Saturday, April 22, 2017

Audiobook Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

  • Release Date: October 6th 2015
  • Length: 6 hours and 23 minutes
  • Genre: Contemporary / Paranormal YA
  • Publisher: HarperTeen

17-year-old Mikey Mitchell just wants to enjoy his last few months of high school with his best friends and hopefully getting his OCD under control.  But he's also kind of stuck in the middle of your favorite paranormal YA novel, except you know. . . he's a background character.  Strange blue lights and mysterious deaths  means the indie kids--those high school kids with the capital D destinies and weird names--are up to something. Mikey just hopes the indie kids don’t  blown up up the high school….again.

Patrick Ness is a mix bag of an author, you just never know what you’re going to get. The concept of having a Mikey's contemporary narrative  adjacent to the indie kid's paranormal adventure made for an entertaining listen.  The indie kid's plot is a parody of e those paranormal YA books of the early 2010’s and Ness creates a loving satire of the genre.

Can we talk about James Fouhey, the audiobook narrator ? James Fouhey is official on my auto-buy list. His voice was perfect for the narration of Mikey, he has these great tonal shifts and at times it didn’t even sound like he was reading a text. He also seems to read fast, this book is 336 pages and the audio is only 6 hours long.

An irreverent, offbeat YA coming of age story about immortals, gods and vampires but mostly about what it means to be the rest of us.

Mikey’s crush in this book is a half black, half Finnish girl named Henna Silvennnoinen and I thought that Finnish part was such a specific ethnicity you don’t see in YA. Well, it turns out that Henna Silvennoinen is a real woman--she won to have her name in the book from an auction when Ness was raising money for the typhoon in the Philippines. The name of Mikey’s best friend, Jared Shruin also came from this auction. That must be awesome !

Monday, March 27, 2017

100% Real by Sam Talbot

Publisher: Time Inc. Books/Oxmoor House
Genre: Cookbook
Release Date: April 4th 2017

I’m not sure why it took Top Chef Season 2 finalist Sam Talbot (who should have totally been asked to leave along with Cliff. I’m just saying! ) to write a cookbook, but here it is and it features 100 recipes that are 100% real.

The book itself is a mix of Talbot’s advocacy for type 1 diabetics and his philosophy of eating whole and natural foods.  He covers the spectrum featuring recipes that are vegetarian, vegan, dairy free, and gluten-free.

The inside of this book has a simple layout with bright colors and tons of photos of Talbot in the kitchen or hanging out at the farmer’s market, reflecting his laid back East coast lifestyle.  Talbot introduces readers to his five tips for keeping  [food] real, advice on setting up a pantry and a few equipment essentials. There are even more  tips on sourcing ingredients in the back of the book, which you will need because there are some very specific ingredients that might be intimidating to a rookie cooks.

The recipes  have tons of herbs and spices, he re-imagines comfort foods and creates magical looking salads. Because this is a book isn’t about fad dieting you won’t find calorie counts in these pages, you’ll just find real food.

*ARC provided by Netgalley

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The School of Good and Evil by Soman Chainani

  • Release Date: May 2013
  • Hours: 13.75
  • Genre: Middle Grade/Fantasy
  • Publisher: HarperCollins
Every four years the villagers of Gavaldon will stop at nothing to protect their children from a shadowy figure who whisks them away to a magical school,  never to be seen again. Except maybe in the pages of your favorite storybook.

This magical school us  where students are trained to become the villains and heroes in your favorite fairytales. When best friends Sophie and Agatha find themselves on different sides of the divide, they must fight to hold on to their friendship and who they truly are.

This book does so well what I think a lot of of villain origin stories just haven't (I'm looking at you Heartless). Soman Chainani perfectly charts the development of our young heroines as they start off as misanthropic students  and grow to embrace their inner good and evil. There are a lot of smart ideas in the world Chainani builds, for example the students with the highest merits become popular heroes; your Snow White or Cinderella, while lower ranking students become sidekicks.

With that said this book is. . . I'm going to say bonkers. It has a lot of funny and sophomoric humor , then it gets suddenly dark in tone. Like there is legit a mass murder  and I was like WHAT?!  The students are put in maybe not mortal danger, but they certainly get tortured and humiliated so warning if you are giving this to a younger reader.

The story also doesn't seem to no where it's"there there" is. It's like first there is a big forest challenge, then there is a mysterious talent show, Then there is a ball ?All of which felt like a distraction from the big ending which left me both intrigued and scratching my head ?

Sporadicness aside there was something delightful about the absurdity of the book. Chainani has a handful of really touching and challenging moments in his book. As a (here we go) adult reader you pretty much know the lessons the characters are going to learn before they learn them but Chanini changes it up with a bit of humor or a unique idea. You just never know what tropes he's playing straight and which one he isn't.

Narrator Polly Lee had her work cut out for her on this audio having to voice a whole cast of teachers and students . She perfectly pitches the heroes to sound prim and proper then she seamlessly transitions to low and gravely for the assortment the villains. As our heroines get drawn into their good and evil surroundings Lee effortlessly transforms her narration right along with them.

Side Note

I'm so glad I listened to  this audiobook. It's been on my TBR since I saw Soman Chainani  at NYC Comic Con in 2015. I'm going to get a physical copy since I missed out on all the illustrations, there was some stuff I couldn't quite visualize.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Margot Lee Shetterly @ The Rappahannock Library

Hidden Figures has taken over the pop culture zeitgeist and it all  takes place right here in Virginia !

I'm not sure how I missed that Shetterly was going to be doing a Q&A and signing at University of Mary Washington , but when my dad (of all people) told me about it, Kat and I took the short ride up to attend.

I knew this was going to be a big event,  but I didn't realize how big until we started looking for parking. Hundreds of people of all ages and backgrounds descended on The University of Mary Washington campus clutching their copies of Hidden Figures in their hands. The UMW auditorium seated 1200 and it was standing room only.

Shetterly gave a brief overview of her work and what it meant to her. And because both Shetterly and Hidden Figures have strong ties Virginia it was a family affair. Descendants of Mary Jackson were in the audience as well as Shetterly's parents and some of her childhood friends.

Shetterly even let it drop that Hidden Figures  is part of a trilogy about black figures in mid-century America.

I don't have to tell you the line for the signing was massive. Out of all the public book events I've been to I've never seen a line like this.

The Rappahannock librarians did an amazing job with this event. I think  one librarian was dressed for the part with her string of pearls and a-line skirt.

My favorite thing overheard while waiting in line was when a man behind said me said

"There weren't even this many people when I went to a Kurt Vonnegut signing."

It's amazing to me just how much this story has resonated with people, their were people in line with stacks of books who hadn't even seen the movie or read the books. They were here for the story

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Midnight Star by Marie Lu in Gifs (Spoiler Free)

So I just finished Marie Lu’s Young Elite’s series and...

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

10 Day Green Smoothie Cleanse by JJ Smith (Kat's Experience)

Me on Day 1

Me on Day 10

Saturday, March 4, 2017

The Rose Society by Marie Lu

  • Release Date: October 13th 2015
  • Audiobook Hours: 11 hours 7 minutes
  • Genre: Historical Fantasy
  • Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Son (Penguin)

Child sex trafficking, slave camps, genocide and a one sided love triangle ?

Yep, I must be reading a fantasy YA novel !

We’re back in Marie Lu’s vaguely Italian 12th century where the scarred children who survived a blood fever are known as malfettos and some malfettos known young elites have developed special powers. After the events of the last book all malfettos have been banned  from the city and forced into refugee camps for the safety of the city (stop me if you’ve heard this one). There is a lot going on in this book but most we follow along while our heroine Adelina Amouteru goes off to find other young elites outside the city.

The Rose Society has to be one of the most subversive and creative YA books I’ve ever read. I liked the first book in this series but this second book has really hooked me. Marie Lu is breaking a lot of the typical YA fiction rules and I am here for it.

You get your usual Marie Lu mix of young rulers, pretty boys with hur to the floor and badass women but between the writing and world building this book is working a whole different level with the attention to details and complexities. My favorite scenes in this book are all big fights scenes when all the Elites are using their powers against each other, seriously Marvel needs to hire her (well, I guess DC Comics kinda did).

Can we talk about the characters in this book ? Because seriously EVERYONE is an anti-hero, especially the female characters,this book is teeming with #notsorrynotsoryfeminist rage,

I have to give a special shout out to the leader of the royal military, Teren Santoro. Teren is like a worst case scenario gamergater. He needs Jesus. Or Buddha or like a hug or something. He sees malfettos as abominations who should all be killed...even though he is one. (stop me if you’ve heard this one). Teren’s an elite whose body heals itself after it’s been cut so you can imagine how much fun this book has with that.  His scenes in this book had me on the edge of my seat because you don’t know what he’s going to do.

The only place this book lost me is when it started to attempt to explain the elites powers with a lot of talk about energy and some of the plot arcs revolve around characters overhearing things but the character development was so good I genuinely don’t care.

Marie Lu has hit it out of the park with this series and I see she has both a duology about video game hackers and YA standalone historical fantasy coming out so seriously:

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley

Release Date: April 28th 2015
Pages: 309
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: HarperCollins

When Aza Ray Boyle dies in the middle of an unusual storm; one life ends and another begins. Because her true destiny lies with the captain of a ship that sails the sky, but not everyone on Earth is ready to let Aza go.

This small YA fantasy soars to epic heights; it's highly imaginative with curious characters and one of the  most satisfying and intimate YA love stories I've read in a while. There is a real kinship between Aza and her best friend as their friendship becomes more and it just works.

Grief and loss play a big role in Magonia and Headley beautifully navigates it. The audiobook narrators, Michael Crouch and Therese Plummer, bring these fraught emotions to life with their full bodied performances. Plummer in particular comes out of the gate in chapter one with a strong and unique voice  to match Aza's "snarky tone". Unfortunately Plummer and Crouch don't offer much range when it comes to other characters but the audiobook is still a must listen.

When I said this was a little YA novel I meant it. This book comes in at just over 300 pages, and I felt it. We glaze over alot of small  moments that I think would have been necessary to really feel apart of the world Headley builds.

I don't want to give to much away and this is such a hard book to describe, like I could call it a Fantasy-bio-punk-pirate novel with environmental undertones. . . but that just doesn't do it justice

So let's call it an epic tale with a touching love story or a debut YA novel that is Scott Westerfeld's Leviathan meets Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone.

Yep. I think that works

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Before The Fall by Noah Hawley

Release Date: 5/31/2016
Pages: 391 pages
Genre: Suspense
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing

Ten people step onto a plane. Eighteen minutes later the plane drops out of the sky leaving only two survivors.

And one of those survivors, artist Scott Burroughs, wasn't supposed to be on there. Who is Scott and more importantly. . . why did a perfectly operational plane fall into the ocean ?

With a structure similar to Liane Moriarty , Before The Fall  starts at the beginning of the end and spirals out to explore the lives of the victims and survivors.  While the book gives a generous amount of focus on the two survivors, the real strength of this novel is the short slice of life vignettes about those who don't make it.

The the main narrative focuses on Scott, a middle aged recovering alcoholic and artist, as he tries to answer some deep questions about truth in media, class and the 24 hour news cycle as he is forced into the limelight . Ultimately Scott's narrative came across as way to earnest and slowed down many of the suspense elements.

Hawley has a background in television writing and is perhaps best known for writing FX's Fargo and  story editing seasons 1-3 (what I call the best seasons) of Fox's Bones,.Hawley writes dialogue that sounds the way people speak which works well when paired with  Robert Petkoff's performance on the audiobook.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Totally Should've Book Tag

The Totally Should’ve Book Tag was created by EmmmaBooks on Youtube and I decided to do it after seeing Lisa and Becca do it on Lost in Lit !


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...