Category: Read in 2015

Book Review – Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker

Posted December 18, 2015 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2015 / 2 Comments

Book Review – Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise ParkerDear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker
Published by Scribner on November 10th 2015
Pages: 240
Genres: Literary Fiction, Memoir, Non-Fiction
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


A wonderfully unconventional literary debut from the award-winning actress Mary-Louise Parker.

An extraordinary literary work, Dear Mr. You renders the singular arc of a woman’s life through letters Mary-Louise Parker composes to the men, real and hypothetical, who have informed the person she is today. Beginning with the grandfather she never knew, the letters range from a missive to the beloved priest from her childhood to remembrances of former lovers to an homage to a firefighter she encountered to a heartfelt communication with the uncle of the infant daughter she adopted. Readers will be amazed by the depth and style of these letters, which reveal the complexity and power to be found in relationships both loving and fraught.

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The thing about books written by celebrities, especially non-fiction stories about their lives, is you have a predisposed idea of who they are as people. This idea can culminate through various ways such as the characters they play in movies/shows or the various stories that gossip magazines publish about them. And while I always felt that Mary Louise-Parker was a fascinating person, Dear Mr. You only made this all the more apparent.

“I wrote about us while you were away in a notebook that eventually saw the end of us, but the last I wrote about that time was in ink; it was a hurried, angry scrawl reading: Time, that cold bastard, with its nearlys and untils. I think, what a shame. Time should weep for having spent me without you.”

It has to be said, but I did not expect Mary Louise-Parker to be as remarkable a writer as she clearly is. I recently stumbled upon an article where she talks about her top ten favorite books and over half of them were poetry collections, so it’s clear where her poetic quality comes from. I read the majority of this book out loud to myself, simply because I wanted to slow down my normally fast-paced reading to better appreciate this small but stunning story. Her eloquence is something to truly aspire to.

As the title suggests, this is a collection of letters to the men that have in some way shape or form had an impact on her life. There was the occasional letter that was a miss for me, like the obscure one she wrote to a goat named Gem, but the majority of her letters moved me to unforeseen levels of emotion. Her letters run the gamut of emotions. The letter to Oyster Picker, recounting her father’s final moments on this Earth brought me to tears. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but I sobbed quietly, reading her profound words and then going back to re-read certain passages even though it was well past my bedtime. But there were also laughs, my favorite being the letter to her Former Boyfriend where she describes him eating all the guacamole off her plate and seething with rage she calmly picked up a fork and stabbed him through the hand. I’m not doing it justice but it truly was hilarious; I’m still chuckling in remembrance as I write this.

Parker has led a most fascinating life, full of delightful people, and it was a real treat being granted this glimpse into her life. At the end of this collection, she recollects how her father made her promise him she would always keep writing and I do hope that promise is fulfilled. It would be fantastic to see her recount her life again in letters, with a focus on the women instead. Bottom line, I do hope this isn’t the last we haven’t seen of Parker in the literary world.

“I love that sensation, when you think, this is too good, I’ll catch up with everyone else later. You just have to take in the truth of that expanse a few more seconds before it changes and becomes something else entirely, or before you do.”


Book Review – Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

Posted December 12, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA / 0 Comments

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

Book Review – Illuminae (The Illuminae Files #1) by Amie Kaufman & Jay KristoffIlluminae by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Published by Knopf Books for Young Readers on October 20th 2015
Pages: 608
Genres: Sci-fi
Format: ARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Also by this author: Unearthed, Lifel1k3


For fans of Marie Lu comes the first book in an epic series that bends the sci-fi genre into a new dimension.

This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded.
The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than a speck at the edge of the universe. Now with enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to evacuate with a hostile warship in hot pursuit.

But their problems are just getting started. A plague has broken out and is mutating with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a web of data to find the truth, it’s clear the only person who can help her is the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again.
Told through a fascinating dossier of hacked documents—including emails, maps, files, IMs, medical reports, interviews, and more—Illuminae is the first book in a heart-stopping trilogy about lives interrupted, the price of truth, and the courage of everyday heroes.

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 The day started off like any other day, except for the fact that Kady just broke up with her boyfriend Ezra. Oh, and also the fact that their planet was invaded that afternoon by corporate rival, BeiTech Industries, after it was discovered that they were operating an illegal mining colony. The frantic evacuation of their planet forces the duo back together temporarily as they flee from certain death. The residents succeed in launching three ships to get as many individuals to safety as possible, but the tension doesn’t relent as there’s a BeiTech dreadnought hot on their heels. To make matters worse, there’s a virus circulating quickly on board and issues with Alexander’s artificial intelligence system. Kady takes it upon herself to hack into the ships computer system in order to find out what’s going on because of the ongoing secrecy. What she finds out fails to inspire hope, but she’s willing to do what must be done in order to survive.

The first thing you need to know about Illuminae is that it’s told in epistolary form. Not just your basic journal entries à la Georgia Nicholson either, but is instead a full spectrum combination of all possible epistolary formats: emails, interview transcripts, memos, security footage, pseudo-Wikipedia pages, and most especially instant messages. With that kind of formatting, I am absolutely 100% the targeted reader and find this method of storytelling to be oh so much fun. The blend of multiple genres only increased the entertainment. Science Fiction, Romance, Horror, plus some form of rampant plague and ZOMBIES. Well. I would have thought it’d be too much, but it was fantastic. This is one page-turning thrill-ride that I did not want to get off of. There are twists and turns that were constantly throwing me for a loop, and oh man, my EMOTIONS. I’ll just leave this here and let you non-readers try to ponder the meaning.

There was an immense amount of hype surrounding this one, including starred reviews from both Publishers Weekly and Kirkus which immediately makes me impressed before I’ve even picked up the book. But admittedly, I was nervous. I find myself in the black sheep camp more often than not and my hopes were high with this one. I thoroughly enjoyed this one, with reservations, as the ending felt like an odd piece of the puzzle. View Spoiler » Even with my reservations, this was a thoroughly engrossing adventure and I will most definitely be picking up the next installment in hopes of getting some answers to my lingering questions.


Early Review – The Dirt on Ninth Grave (Charley Davidson #9) by Darynda Jones

Posted December 10, 2015 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2015 / 2 Comments

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

Early Review – The Dirt on Ninth Grave (Charley Davidson #9) by Darynda JonesThe Dirt on Ninth Grave by Darynda Jones
Series: Charley Davidson,
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 12th 2016
Pages: 336
Genres: Funny-ha-ha, Urban Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Also by this author: First Grave on the Right, For I Have Sinned, Second Grave on the Left


In a small village in New York lives Jane Doe, a girl with no memory of who she is or where she came from. So when she is working at a diner and slowly begins to realize she can see dead people, she's more than a little taken aback. Stranger still are the people entering her life. They seem to know things about her. Things they hide with lies and half-truths. Soon, she senses something far darker. A force that wants to cause her harm, she is sure of it. Her saving grace comes in the form of a new friend she feels she can confide in and the fry cook, a devastatingly handsome man whose smile is breathtaking and touch is scalding. He stays close, and she almost feels safe with him around.

But no one can outrun their past, and the more lies that swirl around her—even from her new and trusted friends—the more disoriented she becomes, until she is confronted by a man who claims to have been sent to kill her. Sent by the darkest force in the universe. A force that absolutely will not stop until she is dead. Thankfully, she has a Rottweiler. But that doesn't help in her quest to find her identity and recover what she's lost. That will take all her courage and a touch of the power she feels flowing like electricity through her veins. She almost feels sorry for him. The devil in blue jeans. The disarming fry cook who lies with every breath he takes. She will get to the bottom of what he knows if it kills her. Or him. Either way.

Charley Davidson series

First Grave on the Right (Charley Davidson #1) {PurchaseMy Review}
Second Grave on the Left (Charley Davidson, #2) {PurchaseMy Review}
Third Grave Dead Ahead (Charley Davidson, #3) {Purchase}
Fourth Grave Beneath My Feet (Charley Davidson, #4) {PurchaseMy Review}
Fifth Grave Past the Light (Charley Davidson, #5) {PurchaseMy Review}
Sixth Grave on the Edge (Charley Davidson, #6) {PurchaseMy Review}
Seventh Grave and No Body (Charley Davidson, #7) {Purchase}
Eighth Grave After Dark (Charley Davidson, #8) {Purchase}

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Picking up where Eighth Grave After Dark leaves off, Charley has finally given birth to Beep, has already had to part with her, and has learned her true name. As feared, learning her true name causes Charley to lose control of her powers and she loses her memory completely and ends up in an alley in Sleepy Hollow, New York with no idea who she is. Now responding to the name of Jane, Jane Doe, she works as a waitress at a local diner. Fortunately, though she’s not alone, as she has a new best friend named Cookie and a raging attraction to the new cook named Reyes.

Well, I guess it was probable that I’d find a Charley Davidson story to be sort of ‘meh’ no matter how much I adore this series. After that brutal cliffhanger from Eighth Grave After Dark, I was dying to get my hands on this next installment. At first, I relished the change of pace and getting reacquainted in a new way to the characters we’ve already grown to know and love. We also got to see Charley, or Jane rather, fall in love again with Reyes with a new set of eyes seeing him for truly what he is. I loved that even though Jane has no idea about who or what she is, she still found herself embroiled in the mysteries of the town, often failing to think of her own safety out of the desire to protect the innocents.

I enjoyed those aspects of the story, but when it all boils down, there wasn’t nearly enough advancement of the fundamental storyline. I find the mythology and the foretold battle all extremely fascinating and previous installments have really been amping up the intensity. The Dirt on Ninth Grave was a vast change of pace and while I liked it at first, I wasn’t anticipating that it would last the entirety of the book. As I feared, the change of pace finally switched back to what I’ve come to expect in the final 30 pages or so. Honestly, though, the turmoil that takes place and the shocking revelations made it all worthwhile in the end. Darynda Jones once again left me thrilled with anticipation for the next book where the stakes have never been higher.


Book Review – The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett

Posted December 4, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA / 2 Comments

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

Book Review – The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn BennettThe Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett
Published by Feiwel & Friends on November 3rd 2015
Pages: 304
Genres: Contemporary, Mental Illness
Format: eARC
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Also by this author: Binding the Shadows, Banishing the Dark


A mysterious graffiti artist, an anatomy-obsessed artist, and a night bus that will bring the two together.

Artist Beatrix Adams knows exactly how she's spending the summer before her senior year. Determined to follow in Da Vinci's footsteps, she's ready to tackle the one thing that will give her an advantage in a museum-sponsored scholarship contest: drawing actual cadavers. But when she tries to sneak her way into the hospital's Willed Body program and misses the last metro train home, she meets a boy who turns her summer plans upside down.

Jack is charming, wildly attractive . . . and possibly one of San Francisco's most notorious graffiti artists. On midnight buses and city rooftops, Beatrix begins to see who Jack really is—and tries to uncover what he's hiding that leaves him so wounded. But will these secrets come back to haunt him? Or will the skeletons in Beatrix's own family's closet tear them apart?

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The Anatomical Shape of a Heart introduces two uncommon artists that meet one another on the Night Owl bus. Beatrix “Bex” Adams is intent on spending her summer perfecting her scholarship entry, an intricate drawing of a cadaver. Jack Vincent is also an artist, but of the more secretive sort, seeing as his graffiti/art goes up on the walls of buildings all over the city. Bex’s focus from her scholarship entry to Jack and his intriguing nature and otherworldly good looks immediately switches and predictability ensues.

I’m a huge fan of this author and her adult Urban Fantasy series, Arcadia Bell. While I’m not a frequent reader of YA Contemporary I was still anxious to see how Bennett did with the switch to YA. Suffice it to say, it breaks my anatomical heart to not have loved this as much as I had hoped. Initially, this reminded me heavily of Graffiti Moon but I failed to fall for Bex and Jack as much as I fell for Lucy and Ed. So, if you’re looking for another love story + graffiti, this isn’t it. At first, I did love Bex. I loved her tales of kids at school calling her Wednesday Addams because of the way she dressed, her affinity for braids, and naturally because of her similar last name. I loved her quirkiness and her desire to do art that was outside of the norm. I loved her conviction and determination to win the scholarship. I wanted her romance with Jack to not completely devour all things interesting about her, but it did. She transformed into a total manic pixie dream girl with Jack fitting in completely as the manic pixie dream boy.

‘When the jacket stood back up, it grew arms and legs and a face that probably competed with Helen of Troy’s in the ship-launching department.

‘He was a walking figure study in beautiful lines and lean muscle, with miles of dark lashes, and cheekbones that looked strong enough to hold up his entire body.’

There is honestly nothing worse than a heroine waxing poetic about a boys looks,  ad nauseam. A sufficient description without going overboard or sounding like a swoony idiot would have been preferable. So Jack goes around the city of San Francisco in his 1958 Corvette tagging up the place. He has a “retro-rockabilly” look and wears mala beads but claims to be a bad Buddhist. As anticipated, he has a mysterious past where something somber happened but he can’t talk about it because sad.

Then there’s Bex and her sudden obsession with all things Jack. There’s one point in the story where the duo hadn’t been talking because Jack was going through his sad things. A new piece of Jack’s art appears with a single word: ENDURE. Bex begins mulling over the meaning and of course immediately made it all about her.

‘ENDURE. Did it mean anything? Was he expressing something about whatever he was going through? Was it a sign that he was ready to communicate again?’

Oh, come on. His art/graffitti/whatever you want to call it clearly has personal meaning for him and he was doing it long before he met you. The answer is the very definition of the word: to suffer (something painful or difficult) patiently. The whole psuedo-mystery surrounding Jack’s past (including his romantic past) could have all been resolved over a nice, simple heart-to-heart. But that’s too rational to actually happen and where would we get the requisite drama? I don’t know, I don’t mean to hate on it so much but it was all just so predictable, pretentious, and overdone.

But before I morph into a complete asshole, I’m going to end on a happy note and talk about the one thing I did appreciate about this story: the sex-positive message. We have two teen characters that actually make it a point to have a discussion about sex before diving straight in. There’s also a parent that’s open about sex talks and brings home mass quantities of condoms… just in case. View Spoiler »

I’m clearly not the targeted reader and sometimes I feel I do books a disservice by attempting to explore these genres that I don’t typically read, just in an attempt to branch out. Nothing wrong with reading outside of your comfort zone but I think it’s time to accept that YA contemporary love stories are simply not my cup of tea.


Book Review – Cam Girl by Leah Raeder

Posted December 3, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, New Adult, Read in 2015 / 1 Comment

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

Book Review – Cam Girl by Leah RaederCam Girl by Leah Raeder
Published by Atria Books on November 3rd 2015
Pages: 432
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Diiiirrrrrrttyyy
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository

Also by this author: Black Iris


Vada Bergen is broke, the black sheep of her family, and moving a thousand miles away from home for grad school, but she’s got the two things she loves most: her art and her best friend—and sometimes more—Ellis Carraway. Ellis and Vada have a friendship so consuming it’s hard to tell where one girl ends and the other begins. It’s intense. It’s a little codependent. And nothing can tear them apart.

Until an accident on an icy winter road changes everything.

Vada is left deeply scarred, both emotionally and physically. Her once-promising art career is cut short. And Ellis pulls away, unwilling to talk about that night. Everything Vada loved is gone.

She’s got nothing left to lose.

So when she meets some smooth-talking entrepreneurs who offer to set her up as a cam girl, she can’t say no. All Vada has to do is spend a couple hours each night stripping on webcam, and the “tips” come pouring in.

It’s just a kinky escape from reality until a client gets serious. “Blue” is mysterious, alluring, and more interested in Vada’s life than her body. Online, they chat intimately. Blue helps her heal. And he pays well, but he wants her all to himself. No more cam shows. It’s an easy decision: she’s starting to fall for him. But the steamier it gets, the more she craves the real man behind the keyboard. So Vada pops the question:

Can we meet IRL?

Blue agrees, on one condition. A condition that brings back a ghost from her past. Now Vada must confront the devastating secrets she's been running from—those of others, and those she's been keeping from herself...

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‘We fell apart. Broke each other’s hearts and screwed up our friendship. Now I’m adrift, unmoored without her. I keep treading water, looking for land. All I can see is endless blue.’

After Vada Bergen and her best friend Ellis Carraway are in a car accident, Vada slips into a depression after being injured and left with the inability to do the art which gave her life. Vada and Ellis aren’t just best friends, their relationship goes beyond that, but Vada has always struggled to accept her feelings of love towards Ellis. Even so, their bond still can’t withstand the after effects of the crash either and they drift apart. Unable to go back to school since her injury will barely allow her to hold a pencil, Vada chances upon meeting a couple that introduces her to the world of being a cam-girl; performing sexual acts on camera for anonymous strangers for money. She renames herself Morgan and becomes the companies highest earner with her signature move: a silk tie wrapped around her neck.

Morgan performs for strangers with an unwavering emotional detachment, but then one of her clients begins asking for personal one-on-one chats and then finally to meet in real-life. Ellis comes back into her life as well only jumbling her thoughts and feelings further. Vada has to make the decision to take the chance on a man she knows nothing about, or to re-attempt to accept her perplexing feelings for Ellis.

‘This world is so thick with ghosts it’s a wonder anyone can breathe.’

Leah Raeder continues to amaze me with her powerful novels that tackle those difficult subjects that are too often just easier to ignore. In Cam Girl, she tackles depression, gender-identity, same-sex relationships, and she tackles the sex trade. At first glance, you would probably say that that’s likely to be a bit overwhelming, and you wouldn’t be wrong. Raeder manages to handle these various different topics and their multiple facets with ease though. Her lyrical writing style is once again present in all its glory, transforming an ugly subject matter into something beautiful.

The focus on not just same-sex relationships but the confusion Vada felt due to her mother’s insistence she wasn’t really feeling what she knew she was feeling was a tough pill to swallow. Also, the way the sex trade was presented is definitely a hot topic for conversation. It may be because I just read Tricks and Traffick so I struggle to see the sex trade in anything but a negative light, but Vada used her role as a cam girl as a way to regain her confidence in life. It can be argued that this is healthy or not, but I appreciated having a new spin on that topic.

For those who have yet to experience one of Raeder’s books, you should know they get quite dark and extremely graphic. Her characters all possess their own unique darkness which they spill across the pages for you to experience. It doesn’t make her novels easy to read, but they are honest, full of passion, and brings to light those dormant topics that we should all be discussing.

‘This is what they don’t tell you about losing someone: It doesn’t happen once. It happens every day, every moment they’re missing from. You lose them a hundred times between waking and sleep, and even sleep is no respite, because you lose them in your dreams, too.’


Book Review – Traffick (Tricks #2) by Ellen Hopkins

Posted November 21, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA / 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.

Book Review – Traffick (Tricks #2) by Ellen HopkinsTraffick Series: Tricks #2
on November 3rd 2015
Pages: 528
Format: eARC
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


Five teens victimized by sex trafficking try to find their way to a new life in this riveting companion to the New York Times bestselling Tricks from Ellen Hopkins, author of Crank.

In her bestselling novel, Tricks, Ellen Hopkins introduced us to five memorable characters tackling these enormous questions: Eden, the preacher’s daughter who turns tricks in Vegas and is helped into a child prostitution rescue; Seth, the gay farm boy disowned by his father who finds himself without money or resources other than his own body; Whitney, the privileged kid coaxed into the life by a pimp and whose dreams are ruined in a heroin haze; Ginger, who runs away from home with her girlfriend and is arrested for soliciting an undercover cop; and Cody, whose gambling habit forces him into the life, but who is shot and left for dead.

And now, in Traffick, these five are faced with the toughest question of all: Is there a way out?How these five teenagers face the aftermath of their decisions and experiences is the soul of this story that exposes the dark, ferocious underbelly of the child trafficking trade. Heartwrenching and hopeful, Traffick takes us on five separate but intertwined journeys through the painful challenges of recovery, rehabilitation, and renewal to forgiveness and love. All the way home.

‘How am I supposed to stay clean
when the truth of what I’ve done
closes in around me, squeezing
hideous memories from the deep
recesses of my brain […]’

Tricks is a novel that leaves you haunted for a group of incredibly real individuals that wound up in unimaginable situations. It told the story of five individuals: Seth is kicked out of his home after his father finds out he’s gay. Ginger is forced to run away after she’s raped and finds out that her mother collected cash from the experience. Eden is sent to a religious reform camp after her parents discover she has a boyfriend. Cody and his family find themselves in a financial hole after the death of his stepfather and he begins collecting money anyway he can. And Whitney who ends up with an older man simply because he gives her the attention she craves. What’s most shocking is how vastly different their stories are yet how they all seem to wind up in the same situations: selling their bodies in order to survive.

Traffick is their follow-up story that once again forces these same characters to face their demons while giving them the opportunity to find some semblance of a future that none of them ever thought they would live to witness. It’s no doubt a bleak tale but it effectively brings to life the harsh realities of sex trafficking and child prostitution and what many are forced to undergo. It also productively breaks many of the stereotypes surrounding the beliefs regarding how individuals find themselves in these situations. They aren’t all doing this work of their own free will, some are forced into it by intimidation, some do it out of a misguided act of love, and some do it out of sheer desperateness and being unable to do anything else with their lives.

Ellen has said that she worked with rescue groups and survivors of sex trafficking to make this story as honest as possible, and it’s obvious. While Traffick doesn’t give these victims a complete happily ever after, I appreciated it more because it didn’t. What these individuals endured is something that will stay with them eternally and forever change who they are. What this story did do was give these characters, and any individuals that find themselves in similar circumstances, the possibility of hope. Hope that there is a future for them, no matter what, despite their experiences.


Book Review – A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnis

Posted November 20, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA / 4 Comments

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

Book Review – A Madness So Discreet by Mindy McGinnisA Madness So Discreet on October 6th 2015
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


Grace Mae knows madness.

She keeps it locked away, along with her voice, trapped deep inside a brilliant mind that cannot forget horrific family secrets. Those secrets, along with the bulge in her belly, land her in a Boston insane asylum.

When her voice returns in a burst of violence, Grace is banished to the dark cellars, where her mind is discovered by a visiting doctor who dabbles in the new study of criminal psychology. With her keen eyes and sharp memory, Grace will make the perfect assistant at crime scenes. Escaping from Boston to the safety of an ethical Ohio asylum, Grace finds friendship and hope, hints of a life she should have had. But gruesome nights bring Grace and the doctor into the circle of a killer who stalks young women. Grace, continuing to operate under the cloak of madness, must hunt a murderer while she confronts the demons in her own past.

In this beautifully twisted historical thriller, Mindy McGinnis, acclaimed author of Not a Drop to Drink and In a Handful of Dust, explores the fine line between sanity and insanity, good and evil—and the madness that exists in all of us.

‘They all had their terrors, but at least the spiders that lived in the new girl’s veins were imaginary. Grace has learned long ago that the true horrors of this world were other people.’

A Madness So Discreet introduces Grace Mae, a young woman who has been placed in an asylum in an attempt to hide her out of wedlock pregnancy in addition to the horrible secret to how she came to be pregnant in the first place. She is certainly of sound mind, however, the long nights spent listening to the screams of patients echoing the corridors is enough to effect even the toughest of individuals. When an opportunity to leave the asylum is presented to her she jumps at the opportunity for a fresh start, but Grace soon finds that sometimes your past finds a way to sneak up on you.

The beginning is one of the most shocking and audacious introductions I have come across in YA. We’re introduced to Grace and the patients in the Wayburne Lunatic Asylum of Boston and a terrifying picture is quickly painted. This is set in the 19th century and patients are not treated as people, they are not given sufficient food or clothing, and they are thrown into the basement cells which leak rainwater from outside as a form of punishment. There are other far worse punishments described as well. It was grisly and utterly distressing but considering grisly and distressing are totally my thing, I was immediately foreseeing a first-rate reading experience. Alas, the book took an odd turn after that.

‘They work their discreet types of madness on us, power and pain, and we hold on to our truths in the darkness.’

Going from a decidedly Gothic feel and leaving the confines of the asylum, it quickly transforms into a something of a crime thriller, just minus the thrill. Grace is placed in the care of Dr. Thornhollow after he takes a keen interest in her sharp mind and believes she can be of assistance to him. Why he goes to such dramatic lengths to get her out of the asylum is beyond me though. See, Dr. Thornhollow believes himself to be Sherlock in his spare time, investigating crimes and catching killers. Towards the end we once again take an odd turn and it quickly becomes an episode of Law & Order.

Referencing a book as having a Gothic feel, set in an asylum with crime and legal aspects should have been a home-run for me and I can’t decide whether all aspects combined were simply too much or it was simply too far-fetched for it to feel any way authentic. I would have much preferred Grace’s story to play out within the asylum walls, wrestling her inner-demons.


Book Review – M Train by Patti Smith

Posted November 19, 2015 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2015 / 0 Comments

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

Book Review – M Train by Patti SmithM Train on October 6th 2015
Pages: 272
Format: ARC
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository


From the National Book Award-winning author of Just Kids: an unforgettable odyssey into the mind of this legendary artist, told through the prism of cafés and haunts she has visited and worked in around the world.

M Train is a journey through eighteen "stations." It begins in the tiny Greenwich Village café where Smith goes every morning for black coffee, ruminates on the world as it is and the world as it was, and writes in her notebook. We then travel, through prose that shifts fluidly between dreams and reality, past and present, across a landscape of creative aspirations and inspirations: from Frida Kahlo's Casa Azul in Mexico, to a meeting of an Arctic explorer's society in Berlin; from the ramshackle seaside bungalow in New York's Far Rockaway that Smith buys just before Hurricane Sandy hits, to the graves of Genet, Plath, Rimbaud, and Mishima. Woven throughout are reflections on the writer's craft and on artistic creation, alongside signature memories including her life in Michigan with her husband, guitarist Fred Sonic Smith, whose untimely death was an irremediable loss. For it is loss, as well as the consolation we might salvage from it, that lies at the heart of this exquisitely told memoir, one augmented by stunning black-and-white Polaroids taken by Smith herself. M Train is a meditation on endings and on beginnings: a poetic tour de force by one of the most brilliant multiplatform artists at work today.

‘I’m sure I could write endlessly about nothing. If only I had nothing to say.’

Patti Smith carries us through her esoteric stories of the past and present in this short story/essay collection. M Train reads like an internal journey, a solo exploration. She recalls cafes visited all around the world, writing or simply sitting and reminiscing while drinking an insane amount of coffee that makes my own addiction to caffeine seem laughable. While Smith seems completely content with her own company and the adventures she undertakes alone, there’s still an underlying sadness when recollecting the loved ones she’s lost and the memories that still haunt her.

-What are you writing?
I looked up at her, somewhat surprised. I had absolutely no idea.

Ultimately, this accurately sums up this non-linear story collection. Random, non-cohesive thoughts that bounce around her lifetime from past to present with no indication of time. It is possible for randomness to possess interest and there is no doubt that Patti Smith has led a most interesting life, such as the descriptions of her trip to Saint-Laurent-du-Maroni in northwest French Guiana to visit the remains of a French penal colony where criminals were kept. Of all the places in the world to visit though, only Patti Smith would decide to visit an old abandoned prison at the end of the world. Nevertheless, it was interesting, but while it was all very informative and her writing is forever fluid, none of it ever felt as if it had much substance. Her descriptions of her trip to Germany to attend a conference with the Continental Drift Club, of which she is a member strangely enough, were fascinating but then she goes on to describe how on her return trip home she decided to stay in London to binge-watch some crime shows on the BBC. Fascinating and then… not.

Just Kids was stunning and poignant and her writing transported the reader back to a long past period of time. While her writing is still top-notch and her talent is undeniable, M Train was simply too meandering and tangential for my liking. The triviality of these stories are clearly meaningful to her since our experiences in life are what make us who we are today, but the importance is easily lost when not experienced firsthand but only recapped from memory.

‘I believe in life, which one day each of us shall lose. When we are young we think we won’t, that we are different. As a child I thought I would never grow up, that I could will it so. And then I realize, quite recently, that I had crossed some line, unconsciously cloaked in the truth of my chronology.’


National Book Award 2015 Finalist – Challenger Deep by Neal Shusterman

Posted November 14, 2015 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2015, YA / 3 Comments

National Book Award 2015 Finalist – Challenger Deep by Neal ShustermanChallenger Deep by Neal Shusterman
Illustrator: Brendan Shusterman
Published by HarperTeen on April 21st 2015
Pages: 320
Genres: Mental Illness, Realistic YA Fiction
Format: Hardcover
Source: Library
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Caden Bosch is on a ship that's headed for the deepest point on Earth: Challenger Deep, the southern part of the Marianas Trench.

Caden Bosch is a brilliant high school student whose friends are starting to notice his odd behavior.

Caden Bosch is designated the ship's artist in residence, to document the journey with images.

Caden Bosch pretends to join the school track team but spends his days walking for miles, absorbed by the thoughts in his head.

Caden Bosch is split between his allegiance to the captain and the allure of mutiny.

Caden Bosch is torn.

A captivating and powerful novel that lingers long beyond the last page, Challenger Deep is a heartfelt tour de force by one of today's most admired writers for teens.

‘Sometimes the darkness beyond is not glorious at all, it truly is an absolute absence of light. A clawing, needy tar that pulls you down. You drown but you don’t. It turns you to lead so you sink faster in its viscous embrace. It robs you of hope and even the memory of hope. It makes you think you’ve always felt like this, and there’s no place to go but down, where it slowly, ravenously digests your will, distilling it into the ebony crude of nightmares.’

Caden Bosch’s descent into schizophrenia takes readers on an unforgettable adventure that blurs the line between what’s real and what’s mere fantasy. Caden is a gifted artist at the age of fifteen years old yet he possesses an inner drive, a compulsion, that he can no longer keep quiet. His art becomes frenetic and he begins walking his town for hours based on a uncontrollable desire to fill the empty sidewalks with his presence. And sometimes his mind takes him elsewhere, where he’s a part of a crew on a galleon and their mission is to reach the deepest point of the Marianas Trench, a place called Challenger Deep.

‘The things I feel cannot be put into words, or if they can, the words are in no language anyone can understand. My emotions are talking in tongues.’

Ironically, this was my first read in my National Book Award experiment, yet it’s the last one I sat down to review. This was such a staggering read for me that it really took me some time to fully process Caden’s story and how it made me feel. I suppose the expected response is sadness and pity, but it was so authentically told that it transformed this story into something truly substantial for me. Despite the fantasy world that Caden lived in, his struggle becomes something real. We glimpse just enough of the outside world to realize how much his loved ones are also impacted and how they struggle to understand his inner turmoil. How his parents plead with him to change his behavior when it’s well past the point of his ability, so he’s placed in a mental institution when they don’t know what else to do for him. Almost in defiance of such a melancholy story, is the subtle (yet effective) humor that is laced throughout.

“If you continue making progress,” one of the nurses told me earlier today, “I see no reason why you shouldn’t be going home in a couple of weeks.” Then she added, “But don’t quote me on that.” Noncommittal is rampant among the committed.

Sprinkled throughout this story are various pieces of art which are original pieces from the authors son,
Brendan Shusterman. The story itself exists solely because of the experiences of Brendan who has personally struggled with mental illness, which makes sense as to why this story rang so true for me. Challenger Deep will certainly leave readers who haven’t suffered personally to gain more of an understanding and compassion for those that do.


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

Posted November 13, 2015 by Bonnie in 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 on September 22nd 2015
Pages: 384
Format: Hardcover
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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.