Posts Categorized: Non-Fiction

Rapid Reviews – The Line That Held Us, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Awakened

July 29, 2018 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Non-Fiction, Rapid Fire Reviews, Read in 2018 2 Comments

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

Rapid Reviews – The Line That Held Us, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, AwakenedThe Line That Held Us by David Joy
Illustrator: David Palumbo
Published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons on August 14, 2018
Pages: 272
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads

Also by this author: Where All Light Tends to GoThe Weight of This World

Short Summary: Darl Moody knows that he’s poaching when he sets out to go hunting late one night but he’s got many mouths to feed. The bullet he fires intended for an animal turns out to be none other than Carol Brewer who was also poaching on the same land, and instead of owning up to his mistake he buries the body and hopes that his terrifying brother Dwayne doesn’t ever connect the dots.

Thoughts: David Joy’s novels are impressively engaging and invoke the essence of the South in all the best (and terrible) ways

Verdict: The Line That Held Us was a riveting story of the reverberations of vengeance that was poignantly written. In his third novel, David Joy is clearly only getting better.

four-stars

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

Rapid Reviews – The Line That Held Us, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, AwakenedI’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
Published by Harper on February 27, 2018
Pages: 328
Genres: True Crime
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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Short Summary: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark is the posthumous culmination of Michelle McNamara’s research into the identity of the Golden State Killer, a man who committed at least 12 murders and more than 50 rapes.

Thoughts: The shining light of this true crime story is the passion and drive that McNamara possessed to uncover the mystery of a serial killer that haunted people for decades, and how heartbreaking it is that she wasn’t able to witness the day that he was finally found.

Verdict: Despite this being very obviously incomplete, I understand why the publication was so important. Did her research point directly to the killer? I would say no, however, the continued interest in the investigation clearly kept it alive when so many cases would have normally been forgotten, relegated to a basement alongside other cold cases.

three-half-stars

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

Rapid Reviews – The Line That Held Us, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, AwakenedNightflyers by George R.R. Martin
Illustrator: David Palumbo
Published by Bantam on May 29, 2018
Pages: 208
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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Goodreads

Short Summary: A group of individuals set out on a scientific expedition to uncover the mysteries of an alien race but along the way, an alien presence makes itself known and the group is fighting for their lives while trying to figure out if this is the same alien presence that they sought.

Thoughts: This novella has an impressive concept but the wide cast of characters that went without proper development and the strange focus on the sex lives of these 9 individuals was needless and I would’ve much preferred more details on the mysterious alien race instead.

Verdict: Nightflyers is a very unsettling little read and I’m very much looking forward to the visual aspects of bringing this novella to life on the small screen.

three-half-stars

Rapid Reviews – The Line That Held Us, I’ll Be Gone in the Dark, Awakened

Awakened by James S. MurrayDarren Wearmouth
Series: Awakened #1
Published by Harper Voyager on June 26, 2018
Pages: 287
Genres: HorrorSci-fi
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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Goodreads

Short Summary: When a new subway line connecting New Jersey and New York makes its inaugural journey, it arrives in the station to a crowd of spectators that watch in horror as they realize that the train is completely empty but there’s blood everywhere.

Thoughts: This one was a ton of fun and full of creepy moments but the shift in the second half where the story focused primarily on political drama/conspiracies instead was somewhat disappointing.

Verdict: With similarities to The Strain and the very script-like way this was written, this would be a most excellent tv show.

three-half-stars

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

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Audiobook Review – Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick

November 25, 2016 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Non-Fiction, Read in 2016 4 Comments

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

Audiobook Review – Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna KendrickScrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick
Narrator: Anna Kendrick
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on November 15th 2016
Length: 6 hours
Genres: Memoir, Funny-ha-ha
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository | Audible
Goodreads


four-stars

A collection of humorous autobiographical essays by the Academy Award-nominated actress and star of Up in the Air and Pitch Perfect.

Even before she made a name for herself on the silver screen starring in films like Pitch Perfect, Up in the Air, Twilight, and Into the Woods, Anna Kendrick was unusually small, weird, and “10 percent defiant.”

At the ripe age of thirteen, she had already resolved to “keep the crazy inside my head where it belonged. Forever. But here’s the thing about crazy: It. Wants. Out.” In Scrappy Little Nobody, she invites readers inside her brain, sharing extraordinary and charmingly ordinary stories with candor and winningly wry observations.

With her razor-sharp wit, Anna recounts the absurdities she’s experienced on her way to and from the heart of pop culture as only she can—from her unusual path to the performing arts (Vanilla Ice and baggy neon pants may have played a role) to her double life as a middle-school student who also starred on Broadway to her initial “dating experiments” (including only liking boys who didn’t like her back) to reviewing a binder full of butt doubles to her struggle to live like an adult woman instead of a perpetual “man-child.”

Enter Anna’s world and follow her rise from “scrappy little nobody” to somebody who dazzles on the stage, the screen, and now the page—with an electric, singular voice, at once familiar and surprising, sharp and sweet, funny and serious (well, not that serious).

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While Anna Kendrick discovered a love for acting at an early age, this certainly didn’t help her popularity with the other kids. What middle schooler even knows what the hell Sundance is anyways? Scrappy Little Nobody is a collection of brilliantly amusing episodes of her life from the time she was in a community theater production of Annie (Annie is brought up frequently, for which she apologizes for), flashing forward to the time she was typically referred to as “Number 44” on the set of Twilight, and the time she was “high off her face” at the Spirit Awards. Interspersed between these anecdotes are stories of growing up as a normal (yet very small) child in Maine, struggling to make ends meet even after becoming “a star”, and her eternal love of sweatpants.

“I love rules and I love following them, unless that rule is stupid.”

I’ve read more celebrity memoirs in the past year than I have in my entire life. There was the gorgeously written Dear Mr. You (Mary-Louise Parker), the inspirational Year of Yes (Shonda Rhimes) and Yes, Please (Amy Poehler), and the hilarious The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo (Amy Schumer). There’s something unreasonably astonishing, yet still refreshing, about reading celebrity memoirs and finding yourself taken aback at what normal people they are. While it could be argued that they’re simply trying to appear like normal people, Anna Kendrick’s stories come off as very authentic and candid. While her witty sense of humor is flawless, having her read this only enhanced the story. Her narration showcases her distinctive voice and her cleverly written zingers are even more hilarious when read out loud. At a mere six hours of audiobook time, her intimate recap of her thirty-one years of life leaves you wishing for more of her comical tidbits.

“So now, when I’m standing in a patch of wet moss in open-toed shoes and a strapless chiffon sundress, watching my breath fog in front of my face, I think: You are a fucking Navy SEAL, Kendrick! You will get through this scene, you will say the stupid joke, and if you lose a nipple to frostbite in the process it will be for art!

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For more hilarious memoirs…

Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson [Review]
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer [Review]
Yes Please by Amy Poehler

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National Book Award 2015 Finalist – Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin

November 13, 2015 Bonnie Book Reviews, Non-Fiction, Read in 2015 2 Comments

National Book Award 2015 Finalist – Most Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve SheinkinMost Dangerous: Daniel Ellsberg and the Secret History of the Vietnam War by Steve Sheinkin
Published by Roaring Brook Press on September 22nd 2015
Pages: 384
Genres: Non-Fiction, Vietnam War
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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four-half-stars

This captivating nonfiction investigation of the Pentagon Papers has captured widespread critical acclaim, including features in The Washington Post and on NPR, and selection as a 2015 National Book Award finalist.

From Steve Sheinkin, the award-winning author of The Port Chicago 50 and Newbery Honor Book Bomb comes a tense, narrative nonfiction account of what the Times deemed "the greatest story of the century": how whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg transformed from obscure government analyst into "the most dangerous man in America," and risked everything to expose years of government lies during the Nixon / Cold War era.

On June 13, 1971, the front page of the New York Times announced the existence of a 7,000-page collection of documents containing a secret history of the Vietnam War. Known as The Pentagon Papers, these files had been commissioned by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. Chronicling every action the government had taken in the Vietnam War, they revealed a pattern of deception spanning over twenty years and four presidencies, and forever changed the relationship between American citizens and the politicians claiming to represent their interests. The investigation that resulted--as well as the attempted government coverups and vilification of the whistleblower--has timely relevance to Edward Snowden's more recent conspiracy leaks.

A provocative and political book that interrogates the meanings of patriotism, freedom, and integrity, Most Dangerous further establishes Steve Sheinkin as a leader in children's nonfiction.

‘Perspective is everything.’

Daniel Ellsberg was a military analyst at the Pentagon in 1964. He worked under Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and had access to confidential documents which were never reported to the American people, but it was a part of his job to keep that information contained. He visited Vietnam personally and seeing the war firsthand irrevocably changed his understanding and opinion of the United States’ fight with Vietnam. Upon his return, his help was enlisted in compiling a top secret document of which the president wasn’t even made aware of on the conduct of the Vietnam War. The 7,000-page document was a wake-up call for Ellsberg as he resolved to make the American people aware of the vast conspiracy of lies that had been going on for several decades.

The story is a most shocking one, detailing the years of deception from not just a single president but four including their administrations over the course of twenty-three years. Going into this story, I was fairly oblivious to the history of the Vietnam War. I am not normally a non-fiction reader, however, I welcomed the prospect of being able to familiarize myself with something that is such a huge part of American history. My sole reservation (which is the same reservation I have for all non-fiction stories) is that it’ll end up reading like a dull textbook. Well, rest assured, Sheinkin has transformed the history of the Vietnam War while interlacing it with Daniel Ellsberg’s involvement to create one well-researched thriller that is both informative and captivating.

I was curious about the fact that this is a non-fiction story targeted to young adult readers, but it makes sense now. Most young adult readers these days won’t be well versed in this time period (as I am/was) and I almost think that going into this story knowing very little about the history is a benefit. The way this story is told will undoubtedly kindle an interest in this time period leading readers to pick up additional books that will further elucidate. Interestingly enough, in the epilogue, the connection is made between Ellsberg’s actions and that of Edward Snowden’s who in 2013 released details of classified United States government surveillance programs. Decades separate the two incidents, yet it’s clear that the government is still far from candid. Ellsberg’s story not only illuminates an important part of American history but it helps to illustrate how our government and society became how it is today.

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Nonfiction Review – The Bird Market of Paris: A Memoir by Nikki Moustaki

November 6, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Non-Fiction, Read in 2014 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.

Nonfiction Review – The Bird Market of Paris: A Memoir by Nikki MoustakiThe Bird Market of Paris: A Memoir by Nikki Moustaki
Published by Henry Holt and Co. (BYR) on February 10th 2015
Pages: 256
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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four-half-stars

An avian expert and poet shares a true story of beloved birds, a remarkable grandfather, a bad-girl youth—and an astonishing redemption

Nikki Moustaki, author of The Bird Market of Paris, grew up in 1980s Miami, the only child of parents who worked, played, and traveled for luxury sports car dealerships. At home, her doting grandmother cooked for and fed her, but it was her grandfather—an evening-gown designer, riveting storyteller, and bird expert—who was her mentor and dearest companion.

Like her grandfather, Nikki fell hard for birds. "Birds filled my childhood," she writes, "as blue filled the sky." Her grandfather showed her how to hypnotize chickens, sneak up on pigeons, and handle baby birds. He gave her a white dove to release for luck on each birthday. And he urged her to, someday, visit the bird market of Paris.

But by the time Nikki graduated from college and moved to New York City, she was succumbing to alcohol and increasingly unable to care for her flock. When her grandfather died, guilt-ridden Nikki drank even more. In a last-ditch effort to honor her grandfather, she flew to France hoping to visit the bird market of Paris to release a white dove. Instead, something astonishing happened there that saved Nikki’s life.

​’Birds had filled my world the way blue filled sky, with a wholeness so natural that an existence without them seemed a perverse impossibility.’​

The Bird Market of Paris is a memoir detailing the author’s experience growing up in the 1980’s in Miami, Florida. Her parents traveled frequently for business so Nikki spent the majority of her time being raised by her grandparents. Her grandfather, whom she called Poppy, became a close companion to her at an early age and was the one that shared his lifelong accumulation of bird knowledge with her. He taught her how to properly care for them, how to identify them and most importantly how to appreciate them and love them. He also told her the most vibrant stories of his travels across the globe, but the one story that stood out most for her was his descriptions of the Bird Markets in Paris and she vowed to go there someday to experience it firsthand.

I adored the small stories within these pages. The story of how her Poppy would get her a dove every birthday and that they would release it thus ensuring another year of peace until the next birthday dove. The story of how Nikki obtained Bonk, a baby lovebird that caused her desire to care for all the featured creatures to grow. This part of the tale reminded me greatly of a favorite memoir of mine, Wesley the Owl, which details the tremendous bond that develops between bird and human. Other stories weren’t quite as ebullient though. The story of the devastating hurricane that ravaged her house causing her an all-consuming guilt over the deaths of many of her birds that never quite dissipated. And when she lost her grandfather and her alcoholism quickly earned the upper-hand. The stories themselves were compelling enough but it was the authors’ skillful writing that truly captivated me.

The Bird Market of Paris is an incredibly poignant memoir that explores Moustaki’s deep adoration for her grandfather, for birds and her unfortunate decline into alcoholism. The ravaging effects it had on her were thoughtful, raw and brutally depicted. Nikki Moustaki’s story is an intensely affecting and emotional tale that is quite unforgettable.

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Book Review – Girl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen

May 20, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, Non-Fiction, Read in 2014 3 Comments

Book Review – Girl, Interrupted by Susanna KaysenGirl, Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
Published by Vintage on April 19, 1994
Pages: 192
Genres: Memoir, Non-Fiction
Format: Paperback
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


four-stars

In 1967, after a session with a psychiatrist she'd never seen before, eighteen-year-old Susanna Kaysen was put in a taxi and sent to McLean Hospital. She spent most of the next two years in the ward for teenage girls in a psychiatric hospital as renowned for its famous clientele—Sylvia Plath, Robert Lowell, James Taylor, and Ray Charles—as for its progressive methods of treating those who could afford its sanctuary.

Kaysen's memoir encompasses horror and razor-edged perception while providing vivid portraits of her fellow patients and their keepers. It is a brilliant evocation of a "parallel universe" set within the kaleidoscopically shifting landscape of the late sixties. Girl, Interrupted is a clear-sighted, unflinching document that gives lasting and specific dimension to our definitions of sane and insane, mental illness and recovery.

“The only way to stay sane is to go a little crazy.”

After a phone call to her boyfriend to advise him of her impending suicide, Susan swallowed 50 aspirin then remembered her mother asking her to pick up milk and headed for the store. Her halfhearted suicide attempt, she states, was not an attempt at death but rather an attempt  at partial suicide to get rid of the part of herself that no longer wished to live. A year later on June 15, 1967, she has an appointment with a new psychiatrist and twenty minutes later she’s agreeing to a two week stay at McLean, a psychiatric hospital, for a rest the psychiatrist insists she needs. She remains there until she’s eventually discharged on January 3, 1969.

‘In a strange way we were free. We’d reached the end of the line. We had nothing more to lose. Our privacy, our liberty, our dignity: All of this was gone and were stripped down to the bare bones of our selves.’

Girl, Interrupted is a collection of nonlinear essays that tell of her time spent at McLean hospital. She describes in detail the constant room checks, the punishments, the medications and treatments, the hovering nurses and how their memories of privacy quickly became a thing of the past. The writing is simplistic but powerful and quietly brings to life the claustrophobic horrors of being incarcerated. What was truly startling to me though was the ease in which Susan found herself in this position. Twenty minutes spent with a new psychiatrist and he quickly classified her as having Borderline Personality Disorder and is putting her in a taxi to the local mental hospital. The same hospital that at one time housed Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton and even Sylvia Plath.

‘…my discharge sheet, at line 41, Outcome with Regard to Mental Disorder, reads “Recovered.”‘

These essays are not only a glimpse into life inside a mental institution but are an insightful look into “recovery”. Borderline personality disorder isn’t something that someone can be cured of so her recovery is more or less watching her come to terms with her disorder and learning how to live with it. Girl, Interrupted is a distressing read but one that is replete with immense strength and perseverance.

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