Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Audiobook Review: Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake

Rating: ★★+.5 | Release Date: 09/20/16 | Fantasy| 9 hours 52 minutes

I’m slowly learning fantasy just  may not be my genre, I read a couple a year and have always been lukewarm on most of them but this book came through on my holds the same week the sequel hit the bestseller’s list so I decided to check it out.

Now, I do remember this book being talked about during BEA 2016 and Three Dark Crowns is pretty much What You See Is What You Get; Three sisters; Mirabella, Arsinoe and Katharine must kill their sisters in order to take the crown and become Queen of their island nation.

What I wasn’t expecting is just how much of a prequel this book is to that major plot point. For most of the book we follow the sisters, who were separated and raised on separate parts of the island territories, as they prepare for Belltane-- the official event that means they can start trying to kill each other. I liked getting backstories on all of the sisters but it was just a lot. We have to learn the customs, magical abilities, culture and a host of side characters for three different areas. It felt like reading three books at once.

I think my biggest hurdle with this book is that I couldn’t get on board with this way of governing. In the back of the book Blake hints that the idea of sisters killing each other to be queen is based on what happens in beehives when more than one queen bee in born but I’m not sure it tracks with humans. It gets explained as being part of their religion and “this is the way things are” type thing, but I don’t see why each sister couldn’t just be queen of each territory ?

Speaking of territories, the sisters are supposed to have a magical ability native to the people in the territory they are raised in. These abilities are kind of treated like a race and the primary abilities just felt real incongruous. Like, Mirabella is a elemental so she can control the elements like fire and water, Arsinoe is a naturalist so she can control animals and plants but then like Katharine is poisonser which means she has a tolerance for poisons and also...knows how to make poisons ? I just don't get how that is an ability.

 Three Dark Crowns exists in a heavily matriarchal society so there are a lot of  different female character and audiobook narrator Amy Landon has an expansive  range of female voices. The audiobook was especially helpful with the pronunciations but that said, it’s helpful to have the map in the physical version.

By the way shout out to the character of Billy (yeah, this book also has a weird Arieth and Bob situation too) who is from the mainland and comes to the island nation as a suitor to the queens. We don’t get into how the mainland and island are connected but Billy isn’t familiar with the how anything works on the island.  Literally every other line of dialogue is him either asking a question or going “WTF is this place.” I’d been more annoyed with him if I didn’t have the exact same questions he did.

Will I do the sequel ? Probably, because that cliffhanger tho !

Saturday, November 25, 2017

They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera

Rating: ★★★+.5 | Release Date: 09/05/17 | Contemporary-ish ? | 8 hours 29 minutes |

They Both Die At The End is the Final Destination meets The Sun is Also A Star you didn’t know you needed.

It’s a little after midnight in New York City when 17-year-old foster kid Rufus Emeterio and 18-year-old Mateo Torrez get the phone alert from Death Cast, a mysterious service that somehow knows that within 24 hours you will meet an untimely death. When they both find themselves unable to be with their loved ones on their End Days they connect on the The Last Friend app. With less than 24 hours left to live these two unlikely strangers are going to have to try the best last day and they're doing it together.

I’m a little conflicted over this book. Silvera is an great storyteller; his characters are interesting and he creates this great alternate universe that is only a few ticks off from our own world but you never feel confused or like you are getting an info dump. He just eases you into his imagination perfectly. But there were times when the story felt slow and stagnant and the over earnestness levels were at an all time high. Like at one point these New Yorkers bury a dead bird on the street and later they sing American Pie at karaoke, which if you aren't familiar is a song with the chorus "Singin' this'll be the day that I die."

Mateo is sa socially anxious homebody and he makes a big deal about wanting to really live his last day but they spend a lot of time cryptically saying goodbye to people and things. They don’t really do things that could be seen as “living life” until the last 30%...but like maybe that’s the point ? Like, really living doesn’t always mean doing big things ?

 You want this on audio. I’ve talked about both Michael Crouch and Robbie Daymond before and these dudes can read my grocery list and I’d drop an Audible credit. Crouch gives this very reserved, slightly sheepish narration for Mateo and he just makes some really interesting performance choices. He’ll add little laughs, sighs and inhalations that aren’t in the dialogue and it just makes the reading feel  natural. Robbie Daymond has this confident swagger with a bit of playfulness that fit Rufus’s character perfectly. Bahni Turpin also makes an appearance for short third person interstitial chapters and wow, does she have range. I’d always been kind of hesitant because I thought she sounded too old for YA but I may check out one of her YAs.

I do think it’s worth noting that while our protagonists are Cuban and Puerto Rican neither of these narrators are Latino ( Crouch is white and Daymond is Native American) and while I love the narration it’s interesting they didn’t get narrators who fit the ethnicity of the characters.

Adam Silvera is doing something really interesting in YA these days, it seems like he came out of nowhere and is just changing the game. He made this cryptic tweet a while ago:

I wonder what this is about ? A sequel ? A Hulu show ? 

Me to all the people on They Both Die At The End's Goodreads page asking if an Adam Silvera book is sad:

Friday, November 24, 2017

#BFRAT Cover Challenge 2017 Challenge !

Good afternoon  #BFRAT participants ! It's the afternoon in my neck of the woods  and now it's time for the cover challenge ! Below are 20  thumbnails of books that came out in 2017. The goal of this challenge is to figure out which books the thumbnails are from. 

Enter your answers in the GoogleForm below. The person who guesses the most correctly will win a $10 Amazon or Starbucks gift card!  The winner and answers will be posted Saturday, November 25, 2017 so check back for the answers.

Hint: These are mostly YA and adult fiction

(click to enlarge)

Contest Closed! The Winner is @bernmckoy ! 
Here are the answers:

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Black Friday Read a Thon and Rainbow Book Challenge

Kat and I are so excited to be a part of Du Livre's Black Friday Read-a-thon

BFRAT Rainbow Book Challenge, 11/24/17 @ 9AM EST

Rainbow Stack Example
I will be hosting a Rainbow Book Stack Challenge for #BFRAT participants on Twitter & Instagram starting at 9AM EST. One participant will be chosen at random to win a hardcover copy of Turtles All The Way Down by John Green. To enter:

  • Tweet  or Instagram you stack of colorful spines. You can do traditional ROYGBIV or a colorful gradient. 
  • Tag you stack with #BFRAT

 A winner will be chosen at random.

Jess' Plan :
I'll be working for most of the day, but word is we might get out early so I'm hoping to get some reading done. Here are the books I'll be reading for the read a thon !

Don't forget, there is still time to sign up for Black Friday Readathon! It's a lowkey readathon hosted by Du Livre , Mocha Girls Read, and Books and Sensibility. There will be various challenges throughout the day with opportunities to win books and bookish merch! Sign-ups are open until 12 p.m. CST on Friday, November 24. 

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Join The Black Friday Readathon ! #BFRAT

BFRaT 2017 will take place on Friday, November 24 at 12 a.m. (your timezone) until 11:59 p.m. All participants will have the opportunity to join challenges, win bookish prizes, and of course, read! Challenges will be posted on Instagram and your hosts' blog, and Twitter throughout the day and winners will be chosen on Saturday, November 25. We highly encourage everyone to track their reading process on social media platforms (using the hashtag #BFRaT) and cheer your fellow readers on!

I haven't done a readathon all year andI'm excited for this one. We aree hosting with DuLivre and Mocha Girls Reads. During the readathon I'll be hosting a fun challenge on the blog where you guess book covers based on a small snippet and win a gift card ! You can sign up  for the readathon here !

Here are some books I'm thinking about reading for the readathon, what books will you be reading  ?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Audiobook Review: Holding Up The Universe by Jennifer Niven

Rating: ★★★ +.5  | Release Date: 04/04/16 | Contemporary | 9 hours 3 minutes

In the romance genre there is always talk about the grovel--the moment when the hero has to fully take responsibility and beg forgiveness from the heroine for whatever stupid thing he did and prove he is deserving of his happily ever after.

So, when our male protagonist Jack Masselin decides to hold on to Libby Strout ,our 350 lb female protagonist, for a cruel game his friends invented call Fat Girl Rodeo, he basically has the entire book to earn his redemption

And you know what ? He does it. It's a journey though and I almost turned this book off because I just couldn't with Jack being the Billy Bush to his two idiot friend's Trump, but in the end Niven made it work.

Holding Up The Universe gently weaves a friendship between Libby and Jack after they both end up in an afterschool group counseling / community service / detention thing ? It's actually not super clear to me why all these kids were given this super special Breakfast-Club-y-Dead-Poets-Society-ish version of detention. Anyway, they learn to love each other and themselves while discovering their lives may have intersected before...

I know there was a lot of concern about Niven portraying  Libbie as a fat girl and about Jack as having severe prosopagnosia--face blindness. I can't speak to the authenticity if either of these portrayals but I think the characters themselves are done respectfully even though the people around them can be cruel.  Libbie knows she's not the perfect weight she likes herself and does not lose weight as part of her story arc. Jack's prosopagnosia was interesting to read about--but I did feel like Niven shoehorned in conflict to make us feel bad for Jack.

Audiobook narrators Jorjena Marie and Robbie Daymond were both new to me and they did a stellar job.  Jorjena does this great, wistful youthful voice with all the inflection and pop for Libbie and  Robbie Daymond has this amazing  gravely, expressive voice.They both sounded like they were having a good time, worked well off each other and could easily mimic each other's voice.

While I haven't read All The Bright Places, I know how it ends and I was afraid this book was going to go  to a dark place but it doesn't. If you're looking for a hopeful teen romance with a sprinkle of angst you'll like what Niven is serving up.

So, I know Niven is a big Supernatural fan and there are a lot of references to Supernatural in here. Like a lot.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The Luster Of Lost Things by Sophia Chen Heller

I don't. . . really understand why this book is being compared  to Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident Of The Dog In The Night-time, is it because it has a long name and features a character with a disability ? I mean it's been a minute but from what I remember Haddon's book was very down-to-earth and a little bleak, while the The Luster of Lost Things has an earnest modern day fable like quality as Walter Lavender Jr., a preteen with  a motor speech disorder,  uses his uncanny ability to find  things to locate the magical book that runs his mother's fantastical bakery. Along the way he meets several quirky New Yorkers who help him find his voice.

Let's talk about this magical bakery for a second because everything Keller describes sounds freaking delicious. We are talking gourmet dessert and sweets that like move and dance and move and stuff but I guess it's cool because they want to be eaten ? I'm not sure. . . but I was totally picturing this book with a Pushing Daisies filter.

Now, this book probably has the most idyllic clean cut New York City, where everyone is a dreamer or searching for something that can easily be found in a good metaphor. While it can be over earnest at times, Heller really brings her story full circle in a way that is bittersweet.

This book also manages to defy categorization. It features a twelve year old protagonist but has a very clear cut coming  age story, however it is deeply rooted in the experiences the adults he meets along his journey share with him. I mean Except for  some language I think it can appeal to a very broad group. Like I'd recommend this on audio for like a family car trip.

I think it's a strong and highly imaginative debut, Heller is one I'll be keeping an eye out for.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Kat's YA Book Haul !

Lately, I've been all about the library and these days I rarely buy new books but a few weeks ago Barnes and Noble had good 2 for $20 sale for YA and I did a little clicking.

Warcross by Marie Lu I've already stated Marie Lu is on my auto-buy list and I was so excited for her new videogame inspired book. I kind of didn't like the cover at first, but it's starting to grow on me.

Turtles All The Way Down by John Green  Ever since The Fault in Our Stars mania I've been waiting like everyone else  to see what John Green was going to do next. I've seen so many positive reviews for this book, even from people who aren't the biggest fans of John Green so I decided to add it to my basket.

Nyxia by Scott Reintgen  My new favorite bookish podcast is The Librarian Is In and Gwen Glazer does such a good job recommending books. She talked about Nyxia on a recent episode, so I decided to pick it up. It's not until I got it in the mail that I realized the cover blurb is from Marie Lu !

Later that week  I got a 15% of coupon and mixing that with the 2 for $20 sale, I could get 4 books for $36. I decided to get some books featuring or about POC. I may read some of these but I'm also  going to try and donate them to bookworm teenagers locally (VA area) so if you know anyone let me know !


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