Invitation to a Bonfire

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 30 Apr 2018

Member Reviews

I really loved the premise of Invitation to a Bonfire and I really enjoyed the look at what life was like for the two classes during the Russia Civil War and how neither the monarchs or the poor benefited. I found the writing to have a sophisticated feel to it which I enjoyed. It was the kind of reading where I had to slow down to really get the beauty of the words. However, the plot and details in the story did not match the sophisticated writing. I did not understand the characters at all. So many of their decisions came out of no where and so many of the events seemed so unrealistic. Not only did I not understand the characters but I did not like them. They were selfish and I quickly grew tired of them. When the characters are in America so many of the details and descriptions given did not match the time period. I felt much more like I was in the 1950’s than early 1930. There also were just to many inconsistencies with the characters and their actions that just didn’t work for me. I think this was suppose to be a psychological thriller and maybe that was the reason for the inconsistencies but it just didn’t work for me.
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The book was a little complicated for me. There was some good writing, interesting sentences, beautiful at times. Yet that alone doesn't hold up the entire book. There is a story, a plot, but somehow it also feels lost at so many points. 

The early part of the book goes way back for our main character, also the narrator, to ground you in her person, who is Zoya Andropova this Russian orphan. Interspersed with chapters are letters written from a writer to his wife, people we haven't quite met yet. It felt odd at times. The story moves forward in a fairly straight forward manner, yet there is so much of the early time. It is setting the stage for what comes after yet it painfully long, nearly half the book, in this somewhat short book. 

The later part worked better for me, when the characters actually connect, the story moves forward faster. Funny enough, in the end I have to say I'm more in favor of the book than not.
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This was an unique story that had quite the interesting love triangle and some interesting twists. I was surprised by how much I liked the story but I read it within 2 days and found it quite enjoyable!
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Soviet refugee, Zoya Andropova, is attending a New Jersey boarding school during a time where people are suspicious of Russians.  This is a book that will be on everyone's reading list.
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Zoya is an orphan from Moscow who is now living in the United States. She is a student at the Donne School, but she has no family. So when school is over, what will her life become? When her favorite author becomes a teacher at the school, Zoya's life changes dramatically. They start an affair even though Zoya knows his wife from childhood. Strange twists happen toward the end, that I didn't suspect. The story is told from Zoya's journal entries during her life. 

Thank you to NetGalley and Bloomsbury for the opportunity to read and review this book. 

This book started off really slowly for me. I really didn't get much out of it at the beginning. The last 30% of the book, though really had me on the edge of my seat and ready to find out what this girl is all about. Zoya is really kind of a boring character. She goes to class and makes very few friends. When she graduates, she has no family to return home to, so she stays on at the Donne School and works in the greenhouse. There she encounters many students and few faculty members. The students constantly harass her and the faculty basically ignores her. All of that changes when she find out that, Lev Orlo is now a professor. She has been pining for this man through his books for years. Now that he is here, she can't tear herself away from him. 

None of the characters were very likable in this book. Zoya is very boring, Lev is full of himself for no good reason, and his wife well she's a character we really don't get to know too well, but she is a strange bird. 

3 stars for this one and the best part is at the end.
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This came highly recommended but I found it disappointing. I didn't find the setup of the story believable enough for me to really engage as a reader.
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This novel is set up in an alternating timeline and interspersed with differing perspectives, as well as collected journal entries, letters, and newspaper clippings, which I knew going in. This story is the tale of a Russian refugee and the professor that would make then break her. Now I love historical fiction and I assumed I would just fall in love with this story. Unfortunately this was full of history, perhaps a bit too much for me in this story. The slow burn was a bit too slow for my tastes, to each their own. I just kept wanting something to happen. It started with a bombshell and I suppose I wanted that pace to keep going. 

Thank you to the publishers and NetGalley for the opportunity to read and review.
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Thank you to Netgalley for the opportunity to read this advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.

I like the time setting of this book and the title. The story was very interesting. It was a little too bogged down at times, but overall I think it's a good story.
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She is a writer who tells a very good story because of it's vividness and the way she engrosses you in the story. If you haven't discovered this author yet definitely pick up this book so you won't miss this gem. It's lyrical and intense and definitely worth curling up with on a lazy Sunday afternoon sitting in your favorite chair with your preferred drink by your side. Happy reading!
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Short Summary: The tepid tale of a love triangle gone wrong (although do any of them ever go right?) that was inspired by Vladimir and Vera Nabokov's marriage.

Thoughts: The summary makes it easy to go into this novel with certain expectations (seductive story, spellbinding psychological thriller) but this story is, possibly because it was written as a series of letters, comes off as extremely apathetic and lethargic.

Verdict: Unfortunately, this tale failed to seduce or spellbind me and considering this was meant to be based off the notorious Nabokov's, I expected that infamous passion to bleed through the page more.

I received this book free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
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Set in post-revolutionary Russia, Paris and the US, this unique compilation of historic experiences intertwine into life, loneliness and love that will capture you and hold you tight. Celt’s intelligent and melodic writing style is refreshing and lyrical in its elegant delivery - this is a love story like no other. Who’s the predator, who’s the prey?  You’ll be kept guessing as weaknesses are exposed, strengths confounded and cleverness prevails!
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This was total fun. 1930s, boarding school, mean girls, Russian émigrés (including Vladimir and Vera Nabokov stand-ins), literature (including a mysterious missing manuscript), the politics of entitlement vs. deprivation, murder plots, and some really enjoyable writing—super smart but not heavy. Recommended to anyone who likes any of the above. Thanks to #NetGalley for the e-galley.

And just for the hell of it, I pulled Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading off my shelf, because a home library is the best thing ever when it actually replicates the kind of free association you'd use a real library for.

[Goodreads/LibraryThing review]
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DNF. I tried to push through to get to the passionate love triangle, which sounded very interesting to me, but I got so bored during the childhood/school parts that I lost interest.
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This book was very slow reading.  It took forever to really get in the rhythm of the story and I found the writing somewhat confusing.  It was hard to tell who was talking when the viewpoints often changed.  I didn't especially care about any of the characters or what happened to them.  Still, it presented some interesting history so I give it 3 stars for that.
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I had a hard time getting into this book. I initially started it, but stopped and read another book instead. Then I revisited it and found the first section a little slow and hard to get through. (I have no idea if this is merely due to the story being slow or me just not being in the right head space for it. I imagine it was a little of both.) 

I stuck with it though, and was rewarded with an interesting and beautifully written story. However, I'm afraid I didn't really fully notice or appreciate that fact until I was nearly to the end. Because of that, maybe this book is more like a 3.5 for me, personally.

Ultimately the story is a slow burn (you likely won't understand where the title comes from until the final pages.) An impressionable, rather naive young woman named Zoya has an affair with a married man named Leo. As most affairs go, it's a pretty dysfunctional relationship in which man takes advantage of the young woman's naïveté. To further complicate matters, Leo is married to a pretty complex, formidable woman named Vera who has a history with Zoya and isn't about to simply walk away from the relationship. (I love this line from Vera, "Women,' she said with a little laugh. 'The quieter we are, the less we're seen? The more we get done.'")

Ultimately this book is a character study of one woman (Zoya), with interesting glimpses at another (Vera), and nearly no peeks inside the head of Leo--the man whom both women love. This lack of detail for his character makes Leo the least interesting one in the book (he almost comes off at times as cartoonish). But the women are complex characters with rich back stories. At times it's difficult to know which one of them to root for. Ultimately you, the reader, are likely to just hope Zoya finds some simple happiness in her lonely life. Thankfully the book creates some great drama around the complexity of that task. Thankfully the book creates some great drama around the complexity of that task.

Thanks to the author and NetGalley for granting me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
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*4.5 stars rounded up.

"'It's like I sensed you,' he whispered. "Not just here, but everywhere. Like everyone I've ever loved was leading up to this, to you, to us.'"

How could a virtually friendless young woman, alone in the world, not fall for an older man, a famous Russian novelist whose books she adored, when he breathed those enchanting words in her ear? 

Zoya Andropova was one of several orphaned Soviet children secreted on a passenger ship and brought to America in 1925. There she is offered a scholarship to attend an elite all-girls secondary school in Maple Hill, New Jersey. After graduation, she remains at the school to plan and run their elaborate greenhouse. It is there that she meets the famous Russian novelist, Leo Orlov, and his wife and editor, Vera, when he comes to teach at the school. A passionate love affair ensues. It's the old tale of: "I love my wife...but oh you kid!" 

The story is told through a collection of papers bequeathed to the school after Vera Orlov's death that contain Zoya's diary, Leo Orlov's letters, and police interviews and reports. It's not surprising that a romantic triangle leads to death but there is an intriguing mystery here that builds nicely to a shocking conclusion. 

I was pleasantly surprised that this was quite the page-turner, a sleeper that's not getting enough attention yet, in my opinion. It's supposedly loosely based on Vladimir Nabokov who did indeed have a wife named Vera who was his editor, but there are no notes from the author in this arc edition about how she came to write this novel and if indeed good-old Vlad was her inspiration. 

There is some interesting Russian history--what happened to Zoya's family during the Russian revolution and how she became an orphan. All her life, even in America, she comes up against the unfairness of class, those with a great deal money versus those without. Are her choices the right ones? 

Many thanks to NetGalley, the author and publisher for the opportunity to read an arc of this novel. I will look forward to reading more of Ms Celt's work.
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As appears on

Invitation to a Bonfire is one of those books where the summary is entirely misleading.  Reading it, I thought I was in for a immigrant’s story, or a boarding school book, or even a crazy sexy romance/survival book.  Nope.  Sure, the book has elements of all of the above, but it’s mediocre compared to the way it’s described.  The first half is unnecessarily slow, and it was hard for me to distinguish between the voices.  Invitation to a Bonfire is told in first person from Zoya and Lev’s points-of-view, but they are both written with the same language and style so it was difficult at first to remember who was narrating.  It eventually became easier to decipher.  Zoya’s POV is told through her diary entries, and Lev’s is told through letters he wrote to his wife, Vera.  Vera herself never narrates, though various newspaper clippings and testimonies reflect on her character.  It was interesting for the book to be told in a diary-like format, because that’s not common in “adult” fiction, so I appreciated that, but it also made for a lot of “telling” not “showing,” which I think took away from the story.

I don’t mean to rant, but bearing this in mind, I think Adrienne Celt’s Invitation to a Bonfire is truly one of those love-it-or-hate-it books.  I loved the writing style, it was lyrical and endearing, but I didn’t care too much for the story itself or its execution.  When I finished it, I couldn’t help but feel it was missing something.  The ending was underwhelming and left me feeling “meh.”  I can say that this book just wasn’t for me, but if you like love triangles or historical thrillers, give Invitation to a Bonfire a try.
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4 seductive stars To Invitation to a Bonfire!

This book was highly recommended by my friend, Elyse! Thanks for another intriguing read! 

Zoya Andropova is a refugee of the Soviet Union who has enrolled in an all-girls boarding school in New Jersey. It’s the 1920s, and she has lost everything, including her family. Zoya’s journey is relatable in that she wants nothing more than to fit in like any teenager, but being a Soviet refugee during this time of extreme paranoia to outsiders proves to be a heartbreaking burden she cannot lift. 

Zoya takes an interest in a visiting writer and fellow Russian emigre, Lev Orlov. Actually, Zoya has long been obsessed with the books by this famous author, and she seeks him out as a savior of sorts. 

Lev is already married to Vera, and a love triangle is set-up, complicated by the fact that Lev is both devoted to his art and to Vera. She is his anchor, a cold and calculating anchor at that, and runs every aspect of their lives. What happens to Zoya, Leo, and Vera is a tangled mystery. 

Adrienne Celt’s writing is artistic and exciting. This is a mysterious thriller that has a slow build. I found the structure interesting; comprised of letters, diary entries, and transcripts. 

Just who is the master of Zoya, Lev, and Vera’s fates? 

Thank you to Adrienne Celt, Bloomsbury USA, and Netgalley for the ARC. Invitation to a Bonfire will be available on June 5, 2018.
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It took me a while to get into Invitation to a Bonfire. I will say that I am thankful for giving it some time because eventually it became rather suspenseful. I know very little about Russia, especially 1920's Russia so it was interesting for me to read about.
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I was very disappointed with this book. In fact I could barely get in to it all and ended up putting it down. The writing style was not something I liked, and honestly I found the writing to be muddy. I did not finish.
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