Birds of Wonder by Cynthia Robinson

starness's review against another edition

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I think the author attempted to give this book an artistic and unique spin to the over saturated murder/mystery genre. What I first thought would be a standard murder/mystery ended up something different altogether. I’m not entirely sure I enjoyed all aspects of this book though. It seemed to me the whole town was full of seedy unsavoury people that made you dislike/suspect everyone of evil wrong doings that by the end you had no idea where the story was leading. The second half of the book was by far a more enjoyable read as it wasn’t your typical whodunnit mystery but a dissection of a town uncovering a host of murky characters and as you got deeper you got a better picture of the people in it and how everyone fit into the storyline. It was interesting with all the different narrators but sometimes the writing veered off track making it an uneven read overall. I’d give this book 3.5 stars as I was curious to see how the whole plot would unfold.

Thanks to Netgalley and Smith Publicity for my advanced copy.

Pub date: 20th Feb 2018

cassies_books_reviews's review against another edition

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Going into this book when I started I was a little nervous with the many characters POV’s but soon I was lost in the unique and artistic story. The book opens with Beatrice a teacher who stumbles upon the dead body of the star of a high school play the victims name is Amber. Beatrice then calls her daughter Jes whose an officer. It is obvious that they have relationship issues I don’t want to give to much away about that . When Jess begins her investigation the suspicions soon falls on Ambers employer Liam Walsh and some other mysterious and creepy characters. Soon Jess is distracted by her affair with Liam who is definitely a top suspect. With a murder of a beautiful High-school girl soon secrets are exposed in their small town and some secrets people would rather they stay hidden. I loved all the bird references and it definitely held my interest and the story line and short sentences really drew me in. This was an amazing debut by the author and I loved how it all came together in the end. I will say this was a character driven story and each character played their part perfect in the book. Jess and Beatrice’s relationship irritated me at times with Jess’s animosity , but by the end you will know why and it’s made very clear! I give this a solid five stars!

shahnamarie's review against another edition

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I received an advanced copy of Birds of Wonder from Netgalley, Standing Stone Books, and author Cynthia Robinson in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts are my own and in no way influenced by those mentioned above.

I like the backbone of this book. This had a lot of screwed up characters to really make this more interesting! I feel like the character could have added much more suspense. This isn't your typical "whodunnit" although each character we meet really does look guilty. I can tell the author wanted to do something a little different and she really did.

I struggled with rating this book because I did like it. It just didn't captivate it like the potential it had to do! Also, I didn't quite understand the whole concept of the birds. I liked it but I have yet to discover the symbolism of all of the birds that are mentioned. I'm assuming right now that it's because each character can be compared to a bird in which she describes, HOWEVER, like I mentioned, I'm finishing up grad school this week so all of my mental analysis has been going right to that. I was reading more for plot (and I'll be honest, I kind of like reading for more of the story anyway) but any analysis I could do I wasted on my school work. Maybe I should have read this when I had more time to think and ponder the words.

The characters are all sincerly messed up. Each and every character is really dishonest and hard to like, besides Beatrice for me who I felt so very bad for! There are many different points of views in this story and it can become easily confusing. I stuggled with the characters at first because of this.

I think I expected more of a crime story and didn't quite get just that. I may have enjoyed this more at a different point in my life.

amylee218's review against another edition

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I won this book in a giveaway. I really enjoyed this story, and liked that it was written in multiple viewpoints. I also enjoyed the inclusion of birds, and the symbolism surrounding them.

bibliokyra's review against another edition

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Birds of Wonder is a magnificent genre-bending work of literature set in a small art and wine enriched town in upstate New York. One morning English literature teacher, Beatrice Ousterhout, is walking her dog along her neighbor's property. Her dog smells something and they discover the lifeless body of Amber Inglin, the talented teen girl and orphan who was cast to play The Duchess of Malfi in Beatrice's upcoming play. Quite shaken, Beatrice calls her daughter, Jes, who happens to be a detective and is named P.I. of the case. Jes is a tough, broken soul and spends her free time sleeping around to fill a void within her. The body was found near the mansion of Amber's boss and local vintner, Liam Walsh, one of the married men Jes had an affair with. Among the suspects are Liam, one of his workers, Amber's troubled foster siblings and a neighbor who was the last person seen giving Amber a ride home. Jes is determined to find the murderer but becomes side-tracked by certain bodily desires and her personal deep-seated beliefs.

The story consists of a handful of narrators and is incredibly character-driven but remains easily digestible. All of the well-developed character's flaws and dark thoughts are on full display which makes the majority of them unappealing and some, downright vile. It was interesting to see how the relationships and lives in the town are all woven together. From the beginning, Jes expresses a great amount of hostility towards her mother and treats her terribly. Towards the end of the novel, the reason Jes resents her mother is made clear. Beatrice's mental state seems to be deteriorating as she chooses ignorance and naivety. One of the suspects, Edward, is a disturbing middle-aged artist who tends to view women as objects. His character was revolting and pulled together the timely theme of women being treated disrespectfully, speaking to the #MeToo movement. Covering the span of a few days, the six absorbing narratives are strung together and examine how each person is affected by the death of this young woman.

As I read on, I realized the relationships between the characters were the main focus of the novel and the mystery aspect took the back burner. This fact does not make the story any less intriguing and I flew through the book. Robinson kept me compelled with the "whodunit" of Amber's murder as she introduced and developed each complex character. There are so many thought-provoking layers to this story. A fascinating dialogue of ornithology and art is intricately woven throughout. This novel is about broken spirits, the mistreatment of females across the world, family issues and relationships falling apart. Most importantly, it's about people coming to terms with who they really are. Without spoiling anything, I was relieved that the ending of the book was not picture-perfect but ended just how it was supposed to. If you are broken, only you can fix yourself. No one else can do that for you.

Robinson's prose was fresh and poetic. I look forward to reading more from her in the future! I highly recommend this novel for anyone who appreciates well-rendered characters and gorgeous writing. Thank you so much to Smith Publicity & Cynthia Robinson for my copy. All opinions are my own.

frostatmidnite's review against another edition

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Frankly, I picked up the book because I loved the cover. But after reading it I found the writing beautiful as well. Somehow, all the emotional drama of these people are captured without being overly dramatic. It was a good read, though I wouldn't give the mystery part of it any due. Birds of Wonder is a book that knows how to focus on humans and their flights of fancy. You will be disappointed if you are waiting for an "Aha!" moment because this book really is not a thriller. Pick it up for the writing and the characters, their lives and the aftershocks following a death.

For the entire review, visit Frost At Midnite.

sarahsbookstack's review against another edition

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Birds of Wonder is a very character driven novel..... But I couldn't connect to any of them in any way. The mystery turns out to be less than mystery, but I don't know how to explain it. But I will say that it's very good writing for a debut.

jessicamap's review against another edition

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Check out my blog for an author Q&A and to read an excerpt!

This is the debut novel for Cynthia Robinson and she brings the readers on a journey seen through six different perspectives in BIRDS OF WONDER. An English teacher finds the lifeless body of one of her students, and the story begins.

Beatrice Ousterhout is an English teacher and is very involved in theater. The reader begins to realize that her mental state seems to be slowly deteriorating, which makes her a very interesting character perspective to read. After stumbling upon the lifeless body of Amber, one of her students, she calls her daughter Jes. Jes works for the police and begins the investigation.

While this does focus on the police procedural end, we also dive into the core of the relationships between the characters. Specifically the family dynamic between Beatrice and Jes and the affects her father's death had on the family. I really liked the ornithology elements - as someone that knows very little on the topic it was a unique inclusion for a murder investigation. We also get a glimpse into the lives of those affected by Amber's death - her best friend, Megan, and brother Connor.

I loved going through each character and experiencing their development. You would think 6 characters is a lot to jump between, but Robinson does it effortlessly. I wouldn't classify this as a straight mystery novel, but more a literary mystery. We do get the investigation portion and some suspense, but the novel's focus is the innerworkings of relationships between mother/daughter, siblings, and husband/wife.

Robinson will keep you engrossed in the characters and trying to figure out what truly happened. I really enjoyed the ending and how we were brought there. I hope to read more from Cynthia Robinson in the future!

I give this one 4.5/5 stars! (rounded up for rating)

readalotwritealot's review against another edition

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A hauntingly beautiful, page-turning debut.

Cynthia Robinson tells the story of a murdered young girl through the eyes of six very different characters. With poetic prose, complex characters, and artistic details, Robinson weaves a witty, dark tale of community, family and consequences.

I loved this book from the first page. Robinson managed to make something unique in a genre where you rarely find something original. The writing is intelligent but incredibly readable. The story is character driven with twists and suspense. The end result is something that will stay with you.

I can’t wait to read what Robinson writes next!

keeperofpages's review against another edition

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*My thanks to Smith Publicity for the free review copy*

2.5 stars - Birds of Wonder is Robinson’s debut novel, literary fiction containing a mystery; but the mystery is used to display themes of family ties and the struggle to break free from your past. I read this book in two-sittings in the same day, but this book wasn’t for me, not because it isn’t well-written, because it is. But sometimes you read a book and you just struggle to get into it, you know the impact it should be having on you, what you should be feeling, but you just don’t feel it.

The interesting thing is, I think everything in this novel worked as it should. Told from six different viewpoints, it never became confusing and each voice was distinct. The plot is highly character driven and we get a good understanding of the character’s lives – how they are connected to Amber Inglin, and how her death forces them to confront things in their own lives. For me, the most interesting perspective was from Jes, she wasn’t a very likeable character, and seemed to intentionally put distance between herself and her mother, Beatrice. Beatrice didn’t come across as overbearing, so I was curious to know why their relationship was the way it was. As far as her police skills go, appalling.

I think this book’s USP was wasted on me, it contains many artistic references to birds; I’m sure this element will make this a unique and intriguing read for many. I know next to nothing about birds, and I can’t say I’m interested in the different kinds – I didn’t realise the title would feature so literally in the novel. It also contains theatre references – I think those who enjoy those two artistic references will really appreciate them.

The themes in this novel are dark, made even darker by almost every character being unlikeable. However, all that said, I just could not connect with this novel – there was no atmosphere that usually accompanies a close-knit community setting, with limited characters, and no one thing that was able to pull me into the plot and make me invested. But I wouldn’t dissuade anyone from picking this novel up because there was no major plot hole (although I did think the investigation into Amber’s death was not the strongest aspect of this book) or major failing I can describe – this was a case of: not every book can be for everyone, and this one just wasn’t for me.

I think Birds of Wonder would appeal to fans of literary fiction who enjoy artistic references such as those mentioned above, and personally I believe it’s a mistake to pick this novel up expecting it to be a crime fiction read. Yes, it contains a mystery, and is suspenseful at times, but it’s an intricate character study displaying relationships (mother and daughter, husband and wife, brother and sister), and like the blurb indicates, the stresses that can tear these relationships apart.