Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Relative Strangers by Paula Garner



Unrated | 368 pages | Candlewick Press | Contemporary | 04/10/2018 

I am all for quiet YAs that have interesting premises and haven't been put through the giant hype machine. Relative Strangers is about Jules, a teen girl, who has always felt like there was something missing from the humdrum life she leads with her emotionally distant mother. Jules has a vintage adventurer's sensibility and wants more than what her small town can offer.

When she discovers she was in foster care she goes off to reconnect with the foster family that raised her for the first year of her life. She forms a relationship with her former foster-brother,  now a handsome pianist who gives her the confidence she's been looking for.

Now, I was a little frustrated with the protagonist in this book in a way I've never been before.  She admits she is envious of her two best friends' big close families and she knows she shouldn't be because they have issues too, but she just never lets it go. Even when she knows she should.  Also, she is so distraught and angry and feels like she was lied to over the fact that her mother never told her she was in foster care for ONE YEAR ?! I mean I guess you could argue the first year is pretty formative but she acts like it was forever and. There are a lot of things for her to be frustrated with her mom about and this isn't a big one.

Jules begins to struggle with the crush she is developing on her foster-brother and tries to be just a sister as he copes with the impending death of one of his parents,  and you kind of want to yell at her to get her life right because other people are going through it. But despite the rough start with  I think Jules grows as a character toward the end in a way that is satisfying and worth the journey.

I feel like this would be a good fit for fans of emotional family dramas

SIDE NOTE

Jules has a gay goth BFF who lost his mom and works in a coffee shop during his gap year while writing a novel, taking care of his pet rats while waiting to get into the Iowa Writer's Workshop who is obsessed with death. He seemed like he needed his own book and/or fell out of a John Green Book.

Check out the audio review at AudioFile Magazine



Wednesday, July 4, 2018

WWW Wednesday #1


This is my first time participating in this meme hosted by Taking on A World of Words!

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

WHAT AM I CURRENTLY READING?

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King  and Owen King
I feel like I've been listening to this 25-hour audiobook forever and I still have 9  more hours left. This book takes place in a near future where women suddenly fall into a permanent sleep and the chaos the follows in a small Appalachian town.



WHAT DID I RECENTLY FINISH?

Around The Way Girl by Taraji P. Henson
I've been a fan of Henson since she starred in Lifetime's The Division and it's been great seeing her get so much attention later in her career. This book details all of her successes as well as her struggles with racial inequality in Hollywood and single motherhood. 

Indecent Exposure by Tessa Bailey
I received this book from Avon as part of Avon Addicts program. The series follows recruits at an NYPD police academy and this one is about an alcoholic NYPD trainee who falls for the new Irish arms instructor and turns his life completely around.


WHAT AM I READING NEXT?

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
The hype I've seen for this book has been unreal and I can't wait to start it!


Friday, June 29, 2018

Audiobook Review: Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein


Rating: ★★★★ | Penguin Audio | 7 hours and 4 minutes | Memoir | 10/27/2015

I find Carrie Brownstein really interesting. She’s one of those people who has managed to have two very distinct yet very successful careers in the public eye. Depending who you are you may know her from the rock band Sleater-Kinney or, if you’re like me, from the award-winning show Portlandia.

This memoir is focused exclusively on her relationship to music and Sleater-Kinney. I picked up this book because it was like a window to the eclectic and chaotic world of 90’s punk rock band life during the riot grrrl movement--a world I knew nothing about.

This is a fun listen on audiobook,  Brownstein does a great job narrating her life story from her wistful childhood in the Seattle suburbs to her unexpected rise to notoriety. She reveals all the grit behind band life and is open about the ups and downs of forming and keeping a band going for over a decade. The audiobook has fun bonuses like musical interludes, a section where guest narrators show up, and an interview with Brownstein and the audiobook producer. The only thing you would  miss by not picking up the physical book are all the photographs

Her narrative is very personal, I expected her to dig into the riot grrl movement and feminism more broadly, but she keeps it only to her experience. This book also has a tendency to periodically take a turn for the literary and purple prose. There were some paragraphs where I had no idea what she was talking about.

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl is a fascinating and honest memoir, but may not be the best book for fans looking to get a more behind the scenes look at Portlandia. Maybe the story of Portlandia will be her next memoir because I don’t understand how she went from musician to successful sketch comedy writer/producer/actor.

SIDE NOTE

The whole time I read this I was thinking this could be a TV show and it looks like a pilot is in production for Hulu. Now, I just want a Last Black Unicorn based TV show, come through HBO



Saturday, June 23, 2018

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E Schawb


Rating: ★★★★ | 354 pages | Tor Books | Historical Fantasy | 4/21/15 | 11hrs and 34 Minutes

If there is a super popular hyped novel you can bet I will read it years after it comes out. I'm always fascinated by series that have huge fandoms and I've seen so much fanart and generally squeeing about this series that I don't know what took me so long to get to it.

In A Darker Shade of Magic, there isn't just one London, there are four--red, gray, black and white. At least that's how Kell likes to think of it. He is an Antari, one of only two people with the ability to travel to the other Londons

Antari are to be messengers; passing only messages between the heads of states of the various Londons, but Kell can't help but to smuggle a few trinkets between worlds on the side. When he smuggles an item back that could destroy the Londons and tip the balance of power and magic it will take all his magical knowledge and abilities to set things right. Along the way, he gets mixed up with a Lila Bard, a thief looking for a bit of adventure and danger.

I can see why this book is a keeper. It's got nail-biting action, sweeping adventure, and dastardly magic. I've read enough of Kat's reviews of Schwab's work to wonder just how many fully formed worlds exist in her head.

Delilah is my favorite kind of female characters, I would like more, please. She was clever, headstrong, laidback and not afraid to pull a weapon on someone. It was one of those characters where I thought I knew where they were going with her as a character and it just never goes there. Especially at the end.

Narrator Steve Crossley's deep Britsh voice was perfect for this narration but his voice was a bit to mature for the main characters who were 19 and 21. He made the female voices work but I'm curious to see what Michael Kramer and Kate Reading (who BTW are married), who perform the other books in the series, do with the characters.

A solid fantasy that has plenty of stories left to tell.




Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Five Audiobooks For Pride Month


June is audiobook month and Pride month, to celebrate here are five of our favorite YA audiobooks featuring gay, lesbian or bisexual protagonists. If you have audiobook recs with trans or asexual protagonist please leave below!

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan | Narrated by Matthew Brown and Emma Galvin




You Know Me Well moves dreamily along as we follow high schoolers Kate and Mark through their first San Francisco Pride. Matthew Brown and Emma Galvin provide the alternating narration for each of our protagonists as they form an instant friendship and navigate a night of unexpected twists, anxiety, and unrequited love.



Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy | Narrated by Thérèse Plummer


When Ramona's romance with a tourist ends along with the vacation season in her small town, she doesn't think she will get over it; until an old friend from her childhood catches her eye. A quiet YA about the moments that matter in the life of a teenager and her found family. Plummer's narration is upbeat, youthful and a perfect fit for this story


More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera | Narrated by Ramon De Ocampo


Aaron Soto is going to try to happily spend the summer hanging with his friends; nerding out over comics and finally telling his girlfriend he loves her. He won't think about the things that threaten his happiness like his father's suicide or Tomas, a neighborhood boy whose friendship could spark something more. This YA book makes you feel the feels and when it comes to the emotional moments narrator Ramon De Ocampo lets it out.


Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert | Narrated by Alisha Wainwright

Audiobook narrator Alisha Wainwright brings a cool west coast vibe to this story about 16-year-old Suzette who is returning to her eclectic LA community for the summer after a year in boarding school. She contends with her brother's bipolar diagnosis and finds herself in the middle of an unexpected love triangle.

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julia Ann Peters | Narrated by Christine Lakin 


After Alix's girlfriend's sudden death she has to sift through the lies she left behind. This novel is a great snapshot of how teens deal with love, loss, and relationships in the 21st century. Like how do you put someone away when their Facebook is still there or what's the power of a text message when you don't know who is on the other end? Narrator Christine Lakin voice is textured authentic.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Not My Father's Son by Alan Cummings



Rating: ★★★★  | HarperAudio | Memoir | 10/07/2014 | 

Alan Cumming examines the violent and abusive childhood that nearly sent his adult life off course while on a journey to uncover a family secret on the reality TV show  Who Do You Think You Are? Just when Cumming thinks he has a handle on all his family secrets, his estranged father calls and drops a big one.

This silver fox actor is known for playing eccentric characters. I  know Cumming best from his role as Eli Gold on The Good Wife (He was also in X2).  At the time I had no idea he was Scottish but by the time I finished this audiobook the thought of him with an American accent seemed strange.

Cumming is a veteran stage and theater actor and I believe his experience telling and performing stories enabled him to create a memoir that reads more like a literary drama. Underneath his glamorous jet-setting lifestyle, Cumming is still very much connected to the self-conscious frightened boy working the land with his tyrant of a father during the final era of big Scottish Estates. Like Cumming says in the book--think Downton Abbey but in the 70's.

Cumming is very close and protective of his mother and brother who also survived his father's abuse. You can hear the affection in the audiobook, which I don't need to tell you is great because it'won two Audie Awards .  Cumming's voice is full of bravado and his Scottish brogue glides rhythmically over the words.

I watched some of Cumming's episode of Who Do You Think You Are ? and I can tell he used the episode as a reference to help him write the book. He uses some of the same descriptions and jargon.  It's certainly interesting watching the episode knowing all the things that were happening in his life off camera.

I listened to this on Scribd and it recommended me Tommy's Tale, a novel Cummings wrote two years before this book. If you've read Not My Father's Son it's easy to see where he draws his inspiration from.




Sunday, June 10, 2018

Non-Fiction Mini Reviews : Lawyered !




I'll be honest, I've been kind of freaking out about getting closer and closer to the big 3-0, but one of the things I learned as I've gotten older is that I can read non-fiction. I always thought I was one of those readers who would never be able to get into serious non-fiction, but it's a muscle I'm slowly learning to build thanks to audiobooks.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
I grabbed Just Mercy last year after hearing Stevenson, a civil rights attorney fighting wrongful convictions, on a podcast. I started and stopped this audiobook so many times and eventually just kept it on my phone so I could tell people I was reading a "smart" book.

One day I ran out of podcasts, so I decided to try putting Just Mercy on in the background while I was working. Soon I found myself listening in the car, at home and slowly found myself looking forward to hearing more about Stevenson's often brutal and heart-wrenching career.

Just Mercy is a tough read because so much of Stevenson's work is connected to things that are hard to look in the eye like; institutionalized racism, violence, corruption and mass incarceration.  His book focuses on the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of Walter McMillian , but also tells several harrowing and heartbreaking cases Stevenson has fought along the way. The format threw me off a bit because we'd leave one story for another without warning, but I gather this has a lot to do with the audio format. Stevenson is a capable narrator and does some subtle voices here and there.

I do not understand the cover of this book. Early on Stevenson notes the somewhat dubious nature of To Kill A Mockingbird and Atticus Finch. I mean John Grisham's quote and name are just so big.

I had no idea this book was published way back in 2014. I'm sure he has seen some rising book sales recently. Also this

A Higher Loyalty by James Comey

After reading Just Mercy, I picked up another book by another lawyer; this one being A Higher Loyalty by James Comey. I'm not gonna lie. I picked up this book for the tea...and the tea was spilled. I may not understand everything about political maneuverings but I've worked at enough places know when people are jumping ship and getting fired left  and right something is not working

But also it was interesting learning how Comey became the controversial figure he is.  He's sort of been hovering in the background of several major cases before becoming a household name, he was involved in quite a few scandals including The Palme Affair, The abuse at Abu Ghraib and the  Martha Stewart conviction. Comey is no stranger to controversy. I think Comey has some interesting thoughts on leadership and how to be a leader but nothing particularly innovative.  He narrated the audiobook and gets emotional talking about how he was held hostage as a teenager and the death of his son. His views on mass incarceration aren't great and he tries to reason out the statistics a little too much. I think due to the very public and sudden end of his government service, Comey is really just trying to get the last word in and he holds nothing back.






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