Cover Image: Becoming Bonnie

Becoming Bonnie

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Becoming Bonnie is my own novel. I requested and downloaded the book to double check the formatting. I’m rating to clear it from my shelf 
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(I received a free copy of this book from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.)

The summer of 1927 might be the height of the Roaring Twenties, but Bonnelyn Parker is more likely to belt out a church hymn than sling drinks at an illicit juice joint. She’s a sharp girl with plans to overcome her family's poverty, provide for herself, and maybe someday marry her boyfriend, Roy Thornton. But when Roy springs a proposal on her, and financial woes jeopardize her ambitions, Bonnelyn finds salvation in an unlikely place: Dallas's newest speakeasy, Doc's.
Living the life of a moll at night, Bonnie remains a wholesome girl by day, engaged to Roy, attending school, and working toward a steady future. When Roy discovers her secret life, he embraces it—perhaps too much, especially when it comes to booze and gambling—she tries to make the pieces fit. Maybe she can have it all: the American Dream, the husband, and the intoxicating allure of jazz music. But her life—like her country—is headed for a crash.
Bonnie Parker is about to meet Clyde Barrow.

I really did want to love this story - I mean, really, on the face of it, what's not to love? A story of the origins of Bonnie and Clyde! One of the most famous/infamous couples in the annals of true crime. That sounds like a great book to me...

What DID I love? The setting. I absolutely felt like it was the 1920's. I felt like I was in Doc's, the speakeasy. I could see the sights and smell the smells of the Roaring Twenties, not that Bonnie was necessarily into that. But the setting was great! 
Also, I did enjoy the aspects of her history that we do know for sure - they were worked into this story well, and made sense where they were...

What I didn't like? The rest of the book - mostly the created history and the pacing of the book. 
The author makes it clear that a lot isn't known about Bonnie's early years - but the story she gives her doesn't feel quite right, trying to portray her as the innocent child (maybe so her change later will be such a contrast.) It didn't seem right to me. 
Also, making this a book of 'When Bonnie Met Clyde', one gets the impression it is going to be about Bonnie and Clyde...but it isn't. We don't meet Clyde until after page 100, they don't actually start to become a couple until after page 200 - and the book is only 300 pages long!

I take it this is the beginning of a series of books featuring the pair. I am worried about what is going to become of those books, knowing what eventually becomes of Bonnie and Clyde, and whether it is just a fictionalised account of their known history. 

Anyway, I will wait and see what becomes of that - who knows, a sequel may be outrageously brilliant. We can hope!

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Something I've discovered about myself is that I really enjoy historical fiction, particularly if it's set sometime between turn of the (20th) century and the American Jazz Age.  And while I can't say I've ever really been interested in knowing more about the criminal duo known as Bonnie and Clyde, their story definitely fits within the period that I enjoy reading and researching and so this seemed like it should be a good fit.

But let's be clear about one thing from the very start...this isn't 'historical fiction' - that is...fiction based on a person or event from history. There was a Bonnie as part of 'Bonnie and Clyde' who robbed banks and such, but this Bonnie is only similar in name.  The historical part was thrown out in order to tell a story.  That's okay...I'm just not sure why.  Why take a figure that is rather recognizable and change the history to tell a different story?

But... all that aside, I won't rate the book because it doesn't fit a particular genre.  I'll rate it based on whether it's interesting and holds my attention. Here the book falls flat.

Essentially we have 300 pages of a character study, showing the reader that Bonnelyn (the name made up) is a sweetheart and an honest, caring, upright citizen who ultimately gets married to someone who struggles and has fallen in with a bad crowd.  Not Clyde, mind you.  Bonnelyn doesn't even meet Clyde through much of this book.

The big problem is that the book is just plain boring.  This set-up of character went on and on.  An entire book simply setting up the action of a second book is bad enough, but there was nothing here in the character that could sustain this.  This is a romance without any romance. This is Bonnie and Clyde without Clyde ... without 'Bonnie' actually.  Certainly not the Bonnie that robbed banks and killed people.

This is not recommended.

Looking for a good book? Becoming Bonnie by Jenni L. Walsh, is a slow historical romance without any romance.

I received a digital copy of this book from the publisher, through Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.
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Becoming Bonnie is exactly what the title implies, how Bonnelyn Parker becomes the Bonnie of Bonnie and Clyde fame. This book has been on my kindle since it’s release and knowing that the sequel Side by Side is coming out next month I knew it was time to dig in (I snagged an arc of Side by Side and have already started reading it).

I didn’t really have an image of what Bonnie was like, my only reference has been the movie with Faye Dunaway and an episode of Timeless (wasn't impressed). Becoming Bonnie tells the story of a young girl with aspirations, she has hopes and dreams for the future. There is very little known of her early life and the author put the pieces together to create this awesome story. Her teen years were hard enough before the depression hit. I’m not going to go into details about what takes place or how Bonnelyn becomes just Bonnie. Suffice to say this was a very enjoyable book.

It wasn't just Bonnie's story, but also a look at the time period.  Prohibition, the Depression and just the everyday struggle to make ends meet (often it wasn't possible), life wasn't easy and that was portrayed vividly. This is the author's debut and I am impressed, I hope she takes on more female villains in history.

My thanks to the publisher for a ebook copy for a honest review.
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Jenni Walsh tells the story of Bonnie and Clyde (and Roy) through the semi-realistic tale of Becoming Bonnie. However, Bonnie starts off as Bonnelyn, a churchgoing, newly-engaged, unexpected heroine, who encounters the dark-and-domineering, jailbird extraordinaire Clyde after being introduced by her good friend, Blanche. Keep in mind, this is fiction. Few details have been changed. 

Still, I adored everything about this. Usually when authors delve into historical fiction, they have no clue how to maintain the art of the creative voice. (i.e. "I went to the juice joint with Blanche, then I went to TJ MAXX to buy a bag of trail mix and a pair of flip-flops, but then, I went back home to try on my new pinafore.) Walsh, however, stayed in character, the entire time. I was gratefully astounded.

Honestly, I had no clue Jenni Walsh had switched out the details of their real story, at that. I was fully convinced about Becoming Bonnie being the entirety of Bonnie's life-story. Personally, I feel like it would've ruined their story. 

The only thing I may've not liked about this was Clyde's voice. This story makes him sound like such a romantic, ala Chuck Bass, and I never believed him to be that. Otherwise, every voice in this novel is painfully accurate, especially Bonnie's. She sounded so problematic and messy and downright idiotic, but overall, this had to have been the realest, real-life version of her. I was fond of the ending, simply because of the accuracy and the amount of details, but Bonnie may annoy the heck out of you.
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I regret not being able to get through this book. There were so many words like  “‘bout,” “nothin’,” and “‘round” that it was distracting from the story.
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Loved reading about Bonnie Parker before she became infamous.  Even fictionalized her story is fascinating and I would love to read more!
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Historical fiction can go two ways. There's the bad....and trust me, I've read the bad. And then there's the good...and Becoming Bonnie falls into this category. Taking Bonnie Parker, a real person, and adding a little umpf to her story is a wonderful idea, and has been done a few times - especially on film. Jenni Walsh captures that same thing that Faye Dunaway did on film.

Bonnie was a wholesome, beautiful girl who made some questionable choices once she fell in love with Clyde Barrow. This book adds a little fun and backstory to Bonnie's life and leads us right up to the point where Bonnie and Clyde become "Bonnie and Clyde" I'm excited for the next installment.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read and review this book.
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This book had me right from the description (and the cover too). I’ve always been interested in Bonnie and Clyde and there have been a few television shows about the duo recently, but they never really explored the backstory, just focusing on the flashy bank robbing crime spree. Bonnie is such a fascinating character and it is a fascinating time in history too (which I hadn’t really thought about combined with the characters). I’m pleased to say that Walsh met my every expectation with her debut, Becoming Bonnie, and I’m even more thrilled to hear that there will be a sequel coming out hopefully next year that takes us into the crime spree time.

Walsh creates a fantastically believable Bonnelyn in her high school years. She has grown up tight on funds, but with a relatively happy life. She anticipates marrying the man that she has grown up alongside, Roy, and has big dreams of becoming a teacher with a real income. She is a “good girl” and someone that I could identify with, despite coming from different circumstances. Beset with family problems and the economy downturn that happens with the crash of Wall Street, Bonnelyn finds herself doing things that she never would have thought about doing before – bootlegging, interested in someone other than Roy, changing her thoughts about completing school. You can truly believe that the growing uncertainly in her family situation could lead her to make some of these choices, but she is also conflicted about her choices. You feel that inner struggle. The other characters here are fully fleshed too and equally as interesting as Bonnelyn (I won’t spoil how the name Bonnie comes about as it is sweet). Her best friend Blanche is a hoot! She makes up her own words (which I do a lot) and is always up for a good time and pushing at the rules a bit, however she is a good egg and really there when she is needed. Oh and Clyde! The author just keeps stringing the reader along awaiting when he will actually show up on the page – and it was a very appreciated tactic. I think I would have been less interested in him had he been present from the start and this just built the anticipation.

While Walsh brings her characters to vivid life, her settings are even more fantastically endowed. The speakeasies were pulsating with music, big personalities, and the air of constant anticipation of a bust. The depression of Cement City was palpable and in stark contrast to the bigger setting of Dallas. Walsh excelled at world creating in a place I have never been that made me feel as if I was there.

After a few slow or stalled books that I had read recently it was extremely refreshing to pick up Becoming Bonnie. I always wanted to read one more chapter or thought of all the little times that I could find to pick up the book and read further. Bonnie ends on a positive note and leaves the reader wanting to find out what happens when the crime spree begins!
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3.5 stars

After reading a fictional telling of Lizzie Borden I pick up this book next. Another couple of people in history that I am completely fascinated with: Bonnie and Clyde. 
I may have a weird fixation with the baddies of history. Stop judging me.

This started at a young age for me..once I saw this.

This story is mostly all Bonnie's. 
Not much is known of her early life so this author takes some liberties and fills in for us Bonnie and Clyde junkies what might have happened. AND she makes it believable.

The Bonnelyn Parker that is shown in this book starts off as a good girl. She gets good grades in school, goes to church every Sunday, takes care of her poor family and is loyal to her childhood sweetheart Roy.
Then her bestie Blanche talks her into going into a speakeasy one night with her....and her life changes forever.

"Saint Bonnelyn" is shocked but her family needs the money so now she is working serving up drinks and singing at the club. She ends up marrying her childhood boyfriend Roy (right before she turns 16)
and turns out he loves the club even more than she does.

Roy and Bonnie's relationship is a pretty rocky one and he ends up leaving her. (He is pretty much a turd and then I read that in real life he left her more than this book even says.)

Bonnie is shedding her good girl ways but they still are part of when she meets her friend Blanche's boyfriends brother Clyde she knows that the way she feels around him and the way he looks at her can't be nuthin but trouble.

I liked this different look into Bonnie's life. It made me even more curious into her life..I just wish there was more available about her. I did find that she wore Roy's ring up until her death. 

I'm actually ready for this author's next book where she goes into the life that Bonnie and Clyde shared together. 

Booksource: Netgalley in exchange for review.
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Although their story is well over 80 years old, Bonnie and Clyde are infamous celebrities to this day; and while most of the facts about their criminal endeavors are readily available, mystery still shrouds most of their lives from before their meeting. This is just the type of sketchy fodder needed for exactly the type of historical fiction novel I love, and Jenni L. Walsh is the author that took up this challenge. In this novel, Walsh introduces us to a girl called Bonnelyn Parker, a church-going, studious girl who dreams of becoming a teacher and finding a way to earn enough to help her family out of poverty. Bonnelyn is also in love with her childhood sweetheart, Roy Thornton, who wants to become a journalist. Together, they hope to make a better life, and maybe even travel far away from the confines of their poor town outside Dallas, Cement City. First, they have to graduate high school. The problem is that money is tighter than usual since she's just lost her job at the diner, and her brother is out of work after an accident at the cement plant. When Bonnelyn's best friend Blanche gets an offer to make money working the bar at an illegal speakeasy, Bonnelyn has no choice but to do the same.

Anyone who has read anything about Bonnie Parker knows that what I've just described here is pure fiction. 
There's nothing anywhere indicating that Bonnie's real name was Bonnelyn, and there's no proof that she ever worked in a speakeasy. While both Blanche and Roy are real people, the actual timelines relating to their acquaintances are nothing like what Walsh puts into this story. Furthermore, Walsh even had Blanche only dating Buck Barrow, who was Clyde's brother, while in truth they were married and Blanche was his third wife. You could say that Walsh decided to play it as fast and easy with the few available facts, as Bonnie and Clyde did with the law. Purists will probably get upset with this, but frankly, I can't say that it mattered to me one way or another (well, except for the part where Walsh has someone sing "Ain't Misbehavin'" in 1927, when it didn't come out until 1929). Call me a hypocrite, if you will, because I've panned books for smaller violations than this, but I'm not going to disparage this book (well, at least not completely). You see, my thinking here is, if you can overlook historical inconsistencies, then that's an indication that there's a good story underneath, and that's precisely what I found here.

To begin with, Walsh makes you believe (or at least want to believe) that the woman who died in a barrage of bullets after a bloody crime spree, started out as a good girl. This pulls my heartstrings because, naïve as it may seem, I have always wanted to believe in the goodness inside people. The character Walsh calls Bonnelyn goes to church, works hard to earn a few pennies to help her family, is a diligent student who fears God and has big, honest dreams. Walsh takes us through the systematic process of how desperation for money (and some unsavory influence from her wild friend) draws Bonnelyn to take the work in the speakeasy. From there, we learn how that world pulls her in, how the people around her make it easier for her to continue, and how her conscience bothers her less and less as she falls deeper into this darker side of her world. I must say that what Walsh does here with Bonnelyn (despite a few hiccups along the way) is an excellent example of character development. What really impressed me, however, was how Walsh developed Blanche. I know Blanche has a supporting role here, but her transformation from being a flirt and bit of a slut to a woman deeply in love with Buck Barrow (Clyde's brother) was absolutely letter perfect. Together, the fictional criminalization of these two women was fully understandable, and that made the book perfectly captivating.

By the way, those hiccups mentioned above focused partially on times when I felt that Bonnelyn wasn't moving in enough of a liner direction towards her future life of crime. Mind you, I get that people vacillate, but I think this would have worked better if Walsh had made Bonnelyn a touch more of a defiant soul. Another thing that didn't sit completely right with me were the times when both Blanche and Bonnelyn used words that seemed slightly too sophisticated for them, which at times didn't fit well with the natural flow of the dialogue. I'm not implying that these women were stupid and didn't know these words; I just don't think they would have used words like "surreal" in normal, casual conversation, especially when these same characters are prone to dropping the final 'g' on their verbs. This may just be my own hypersensitivity, and other readers might not notice, and overall, I don't think these niggles (or even the inaccuracies) damaged the book for me. In fact, I can warmly recommend this book and I think this debut novel deserves a healthy four out of five stars (and yes, I am looking forward to reading Walsh's sequel to this novel next year, very much).
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This is a remarkably fascinating interpretation about the life of Bonnelyn Parker, a young, sweet, god-loving girl who became known as one of the most notorious outlaws of the 20th century. She was, ultimately, a victim of the times and longed and strived to help support and protect those she cared for.

It is a story about familial responsibilities, poverty, coming-of-age, survival, friendship, dreams, desire and love.

The prose is precise and fluid. And the story takes us back to the mid-to-late 1920s to a dusty town on the outskirts of Dallas where people worked hard but didn’t always have much, prohibition was in full force and the worst, longest and deepest economic depression was just about to hit.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this story. It is a well written, intriguing, rich story, and even though there is not much known about Bonnelyn’s early life and the events that led up to her close, intimate relationship with the fugitive Clyde Barrow, Walsh has done an exceptional job of taking historical facts and surrounding them with fiction that is both alluring and exceptionally captivating.

Thank you to Jenni L. Walsh and Forge Books for providing me with a copy in an exchange for an honest review.
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3.5 Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, notorious outlaws, subjects of films and documentaries chronicling their come sprees, their death resulting from a shootout with the cops, hard not have not heard of them. Saw the movie and in fact as I was reading this is kept picturing Bonnie as Faye Dunaway. This book though started earlier, when a sixteen years old Bonnie is a high school student, and avid churchgoers, set to marry her boyfriend Roy and very close to her family. So how does this wholesome girl become the legendary Bonnie Parker? 

The author admits that not much is known about Bonnies early life, but she uses what information she found and mixes those facts with her own invention. The best parts of this story for me was the very authentic feeling atmosphere that was created. Actually felt like I was back in the early 1920s, with Bonnie as she tries to help her family, their poverty, and her hopes for a better future. Speakeasy and illegal alcohol, how she becomes mixed up in that whole scene, all felt real and right. 

Enjoyed this look. It was well wriiten, though at times I became impatient with the pacing. A good look though at the early life of Bonnie and although the book stops before Bonnie and Clyde become notorious, it does show how she fell under his spell, and how they first came to the attention of the authorities. The authors note details what was true and what was invented. 

ARC from Netgalley.
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Becoming Bonnie is a strong debut from an author who shows much promise in the future. I'm already eagerly anticipating the sequel!

While much of the narrative surrounding Bonnie and Clyde focuses on Bonnie's relationship to Clyde and their crime-filled passion, Walsh uses this book to focus on Bonnie's journey of growing into herself, of changing from Bonnelyn to Bonnie. The book begins in Bonnie's early years—going to school and working to help her family—and shows her grow and change with her circumstances. 

Walsh shows how far someone will go to protect those they love. Bonnie fiercely steps up to bat for her family and her first love, but also knows when to step up to bat for herself. While parts of this writing felt slightly heavy-handed, I appreciated seeing a girl who could fight for herself and what she wanted. Bonnie made choices for herself and not for others. 

The writing is solid and gripping. While I was initially expecting a little bit more of Clyde in this book, Bonnie grew on me, and I quickly became far more interested in her alone. Her character growth was perfectly executed and I cannot wait for book 2. 

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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Becoming Bonnie focuses on the early years of Bonnie Parker, the infamous partner of Clyde Barrow. Bonnelyn is a young girl who dreams of a big future. She wants to become a teacher and marry her boyfriend, Roy. One day, she finds that her mother hasn’t paid the electric bill, and the family struggles to make matters meet to pay the bills. Bonnelyn helps out her family by working at a diner. However, when her brother gets a bad injury where he can no longer work, and Bonnelyn gets laid off at the diner, she makes a tough decision to work at a speakeasy. As she joins the speakeasy, she realizes that her dreams may be harder to attain than she could imagine.

    I found Bonnie’s transformation from a good girl to a criminal to be very fascinating. We first see Bonnie as an idealistic dreamer. She believes that through hard work and determination, she can achieve her dreams. However, as she faces money situations and family problems, she is confronted with reality. She realizes how hard it is to achieve the American dream. She also dreams about love and happiness. Eventually, she realizes that love is not a fairy-tale. Thus, seeing Bonnie’s struggles as she tries to make ends meet is heart-breaking and tragic. We know that she is a character who will not meet her goals and transform into the notorious criminal that everyone knows her to be.

  Overall, this story is about family, friendship, love, and the quest for the American dream. The characters, except for Roy, were very fleshed out. I wish the author would have focused more on Roy’s spiral to the dark side because his transformation was very sudden and had no explanation as to why he took a dark turn. Still, Mrs. Walsh did a great job in portraying Bonnie. I also thought the Jazz Age was a very captivating setting. Thus, this was an engrossing in-depth psyche of Bonnie Parker, and I look forward to reading the sequel, Being Bonnie. I recommend this novel to fans of Platinum Doll, Marlene, and A Certain Age.
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This was my first historical fiction novel and it blew me away! Becoming Bonnie was riveting and the facts lined up with history. Although this is fiction, it was authentic and well written. I feel the need to go visit all of the Bonnie and Clyde attractions around town. 

"Bonnelyn, well that name ain't pretty enough for the lies of you. I reckon Bonnie suits you better."

I was thoroughly fascinated with how Bonnie became the Bonnie we think when we here Bonnie and Clyde. You felt her dismay and apprehension in the begging of the book along with the pain and anguish in the middle and the love and lust and fascination in the end. This is the story or Bonnie, that we don't hear much about and I can't wait to see what else Jenni L. Walsh writes. She has made a fan out of me. 

"How the story ends, no one knows... But one thing's clear, you'll see... Bonnie and Clyde, meant to be, alive and free."
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Thanks Macmillan-Tor/Forge and netgalley for this ARC.

I thought I'd be able to be unbiased and read a YA. novel, but I just couldn't do it. It was a little too obviously  YA for me.
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This is a fast paced, heartfelt coming of age story, and also an excellent debut. The story definitely went a little bit of a different way than I expected. It started a little earlier than I thought it would, but it was good. It established Bonnelyn's character very well and revealed a gradual, believable, and relatable character evolution. From what little I've read, there isn't a whole lot of good info on Bonnie, early life, or otherwise. I appreciated the way Jenni L. Walsh wove the few facts she did have seamlessly into the narrative she created. The writing was engaging and although we didn't get as much action as I was expecting, it still felt like a very fast paced read. I was reluctant to put it down.
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I was a little unsure starting this because I have an unusually critical eye for the voice in YA historical--which is often anachronistic enough I can't quite get through it--but Bonnie's voice sounds just like a girl living in 1920s Texas.  I also loved that she doesn't flip the switch from Saint Bonnie to the other half of a soon-to-be-crime duo in one chapter. Walsh really lets her character come to the change on her own, at a believably pace. Likewise, Clyde Barrow is not an immediate fixture in the story, and that helps cement Bonnie as a character in her own right and not just someone's love interest. My only complaint was that I found myself skimming through some of Bonnie's inner monologues (where she often repeated sentiments she'd already thought before) and it could have been a bit tighter overall. But I loved it!
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