Posts Categorized: Read in 2013

Audiobook Review – The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion

April 22, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 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.

Audiobook Review – The Rosie Project by Graeme SimsionThe Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
Published by Simon & Schuster Audio on October 1st 2013
Length: 7 hrs and 32 mins
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Funny-ha-ha
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
Amazon
Goodreads


two-stars

THE ART OF LOVE IS NEVER A SCIENCE

MEET DON TILLMAN, a brilliant yet socially challenged professor of genetics, who's decided it's time he found a wife. And so, in the orderly, evidence-based manner with which Don approaches all things, he designs the Wife Project to find his perfect partner: a sixteen-page, scientifically valid survey to filter out the drinkers, the smokers, the late arrivers.

Rosie Jarman is all these things. She also is strangely beguiling, fiery, and intelligent. And while Don quickly disqualifies her as a candidate for the Wife Project, as a DNA expert Don is particularly suited to help Rosie on her own quest: identifying her biological father. When an unlikely relationship develops as they collaborate on the Father Project, Don is forced to confront the spontaneous whirlwind that is Rosie—and the realization that, despite your best scientific efforts, you don’t find love, it finds you.

Arrestingly endearing and entirely unconventional, Graeme Simsion's distinctive debut will resonate with anyone who has ever tenaciously gone after life or love in the face of great challenges. The Rosie Project is a rare find: a book that restores our optimism in the power of human connection.

“If you really love someone […] you have to be prepared to accept them as they are. Maybe you hope that one day they get a wake-up call and make the changes for their own reasons.”

Don Tillman is a socially awkward and emotionally challenged individual that decides one day it is well past time he find himself a wife. Approaching this situation (as he does everything in his life) in an organized and scientific based manner, he develops a survey in hopes to weed out the most incompatible. Rosie Jarman is sarcastic and free-spirited and despite the fact that she was deemed incompatible by the survey, the duo form an unlikely relationship when they team up to find Rosie’s biological father.

Heyyyy. Check me and my 2-star rating out. I’m clearly the black sheep of the crowd because everyone seems to adore this book.

I’d like to attribute my lack of love for this book by the circumstances of the moment as I was feeling far too cynical but I’m not sure if that’s completely the case. There’s a soft squishy part of my heart that likes the idea of love conquering all but the rational part always overcomes. Especially with this story. Don doesn’t realize he has Asperger’s syndrome, but everyone else in his life does. He leads an uncompromising life full of schedules and deadlines, despises time wasting situations and has a terrible time handling physical contact of any sort (as if the fact that he’s trying to search out his future wife via a survey didn’t make that abundantly clear).

I am extremely socially inept and should have been able to relate to Dan. I think where they lost me is the author’s attempt to slap an unnecessary designation on his lack of social graces. Is the belief that he would not have been as funny or charming if there wasn’t a scientific justification behind his excessive awkwardness? His lack of social skills could have simply been a quirky part of his nature, but instead the fact that it was given a ‘reason’ it was in turn labeled as a ‘problem’. Yes, maybe I’m reading far too much into this but it just felt off. The ending made it all the more apparent. View Spoiler »

The story traveled a predictable path and lacked any interesting characteristics to set it apart from other contemporary romances, even with the slight unconventional aspect.

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Early Review – The Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson

April 17, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013 1 Comment

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

Early Review – The Sea Garden by Deborah LawrensonThe Sea Garden by Deborah Lawrenson
Published by Harper on June 24th 2014
Pages: 320
Genres: Historical Fiction
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Lantern

three-half-stars

Romance, suspense, and World War II mystery are woven together in three artfully linked novellas-rich in drama and steeped in atmosphere-from the critically acclaimed author of The Lantern

THE SEA GARDEN
On the lush Mediterranean island of Porquerolles off the French coast, Ellie Brooke, an award-winning British landscape designer, has been hired to restore a memorial garden. Unsettled by its haunted air and the bitterness of the garden's owner, an elderly woman who seems intent on undermining her, Ellie finds that her only ally on the island is an elusive war historian …

THE LAVENDER FIELD
Near the end of World War II, Marthe Lincel, a young blind woman newly apprenticed at a perfume factory in Nazi-occupied Provence, finds herself at the center of a Resistance cell. When tragedy strikes, she faces the most difficult choice of her life . . . and discovers a breathtaking courage she never expected.

A SHADOW LIFE
Iris Nightingale, a junior British intelligence officer in wartime London, falls for a French agent. But after a secret landing in Provence results in terrible Nazi reprisals, he vanishes. When France is liberated, Iris is determined to uncover the truth. Was he the man he claimed to be?

Ingeniously interconnected, this spellbinding triptych weaves three parallel narratives into one unique tale of love, mystery, and murder. The Sea Garden is a vivid and absorbing chronicle of love and loss in the fog of war-and a penetrating and perceptive examination of the impulses and circumstances that shape our lives.

‘In this present hour, there was time for anything to happen, endless time.’

The Sea Garden contains three separate novellas that slowly intertwine together. The first novella shares the name of the title and is set in present day. The second and third novellas are all centered around the WWII era.

I became an instant fan of Deborah Lawrenson’s after her debut novel, ‘The Lantern‘ completely mesmerized me with its Rebecca-esque gothic story. It was clear she had a talent for the written word and I’ve been anxiously awaiting a new book from her. The Sea Garden presents a somewhat full-length novel, broke up into seemingly separate stories but have more in common than assumed. The Sea Garden novella is the present day story which brings to life a young woman named Ellie who is hired to construct a new WWII Memorial Garden. Her short visit is a disturbing one after the mother of the man that hired her is unkindly to her and after she believes to have seen ghosts in the Garden. The real heart of the story comes in the WWII stories that have an unexpected impact on Ellie’s life even after all that time has passed.

‘Thy word is a lantern unto my feet: and a light unto my path.’

I recognized and enjoyed the authors skillful writing yet found this story lacking in comparison to its predecessor. I found The Sea Garden to be for the most part too convoluted and lacking a clear and concise ending that wrapped up all loose ends. The affinity between the three tales was a little too slack and wasn’t as solid of a connection as I would expect with a multi-narrative tale such as this. Also, the odd supernatural aspects felt superfluous and too extravagant of an addition to this basic tale of history and its effects on everyone it touches. The writing was most pleasing but I would have appreciated this story more if the three novellas had stood on their own without the compulsory connection between them.

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Book Review – The Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice

April 11, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 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.

Book Review – The Lemon Orchard by Luanne RiceThe Lemon Orchard by Luanne Rice
Published by Pamela Dorman Books on July 2, 2013
Pages: 304
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
Amazon
Goodreads


two-stars

From bestselling author Luanne Rice—a captivating and sexy novel of love, both enduring and unexpected

Year after year, Luanne Rice’s fans eagerly await her next book. Their enthusiasm is soon to be rewarded with The Lemon Orchard, Rice’s romantic new love story between two people from seemingly different worlds.

In the five years since Julia last visited her aunt and uncle’s home in Malibu, her life has been turned upside down by her daughter’s death. She expects to find nothing more than peace and solitude as she house-sits with only her dog, Bonnie, for company. But she finds herself drawn to the handsome man who oversees the lemon orchard. Roberto expertly tends the trees, using the money to support his extended Mexican family. What connection could these two people share? The answer comes as Roberto reveals the heartbreaking story of his own loss—a pain Julia knows all too well, but for one striking difference: Roberto’s daughter was lost but never found. And despite the odds he cannot bear to give up hope.

Set in the sea and citrus-scented air of the breathtaking Santa Monica Mountains, The Lemon Orchard is an affirming story about the redemptive power of compassion and the kind of love that seems to find us when we need it most.

Julia is still reeling five years after the death of her daughter and husband. While visiting her Aunt and Uncle in Malibu she forms a bond with Roberto, a man who is also suffering through the loss of a daughter. Julia’s daughter died and is truly gone, however, Roberto’s daughter was lost in the desert while attempting to cross over into the United States from Mexico.

The relationship between Julia and Roberto was initially very moving and their bond was very apparent. I loved seeing the two come together and heal one another because of shared grief but their relationship quickly became stagnant and never developed (as relationships typically do). The characters in general were never unrealistic but they definitely lacked a convincing quality that made me invested in their story.

What played a huge part in this story is Mexican immigration and I can honestly say if I had known this I would have never picked this book up. It’s just not a topic of interest for me, especially when it’s portrayed in this manner. At one point in the story it’s stated that the Irish immigration is just like the Mexican immigration because of the similar types of prejudice that they face. Now, I’m no history professor but that gave even me pause. Based on my understanding, immigration laws were vastly different in the 19th century and not only that but the Irish didn’t have welfare programs to take advantage of like there are in existence today. When the Irish immigrated to America there weren’t laws in place that prevented them legally from doing so and they had to work hard and be self-sufficient in order for them and their families to survive. The current immigration from Mexico does not conform with our current laws so that alone is a huge difference and should prevent any sort of comparison so I’ll just leave it at that.

The Lemon Orchard is clearly outside of the author’s comfort zone, touching on hot topic issues like immigration, the stereotypes associated with individuals that immigrate and the mixing of different social classes. While I can appreciate the fact that these topics are being discussed, I’m not sure it succeeded in challenging anything (except for succeeding in following the same stereotypical path) and never quite made me sympathetic as I’m sure was intended.

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Early Review – We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

March 27, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013, YA 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.

Early Review – We Were Liars by E. LockhartWe Were Liars by E. Lockhart
Published by Delacorte Press on May 13th 2014
Pages: 240
Genres: Mystery-Contemporary
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads


two-stars

A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.

We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart.
Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

‘We are Sinclairs.
No one is needy.
No one is wrong.
We live, at least in the summertime, on a private island off the coast of Massachusetts.
Perhaps that is all you need to know.’

There is much that one could say about We Were Liars, but would be better off experienced firsthand. But here are a few things you can know: There are some truths but mostly lies. There was an accident. There is love. There is loss. There are secrets. But everything may actually be nothing but one big lie. You won’t know until it’s all said and done.

We Were Liars reminded me much of The Secret History with its collection of privileged people. In We Were Liars, they all spent their summers on an island, owned by their family. They spent their days soaking in their pretension. The main difference is Tartt took a cast of incredibly unappealing characters and made them fascinating. Lockhart did not. None of Lockhart’s characters had me concerned for their fates and while the ending was a bit of a shock despite my suspicions it still failed to generate an emotional resonance with me.

I love unreliable narrators because it typically turns novels into one big guessing game that keeps you on the edge of your seat. The entirety of this book is written in such a vague and elusive style that I never would have guessed the ending would possess such a perfectly wrapped up conclusion. Much too picture perfect. I definitely would have appreciated a more mystifying ending to match the rest of this potentially enigmatic book.

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Early Review – Queen of the Dark Things (Dreams & Shadows #2) by C. Robert Cargill

March 14, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013 3 Comments

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

Early Review – Queen of the Dark Things (Dreams & Shadows #2) by C. Robert CargillQueen of the Dark Things by C. Robert Cargill
Series: Dreams & Shadows #2
Published by Harper Voyager on May 13th 2014
Pages: 448
Genres: Fantasy, Horror
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Dreams and Shadows, We Are Where the Nightmares Go and Other Stories, Sea of Rust

three-half-stars

Screenwriter and noted film critic C. Robert Cargill continues the story begun in his acclaimed debut Dreams and Shadows in this bold and brilliantly crafted tale involving fairies and humans, magic and monsters-a vivid phantasamagoria that combines the imaginative wonders of Neil Gaiman, the visual inventiveness of Guillermo Del Toro, and the shocking miasma of William S. Burroughs

Six months have passed since the wizard Colby lost his best friend to an army of fairies from the Limestone Kingdom, a realm of mystery and darkness beyond our own. But in vanquishing these creatures and banning them from Austin, Colby sacrificed the anonymity that protected him. Now, word of his deeds has spread, and powerful enemies from the past-including one Colby considered a friend-have resurfaced to exact their revenge.

As darkness gathers around the city, Colby sifts through his memories desperate to find answers that might save him. With time running out, and few of his old allies and enemies willing to help, he is forced to turn for aid to forces even darker than those he once battled.

Following such masters as Lev Grossman, Erin Morgenstern, Richard Kadrey, and Kim Harrison, Robert C. Cargill takes us deeper into an an extraordinary universe of darkness and wonder, despair and hope to reveal the magic and monsters around us . . . and inside us.

Dreams & Shadows series

Book Review – Dreams and Shadows by C. Robert Cargill

Dreams and Shadows (Dreams and Shadows, #1) by C. Robert Cargill {PurchaseMy Review}

“This is how it starts.”
“No. Hopefully this is how it ends.”

Queen of the Dark Things is the followup novel to Dreams and Shadows, a novel chock-full of magic and mystery in an alternate reality in the heart of Austin, Texas. The story picks up right where Shadows left off, with Colby reeling from the battle that occurred and the death of his friend Ewan as the result. He’s reverted back to a solitary life but is forced into action again when a friend from his past surfaces, however they are far from friends now and she poses grave danger to not only Colby himself but the very world.

‘The universe tore open and Hell spilled out, for a brief moment becoming one with the field.’

Being back again in this fantasy world of Cargill’s was fantastic. The world in Queen of the Dark Things is no less intense, no less imaginative and still full of that fanciful horror. We’re given new horrors to witness as well: The Seventy-Two, a group of demons and Fallen Angels one can only hope to never encounter, the Kutji, cursed shadows of the dead that suffered a most violent death, and the Queen of the Dark Things herself. But I’ll let the story explain her.

The story’s narrative is split between a new character named Kaycee Looes, the informative excerpts from the books by Dr. Thaddeus Ray, Ph.D. and of course Colby being the main storyteller. Colby’s strength and confidence was subtle in Dreams and Shadows and he only did what was necessary. In Queen of the Dark Things it seems he’s lost that restraint he had and is getting himself in far more trouble than is otherwise necessary. I believe the loss of Ewan truly broke Colby and his inability to save him changed everything about who he was. His melancholy was subdued but it was clear it did exist and it transformed the story and plot in a way that made it lose some of its magic for me. At this point though, I’ve become highly invested in Colby and am still interested to see his continuing character development. It’s clear there is still much more to Colby’s story and I eagerly await it.

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Graphic Novel Review – Fables Encyclopedia by Jess Nevins

January 28, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Graphic Novel, Read in 2013 7 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.

Graphic Novel Review – Fables Encyclopedia by Jess NevinsFables Encyclopedia by Jess Nevins
Series: Fables
Published by Vertigo on October 29th 2013
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads


three-stars

The histories behind the fairy tale characters in New York Times best-selling author Bill Willingham's series FABLES are uncovered here in the FABLES ENCYCLOPEDIA. Exhaustively researched by author Jess Nevins, these annotations fill in details hailing down from ancient myth and forgotten civilizations of the timeless figures that compose the world of Fabletown, including Snow White, Bigby Wolf, Boy Blue and many more. This new compendium is a must-have addition to any FABLES afficianado's library as well as any fan of modern folk lore and fairy tales.

With the abundant amount of characters introduced throughout the Fables series it can be difficult keeping track of each and every one. The Fables Encyclopedia is a fantastic companion guide to remembering each character and the roles they played in the story. In addition to their Fables role, we’re given a detailed and fascinating history on the characters that existed outside of the Fables universe. Snippets of comics were re-printed from past issues to detail certain characters as well.

I enjoyed reading about several lesser known characters that were only given brief appearances in the comics and finding out more of their backstory but was disappointed by how it wasn’t as up to date as I’d hope. Many of the stories of characters from the spin-off series weren’t elaborated on in particular a character from Fables: Werewolves of the Heartland. Considering that issue was published in November 2012 and this Encyclopedia was published October 2013 I would have expected those updates to be covered. The comic snippets were nice to read again but seemed repetitive and unessential since it wasn’t adding anything new to what the text already disclosed. Clearly not an all encompassing guide, Fables Encylopedia is fairly informative but mostly interesting in regards to the characters lives outside of the Fables universe.

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Book Review – Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn

January 21, 2014 Bonnie Book Reviews, Read in 2013, YA 6 Comments

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

Book Review – Another Little Piece by Kate Karyus QuinnAnother Little Piece by Kate Karyus Quinn
Published by HarperTeen on June 11th 2013
Pages: 419
Genres: Fantasy, Horror
Format: ARC
Source: a Giveaway
Amazon
Goodreads


three-stars

The spine-tingling horror of Stephen King meets an eerie mystery worthy of Sara Shepard's Pretty Little Liars series in Kate Karyus Quinn's haunting debut.

On a cool autumn night, Annaliese Rose Gordon stumbled out of the woods and into a high school party. She was screaming. Drenched in blood. Then she vanished.

A year later, Annaliese is found wandering down a road hundreds of miles away. She doesn't know who she is. She doesn't know how she got there. She only knows one thing: She is not the real Annaliese Rose Gordon.

Now Annaliese is haunted by strange visions and broken memories. Memories of a reckless, desperate wish . . . a bloody razor . . . and the faces of other girls who disappeared. Piece by piece, Annaliese's fractured memories come together to reveal a violent, endless cycle that she will never escape—unless she can unlock the twisted secrets of her past.

“Confession is good for the soul, they say. I’d imagine this is true. But my sins were too convoluted. And from the little I understand–too damning.” 

Annaliese Rose Gordon has been missing for a year. The last time anyone saw her was when she stumbled out of the woods, drenched in blood. No one knows what happened to her after that. They found her a year later in Oklahoma with no memory as to how she got there from Western New York. The only thing she does know? She may look like Annaliese Rose Gordon, but she’s not. She doesn’t know who she is.

From the very beginning of Another Little Piece, the reader knows straight away that the narrator is completely unreliable and that you would do best not to believe a word she says. That’s the easy part, because nothing she says or does lacks comprehension. Her memories are a jumbled and chaotic mess. She can’t remember her own name because she has vague memories of being known as several different people. We’re given flashbacks to a past, but each fragment lacks any sort of consistency to help things make sense. As the story progresses, we’re given more and more information which only serves to make everything all the more disjointed and confusing. Admittedly, I love a good story that keeps me on the edge of my seat, completely confused, only to leave me gasping in awe when all is said and done. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case with Another Little Piece and I was left with more questions than answers. The ending revelations left me unsettled and unsure as to how I truly felt about the story as a whole. I can appreciate the originality and love seeing more horror in YA though.

Another Little Piece is a tale of fantasy and horror. This is key to setting your expectations appropriately because I wasn’t expecting any supernatural aspects to this story; more contemporary than anything. It’s disturbing, incredibly gruesome and shocking. It is a finely written and incredibly original debut tale of the macabre with an open sort of ending that leaves you contemplating everything that makes me definitely want to seek out more of this authors works in the future.

A huge thank you to The Midnight Garden for hosting the giveaway for this book!

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Poetry Review – Love & Misadventure by Lang Leav

January 19, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 7 Comments

Poetry Review – Love & Misadventure by Lang LeavLove & Misadventure by Lang Leav
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing on August 20th 2013
Pages: 178
Genres: Contemporary, Poetry, Romance
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Universe of Us

two-stars

Lang Leav is a poet and internationally exhibiting artist. Awarded a coveted Churchill Fellowship, her work expresses the intricacies of love and loss. Beautifully illustrated and thoughtfully conceived, Love and Misadventure will take you on a rollercoaster ride through an ill-fated love affair- from the initial butterflies to the soaring heights- through to the devastating plunge. Lang Leav has an unnerving ability to see inside the hearts and minds of her readers. Her talent for translating complex emotions with astonishing simplicity has won her a cult following of devoted fans from all over the world.

This poetry collection was brought to my attention when it popped up as a Nominee for the Goodreads Choice Awards for Best Poetry. I was intrigued. Then it placed 2nd, getting beat out by J.R.R. Tolkien, and I was eager to get this. Thankfully my library had a copy because $9.99 for the kindle version and it’s only 78 pages? No thanks. But I wanted this very much after seeing it beat out Mary Oliver, which means Love & Misadventure HAS to be impressive, right? Except this was like sappy teenage love poems. Emo love poems. If the Lifetime channel started producing poetry collections. Really bad, rejected Hallmark cards. My single favorite of the bunch?

‘Do you know what it is like,
to lie in bed awake;
with thoughts to haunt
you every night,
of all your past mistakes.

Knowing sleep will set it right –
if you were not to wake.’

That is not a bad poem at all.

‘He makes me turn
he makes me toss;
his words mean mine
are at a loss.

He makes me blush!

He makes me want
to brush and floss.’

 And that one is not. Sign of a good love? If he inspires me to keep up on my dental hygiene would not be a personal sign for me.

All of the poems in this collection are simplistic (and excessively rhyme-y) but while only a couple were beautifully written, I found the rest of them to be juvenile, immature and lacking any sort of emotional depth which is exactly what I would expect with a collection of love poetry. I found the author’s personal artwork to be a lovely addition to the overall whimsical feel of the book though.

Love & Misadventure is going to be the perfect collection for those that aren’t typically interested in poetry. Because this isn’t poetry. It’s a collection of childish rhymes. Or maybe childish poetry. Either way, I failed to fully appreciate this because I like my poetry with some depth and complexity that leaves me pondering and this collection was completely lacking in that regards.

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Audiobook Review – Cartwheel by Jennifer Dubois

January 17, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 8 Comments

Audiobook Review – Cartwheel by Jennifer DuboisCartwheel by Jennifer Dubois
Published by Random House Audio on September 24, 2013
Length: 14 hours and 25 minutes
Genres: Mystery-Contemporary
Format: Audiobook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


two-half-stars

Written with the riveting storytelling and moral seriousness of authors like Emma Donoghue, Adam Johnson, Ann Patchett, and Curtis Sittenfeld, Cartwheel is a suspenseful and haunting novel of an American foreign exchange student arrested for murder, and a father trying to hold his family together.

When Lily Hayes arrives in Buenos Aires for her semester abroad, she is enchanted by everything she encounters: the colorful buildings, the street food, the handsome, elusive man next door. Her studious roommate Katy is a bit of a bore, but Lily didn’t come to Argentina to hang out with other Americans.

Five weeks later, Katy is found brutally murdered in their shared home, and Lily is the prime suspect. But who is Lily Hayes? It depends on who’s asking. As the case takes shape—revealing deceptions, secrets, and suspicious DNA—Lily appears alternately sinister and guileless through the eyes of those around her: the media, her family, the man who loves her and the man who seeks her conviction. With mordant wit and keen emotional insight, Cartwheel offers a prismatic investigation of the ways we decide what to see—and to believe—in one another and ourselves.

Jennifer duBois’s debut novel, A Partial History of Lost Causes, was a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction and was honored by the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 program. In Cartwheel, duBois delivers a novel of propulsive psychological suspense and rare moral nuance. Who is Lily Hayes? What happened to her roommate? No two readers will agree. Cartwheel will keep you guessing until the final page, and its questions about how much we really know about ourselves will linger well beyond.

‘Although the themes of this book were loosely inspired by the story of Amanda Knox, this is entirely a work of fiction. None of the characters are real. None of the events ever happened. Nothing in the book should be read as a factual statement about real-life events or people.’

‘Loosely inspired’ would imply that a subject was taken and adapted and molded to fit into a new version of the story. Cartwheel is an echo, a reflection and lacks in any true substantive differences from the headlines other than the location (Italy vs. Argentina). I know next to nothing about the Amanda Knox case as I never followed closely along with the court proceedings, however, even with the paltry details I have gathered I see no true differentiation that would warrant the term ‘loosely inspired’. Cartwheel is at heart a character study but ultimately lacks in creative elements.

The writing style was well-written yet extremely tedious and I found myself setting my print copy aside and opting for the audio version. The excessive use of prose was an obvious intent to place this novel solidly in the realm of ‘literary’ but it gave the story an overstated and exaggerated feel that did more harm than good. The story was told from the point of view of several individuals such as Lily’s dad, her sister Anna, the prosecutor and Lily’s boyfriend Sebastian. Each character is extensively detailed but I felt Lily herself was drawn vaguely in a possible attempt to retain the mystery behind her guilt/innocence. The details from the point of view of the prosecutor were informative but the details regarding his estranged wife felt ultimately unessential and detracted from the story.

The ending was the most underwhelming of all as questions remained unanswered and just like the actual Amanda Knox story, we’re left to decide whether or not to believe in her innocence. The examination of individuals involved was in depth and detailed yet there was an emotional disconnect. So many pages were spent delving into the intricate details of Lily’s actions and how even minor actions transformed others opinions and perceptions of her. It all felt very superfluous compared to the amount of time spent on the trial itself though and the ending was extremely rushed compared to the slower pace we became accustomed to. The fact that so much of Lily’s case was based on those perceptions vs. actual concrete evidence was interesting but made for a very ponderous read. The ultimate duplication of a big news story seems solely as a means for the author to showcase her obvious writing skills but only puts a spotlight on her complete lack of creativity.

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Early Review – The Vanishing by Wendy Webb

January 16, 2014 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013 10 Comments

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

Early Review – The Vanishing by Wendy WebbThe Vanishing by Wendy Webb
Published by Hyperion on January 21, 2014
Pages: 304
Genres: Fiction, Ghost, Ghosties, Gothic, Occult & Supernatural
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads


two-half-stars

Recently widowed and rendered penniless by her Ponzi-scheming husband, Julia Bishop is eager to start anew. So when a stranger appears on her doorstep with a job offer, she finds herself accepting the mysterious yet unique position: caretaker to his mother, Amaris Sinclair, the famous and rather eccentric horror novelist whom Julia has always admired . . . and who the world believes is dead.

When she arrives at the Sinclairs' enormous estate on Lake Superior, Julia begins to suspect that there may be sinister undercurrents to her "too-good-to-be-true" position. As Julia delves into the reasons of why Amaris chose to abandon her successful writing career and withdraw from the public eye, her search leads to unsettling connections to her own family tree, making her wonder why she really was invited to Havenwood in the first place, and what monstrous secrets are still held prisoner within its walls.

Julia Bishop is left alone and completely destitute when her husband commits suicide after it was discovered he had swindled out all their family and friends out of their life savings with a Ponzi scheme. She’s accused of being a co-conspirator in her husband’s shady dealings and is left friendless as well. Unexpectedly a man arrives on her doorstep to offer her a job taking care of her mother, the well-known but presumed dead author Amaris Sinclair. Accepting this job would also allow her to vanish from her current life issues so she readily accepts not truly understanding why she is being trusted with this job.

‘The truth finds its way into the light, no matter what you’ve done to contain it.’

There is little to say about this novel for fear of giving away spoilers. The Vanishing lacks in complexity but makes up for it in riveting storytelling. It often requires a suspension of disbelief because of the incredulity of much that occurs within these pages. For the better part of this novel, I found myself enthralled. A beautiful house in the middle of nowhere with a story all its own. A group of people with secrets. An unreliable narrator that puts everything into question.  I love a good Gothic novel and I was well overdue. I greedily consumed the pages eager for the much anticipated twist that is a critical part of any Gothic novel. And that’s where I was left feeling cheated and completely dissatisfied. Simply put, my suspension of disbelief was pushed to excess and rationality intervened. As the author states at the end:

‘With my novels, I’m not trying to define a generation, right any great wrongs, or change the way you think about the world or your place init. I just want to craft a good story that will delight you, entertain you, grab you and not let go, and send some shivers up your spine along the way.’

The Vanishing did entertain me and there was the occasional shiver. Unfortunately, the ending was an unsatisfactory conclusion to an exiting tale that left me perplexed and discontented. As a whole, this was a very enjoyable novel and I can still honestly say that I’m glad to have read it.

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