This book came out in 2013, and while it was a big YA award winner, it just started showing up on my radar this year. Which makes sense, because YOU GThis book came out in 2013, and while it was a big YA award winner, it just started showing up on my radar this year. Which makes sense, because YOU GUYS the audiobook is narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda! (You know — that guy who wrote a bananas popular musical about the Schuyler sisters and some other people.)
Ari is a Mexican American teenager who likes to keep to himself. Until he meets Dante, a bubbly teen who's new in town and volunteers to give Ari swimming lessons. Dante's infectious charm wins over a sullen Ari, but after one of them is injured, their friendship grows deeper and more complicated.
Aristotle and Dante is the kind of book that wraps you all over in tingly goosebumps and makes the hair on your arms stand up straight. It’s about kissing, boys who like boys, and two Latino teenagers who are learning to be OK with their feelings and desires. It's also about parents, PTSD, and family secrets. And it's about figuring out how to open up to the people who matter to you most.
As narrator, Lin-Manuel Miranda finds the perfect balance between lighthearted teenage humor and existential angst, and his kissing scenes are 100. (It was also really nice to hear a Latino narrator on a story about two Mexican American teens.)...more
If you are a person who appreciates unapologetic feminism, body positivity, and a well-placed poop joke, Lindy West's Shrill might wind up being the bIf you are a person who appreciates unapologetic feminism, body positivity, and a well-placed poop joke, Lindy West's Shrill might wind up being the best book of essays you have ever listened to in your life. Sandwiched between HILARIOUS jokes about reading high fantasy by Robert Jordan on the bus, and the situation with deeply disturbing high school choir outfits, Lindy has gifted us a "fat feminist abortion manifesto" (her words), because "people don’t expect to hear from women like that. And I want other women to see me do that and I want women's voices to get louder."
I've long loved Lindy West's amazing comedic timing in her writing for The Stranger, Jezebel, and The Guardian, and listening to her deliver her jokes on audio was kind of the most fantastic thing ever. She confesses that she never wanted to be the poster child for fighting virtual trolls and calling out rape jokes, yet she does it every day for everyone who wants women’s voices to get louder. She's doing it for me, and she's doing it for you. Thank you, Lindy West <3 ...more
Holy moly, I'm not quite sure what to do with this book! Firstly, it's probably worth mentioning that I've been in a deep reading rut, and SweetbitterHoly moly, I'm not quite sure what to do with this book! Firstly, it's probably worth mentioning that I've been in a deep reading rut, and Sweetbitter was so deliciously captivating that it held my attention anyway.
A sexy 22-year-old woman abandons her former life to reinvent herself in New York and get a job at a high-end restaurant; fucked up love triangles and entanglements ensue.
Sweetbitter left kind of a weird taste in my mouth (ha, see what I did there?), I think because it is so invested in the narrative of cultural gatekeeping and patriarchal / misogynist power structures. The main character falls hard for a total condescending asshole and strives for artistic / cultural validation from illegitimate authority figures, and it was all so squicky and hard for me to tease out how much the story was critiquing these structures vs. buying into them. But at the end of the day maybe it's enough that it's a moody piece of art and it doesn't really have to have a "message"?
And the thing is, I remember what it was like to be that 22-year-old English major fresh out of college. I remember what it was like to crush hard on patronizing assholes who quoted Keats-or-what-the-fuck-ever and "weren't into labels like 'boyfriend.'" This is why I can't help loving Sweetbitter even though I'm not quite sure where to place it — it so perfectly captures that particular experience, and the writing is both funny & lovely, even if it does take itself just a tiny bit too seriously at times. Danler is also fantastic at revealing just enough of the characters' backstories to pique your curiosity and leave you wanting more, so that was fun.
The cherry on top of this book is the hot Russian bartender, Sasha, who's barely 5 ' tall and has knife-sharp cheekbones, and who nicknames Tess "Baby Monster." Sasha is hands down my favorite literary character since Boris in The Goldfinch, and "Baby Monster" is my new go-to pet name.
Alex McKenna was a superb narrator on audio — she has a bewitching vocal fry that was PERFECT for this character, and her secondary characters were all phenomenal as well....more
I was expecting to like In the Country We Love because I'd been hearing so many good things about it. What I wasn't expecting was to relate to so muchI was expecting to like In the Country We Love because I'd been hearing so many good things about it. What I wasn't expecting was to relate to so much of Diane Guerrero's story. I don't want to sound like I'm centering Guerrero's story on me, it's just to say that this was a nice reminder that commonalities can always be found in unexpected places, even between a white middle-class girl who grew up Mormon in Iowa and a brown working-class girl who grew up Catholic in Boston. Her story of her family breaking up when she was 14 years old, bouncing between schools, being drawn to the arts, and wrestling with ADHD and depression all resonated deeply with me. The human experience is pretty cool that way!
Guerrero tells her story of being left in the U.S. as a teenager when her parents were exported to Colombia with directness, honesty, and personality, and it made for an exceptionally moving listen. It reminded me of memoirs like Leah Remini's Troublemaker in that it isn't dressed up with layers of symbolism and literary allusion, but the stories themselves are so remarkable and told with such candor that they really don't need to exist any other way.
This was a great choice to listen to on audio — Guerrero has an authentic and playful voice that bubbles through in her performance, which made for a lovely listening experience....more
I was having trouble finding an audiobook to follow up HEARTBURN by Nora Ephron, read by Meryl Streep. I tried & rejected about 6 different optionI was having trouble finding an audiobook to follow up HEARTBURN by Nora Ephron, read by Meryl Streep. I tried & rejected about 6 different options before landing on THE VACATIONERS, which ended up being purely wonderful.
This book is clearly marketed as a beach read — that dreamy, watery cover, the lighthearted title — and it is, indeed, about a New York family who rents a vacation house in Majorca where sexy teenage Spanish tutors and hot silver fox tennis stars abound. It also has an easy-going, carefree style that makes it fun to listen to. But I think there's actually a lot more going on in this book than first meets the eye.
As the days in Majorca tick by, we learn about family secrets, lies, and betrayals, and THE VACATIONERS has a lot of smart things to say about how those things unfold and whether they can (or should) be repaired. It covers a swathe of characters of all ages and situations, all of whom are fully realized. Emma Straub does justice to female characters who are often invisible — I loved Franny, the middle-aged matriarch, and Carmen, the 40-year-old body-building girlfriend who turns the "cougar" trope on its head.
This was a thoughtful and enjoyable read, and I REALLY want to get my hands on more audiobooks read by Kristen Sieh, because she was INCREDIBLE. She has a flawless ear for voices and brought the story to a whole new level. This is going in my bag of go-to audiobook recommendations!...more
The Queen of Distraction is a solid read with short chapters and practical tips for women with ADHD. Not every single suggestion will be applicable foThe Queen of Distraction is a solid read with short chapters and practical tips for women with ADHD. Not every single suggestion will be applicable for every single woman, but I think it does offer something for pretty much everyone who could use help managing their ADHD.
Matlen's writing is warm and personable, and she peppers in anecdotes from her own life, making the book that much more relatable. It was also revealing / validating to read about some of the topics that I wouldn't have necessarily thought were ADHD-related, but are in fact things that are hard for me, and now I know that it all ties back to ADHD and that there are practical solutions. The examples that comes to mind are sensitivity to touch, smells, and textures, and the nuisance of having to put together a complete outfit every day.
tl;dr: This is a great supplementary read for women with ADHD who want to learn more about how to do grown-up life....more
The Queen of the Night does a lot of things really well, and while I don't think its appeal is quite universal, I think it will strongly appeal to reaThe Queen of the Night does a lot of things really well, and while I don't think its appeal is quite universal, I think it will strongly appeal to readers who like those things.
This book is packed with INTRIGUE and ACTION and DRAAAAAMA ~ absolutely perfect for a story about an opera! Characters run off to join circuses and stage their deaths and join nunneries and conspire with assassins. It's also loaded with intricate details about clothing, staging, and what the surroundings look like. Chee has built a compelling world full of cloak-and-daggers mystery, and I think the story is appealing in a lot of the same ways that The Night Circus is appealing.
Because it's so packed with action and physical detail, The Queen of the Night doesn't leave a lot of room for interiority or character development. I struggled to stick with it because I felt like I wasn't hooked into who the characters were or why they were making the (fascinating!) choices that they did. I don't think every reader necessarily wants this, but it is what I like, and it's why this book didn't quite work for me.
The prose is lovely ~ it's written in a kind of formal, fable-like style. But this also meant it didn't have a really strong, relatable voice, which is another thing I've discovered that I like in fiction. Sometimes an audiobook narrator can make up for this, but this audiobook was 19 hours long and the narrator was just OK, so it just ended up being a long 19 hours for a book I wasn't super invested in....more
I've read and loved a lot of weird books, and THE VEGETARIAN is maybe the weirdest? Everyone who's talking about this book mentions the woman who hasI've read and loved a lot of weird books, and THE VEGETARIAN is maybe the weirdest? Everyone who's talking about this book mentions the woman who has a dream and stops eating meat, but I think it's ALSO key to note the character who dreams about painting magic sex flowers on people's bodies and then wanders around trying to convince actual people to let him paint and videotape them (?!).
This book has some really smart (and horrifying) commentary about toxic masculinity, impotent patriarchy, and female rage. There's also a fair quantity of visions, dreams, and obsessions, and the maniacal lengths to which we'll go in pursuit of those phantoms.
The book is divided into three sections, and I thought the first two were the strongest. I understand the purpose that the third section is meant to serve, but it didn't wow me in the same way — it's a little more boring than the rest of the book (on purpose).
This would be a great, quick read for anyone who's entertained by weird little dark stories (or magic sex flower dreams). The audio version was done with dual narrators and was great. ...more
This was kicking around in my iTunes so I queued it up the other day, why not!
The Seven Good Years is a loose collection of anecdotes and observationThis was kicking around in my iTunes so I queued it up the other day, why not!
The Seven Good Years is a loose collection of anecdotes and observations from Israeli writer Etgar Keret's life, starting with the birth of his son and progressing through the next seven years. Parts of it were very irreverent and funny! I haven't read a lot of work by modern Israeli writers, and Keret's voice seemed pretty distinctive to me — very wry and sardonic. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict loomed large, as well as the recent past of Keret's parents fleeing Poland during the Holocaust, and these things lent a certain nihilistic comic relief to situations like what to do when you're being cornered by a cable telemarketer.
This collection is super short, yet I didn't think it made for a great listen. The format of loose observations made it hard to latch onto a narrative thread while listening. And then there's Alex Karpovsky, who narrates — I like him as an actor, but as a narrator he was honestly kind of meh. I did enjoy it, but I'm not sure it will stand out at the end of the year when I look back on what I've read....more
Meryl Streep reading Heartburn on audio was EVERYTHING. I've been wanting to listen to this for ages, and I'm sooo so glad I finally did.
Nora Ephron cMeryl Streep reading Heartburn on audio was EVERYTHING. I've been wanting to listen to this for ages, and I'm sooo so glad I finally did.
Nora Ephron caught her husband cheating on her when she was seven months pregnant with their second child, and writing Heartburn is what she did about it. What is better than a jilted woman out for revenge on her cheating husband? A FAMOUS jilted woman with a publishing contract and razor-sharp pen.
In Heartburn, the Rom-Com Box Office Ephron of Sleepless in Seattle and You've Got Mail is nowhere to be found. Instead we have the When Harry Met Sally Ephron with none of the lovey bits and basically just the sarcastic parts. She pulls no punches and spares not one of the real people on whom the "fictional" characters are based, least of all herself.
Rachel, the main character, isn't exactly a likable character, and the book does have a handful of problematic moments from being a product of Reagan's rich white 80s, but oh man... She eviscerates her cheating husband and everyone else in their social circle, and it is SO. CATHARTIC. AND GREAT.
And Meryl Streep is just perfect. Did I say that already? Because she is. She is perfect. She put as much character development, nuance, and comic timing into this audiobook as she has for any of her Oscar-winning screen performances. It honestly ruined all other audiobooks for me for a hot li'l minute. This has got to be one of the best audiobooks of all time.