Sunday, September 17, 2017

Audiobook Review: The Gentlemen's Guide to Vice and Virtue

Rating: ★★★ | Release Date: 06/27/17 | Historical | 10 hours 47 minutes | Harper Audio
It’s Georgian London , ya’ll and Henry “Monty” Montague, the rouge 18-year-old Viscount of Disley is all set for his year long grand tour of the European continent where he hopes to attend to some general rakish-ness.  Along for the tour is his annoying younger sister, Felicity and his best friend, Percy--who he also happens to be madly in love with. Yeah, what could possibly go wrong ?

I think this should be one of those books that the less you know going in the better. This book gets talked about as a road trip novel but to me it is less road trip and more Hero's Journey With a sprinkling of Dan Brown intrigue and like a pinch of Southern Gothic tropes. I've never read anything quite like it before and it was amazing.

This is my first Lee, but it definitely won’t be my last. Everything from the character development, to the pacing to story structure worked for me. At first I really hated the Monty character and found him obnoxious and I just didn't get it but by the end of the journey Lee had completely redeemed him and I was going wherever she took me.

Audiobook narrator Christian Coulson does an amazing job and his narration for Monty is what is making this  a 5 star review.  Coulson has this sharp, rhythmic, caustic voice for Monty and somehow he  completely smooths out the tone for Percy, the other male character we hear the most from. It was  to a point that he practically sounds like a different person. I think the audiobook would be really good for Americans because all the British slang just sounds so good in his accent. Also, yes, yes, the narrator also played Tom Riddle in Chamber of Secrets movie.

I rarely join the hype train (and actually I feel like the hype for this book kind of died down once it came out) but this book is great and completely unique adventure that’s never exactly what it seems. I'm super excited for the sequel and I'm going to go back to  read her first book because it sounds so intriguing!

I noticed some reviews called the book anarchistic but I'm not sure I saw that. Some of the language felt more true to form than some historical romance I've read. Also there aren't a lot of explanatory commas to explain the slang, clothing and social structure of 18th Century England and I do wonder if that would be confusing to some readers since we don't get a lot of historical YA like this. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Audiobook Review: Gem and Dixie by Sara Zaar

Rating: ★★★★ | Release Date: 04/04/17 | Contemporary | 5 hours 45 minutes | Balzer + Bray
I've had this book on my radar since I saw Sarah Dessen was just gushing out it on Twitter late last year. It’s the 7th book from veteran YA author Sara Zaar and tells the story of the titular Seattle sisters who grew up with neglectful parents that never wanted to grow up. The sisters have always looked out for each other  but when Dixie, the younger, more social sister, enters high school with Gem, the introverted, quiet sister it brings a new strain to their relationships.

This is a short, slice of life novel that I think is what the cool kids call quiet YA. It reminded me a lot of the early 90’s contemporary YA I used to read in high school. While there is a game changer plot point about 50% and they go on an adventure for most of the book you’re just kind of along for the ride, watching their life play out as they manage their mother and responsibilities.

Audiobook narrator Julie Whelan had some great voices for all the characters and I liked the way she did dialogue but Gem is the narrator in the book and Whelan has this very cool, flat affectless tone that just didn’t do it for me. She also  sounded just a little too mature for a teenage characters. 

I’ve started to notice that contemporary YA has been really reflecting the current moment the best it can. We’re seeing books about police brutality and undocumented immigrants and I think this is probably the first of many book reflecting the opioid crisis.

Gem and Dixie is a quiet, introspective YA that made me feel a little nostalgic for those early 90's books.

Also, I know some people don't like a lot of romance in their books and there is also absolutely no romance in this book.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

New Cover, Who Dis : The Scarlet Series

A.C. Gaughen's  2012 Scarlet series re-imagines Robin Hood as a teenage girl. I remember this series in particular because I met the author at my very first BEA and she gave me some great bookmarks ... which I guess will be outdated because this series just got a makeover.

There has been a trend happening (much to reader's chagrin) where publishers have been re-designing covers halfway through a series, so it's interesting that they've given this series a revamp, nearly 2 years after the series ended.

Could they be priming themselves for A.C's 2018 book ? I'm not sure but let's take a look at the redesign !

I've always thought the original books had a unique cover design. The full face and  hazy illustrated glow reminds me of a few other 2010's YA's like Paranormalcy  and Splintered though there is a slightly dead-eyed look to the cover. They new covers only keep the same color scheme for two of the books, but they all still have the pointed dagger motif. I think the new covers are modern and have a bit more of a darker edge. While the original cover looks a bit more mischievous.

I haven't read this series so I don't know which one matches the books more, but something tells me I'll be seeing the old covers on sale at BookOutlet.

Monday, August 28, 2017

Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab (Monsters of Verity #2)

06/13/17 | Urban Fantasy (Horror?) | 10 hours 32 minutes | Harper Audio

Trigger Warning : Violence 

I’m going to warn right at the top that this book is violent AF. While violence is a central theme in the first book, it is relentless and borderline disturbing in this sequel. Sexual violence or anything never comes up in this series but there is just like a lot of throat ripping. Like a lot.

On Twitter Victoria Schwab described Our Dark Duet as being the second half of a whole but this duology felt like it was missing a book to explain how our characters went from high school students on the run to rough and tumble monster fighters. Especially concerning August Flynn who goes from bright-eyed Woobie who wants to be human to a stoic badass. It was like watching the original The Fast and The Furious movie and then immediately watching Furious 7 when they were all suddenly jumping cars through skyscrapers.

Speaking of The Fast and The Furious franchise that is exactly what this book felt like. The plot was muddled, a lot of characters carry Idiot Balls and the whole thing probably could have been solved with a text message chain but all that said... I was just swept away in Schwab’s cinematic storytelling, breakneck action sequences and creative set pieces. Look, I'm not sure why characters are suddenly using call signs and August is getting around by jumping from skyscrapers but you know...Rule of Cool.

As always snaps to audiobook narrator Therese Plummer, she came to slay this audiobook. Her vocal performance is nonstop for every section of this book. Even in  the interstitial sections where there are no dialouge tags she is constantly adding her own vocal tones and interpretations.

In the Kirkus review for this book, they mention that the addition of the nongendered character of Sorrow as “exciting but problematic”. There is no explaination for why it may be problematic in the Kirkus review but I think it’s because Sorrow is a Sunai, a human-like monster created from acts of mass violence and doesn't understand humans or the concept of compassion. I could see how the idea of nongendered person = cold monster could be seen as problematic.

While it was a good listen I can’t say this book satisfies anything the first book didn’t. I think if you just skip the last chapter of This Savage Song that sets up the plot for this book you're good with stopping at book 1.

***Mild Spoilers***

So many female characters sacrifice themselves in this book. SO. MANY.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Book/Audio Review Bundle : When Dimple Met Rishi

Book Review

I don't know why I used to say Contemporary YA romance wasn't for me because When Dimple Met Rishi was an absolute delight. Dimple Shah is ecstatic when her parents let her attend a web development program  ... to bad they only let her go because Rishi Patel, the boy she's arranged to marry, is also attending and can't wait to meet her !

Rishi is like a beta romance hero in training. He's smart, industrious and wealthy but still a little awkward.  I think one of the more interesting aspects of this book  was watching him trying to navigate and understand his privilege. I think what works well in this book is at the end of the day both characters (once they overcome their differences) are always rooting for each other.

My only complaint would be that this book is SUPER light on the whole web development thing. I read this after reading Girl Code, so while the little glimpses we get of InsomiaCon seemed true to form I think there could have been more room made to show these kids doing a thing really well.

A ton of fun and I can't want to see what Menon does next.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

Audiobook Review: Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner

Rating: ★★★+.5 | Release Date: 03/03/17 | Contemporary | 10 hours 45 minutes 
Where are you guys ? Text me back

17-year-old writer Carver Briggs believes in the power of words, but he never imagined a few words, written in a text, would kill his three best friends.

Goodbye Days opens with Caver at the last funeral for Sauce Crew--the nickname for his friend group. From there the book is almost a little too prescriptive as Carver has a final day with each of Sauce Crew’s family members sharing and learning about the sides of his friends he never knew. The time between the goodbye days is punctuated with some mini-plots plot about Carter facing possible manslaughter charges, therapy session  and his budding relationship with, Jesmyn, a Sauce Crew member’s girlfriend.

What strikes me most about this book is how worlds away it feels from Zenter's first book, The Serpent King. There is usually a lot of connective tissue between books by contemporary authors  but the voice, perspective, point of view and themes are completely different. While The Serpent King uses an evocative close third person for three different narrators, Goodbye Days has a singular first person voice that had a tendency to go overboard on the similes and metaphors to the point that I would forget what he was even describing.

Audiobook narrator  Micheal Crouch is already on my auto-buy list for his youthful and expressive voice. And while he did an impressive deep gravitas-filled voice for the uppity Black Judge Edwards he stumbles some with Carver’s southern accent--which straight up disappears at times.

With elegiac prose spotted with sophomoric humor, Zentner tackles loss, friendship and grief without it feeling like a very special episode about the dangers of texting and driving.*

*That said, I did think twice before messing with my phone to turn this audiobook on while I was driving.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Book Review/Audiobook Review This Is Just My Face by Gabourey Sidibe

Book Review

I generally read one non-fiction book a year and when I had the opportunity to read This Is Just My Face,  I was intrigued because I'd seen Sidibe on Empire, and  wondered what else she was up to post-Precious. If you're looking for the starry-eyed story of how she went from public housing to the red carpet, this isn't it. It's a down to earth and real story of what it's like growing up in New York City. She touches on being the daughter of a first-generation immigrant, finding roots in her Senegalese heritage, relationships, family and her job in the phone-sex industry. . . which probably sounds scandalous but the whole industry was surprising practical.

I tried to watch Precious after reading this, and even though I was watching the TV version it was still to much of a tough one for me and I didn't finish, but if people seriously think Precious and Sidibe are anything alike, they couldn't be more wrong.

Side Note :
This seems to be one in the long line of memoir written by famous thirty something actors (I'm looking at you Lena Dunham, Kevin Hart, Anna Kendrick, Diane Guerrero and Trevor Noah). Has this always been the case or is this a new trend ?

Also, I think the title of this book is a big disservice to the stories Sidibe is trying to tell. For her this is really a personal reflection and her looks aren't the main focus so why call it that ?


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