Sunday, September 23, 2018

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman

Rating: ★★★★ | 368 pages | Washington Square Press  | Contemporary | 07/15/2014 |  

Along with  Ikea, The Skarsgard family and fish-shaped candy, Fredrik Backman is the newest Swedish export making money moves in the U.S.

Ove is best described in the novel as "a man with his hands perpetually in his pockets". He is the human equivalent of the Old Man Yells at Cloud meme. At 59-years old he has a fondness for the way things used to be and fights progress with indignation and a solid hurmph. Ove has a plan for what should come next in his life, a plan that gets turned upside down by the boisterous family that moves in next door, a mangy old cat and a community of unlikely neighbors.

Backman writes with a capricious tone with an infinity for in medias res. This book is translated from Swedish and there were only a few times where I felt like something wasn't translating

I'm not sure what I expected from this book but it as a lot more fun than I was anticipated. Ove truly becomes an endearing figure,  and I really like stories that explore life in all its stages a la The Curious Case of Benjamin Button or Big Fish.

A quaint, heartwarming story that is satisfyingly earnest and has universal appeal for fans of contemporary fiction.

The Supervillain and Me by Danielle Banas

Rating: ★★★ | 310 pages | Swoon Reads | Sci-Fi YA | 07/10/2018

Crime rates have skyrocketed in Abby Hamilton’s town of Morristown, but luckily their local superhero, Red Comet  (who is also secretly Abby’s brother), is always around to save the day. Abby is content just being a theater kid and leaving the saving to her super-powered brother, but when a new super teen known as Iron Phantom starts causing trouble Abby finds herself tangled up with Morristown’s first supervillain--who may not be so villainous after all.

Does anyone remember the movie Sky High? This book gave me a lot of those same vibes as that movie. The Supervillain and Me supers aren't the angsty complex heroes of Marvel and DC films. The teens in tights are kind of treated like boy bands with their adoring fans, public signings, merch and thriving fanfiction communities--which I guess is a good time to note that although this is a debut novel, Danielle Banas is a prominent Wattpad author.

 Also fair warning, despite being from the Swoon Reads imprint there are a lot more super saves than super swoons.

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.


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.


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