Thursday, October 19, 2017

Audiobook Review: Saint and Misfits by S.K. Ali

Rating: ★★★  | Release Date: 07/11/17 | Contemporary | 8 hours 5 minutes

High school sophomore Janna Youself feels like a misfit; at home she’s boxed out by her brother and mother’s relationship, at school she’s the only hijabi Muslim. In her mosque’s youth group she is surrounded by perfect Muslim saints--including Farooq. Farooq is held up as a golden boy but what no one knows is he's really a monster who tried to sexually assault her.

We follow Janna through the last weeks of her sophomore year and at the heart of the book is Janna learning how to open up about her sexual assault. There is a ton going on in this book; including an Islamic quiz bowl competition, Janna’s crush on a non-Muslim, bullying from mean girls, her brother’s sudden engagement, her parents divorce and also a there's a new boy at the mosque who's caught her attention.

Audiobook narrator Ariana Delawari has this great bright, sharp voice that fits the nervous energy of Janna but she does read slow, this was the first time I’ve ever listened to an audiobook at a faster speed.

This book is from Salaam Reads, an imprint at Simon & Schuster created specifically to publish Children’s/YA featuring positive portrayals of Muslim characters.

Saints and Misfits is a voice-y, coming of age story and I’m curious to see what debut author Ali does next.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

New Cover Who Dis: City of Bones by Cassandra Clare

First released in 2007, City of Bones  by Cassandra Clare holds a special place here at Books and Sensibility as the first book we ever reviewed.

10 years later, this book  has spun off to include--and I'm just estimating here-- a floppity-jillion books, short stories, graphic novels and novellas; a TV show and one terrible movie I saw see in an empty theater on opening weekend. To celebrate the 10 year anniversary Simon and Schuster released a new cover for City of Bones. Let's take a look:

The Orignal
The original cover is the classic. Go to any used bookstore and  9 times out of 10 you will find the paperback version of this cover. This cover is one of the very few YAs to have a  naked chest, in fact I can only think one other YA book (Altered by Jennifer Rush, but they covered it up on the paperback) that did this and while I get it's supposed to show  the runes it's just....a weird choice for YA.

The Remix
In 2015, the entire Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series had re-designed paperbacks with the characters in dynamic poses. I really like these covers, they just scream urban fantasy.  I also love a good stepback.

The Redux
Now both the 2007 and 2015 cover look way cooler in person because they're shiny and textured. I haven't seen this new cover in person but from the pictures I've seeen it's kind of ...meh.  As much as I love simple covers, this new doesn't tell me much and if I didn't know what this was I don't think I'd pick it up.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Books and Sensibility Six Year Blogaversary + Giveaway (US) !

Jess and I at maybe 13 or 14 at our grandparent's house. I think I'm reading Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix.

From Top left: BEA 2016; Kat meeting Marie Lu at a 2013 Penguin Event in NYC; Meeting Maggie Steifvater at Dream Thieves signing in 2013;  Jess getting Hidden Figures signed;  "the  official company headshot; Jess and Amber from DuLivre at BEA16; Hidden Figures signing in 2017; Jess w/ Lamar Giles at NovaTeen 2014; Us with Kendare Blake at BEA 2016

When Jess and I started this blog I honestly didn't think it was going to last longer than a few months, (like every other blog we started) but here we are six years later !  In those six years we've gotten to see a lot; like the beginnings of amazing projects like WNDB and NoVa Teen Book Festival

I have a clear memory of being 17-years-old in Borders (*pours one out*) and feeling sad that soon I couldn't read YA and I'd have to read boring "adult books". This was in 2006,  right before the Twilight boom. Little did I know there would be even better YA books published in my adulthood and that I'd tumble across a community of  like-minded and diverse readers that enjoyed YA as much as I did.

We may not be the biggest or most influential blog out there but we're still here and plan to keep it going as long as we can ! Now, to celebrate 6 years we're looking to the future at what's new and upcoming so we're giving away a physical copy of one (1) book from  Barnes and Nobles' 27 Most Anticipated October YA !  I chose this list because I like the inclusive-ness and enthusiastic break downs of each book.

- Kat 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Book Review Bundle : Grit by Gillian French

Trigger warning - sexual assault

Book Review

Gillian French looks a lot  like Gillian Flynn, and the san serif font makes it look like a Gillian Flynn novel but it's not. The heady, sparse  and evocative setting where a reckless beautiful young woman finds herself both at home and an outcast in a small town is a lot like Gillian Flynn but this is not Gillian Flynn. Even if  the soft focus on small town fears , female relationships and toxic masculinity is like Gillian Flynn this is NOT Gillian Flynn.

What I'm saying is this book thematically (and physically)  reminded me a lot of Gillian Flynn's Sharp Objects, while remaining firmly rooted in it's own originality. French is writing a love letter to the slow downed pace of life  in small town rural Maine. Her descriptions are so rich and  specific I could easily visualize it.

While there is no payoff for the sliver of suspense running through the book (that feels an awful lot like it was put in there for marketing purposes) there is something so effortless about  how French leads us through Darcy's summer as she hangs with her family,  rakes blueberries and  avoids the boy who broke more than her heart.

Darcy is one of these so called "unlikable" female characters, she doesn't always make what is precieved as the right choices and she stumbles a lot before picking herself up.

A low key YA that I feel slid under the radar and is worth a second look !

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Book Review/Audiobook Review : Ramona Blue

 432 Pages | Balzer + Bray | Contemporary | 5/9/17

Book Review

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. That is until Freddie, an old friend from her childhood makes her think twice about how she identifies herself. Ramona Blue is the culmination of everything Bookish Twitter wants, a. It's a contemporary novel that focuses  on people of color, women of color, LGBTQ issues and  class, but the story isn't a "struggle" narrative. It's just people trying to live their lives. The stakes aren't particularly high and it is a story that mostly exist in the passage of time,  moments and the importance of found family.

Is this what Quiet YA is ?

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 ?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Audiobook Review: Perfect Ten by L. Phillips

Release Date: 06/06/17 | Contemporary(ish ?) | 10 hours 4 minutes | Listening Library 

17-year-old Samson Raines is ready to get back in the dating game but his options are limited, seeing as he’s already broken up with the only other gay boy in his school. He reluctantly turbs to magic (er, magick ?) for a little help. With a list of 10 traits for a perfect boyfriend and a Wiccan spell, Sam’s life is about to be turned upside down.

I picked this book up because the slightly zany romance plot and gay-story-not-about-coming-out synopsis gave me early David Levithan vibes. But I had such a hard time investing with this book and it's mostly because I really could not with Sam, the main character. He was an arrogant, snobby hipster and as these super hot boys with these big personalities start falling for him it’s just hard to see what they see in him, especially when one of them is a 21-year-old rock star.

This book follows a lot of the same beats as genre romance, so for me Sam didn’t get enough redemption to earn his HEA. The development of the supporting characters felt underwhelming because at the end of the day they only exist to prop up Sam. And now that I think about it literally every character's HEA gets shafted for Sam to get his HEA.

Kirby Heyborne is a favorite narrator of mine for his youthful voice and emotional deliveries. He brings out full range of male voices for each of Sam’s suitors although he struggles a bit with a French exchange student.

It look like L. Phillips has a 2018 book in the works that is described as #AlexfromTarget meets queer Prince Charming. Now, L. Phillips is the psuedonym of author Laura Wettersten, and I think it’s really curious that she is using a gender ambiguous penname to write these books and It feels a lot like what is happening in the world of M/M romance where books about gay boys arewritten mostly by and for straight women. There are just a lot of  unfortunate implications.

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Moon and More by Sarah Dessen

Release Date: June 4, 2013 | Contemporary YA | 453 Pages | Viking (Penguin)
It’s the summer after high school graduation and 18-year-old Emaline is doing what she always does; working at her family’s beach rental business, spending time with her boyfriend Luke and having general ennui about what it means to live in the summer town of  Colby, North Carolina. You know, the standard Dessen fare.

But summer’s never go as planned and Emaline finds herself mixed up with a crew of New York filmmakers making a documentary about Clyde Conaway, a reclusive artist who lives in Colby. And if that isn’t enough her estranged biological father is suddenly back in town.

This is the first post-aughts Sarah Dessen book I’ve read and I was a little nervous going into it. At first the plot of this book felt kind of aimless but by the end, as the town has to come together for Clyde I was captivated and Dessen had me on board.

I was extremely apprehensive of Theo, the 21-year-old skinny- jean-wearing-New-York-City-film-student interning on the documentary who may as well have had Coastal Elite stamped on his  forehead. Seriously, I read this during the time the podcast S-town came out and he reminded me of the way Brian Reed acted sometimes when he was with Southerners but Dessen makes it work

I didn’t love the audiobook narrator Allie Gallerani. She has this very sleepy, Daria-like affectless voice  and with a book that was already slow paced it just wasn’t working for me. I ended up switching to reading the book part way through

A low tempo, but ultimately sweet novel about summer romance, identity, family and the people who will give you the moon and more.

 I've never heard of a shrimp burger before I read this book and I'm still not sure what it is but imma need one.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Audiobook Review: This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

  • Release Date: July 5, 2016
  • Audiobook Length: 10 hours 9 minutes
  • Genre: Urban Fantasy
  • Publisher: Greenwillow Books (HarperCollins)

V-City exists in an alternate America where acts of violence physically manifest as  beast like monsters. The Sunai are a rare form of monster, created from events of mass violence. Sunai look and act human but must feed on human souls to survive.

August Flynn is one of only three known Sunai, he lives in the south side of V-City with  Henry Flynn, the head of a militaristic taskforce. On the north side of V-City is the autocratic Callum Harker who keeps his citizens safe via extortion  Harker and Flynn have been enemies for a long time but have called a truce after a brutal civil war.

But when August is sent undercover to spy on  Harkar’s estranged daughter Kate everything starts to change.

This Savage Song was on my 16 Books to Read in 2016 list and I'm so glad I finally got around to it. Victoria Schwab put her foot into this book and I can see why so many people love it. While it starts off a bit slow, it quickly turns into a high stakes thriller where not everything is what it seems. I really loved the way Schwab slowly unravels all myth-building surrounding the monsters. She gives you just enough to get into the world and as more revelations come it all just falls into place.

This book just checked a lot of my YA book boxes: third person narration, unlikeable female characters, people struggling with powers they didn't ask for. It also happened to check off a lot of the things I like in anime with it’s focus on found family, using western religious imagery as a basis for a magic system and turning things we typically think of as non-weapons into weapons. Seriously by the end of this book this was me anytime as musical instrument was mentioned:

Narrator Therese Plummer has already been praised on this blog by Jess multiple times. Plummer brought her A game as usual, her voices were all on point especially her August voice.

This Savage Song is a fast paced YA thriller full of monsters, mayhem, murder and music to die for. Literally. 

I was so ready to ping this book about the  Born Sexy Yesterday trope  because August was brought into being  as a 12-year-old (Sunai are the born the age of their victims and he was created from a school mass shooting ) making him technically 4 in the book, but he's never sexualized. In fact there is very little romance in this book.

I know Schwab got involved in some weird stuff last year about the lack of people of color in her books and that's really glaring in this book.  It's stated that cities were quarantined when the monsters started appearing and it's really stark that in a world created from violent parts of a city there are so few people of color or that neither of the leaders would be people of color.  We also only see men commit acts of violence to create monsters, I feel like there's something in there left to be examined too. 

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Book Review/Audiobook Review The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco

12 Hours 9 Minutes | Sourcebooks | 3/7/17

Book Review

The Bone Witch is the genre defining YA you need if you've ever wanted a high fantasy to be more than just you know...a vaguely pastoral medieval England. Chupeco's Eastern inspired fantasy will take you to a vast and sometimes complicated world where women are trained to become ashsa, a class of women with magical powers. Then novel follows Tea, a young novice with the ability to raise the dead and her journey that  begins at the end of the world. A series with the promise of a darker world to come. Lots of great image inspiration's on Chupeco's Pinterst

Audiobook Review

Emily Woo Zeller's stellar collection of voices entices listeners into Chupeco's rich and diverse fantasy realm. Here, girls gifted with magic are spirited away and trained to become highly skilled practitioners of a magic known as asha. Will Damron gives an inquisitive and pithy performance as a bard who finds himself face-to-face with Tea Pahlavi, an exiled asha with the rare ability to raise the dead. The bard and listeners are in for a treat as Zeller enthusiastically spins Tea's tale of how she went from a young novice to a banished pariah. Zeller's effortless diction brings this Eastern-inspired fantasy, filled with chilling imagery, to life. J.E.C. © AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine [Published: MAY 2017]

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Book Review/Audiobook Review Geekerella by Ashley Poston

Book Review

Get your flip fops, grab your shades I have found the upbeat, modern and heartwarming summer YA romance you will want to bring along to the beach.  

Geekerella is a Cinderella story with a generous twist of  fandom and pop culture. Danielle "Elle" is a down on her luck diehard fangirl of Starfield a cult hit show from the 90's. A fandom she inherited from her  deceased father, ahem, a BNF if you will. Now she's just trying to make it through high school living with her stepmother and evil stepsisters. 

Enter our prince charming,  Darien Freeman, the teen heartthrob who is playing the lead in the Starfield Movie, he's a  a young buff brown actor taking on an iconic role while co-staring with a sweet down to earth female actress who is also an indie film darling, and they are putting on a fake relationship for fans. Stop me if you've heard this.

The characters meet cute through a wrong number and start texting and building a relationship while surrounded by a crew of gusty side characters. All roads are leading to a cosmic meeting at a once and a lifetime Cosplay Ball.

Audiobook Review

Narrator Eileen Stevens's subtle Southern accent and energizing performance are an out-of-this-world pairing for this reimagined Cinderella. Sounding intrepid and animated, Stevens never loses sight of Elle, whose love of the cult sci-fi show "Starfield" is her escape from her evil stepmother. When she begins texting a fellow fan, Elle thinks she may have found her Prince Charming. Little does she know that on the other side of the texts is Darien Freeman, the teen heartthrob who is starring in the "Starfield" reboot. Narrator Tristan Morris's wonderfully theatrical voice never quite captures the young actor, who is caught in a bout of ennui. Teens familiar with the intricacies of fandom will find the inside jokes a delightful addition to this contemporary fairy tale. J.E.C. © AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine [Published: MAY 2017]

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Audiobook Review: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

  • Release Date: September 9th 2014
  • Audiobook Hours: 10 hours and 41 minutes
  • Genre: Literary....Science Fiction ?
  • Publisher: Random House Audio
I feel like three years ago you couldn't trip anywhere in the book-sphere without falling into this book. Station Eleven is the fascinating and deeply haunting story of what happens after a flu epidemic kills 99% of the Earth's population and infrastructure collapses.

Everything I knew about this book happens in the first 20 pages; An actor in a production of King Lear dies on stage in front of child actor Kirsten Raymonde. Jump cut to 20 years later where Kirsten is part of a traveling symphony, a theater troupe that performs Shakespeare in the small towns dotting the the desolate and often dangerous North American landscape.

I am seriously in awe of the narrative structure of this book. The novel moves back and forth through time, telling stories of people who were in the theater that night with Kirsten. Mandel effortlessly weaves her characters fates through and around each other. There is also kind of a twist, I’m not sure how soon you’re supposed to see it, but it took me by surprise.

I’ve read my fair share of dystopian but something about this world was just so much And I Must Scream. I think it’s because there are so many unknowns about how this plague happened and so many of the adults are still grieving for what they once had

Audiobook narrator Kristen Potter provides a smooth and careful narration. Her male voices and accents were spot on, I see she does some romance so I’ll have to check those out !

Station Eleven is a riveting story about civilization and what it means to survive when you’re forced to walk out of one world and into another.

Sunday, June 4, 2017

Book Review/ Audiobook Review : A Psalm For Lost Girls by Kate Bayerl

Book Review

If someone were to ask me what it means to have a book with a strong sense of setting I would 100% point to A Psalm For Lost Girls.  New Haven, MA is a small immigrant city where everyone knows everyone and some secrets just can’t be kept.

Callie da Costa wants to believe her sister Tessa, whose untimely death she is still grieving , wasn’t the miracle making saint the town and church think she might have been. That maybe the fortuitous voices her sister heard where.  . . just in her head?

But when a missing girl miraculously appears on a shrine to Tessa, Callie has to rethink what she truly believes. This is a great read for those who, like me, don’t think contemporary is for them. While the story has hints of magical realism the events in the novel are grounded in grief and loss.

Bayerl is a creative writing educator and I think it shows.  Her writing is very precise, the story deals in particular themes and it all felt very by the book. I’m curious to see what else this author has up her sleeve. A great read-a-like for Vivian Apple At The End Of The World.

Audiobook Review

Narrators Saskia Maarleveld, Julia Whelan, and Kyla Garcia bring to life a teenager's journey to discover if her dead sister is truly the miracle-making modern-day saint everyone believes her to be. Maarleveld handles the bulk of the performance; her cool, casual voice is a perfect fit for the grieving Callie da Costa as she tangles with the death of her saintly sister, Tess. Garcia gives a bright and hopeful performance of Tess through the diary she left behind. Whelan ties it all together as she narrates the story of a missing child whose reappearance could be Tess's posthumously sanctified miracle. The trio provides a performance that will awaken, or reawaken, listeners to the possibility of miracles. J.E.C. © AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maine [Published: APRIL 2017]

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood

Release Date: February  1986

Pages: 309 
  • Genre: Dystopian 
  • Publisher: Anchor Books

Back in 2014 I read Margaret Atwood’s Oryx and Crake and it ruined my vacation because nothing is better on the lido deck then reading about child sex trafficking and chicken noobies ! I just figured I didn't get Atwood. I left that book feeling bleh.

But I’ve had a copy of The Handmaid’s Tale for years and since it’s one in a list of zeitgeist-y books  getting the TV/movie treatment (I’m looking at you The Dark Tower and American Gods)  I decided to give it a try, Also this is the only one that isn’t like . . .a thousand pages.

While I didn’t care for Oryx and Crake I could immediately see why  The Handmaid's Tale resonates with so many people, especially now. There is a lot to unpack about feminism, women’s rights and sexuality in the Dystopian (Utopian ?) Republic of Gilead where fertile women are trained to become vessels of birth or, Handmaidens to wealthy older couples.

 I don’t read a lot of literary fiction and I’m not sure what I can say critically about a book that has stood the test of time. I can say that I kind of wish I’d first read this in high school, I mean I get why schools might be apprehensive, yes it is a book that is about sex, but not in a titillating way. ..I mean no more than a teenage boy ordering prostitute.. . just saying.

The ending has a Tomato Surprise I wasn’t expecting and I thought was a smart way to reflect on the story. There are a ton of podcast talking about this book now but I kind of want to stew in my own interpretation for a while. I may check out the Hulu series because I’m curious how the creators will visualize some of the literary aspects of the novel.

Like this did leave me with some questions about Atwood, like does having characters meet someone they see earlier in life on TV/Video a thing with her?


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