sweet (Beauty & the Beast Retellings) – A Court of Thorns and Roses, Hunted, Lost in a BookHunted by Meagan Spooner
Published by HarperTeen on March 14th 2017
Pages: 384
Genres: Fantasy, Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: eBook
Source: Library
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Also by this author: Unearthed, Sherwood

three-half-stars

Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?


“She wept because she did not know what she wanted, and because she wanted everything.”

Yeva has never been comfortable living among the town aristocrats but instead dreams of the stories her father would tell her when she was younger; of the forest and the magic contained within. When her father loses his fortune and they are forced to move back to his lodge in the woods, Yeva could not be more content knowing she can spend her days familiarizing herself once again with the woods even though she knows it’s not a reasonable way for her to spend her life. Her father also begins spending his days and nights in the woods, mentioning hunting a beast and when he fails to come home after weeks of being gone, Yeva sets out to help him only to be captured by the beast that her father was hunting.

“She moves like beauty, she whispers to us of wind and forest—and she tells us stories, such stories that we wake in the night, dreaming dreams of a life long past. she reminds us of what we used to be.
She reminds us of what we could be.”

Hunted is told primarily from Yeva’s point of view but is interspersed with short snippets from the Beast, showing the constant battle between his animalistic side while he fights to retain a hold of his humanity. Yeva is kept in a cell for weeks on end, telling him stories of Ivan and the Firebird to the one on the other side of her cell door who brings her food every day, having no idea that he is also her captor. The Beast finally shows himself to her and reveals that he captured her for a purpose: she must train to be a more superior hunter than she already is because she’s the only one that can kill the creature responsible for cursing him.

Hunted is a combination of the classic Beauty and the Beast fairy tale with the Ivan, the Firebird, and the Gray Wolf Russian fairy tale and it’s a slow to unfold type of story. There’s also a disassociation from any sort of emotional connection that was key in my own connection with the story. I found it to be a beautiful story in essence of a young girl not knowing what to do with her life, wandering aimlessly, and I really wanted to feel her adversity but I never quite felt like there is much at stake for our young heroine. The significance behind the Firebird plays a huge role in this tale, as well as storytelling in general, and the romantic building blocks were left feeling incomplete in the attempts at focusing on the bigger picture. There is a note at the end Spooner includes regarding the origins of this story and the lengthy process it took to come to fruition was a heartwarming story. Her dedication to all of her readers was unbelievably touching and made me wish I had loved this story more than I did.

‘Male or female, young or old, if you’re reading this book, then you’re also that child reading by flashlight and dreaming of other worlds. Don’t be scared of her, that inner Beauty, or her dreams. Let her out. She’s you, and she’s me, and she’s magic.
There’s no such thing as living happily ever after — there’s only living. We make the choice to do it happily.’

Short & Sweet (Beauty & the Beast Retellings) – A Court of Thorns and Roses, Hunted, Lost in a BookBeauty and the Beast: Lost in a Book by Jennifer Donnelly
Published by Disney Press on January 31st 2017
Pages: 352
Genres: Fantasy, Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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two-stars

Smart, bookish Belle, a captive in the Beast’s castle, has become accustomed to her new home and has befriended its inhabitants. When she comes upon Nevermore, an enchanted book unlike anything else she has seen in the castle, Belle finds herself pulled into its pages and transported to a world of glamour and intrigue. The adventures Belle has always imagined, the dreams she was forced to give up when she became a prisoner, seem within reach again.

The charming and mysterious characters Belle meets within the pages of Nevermore offer her glamorous conversation, a life of dazzling Parisian luxury, and even a reunion she never thought possible. Here Belle can have everything she has ever wished for. But what about her friends in the Beast’s castle? Can Belle trust her new companions inside the pages of Nevermore? Is Nevermore’s world even real? Belle must uncover the truth about the book, before she loses herself in it forever.

“Isn’t that what a good story does? It pulls you in and never lets you go.”

DAMMIT, I WANTED THIS STORY TO PULL ME IN AND NEVER LET ME GO.

Lost in a Book replicates its Disney counterpart where Belle is a captive of the Beast in his castle that still includes Cogsworth, Lumiere, Mrs. Potts, Chip, and more. Beast reveals his library to Belle and she is awed, but instead of the bright shiny room of perfection we all have embedded in our minds:

Belle immediately realizes how much the library has fallen into disrepair and needs to be cleaned excessively. Within this library, she finds a room and within this room a special book which transports her to a world of adventure where anything is possible. She quickly becomes enamored with the book and the world it shows her, despite her understanding that it isn’t actually real, and is constantly sneaking away to be in this world. When she isn’t hiding in the book, she’s complaining ad nauseam about her provincial life.

Good gawd, we get it, you hate your life. Lost in a Book quickly becomes less about the Beast and all about Belle… more scenes from his point of view would have been welcome. Any scenes that showed the Beast’s feelings for Belle grow felt lacking any sort of emotion and instead felt like all it was was a last ditch effort to save his servants. Maybe those parts were left out with the understanding that we knew, based on the Disney production, how Beast actually felt, but I wanted to see it included in the story itself since there were so many changes I felt it should have been able to stand on its own. Especially in regards to the villain: Gaston was absent completely in exchange for a female villain: Death. Yes, Death. You see, the story actually starts with Death and her sister Love.

Indeed. See Death and Love made a bet that Belle wouldn’t be the one to break the spell (Death obviously bet against her) and when she began to realize that Love might actually win, she set out to make sure that didn’t happen. *yawn* This could have been a charming addition to Beauty and the Beast retellings but the story lacked any real substance and most definitely lacked the magic the original tale had.

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