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Bonny

Mother, knitter, reader, lifelong learner, technical writer, former library assistant & hematologist.

Member Since 2015

550
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 66 reviews
  • 143 ratings
  • 581 titles in library
  • 26 purchased in 2015
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96

  • The Woman Upstairs

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Claire Messud
    • Narrated By Cassandra Campbell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (383)
    Performance
    (328)
    Story
    (335)

    Nora Eldridge, a 37-year-old elementary school teacher in Cambridge, Massachusetts, who long ago abandoned her ambition to be a successful artist, has become the "woman upstairs", a reliable friend and tidy neighbor always on the fringe of others' achievements. Then into her classroom walks Reza Shahid, a child who enchants as if from a fairy tale. He and his parents - dashing Skandar, a Lebanese scholar and professor at the École Normale Supérleure; and Sirena, an effortlessly glamorous Italian artist - have come to Boston for Skandar to take up a fellowship at Harvard.

    Beth Anne says: "Disturbing, Frustrating, Messed Up and AWESOME!"
    "The woman should have been relegated to the cellar"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    If you're interested in a book with unlikeable, unreliable characters, hints of possible drama, obsession, and betrayal, melancholy and whining, endless run-on narrative from the main character, a plot that bogs down completely, and a rushed ending, then have I got the book for you! I decided to read The Woman Upstairs after hearing an interview with Claire Messud on NPR; the book was touted as a "saga of anger and thwarted ambition". While there was plenty of anger, I couldn't find the ambition part. Unmarried, childless, elementary school teacher Nora Eldridge thinks, “It was supposed to say ‘Great Artist’ on my tombstone, but if I died right now it would say ‘such a good teacher/daughter/friend’ instead.” She becomes infatuated with the whole Shahid family, and because of this association she resumes some of her own artistic endeavors, only to let them get crowded out due to her obsession.

    There is a possibility that I didn't 'get' this book because I'm not terribly sophisticated and don't understand "Great Artists', but it seems to me that adjusting our aspirations is something every single one of us has to deal with as we grow older. I hope I'm dealing with it in a more mature, productive, and reasonable way than the deluded and angry Nora.

    12 of 17 people found this review helpful
  • Our Endless Numbered Days

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 32 mins)
    • By Claire Fuller
    • Narrated By Eilidh L. Beaton
    Overall
    (21)
    Performance
    (17)
    Story
    (17)

    1976: Peggy Hillcoat is eight. She spends her summer camping with her father, playing her beloved record of The Railway Children, and listening to her mother's grand piano, but her pretty life is about to change. Her survivalist father, who has been stockpiling provisions for the end, which is surely coming soon, takes her from London to a cabin in a remote European forest. There he tells Peggy the rest of the world has disappeared.

    Bonny says: "Repetitive, disturbing, and melodramatic"
    "Repetitive, disturbing, and melodramatic"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    When I finish a book like Our Endless Numbered Days, I wonder what I missed that caused me to only give two stars to a book that has a much higher overall rating, and that so many readers seem to love. The best explanation I could come up with is that there was some sort of terrible electronic glitch at Audible where other readers got the well-written, brilliant, incredible version of this book, and I got the repetitive, disturbing, maddening, just plain awful version, because we clearly read different books.

    If you're in the mood for an overly long, repetitive book, full of irresponsible, selfish, and completely crazy adults, a questionable protagonist, written by an author that withheld information from the reader until the end of the sordid tale to make the ending more melodramatic, then you might enjoy Our Endless Numbered Days. Even a decent narration and some above average prose couldn't save this one for me.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Children's Crusade: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 14 mins)
    • By Ann Packer
    • Narrated By Cotter Smith, Frederick Weller, Thomas Sadoski, and others
    Overall
    (51)
    Performance
    (44)
    Story
    (46)

    Bill Blair finds the land by accident - three wooded acres in a rustic community south of San Francisco. The year is 1954, long before anyone will call this area Silicon Valley. Struck by a vision of the family he has yet to create, Bill buys the property on a whim. In Penny Greenway he finds a suitable wife, a woman whose yearning attitude toward life seems compelling and answerable, and they marry and have four children. Yet Penny is a mercurial housewife at a time when women chafed at the conventions imposed on them.

    Bonny says: "Children deserve care."
    "Children deserve care."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    When Bill Blair buys a piece of land in 1954 in what will become Silicon Valley, complete with a towering California oak, he sets this family drama in motion. Bill, a pediatrician whose motto is “Children deserve care”, dreamed of having his own children, and soon marries Penny. They build a house (which figures largely in the novel), have “the three Rs”, Robert, Rebecca, and Ryan, but when unplanned James is born, and the family begins to fail.

    “Think how much we love the three we have,' Bill said when, newly and accidentally pregnant with James, she wept and wept. 'I'll die,' she said, and he smiled an indulgent smile that chilled her."

    James is a wild child, but it wasn't clear to me if this was his personality, the result of the way he is treated by the rest of the family, or a combination of factors. When Penny is overwhelmed and can't control him, she distances herself from the family, both emotionally and physically. She begins this process by doing craft projects in the house, calls herself an artist when she uses a shed down the hill from the house as her studio, and eventually moves into the shed. The title comes from the heartbreaking children's crusade to try and think of things that their absent and uncaring mother might like to do with them, to spend time with them. Their stories are told in multiple first-person perspectives from the children and the adults they become, along with third-person sections recounting this sad family history.

    While I was interested in reading the thoughts from the siblings in the first person, I think the story suffered because we are not privy to any of Penny's perspectives. I don't understand how she became an artist, other than doing crafts with clothespins and calling it art. To me, she was selfish, apathetic, and later downright cruel when she exploited James through her art. Even though Penny had once created a scrapbook about her perfect family of two boys and one girl, she did not come to understand that she was not cut out for motherhood until it was too late, and she seemed to simply place her needs for artistic time and furthering her imagined artistic career above everyone else in the family, without guilt or regret.

    I wish there had been more from Penny, but I also wish there had been less detail and rambling in the first half. The book became a bit of a slog for me, but I am glad I finished because the last quarter was some of the best stuff. I enjoy listening to good family sagas, but The Children's Crusade was more of a family drama. While I could appreciate parts of it, I didn't find much reading enjoyment.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • The Martian

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 53 mins)
    • By Andy Weir
    • Narrated By R. C. Bray
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (25299)
    Performance
    (23209)
    Story
    (23219)

    Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him and forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded and completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—and even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?"

    Michael G. Kurilla says: "Macgyver on Mars"
    "Great science fiction, with lots of science!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    What a fun book! I've recently read a series of incredibly well-written literary novels concerned with math, science, and astronauts that led me to The Martian, the story of American astronaut Mark Watley stranded alone on Mars and his attempts to survive. Initially, I was a little turned off by the log-book format and Mark Watley's adolescent comments ( Yay oxygen! Pirate-ninja!?) but after a short while it really felt like The Martian was the right book at the right time for me. The book has been described as “MacGyver on Mars”, and that it is. It's full of science, logic, struggles to survive against all odds, an astronaut with incredible resourcefulness and the best can-do attitude in the universe, along with thrills, danger, and even humor. There is plenty of math here also, and there were times that I began to skim through what felt like lists of equations and ASCII, but the math is nothing more difficult than multiplication and division. If you're looking for evocative prose, a beautiful, complex story, character development, and introspection, I'm afraid you won't find it in this book, and you may have to suspend a bit of disbelief to enjoy the story, but you will find a compelling adventure. For me, this is a solid 3.5 stars, rounded up to 4 because I'm not usually a science fiction reader, but I still thoroughly enjoyed The Martian.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • The Infinite Tides

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 20 mins)
    • By Christian Kiefer
    • Narrated By Colin Smith
    Overall
    (7)
    Performance
    (6)
    Story
    (6)

    Keith Corcoran has spent his entire life preparing to be an astronaut. At the moment of his greatness, finally aboard the International Space Station, hundreds of miles above the Earth’s swirling blue surface, he receives word that his 16-year-old daughter has died in a car accident, and that his wife has left him. Returning to Earth, and to his now empty suburban home, he is alone with the ghosts, the memories, and feelings he can barely acknowledge, let alone process.

    Bonny says: "Bleak & grief-filled, but also perfectly wonderful"
    "Bleak & grief-filled, but also perfectly wonderful"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I began reading The Infinite Tides almost immediately after I finished Kiefer's 5-star book, The Animals. I think I was expecting (and hoping for) more of the same – exciting plot, a main character I loved, written almost like poetry. The author himself had warned me that “My first book is a much different animal. It’s meant to have almost zero velocity (like a Henry James novel) and spins in one place (purposefully, I mean), so you may have to get into it in a different way.” Of course, he was completely right, and at one point I had to put the book down for a few days. I ended up re-starting The Infinite Tides from the beginning, just reading, without any expectations, and let Kiefer's writing once again work its magic on me.

    This book is a much different animal, and the fact that Kiefer is capable of writing such completely different books, each excellent in their own way, is part of why this is another 5-star read. I won't recount the plot, but it is imaginative, original, and horrifying. The main character, astronaut Keith Corcoran, is not a completely likeable guy, but how he deals with (or doesn't deal with) the bleak, grief-filled circumstances of his life form the basis of his this book. Several characters question Keith's devotion and single-mindedness in becoming an astronaut, and note that that path has ill-prepared him for life after he has reached this pinnacle. He has this truly interesting, synesthesia-like relationship with numbers, and relates to them much better than to people. I appreciated the juxtaposition of how math has answers and logic but human nature is often completely without logic or answers. Keith does end up in an interesting friendship with Peter, a Ukrainian astronomer who now works at Target, and it is Peter's wife Luda who provides a wonderful end to this book.

    Just as Kiefer chose the perfect setting for The Animals, he did the same for The Infinite Tides. The empty ranch house that Keith returns to, on one of many culs-de-sac in suburbia, surrounded by big box stores and Starbucks, helps the reader understand and picture how grim and meaningless things are for Keith. There is something that happens in/to the house that was perfect for Keith's story, literally and metaphorically, but it feels like a spoiler so I won't give it away. Read The Infinite Tides and find out for yourself. I'm looking forward to reading Kiefer's next novel, knowing it will most likely be something completely different, but perfectly wonderful.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • This Is How: Proven Aid in Overcoming Shyness, Molestation, Fatness, Spinsterhood, Grief, Disease, Lushery, Decrepitude & More. For Young and Old Alike

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 31 mins)
    • By Augusten Burroughs
    • Narrated By Augusten Burroughs
    Overall
    (219)
    Performance
    (190)
    Story
    (183)

    To say that Augusten Burroughs has lived an unusual life is an understatement. From having no formal education past third grade and being raised by his mother’s psychiatrist in the seventies to enjoying one of the most successful advertising careers of the eighties to experiencing a spectacular downfall and rehab stint in the nineties to having a number one bestselling writing career in the new millennium, Burroughs has faced humiliation, transformation and everything in between.

    tasson says: "A different side of Augusten Burroughs"
    "Honesty for when things really are awful"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    For me, This is How is the perfect book at the perfect time. I personally hate platitudes, dishonest positive thinking, and trite prosaicism. Augusten Burroughs writes brilliantly for the person that is hungry for honesty. Sometimes things really are awful, and Burroughs offers logical and reasonable cogitations for these times in our lives.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  • Plainsong

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Kent Haruf
    • Narrated By Tom Stechschulte
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (164)
    Performance
    (146)
    Story
    (146)

    A high school history teacher in a small Colorado town, Guthrie is raising his two young sons alone. Thoughtful and honest, he is guiding them through a world that is not always kind. Victoria, one of his students, is pregnant, homeless, and vulnerable to the scorn of the town. When Guthrie helps two elderly ranchers take the young woman into their home, an unlikely extended family is born.

    MAUREEN says: "A beautiful read"
    "Unremarkable small town, Remarkable story"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Although Plainsong is set in an unremarkable small town in Colorado, it is itself a remarkable story. The variety of characters and the situations they face are all written by Haruf with plain, simple, understated, and unflinching language; it is his writing that makes this story so quietly evocative and compelling. Tom Stechshulte's narration is perfect.

    Holt, Colorado is populated by many characters, high school teacher Tom Guthrie, his depressed and fading-away wife Ella, their young sons Ike and Bobby, pregnant teenager Victoria Roubideaux, her abusive boyfriend Dwayne, bachelor brothers and ranchers Raymond and Harold McPheron, and teacher Maggie Jones, whose stories are told in alternating and overlapping chapters. There is loss of innocence, sex, violence, and death, but there is also kindness, decency, community, and family.

    Plainsong is an honest and eloquently-told story that will be with me for a long time.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Girl on the Train: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Paula Hawkins
    • Narrated By Clare Corbett, Louise Brealey, India Fisher
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (25694)
    Performance
    (21354)
    Story
    (21335)

    Rachel takes the same commuter train every morning. Every day she rattles down the track, flashes past a stretch of cozy suburban homes, and stops at the signal that allows her to daily watch the same couple breakfasting on their deck. She’s even started to feel like she knows them. "Jess and Jason," she calls them. Their life—as she sees it—is perfect. Not unlike the life she recently lost. And then she sees something shocking. It’s only a minute until the train moves on, but it’s enough. Now everything’s changed. Unable to keep it to herself, Rachel offers what she knows to the police, and becomes inextricably entwined in what happens next, as well as in the lives of everyone involved. Has she done more harm than good? Compulsively readable, The Girl on the Train is an emotionally immersive, Hitchcockian thriller and an electrifying debut.

    L. O. Pardue says: ""Rear Window" Meets "Gone Girl""
    "She's drunk, divorced, and despondent"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Rachel, drunk, divorced, and despondent, is the girl on the train who uses her commute to obsessively watch her ex-husband Tom, his new wife Anna, and their baby. She also makes up names and a life story for the "perfect couple", Jess and Jason, who live in the same row of houses along the railroad tracks. When Jess (really Megan) is murdered, Rachel approaches the police with her observations and imaginings. Her alcohol-induced blackouts make her an unreliable witness and narrator.

    What I hoped for with The Girl on the Train was something akin to Rear Window, but it didn't measure up to Hitchcock or the hype for me. While it was a pleasurable, i.e., average read, some of the book's initial strengths became its weaknesses in the end. The jumps of the story between narrators along with moving from present to past kept me guessing for the first half, but later became clunky, scrambled, and confusing. I felt there was a distinct lack of character development, to the point that at times it was hard to tell Rachel, Anna, and Megan apart. Rachel's alcoholic blackouts with only vague glimpses of what might have happened keep the reader wondering, but the reliance on her returning memories at the end of the book is completely at odds with what she herself (and more importantly, science!) has told us:

    "But I'm feeling dispirited about ever recalling what happened on Saturday. A few hours of (admittedly hardly exhaustive) Internet research this afternoon confirmed what I suspected: hypnosis is not generally useful in retrieving hours lost due to blackout because, as my previous reading suggested, we do not make memories during blackout. There is nothing to remember. It is, will always be, a black hole in my timeline."

    These are all things that kept The Girl on the Train from being great for me, but it was a pleasant and passable book.

    11 of 18 people found this review helpful
  • Burial Rites: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 59 mins)
    • By Hannah Kent
    • Narrated By Morven Christie
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (348)
    Performance
    (317)
    Story
    (316)

    A brilliant literary debut, inspired by a true story: the final days of a young woman accused of murder in Iceland in 1829. Set against Iceland's stark landscape, Hannah Kent brings to vivid life the story of Agnes, who, charged with the brutal murder of her former master, is sent to an isolated farm to await execution. Horrified at the prospect of housing a convicted murderer, the family at first avoids Agnes. Only Tóti, a priest Agnes has mysteriously chosen to be her spiritual guardian, seeks to understand her.

    Yvonne says: "One of the absolutely Best Books"
    "Hauntingly beautiful and tragic tale"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Several weeks ago, I was lucky enough to come across the perfect book at the perfect time, and it has happened again with Burial Rites. The bleak, gray, and icy grip of winter here has provided the perfect backdrop for Hannah Kent's incredibly well-written debut novel. She tells the tragic story of maidservant Agnes Magnúsdóttir, the last person executed in Iceland in 1830 after she and two others were convicted of killing Natan Ketilsson and neighbor Pétur Jónsson. Because there were no prisons in Iceland, Agnes is sent to live and work with District Officer Jón Jónsson, his wife, and two daughters on their farm. We come to know Agnes and her story through her talks with her spiritual advisor, young reverend Tóti, who is meant to prepare Agnes for her punishment so she can meet her end with contrition.

    Kent has researched her topics well, and writes about the details of water-collecting, knitting socks, making blood sausage, shearing, lambing, and slaughter that make life on the farm difficult on a good day. She never hits the reader over the head with these illustrative details, but they are presented simply as an integral part of the story.

    The narrator, Morven Christie, is superb, in her pronunciation of Icelandic names, timbre, and emotion. I was tempted to give Burial Rites four stars, but Christie's narration makes it a five-star listen. This is a book that will stay with me for quite a while.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 54 mins)
    • By Walter Mischel
    • Narrated By Alan Alda
    Overall
    (158)
    Performance
    (140)
    Story
    (135)

    In The Marshmallow Test, Mischel explains how self-control can be mastered and applied to challenges in everyday life - from weight control to quitting smoking, overcoming heartbreak, making major decisions, and planning for retirement. With profound implications for the choices we make in parenting, education, public policy and self-care, The Marshmallow Test will change the way you think about who we are and what we can be.

    André says: "Well written, easy to read and effective"
    "Self-control is a skill we CAN develop!"
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    It is a bit ironic and telling that while reading The Marshmallow Test I wanted Dr. Mischel to just give me the tips and tricks that would enable me to gain more self-control. Even if I lack patience now and probably would have been one of the children that wanted one marshmallow right now, he has written a book that gives me hope along with plenty of scientific explanation that self-control is a skill that I can develop, nurture and practice. I think he does an excellent job of explaining what self-control is, where it is warranted, instances where it may be more appropriate not to delay gratification, and what we might gain in our lives if we are able to better hone our willpower. As every science and statistics student has learned, correlation does not imply causation, and Dr. Mischel gives a well-reasoned explanation of what the ability to delay gratification may be correlated with. The reader is left with a clear understanding that waiting to get two marshmallows later instead of gobbling one immediately does not cause an easy and worry-free life! As other reviewers have stated, this is not a self-help book with a series of steps to be followed, but it is thoughtful and thought-provoking writing from the man who has spent his life researching self-control and provided us with the tools he has discovered.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  • The Children Act

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 13 mins)
    • By Ian McEwan
    • Narrated By Lindsay Duncan
    Overall
    (564)
    Performance
    (504)
    Story
    (501)

    Fiona Maye is a High Court judge in London presiding over cases in family court. She is fiercely intelligent, well respected, and deeply immersed in the nuances of her particular field of law. Often the outcome of a case seems simple from the outside, the course of action to ensure a child's welfare obvious. But the law requires more rigor than mere pragmatism, and Fiona is expert in considering the sensitivities of culture and religion when handing down her verdicts.

    Bonny says: "McEwan has written perfection in this novel."
    "McEwan has written perfection in this novel."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    Thank you, Ian McEwan, for writing exactly the book I've looked forward to for many months. Rationalism, science, biology, logic, law, and the absence of unnecessary drama and hyperbole are all things I prize in life, and it was a real pleasure to have them written so incredibly well in the character of Fiona Maye in The Children Act. Fiona is an English High Court judge in the Family Division who must decide the fate of Adam Henry, a 17-year-old Jehovah's Witness who has leukemia and is refusing a life-saving transfusion. Fiona is also dealing with a crisis in her personal life; her husband Jack has announced to her that “I love you, but before I drop dead, I want one big passionate affair.”

    Some of the best parts of The Children Act are the beautifully reasoned details of several of Fiona's decisions. In her judgements, she tries to bring “reasonableness to hopeless situations.” Her decision in Adam's case has consequences that affect Fiona's personal life, and part of the miracle of this book is that McEwan writes this human drama without TV movie dramatics or bashing of religious beliefs. This is the first book I've read by Ian McEwan, and I'll approach some of his other books with a bit of trepidation, but The Children Act is about as close to perfection in a novel as I've ever read.

    20 of 20 people found this review helpful

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