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Bonny

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

Member Since 2015

521
HELPFUL VOTES
  • 61 reviews
  • 137 ratings
  • 558 titles in library
  • 12 purchased in 2015
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FOLLOWERS
89

  • This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage

    • UNABRIDGED (11 hrs and 35 mins)
    • By Ann Patchett
    • Narrated By Ann Patchett
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (254)
    Performance
    (231)
    Story
    (228)

    Blending literature and memoir, Ann Patchett, author of State of Wonder and Bel Canto examines her deepest commitments: to writing, family, friends, dogs, books, and her husband in This is the Story of a Happy Marriage. Together, these essays, previously published in The Atlantic, Harper, Vogue, and The Washington Post, form a resonant portrait of a life lived with loyalty and with love.

    Bonny says: "Entertaining, engrossing, and elucidative essays"
    "Entertaining, engrossing, and elucidative essays"
    Overall
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    Story

    This is the Story of a Happy Marriage is everything other reviewers have said, and more. It’s a wonderfully-written and varied collection of Ann Patchett’s essays, ranging from musings about how she considered joining the Los Angeles Police Dept. in order to write about it and how she is influenced by her father, a retired LAPD police captain, to her feelings about her dog Rose and Sister Nena, the nun that taught her to read and write, to the eloquent and moving account of caring for her grandmother during her progression into dementia.

    I’ve read and enjoyed (with reservations) several of Patchett’s novels. Bel Canto was great but I hated the ending, and I liked State of Wonder, except for some of the more ludicrous plot points. I personally found this collection of essays much more engrossing than any of her novels that I’ve read. She can write about almost anything, revealing thoughts, emotions, and advice without becoming preachy and overbearing.

    I was completely unaware of Lucy Grealy, Patchett’s long-term friendship with her, and the controversies arising from their relationship. I’m very tempted to read Patchett’s Truth and Beauty to delve into this further, and may do that after I’ve had some time to digest the essay from Grealy’s sister in The Guardian. I’m hoping that Patchett will further show, as she did in this collection, that there are often quite a few ways of viewing a situation, and one absolute truth does not always exist.

    I do have to thank Ann Patchett for leading me to an epiphany. In “Love Sustained”, she writes about the long and painful decline of her grandmother Eva:

    “My grandmother had spent her life taking care of other people, cooking their food, cleaning their houses. It was her proof that she was valuable in the world. Now I cleaned my grandmother's apartment, which hurt her every single time. My cleaning was an accusation, no matter how quietly I went about it.”

    When I read “It was her proof that she was valuable in the world.”, I gained a much better understanding of my dear mother-in-law. She raised five children with lots of hard work and no time to herself. Now that she has too much time to herself, she is missing that visible proof that she is valuable in the world. I could see her so clearly in that one simple sentence. I’m grateful for this entertaining and elucidative collection of essays that was a pleasure to read, and even more so when read by the author in the audio version.

    6 of 6 people found this review helpful
  • Plainsong

    • UNABRIDGED (9 hrs and 6 mins)
    • By Kent Haruf
    • Narrated By Tom Stechschulte
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (138)
    Performance
    (122)
    Story
    (122)

    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.

    0 of 0 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
    (9547)
    Performance
    (7997)
    Story
    (7999)

    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
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    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.

    8 of 15 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
    (323)
    Performance
    (296)
    Story
    (294)

    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
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    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
    (111)
    Performance
    (98)
    Story
    (92)

    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
    (440)
    Performance
    (395)
    Story
    (392)

    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.

    19 of 19 people found this review helpful
  • Everything I Never Told You: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (10 hrs and 1 min)
    • By Celeste Ng
    • Narrated By Cassandra Campbell
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1071)
    Performance
    (927)
    Story
    (929)

    Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet.… So begins the story in this exquisite debut novel about a Chinese American family living in a small town in 1970s Ohio. Lydia is the favorite child of Marilyn and James Lee; their middle daughter, a girl who inherited her mother's bright blue eyes and her father's jet-black hair. Her parents are determined that Lydia will fulfill the dreams they were unable to pursue When Lydia's body is found in the local lake, the delicate balancing act that has been keeping the Lee family together tumbles into chaos.

    colprubin says: "Character Novel"
    "Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet."
    Overall
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    “Lydia is dead. But they don't know this yet." I couldn't read the opening sentence of Everything I Never Told You and not read the book. As a mother, I would like to think that my connection to my sons is so strong that I would know if something life-threatening had happened to them. I know this maternal connection fairy tale I tell myself may be a bit at odds with reality, but it still bothers me intensely that a child could be dead and her family might not know it. Yet, that is the tragedy that befalls the Lee family. James is a Chinese-American father, married to his white wife, Marilyn. Because of his race, James has always felt like an outsider, so as he raises his children, Nath, Lydia, and Hannah in the 1970s in Ohio, he aches to have them be popular and fit in as he never has. Marilyn has unrealized dreams of becoming a doctor, and her unfulfilled dreams become her expectations for the favorite child, middle daughter Lydia. Everything I Never Told You explores how a family falls apart when they can't see, understand, and accept each other for who they really are. Celeste Ng writes this from each character's perspective while telling their stories so the reader can better understand why each family member acts as they do. She explains the culture and climate of the 1950s when James and Marilyn marry, along with the years of assumptions, misunderstandings, miscommunication, and sometimes total lack of communication that has led the Lee family to this point. There is no big reveal or twist, just a heartbreaking, poignant resolution.

    There are several things that I don't understand or can't judge because I have no experience with them, and they affected how I felt about the book. I believe that a Chinese-American would have experienced some prejudice in the 1970s, and even more so in the 1950s, but I wonder if the level of prejudice displayed towards interracial parents and their children was as much as is written here. Also, Lydia seemed to be a lovely child, but I would have liked more detail as to why she was her parents' clear favorite, to the point that Nath and Lydia are barely noticed. Lastly and most importantly, I wonder about a completely reprehensible, almost unforgivable act that James commits after Lydia's funeral. I can understand being so emotionally distraught at the death of your child that you want to blot out all emotion, but what he did has repercussions later in the book, and I wish there had been some further exploration of why he behaved this way and his wife's response, or lack of it! I couldn't find any other reviewers that seemed to be bothered by this as much as I was, but it was a big one for me. This is a solid 3.5 star book, rounded up because it is a worthwhile read that has made me think.

    The narrator of this book had an unfortunate habit of reducing her volume at the end of some sentences, especially during highly emotional scenes. This may have been an attempt to add some emotion to her narration, but there were some disruptive instances where it was just plain difficult to hear what was being said without rewinding and relistening at a higher volume.

    20 of 26 people found this review helpful
  • How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking

    • UNABRIDGED (13 hrs and 28 mins)
    • By Jordan Ellenberg
    • Narrated By Jordan Ellenberg
    Overall
    (171)
    Performance
    (144)
    Story
    (145)

    Ellenberg chases mathematical threads through a vast range of time and space, from the everyday to the cosmic, encountering, among other things, baseball, Reaganomics, daring lottery schemes, Voltaire, the replicability crisis in psychology, Italian Renaissance painting, artificial languages, the development of non-Euclidean geometry, the coming obesity apocalypse, Antonin Scalia's views on crime and punishment, the psychology of slime molds, what Facebook can and can't figure out about you, and the existence of God.

    Bonny says: "Mathematics is the extension of common sense..."
    "Mathematics is the extension of common sense..."
    Overall
    Performance
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    I run across a lot of books that I add to my to-be-read list and then forget about until after their publication dates or I stumble upon the book in the library or bookstore. How Not to Be Wrong was initially one of those books, but it sounded so good that I found myself obsessively thinking about it and started a search for a pre-publication copy. Since I'm not a librarian, didn't win a copy via First Reads, and don't have friends at Penguin Press, it took some time and effort, but having procured a copy and read it, I can say that it was well worth my time and $6.00. How Not to Be Wrong is a catchy title, but for me, this book is really about the subtitle, The Power of Mathematical Thinking.

    Ellenberg deftly explains why mathematics is important, gives the reader myriad examples applicable to our own lives, and also tells us what math can't do. He writes, “Mathematics is the extension of common sense by other means”, and proceeds to expound upon an incredible number of interesting subjects and how mathematics can help us better understand these topics, such as obesity, economics, reproducibility, the lottery, error-correcting codes, and the existence (or not) of God. He writes in a compelling, explanatory way that I think anyone with an interest in mathematics and/or simply understanding things more completely will be able to grasp. Ellenberg writes “Do the Math” for Slate, and it's evident in his column and this book that he knows how to explain mathematical ideas to non-mathematicians, and even more so, seems to enjoy doing so with great enthusiasm. I won't pretend that I understood everything discussed in this book, but it's such an excellent book that I also bought the audio version and am listening to it (read by the author himself!) so I have a much more thorough understanding. I've wished for a book like this for a long time, and I'd like to thank Jordan Ellenberg for writing it for me!

    8 of 8 people found this review helpful
  • The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can't Stand Positive Thinking

    • UNABRIDGED (6 hrs and 17 mins)
    • By Oliver Burkeman
    • Narrated By Oliver Burkeman
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (375)
    Performance
    (332)
    Story
    (331)

    The Antidote is a series of journeys among people who share a single, surprising way of thinking about life. What they have in common is a hunch about human psychology: that it’s our constant effort to eliminate the negative that causes us to feel so anxious, insecure, and unhappy. And that there is an alternative "negative path" to happiness and success that involves embracing the things we spend our lives trying to avoid.

    Brett says: "Self help for the real world"
    "The Antidote explores the negative path."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I used to do the lab. work for a local group of oncologists, and one evening I heard someone crying in the waiting room. The rest of the staff had left and the doctors were doing rounds, so I went to see what was going on. I found a patient, sitting there, crying quietly. She had been in remission twice, but had recently relapsed. She said she needed to talk to one of the doctors because she didn't know what she was doing wrong. When we talked further, she said she had been using some visualization tapes, where you are directed to imagine that lasers or your vigilante white cells are killing your tumor. She had also been using some “positive thinking for cancer patients” tapes where you are told to repeat, “I am healthy” and “I am cancer-free.” She was incredibly upset, not so much by the cancer, but because she felt that her inability to cure herself with positive thinking meant that she was doing something wrong and it was her fault. For me, that moment confirmed that positive thinking, used in the wrong circumstances and for the wrong reasons, can do more harm than good. The Antidote explores that interesting idea.

    Oliver Burkeman is not out to bash positive thinking, but rather to explore “the negative path”, the idea that the more we search for happiness and security, the less we achieve them. This is done through chapters on Stoicism, the ways goals can be counterproductive or destructive, insecurity, the nonattachment of Zen Buddhism, failure, and our fear of death. He presents ideas about what might make our lives less unhappy, but this isn't in the typical self-help form of strict rules or a program to be blindly followed.

    The conclusions Burkeman seems to come to are to embrace insecurity, and stop searching for happiness and quick fixes. Rather than thinking about everything in a positive way, it is much better to see things realistically, accurately, and truthfully. That is a philosophy I wholeheartedly agree with.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Exit Papers from Paradise: A Novel

    • UNABRIDGED (8 hrs and 24 mins)
    • By Liam Card
    • Narrated By Jonathan Yen
    Overall
    (3)
    Performance
    (2)
    Story
    (2)

    Frustrated 35-year-old plumber Isaac Sullivan believes he has both the intellect and skill to be a surgeon. Forced to take over his father's plumbing business straight out of high school, Isaac's dreams of attending the University of Michigan fell by the wayside. However, the unfortunate setback didn't stop him entirely. For the past decade, he has absorbed every medical textbook and journal available to him. For practical experience, Isaac performs surgeries on the wildlife around his house, preparing for the day he attends Michigan.

    Bonny says: "Funny, quirky, original, and interesting"
    "Funny, quirky, original, and interesting"
    Overall
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    Story

    This has to be one of the funniest, quirkiest books about a funny, quirky character that I've ever read. Isaac is a plumber in Paradise, Michigan but he really wants to be a surgeon. After high school, he dutifully took over his father's plumbing business, but he's been dreaming about attending the University of Michigan as the first step toward becoming a surgeon. For many reasons, he's been afraid to actually apply to college, but he has been busy conducting surgery on animals, reading medical journals, and carrying on an intense internal dialogue. It's this internal dialogue that really helped me connect with Isaac, see him as more than just plain weird, care about his character, and care about what happens to him. My internal dialogue was screaming, “NO, NO, NO!” at the end, but I don't think Liam Card could have ended it any other way.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  • The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry

    • UNABRIDGED (7 hrs and 2 mins)
    • By Gabrielle Zevin
    • Narrated By Scott Brick
    • Whispersync for Voice-ready
    Overall
    (1263)
    Performance
    (1117)
    Story
    (1123)

    The irascible A. J. Fikry, owner of Island Books - the only bookstore on Alice Island - has already lost his wife. Now his most prized possession, a rare book, has been stolen from right under his nose in the most embarrassing of circumstances. The store itself, it seems, will be next to go. One night upon closing, he discovers a toddler in his children’s section with a note from her mother pinned to her Elmo doll: I want Maya to grow up in a place with books and among people who care about such kinds of things. I love her very much, but I can no longer take care of her.

    Trish says: "Loved, Loved, Loved It!!"
    "Sadly, I found this poorly-written & predictable."
    Overall
    Performance
    Story

    I really hope my sister doesn't think I lied to her when I told her how much I was enjoying this book initially. While it is a heartwarming, sweet book, developments at the end turn it into a sickeningly sweet, predictable, TV-movie-type stereotype of a book. I originally thought I might be able to understand A.J. Fikry and his curmudgeonly ways. That may still be true, but what I don't understand is the "magic" that surrounds everyone on Alice Island that makes everything turn out fine, despite child abandonment, suicide, alcoholism, etc. If an author is going to give her characters difficulties like these, I think they owe their readers a better written and deeper explanation of how characters dealt with them than just a few cursory sentences. For me, this book was much closer to a fairy tale than fiction. They all lived happily ever after, but as a reader I have no idea how that happened. The story was worthy of 2 stars, and while Scott Brick can be an excellent narrator for action, drama, or sci-fi, he would not have been my choice for a book of this type.

    3 of 5 people found this review helpful

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