Posts Categorized: Book Reviews

Life’s Too Short – Lost Boy, The Afterlife of Holly Chase, Catalina

December 14, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, Life's Too Short 4 Comments

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

Life’s Too Short – Lost Boy, The Afterlife of Holly Chase, CatalinaLost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry
Published by Berkley Books on July 4th 2017
Pages: 292
Genres: Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Alice, Red Queen

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From the national bestselling author of Alice comes a familiar story with a dark hook—a tale about Peter Pan and the friend who became his nemesis, a nemesis who may not be the blackhearted villain Peter says he is…

There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. This is how it happened. How I went from being Peter Pan’s first—and favorite—lost boy to his greatest enemy.

Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter's idea of fun is sharper than a pirate’s sword. Because it’s never been all fun and games on the island. Our neighbors are pirates and monsters. Our toys are knife and stick and rock—the kinds of playthings that bite.

Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever.

DNF @ page 77

I went into this with insanely high hopes because 1. I love a good villain retelling and 2. I loved The Chronicles of Alice but despite this, I don’t think high expectations is what caused me to DNF. I was fine with Peter being a more tarnished version of the Peter we all already know and I was fine with Jamie being a decent human being because that just means we get to see the path he ended up on that resulted in Captain Hook. No, what was disappointing was the writing. This was an extremely violent retelling (not an issue for me) but it’s written like it’s a Young Adult novel. Lost Boy was also marketed somewhat towards the YA crowd, what with the influx of fairy tale popularity, which would possibly explain the difference in writing styles between Alice and Lost Boy. It could also be argued that it was written in such a way because the characters themselves were children, however, these are “children” that have been children for many decades, locked in their children bodies while they remain in Neverland. I feel like they would have still matured in some sense over time. Regardless of why it was written this way, I didn’t care for it, it was slow and plodding and the characters and world were under-developed relying on existing impressions of a widely known tale.

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 – Lost Boy, The Afterlife of Holly Chase, CatalinaThe Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand
Published by HarperTeen on October 24th 2017
Pages: 389
Genres: Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: Unearthly, Hallowed, Boundless

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On Christmas Eve five years ago, Holly was visited by three ghosts who showed her how selfish and spoiled she'd become. They tried to convince her to mend her ways.

She didn't.

And then she died.

Now she's stuck working for the top-secret company Project Scrooge--as the latest Ghost of Christmas Past.

Every year, they save another miserly grouch. Every year, Holly stays frozen at seventeen while her family and friends go on living without her. So far, Holly's afterlife has been miserable.

But this year, everything is about to change. . . .

DNF @ 3%

No, I didn’t get far enough into this story for it to begin to differentiate between its classic inspiration, but Holly Chase is a horrid brat. Much like Ebeneezer Scrooge but I guess I can handle that kind of behavior in a horribly cranky old man versus a self-entitled teenager who is cruel to the housekeeper. Honestly, this is Mean Girls: the Christmas version; if Regina George was visited by the three ghosts of Christmas. I’m not here for that.

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 – Lost Boy, The Afterlife of Holly Chase, CatalinaCatalina: A Novel by Liska Jacobs
Published by FSG Originals on November 7th 2017
Pages: 240
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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A magnetic, provocative debut novel chronicling a young woman's downward spiral following the end of an affair

Elsa Fisher is headed for rock bottom. At least, that's her plan. She has just been fired from MoMA on the heels of an affair with her married boss, and she retreats to Los Angeles to blow her severance package on whatever it takes to numb the pain. Her abandoned crew of college friends (childhood friend Charlotte and her wayward husband, Jared; and Elsa's ex-husband, Robby) receive her with open arms, and, thinking she's on vacation, a plan to celebrate their reunion on a booze-soaked sailing trip to Catalina Island.

But Elsa doesn't want to celebrate. She is lost, lonely, and full of rage, and only wants to sink as low as the drugs and alcohol will take her. On Catalina, her determined unraveling and recklessness expose painful memories and dark desires, putting everyone in the group at risk.

With the creeping menace of Patricia Highsmith and the bender-chic of Bret Easton Ellis, Liska Jacobs brings you inside the mind of an angry, reckless young woman hell-bent on destruction--every page taut with the knowledge that Elsa's path does not lead to a happy place. Catalina is a compulsive, deliciously dark exploration of beauty, love, and friendship, and the sometimes toxic desires that drive us.

DNF @ 3%

I read a single chapter of this book. It was enough. Catalina is the story of Elsa Fisher, a woman that spirals out of control after her affair with her married boss is discovered. She returns home, to a place where she never wanted to return to, to people she never wanted to see again, but she slips easily back into that life. Except everything is a tragedy because well, life is just so hard.

“Charly? She will definitely want to go shopping. And we will get Frappuccinos with skim milk, and try on dresses, and talk about whatever argument she and Jared are currently in the middle of. God, how exhausting to be back.”

I guess I never really understood why she HAD to go back home. Sure, maybe that’s explained in a later chapter, but she’s introduced as this martyr that loses her job and just gives up and goes back home. Why didn’t she try to get a new job? Why do I care? Oh wait, I don’t.

“The room-service boy lingers, saying he thinks redheads are pretty. He’s young and breakable and it would feel so goddamn good to break something.”

Yeah, Elsa Fisher is a pleasant individual. Real likable.

“I shower with my drink and take one of Mother’s Vicodins.”

Oh goodie. I picked up the novelization of a soap opera. Hard pass.

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Life’s Too Short – Surprise Me, Ultraluminous, All the Crooked Saints

December 8, 2017 Bonnie Book Reviews, Life's Too Short 5 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 – Surprise Me, Ultraluminous, All the Crooked SaintsSurprise Me by Sophie Kinsella
Published by Dial Press on February 13th 2018
Pages: 432
Genres: Chick-Lit
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Wedding Night, My Not So Perfect Life

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After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other's sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. They never expected "until death do us part" to mean seven decades.

In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprise Me, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that question some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all.

DNF @ 25%

The only thing that came as a surprise was this DNF.

Honestly, I only read as much as I did because of my love of Kinsella. You know those stories that start off fairly mediocre and you just keep thinking (in this case, HOPING) that it’ll get better? It started off mildly intriguing: life is perfect for this couple, they have two beautiful children, good jobs, a happy life, and they even complete one another’s sentences. *groan* The two go to the doctor to get physicals at which point the doctor informs them they are perfectly healthy and they should plan on living long, long lives. Then he says: “You should have sixty-eight more wonderful years of marriage!” And then everything goes wrong. Because of course, they didn’t even consider the fact that they’d live that long, never thought about long-term being that long when it came to being married.

“We’ve got so much time.”
“But what are we going to do with it, Sylvie? How are we going to fill the endless, soulless years of mindless drone work? Where’s the joy in our lives?” He looks around the kitchen with a questing gaze, as though it might be in a jar labeled joy, next to turmeric.

Even though everything is perfectly fine and they have happy lives, now they have to deal with the concept that they’re going to have to be with one another for SO LONG. Come on. Hello, till death do us part? This is why everyone fucking gets divorced these days. Nobody stops to consider what it actually means, what you’re committing to, argh. I just found the whole concept stupid. And I’m sure they get over it and get back to being perfectly happy with their kids and white picket fence but I didn’t really care if they worked it out or not. Plus? There was this weird obsession with her dead father and lines like this:

‘Here in the privacy of my own mind, where no one else can hear, I can say it: To the outside world, Dan isn’t in the same league as my father. He doesn’t have the gloss, the money, the stature, the charitable achievements.’

Not just comparing your father to your husband, who in your mind is lacking in comparison, but comparing your dead father to your husband… nope. I’m done.

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 – Surprise Me, Ultraluminous, All the Crooked SaintsUltraluminous: A Novel by Katherine Faw Morris, Katherine Faw
Published by MCD on December 5th 2017
Pages: 176
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: Young God

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Girlfriend. Prostitute. Addict. Terrorist? Who is K?

Ultraluminous, the daring new novel from Katherine Faw, the brilliant author of Young God, follows one year in the life of a high-end, girlfriend-experience prostitute. She has just returned to her native New York City after more than a decade abroad—in the capitals of Asia and the Middle East, her last stop Dubai, with a man she recalls only as the Sheikh—but it’s unclear why exactly she’s come back. Did things go badly for her? Does she have scores to settle?

Regardless, she has quickly made herself at home. She’s set up a rotation of clients—all of them in finance, and each of whom has different delusions of how he is important to her. And she’s also met a man whom she doesn’t charge—a damaged former Army Ranger, back from Afghanistan, and a fellow long-time heroin addict.

Her days are strangely orderly: a repetition of dinners, personal grooming, museum exhibitions, sex, Duane Reades (she likes the sushi), cosmology, sex, gallery shows, heroin, sex, and art films (which she finds soothing). The pattern is comforting, but does she really believe it’s sustainable? Or do the barely discernible rifts in her routine suggest that something else is percolating under the surface? Could she have fallen for one of her bankers? Or do those supposed rifts suggest a pattern within the pattern, a larger scheme she’s not showing us, a truth that won’t be revealed until we can see everything?

DNF @ 6%

I read Young God, so I did know what I was getting into by requesting this one. Or at least I thought I did. Ultraluminous is the story of a prostitute named K who makes up a different name for each new guy. No one else in this story has an actual name either. There’s the bodega guy. The art guy. The calf’s brain guy. The guy who buys’s me things. The junk-bond guy. I understand that the character herself named these characters as such as a lack of caring, deeming it unnecessary to know them personally given her job, but it resulted in an odd experience when reading about it. Her stories about each guy are told in snippets with little to no differentiation between each, almost as if it was a string of her recalling these memories instead of living them in real-time. It was easy to fall into this story and ride this strange stream of consciousness type wave but it was hard to find any entertainment in the sparseness.

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.

Life’s Too Short – Surprise Me, Ultraluminous, All the Crooked SaintsAll the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Published by Scholastic Press on October 10th 2017
Pages: 320
Genres: Magical Realism
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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Also by this author: Shiver, Forever, The Raven Boys

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Here is a thing everyone wants: a miracle.Here is a thing everyone fears: what it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect.

DNF @ page 42

The moment I realized I wasn’t going to be able to finish a Stiefvater and I’d be forced to DNF:

I started this immediately when I got it but set it aside after a few pages. I thought it was because, at the time, I was in the midst of a major book slump so I attributed it to that but I had serious problems this time around as well. All the Crooked Saints is this strange, unexpected sort of magical realism. For me though, magical realism needs to be centered in realism. The magical aspects need to feel like a different type of reality but something that’s wholly possible. The magical realism here was just bizarre and out there and simply didn’t work for me. Also, the characters themselves were completely unlikable and were ridiculously pretentious. But there were a few lines I saved and a few lines I saw saved on Goodreads that caused a raised eyebrow or two:

‘She was so mean that she even killed her own name, and now people just pointed to her.’

‘She had been wearing artificial eyelashes in the womb and when they had fallen off in the birth canal, she had lost no time in replacing them.’

‘She formed pots out of clay that were so striking that sometimes, when she went to gather clay for a new one, she discovered that the clay had eagerly already begun to shape itself for her. Her voice was so well trained that bulls would lie down when they heard her sing. […] She could ride two horses at the same time, one leg on each horse, and still hold down her skirt to maintain her modesty, if she felt like it. Her segueza, developed from an ancient recipe, was so excellent that time itself stood still while you were eating it in order to savor the flavor along with you.’

Some may read these lines and think they’re gorgeous, but I can’t deal with an entire book full of that. Even a Stiefvater.

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Book Review – The Trouble with Twelfth Grave (Charley Davidson #12) by Darynda Jones

November 10, 2017 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2017 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 Trouble with Twelfth Grave (Charley Davidson #12) by Darynda JonesThe Trouble with Twelfth Grave by Darynda Jones
Series: Charley Davidson #12
Published by St. Martin's Press on October 31st 2017
Pages: 352
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
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Also by this author: First Grave on the Right, For I Have Sinned, Second Grave on the Left

four-stars

Grim Reaper Charley Davidson is back in the twelfth installment of Darynda Jones’ New York Times bestselling paranormal series.

Ever since Reyes escaped from a hell dimension in which Charley accidently trapped him, the son of Satan has been brimstone-bent on destroying the world his heavenly Brother created. His volatile tendencies have put Charley in a bit of a pickle. But that’s not the only briny vegetable on her plate. While trying to domesticate the feral being that used to be her husband, she also has to deal with her everyday life of annoying all manner of beings—some corporeal, some not so much—as she struggles to right the wrongs of society. Only this time she’s not uncovering a murder. This time she’s covering one up.

Add to that her new occupation of keeping a startup PI venture—the indomitable mystery-solving team of Amber Kowalski and Quentin Rutherford—out of trouble and dealing with the Vatican’s inquiries into her beloved daughter, and Charley is on the brink of throwing in the towel and becoming a professional shopper. Or possibly a live mannequin. But when someone starts attacking humans who are sensitive to the supernatural world, Charley knows it’s time to let loose her razor sharp claws. Then again, her number one suspect is the dark entity she’s loved for centuries. So the question becomes, can she tame the unruly beast before it destroys everything she’s worked so hard to protect?

Charley Davidson series

First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson #1) [Purchase – Review]
For I Have Sinned (Charley Davidson #1.5) [Purchase – Review]
Second Grave on the Left
 (Charley Davidson, #2) [Purchase – Review]
Third Grave Dead Ahead (Charley Davidson, #3) [Purchase]
Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet (Charley Davidson, #4) [Purchase – Review]
Fifth Grave Past the Light (Charley Davidson, #5) [Purchase – Review]
Sixth Grave on the Edge (Charley Davidson, #6) [Purchase – Review]
Seventh Grave and No Body (Charley Davidson, #7) [Purchase]
Eighth Grave After Dark (Charley Davidson, #8) [Purchase]
The Dirt on Ninth Grave (Charley Davidson #9) [Purchase – Review]
The Curse of Tenth Grave (Charley Davidson #10) by Darynda Jones [Purchase Review]
Eleventh Grave in Moonlight (Charley Davidson #11) by Darynda Jones [Purchase Review]

*spoilers to follow from the previous installments*

“I’ll tell you what’s wrong with society. No one drinks from the skulls of their enemies anymore.”

Charley always seems to have a crazy amount of stuff to deal with but I think in Twelfth Grave she managed to surpass herself. After Reyes escapes from the Hell dimension she accidentally trapped him in, she’s having to deal with his new feral nature and trying to figure out if the God side of him has won over the human side or not. And the actual God has given her a timeframe to fix it, or else. She’s having to actually cover up a murder in order to save a friend. Cookie’s daughter Amber and Quentin have decided to open their own detective agency after someone starts stealing office supplies and Charley says she’d help them out to find the culprit (and to keep them out of trouble). Add to that, the Vatican is asking a lot of questions about Charley’s daughter, Beep, who is still in hiding from the dangerous entities that wish to cause her harm. Oh, and did I mention that Charley can’t sleep? Every time she closes her eyes she’s visited by this new godly version of her husband and the visits are becoming increasingly disturbing. Charley’s running on nothing but fumes and an ungodly (ha) amount of coffee.

“But noooo. The man with the balls had to go in because he’s manly with manly balls and a penis to guide him. And now he’s all savage and wild, but he still has his balls. That’s all that’s important, by God. His man parts.”

The penultimate book! Gah. I know that this series is due to end with the thirteenth book but man, I could read the hilarious antics of Charley Davidson forever. We’re finally getting pieces of the mythology behind Charley and the origins of her creation, of Reyes’ purpose in it all, and of course Beep. It’s fascinating although at times it can feel a little rambling since we’re missing all the connecting pieces still. But with only a final book left, I fear we have a lot to cover still but I remain hopeful that Jones is going to knock it out of the park. Her writing has maintained throughout this entire series to be consistent in delivering exciting, non-stop thrills. She continues to heighten the intensity in the final pages, leaving enormous cliffhangers, routinely leaving us readers in the midst of an existential crisis.

Image result for cliffhangers gif

Existential crisis or not, I’ll take all that I can get. Fingers crossed this includes a spin-off Beep series. The countdown to the release of book 13 on October 30, 2018 begins. 354 days to go.

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Book Review – Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng

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

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

Book Review – Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste NgLittle Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng
Published by Penguin Press on September 12th 2017
Pages: 352
Genres: Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Also by this author: Everything I Never Told You

three-half-stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Audiobook Review – An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

November 7, 2017 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2017, YA 2 Comments

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

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


two-stars

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

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
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

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
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

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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