Category: Read in 2016

Early Review – The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell

Posted August 5, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2016 / 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 – The Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop CrispellThe Secret Ingredient of Wishes by Susan Bishop Crispell
Published by Thomas Dunne Books on September 6th 2016
Pages: 304
Genres: Foodie Fiction, Magical Realism
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
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two-half-stars

26-year-old Rachel Monroe has spent her whole life trying to keep a very unusual secret: she can make wishes come true. And sometimes the consequences are disastrous. So when Rachel accidentally grants an outlandish wish for the first time in years, she decides it’s time to leave her hometown―and her past―behind for good.

Rachel isn’t on the road long before she runs out of gas in a town that’s not on her map: Nowhere, North Carolina―also known as the town of “Lost and Found.” In Nowhere, Rachel is taken in by a spit-fire old woman, Catch, who possesses a strange gift of her own: she can bind secrets by baking them into pies. Rachel also meets Catch’s neighbor, Ashe, a Southern gentleman with a complicated past, who makes her want to believe in happily-ever-after for the first time in her life.

As she settles into the small town, Rachel hopes her own secrets will stay hidden, but wishes start piling up everywhere Rachel goes. When the consequences threaten to ruin everything she’s begun to build in Nowhere, Rachel must come to terms with who she is and what she can do, or risk losing the people she’s starting to love―and her chance at happiness―all over again.

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Rachel Monroe is something of a modern day fairy godmother: she can make wishes come true. Whenever someone makes a wish, a slip of paper flutters down out of nowhere and as soon as she reads the words on the paper, their wish is granted. When Rachel was younger, one of her own wishes came true and it was terribly life changing and she vowed never to make any other wishes come true. That is, until the day her friend’s daughter wished for a unicorn and a pony with a sugar cone strapped to its head appeared on her doorstep.

Terrified that she’s going to cause everything to go wrong again, she packs a bag and leaves town immediately. She finds herself stranded and out of gas in a town in North Carolina ironically named Nowhere. Rachel is taken in by a kind elderly lady named Catch and meets a man named Ashe. Feeling like she’s finally found someplace to call home, she hopes that her wishes cease to plague her.

I am an absolute sucker for any book that manages to include tasty foods. Sure, the summary sounded all sorts of fluffy cute with the fun magical realism bits and a cutesy romance to get all swoony over that completely reminded me of a Sarah Addison Allen novel, but when it was all said and done I was really only thinking one thing:

I was so eager to get my hands on a copy of this because I was completely prepared to adore this one because it had everything I typically love. It really would have been great but there were far too many plot holes and aspects that continued to be distracting to the storyline as a whole. On top of that there was just a bit too much cheesiness for my liking. Let me explain.

So Rachel up and leaves her stable home and job because she made a wish come true. The story started off shockingly somber (not a spoiler — revealed within first 5%) when it’s revealed that the wish that Rachel made come true, that changed her life forever, was the wish that her little brother would disappear. And he did. Literally. Her parents completely forget he ever existed, he was erased from every photograph, even the door to his bedroom disappeared like there was never a room there to begin with. Every last trace of him, gone. Rachel continues to insist she has a brother and she ends up getting institutionalized, her dad leaves the family, and her mother ends up committing suicide. For fucks sake.

So… moving on.

So Rachel up and leaves town and basically begins a new life in a new town thinking that people in a small town won’t have wishes or something. Personally, that just seemed a little drastic and far fetched to me. Especially since it’s not like she went out to live by herself in the boonies to get away from people whose lives she could potentially ruin or something. Suspension of disbelief is mildly required. I trudged on though, continuing to refocus on the important parts: the pie. Alas, the story continued to reveal itself as something akin to a Lifetime movie. Sorry, Lifetime movies just aren’t my thing. But we have the oh so perfect love interest, except he’s carrying some serious baggage. The townsfolk that go to great lengths (minus actual pitchforks) to run Rachel out of town. The mysterious person from Rachel’s past that knows everything and tries to blackmail her. The old lady that meets her and invites her to live with her the same day. There was just a lot of silly and unnecessary drama involved that was more far fetched than anything and really detracted from what could have been a really delightful story. All I know is, I didn’t sign up for all that. I came for the pie, dammit.

Honestly though, there is a ton of pie in this book and the descriptions will have you racing to the closest bakery. My favorite was by far the “salted chocolate tart with a potato chip crust. Drool. But holy hell, other than a single rib cook-off mentioned, pie is all this town seemed to eat. Then again, with all their daily drama, I’d probably eat nothing but pie too.

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Audiobook Review – Deceptive Cadence (The Virtuosic Spy #1) by Kathryn Guare

Posted August 4, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 1 Comment

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

Audiobook Review – Deceptive Cadence (The Virtuosic Spy #1) by Kathryn GuareDeceptive Cadence by Kathryn Guare
Narrator: Wayne Farrell
Series: The Virtuosic Spy #1
on March 11th, 2016
Length: 11 hours and 19 minutes
Genres: Mystery
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Author
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
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three-half-stars

Meet Conor McBride. He's even more interesting than the trouble he gets into.

A talented Irish musician reluctantly reinvents himself, disappearing into an undercover identity to search for the man who ruined his career: his own brother. On a journey from the west of Ireland to the tumultuous city of Mumbai, Conor McBride's only goal is to redeem the brother who betrayed him. But he's becoming a virtuoso of a different kind in a dangerous game where the rules keep changing - and where the allies he trusted to help him may be the people he should fear the most.

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At one point his life, Conor McBride was a successful concert violinist, but he’s reverted back to his roots and has gone home to Ireland to care for his mother and the family farm. This life change came after his brother, Thomas, was involved in an international case of fraud that just so happened to involve Conor after he signed documents that he didn’t bother to review. Thomas disappeared and Conor spent the next several years living a life of simplicity, paying the fines that the McBride family became stuck with. Five years go by and a gentleman from the British intelligence agency knocks on Conor’s door requisitioning his assistance in locating the brother he presumed was long gone. Suddenly, his life of simplicity gets very complicated.

While Deceptive Cadence is a fast paced spy thriller, however, the real essence of the story centers around family and the lengths that you would go for them regardless of history. The idea of a simple farmer (or even musician) being commissioned to become a member of MI6 at the drop of the hat may be far fetched, but Conor McBride is one of those individuals that catch on quick but the fact that he has to do well in order to protect his brother is never far from his mind. His fast-paced training takes him out of the villages in Ireland and thrusts him into a new world. While searching for his brother he experiences religious retreats known as ashrams in Rishikesh India to the cities of Mumbai.

‘For the first time his senses began to register the exotic, heady atmosphere of Mumbai…the odors most insistently demanded his attention. There were layers upon layers of them, all present at once but individually distinct. They shifted in strength and character with the ocean breeze that blew soft, irregular gusts across his face. First came the sharp tang of engine fuel mingled with an even more acrid burning smell, as though something unnatural had been set alight to blanket the city with a smoldering stench. A shift in the air’s direction brought a fresher aroma of salt and brine floating in from the sea. It gave way to the hot smell of spices frying in oil, which in turn incongruously merged with the subtle reek of garbage.’

The authors clear research into this part of the globe takes the reader on a fascinating journey to far off parts of the world and describes Conor’s surroundings in fantastic detail. Conor was an enjoyable character that managed to contribute a dash of whimsy to a story that could have been nothing but dark and mysterious.

‘His instructions for the flight had been unequivocal. He was to remain quiet and anonymous, avoiding unnecessary conversation and making every effort to appear as invisible as possible. He presumed this meant someone had ensured that the aisle seat would remain empty. Surely an intelligence expert of any quality – particularly a British one – would not expect an Irishman to sit next to someone for nine hours without talking.’

In addition to a compelling main character and an enticing storyline, the Ireland born audiobook narrator, Wayne Farrell, only further impressed me with his storytelling ability. If you’re a fan of John le Carré and/or spy-thrillers, Deceptive Cadence could be an unexpected treat.

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Early Review – The Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough

Posted July 29, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Early Review, Read in 2016 / 1 Comment

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 – The Language of Dying by Sarah PinboroughThe Language of Dying by Sarah Pinborough
Published by Jo Fletcher Books on August 2nd 2016
Pages: 144
Genres: Magical Realism, Horror
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Mayhem, Murder, Behind Her Eyes

three-stars

In this emotionally gripping, genre-defying novella from Sarah Pinborough, a woman sits at her father's bedside, watching the clock tick away the last hours of his life. Her brothers and sisters--she is the middle child of five--have all turned up over the past week to pay their last respects. Each is traumatized in his or her own way, and the bonds that unite them to each other are fragile--as fragile perhaps as the old man's health.

With her siblings all gone, back to their self-obsessed lives, she is now alone with the faltering wreck of her father's cancer-ridden body. It is always at times like this when it--the dark and nameless, the impossible, presence that lingers along the fringes of the dark fields beyond the house--comes calling.

As the clock ticks away in the darkness, she can only wait for it to find her, a reunion she both dreads and aches for...

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‘There is a language to dying. It creeps like a shadow alongside the passing years and the taste of it hides in the corners of our mouths. It finds us whether we are sick or healthy. It is a secret hushed thing that lives in the whisper of the nurses’ skirts as they rustle up and down our stairs. They’ve taught me to face the language one syllable at a time, slowing creating an unwilling meaning.’

The Language of Dying is a multi-genre novella which tells the story of a dying father and his five children that come together to be with him in his final moments. Blending a contemporary tale of family life with aspects of magical realism and horror, Sarah Pinborough focuses on an unnamed narrator, the middle child of five who has been the one to remain home and care for her father once he realized that cancer was ravaging his body. It’s not until she receives word that her father has mere days to live do her siblings finally return to pay their respects, leaving it up to her to handle things until they can no longer say no. Her siblings have always found her to be something of an odd duck, always has her head in the clouds, but not only is she constantly haunted by a creature she once saw out her bedroom window but of the darkened past that she keeps hidden while is continues to consume her.

‘A black horn grows twisted from between its eye, a thick, deformed, calloused thing, a tree root erupting from the earthy ground of its forehead, the matt texture oppositional to the sweaty shine on its dark hide. I stare at it and our souls meet. It is power and anger and beauty and nature rolled into something other-worldly, waging a war with the night on its four thick hooves.’

The magical realism/horror aspects of this novel were initially curious yet ultimately left me perplexed. The novella mainly centers around the narrators relationship with her father and her siblings as well as her own tragically distressing story that has changed her as a person. Bouncing between past and present tense, the story is a nostalgic one, recalling past times with both fondness and animosity. The inclusion of the fantasy aspect, oddly, never seemed out of place in this contemporary story yet felt mostly like a metaphor that I never fully understood. The Language of Dying is an outlandish yet beautifully written story that effectively illustrates the power of grief and the indelible mark it leaves on us.

 ‘Sometimes there are just too many words filling up space and not enough emptiness left for thinking. I keep a little emptiness inside for when I need it.’

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Book Review – The Last One: A Novel by Alexandra Oliva

Posted July 28, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 7 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 Last One: A Novel by Alexandra OlivaThe Last One: A Novel by Alexandra Oliva
Published by Ballantine Books on July 12th 2016
Pages: 304
Genres: Dystopian/Post-Apocalyptic
Format: ARC
Source: the Publisher
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four-stars

Survival is the name of the game, as the line blurs between reality TV and reality itself—and one woman’s mind and body are pushed to the limit. A thrilling, unsettling, high-concept debut novel for readers of Station Eleven and The Passage.

She wanted an adventure. She never imagined it would go this far.

It begins with a reality TV show. Twelve contestants are sent into the woods to face challenges that will test the limits of endurance. While they are out there, something terrible happens—but how widespread is the destruction, and has it occurred naturally or is it man-made? Cut off from society, the contestants know nothing of it. When one of them—a young woman the show’s producers call Zoo—stumbles across the devastation, she can imagine only that it is part of the game.

Alone and disoriented, Zoo is heavy with doubt regarding the life—and husband—she left behind, but she refuses to quit. Staggering countless miles across unfamiliar territory, Zoo must summon all of her survival skills—and learn new ones as she goes.

But as her emotional and physical reserves dwindle, she grasps that the real world might have been altered in terrifying ways—and her ability to parse the charade will either be her triumph or her undoing.

Sophisticated and provocative, harrowing and surprising, The Last One is a novel that forces us to confront the role that media plays in our perception of what is real—how readily we cast our judgments, and how easily we are manipulated.

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“The contestants don’t know everything. […] They know no one gets voted off, that this is a race – or, rather, a series of small races during which they accumulate advantages and disadvantages. What they don’t know is that this race does not have a finish line. […] The game will continue until only one person remains, and the only way out is to quit.”

When twelve individuals sign up for a wilderness survival television show called In the Dark, they never could have imagined that they’d actually be fighting for their lives. While the show continues, a fierce contagion of unknown origin is decimating the population of the outside world which they’ve been disconnected from. As we see through the eyes of the contestants, things begin to change in shocking ways, the clues they find and the challenges they’re given, but this is still just a game… right?

I don’t watch a lot of television in general and I especially don’t watch a lot of reality television despite its massive increase in popularity in recent years. The Last One has been recommended to fans of reality television, however, this is definitely not a requirement because I still found this to be a most curious and unique take on the typical post apocalyptic tale. There are twelve contestants but the story is told primarily from the point of view of a female dubbed ‘Zoo’ by the shows producers seeing as she works at a wildlife sanctuary. All individuals are given nicknames: there’s Biology, Carpenter Chick (originally known as Asian Chick), Tracker, Black Doctor, Waitress, Rancher, Exorcist, Air Force, Cheerleader Boy, and Banker. The names are clearly only given as an easily identifiable label without giving consideration to the fact that these individuals have actual names, but this is a reality television show they’re a part of after all. The story switches between the start of the competition and to the time when the competition was over, yet the contestants, mainly Zoo, were quite literally left in the dark. This build-up to knowing what she underwent in the competition becomes vital to understanding how it’s possible for her to have endured the things she did while still smoothing these incidents over mentally, assuring herself that this isn’t real, it’s just a prop for the show.

‘Nothing can be worse than what they’ve already put me through. I’d never choose this, not again. But I’m here and I’m a woman of my word and I promised myself I wouldn’t quit.’

Zoo is a highly developed female character despite the fact that we primarily see her from a would be position behind the lens of a camera. If the world hadn’t been ending and the show had actually gone on, she would have been my bet for last one standing. Oliva’s writing was first-rate in describing the psychological trauma that Zoo withstands in sorting through fact and fiction when the two become muddied. She convinces herself despite clear contradictions that this is still the game in a failed attempt to shelter her from the reality of her situation. Making reality television as the primary plot point as well as the inclusion of snippets of a chat forum where viewers are able to discuss their thoughts and opinions on the episodes was a crafty way of integrating a modern tale with credible post-apocalyptic elements. The story may not have delved into the origins of the contagion, however, The Last One smartly focused on the psychological aspects of a modern society being confronted with the world ending instead.

It would be easy to say that post-apocalyptic stories are overdone what with the hoards of them in existence but The Last One only confirms that it’s still a genre worth reading.

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Book Review – The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock

Posted July 22, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 4 Comments

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

Book Review – The Heavenly Table by Donald Ray PollockThe Heavenly Table by Donald Ray Pollock
Published by Doubleday on July 12th 2016
Pages: 384
Genres: Southern Gothic/Country Noir
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
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Also by this author: The Devil All the Time

two-half-stars

From Donald Ray Pollock, author of the highly acclaimed The Devil All the Time and Knockemstiff, comes a dark, gritty, electrifying (and, disturbingly, weirdly funny) new novel that will solidify his place among the best contemporary American authors.

It is 1917, in that sliver of border land that divides Georgia from Alabama. Dispossessed farmer Pearl Jewett ekes out a hardscrabble existence with his three young sons: Cane (the eldest; handsome; intelligent); Cob (short; heavy set; a bit slow); and Chimney (the youngest; thin; ill-tempered). Several hundred miles away in southern Ohio, a farmer by the name of Ellsworth Fiddler lives with his son, Eddie, and his wife, Eula. After Ellsworth is swindled out of his family’s entire fortune, his life is put on a surprising, unforgettable, and violent trajectory that will directly lead him to cross paths with the Jewetts. No good can come of it. Or can it?

In the gothic tradition of Flannery O’Connor and Cormac McCarthy with a healthy dose of cinematic violence reminiscent of Sam Peckinpah, Quentin Tarantino and the Coen Brothers, the Jewetts and the Fiddlers will find their lives colliding in increasingly dark and horrific ways, placing Donald Ray Pollock firmly in the company of the genre’s literary masters.

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“That’s the one good thing about this here life. Nothin’ in it lasts for long.”

The Heavenly Table‘s cast of characters is extremely large and despite the extravagant and grandiose picture attempting to be painted, most characters were superfluous. There were two main stories, the first being the story of Pearl Jewett and his three sons, Cane, Chimney, and Cobb. Their father is something of a religious man and believed that the harder they lived here on Earth, the higher chance they would earn a seat at the heavenly table. They lived the hardest existence possible without succumbing to it. Until the day that Pearl did, and his boys decided to hell with the heavenly table, they wanted to live good now. They began with a  murder, followed it up with a bank robbery, and went on from there.

The second is the story of a farmer named Ellsworth Fiddler, a farmer in Ohio, who also leads a hard existence but only because he got swindled out of his life savings. On top of that, his son, who was the only help he had with farm work, has up and disappeared. The year is 1917 and war is brewing and Ellsworth believes he joined up and hopes that he can finally make something of himself.

These stories were all well and good but we’re given full accounts of several other storylines that never really ended up amounting to much. The military officer that gets dumped, discovers he’s gay, decides to kill himself but decides at the last minute to enlist so he can die honorably in the war instead. The black man that uses and abuses women travels home to visit his family but finds himself mixed up with the Jewett’s. The bar keep in a small town that likes kidnapping and torturing people for the hell of it. And last but certainly not least, the sanitation inspector with a giant penis. I’m not kidding. At one point it’s referred to as a “long slab of meat.” I think that about covers everything but goddamn was it convoluted. The chapters, of which there are 72 in total, are short and to the point which didn’t exactly help when you’re trying to connect and under such an extensive cast of characters. All in all it made for quite the rocky read.

The Devil All the Time, Pollock’s debut novel, is one of my all time favorites and is the book that solidified my love of southern gothic fiction. It hosted a cast of perverse characters and was extremely violent brash, but damn was it brilliant. The Heavenly Table introduces a brand new cast of perverse characters but there was a distinctly vulgar quality to Pollock’s sophomore effort that I found fairly unpleasant. Here are just a few examples:

‘Even Esther, probably the least self-conscious person he’d ever met, occasionally got the jitters if too many voyeurs crowded into her tent to watch her play a tune on some john’s skin flute.’

and

‘Bovard had stumbled to his quarters so aroused from what Malone had said that he was still awake at reveille, his handkerchief stiff with ejaculate and his hand cramped so badly that he had a difficult time lacing up his boots.’

Pollock excels at portraying the backwoods down South mentality. He highlights just how poor the poor were and the lengths they would go just to climb out of the station assigned to them at birth. It’s sad and devastating when you really think about it, but Pollock’s delivery is done in such a way so as to not garner sympathy. He simply tells it like it is. The added facet of WWI seemed an unnecessary inclusion at first but it only aided in highlighting the small mindedness of these people and how unaware they are of the vastness of the world around them.

“And what’s this?” Eula said, pointing at the broad expanse of blue that separated America from Europe while waving gnats away from her face.
“That’s the Atlantic Ocean.”
Ellsworth leaned in for a closer look. “Why, that don’t look no bigger than Clancy’s pond,” he said.

Times were changing for these people, whether they liked it or not. Not just with the war either but with new technology and even evolving mindsets. It was a time of change and seeing these characters confronted with it was most fascinating.

I never thought to expect more novels from Pollock, I was sure that The Devil All the Time was destined to be his only one, and while this one was quite a disappointment overall it’s still fantastic to see southern gothic continue to grow in popularity.

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Audiobook Review – The Voodoo Killings (Kincaid Strange #1) by Kristi Charish

Posted July 21, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 10 Comments

Audiobook Review – The Voodoo Killings (Kincaid Strange #1) by Kristi CharishThe Voodoo Killings by Kristi Charish
Narrator: Susannah Jones
Series: Kincaid Strange #1
Published by Audible on May 10th 2016
Length: 11 hrs and 43 mins
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: a Giveaway
Amazon | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Lipstick Voodoo

four-half-stars

For the first time since we launched Bitten by Kelley Armstrong, Random House Canada is thrilled to announce the debut of a new urban fantasy series. Kristi Charish's The Voodoo Killings introduces Kincaid Strange, not your average voodoo practitioner...

For starters, she's only 27. Then there's the fact that she lives in rain-soaked Seattle, which is not exactly Haiti. And she's broke. With raising zombies outlawed throughout the continental USA, Kincaid has to eke out a living running seances for university students with more money than brains who are desperate for guitar lessons with the ghost of a Seattle grunge rocker--who happens to be Kincaid's on-again, off-again roommate.

Then a stray zombie turns up outside her neighbourhood bar: Cameron Wight, an up-and-coming visual artist with no recollection of how he died or who raised him. Not only is it dangerous for Kincaid to be caught with an unauthorized zombie, she soon realizes he's tied to a spate of murders: someone is targeting the zombies and voodoo practitioners in Seattle's infamous Underground City, a paranormal hub. When the police refuse to investigate, the City's oldest and foremost zombie asks Kincaid to help. Raising ghosts and zombies is one thing, but finding a murderer? She's broke, but she's not stupid.

And then she becomes the target...As the saying goes, when it rains it pours, especially in Seattle.

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The Voodoo Killings is a brand new Urban Fantasy series by Kristi Charish which introduces Kincaid Strange, a voodoo practitioner living in Seattle, Washington. Struggling to make ends meet after losing her job with the Seatle PD and now that raising zombies is technically illegal, Kincaid resorts to making the rent by performing seances. Her roommate, a deceased Seattle grunge rocker by the name of Nate Cade, occasionally assists her with these but it’s often difficult for her to persuade him to stop playing video games to do so. When a local bar owner calls to inform her that an abandoned zombie was discovered in his alley, Kincaid Strange becomes his temporary guardian while she tries to not only find out who turned him and why but to keep others from finding out, mainly her ex-boyfriend Aaron who still works for the Seattle PD.

This book didn’t even make it onto my radar (and I compile an entire list of book releases on my blog so I don’t know how I missed this) but thankfully a blogger friend (Thanks, Tammy!) brought this to my attention and I’m so very glad. I knew next to nothing about this story or the author, only discovering it was about zombies (and ghosts!) and I immediately was all on board. With an intriguing form of magic in addition to a fascinating mystery and a most charming cast of characters, The Voodoo Killings was enticing and incredibly entertaining.

“I mean, there’s hell freezing over, pigs flying, and then there’s me and responsibility.”

It’s so refreshing to read about a heroine that is not only a total badass but has flaws and power limitations and isn’t some perfect superhuman, and that’s exactly how Kincaid Strange is written. She’s brazen, headstrong, and isn’t afraid of handling business. In addition to a lead character that can hold her own, her roommate Nate is all that was needed to make up the perfect dynamic duo. But wait, there’s more! The zombies practically adopts, Cameron, fits right into the group. Kindcaid is constantly finding herself in a bind (or three) and her two sidekicks have her back and are constantly keeping her out of trouble. And even better, there is zero romantic inclinations, just pure, unadulterated friendship.

I loved the characters far more than I expected, but I really relished the intricate details of Charish’s magical world. Rather than your typical post-apocalyptic world where some virus has been unleashed causing the existence of zombies, these zombies only come alive because a voodoo practitioner makes it so. The added details regarding the dead being brought back to life to solve land disputes or to discover who murdered them was an amusing concept. Just as long as they consumed a steady supply of brains (animals brains worked in a pinch but human brains really did the trick) they remained fairly coherent for the most part. Additional interesting tidbits included details about different bindings as well as much discussion about Otherside or the energy Kindcaid draws from which comes from the land of the dead.

It was an incredibly compelling story and I enjoyed every minute of it and I do mean every minute in the literal sense. I listened to the audiobook and Susannah Jones’ narration was absolutely brilliant. I am not a night owl at all but I found myself staying up till 1:30am one night because I couldn’t stop listening. Her various voices and accents for both male and female was phenomenal and she no doubt made this already fantastic story into something even better.

Urban Fantasy fans, don’t let this one go unnoticed! The Voodoo Killings possesses a mystery that will keep you guessing, a cast of character you wish you could call friends, and a unique magic system. The ending will leave you hoping there was a second installment ready and waiting. Alas, there isn’t yet. I definitely wont be letting that one fly under my radar though.

It’s a bit difficult to find a copy of this one considering it was published by Random House Canada and currently the only format that can be purchased in the US is the audible version (but I highly recommend the audio!)

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Audiobook Review – A Sudden Crush by Camilla Isley

Posted July 8, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Audiobooks, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 1 Comment

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

Audiobook Review – A Sudden Crush by Camilla IsleyA Sudden Crush by Camilla Isley
Narrator: Tami Leah Lacy
Published by Pink Bloom Press on June 26th 2016
Length: 7 hrs and 25 mins
Genres: Chick-Lit
Format: Audiobook
Source: the Author
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads


three-half-stars

Joanna Price is a city girl with the perfect life. She loves her job as a book editor, she just married Liam, high-profile, best-selling author and the man of her dreams, and she's headed to the Caribbean to enjoy two weeks of paradise for her luxurious honeymoon.

Connor Duffield is a gruff, grumpy rancher from the Midwest. He is a country boy who has a no-nonsense approach to life, more scars than he'd like to admit, and he hates city girls.

So it's just a misfortune they have to sit next to each other for a six-hour plane ride. Even more so when their flight is caught in the perfect storm and Joanna wakes up stranded on a desert island with Connor, the very man she hoped she would never have to see again.

Why are they alone on this forsaken island? What happened to Joanna's husband?

When her dream honeymoon turns into a hilarious tropical nightmare, Joanna's first thought is survival. However, she and Connor will quickly discover just how boring paradise can be. As the days turn to weeks, and then months, this mismatched pair will have to learn how to coexist and how to resist the sparkles of an attraction they weren't prepared to feel.

When they are finally rescued, will Joanna's marriage be saved as well, or will the life she knew and loved be in ruins?

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Joanna Price has just gotten married and her and her new husband are flying to the Caribbean for their honeymoon. Everything is going perfect, except they were given separate seats and the guy Joanna is stuck sitting next to won’t give up his seat no matter how convincing her argument. To make matters worse, her new husband is “stuck” sitting next to what appears to be a model and he doesn’t appear to be making much progress in asking her to switch seats either. Things continue to go downhill for her when their plane gets caught in a storm and Joanna blacks out only to wake up to a monkey caressing her hair.

Picture it: you’ve just gotten married and you’re on the plane to your honeymoon and you wake up on an island with a man you don’t even know. You have no idea where the plane is, where this mysterious island is located, and where everyone else could possibly be including your husband. Connor Duffield, Joanna’s seatmate, is a rancher from the midwest and communicates mainly by use of guttural sounds. Joanna Price is a book editor that lives in the city and doesn’t know the first thing about surviving in nature. The two are the most unlikeliest of duos but not only do they manage to somehow thrive on that island but they manage to overcome their pre-conceived notions of one another and slowly become closer.

While the book is called A Sudden Crush, I feel it’s important to mention that there was quite a bit of development to the relationship that matures between the two. Not only that but there’s a definite lack of complete focus on the romance with much time given to Joanna’s personal growth. It was much welcome in a type of story that could have focused solely on the romance and still been a perfectly entertaining story. It gave this a measure of depth that was most appreciated.

The audio narration by Tami Leah Lacy made this an incredibly enjoyable listen. It’s always difficult for female narrators to pull off a convincing male voice but Tami did just that and brought the emotions Joanna was experiencing to life. Thoroughly impressed that this was her debut narration and look forward to listening to more from her! (Check out Audible for an audio excerpt.)

 A Sudden Crush is a humorous and romantic read that is entertaining and full of charm. The perfect summer read.

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Book Review – The Curse of Tenth Grave (Charley Davidson #10) by Darynda Jones

Posted July 7, 2016 by Bonnie in Adult, Book Reviews, Read in 2016 / 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.

Book Review – The Curse of Tenth Grave (Charley Davidson #10) by Darynda JonesThe Curse of Tenth Grave by Darynda Jones
Series: Charley Davidson #10
Published by St. Martin's Press on June 28th 2016
Pages: 352
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Format: eARC
Source: Netgalley
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

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

five-stars

As a Part-time PI and fulltime grim reaper, Charley Davidson has asked a lot of questions throughout her life: Why can I see dead people? Who is the hot supernatural entity following me? How do I get gum out of my sister’s hair before she wakes up? But, “How do I trap not one malevolent god, but three?” was never among them. Until now. And since those gods are on earth to kill her daughter, she has little choice but to track them down, trap them, and cast them from this dimension.

There’s just one problem. One of the three stole her heart a very long time ago. Can the Razer, a god of absolute death and destruction, change his omniscient spots, or will his allegiances lie with his brothers?

Those are just a few of the questions Charley must answer, and quick. Add to that a homeless girl running for her life, an innocent man who’s been charged with murder, and a pendant made from god glass that has the entire supernatural world in an uproar, and Charley has her hands full. If she can manage to take care of the whole world-destroying-gods thing, we’re saved. If not, well…

Charley Davidson series

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

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*BOOKS 1-9 TO BE DISCUSSED. DON’T READ IF YOU DON’T WANT TO BE SPOILED*

‘The fact that there’s a Highway to Hell and only a Stairway to Heaven says a lot about anticipated traffic numbers.’

Hallelujah, Charley’s back!! Okay, it hasn’t been that long, The Dirt on Ninth Grave just came out this past January but it sure feels like it’s been forever. The ninth installment was a bit of a filler novel, with Charley having to work to regain her memories and it took damn near the entire book to get there, but in The Curse of Tenth Grave we’re back to the good ol’ Charley that we all know and love. The stakes are even higher after Charley’s father passed through her after being a spy down in the depths of Hell to obtain vital information: the three Gods of Uzan are on Earth to kill her daughter and she just so happens to be very close with one of them.

In addition to that, Charley still manages to find time to solve a mystery (or three) for her P.I. business. This time she’s dealing with a dead woman where all evidence points to her fiancé despite Charley’s misgivings, a mystery behind kids who believe themselves to be cursed at a local group home, and the repercussions of videos resurfacing from Charley’s past involving her and an exorcism that could land her in some hot water. There’s always so much going on in a normal day with Charley Davidson – seriously it’s no wonder she drinks as much coffee as she does – but even though the stories are always told at a breakneck pace, they’re still always exhilarating rather than jumbled. The stuff she has to deal with, especially now the issues involving her daughter, life has got to be stressful yet Charley’s sarcastic sense of humor maintains.

‘I wondered if I should just tell him the truth. Of course, after finding out a Colombian drug baron wanted to eat me, I figured I should reevaluate how many people we let into our little circle.’

In addition to being able to rely on the hilarity of these stories, the steaminess also never lags. I’ll never look at a Twister game the same, that’s for damn sure. What I appreciated most in this installment is we got some insight into their actual relationship. These two never really communicate with one another and most of the time Charley is doing all kinds of crazy shit behind his back and he’s keeping secrets (okay, she’s keeping secrets too) yet they still have the hots for one another. But for the most part that seemed to be the only aspect of their relationship that made sense. In this installment, we get real heart to heart talks between them and some genuine bonding that will only make you love these two more (if you didn’t already).

This is officially the longest running series that I’ve not only continued to keep up with but still eagerly anticipate. And it’s still so freaking fantastic. I have no idea how many more installments we have, but at least there’s a possibility of a spin-off series and I’m all over that. Simply put, Darynda Jones continues to hit it out of the park with Charley and the gang. If you haven’t jumped on board these series, do yourself a favor and find out what you’ve been missing.

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Book Review – A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) by Sarah J. Maas

Posted June 30, 2016 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, New Adult, Read in 2016 / 7 Comments

Book Review – A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses #2) by Sarah J. MaasA Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #2
Published by Bloomsbury USA Childrens on May 3rd 2016
Pages: 640
Genres: Fantasy, Fairy-Tales/Retellings
Format: eBook
Source: Library
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Queen of Shadows, A Court of Thorns and Roses, A Court of Thorns and Roses

five-stars

Feyre survived Amarantha's clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can't forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin's people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas's masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.

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I’M SORRY. I CAN’T DISCUSS THIS WITHOUT SOME SPOILERS. BEWARE.

“I was not a pet, not a doll, not an animal.
I was a survivor, and I was strong.
I would not be weak, or helpless again
I would not, could not be broken. Tamed.”

Feyre and Tamlin have survived Amarantha and have returned home, but things are no longer the same after everything they suffered through. Tamlin has taken his protective instincts to a terrifying new high and Feyre is slowly wasting away from her guilt and the nightmares that haunt her even during her waking hours. She wishes to serve a purpose, to learn to fight so that she could defend herself if need be, and to learn the ins and outs of her newly gained powers. Tamlin refuses to allow her to do anything and day after day Feyre loses more and more of herself. When Rhysand shows up to call on the bargain they made with one another when she was near death Under the Mountain, the time spent away from the Spring Court begins to open her eyes once more.

Basically, everything about the first book was injected with steroids and made infinitely better. I talked about what a strong and capable character Feyre was, and she was, and sure she’s fae now so she’s all magical but what an incredible character build. Simply incredible. Maas spends a lot of time detailing the darkness and guilt that had penetrated her mind and that mental strain was so saddening to read. The fact that she suffered through those things to save the one she loved only to have him hinder her healing and actually make it worse because of his own lingering suffering. If I had actually liked Tamlin in the first book I’d probably feel bad for him but I didn’t so I don’t. I have to also applaud the slow and steady build of the grasp on her powers too. It’s always nice in fantasy stories to see the characters have to actual struggle and work at shit rather than waking up and being an ultimate badass out of nowhere. Maas did an equally impressive job with Celaena in her Throne of Glass series so hats off to her.

“He thinks he’ll be remembered as the villain in the story. But I forgot to tell him that the villain is usually the person who locks up the maiden and throws away the key. He was the one who let me out.”

I picked at her and Tamlin’s relationship as well in the first book, noting its lack of depth. Sure, they had some steamy scenes but that’s ultimately all it was: physical. Well, holy shit sticks. Feyre and Tamlin were a complete and utter farce compared to Feyre and Rhysand. The passion and desire… it was palpable and I got so emotional that I straight up burst into tears on the freaking bike at the gym during an especially lovey moment. I’m not a big crier, for the record. I’m really curious if Maas went into this series with a complete game plan in mind in terms of the romance because the second book did a bit of a 180° which I think would have been hard for Tamlin fans to understand. Feyre doesn’t immediately jump to a new relationship though, it’s slowly navigated through for over half of this 640 page story and over many months of mental healing (which Rhysand also helps her with in such a way that Tamlin never did). And then before they even got to the actual romance there was plenty of flirting that had me screaming OH MY GAWD JUST FUCKING KISS ALREADY. Either way, I am all on board the Feyre and Rhysand train. Toot toot. Fun side note: I had a good time imagining Rhysand as David Gandy because why not. 😂

“My friend through many dangers. My lover who had healed my broken and weary soul. My mate who had waited for me against all hope, despite all odds.”

I’ve found that most books that have some an immense focus on the romance tends to slack off on other aspects of the book. I may be talking a lot about the romance because it was truly off the charts amazing, but there are other facets of this book that are equally deserving of note. Most especially would be the descriptions and characterizations of other members of the Night Court. The inner circle: Amren, Azriel, Mor, Cassian. Such comprehensively written characters that never faded to the background. They became Feyre’s family and it was wonderful to see her come back to life not just because of a new, passionate romance with someone that truly appreciated her but because of new friends that became new family. I also enjoyed the exquisite descriptions of the Night Court but most especially of Velaris — the City of Starlight.

Honestly, it’s near impossible sometimes to rationally discuss books that you loved. For a book blogger, I consider myself to be pretty restrained in regards to how crazy I get about books I love. But with A Court of Mist and Fury, there were moments where I felt so overwhelmed at how unbelievably awesome this story was that I couldn’t take it anymore and I started to think I should either take a break or find a paper bag to breathe into just to be safe. I may not have loved A Court of Thorns and Roses but I adored this book. There was excitement and badassery and the most passionate love that managed to make me envious for a pair of fictional character in addition to some of the steamiest sex scenes I have ever read and yes I have read my fair share. Simply put, it was superb and it’s going to be one hell of a long wait for May 2017 when the next installment comes out. Until then, I’ll just be over here.

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Book Review – A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1) by Sarah J. Maas

Posted June 24, 2016 by Bonnie in Book Reviews, Read in 2016, YA / 2 Comments

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

Book Review – A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses #1) by Sarah J. MaasA Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
on May 5th 2015
Pages: 416
Genres: Fairy-Tales/Retellings, Fantasy
Format: ARC
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Book Depository
Goodreads

Also by this author: Queen of Shadows, A Court of Mist and Fury, A Court of Thorns and Roses

three-half-stars

A thrilling, seductive new series from New York Times bestselling author Sarah J. Maas, blending Beauty and the Beast with faerie lore.

When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it... or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever.

Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and George R. R. Martin, this first book in a sexy and action-packed new series is impossible to put down!

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A fairy-tale retelling of Beauty and the Beast in a world made up of humans and faeries. Five hundred years before, humans were enslaved by faeries but following the Treaty, the wall was built to relegate humans to a sliver of land kept separate from faeries. Growing up, Feyre has known nothing but hate for faeries and their kind, hearing the stories of their violence and abuse of power. Her family was once great, living in a manor, with her father being a lucrative merchant. But now, at nineteen years old she is the youngest of her two other sisters, but it is left up to her to ensure her families safety after their mothers death and her fathers inability to care for them any longer. Not wanting to fall asleep another night with an empty belly, she sets out to the dangerous forest and does manage to fell a deer, but also a massive wolf. This wolf though, was actually fae and his master appears soon after demanding retribution by way of her death. Shockingly, she is offered an alternative: that Feyre come live on his land forever, in safety not to be enslaved, never to see her family again. She accepts.

“I threw myself into that fire, threw myself into it, into him, and let myself burn.”

Having lived in fear of the fae, she is shocked to realize that they aren’t quite as brutal as is commonly said. And the one that offered her her life, Tamlin, is incredibly kind to her forcing her to re-evaluate her generalized feelings about his kind. During her time there, she discovers that there is a blight on the land that resulted in the fae being forced to forever hide their faces behind masks, a female fae that everyone seems to be terrified of, and enough secrets to make anyone curious. But by the time she finds out exactly what is being kept from her, will it be too late?

This was one of those that I never got around to reading (even though I received an ARC) because of the massive hype surrounding it. Eighteen months later and look at me, I’m finally reading it! So much time had lapsed that I had even forgot that this was a Beauty and the Beast retelling with a faerie twist! Incredibly fascinating concept so I was eager to love it. Alas, I did not, but it was still an enjoyable tale.

From the very beginning I adored Feyre. She was quite a capable character that was willing to do anything to make sure her family was able to eat. Even though she was the youngest of her two other sisters (with one of them being a royal asshole that I totally would have let starve) and even though her father could have gotten a job but simply didn’t. The fact that she stayed as strong as she was, didn’t let life beat her down, was a testament to her tenacity and I loved her for it. Once she arrived in the faerie kingdom, she got a few points docked for being such an imbecile and running off into danger all the damn time but I guess we have to consider the fact that even though she was being told shit was dangerous, she didn’t really know who to trust. Tamlin was the requisite studly yet brooding faerie that she was clearly meant to fall for from the very beginning. He was interesting but he was no Beast… he was trying way too damn hard and it becomes a little obvious in the end why that is but I won’t spoil that. All in all though he was a pretty boring love interest that lacked a lot of depth.

And now for my biggest issue: the romance. Honestly, the sexy times descriptions by themselves were cringe worthy.

“…ignoring how easily I could see the cut of his muscles beneath his white shirt, the way the blood soaking it made them stand out even more.”

And my favorite that had me laughing like a loon:

“My fingers grappled with his belt buckle, and his mouth found mine again. Our tongues danced – not a waltz or a minuet, but a war dance, a death dance of bone drums and screaming fiddles.”

I mean, seriously? War dance? Bone drums? Screaming fiddles?

I mentioned that Tamlin lacked depth, well, the romance really lacked depth. But then again, if you think about it, seems a bit fitting in terms of Disney fairy-tale comparisons. They make swoony eyes at one another, someone gets put into mortal danger leading the other to make some heroic rescue, there’s some dancing and kisses and just general love stuff going on. Disney romances never consist of talking about feelings and working through issues, it’s just sweet and flawless and they live happily ever after, the end. Fortunately, Maas didn’t leave us with that yawn worthy ending. Which brings me to the question I’d been asking myself almost the entire time: So… who’s Gaston in this tale? Amarantha. Evil incarnate. And yes, a woman. She turns the tables forcing Feyre to be the rescuer in this story and basically, badassery ensues. I will let the rest be a surprise in addition to the character fully introduced near the end that made it ALL worth while.

Maas really had a fascinating concept with her fantasy/fairy-tale hybrid, but I feel that it never quite came to fruition for me. The world-building was superb and I feel with a bit more time delving into the actual characters in future installments we’ll have a real winner with this one. At least one can hope.

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