Monday, February 23, 2015

Audiobook Review: Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick

  • Release Date: October 16th 2012
  • Audiobook Hours: 7 hours 22 minutes
  • Genre: Adult Fiction
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
I have this thing where I tend to read popular fiction waaaaay behind the curve. I read The Fault in Our Stars 3 years after I bought it, Gone Girl is still on my TBR and I bought 50 Shades two years ago and I will get past the first 50 pages at some point.

 If you think back to late 2012 it was all about Silver Linings Playbook because they movie was super buzzy.  So buzzy they have the actors names on the movie tie-in cover. When I saw this as one of the audiobooks available on Scribd's audiobook section I figured it was time

 The story opens up with Pat Peoples, a man in his 30's being taken out of what he refers to as "The Bad Place", a mental hospital in Maryland. It becomes obvious early on that Pat's first person narration is completely unreliable. Not only is Pat missing three years, he is also obsessed with physical fitness and winning back his estranged wife Nikki, who no one else seems to want to talk about.

 The first part of the book follows Pat as he tries to assimilate into life back home with his parents. It's not easy with his distant father, whose emotions are controlled by whether or not The Philadelphia Eagles win a game or his well off brother he can't relate to anymore and Tiffany, the depressed sister-in-law of his best friend who seems to have taken an interest in him.

 I really haven't read a lot of  these quasi-literary popular adult fiction books to really know how to review this . At first this book really captured me, I was trying to see around Pat's narration to  figure out the mystery of what happened to Nikki, why Pat was in the mental hospital and why Kenny G makes him so angry. But towards the end it felt like it was dragging out way too long to get to what "really happened."

  As a non-football person I found the Eagles and football stuff pretty fascinating. Pat immediately takes a liking to Eagles player Hank Baskett. Pat wears his jersey all the time and talks about him a lot---I wonder if it's weird for the real Hank Baskett to see himself as a big part of this book.

The narrator of the audiobook, Ray Porter, did a solid job, he made Pat's narration sound kind of childlike which fits how the character was treated. He also does a good range of female voices for Pat's mom, Tiffany and a few other female characters. I like it when male narrators just lower their pitch and don't try and do high feminine voices. The audiobook also does pretty well for the Eagles stuff because he does the chants, but I don't know if the tone of the Fly, Eagles, Fly song was right.

 The film version of this is on Netflix and I plan to watch it just to see how they interpret Pat's unreliable narrator-ness into the movie( update: saw the movie, they took it out).  Also, the character of Tiffany in the book is in her late 30's early 40's and has a very specific back story, I'm curious how they translated her character into a 21 year old Jennifer Lawrence. Tiffany was kind a quirky character without getting into Manic Pixie Dreamgirl territory and since this part got JLaw an Oscar I'm sure it's a great performance.

  This is one of the first popular fiction titles I've read where I can't pinpoint why it is so popular. Silver Linings Playbooks it has some interesting moments,  it's not exactly the feel good story of the year.

Overall I enjoyed this book enough that I think I will definitely check out Matthew Quick's YA titles.

Friday, February 20, 2015

If These Books Were Judged By Their Covers Vol. 3

City of Bones has a hardcover, movie tie-in paperback and now this new paperback cover. I like the  powerful posing in this, but I'm not feeling that mustard yellow coloring on the font. I can see a lot more people carrying this around since there is no bare chest on it.  - Jess

I like how this image looks like it is moving and keeps in line with the other books in the series. I also like the green--we don't see a lot of green in YA covers. - Kat

This cover is very striking and I think it will have great crossover appeal it looks like a YA, but also a dark literary fiction or even a steampunk. I like the metallic  feel and coloring in the background. That said, it looks a lot like her Grisha Trilogy, but maybe that is intentional - Kat

The graphical elements on this cover makes it look like a graphic novel cover to me. I'm not a fan of the muted colors on this cover and the font that the author's name doesn't really mesh with the cover.  - Kat

This kind of reminds me of the I Was Here cover by Gayle Foreman, but something about the font and books make it look cheesy. I also had a hard time reading the title font. - Kat

This cover looks a little too photoshop-y to me and also unfinished. Maybe it's all the white space ? - Kat

Based on this cover I would have never thought this was YA. This book is about a plus sized girl who enters a beauty pageant and I like how that is all right there on the cover. The fonts are clean, the colors are complementary and I can't wait to see what this looks like in person. - Kat

This is another graphical, cartoon-y cover that if I didn't know any better I'd think was for a graphic novel.  I think this cover is fun and fits the book theme of complicated friendship. Also, I think that's a person of color I see in there... - Kat

This is a cover re-reveal. The originally released cover was red and I have to admit I like the purple better. - Jess

For some reason I saw this and went "meh". I see what it is trying to do with the creepy black and white image with striking red font, but it doesn't jump out to me. - Jess

This cover has a lot of leg for a YA cover. How can I see this cover and not think of the Unbecoming Of Mara Dyer series ? With that side I like the font placement but something about the image being reflected at the top looks awkward. - Jess

I like the covers in Higgins' Sweet Evil series, even though they are the cliched YA paranormal covers .  Kai is in the front because this is told from his POV.  I have to be honest that tagline just creeps me out . . . - Jess

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Maggie Stiefvater and Gayle Forman Visit Richmond

It's always fun to attend  author events and I was so excited to see both Maggie Stiefvater and Gayle Foreman were coming to my neck of the woods. I listened to If I Stay last year and it blew me away with how amazing it was. It was the perfect mix of magic realism and contemporary YA that is my genre kryptonite.

This event was downtown and since I don't drive to work I hoofed it to the library and arrived fairly early. I'll admit that specific branch of the  library isn't the prettiest thing in the world, but I plucked Marcus Sedgwick's Midwinterblood off the shelf and read a bit while I waited. About 40 minutes before the event was supposed to begin I heard girls asking about where the event was held, figuring it was going to be crowded I headed to the main stage area.

The big auditorium style room was already partially full and the line for buying book was pretty long. Even though I didn't have much to spend on books I wanted to support my indie bookstore , Fountain Bookstore, so I got two paperbacks Just One Night by Gayle Foreman and Lament by Maggie Stiefvater. I didn't originally get I Was Here because I thought it was a companion to If I Stay (which I was doing on audio) but it turns out it's a whole separate book so I ducked back in line to get it.

Maggie and Gayle started the night with a great back and forth, they have great chemistry I felt like I could listen to them for hours. I learned that Foreman was a journalist (I find that a  lot of YA authors were, Clare, Rowling, Rowell,etc.) and I Was Here is based on one of the last stories she did about a girl who committed suicide and  went to online groups to get assistance with doing so.

Maggie needed no entrance, she has so much energy and I think the crowd was mostly her fans and Tumblr followers. I felt kind of bad because during the Q&A literally all the questions were for Maggie. I find Maggie interesting because she is one of the few YA writers who can fill a room and move books without having a movie adaptation.

During the Q&A there was this woman in her later 40's / early 50's who told Maggie how she was drawn into YA by Lament and from that point started devouring every YA book she could. I admit I am starting to feel a little like "am I too old for this ?" and it's awesome to see people who discover YA while older still love it.

Maggie's line for the signing was crazy long and it was getting late so I skipped her. Which was fine because Jess and I went to a Maggie signing last year and the book I brought of hers was already signed.

Gayle's line was short and she tried to talk to me, but I got so author-struck I'm note sure I said anything intelligible. I thanked Foreman for supporting We Need Diverse Books (She had the most tweeted tweet) then she asked me what I was reading and I blanked. I finally muttered something about Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorious I'd read because of the podcast Invisibilia and then she asked me to write down some podcasts on a bookmark, I think I wrote Pop Culture Happy Hour.

Overall I thought she was super kind and generous. I  brought two books I already owned and she signed them and put a bookmark in all 5 books I had with me. There was someone in the audience with a tripod set up so I'm sure the signing will be on YouTube somewhere.

Friday, February 13, 2015

If These Books Were Judged By Their Covers Vol. 2

One of the best parts of books are the covers ! Each week we'll look at the recent cover reveals and give some judgement. . . even though we have no qualifications whatsoever.

The lighting and coloring are so pretty on this sequel  to Jenny Han's To All The Boys I've loved Before. I even adore the script . . . but it is just looks way to similar to the first book.

I liked the  gritty tattooed look this cover has. This is a historical about a girl disguising herself as a boy in the  Wild West and I'm not sure the cover quite captures that.

A nice twist on the "girl in a pretty dress" the more you look at this cover the creepier it gets. I mean what'a happening here ? Is she being pulled down to hell ? Into a graveyard ? Also how creepy is that hand ?

The colors in this cover just doesn't strike me the way the first book in this series, A Thousand Pieces of You did.  It gets the point across that the books are in a series but this one just isn't as dynamic.

A.S King never gets the same type of cover twice. Digitally, this image falls kind of flat, but I think it will pop in hardcover if it has a matte finish. I feel like they are trying to give it a more "grown-up" feel.

I think this is her weakest cover. A.S King's books are all about character and I think that's why most of her recent covers have faces looking right at the reader. This cover really doesn't grab me...if you didn't know any better you'd think it was an SAT prep book. - Kat

This paperback of Afterworlds is kind  of like an inversion of the hardcover. I like the simplicity of the typeface ( I love me some San Serif font)  and honestly the waterdrop motif just looks cooler here. This cover does give an oddly Dystopian feel. This so should have been the cover for The Uglies.

It's not often we see front facing models on YA covers anymore, I suspect they did this to let people know that the book is about a boy and a girl. This  looks a lot like a glossy photoshopped ad for a CW TV show. 

What do you think of the covers this week ? Did we miss any ?

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ghost Boy by Martin Pistorius

  • U.S. Release Date: November 12, 2013
  • Page Number: 304
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • U.S. Publisher: Thomas Nelson Publishing (Harper Collins)

I've recently become an NPR podcast junkie and I'm really loving their new podcast Invisibilia, about "the intangible things that shape human behavior." Each week the hosts tell stories of people who have rare psychological or neurological experiences--on of their first stories is of Martin Pistorius, a South African man who spent six years trapped in his own body. After I heard this story, I had to know more and was happy to see his memoir was on Scribd.

When Pistorius (who as far as I can tell is not related to the convicted South African athlete Oscar Pistorius) is 12-years-old he develops a degenerative brain condition that leaves him mute and unable to move. Doctors couldn't diagnose him and his parents were told he had the mind of a 3 month old and to take him home to wait for him to die. Only Martin doesn't die and a few year later his mind comes back, but not his motor skills or speech. He can't tell anyone he's back and he lives like a ghost boy as the people around him assume he isn't comprehending what he sees.  It takes six years for his parents to finally  figure out he was aware and the book is his reflections on his time as a ghost boy and  his journey learning how to communicate using technology.

Martin uses a headband
mouse to use computers
This book tells a really incredible story. Martin becomes well known in the Augmentative and Alternative Communication (AAC) community and it's interesting to see all the people he meets as he goes to conference. It can be a little nightmare inducing too. One of his friends was paralyzed from the eyes down from a stroke at the age of twenty-five.But it's amazing the amount of technology and work being done so everyone has a voice.

The parts I found most interesting are the parts where he tells the things he sees people do when they think no one is looking. He observes many of his caregivers mostly at their worse, but also some at their best.

Martin at age 12
The writing and narrative style of the book left a little to be desired. It's  in first person, which is good for understanding what Martin is feel at certain, but it doesn't have a lot of context I like in my nonfiction. Martin's memories only begin when he gains his awareness so he doesn't even really know who was as a child.  He also never gets into any of the science-y stuff I was curious about  how any of this is possible.

I would give this book a huge trigger warning for abuse. At first I thought Pistorious was going to glaze over the negative aspects of his experiences, but there is a chapter that  goes into the abuse he suffered at the care centers he stayed at while his parents were at work. I felt like the chapter was really honest, but also incredibly heartbreaking and awful. I do wonder if there was ever any legal action taken against the center.
Martin met his wife, Joanna
 during a Skype call with his sister.
They married in 2009

I kind of go back and forth on the end of this book, which focuses on his relationship with his wife  Joanna--who the book is dedicated too so I don't think this is a spoiler. I've been reading a lot of these real life  "love stories" lately to contrast with romance novels and I like how real love stories in real life are always a lot more complicated. Basically they talk on Skype, meet twice and then he moves to the UK to marry her. The relationship moves so fast in the book it was hard to connect with them emotionally.

I am kind of curious a to why there wasn't much talk about this story before the Invisibila podcast. A quick Google search will show dozens of news stories about Martin, but they all came out within the last few weeks even though this book released overseas in 2011. I'll be curious to see if being on NPR changes his life any, because at the end of the book he is a freelancer and house husband.

Ghost Boy tells a remarkable story and I think it can be read in a lot of different ways. It's a story about technology, communication, disability, empathy and family relationships. It's a pretty quick read and I think it has some great YA crossover appeal because Martin goes though so much of this as a teenager and young adult,

Okay, is it just me or does the UK cover (above) for this cover looks like the poster for Boyhood ?

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Cruel Beauty By Rosamund Hodge

“You’re just as foolish as the others. You think you are clever, strong, special. You think you’re going to win.” Hodge, Rosamund (2014-01-28). Cruel Beauty

  • Release Date: January 28th 2014
  • Genre: Fantasy/Fairytale
  • Pages : 342
  • Publisher: Balzer & Bray

Cruel Beauty is a fantasy retelling of Beauty and The Best, where beauty is an angry and selfish (read: cruel) young woman named Nyx. Out of desperation Nyx's father made a bargain that would result in Nyx being married off to the Gentle Lord, a powerful demon who has ruled over Nyx's people for 900 years. Nyx mission isn't just to marry the Gentle Lord, but she has been trained to take him down, but could there more inside this beast than darkness ?

Cruel Beauty is sold as a Beauty and the Beast retelling but the story feels more like the tale of Bluebeard. A man whose young innocent wife discovers the benevolent Bluebeard keeps the bodies of his previous wives who disobeyed him. There is this sense of isolation and dread in the original tale that we see a bit of in Cruel Beauty. Nyx is also one of many of wives who have joined the Gentle Lord and, like in the original tale, he allows Nyx to roam the rooms of his magical house---expect for the locked ones. The Gentle Lord also keeps the dead bodies of his previous wives in one of said rooms, so I was really getting Bluebeard vibes

The setting of this world is based on Arcadia, a real civilization, that from what I remember from Art History, was a prosperous and secluded part of this world. Hodge turns it on its head a little in this story because The Gentle Lord takes over Arcadia and physically separates it from the rest of the world.

The Gentle Lord is portrayed as a bit of a magical trickster. He's young and handsome and makes bargains that always end in doom. much like Rumpelstiltskin in ABC's Once Upon A Time.

 As I was reading I just kept finding myself going "ehh. . .  don't know about this" about the romance in this book. Nyx is stuck in the Gentle Lord's house .I just don't know how I feel about the female protagonist having to fight her attraction to this overly touchy and creepy male character. She goes through this whole "I shouldn't"  "but I want to" thing.There are times when she finds herself feeling sorry for him and wanting him after he gets hurt or shows some humanity. . . but I wasn't convinced. I didn't just buy into him stealing her heart.  I'm just not  for the jerk + vulnerability =  acceptable as love interest.

There is another layer to this wold were people practice Hermetic arts or workings, I gather this is a type of alchemy that is controlled by sigils. It's mentioned early on that using the Hermetic arts is how Nyx will destroy him, but it's just seems like a plot point to keep the story going  The magic behind this sounded so interesting and  I wish we would have been given more details on how this works in this world.

The book mellowed out for me in the middle but really picked up towards the end. I didn't 100% percent understand he ending, but it was a nice wrap up to a stand alone novel. At any rate it took some YA tropes I don't like including Greek/Roman Mythology and books in one setting ( I'm looking at you The Goddess Test) and made it work for me.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

If These Books Were Judged By Their Covers

One of the best parts of books are the covers ! Each week we'll look at the recent cover reveals and give some judgement. . . even though we have no qualifications whatsoever.

This cover is classic Smith and  its into the same black and white with color splash Smith's books have had since The Statistical Probability Of Love at First Sight. I like the pink and black,but something about the pink bubble font looks juvenile to me. This is also the first hardcover of hers with a blurb and it's from Sarah Dessen! Adding to TBR.

This book is based on the web series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries and I like this cover because it uses the actress from the series.  Although  it does look a little less fiction and  a little more memoir-y , but maybe that is the point since I assume it's a fictional memoir.

I think this cover is great. It's very dynamic and has a unique coloring, and I ike the gritty font. I just  have one issue with this cover. That hyphen in the middle of nowhere. I just don't understand why they didn't find a way to keep the word together and why put the dash. When I say McGarry tweeting about this cover I though it'd be another couple close up, but this is better. And I like how it clearly states it is a series.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

I'll Meet You There by Heather Demetrios

  • Release Date: February 3, 2015
  • Pages: 400
  • Genre: Contemporary
  • Publisher: Henry Holt & Co (Macmillan)

Skylar Evans has one goal; get out of her small backwoods hometown of Creek View, California. With her acceptance letter to San Francisco State in hand the only thing standing between Skylar and the next step in her life is the summer. But when her mom loses her job and sobriety she's not sure the summer is going to end how she planned.

 Right away this book reminded me of one of my favorite chapters from Cheryl Strayed's Tiny Beautiful Things called How To Get Unstuck about Strayed's time as a counselor to girls whose success was measured by two things; not getting pregnant and getting a job at Taco Bell.  This sort of mentality is evident in Skylar's story, her best friend is a teen mom and her mom worked at Taco Bell for 18 years. Skylar herself is trying to get "unstuck" from this life cycle. Creek View is a place where future plans are very short sided and people drink and party to forget about their problems.

I feel like the setting of this book is very important to understanding the story. Creek View is this lower income area with a mix of lower income white people and Mexican migrant worker families. Creek Views represents a town we don't see a lot of in contemporary YA; most YAs tend take place in nondescript suburban bubbles.

Skylar is an art student (why is everyone and their mother in YA an artist ?) but it's never explained how she came across art considering where she grew up.  I had such a hard time believing the references to art. It felt like Demetrios was name dropping with no context. I'm really hard on this in books because one of my favorite books , Graffiti Moon, does an amazing job of integrating art into the story.

The love interest, Josh Mitchell, occasionally gets a POV that is written in this short stream of consciousness style. He is usually working through some PTSD or self actualization and at first I thought these were not going to work for me because I'm not one for angst, but they were actually some of the best parts of the book. As Josh recalled his time overseas I started to realize there was something real going on here and judging by all the Marines she thanks in the acknowledgments, I assume many of these moments are based on some real experiences.

I appreciated what Demetrios did with Josh. His POV was extremely unfiltered, I usually  have this tendency to gloss over cursing and in YA, but even I was like "we can say this???" I also felt like she kept Josh true to his upbringing. Yes, he's a Marine but he also grew up as kind of a douche-bro in a backwoods town so he can be politically incorrect at times. He uses the term "gay" to mean bad and calls people faggots, which is super cringe-worthy but also authentic.

I wish this book has been all in Josh's stream of consciousness  POV and maybe 200 pages shorter because I think it's a type of voice we don't see a lot in YA. Towards the end it felt like there had to be forced drama to keep the will they/won't they of Skylar and Josh's relationship and then it gets folded up all too neatly too quickly.

I think this book tells an important story and a type of story we need to see more of in the future, because the Iraq War has been a formative experience for many young men and women. Young adult fiction is having a moment in the sun right now and I think it's important we have books that look at the current events that are shaping young people's lives.

P.S. I'm calling this book getting a cover change in paperback. This cover  really doesn't tell you much of anything about what is inside book. It's almost looks like an adult mystery.

* ARC received for review from NetGalley


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