Thursday, February 20, 2020

BLOG TOUR: The Borgia Confessions by Alyssa Palombo (+Giveaway)

Title: The Borgia Confessions
Author: Alyssa Palombo
Genre: Adult Historical Fiction
Publisher: St. Martin's Griffin
Release Date: Feb 11, 2020
Acquired: Egalley approved via NetGalley
Goodreads: ADD

During the sweltering Roman summer of 1492, Rodrigo Borgia has risen to power as pope. Rodrigo’s eldest son Cesare, forced to follow his father into the church and newly made the Archbishop of Valencia, chafes at his ecclesiastical role and fumes with jealousy and resentment at the way that his foolish brother has been chosen for the military greatness he desired.

Maddalena Moretti comes from the countryside, where she has seen how the whims of powerful men wreak havoc on the lives of ordinary people. But now, employed as a servant in the Vatican Palace, she cannot help but be entranced by Cesare Borgia’s handsome face and manner and finds her faith and conviction crumbling in her want of him.

As war rages and shifting alliances challenge the pope’s authority, Maddalena and Cesare's lives grow inexplicably entwined. Maddalena becomes a keeper of dangerous Borgia secrets and must decide if she is willing to be a pawn in the power games of the man she loves. And as jealousy and betrayal threaten to tear apart the Borgia family from within, Cesare is forced to reckon with his seemingly limitless ambition.

Alyssa Palombo's captivating new novel, The Borgia Confessions, is a story of passion, politics, and class, set against the rise and fall of one of Italy's most infamous families--the Borgias.






Officially the first book I've read that's set before the 1800s, The Borgia Confessions was an extraordinarily well-researched depiction of the infamous Borgia family during Rodrigo Borgia's reign as Pope in the 1490s. Fictional storylines weaved with factual events, characters were pulled from their place in history and reanimated at Palombos hand; made flesh again to relive their sordid tales and commit their heinous crimes. 

I'm not the first to admit that I knew absolutely nothing of Cesare Borgia (the eldest son), his siblings, or his parents before I began reading Palombo's detailing of Rodrigo Borgia's rise to the prestigious and powerful title. I researched whilst reading, and found that it really added to the experience, and filled in the very minimal blanks in the plot. As the author took some scandalous liberties with the storyline, I wanted to make sure I knew the basic and general lay of the land (character and scandal-wise). I liked that once I did that, I found that I cared very little for the strategic scenes about war, invasions and attempts to overthrow existing rulers (though my brain would have melted regardless), and instead enjoyed the power and lust-fueled relationships that Palombo handed to me. 

I found it the most excellent choice to use Cesare, and a fictional lady servant Maddalena, as the two perspectives throughout the narrative. As a reader, I was able to glimpse both sides of the political turmoil, one view coming from the comforts and false sense of security on the inside, and the second, from the general public during some significant changes to their lives. It's when these worlds collide that things get interesting, more dangerous (and to much a readers' dismay, lustier--though I thoroughly enjoyed these bits). 

I can only write this review as a lover of fiction, and an appreciative student of accidental learning through said fiction. I don't seek out the historical fiction genre, but I know a book deserving of praise when I see one, and The Borgia Confessions is definitely not to be missed by those who are truly fans of both historical fiction and the lives, and misdeeds, of the Borgia family.



Trigger Warnings:
attempted rape, sexual scenes, violence

Read if you like:
The Vatican Princess by C.W. Gortner
The Serpent and the Pearl by Kate Quinn
historical fiction

Key themes: 
deceit, betrayal, political gain, scandal, religion 

Challenges:








CLICK HERE to read about Alyssa on her author page.

CONTACT LINKS 









A huge thank-you to St. Martin Griffin contacting me for the tour, and for sending me an egalley of the book via Netgalley for review!

Visit my Instagram page to win a copy of The Borgia Confessions! (Canada Only)

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

REVIEW: Bunny by Mona Awad

Title: Bunny
Author: Mona Awad
Genre: Adult Contemporary/Horror
Publisher: Harpercollins
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Acquired: Library borrow
Goodreads: ADD

Samantha Heather Mackey couldn't be more of an outsider in her small, highly selective MFA program at New England's Warren University. A scholarship student who prefers the company of her dark imagination to that of most people, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort--a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other "Bunny," and seem to move and speak as one.

But everything changes when Samantha receives an invitation to the Bunnies' fabled "Smut Salon," and finds herself inexplicably drawn to their front door--ditching her only friend, Ava, in the process. As Samantha plunges deeper and deeper into the Bunnies' sinister yet saccharine world, beginning to take part in the ritualistic off-campus "Workshop" where they conjure their monstrous creations, the edges of reality begin to blur. Soon, her friendships with Ava and the Bunnies will be brought into deadly collision.

The spellbinding new novel from one of our most fearless chroniclers of the female experience, Bunny is a down-the-rabbit-hole tale of loneliness and belonging, friendship and desire, and the fantastic and terrible power of the imagination.





What, in the floppy-eared hell, did I just read?! This book was an entirely different breed of weird, and I mean that in the most complimentary and fascinating way. It was a sub-genre mash-up of dark academia and fantastical horror, combined with metaphorical and self-reflective bits that damn near blew my whole mind. Without question, Bunny is one of the most oddly satisfying books I have ever read.

Samantha Mackey is a grad school student at Warren University. Perpetually intimidated by her peers, and making little to no progress on her work, she spends most of her days in self-sabotaging conversation with her best, and equally as dark-minded friend, Ava. Their most favoured target for mockery is a group of women on Samantha's campus who call themselves the "Bunnies". Perfectly groomed, sickeningly sweet, and irritatingly cliqué-y, the Bunnies are both a wonder and a source of frustration for Samantha, so when they extend an invitation to join them for a weekly writing session (dubbed the 'Smut Salon) at their home, she decides to feed her curiosity. The further into the Bunny hole she falls, the further away she gets from reality, and the once-cherished friendship she held with Ava. Escaping their clutches comes with a price, one that Samantha could not have seen coming.

Bunny is one of those books that can be so many different things depending on its reader. For me, it was a social commentary on the dangers of a hive-mind, especially on those who are more mentally susceptible to its mechanisms. Awad was brilliant in her choice to use fantastically horrible elements to symbolize influence and desperation. I found myself in Samantha during so many moments that I literally had to stop reading at those points. I think the best word I saw used to describe this book was "bonkers" because it was, it was absolutely insane, all while being incredibly purposeful in its madness. 

Dialogue is among the most important checkboxes for me as a reader, and unfortunately, not many authors have checked it. Awad checked it. She checked it with a gigantic, perfectly inked, checkmark. It's no easy feat to be metaphorical, symbolic, dark, AND witty. Bunny was successful in being all 4 of those things. I'd be hard-pressed to read another book like it this year.




Read if you like:

The Vegetarian by Han Kang
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado
Eileen by Ottessa Moshfegh

Key themes: 
friendship, inclusion, jealousy, hive mentality, 
loneliness, mental health 

Challenges:






credit: http://mona-awad-grou.squarespace.com/


CLICK HERE to read about Mona on her author page.

CONTACT LINKS 

Monday, February 10, 2020

January 2020: Wrap-Up

-JANUARY WRAP UP: (7) BOOKS-


A follower on my Instagram recently chided me (gently) for complaining about the small number of books I seemed to be finishing, and being disappointed in myself about it. I had intended to start this January wrap-up post on a much more negative note, but since that interaction, I've truly come to realize (and excuse my cliché here) that it's the journey that counts. It's the books I DO manage to finish, and the experiences I had while reading them. Reading 2 truly meaningful books should matter just as much as getting through 10 mediocre ones. What I mean to say is, every book matters, and I should immediately stop seeing quantity as the one true accomplishment, and start focusing on the great content I'm consuming. 

With that said, I read 7 out the 10 books I intended to read in January AND THAT'S OKAY. Here they are in the order that I read them:





  • Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert | Jan 2-6 | ★★★
  • Lucky Caller by Emma Mills | Jan 6-9 | ★★★ | REVIEW
  • A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer | Jan 6-12 | ★★★★★ | REVIEW
  • The First Mistake by Sandie Jones | Jan 19 | ★★★ | REVIEW
  • Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire | Jan 14-20 | ★★★★
  • Bunny by Mona Awad | Jan 9-22 | ★★★★
  • The Better Liar by Tanen Jones | Jan 23-31 | ★★

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READING CHALLENGES FULFILLED

The Nerd Daily

  • (#48) Two-Word Title: Lucky Caller by Emma Mills
  • (#31) A retelling: A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer
  • (#5) Fantasy or sci-fi: Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire
  • (#50) Animal featured on cover: Bunny by Mona Awad

Popsugar
  • 'A book by a WOC': Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
  • 'Book with a 3-word title': The Better Liar by Tanen Jones

Beat the Backlist
  • The First Mistake by Sandie Jones

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What did you all read in January?
Let me know down below!

Friday, February 7, 2020

REVIEW: Be Not Far From Me by Mindy McGinnis

Title: Be Not Far From Me
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Genre: Young Adult - Contemporary
Publisher: Katherine Tegan Books
Release Date: March 3, 2020
Acquired: E-galley approved via Edelweiss
Goodreads: ADD

Hatchet meets Wild in this harrowing survival story from Edgar Award-winning author Mindy McGinnis.

The world is not tame.

Ashley knows this truth deep in her bones, more at home with trees overhead than a roof. So when she goes hiking in the Smokies with her friends for a night of partying, the falling dark and creaking trees are second nature to her. But people are not tame either. And when Ashley catches her boyfriend with another girl, drunken rage sends her running into the night, stopped only by a nasty fall into a ravine. Morning brings the realization that she's alone - and far off trail. Lost in undisturbed forest and with nothing but the clothes on her back, Ashley must figure out how to survive despite the red streak of infection creeping up her leg.




It's a learned skill, as an avid reader of 400+ page books, to begin to appreciate the shorter reads in life, especially when they're as intensely descriptive and gripping as Be Not Far From Me was. At a mere 240 pages, this survival story was a (very) graphic depiction of a heartache-fueled decision gone horribly wrong.

After catching her boyfriend 'reintroducing' himself to his ex-girlfriend on a night of drunken merriment with friends, an intoxicated (and barefoot) Ashley hightails it deep into the woods, picking up a pretty nasty injury along the way. She awakes the next morning to an infected left-foot that's skinned down to the exposed bone, and clouded confidence in her survival skills to get her out of a never-ending maze of trees. "No time" ends up being the length of the novel, and it is here that we find our story, and some truly cringe-worthy choices.

This was my first Mcginnis book to date, a fact that both upset and thrilled me. Upset, because I hadn't picked up her works sooner, and thrilled, because YAY! a new author whose novels I can binge. Mindy's writing is atmospheric and blunt in it's specificity, which worked so well in combination. I felt the density of wilderness, the moments of torrential rain and the unforgiving sun. And when Ashley was faced with literal life or death situations, there were no words wasted on build-up or time spend considering options, it was do or die, now or NEVER. 

I removed a star for the conclusion. There wasn't enough animosity towards deserving parties, and I felt like it was lacking genuine reactions to events that warranted more than just a few shocked words.

If you're looking a quick, gut-punching read, Be Not Far from Me will quench that reading thirst.




Read if you like:  
Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
If You Find Me by Emily Murdoch

Key themes: 
loss, betrayal, survival, self-reflection

Challenges: 





credit: goodreads.com (author page)


Mindy McGinnis is the author of multiple novels that span many genres. From historical to fantasy, contemporary to gothic thriller, you can always count on Mindy’s books to deliver grit, truth, and an unflinching look at humanity and the world around us.

A ninth-generation farmer, Mindy attributes much of her character to growing up on an Ohio farm, learning the value of physical labor, and the harshness of the natural world early in life. Much of her writing reflects small-town living and aspects of rural poverty. A former school librarian, Mindy still lives and works in her hometown, and is dedicated to making herself available to financially disadvantaged school districts and communities. Click here to contact Mindy about a visit.

Mindy has done multiple interviews and guest posts over the years, and has been featured on such outlets as NPR and PBS. She’s also been a guest on a myriad of podcasts, blogs, and websites, many of which can be viewed below.


CONTACT LINKS 



A huge thank-you to Katherine Tegan Books and Edelwiess for approving an e-galley for review

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

REVIEW: The First Mistake by Sandie Jones

Title: The First Mistake
Author: Sandie Jones
Genre: Adult Thriller/Suspense
Publisher: Minotaur Books
Release Date: June 11, 2019
Acquired: Print copy sent for review
Goodreads: ADD

From Sandie Jones, the author of the Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club Pick and New York Times bestseller The Other Woman, comes an addictively readable new domestic suspense about a wife, her husband, and the woman who is supposedly her best friend.

THE WIFE: For Alice, life has never been better. With her second husband, she has a successful business, two children, and a beautiful house.

HER HUSBAND: Alice knows that life could have been different if her first husband had lived, but Nathan's arrival into her life gave her back the happiness she craved.

HER BEST FRIEND: Through the ups and downs of life, from celebratory nights out to comforting each other through loss, Alice knows that with her best friend Beth by her side, they can survive anything together. So when Nathan starts acting strangely, Alice turns to Beth for help. But soon, Alice begins to wonder whether her trust has been misplaced...

The first mistake could be her last.






It's important to note that I had not heard of, or seen, this book (or this author) anywhere before I read it. There is rarely a time that I will pick a book up under these circumstances; I've lived a reading life thus far that is so dependent on "what is popular" these days, or books that have the most buzz surrounding it. This is why I found it mildly surprising that not only did I pick up The First Mistake, but I liked that I knew barely anything about it! Who am I !?!

In this adult thriller, Alice is living a coveted life with her husband Nathan, her two daughters, and a successful interior design business that was launched with her late ex-husband, Tom. A small crack in that picture-perfect veneer appears when Alice finds a suspicious item in her husband's car, and thus begins a spiral of events she just can't seem to stay ahead of. Who can be trusted, and how deep is she willing to dig to find answers?

Reading The First Mistake was like cautiously trying out a new dish, and then realizing very quickly that it's delicious and so you start eating faster and faster and then before you know it you've eaten it all and you don't even know how it happened. The cover of this book is so unassuming, and at first glance has you convinced that maybe you're about to consume a domestic drama, maybe a darker romance, but most definitely not a thriller that intensified so satisfyingly with each chapter. Jones has a knack for cliffhangers and shock value. The twists in here were each its own small atomic bomb, and she kept dropping them right until the end. The narrative wasn't psychological (the type of thriller I typically favour), so this meant that the characters weren't complex or particularly outstanding, however, that worked well for this book, where the intent wasn't to build relationships between reader and cast, but rather to keep the readers in the dark just enough to keep them guessing. 

The First Mistake is the perfect in-between book you need to propel you on to a heavier or more lengthy one. I will definitely be checking out the author's first novel, The Other Woman.




Read if you like:

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
Never Have I Ever by Joshilyn Jackson
The Other Mrs. Miller by Allison Dickson

Key themes: 
suspicion, betrayal, trust, loss, domestic disputes

Challenges:






credit: us.macmillan.com


Sandie Jones has worked as a freelance journalist for over twenty years, and has written for publications including the Sunday Times, Woman’s Weekly and the Daily Mail. She lives in London with her husband and three children. The Other Woman is her debut novel and a Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine Book Club pick.

CONTACT LINKS 
Website - Twitter - Instagram







A huge thank-you to Minotaur Books for providing a hardcopy of this book for review!