Posts Categorized: Read in 2013

Book Review – The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer

August 3, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 3 Comments

Book Review – The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean GreerThe Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer
Published by Ecco on June 25th 2013
Pages: 304
Genres: Historical Fiction, Romance, Time Travel
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads


four-stars

1985. After the death of her beloved twin brother, Felix, and the break up with her long-time lover, Nathan, Greta Wells embarks on a radical psychiatric treatment to alleviate her suffocating depression. But the treatment has unexpected effects, and Greta finds herself transported to the lives she might have had if she'd been born in a different era.

During the course of her treatment, Greta cycles between her own time and her alternate lives in 1918, as a bohemian adulteress, and 1941, as a devoted mother and wife. Separated by time and social mores, Greta's three lives are achingly similar, fraught with familiar tensions and difficult choices. Each reality has its own losses, its own rewards, and each extracts a different price. And the modern Greta learns that her alternate selves are unpredictable, driven by their own desires and needs.

As her final treatment looms, questions arise. What will happen once each Greta learns how to stay in one of the other worlds? Who will choose to remain in which life?

Magically atmospheric, achingly romantic, The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells beautifully imagines "what if" and wondrously wrestles with the impossibility of what could be.

‘The impossible happens once to each of us.’

Greta Wells is devastated after losing her twin brother Felix to AIDS and after her long term partner Nathan also leaves her. Burdened by a deep depression that is slowly getting the better of her, she takes the advice of her Aunt Ruth and visists a doctor who recommends electroconvulsive therapy. Ironically, right before her first session she considers, “How I longed to live in any time but this one. It seemed cursed with sorrow and death.”

The night following her first session she goes to sleep in 1985 and arises the next day in 1918. She wakes up as herself just under slightly different circumstances: her brother is alive and she is married to Nathan but is in love with a younger man named Leo. She discovers that her 1918 self is also undergoing electroconvulsive therapy and again, the night following her session she arises the next day in another time; this time in 1941. The cycle continues: 1985, 1918, 1941 and so on for 25 treatments.

“You’re all the same, you’re all Greta. You’re all trying to make things better, whatever that means to you. For you, it’s Felix you want to save. For another, it’s Nathan. For this one, it’s Leo she wants to resurrect. I understand. Don’t we all have someone we’d like to save from the wreckage?”

This is a time travel story, yet it’s not really. It touches on the possibilities of past lives and how your actions resonate to future lives and reincarnations of a sort. Because while 1985 Greta is traveling to her past selves, these individuals she’s ‘taking over’ for are also on the same adventure and they’re all trying to correct past mistakes and secure their own happiness.

“Is there any greater pain to know what could be, and yet be powerless to make it be?”

The heart of the story is of course Greta, her lives, and the individuals she loves in these lives. It’s a tale of romance and how each Greta found (and loved) Nathan but after experiencing each of these lives a wrench gets thrown into the works as she is forced to consider the possibility that he is not her one true love, that she’s been blinded into repetition and is only resorting to what she knows.

While each life could easily showcase the historical detailing of the time, this is glazed over. In 1918, we have the flu epidemic and World War I is ending. In 1941, World War II is beginning. In 1985, we have the AIDS epidemic. While living in these time periods, Greta maintains a certain absence as if she’s truly just a visitor and isn’t quite experiencing the moments around her. For someone who said, “…not all lives are equal, that the time we live in affects the person we are, more than I had ever though” I really wished to see the transformation of her character due to her environment and the impacts her surroundings had on her as a person.

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells is treated as a serious tale of time travel yet is rife with flaws in its design. A definite suspension of disbelief is required because of how truly ‘Impossible’ the story is. Despite this (and the crazy unraveling that occurred at the end), it all managed to still work. It would be easy to nitpick it to death but in all actuality, time travel is not an exact science and different variations are definitely possible and this was quite an original interpretation of it. The story of Greta Wells is an imaginative tale about past lives and the implausible impossibility of “what if”.

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Audiobook Review – The Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff

August 2, 2013 Bonnie Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 3 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 Tao of Pooh by Benjamin HoffThe Tao of Pooh by Benjamin Hoff
Narrator: Simon Vance
Published by Tantor Media on January 23rd 2012 (first published 1982)
Length: 2 hrs and 46 mins
Genres: Non-Fiction, Philosophy
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Publisher
Amazon
Goodreads


five-stars

Winnie-the-Pooh has a certain Way about him, a way of doing things that has made him the world's most beloved bear. In The Tao of Pooh, Benjamin Hoff shows that Pooh's Way is amazingly consistent with the principles of living envisioned by the Chinese founders of Taoism. The author's explanation of Taoism through Pooh, and Pooh through Taoism, shows that this is not simply an ancient and remote philosophy but something you can use, here and now.And what is Taoism? It's really very simple. It calls for living without preconceived ideas about how life should be lived-but it's not a preconception of how life-it's.... Well, you'd do better to listen to this book, and listen to Pooh, if you really want to find out.

“…the basic Taoism that we are concerned with here is simply a particular way of appreciating, learning from, and working with whatever happens in everyday life. From the Taoist point of view, the natural result of this harmonious way of living is happiness.”

There are some things that I’ve accepted that my brain is just not built to understand. Calculus and Economics are a couple of examples. But the one shining example is Philosophy. My freshman year of college I signed up for Philosophy 101 but I knew right from the start I was going to have difficulty. Most people would have stuck it out and studied super hard, but I? Timed it just right and booked it out of there when the teacher’s back was turned to the class. Yes. I am a coward. So suffice it to say, Philosophy and I don’t have a good track record. But if my Philosophy professor spoke of Philosophy (and maybe incorporated some Pooh-isms into his lecture) as Benjamin Hoff does in ‘The Tao of Pooh’ I think I would have lasted more than 10 minutes.

‘You’d be surprised how many people violate this simple principle every day of their lives and try to fit square pegs into round holes, ignoring the clear reality that Things Are As They Are.’

The Tao of Pooh discusses many Taoist principals by relating them to the characters from Winnie the Pooh. Winnie the Pooh symbolizes the Taoist ideal of a still and calm mind and his ability to accomplish tasks “effortlessly” and is a true personification of the Taoist foundation. At heart ‘The Tao of Pooh’ manages to be a simplified and practical introduction into the ideals of Taoism and how to go about incorporating them into your daily lives in order to change things for the better.

‘You can’t save time. You can only spend it, but you can spend it wisely or foolishly.’

While I had already read this book years past, the narrator of this audiobook was perfection and truly made this book even more spectacular. I had the pleasure of listening to Winnie-the-Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner on audio (narrated by Peter Dennis) and I must say that Simon Vance did an incredible job with the different voices of Pooh, Piglet, Eeyore and the rest of the gang from The Hundred Acre Wood. This production was nominated for an Audie in the Solo Narration—Male category and is in my opinion completely deserving of the nomination.

‘The wise know their limitations; the foolish do not.’

While ‘The Tao of Pooh’ may not be the most profound study in Philosophy or Taoism, it makes it clear and concise and thoroughly enlightening.

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Book Review – Touch by Alexi Zentner

August 1, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 4 Comments

Book Review – Touch by Alexi ZentnerTouch by Alexi Zentner
Published by W. W. Norton & Company on April 30th 2012
Pages: 272
Genres: Canada, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Romance
Format: Paperback
Source: Purchased
Amazon
Goodreads


one-star

"A breathtaking debut . . . filled with ghosts and demons who lurk in the Canadian north woods." —Andrew Abrahams, People

On the eve of his mother’s death, Stephen comes home to Sawgamet, a logging town where the dangers of working in the cuts are overshadowed by the dark mysteries and magic lurking in the woods. Thirty years after the mythical summer his grandfather returned to town on a quixotic search for his dead wife, Stephen confronts the painful losses in his own life.

It’s funny, I usually start out my reviews with a short little blurb of my own just rehashing the particulars of the story. With ‘Touch’ though, this story was so all over the place that I can’t adequately explain it’s basis; it simply eludes me. The official summary feels deceiving and makes it sound ripe with potential… but it never lived up it, that’s for sure. I truly feel as if I’ve been hoodwinked. I blame the stunning cover! *shakes fist* But honestly, I recall going through this magical realism stage and added practically every book tagged as such. This is one of them. I’m thinking that if the author isn’t Sarah Addison Allen, then I apparently don’t care much for magical realism.

It should be said that according to the Reading Group Discussion questions (yeah, I read them in hopes that it would clarify some things. I was wrong) this is considered more along the lines of mythical realism as it incorporates Inuit mythology. While I could say that the incorporation of mythological elements may give it a smidgen of credibility in comparison to strange magical stuff happening for no apparent reason, it was a poorly managed addition to the story. The story is centered around this small town in the Canadian wilderness which came into existence only after gold was discovered. It’s a story about survival. But then out of nowhere some strange creature would pop up and it was like mental whiplash. Like the mahaha (actual creatures name, I wasn’t just laughing):

“They tickle you until all your breath is gone. Leave you dead, but with a smile.”

Holy freaky shit. That’s the stuff of nightmares. But I was intrigued and wanted to know more so I googled this scary beasty with the funny name. The page I found described the mahaha in basically the exact same way the author did in the book. Like it was copied. And that kind of killed the cool out of it. To me, magical realism IS the story, it’s incorporated and intertwined into the very fabric of the story. But all the magical elements in Touch felt like a strange and ill-fitting addition that was added as an afterthought to an otherwise contemporary tale of survival.

The writing style itself, apart from the actual story, was lacking a much needed finesse. The tale was not linear and bounced all over the place without any indication as to whether we were back in the present tense or still being told the story of the past. The point of view was a poor choice as well. The grandson is the narrator retelling his grandfather’s story. Why not just have the grandfather tell his own story? Even though the grandfather told him his story it seemed unlikely that he would know as many details as he did. There were also strange leaps to other characters and telling the story through there eyes which definitely made it implausible as his grandfather wasn’t even present in those instances.

While the writing reflected definite potential, it was too unpolished for me to enjoy. I can’t remember the last time (if ever) I finished a novel and honestly had absolutely no clue the purpose or meaning of it. So much of this story was too farcical in its inconceivability for me to garner any sort of entertainment. Many people have lauded this book for it’s eerie, haunting qualities but ultimately this left me chilled for all the wrong reasons.

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Book Review – Winter’s Bone by Daniel Woodrell

July 27, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 6 Comments

Book Review – Winter’s Bone by Daniel WoodrellWinter's Bone by Daniel Woodrell
Published by Back Bay Books on July 11th 2007
Pages: 225
Genres: Contemporary, Mystery, Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads


four-half-stars

Meet Ree Dolly -- not since Mattie Ross stormed her way through Arkansas in True Grit has a young girl so fiercely defended her loved ones. Sixteen-year-old Ree Dolly has grown up in the harsh poverty of the Ozarks and belongs to a large extended family. On a bitterly cold day, Ree, who takes care of her two younger brothers as well as her mother, learns that her father has skipped bail. If he fails to appear for his upcoming court date on charges of cooking crystal meth, his family will lose their house, the only security they have. Winter's Bone is the story of Ree's quest to bring her father back, alive or dead. Her goal had been to leave her messy world behind and join the army, where "everybody had to help keep things clean." But her father's disappearance forces her to first take on the outlaw world of the Dolly family. Ree's plan is elemental and direct: find her father, teach her little brothers how to fend for themselves, and escape a downward spiral of misery. Asking questions of the rough Dolly clan can be a fatal mistake, but Ree perseveres. Her courage and purity of spirit make her a truly compelling figure. She learns that what she had long considered to be the burdens imposed on her by her family are, in fact, the responsibilities that give meaning and direction to her life. Her story is made palpable by Woodrell, who is "that infrequent thing, a born writer" (Philadelphia Inquirer).

‘You got to be ready to die every day – then you got a chance.’

Ree Dolly is a sixteen year old girl living in the Ozarks and has been burdened with a responsibility that has forced maturity upon her at an early age. Her mother is crazy and can no longer care for her two younger brothers and with her dad missing she’s the only one left to do it. When the loss of their house becomes a threat, Ree is forced to reach out to the Dolly clan; blood relatives, but not ones you ever want to be in the debt of.

‘Long, dark, and lovely she had been, in those days before her mind broke and the parts scattered and she let them go.’

Ree was such an incredibly strong heroine, but wouldn’t ever recognize how weighty her actions are simply because she was doing what had to be done. Her story of survival is a heartbreaking one; growing up in the Ozarks where you’re expected to grow up early and carry your own weight and then later get married and have children of your own. In addition, the community she lives in is known to all as being a center for cooking meth. Ree has different dreams and refuses to settle into the grooves already laid out for her. She intends to join the army and make something of herself, but this dream impossible with no one else to care for her brothers, so it becomes vital for her future to find her father.

‘Fading light buttered the ridges until shadows licked them clean and they were lost to nightfall.’

The writing was exquisitely rendered. Bleak. Dismal. Lugubrious. Just a few words best to describe this small yet substantial story. Daniel Woodrell is unrestrained in his depiction of this Ozark community and just how harsh and desolate parts of this world can be. This may be a story of fiction, yet it’s still based on fact as people live like this to this day. It really puts it into perspective the luxuries that many of us take for granted each and every day.

Winter’s Bone is a dreary story that somehow manages to still radiate hope with an incredibly memorable heroine. Recommended for fans of Cormac McCarthy and Donald Ray Pollock.

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Early Review – Parasite (Parasitology #1) by Mira Grant

July 26, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, 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.

Early Review – Parasite (Parasitology #1) by Mira GrantParasite by Mira Grant
Series: Parasitology #1
Published by Orbit on October 29th 2013
Pages: 5112
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Horror, Sci-fi, Thriller
Format: eARC
Source: the Publisher
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Feed, Deadline, Countdown: A Newsflesh Novella

three-stars

A decade in the future, humanity thrives in the absence of sickness and disease.

We owe our good health to a humble parasite - a genetically engineered tapeworm developed by the pioneering SymboGen Corporation. When implanted, the tapeworm protects us from illness, boosts our immune system - even secretes designer drugs. It's been successful beyond the scientists' wildest dreams. Now, years on, almost every human being has a SymboGen tapeworm living within them.

But these parasites are getting restless. They want their own lives...and will do anything to get them.

“There’s one more good thing about being the girl who lived because her genetically engineered tapeworm refused to let her die: I lived. That made everything else possible. Everything else in the world.”

In the not so distant future, SymboGen Corporation has developed a genetically modified tapeworm that is designed to replace your daily medications/vitamins and keep you healthier than normal. SymboGen’s marketing of the tapeworm has been so successful that almost every single human on Earth has one. When a sickness begins to spread rapidly, it becomes clear that the tapeworms are no longer performing their assigned duties… but what is to blame?

“Human and implant fit together like they’d been designed for one another. In a very real way, they had been.” – Dr. Steven Banks

What worked really well in Parasite was the obvious research behind parasites and the science regarding them that was conducted. It didn’t always make complete sense and I’m not positive that all details were completely accurate but it felt for the most part legitimate. It started off feeling very sci-fi horror and was definitely creepy unfortunately did come off in the end like a cheesy sci-fi movie but it was still well done.

What ended up being a big disappointment were the various plot holes and inconsistencies that I noticed throughout the novel.

“We’ve been over this before. I have no memory of the accident itself. The first thing I remember is waking up in the hospital, surrounded by strangers.”

The main character Sal was involved in a car accident and after 10 days she woke up from her coma yet those were her first memories. She couldn’t remember being involved in the accident, she couldn’t remember her own name, she even had to relearn how to speak and write and understand English. She was practically a newborn baby.

Major Plot Hole: If she doesn’t remember anything until she woke up in the hospital, that doesn’t explain why does she have such a strong fear of cars? She was involved in a car accident so any normal person waking up would have developed this fear but she stated several times that her first memory was waking up in the hospital. Her fear is far too great to have simply been a byproduct of what someone told her happened to her.

I had a few other examples but I felt they were too spoilery to be included. I will say, one in particular was given a single sentence as back-story to explain which I didn’t feel was sufficient information and it seemed too coincidental.

Parasite is incredibly similar to Mira Grant’s other popular series, the Newsflesh Trilogy. Usually I would follow that up with “fans of Newsflesh will love this” however, I found this to actually be a fault as the similarities between the two were just too similar. The plot: simply exchange zombies for parasites/tapeworms and you had the same premise. Also, the Newsflesh trilogy dealt with corrupt politicians where Parasite dealt with corrupt doctors, scientists and greedy corporations. The ending also felt fairly similar in scope but obviously I won’t go into detail regarding that.

In regards to the ending, this was my biggest issue. The story builds in intensity and you’re left anticipating a spectacular ending, however, the ending ended up being something I had figured out from the very first chapter so it was a huge letdown more than anything. (And I don’t think I made a lucky guess, I thought this was something that was fairly obvious from the very beginning).

While Parasite was exciting and kept me on the edge of my seat, there was an absence of consistency and the writing felt stilted and choppy. There was a much-needed flow that this was lacking and I think it attributed to the plot holes. I believe maybe too much material was trying to be covered that necessary answers weren’t given when they should have been. Of course I read an early version of the book so I can only hope that maybe it gets a bit more polished before publication.

While Parasite didn’t capture my heart like the Newsflesh Trilogy did, this is still an entertaining and horrific sci-fi read that will leave you squirming.

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Book Review – The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock

July 25, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 5 Comments

Book Review – The Devil All the Time by Donald Ray PollockThe Devil All the Time by Donald Ray Pollock
Published by Doubleday on July 12th 2011
Pages: 261
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: The Heavenly Table

five-stars

In The Devil All the Time, Donald Ray Pollock has written a novel that marries the twisted intensity of Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers with the religious and Gothic over­tones of Flannery O’Connor at her most haunting.

Set in rural southern Ohio and West Virginia, The Devil All the Time follows a cast of compelling and bizarre characters from the end of World War II to the 1960s. There’s Willard Russell, tormented veteran of the carnage in the South Pacific, who can’t save his beautiful wife, Charlotte, from an agonizing death by cancer no matter how much sacrifi­cial blood he pours on his “prayer log.” There’s Carl and Sandy Henderson, a husband-and-wife team of serial kill­ers, who troll America’s highways searching for suitable models to photograph and exterminate. There’s the spider-handling preacher Roy and his crippled virtuoso-guitar-playing sidekick, Theodore, running from the law. And caught in the middle of all this is Arvin Eugene Russell, Willard and Charlotte’s orphaned son, who grows up to be a good but also violent man in his own right.

Donald Ray Pollock braids his plotlines into a taut narrative that will leave readers astonished and deeply moved. With his first novel, he proves himself a master storyteller in the grittiest and most uncompromising American grain.

“…rich people did fine and dandy as long as things were going their way, but the minute the shit hit the fan, they fell apart like paper dolls left out in the rain.”

The Devil All the Time spans decades and showcases several unforgettable individuals. We’re first introduced to Willard Russell, an extremely religious man who sacrifices animals to his ‘prayer log’ in hopes that it will keep the cancer from taking his wife. His son, Arvin, is irrevocably changed by this period of his life. We’re also introduced to a preacher that believes he possesses the ability to bring people back to life, but when he kills and his ability abandons him he is forced to flee. And lastly is the couple that travel the country picking up hitchhikers, killing them brutally, and taking pictures as mementos.

‘Only in the presence of death could he feel the presence of something like God.’

The Devil All the Time is comprised of some of the most perverse characters I’ve likely ever read. Incredibly violent and brash in both characters and the story itself. There is suicide and rape and several brutal killings of both humans and animals but it somehow manages to not ever get to the point of gratuitous; rather, the actions of these individuals were conducted with a casualness and almost flippant manner that was fitting for them.

The desperation and overall mindset of these individuals in this small backwoods town (Knockemstiff, Ohio – which is actually a real town where Donald Ray Pollock himself grew up) was astounding. No one seemed to have big life plans, they all seemed to be extremely simple people. Except for the perverse ones.

‘…he pulled the trigger and a wad of wet, gray brains show out the other side of the college boy’s head. After he fell over, blood pooled in the sockets of his eyeballs like little lakes of fire…’

I’m not usually one for religious stories but these were tantalizing yet so shocking; my eyes were likely the size of dinner plates every time I was reading. It was quite like watching a train wreck, I couldn’t have torn my eyes away even if I tried (or wanted to). These seemingly unconnected story lines come together in a way that surely shocked the hell out of me. This was a completely enthralling story, I hope we can expect more from Mr. Pollock. Big thanks to Rory for the push to finally read this.

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Book Review – The Tao of Martha by Jen Lancaster

July 23, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2013 0 Comments

Book Review – The Tao of Martha by Jen LancasterThe Tao of Martha: My Year of LIVING; Or, Why I'm Never Getting All That Glitter Off of the Dog by Jen Lancaster
Published by NAL on June 4th 2013
Pages: 335
Genres: Funny-ha-ha, Memoir, Non-Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: Here I Go Again

two-half-stars

One would think that with Jen Lancaster’s impressive list of bestselling self-improvement memoirs—Bitter Is the New Black; Bright Lights, Big Ass; Such a Pretty Fat; Pretty in Plaid; My Fair Lazy; and Jeneration X—that she would have it all together by now.

One would be wrong.

Jen’s still a little rough around the edges. Suffice it to say, she’s no Martha Stewart. And that is exactly why Jen is going to Martha up and live her life according to the advice of America’s overachieving older sister—the woman who turns lemons into lavender-infused lemonade.

By immersing herself in Martha’s media empire, Jen will embark on a yearlong quest to take herself, her house, her husband (and maybe even her pets) to the next level—from closet organization to craft making, from party planning to kitchen prep.

Maybe Jen can go four days without giving herself food poisoning if she follows Martha’s dictates on proper storage....Maybe she can grow closer to her girlfriends by taking up their boring-ass hobbies like knitting and sewing.…Maybe she can finally rid her workout clothes of meatball stains by using Martha’s laundry tips.… Maybe she can create a more meaningful anniversary celebration than just getting drunk in the pool with her husband....again. And maybe, just maybe, she’ll discover that the key to happiness does, in fact, lie in Martha’s perfectly arranged cupboards and artfully displayed charcuterie platters.

‘…ready or not, happiness, here I come.’

Organization = happiness? That’s what Jen Lancaster has set out to prove. Her life is in dire need of some organization not just within her house but in her life in general and she thinks that in doing so she’ll be less stressful and have more happiness. She decides to emulate the Queen of Organization: Martha Stewart. The Tao of Martha is her personal accounting of incorporating Martha’s ideals into her daily life, both when it goes right and when it goes horribly wrong.

Having read all of Jen’s memoirs, it’s become a requirement to pick any new ones up even if they have steadily declined over the years. I’m thinking it’s a combination of lack of new material that’s actually worth writing about and a dramatic change in lifestyle from what we originally saw in her first memoir ‘Bitter is the New Black’. In ‘Bitter’, Jen is a much more relatable person as she’s struggling to survive as her and her husband both are unemployed. With each memoir she is slowly transforming into the person who talks only of her cleaning ladies, monumentally expensive landscaping plans and her shopping excursions to affluent stores that I couldn’t even afford to breathe the air of. While the writing still manages to sustain (somewhat) the snark that we’ve all come to know and love, the stories have become achingly superficial. Prime example:

‘Shoot, I haven’t even reserved an organic turkey yet! (“I’ll take ‘The Most OverPrivileged First-World Complain to Ever Be Uttered’ for a hundred, Alec!”)’

Admitting that you’re being shallow still doesn’t make it funny.

While there were a few laugh out loud moments, I found the majority of ‘Tao’ to be incredibly boring. Early in the beginning there’s a 7+ page accounting of her cleaning her desk which includes an itemized description of everything she had stored from over the years. (Considering she just moved/bought her house a few years ago, all this excessive garbage she dragged to the new house makes it even less funny. Like the broken wine glass shards. Really?) One thing I’ve always loved about her memoirs is how each chapter is a story in and of itself but in ‘Tao’, again, wondering if she was just running out of material, there were several stories that lacked any sort of point and entertainment value (and a few stories that were entirely way too personal and included info I would rather just not know). Like the chapter where we receive entirely way too much info regarding her digestive system. Or the chapter where she discusses her massive love for zucchini for several pages. Or the bit how she’s attempting to figure out why her roses are dying when her friend points out that she probably shouldn’t be watering them with a high pressure hose (duh?)

While the funnies were lacking in consistency, this was still a fun and easy read that also managed to teach me a few things:
-15 pounds of Easter candy for 9 kids = bad math.
-When gardening make sure you don’t wear your older underwear so ticks can’t crawl up and attach themselves to your lady-parts.
-If I start stocking up on emergency rations, six jars of marshmallow fluff is not essential.
-If my doctor ever prescribes me Ambien, I’m chaining myself to the bed.

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Early Review – Hideous Love by Stephanie Hemphill

July 20, 2013 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013, YA 5 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 – Hideous Love by Stephanie HemphillHideous Love by Stephanie Hemphill
Published by Balzer + Bray on October 1st 2013
Pages: 320
Genres: Fairy-Tales/Retellings, Historical Fiction, Romance
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads


one-star

From award-winning author Stephanie Hemphill comes the fascinating story of Mary Shelley, a brilliant teenager who wrote one of the greatest literary masterpieces of all time: Frankenstein.

An all-consuming love affair.

A family torn apart by scandal.

A young author on the brink of greatness.

Hideous Love is the fascinating story of Gothic novelist Mary Shelley, who as a teen girl fled her restrictive home only to find herself in the shadow of a brilliant but moody boyfriend, famed poet Percy Shelley. It is the story of the mastermind behind one of the most iconic figures in all of literature: a monster constructed out of dead bodies and brought to life by the tragic Dr. Frankenstein.

Mary wrote Frankenstein at the age of nineteen, but inspiration for the monster came from her life-the atmospheric European settings she visited, the dramas swirling around her, and the stimulating philosophical discussions with the greatest minds of the period, like her close friend, Lord Byron.

This luminous verse novel from award-winning author Stephanie Hemphill reveals how Mary Shelley became one of the most celebrated authors in history.

‘November brightens my spirit
as I let go my fears
and agree to travel
to London to be with my Shelley.
I visit Skinner Street
and the Hunts.
Also History of a Six Weeks Tour,
my first book, appears this month,
again with an anonymous author.’

*snore*…

I didn’t go into this surprised that this was verse and immediately discount it. I adore novels written in verse (well, as long as they’re well done.) When done right, novels written in verse have the ability to evoke such beautiful emotion, flawlessly. Verse is essentially narrative poetry: beautiful words that flow, words that can hold you captive in their power, but words that also tell a tale.

I understand that verse is the next big writing style, but verse writing requires a certain finesse. You’re not just telling a tale and you can’t take your sentences, chop them up into tiny bits and format them to appear as poetry and call it verse. To me, this is exactly what happened with Hideous Love. The writing was choppy and stilted and didn’t allow me to connect with the story. It also lacked any sort of emotion, which is the most vital and important part of a verse novel. There were no beautiful descriptive passages, it was simply a long line of ‘this happened, then this happened, then this, and now that.’

Suffice it to say, I was extremely disappointed. I think choosing to write this novel in verse was a huge decision and definitely the wrong one. Unfortunately, I don’t recommend this one at all.

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Early Review – More Than This by Patrick Ness

July 19, 2013 Bonnie Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2013, YA 3 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 – More Than This by Patrick NessMore Than This by Patrick Ness
Published by Candlewick Press on September 10th 2013
Pages: 480
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic, Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon
Goodreads

Also by this author: A Monster Calls

four-stars

From two-time Carnegie Medal winner Patrick Ness comes an enthralling and provocative new novel chronicling the life — or perhaps afterlife — of a teen trapped in a crumbling, abandoned world.

A boy named Seth drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments, losing his life as the pounding sea claims him. But then he wakes. He is naked, thirsty, starving. But alive. How is that possible? He remembers dying, his bones breaking, his skull dashed upon the rocks. So how is he here? And where is this place? It looks like the suburban English town where he lived as a child, before an unthinkable tragedy happened and his family moved to America. But the neighborhood around his old house is overgrown, covered in dust, and completely abandoned. What’s going on? And why is it that whenever he closes his eyes, he falls prey to vivid, agonizing memories that seem more real than the world around him? Seth begins a search for answers, hoping that he might not be alone, that this might not be the hell he fears it to be, that there might be more than just this. . .

‘Haven’t you ever felt like there had to be more? Like there’s more out there somewhere, just beyond your grasp, and if you could only get to it…’

Imagine you wake up unaware of where you are or how you got there but the last thing you remember is dying. You died, yet somehow you didn’t because you’re obviously still alive, right? But imagine that you wake up in a world that seems strange; off somehow. And you can’t find a single soul, it’s as if the world has been completely emptied leaving only you. This is the situation Seth finds himself in.’He can feel himself teetering again, an abyss of confusion and despair looking right back at him, threatening to swallow him if he so much as glances at it.’This is such an engrossing tale. I was riveted and couldn’t put this down. I went into this with a completely different set of expectations but they were completely dashed. The beginning of this tale had the same feel of quiet desolation that The Road has and I was enthralled, but Ness turned this into a total game. Just when you think you finally have a grasp on what’s really going on he not only removes some vital piece of evidence but completely transforms the landscape. And this happened many, many times. I was still attempting to get a good grasp on what was truly happening with only 5 pages remaining. It’s tagged as YA but involves such a sophisticated storyline that makes it vastly different than anything out there. I can’t think of a single book to compare it to and that’s a wonderful thing. I hope that the YA designation doesn’t deter typical adult readers. I hope that the philosophical designation doesn’t deter YA readers. Suffice it to say, this book needs no designation and is something that I recommend to all for the mind-boggling experience this entails.’Real life is only ever just real life. Messy. What it means depends on how you look at it. The only thing you’ve got to do is find a way to live there.”More Than This’ is an incredibly multi-layered and surprisingly philosophical story about how your outlook and interpretation on life has the power to change…everything. It’s about living life and realizing that there is always something more to live for and always… more than this.

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Book Tour Review – The Curiosity by Stephen Kiernan

July 18, 2013 Bonnie Adult, Book Reviews, Book Tour, Read in 2013, TLC Book Tours 0 Comments

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

Book Tour Review – The Curiosity by Stephen KiernanThe Curiosity by Stephen P. Kiernan
Published by William Morrow on July 9th 2013
Pages: 448
Genres: Romance, Sci-fi
Format: ARC
Source: TLC Book Tours
Amazon
Goodreads


three-half-stars

Michael Crichton meets The Time Traveler's Wife in this powerful debut novel in which a man, frozen in the Arctic ice for more than a century, awakens in the present day.

Dr. Kate Philo and her scientific exploration team make a breathtaking discovery in the Arctic: the body of a man buried deep in the ice. As a scientist in a groundbreaking project run by the egocentric and paranoid Erastus Carthage, Kate has brought small creatures-plankton, krill, shrimp-"back to life." Never have the team's methods been attempted on a large life form.

Heedless of the consequences, Carthage orders that the frozen man be brought back to the lab in Boston, and reanimated. As the man begins to regain his memories, the team learns that he was-is-a judge, Jeremiah Rice, and the last thing he remembers is falling overboard into the Arctic Ocean in 1906. When news of the Lazarus Project and Jeremiah Rice breaks, it ignites a media firestorm and massive protests by religious fundamentalists.

Thrown together by circumstances beyond their control, Kate and Jeremiah grow closer. But the clock is ticking and Jeremiah's new life is slipping away. With Carthage planning to exploit Jeremiah while he can, Kate must decide how far she is willing to go to protect the man she has come to love.

A gripping, poignant, and thoroughly original thriller, Stephen Kiernan's provocative debut novel raises disturbing questions about the very nature of life and humanity-man as a scientific subject, as a tabloid plaything, as a living being: A curiosity.

‘And what is life but a little row in a small boat, every moment leaving what we know, every stroke unable to see where we are headed?’

The Curiosity tells the tale of a scientific voyage to the Arctic with the intent to find various sea creatures that died encased in ice. Possessing the ability to bring plankton “back to life” the scientists intend to continue studying this process in hopes to actually keep them alive for extended periods of time. Everything changes when they find a man frozen deep in the ice instead.

This story is told from various different points of view, which doesn’t always work for me but was extremely well done in this case. Each individual has a very distinctive voice and character. Daniel Dixon is a very stereotypical, sleazy-type reporter in charge of covering the latest news of the experiment. Erastus Carthage is the boss behind the research and is an incredibly snobby and arrogant man. Kate Philo is one of the head scientists and one of the only people to form a bond with Jeremiah. Jeremiah was born in 1868 and while on an Arctic voyage was pitched overboard and was presumed dead until he was found frozen in ice over a century later.

This was an immensely well-written tale, that was an absolute pleasure to read. The words had a beautiful flow to them and his descriptions were quite impeccable. What I found especially talented was how the author managed to include much of the necessary back story on his characters without it being a massive info-dump. He managed to weave their past into the story without evidence of the stitches.

‘When I pause in my exertions to understand the here and now, and contemplate the severing of that kindness, that mercy, the ache is so acute I half expect to see some place on myself that is bleeding.’

In addition to the beauty of the words and his writing style in general, the story itself was brilliant and original. A man was found encased in ice, had been there for over a century and scientists possessed the ability to bring him back to life. Not only did they restart his heart but he inevitably woke up and began his life anew. The politics surrounding his return to the life of the living was extensive and did become taxing after a while but still managed to ring true for how a situation such as this would be handled in the world today.

Although everything was explained well in a scientific sense, I can’t help but feel it wasn’t given a proper ending. It’s such an ambitious and thrilling plot I felt it was leading up to something that never quite transpired. The final chapter does serve as a sufficient ending, but when questions that arose are only given single sentence answers I found myself hoping for more. Despite this, I am immensely glad to have had the opportunity to read this. The Curiosity is an incredibly unique mix of science, romance, and the paths that simple curiosity takes us in life.

dvd-pearl
This post was a part of the The Curiosity blog tour.
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