Sunday, September 16, 2018

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente


Rating: ★★★★ | Release Date: 08/20/18 | Science Fiction | 9 hours 45 minutes | Saga Press
The aliens have arrived--- and in order for humanity to prove itself as a sentient species worthy of being welcomed into the greater galaxy, they must compete in an intergalactic singing competition.

Luckily, Earth’s been given a leg up as the welcome committee has already chosen the musical group most likely to place; The long defunct and estranged glitterpunk glamrock band Decibel Jones and The Absolute Zeroes. Now, Decibel Jones (aka Danesh Jalo) and Oort St. Ultraviolet (aka Omar Caliskan ) two middle-aged, washed up former rockstars have to get the band back together, travel across the universe and give a performance that will prevent the total annihilation of all of humanity.

This.Books.Is.Bonkers.

I think the only reason I picked this up is that the cover kept catching my eye. In the back of the book, Valente notes this book was heavily inspired by  Eurovision and Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (two things I know very little about)which made this book feel totally original and fun for me.

I struggled a little because  I had a hard time keeping up with all the alien species. These aliens aren’t little green men in suits; they come in a variety of forms including murderous war hippos, impressionist blue flamingos, sentient computer code and time raveling red pandas. It was all so fascinating and creative but it was a lot to keep track of.

The audiobook narrator for this book, Heath Miller, does an absolutely phenomenal job and I think the audio is essential for this book. Particularly because Miller and Valente are longtime creative partners and they’ve likely collaborated on how the delivery should go and how all the characters sound. There is also just a lot of walls of text that are daunting to the eye but sound so good with Miller’s rhythmic narration. Miller is also just an amazing performer. Everyone in this book is British and I was shocked to discover Miller was Australian. I would say he needs to do ALL the books but he seems to mostly narrate Valente's work and he is slaying.

This book is from Saga Press, Simon and Schuster's inclusive sci-fi imprint and you know what? I appreciated the inclusivity. There are tons of liberal dog whistles in here and Valente doesn’t let it go unnoticed that our heroes come from immigrant backgrounds.

Space Opera is the totally bizarre must-listen audiobook with cheeky, sci-fi fun you can dance to.



Saga Press also re-published and repackaged The Curse Workers series by Holly Black so they are A+ in my book.

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E Schwab (Shades of Magic #2)


Rating: ★★★+.5 | 512 pages | 2/23/16 | Shades of Magic #2 | Tor Books | Fantasy
A Gathering of Shadow picks up a few months after ADSOM and our characters are reunited just in time for an international contest that pits magician against magician--- and it's a lot like Goblet of Fire. I legit kept thinking that for the first few chapters of the books. I mean Lilah even "Harry Potters" herself into the competition. You know that thing where an underqualified competitor gets themselves into the competition and The Powers That Be let it slide because. . .  Chosen One? (yes, I know Harry doesn't put his own name in, but still.)

Overall this felt like a solid"middle of the series" book. At first, I thought this was going to be an episodic series because it introduces so many new plot elements and conflicts. Instead it just very slo-o-o-o-wly continues the arc from the first book. I think fans of the world and the brooding characters will enjoy this, but those looking for something more plotty might find this one a little slow. Speaking of brooding characters, we get introduced to the flashy, snarky, mysterious pirate Alucard. I sorta feel like this book was written just to introduce this character.

Michael Kramer and Kate Reading take over the narration duties and to be honest--I could take or leave the narration.  Reading, who was raised in England, has done a ton of historical romance drops her vaguely British accent at odd times. While I was excited to see how Kramer would interpret the characters he basically mimics Steve Crossley. The pair does an admirable job but at the end of the day, I think younger voice would have done more justice to the characters. I think I may check out the next book in paper.

Tuesday, August 21, 2018

Drawing Conclusions : Are Cartoon M/M Covers a New Trend ?



Lately, I've noticed a mini-trend of m/m centered YA with illustrated character covers.

The ones that initially caught my eyes were these 2018 - 2019 m/m books that feature intricately drawn, expressive cartoon characters on the covers. Each of these covers could easily be for a graphic novel or a still from an animated series.


Then there are these m/m book covers which also feature detailed cartoon characters but are more artistic or ambiguous. 



And then there are also these m/m illustrated covers, but these go with graphic novels.

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Now there is some recent f/f that has illustrated characters on the covers but I've noticed the faces of female characters in f/f are either hidden or just gone altogether. We don't get the same amount of expressive facial features from these illustrations.




Although I did find one exception:




I have some theories as to why there have been so many illustrated people on m/m covers. At first, I thought it was maybe going off the success of the m/m anime Yuri on Ice or because of the rising popularity of illustrated covers in general, but Jess pointed out that it may have to do with publishers not wanting to put photos of same-sex couples on books.

You hardly see a  same-sex YA couples getting the Kasie West or Katie McGarry treatment. The only three YA books that we could come up with that had an explicitly same-sex couple on the cover were 2017's Our Own Private Universe 2016's No Holding Back by Kate Evangelista and 2013's Two Boys Kissing by David Levithan.

Have you noticed any illustrated covers with same-sex couples? Why do you think they are becoming so popular? Let us know in the comments below !

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Mini Reviews : Women To Watch Out For


Not The Girls You're Looking For by Aminah Safi
Not The Girls You're  Looking For is this unfiltered look into a group of suburban teenage girls, though the eyes of Lelia "LuLu". She's that classic "unlikable" female characters that we hear so much about. She is impulsive, fierce, all-encompassing, quick, snappy, sarcastic and even her grandfather who escaped a tyrant is a little bit afraid of her. As a lot of people on Goodreads described her as messy and I'm here for that, but the structure of this book was kind of head-scratching. It's loosely plotted and we sort of dive into LuLu's life and follow her around until the book decides we are done?

 I'm not sure what the story is here.  I think watching part of her friend-group fall away is apart of it and there is a romance with a boy who is just always showing up. This book is so clearly focused on LuLu so why wasn't this called Not The Girl You Are Looking For? Check out the audio review too !





The Woman In Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware
I basically put the Woman In Cabin 10 on my TBR after Elyse on SBTB praised this book and all of its female rage. It's one of those female-driven psychological thrillers, except this one is ON A BOAT. Travel writer Lo Blacklock joins the maiden voyage of a private luxury cruise, it should be smooth sailing until she witnesses the murder of a passenger with no record of boarding. It's an engrossing read and you'll find yourself guessing until the end. Admittedly I didn't see all the rage that Elyse talks about and the twist was just okay, but I guess there is a lot in the book about believing women, 'sisterhood' and the stigma of mental illness.  I split my reading between paperback and audio and It's made me realize how much I  enjoy a good paperback. The cover for this book also has a pretty cool optical illusion that looks like the book is wet.  Narrator Imogen is one of those subtle unobtrusive narrators that lets the words speak for themselves. - ★★★

Smoke Thieves by Sally Green





Rating: ★★★+.5 | 400 pages | Viking | YA Fantasy | 05/01/2018

YA fantasy isn't for me

This is something I've thought and said for so long now because when it coms to the big YA fantasies e.g. The Belles, Throne of Glass, The Wrath and The Dawn ... they just didn't 100% work for me.

I guess I felt like a YA Fantasy can easily become predictable;  there are always love triangles, secret crushes,  rebellions, secret gays, captains of the guard . . . FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WHY IS THERE ALWAYS A CAPTAIN OF THE GUARD ???

So, Smoke Thieves.

This YA Fantasy totally worked for me and I shocked. I  think one of the major reasons is because it has an unconventional structure. The book is told from the POV of five different characters in different parts of the world, which I think bolstered the word building and gave depth to the story. There is a fierce princess oppressed by her patriarchal kingdom, a soldier who turns against his crown (okay, so he is a captain of the guard with a secret crush but like...it's different okay)  a young thief who ventures into demon territories to steal demon smoke, a pompous secret heir on a journey home and a young servant taking revenge on the king who sacrificed his people.

Despite being called Smoke Thieves the titular smoke thieves are just a small part of the overall plot of the book, but I guess it's a bada** name? Each character's journey felt carefully crafted and you are on the edge of your seat watching them converge in one place.  Yes,  At times the pacing slowed down, but would quickly pick up with daring sword-fights and escapes. I am totally invested enough to check out book two, which I haven't done for a YA fantasy in YEARS.

Attack on Titan meets Handmaid's Tale meets Games of Thrones in an intriguing fantasy novel with a bit of a twist.

Check out the audiobook review at AudioFile !



Sunday, August 12, 2018

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen and Owen King


Rating: ★★★ +.5 | Release Date: 09/26/17 | 25 hours 22 minutes | Simon & Schuster Audio
When a mysterious virus causes sleeping to grow impenetrable cocoons, the entire world goes up in chaos and the final battlefield for humanity will involve a whole cast of characters in the small Appalachia town of Dooling, Maine...oh wait, West Virginia. This one takes place in West Virginia.

I’d been eyeing this book for a while because the premise sounded intriguing and let me tell you, the King men know how to weave together a tale with a vast cast of characters. One of my complaints with the few King books I’ve read is how poorly many of the female characters were written and I was curious about how female characters would fare in a book about women. I mean look, do I think a story about toxic masculinity told through the lens of horror tropes should be written by a middle-aged white dude and his Dad? Maybe not, but they do an okay job. I would in no way call this a feminist book because despite all the feminist epigraphs this book opens with, most of the book comes down to a schlubby middle-aged white dude savin' the day. I mean, you could actually take most of the women’s POV out of this and still leave the story intact.

Also, yes this book is problematic for the way it leans hard into the gender binary.

Now let me talk about the audiobook narrator, Marin Ireland. She absolutely brings this 25-hour audiobook to life. Yes, I said 25 hours and I'm glad I've started moving into 1.5 speed on audiobooks or I ever would have never finished this behemoth. This is one of those thick King (...and King) novels that has a cast list at the beginning and she managed to create a unique voice for each one of the Dooling townsfolk. I feel like this book could have easily gone array because of the West Virginia accents but she does it well. Although I kind of side-eye how only the lower class characters get the accents.

Also bonus, the audiobook has an interview with the King men at the end that was fun to listen to!

-mild spoilers-

This book is dedicated to Sandra Bland which feels a little tone deaf after reading this book because it has a scene at the very end where an innocent black female character is killed by a cop by mistake and we’re supposed to sympathize with the cop.


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Tiffany Sly Lives Here by Dana L Davis


Rating: unrated | 334 pages | Harlequin Teen Inknyard Press ?  | Contemporary | 05/01/2018

I was really excited to read this book after hearing about it on the  Hey, YA podcast.  I firmly remember actress Dana L. Davis in the 2000s for being "that black lady" who showed up on TV shows in the early 2000s.  I was also interested in a book that deals with respectability politics and all the shades of black experiences

Tiffany Sly has had it rough. After losing her mother to cancer, this music-loving rocker girl is headed from Chicago to the mansions and privates school of Simi Valley, California to live with the wealthy and successful father she's never met. Anthony Stone (get it ? Sly...Stone ? Get it ?)

What Tiffany didn't expect was to meet her father's four biracial daughters and white wife. She struggles under her father's strict rules and religious pressure. In addition to coping with anxiety, she faces bullying in her new school and begins to make friends with the Mckinney family and their son Marcus, the only other black family in their neighborhood.

As a character, Tiffany Sly tries her best to be resilient. Marcus is like a character who should have his own book/fell out of a John Green book. He has a fatal heart condition that means he could die at any second, he has a book deal for a book about death plus harnesses and reads energies around him.

Tiffany's father is outstanding strict with his daughters. They have to wear their hair a certain way, dress a certain way,  play sports and have their phones heavily monitored. With four daughters ranging from ages 2 to 16, he is already pressuring his non-confrontational wife for more. He was the  Jerk!Dad to end all Jerk!Dads

I think at the last minute Davis tried to humanize and create empathy for him because he is a man who left a rough inner city neighborhood to begin again, but I felt, in the end, his slow turnaround came a little too easy.

An emotional and hard look at what it means to be a family and how to start over without losing who you are.

Check out the Audiobook Review on AudioFile !




Thursday, August 9, 2018

Mini Reviews: YA Summer Reading

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Just like it's namesake,When Dimple Met Rishi has all the hallmarks of a 90’s rom-com and so much more. Taking place entirely during a web developer summer program, the plot felt a little claustrophobic at times, but the relationship was developed wonderfully. Both narrators on the audiobook give great performance, though Vikas Adams' voice for Dimple had a tendency to sound shrill. This book is everything you've heard and I want this movie. I want it now. - ★★★★






Dear Martin by Nic Stone
After experiencing a violent encounter with the police, high school senior Justyce McAllister begins writing letters to Martin Luther King, Jr. to unpack his newly developed complex feelings about race and policing.  Dear Martin is definitely an important book because so few YA novels are explicitly written and marketed for black teen boys the way this book has been but the story left me wanting more. I was annoyed that the white love interest got to explain the complexities of race in America, the MLK portrayal felt sanitized and Justyce reads as younger and more naive than a 17-year-old from the hood at an elite boarding school about to study policy at Yale. Author Zetta Elliot has made some criticisms of this books portrayal of black women and I agree with a lot of what she says. I think Dear Martin would have made a great middle-grade book, but as a YA it felt like a missed opportunity for a more nuanced discussion. - ★★★ + .5

Everyone We’ve Been by Sarah Everett
I’m finally getting around to my bookish goal of reading more midlist YA that didn’t get a lot of hype. This 2016 debut is the twisty but quiet story of 17-year-old violinist Addison Sullivan, who starts to see a boy that no one else can see. I went into this book knowing absolutely nothing about it and that’s how I recommend reading it. Like, don’t even read the copy. I would have loved this book in high school, it’s about black girl but is in no way about the struggle. While the ending felt a little anticlimactic Everett weaves an engrossing story that is equal parts romance, coming of age and mystery. Also her 2019 book about a girl who creates a digital version of her crush after he dies sounds intriguing. It reminds me of the Be Right Back episode of Black Mirror. -★★★ +.5

Monday, July 23, 2018

Around The Way Girl by Taraji P. Henson


Rating: ★★★+.5  | 7 hours and 27 minutes  Simon & Schuster Audio | Memoir | 10/11/2016
I’ve been a fan of Taraji P. Henson since she played Raina Washington on Lifetime’s The Division when I was younger, it was one of the first “adult” shows I watched. The show was ahead of its time and  I sometimes think about how Henson was playing a Black female police officer with lesbian moms in the early 2000’s. I can only imagine if they put that on TV nowadays it might be called “too diverse.”

Anyway, this memoir begins with Henson’s childhood in Southeast DC during the crack epidemic and the years of hustle and hard work that lead to her  Hollywood success in her mid-thirties. Henson is a trained actress who worked with some of the best at Howard University and there is a lot of craft talk in this book. Henson really digs into the minds of the character she plays. The title of the book comes from her concern of always being typecast as the around the way girl from the hood and her hesitation to take the role of Cookie Lyon--the role that has brought her the most notoriety.

This book shares a lot of DNA with the two other memoirs of black women in Hollywood I’ve read, Last Black Unicorn and We’re Going to Need More Wine. They all touch on the importance of having a support system and other black women helping them navigate the Hollywood scene.

I especially liked what Hensen had to say about the stigma of a single black motherhood and how these mothers aren’t afforded the same considerations and respect as married mothers.

 Around The Way Girl is an inspiring and insightful look into the making of an actress and some of Henson’s most memorable moments.


Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Relative Strangers by Paula Garner



Unrated | 368 pages | Candlewick Press | Contemporary | 04/10/2018 

I am all for quiet YAs that have interesting premises and haven't been put through the giant hype machine. Relative Strangers is about Jules, a teen girl, who has always felt like there was something missing from the humdrum life she leads with her emotionally distant mother. Jules has a vintage adventurer's sensibility and wants more than what her small town can offer.

When she discovers she was in foster care she goes off to reconnect with the foster family that raised her for the first year of her life. She forms a relationship with her former foster-brother,  now a handsome pianist who gives her the confidence she's been looking for.

Now, I was a little frustrated with the protagonist in this book in a way I've never been before.  She admits she is envious of her two best friends' big close families and she knows she shouldn't be because they have issues too, but she just never lets it go. Even when she knows she should.  Also, she is so distraught and angry and feels like she was lied to over the fact that her mother never told her she was in foster care for ONE YEAR ?! I mean I guess you could argue the first year is pretty formative but she acts like it was forever and. There are a lot of things for her to be frustrated with her mom about and this isn't a big one.

Jules begins to struggle with the crush she is developing on her foster-brother and tries to be just a sister as he copes with the impending death of one of his parents,  and you kind of want to yell at her to get her life right because other people are going through it. But despite the rough start with  I think Jules grows as a character toward the end in a way that is satisfying and worth the journey.

I feel like this would be a good fit for fans of emotional family dramas

SIDE NOTE

Jules has a gay goth BFF who lost his mom and works in a coffee shop during his gap year while writing a novel, taking care of his pet rats while waiting to get into the Iowa Writer's Workshop who is obsessed with death. He seemed like he needed his own book and/or fell out of a John Green Book.

Check out the audio review at AudioFile Magazine



Wednesday, July 4, 2018

WWW Wednesday #1


This is my first time participating in this meme hosted by Taking on A World of Words!

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?
What did you recently finish reading?
What do you think you’ll read next?

WHAT AM I CURRENTLY READING?

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King  and Owen King
I feel like I've been listening to this 25-hour audiobook forever and I still have 9  more hours left. This book takes place in a near future where women suddenly fall into a permanent sleep and the chaos the follows in a small Appalachian town.



WHAT DID I RECENTLY FINISH?

Around The Way Girl by Taraji P. Henson
I've been a fan of Henson since she starred in Lifetime's The Division and it's been great seeing her get so much attention later in her career. This book details all of her successes as well as her struggles with racial inequality in Hollywood and single motherhood. 

Indecent Exposure by Tessa Bailey
I received this book from Avon as part of Avon Addicts program. The series follows recruits at an NYPD police academy and this one is about an alcoholic NYPD trainee who falls for the new Irish arms instructor and turns his life completely around.


WHAT AM I READING NEXT?

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
The hype I've seen for this book has been unreal and I can't wait to start it!


Friday, June 29, 2018

Audiobook Review: Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl by Carrie Brownstein


Rating: ★★★★ | Penguin Audio | 7 hours and 4 minutes | Memoir | 10/27/2015

I find Carrie Brownstein really interesting. She’s one of those people who has managed to have two very distinct yet very successful careers in the public eye. Depending who you are you may know her from the rock band Sleater-Kinney or, if you’re like me, from the award-winning show Portlandia.

This memoir is focused exclusively on her relationship to music and Sleater-Kinney. I picked up this book because it was like a window to the eclectic and chaotic world of 90’s punk rock band life during the riot grrrl movement--a world I knew nothing about.

This is a fun listen on audiobook,  Brownstein does a great job narrating her life story from her wistful childhood in the Seattle suburbs to her unexpected rise to notoriety. She reveals all the grit behind band life and is open about the ups and downs of forming and keeping a band going for over a decade. The audiobook has fun bonuses like musical interludes, a section where guest narrators show up, and an interview with Brownstein and the audiobook producer. The only thing you would  miss by not picking up the physical book are all the photographs

Her narrative is very personal, I expected her to dig into the riot grrl movement and feminism more broadly, but she keeps it only to her experience. This book also has a tendency to periodically take a turn for the literary and purple prose. There were some paragraphs where I had no idea what she was talking about.

Hunger Makes Me A Modern Girl is a fascinating and honest memoir, but may not be the best book for fans looking to get a more behind the scenes look at Portlandia. Maybe the story of Portlandia will be her next memoir because I don’t understand how she went from musician to successful sketch comedy writer/producer/actor.

SIDE NOTE

The whole time I read this I was thinking this could be a TV show and it looks like a pilot is in production for Hulu. Now, I just want a Last Black Unicorn based TV show, come through HBO



Saturday, June 23, 2018

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E Schawb


Rating: ★★★★ | 354 pages | Tor Books | Historical Fantasy | 4/21/15 | 11hrs and 34 Minutes

If there is a super popular hyped novel you can bet I will read it years after it comes out. I'm always fascinated by series that have huge fandoms and I've seen so much fanart and generally squeeing about this series that I don't know what took me so long to get to it.

In A Darker Shade of Magic, there isn't just one London, there are four--red, gray, black and white. At least that's how Kell likes to think of it. He is an Antari, one of only two people with the ability to travel to the other Londons

Antari are to be messengers; passing only messages between the heads of states of the various Londons, but Kell can't help but to smuggle a few trinkets between worlds on the side. When he smuggles an item back that could destroy the Londons and tip the balance of power and magic it will take all his magical knowledge and abilities to set things right. Along the way, he gets mixed up with a Lila Bard, a thief looking for a bit of adventure and danger.

I can see why this book is a keeper. It's got nail-biting action, sweeping adventure, and dastardly magic. I've read enough of Kat's reviews of Schwab's work to wonder just how many fully formed worlds exist in her head.

Delilah is my favorite kind of female characters, I would like more, please. She was clever, headstrong, laidback and not afraid to pull a weapon on someone. It was one of those characters where I thought I knew where they were going with her as a character and it just never goes there. Especially at the end.

Narrator Steve Crossley's deep Britsh voice was perfect for this narration but his voice was a bit to mature for the main characters who were 19 and 21. He made the female voices work but I'm curious to see what Michael Kramer and Kate Reading (who BTW are married), who perform the other books in the series, do with the characters.

A solid fantasy that has plenty of stories left to tell.




Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Five Audiobooks For Pride Month


June is audiobook month and Pride month, to celebrate here are five of our favorite YA audiobooks featuring gay, lesbian or bisexual protagonists. If you have audiobook recs with trans or asexual protagonist please leave below!

You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan | Narrated by Matthew Brown and Emma Galvin




You Know Me Well moves dreamily along as we follow high schoolers Kate and Mark through their first San Francisco Pride. Matthew Brown and Emma Galvin provide the alternating narration for each of our protagonists as they form an instant friendship and navigate a night of unexpected twists, anxiety, and unrequited love.



Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy | Narrated by Thérèse Plummer


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; until an old friend from her childhood catches her eye. A quiet YA about the moments that matter in the life of a teenager and her found family. Plummer's narration is upbeat, youthful and a perfect fit for this story


More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera | Narrated by Ramon De Ocampo


Aaron Soto is going to try to happily spend the summer hanging with his friends; nerding out over comics and finally telling his girlfriend he loves her. He won't think about the things that threaten his happiness like his father's suicide or Tomas, a neighborhood boy whose friendship could spark something more. This YA book makes you feel the feels and when it comes to the emotional moments narrator Ramon De Ocampo lets it out.


Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert | Narrated by Alisha Wainwright

Audiobook narrator Alisha Wainwright brings a laidback west coast sensibility to this story about 16-year-old Suzette who is returning to her eclectic LA community for the summer after a year in boarding school. She contends with her brother's bipolar diagnosis and finds herself in the middle of an unexpected love triangle.

Lies My Girlfriend Told Me by Julia Ann Peters | Narrated by Christine Lakin 


After Alix's girlfriend's sudden death she has to sift through the lies she left behind. This novel is a great snapshot of how teens deal with love, loss, and relationships in the 21st century. Like how do you put someone away when their Facebook is still there or what's the power of a text message when you don't know who is on the other end? Narrator Christine Lakin voice is textured authentic.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Not My Father's Son by Alan Cummings



Rating: ★★★★  | HarperAudio | Memoir | 10/07/2014 | 

Alan Cumming examines the violent and abusive childhood that nearly sent his adult life off course while on a journey to uncover a family secret on the reality TV show  Who Do You Think You Are? Just when Cumming thinks he has a handle on all his family secrets, his estranged father calls and drops a big one.

This silver fox actor is known for playing eccentric characters. I  know Cumming best from his role as Eli Gold on The Good Wife (He was also in X2).  At the time I had no idea he was Scottish but by the time I finished this audiobook the thought of him with an American accent seemed strange.

Cumming is a veteran stage and theater actor and I believe his experience telling and performing stories enabled him to create a memoir that reads more like a literary drama. Underneath his glamorous jet-setting lifestyle, Cumming is still very much connected to the self-conscious frightened boy working the land with his tyrant of a father during the final era of big Scottish Estates. Like Cumming says in the book--think Downton Abbey but in the 70's.

Cumming is very close and protective of his mother and brother who also survived his father's abuse. You can hear the affection in the audiobook, which I don't need to tell you is great because it'won two Audie Awards .  Cumming's voice is full of bravado and his Scottish brogue glides rhythmically over the words.

I watched some of Cumming's episode of Who Do You Think You Are ? and I can tell he used the episode as a reference to help him write the book. He uses some of the same descriptions and jargon.  It's certainly interesting watching the episode knowing all the things that were happening in his life off camera.

I listened to this on Scribd and it recommended me Tommy's Tale, a novel Cummings wrote two years before this book. If you've read Not My Father's Son it's easy to see where he draws his inspiration from.




Sunday, June 10, 2018

Non-Fiction Mini Reviews : Lawyered !




I'll be honest, I've been kind of freaking out about getting closer and closer to the big 3-0, but one of the things I learned as I've gotten older is that I can read non-fiction. I always thought I was one of those readers who would never be able to get into serious non-fiction, but it's a muscle I'm slowly learning to build thanks to audiobooks.

Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
I grabbed Just Mercy last year after hearing Stevenson, a civil rights attorney fighting wrongful convictions, on a podcast. I started and stopped this audiobook so many times and eventually just kept it on my phone so I could tell people I was reading a "smart" book.

One day I ran out of podcasts, so I decided to try putting Just Mercy on in the background while I was working. Soon I found myself listening in the car, at home and slowly found myself looking forward to hearing more about Stevenson's often brutal and heart-wrenching career.

Just Mercy is a tough read because so much of Stevenson's work is connected to things that are hard to look in the eye like; institutionalized racism, violence, corruption and mass incarceration.  His book focuses on the wrongful conviction and imprisonment of Walter McMillian , but also tells several harrowing and heartbreaking cases Stevenson has fought along the way. The format threw me off a bit because we'd leave one story for another without warning, but I gather this has a lot to do with the audio format. Stevenson is a capable narrator and does some subtle voices here and there.

I do not understand the cover of this book. Early on Stevenson notes the somewhat dubious nature of To Kill A Mockingbird and Atticus Finch. I mean John Grisham's quote and name are just so big.

I had no idea this book was published way back in 2014. I'm sure he has seen some rising book sales recently. Also this

A Higher Loyalty by James Comey

After reading Just Mercy, I picked up another book by another lawyer; this one being A Higher Loyalty by James Comey. I'm not gonna lie. I picked up this book for the tea...and the tea was spilled. I may not understand everything about political maneuverings but I've worked at enough places know when people are jumping ship and getting fired left  and right something is not working

But also it was interesting learning how Comey became the controversial figure he is.  He's sort of been hovering in the background of several major cases before becoming a household name, he was involved in quite a few scandals including The Palme Affair, The abuse at Abu Ghraib and the  Martha Stewart conviction. Comey is no stranger to controversy. I think Comey has some interesting thoughts on leadership and how to be a leader but nothing particularly innovative.  He narrated the audiobook and gets emotional talking about how he was held hostage as a teenager and the death of his son. His views on mass incarceration aren't great and he tries to reason out the statistics a little too much. I think due to the very public and sudden end of his government service, Comey is really just trying to get the last word in and he holds nothing back.






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