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?

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Girl Code By Andrea Gonazles and Sophie Houser

4 Hours 32 Minutes | Harper Audio | 3/7/17

Book Review

I think in a world where every other teen non-fiction book is by a YouTuber or reality show star, there is something refreshing about a book by two everyday teenage girls; whose project with Girls Who Code became a viral sensation.

There is something accessible about the success in this book that I think will appeal to teens. Sophie and Andy each  bring their unique experiences to the table . Andy is a second generation filipina whose drive and discipline constantly push her forward, and Sophie's quirkiness, self awareness and need to speak out (and possibly her mom running a start-up media company) keeps her looking for the next challenge in life.

At times the book stretched to form a narrative, but delves into the sacrifices and anxieties the girls face as they explore the world of programming.

Audiobook Review

The authors give listeners an inside look at how two teenaged girls are breaking the tech world's glass ceiling while challenging the taboo of discussing menstruation. In 2014, Andrea "Andy" Gonzales and Sophie Houser's summer project at Girls Who Code became the viral computer game Tampon Run. The girl coders lend their voices to the narration, taking on separate chapters as well giving listeners an introductory lesson on how to find tools and resources to start coding. An accompanying PDF supports this part of the audio presentation. Since the success of their game, the pair have been invited to Silicon Valley and offered numerous media appearances and interviews, experiences that are reflected in their thoughtful, straightforward performance. They expertly reflect the highs and lows of their incredible journey. J.C. © AudioFile 2017, Portland, Maineas published in AudioFile

Sunday, May 7, 2017

A Silent Voice by Yoshitoki Oima

Lol, remember this feature ? This will be like my third post in six years. #bloggoals

I'm constantly telling myself I want to read more graphic novels and I picked this series up after hearing Gwen Glazer talk about it on The Librarian Is In podcast. When it comes to anime /manga I usually go for the magical ones. so a contemporary story was a new experience for me.

This seven book manga starts with sixth grader Shoya Ishid leading a campaign to severely bully Shoko Nishimaya, because she is deaf. Shoko is bullied so badly she leaves the school and Shoyo becomes a social pariah for his cruelty. The  series takes place five years later when Shoko and Shoya meet again and begin a journey to reconcile the past while Shoya looks for redemption.

This manga is really popular, it tells a heartwarming story of second chances, where even a bully can be reformed.  I really wanted more agency from Shoko. We never really get her perspective on the events and her character is almost exclusively defined by her deafness.

I think my favorite character was Yuzuru Nishimiya, Shoko’s little sister who actually takes Shoko's bullying and hardships harder than Shoko does. Yuzuru's very protective of her older sister and even poses as a boy to seem more intimidating.

Also, fair warning there is a lot of fat shaming in this book. I'm not sure if this is a cultural difference but I notice there is a lot of fat shaming in contemporary mange/anime.

A feature length anime film based on this series just came out, so I'm super curious to see which elements of the series they keep in and which ones they take out.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Audiobook Review: #famous by Jilly Gagnon

  • Release Date: February 14th 2017
  • Audiobook Hours: 7 hrs 53 minutes
  • Genre: Contemporary Romance
  • Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (HarperCollins)

Did I pick up this book because the cover reminded me of Fangirl ? Maybe. Yes, yes I did.

When high school junior Rachel Ettinger secretly snaps a photo of  Kyle Bonham and tweets, ahem, I mean flits it it to her best friend she thinks nothing of it.

Until the pic goes viral.

While Kyle becomes an overnight internet sensation  Rachel becomes a target for harassment and cyberbullying.

So, in case you aren’t familiar,  this book was inspired by the phenomenon that is Alex from Target.

#famous had a strong start, we see a lot of the rampant sexism online and I really thought Gagnon was going to flesh out Rachel's story through this lens, but the online abuse gets dropped pretty early to focus on a tedious plot where Kyle recruits Rachel to repeatedly appear with him on an Ellen type talk show.

Kirkus' review of this book called Kyle a “ schmuck with a haircut” which at first I thought was kind of cruel, but then I realized he is kind of a....dolt ?  He gets everything because he's a handsome. Kyle is just so unaware of anything  else going on in the book including Rachel's cyberbullying. It seemed like every other character is telling him what to do or how to do something and he just goes with it.  He reminded me of the president on Scandal.

Also fair warning, there is a lot of “not like the other girls” and fat shaming in the first part of this book.

 I really like James Fouhey performance as Kyle,  he is one my new fave narrators. He has this crisp, youthful voice. Co-narrator Arielle Delisle had some good voices too but her predominate voice, Rachel, sounded too much like she was "doing a voice".

#famous explores the modern phenomenon of internet fame, but it falls flat underneath a less than stellar romance.

Between the # and the lowercase f this book title is really hard to search for in some library  databases 

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.


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