Mosquitoland is a book I was deeply unsure about, because I just wasn’t sureFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Mosquitoland is a book I was deeply unsure about, because I just wasn’t sure if it would be a Christina book. I was lured in by the adorable cover, and the reviews which talked about how character-driven the novel is. Going with the audiobook version was partially convenience and partially the fact that I thought it might be a better choice for me. I’ve listened to Phoebe Strole before and thought she did a nice job, so it couldn’t hurt. In the end, Mosquitoland was indeed not a perfect book for me personally, but it was quirky, fun, and kept my attention.
Mim (Mary Iris Malone) does have an incredibly strong, unique voice. She is, pun intended, quite a character. It’s one of those funny cases where Mim and I have a lot in common, but we’re still so incredibly different that I didn’t see much of myself in her. Mim’s socially awkward, not shy with her opinions, and possessed of an impressive vocabulary. There’s something acerbic about her. That voice is crucial because, without that strong voice as an anchor, this book would not have worked, because it is WEIRD.
A lot books are weird. Believe me, I’ve read enough of them to know, but this one still had me raising my eyebrows at my iPod in wonderment because seriously wut. There’s something almost cinematic in Mosquitoland. It’s like a hipster version of some sort of drunken goofball comedy, only they’re drunk on life and companionship, no alcohol. I don’t know if that makes any damn sense.
Mim bounces like a pinball off of bumpers (terrible circumstances) and flippers (kindred spirits). The purpose of Mim’s trip is to see her mother, kept from her since her dad and step-mother moved them to Mississippi, aka Mosquitoland. Armed with money stolen from her step-mother, she gets on a Greyhound and goes. Everything else is a bit on drugs. Still, I do think that the bumpers and flippers on her bouncing journey are a pretty good metaphor for Mim really encountering life, even if things are much more dramatic than in real life. She’s confronting the worst of life and learning important lessons, like the fact that those things are surmountable if you surround yourself with good people you can count on.
The actual plot isn’t the strongest part of the book. From a couple chapters in, I could have predicted most of the ending, the fact that the book would be about Mim needing to reevaluate people. Like most road trip novels, Mosquitoland isn’t about the destination but the journey. Anyone would be changed by that hellish trip. I mean, jesus. Here’s a little list of some things that will happen on Mim’s journey:
-Mim will fuck up a bus toilet. -One of Mim’s new friends will die. -A gross man will try to force himself on Mim. -Mim will befriend a homeless kid. -Mim will draw lipstick on her face many times. On purpose. -Barfing. Lots and lots of barfing.
Those are just a few of the things that happen. It’s not that any one element couldn’t happen but holy shit that’s so much stuff for such a short book. It did make the book hard to put down because I was so fascinated about what the heck would happen next. At the same time, it was hard to take it seriously sometimes.
Mosquitoland reminded me somewhat of Wild Awake, not in plot, but in how odd and quirktastic both novels are. There’s a very specific sort of appeal to Mosquitoland, so, if you think it sounds like your sort of book, it probably is. Go get it!...more
I’d totally written Nick Hornby off in high school. See I made the mistake ofFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
I’d totally written Nick Hornby off in high school. See I made the mistake of going to see About a Boy in theaters when it came out. I think I was a freshman at that point. The movie might have been good, I’m not sure, but what I know definitively is that it was one of the most awkward films I’d ever seen. I spent the whole movie with my knees tucked up in front of me, trying to hide my face in horror. As an awkward teenager, watching other people be that level of awkward was physically painful. As a result, I determined that Nick Hornby’s writing probably wasn’t for me, mostly because thinking of him made me cringe in remembered awkwardness. In hindsight, that was rather silly. I finally decided it was time to give Hornby a shot, because British narrator, and it turns out that he’s rather talented, as people have been telling me all along.
Barbara from Blackpool has always dreamed of being a comedienne. She wants to be on the telly and make people laugh like Lucille Ball did. What really puts the fire under her ass to get moving is her parents trying to convince her to stay by entering her in a beauty pageant. The moment she wins Miss Blackpool is the moment she realizes that she absolutely has to get out, turns over her sash and crown, and heads to London to pursue her dreams.
In London, she changes her name to Sophie because Barbara is just too Blackpool. Though she suffers some setbacks, she gets incredibly lucky and finds her big break. She does so by telling off the writers about their shitty script for a potential new comedy, Married Bliss?. The BBC is against the casting of an unknown, but the writers and producer push for her so hard that they get to try the comedy against an audience for one episode, which turns out to be a major hit.
I loved the view into British television in the 1960s, and I adored that the lens through which it was viewed was of a woman who dreams of being funny. Sophie’s gorgeous, and she loves that too, but it’s her ability to make people laugh that she’s really proud of. It’s also just so wonderful that she finds her niche, happens across the people who will appreciate her input and not hate her for it. With Clive, Bill, Tony, and Dennis, they formed the perfect team, accepting and supportive.
Funny Girl tracks Sophie through everything in her life to do with the show, which ends up being titled Barbara (and Jim). Though most of the book is set during the run of the show, four long seasons (as opposed to the typical six episode seasons most BBC shows get), it ends with Sophie in her old age, as the cast comes together for a final reunion. There’s something a bit distancing about the overview, but in terms of the television process it’s fascinating.
The team starts out inspired, excited, and innovative, but as the years pass unique ideas are harder to come by. No one will be surprised that I was thrilled the addition of baby into Barbara (and Jim) ended up being the first of many signs the show was going downhill. Babies might improve some actual people’s lives, but they do not make for good television in my opinion. Everything has its season and eventually Barbara (and Jim)‘s came to an end.
The characters are fantastic. Sophie obviously was a delight, and, though Clive’s a bit of a shit, I really liked the way their relationship was handled. Sophie engages in guilt-free casual sex and is very much empowered in the choosing of her sexual partners, which I adore. Bill and Tony’s partnership gave me a lot of feels. Both are gay men, who took two very different paths with their lives, in a society that didn’t yet accept gay people. Dennis is so charmingly naive in a lot of ways, and I just want to pat him on the head.
As someone who very much enjoys BBC comedies and television/film history, I thought Funny Girl was fantastic. I enjoyed the look into that world, and the characters and circumstances Hornby chose to do it. More Hornby novels are in my future....more
Last year, I read Kate Alcott’s The Daring Ladies of Lowell, which I really eFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Last year, I read Kate Alcott’s The Daring Ladies of Lowell, which I really enjoyed. Naturally, when I saw the audiobook come up for her next book, I immediately downloaded, thrilled. It almost wouldn’t have mattered what the subject matter was, but certainly the Old Hollywood theme didn’t hurt my interest at all. A Touch of Stardust didn’t end up grabbing me the same way Daring Ladies did, but let’s be real that’s probably because I didn’t care about the ship in this one.
A Touch of Stardust uses the production of Gone with the Wind as the frame for the novel’s events. Julie Crawford, a college graduate from Fort Wayne, heads to LA with big dreams of screenwriting and manages to get a job in the publicity office for David O. Selznick, producer of Gone with the Wind. Or maybe I should say that she GOT a job, since she promptly gets fired for not delivering a message quickly enough. However, that doesn’t really end up mattering, since she impresses Andy Weinstein, an assistant producer, who hooks her up with Carole Lombard, who gives her a new job.
Julie and Andy are both fictional, but most of the other figures were actual people. Obviously adding in a purely fictional main character offers a bit more distance, meaning there’s somewhat less need to fabricate the events occurring to the actual people. Still, I couldn’t help feeling that Julie just wasn’t as interesting as the others around her. Despite her talents, she spent most of the book feeling like no one in particular, a character there for self-insertion.
This feeling that Julie was mostly a shell was exacerbated by the un-reality of her experience. She knew nobody but ended up getting hired thanks to the connections of an assistant producer who thought she was cute and spunky, based on pretty much nothing. Her whole job seems to consist of hanging out with Carole and very occasionally making calls. Perhaps Carole Lombard really did hire people for this, I don’t know. I’d certainly take that job.
Though I absolutely hate Gone with the Wind (I didn’t even make it through the whole movie), the production details were fascinating. I loved all the squabbles on set, the power plays and alliances. For example, Lombard got to hang out there even though the morality police didn’t approve of Clark and Carole, since Clark wasn’t yet divorced from his wife.
Andy and Julie had a nice enough romance, I guess, but I really couldn’t ship them. The thing is that Andy’s a good deal older than Julie. That alone doesn’t have to be a shipping dealbreaker, but his nickname for her is “kid,” which just makes the whole thing uncomfortable for me. What I liked most about their plot line was the way it was affected by Nazi Germany. Weinstein’s concerns about his family and the war made a nice counterpoint to the superficiality of Hollywood.
The real stars of this book are Gable and Lombard, which isn’t surprising, since I suspect they were Alcott’s primary interest. Julie’s first attempt at a script is a thinly veiled romance between two characters like Lombard and Gable; Julie is a romantic and believes deeply in their love. In the afterword, Alcott says that she feels similarly towards those two, and I think that’s why the spark and fire of the book is all about them.
My gut instincts tell me that Alcott’s A Touch of Stardust won’t be a particularly memorable read, but I did enjoy listening to it. Most of all, Alcott made me curious about Lombard and Gable, actors I know little about....more
The Secret Sky isn’t a book I would ordinarily pick up. While I love diverseFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
The Secret Sky isn’t a book I would ordinarily pick up. While I love diverse novels, I tend to steer clear of that little phrase “forbidden love,” which in this context likely meant “sob story.” In most cases, I like my love stories to end happily. The Secret Sky sounded really depressing, so I wasn’t sure I was interested in it. Still, an ARC showed up unsolicited at my house. Still not sure, I tried a couple pages and didn’t love the writing style. I determined to pass, but then the audio came to me and I listened and I’m very glad that I did. The Secret Sky IS depressing, but it also gave me a window on a society I know nothing about and didn’t hit that point where it was so sad that I could not even anymore.
Really horrible things happen in The Secret Sky. I expected some unhappiness, because hello forbidden love, but I wasn’t prepared for just how dark this book got. In light of that, it’s amazing that it didn’t really feel unrelentingly depressing or like a total condemnation of everything that Afghanistan is. Abawi manages to balance the darkness with the light and to convey a sense that dark forces are on top now, but that there’s a lot of good underneath.
The love story between Fatima and Sami is one I would classify as sweet. They manage some light banter, but mostly they’re childhood friends transitioning into love. Unfortunately, they’re not allowed to be together, because Sami is Pashtun and Fatima is Hazara. These two groups differ ethnically and do not get along because of their historical backgrounds. I’m really oversimplifying this, but if you’re curious, google it because I am so not the best person to explain. The two just want to get married, but this desire sets a series of horrible events in motion.
Abawi makes a really unique decision with the storytelling in The Secret Sky. Ordinarily, a romance novel would have just the two points of view, those of the lovers. In this case, there’s a third: Rashid. I was really startled by his perspective at first, because I wasn’t expecting the villain of sorts to have a first person perspective. Rashid catches Sami and Fatima talking and assumes the worst. He believes God will punish them, but wants to help God out by telling on them.
Rashid and Sami were both off at school, but they reacted to the teachings in disparate ways. Rashid fell under the influence of the Taliban and became hugely judgmental. Sami hated the school and that element. These two are cousins and Rashid has always been jealous of Sami, who is the family favorite, so seeing Sami make a mistake he wants to take advantage.
The Secret Sky, however, is not all about the horrors of the Taliban. It’s also about the good people, like the Mullah who helps the two. Islam is not the villain here. I think what makes the story easier to palate in part is Rashid’s character arc. While he caused everything, he also learns throughout the story, and I came to feel a bit sorry for him, because he honestly didn’t expect for things to go the way they did. He was naive and idealistic in the worst way.
The other thing that really made The Secret Sky work for me was the audiobook format. I’m not sure if the writing style would have been my thing, and I can’t comment on how well the perspectives are done. The audiobook narration, however, is fabulous for sure. Both Ariana Delawari and Assaf Cohen do a great job capturing the personalities of their characters. Assaf plays both male roles, but I think he distinguishes between Rashid and Sami well, imbuing Rashid’s voice with rage. This is one of those cases where I think the audiobook really brought the book to life for me.
I highly recommend The Secret Sky, particularly in audiobook format. Those who cry easily in books might want to prepare some tissues....more
Let me be up front about this: I wasn’t a big fan of The 5th Wave. Though I bFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Let me be up front about this: I wasn’t a big fan of The 5th Wave. Though I by no means think it’s entirely terrible, I had a lot of serious issues with it. I read The Infinite Sea anyway, not really expecting to like it. If that bothers you, kindly depart and go elsewhere. All I can really say is that I was curious about where the series was going. I also hoped that a switch to the audiobook format would take care of some of my issues from the first book. Well, I would say that, for most, The Infinite Sea will be pretty even in quality with The 5th Wave, as it was for me.
And yet I still make the mistake.
Switching to the audiobook did help a lot in some ways. The story is a fast-paced one, as was the first, and more plot-focused than character. As such, the audio helped me engage with the characters more than I did the first time around. For all that I wasn’t loving this book at any point, the audiobook was a pleasure to listen to, and I got through it really quickly.
Oddly, though, the narration didn’t help as much as I thought it might. My biggest issue with The 5th Wave, I think, was the way the multiple POVs were done; it took me ages to figure out that I’d swapped from Cassie to Ben, because there was no cue, either in the chapter heading or the narration, that the reader had jumped heads. This time, I at least knew that would be happening, but there still was not clear marker between perspectives. Every time the POV switched, I had to puzzle out whose head I was in now. This time, the POVs were, from what I remember, all first person: Ringer, Cassie, Zombie, Poundcake, and Evan. Though there are more male POVs, the girls do the bulk of the narrating. The audiobook should have really helped me with the narration, but there were only two narrators for five characters, and they didn’t really change up their narration style for the different POVs.
The thing that continues to get me about the narration is that, even in audiobook format, it doesn’t really seem to fit the characters. Sometimes the voice would be awesome, I’d be getting into the book, and then BOOM I’d get run over by the metaphor train. The character would be talking believably like a teen, and then suddenly they would start spouting off like a poet. It’s like the characters sometimes have to take a backseat so that meaningful and smart-sounding quotes can be said. However, to a character reader like me, it ruins everything because I no longer have a sense of who anyone is, as they take a backseat to the message and language.
The other big problem I had with the writing was how repetitive it was. That infinite sea from the title comes up over and over, just in case you missed its import. Also, I’ll be happy not to hear the word “enhanced” again for a while; (view spoiler)[even with my shitty memory I can remember that Ringer’s various senses and abilities are enhanced for the duration of the book after being told once or maybe twice (hide spoiler)]. This sort of repetition makes me feel like the author doesn’t trust me to understand the book without being hit over the head.
A big plus of The Infinite Sea is that Ringer becomes the main character. I like Ringer much more than I like Cassie. Well, I liked Ringer much more than I like Cassie. Basically the same exact thing happened here as in The 5th Wave. Ringer starts out this complete badass, but then she gets caught up in a shitty romance and becomes less compelling for me. The circumstances are better than in book one, but I’m still frustrated. By the end of the book, the only characters I’m sure I still like is Zombie.
The plot continues to be entertaining. I mean, it’s being made into a movie, and this is very much the sort of story that will lend itself very well to film. In the print version, I might have struggled a bit, because there’s not much of an over-arching arc, but it wasn’t really a problem on the audiobook. The twists, at least, have gotten much better in The Infinite Sea: (view spoiler)[I was very surprised both by the fact that Evan isn’t an alien after all and the fact that there AREN’T any aliens on earth (hide spoiler)].
At this point, I’m really not sure what Yancey’s doing with these romances. Either it’s all an elaborate set up to do the unusual and surprise the audience with the heroine turning down the unhealthy ship or all of the romances really are this awful. This time around, I did start shipping Ringer’s romance. The game that he created to help cheer her up was really cute, and they argued a bunch, which always gets me. Just as the ship was about to chug out of the dock, though, I climbed back off. (view spoiler)[The revelations that he was playing her and the circumstances, which are eerily similar to book one, make this super not cool. Though I have a better sense of their connection this time, it’s still Stockholm Syndrome. It seems possible that Ringer is now playing Razor right back, but I’m not sure. I’m REALLY hoping that Yancey’s not going to keep both of these ships going. The Stockholm Syndrome needs to go. PLEASE. (hide spoiler)]
We can officially add this to the list of series I just can’t quit, since, though once again I’m not that impressed, I know without a doubt that I’ll be back for book three. I just really want to know if he’s for serious with these romances.
Honestly, I picked this up solely because Katherine Kellgren is a fantastic narrator. Plus, it's fairy tales, so why not?Amount Listened to: About 9%
Honestly, I picked this up solely because Katherine Kellgren is a fantastic narrator. Plus, it's fairy tales, so why not? Even if the cover really freaks me out.
The fact that it's Katherine Kellgren narrating actually ended up being the kiss of death for me, not because she's doing any less of a good job. The problem is that this is about an ursine governess going to a house to educate a kid. I've been listening to The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place series, about a governess who goes to a house to raise three children. The stories end up feeling the same, because a lot of the voices she chooses match up. Only now they're all animals. I don't have interest in trying the print, so I bid this book adieu....more
I have this really scientific process I engage in by which I choose audiobookFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
I have this really scientific process I engage in by which I choose audiobooks to listen to. It goes like this: scroll through catalog of audiobooks for review, check out narrators, download if the narrator has a good accent. I’d never heard of Lost & Found, but Australian accents are fun, so why the hell not? It’s safe to say I wouldn’t probably have picked this up otherwise, but it was a really strange and interesting read.
Lost & Found centers on Millie Bird, a seven-year-old abandoned by her mother in a department store. Millie builds herself a little nest behind the ginormous underwear and waits for her mom to return for her. I had some disbelief issues with how long she managed to go unnoticed in the store. Still, Millie’s story is tragic. She has no doubt that her mother will come back; she has this unshakable faith that the reader knows is misplaced.
That makes the book sound really sad, but it’s not. It’s actually quite humorous, despite the fact that it opens with a dead dog and ends with the eventual deaths of the protagonists. The characters, though, are all very quirky and make many hilarious observations about life. Millie has this obsession with death and spends much of the book informing people of the fact that they’re going to die. When she imagines herself a superhero, she is Captain Funeral. There’s this freshness and youth in Millie’s POV that was really refreshing. She’s endlessly curious and doesn’t yet understand what she ought not to say or do.
At the mall, Millie meets an old man, Karl the Touch Typist. He escaped from his nursing home and befriends the little girl. When she’s captured by the authorities, he helps her get away. Karl’s sad and lonely ever since his wife Evie died. At 87, he feels like his life is over, but he’s not ready to let it go. Lost & Found, for Karl, is about him rediscovering his personhood.
Millie also wanders into the life of Agatha Pantha, 82, who lives across the street from the Birds. Housebound since her husband’s death, Agatha lives a heavily scheduled life. Her main occupation is yelling observations of how much the world sucks. She yells at her neighbors and herself. The need to take care of the poor abandoned Millie gets Agatha out of the house. She too finds that she can live again in a real way.
These three end up going on an adventure across Australia to find Millie’s mother, accompanied by a mannequin they call Manny. It’s oddly touching, irreverent, and a bit gross. The book’s definitely funny and definitely deeply strange. My biggest issue is that there’s not much of a resolution. The book just kind of ends. The point seems to be the importance of embracing connections and living, because we’re all going to die. Still, I wanted to know more about what happened to them.
The narration is fantastic and really well-matched with the characters. If you’re curious about Lost & Found, I highly recommend the audiobook format....more
Fun narration, but I don't care about the stories much. Exceptions to the awesome narration: Ice-T and David Duchovny. All actActual rating: 2.5 stars
Fun narration, but I don't care about the stories much. Exceptions to the awesome narration: Ice-T and David Duchovny. All actors are not great narrators. More emotion, guys. And also, Ice-T, you don't pronounce the w in sword....more
Though I wasn’t a huge fan of Legion, I do not have it in me to pass up BrandFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Though I wasn’t a huge fan of Legion, I do not have it in me to pass up Brandon Sanderson writing. At the huge cost of free, Skin Deep was definitely worth a try. I’m glad to report that I liked the follow up better than the first story in the series, though I’m not sure if that’s because it’s better or because I was more prepared for what the Legion series is about. I think a lot of my struggle with Legion is that I wanted more of Sanderson’s amazingly creative fantasy worlds, not a slightly futuristic mystery. Skin Deep comes in at four and a half hours and it’s free on Audible, so it’s well worth a listen if you’re a Sanderson or mystery fan.
Stephen Leeds is still a really interesting character. The main appeal of the series for me isn’t the mysteries but his aspects. Stephen has generated different aspects, which he sees as individuals, who speak and have their own unique personalities. They are, however, part of him and not visible to others. He can touch them, however, and some of them are even dating one another. He needs a large house and to let them in through doors. It’s fascinating, really.
One of the weird things that I love is when it’s hard to tell if someone’s insane or…something else. For example, I love the television shows Wonderfalls and Eli Stone, where it’s unclear if the main characters are going crazy or if a god or something like one is speaking to them. In Skin Deep, Stephen notices that every single one of his aspects has a mental disorder of some sort or another. Sanderson’s diving even more into how odd the aspects are and I think even Stephen’s starting to wonder about his own nature. It’s pretty cool.
The mystery itself is pretty good, so far as mysteries go. The concept again is neat. A company, I3, has been working on using human bodies for storage of data. For example, making a thumb drive an actual thumb. One of the developers working on this apparently managed to create a virus that would create cancer and coded it into his own body. Then he dies and his body is stolen. What a mess. Stephen’s tasked with looking for it by his friend Yol Chay who owns I3. I didn’t really see the resolution coming and I think things played out well.
The main factor that really impacted my enjoyment was Yol Chay. The mystery of the day is set in motion when Yol Chay asks Stephen for help locating a stolen body. That’s all fine, except that Yol Chay is Korean. But, Christina, I thought you loved diversity in novels? Yeah, I do. Only Yol Chay? Not a Korean name. I even double-checked my skepticism on this with my Korean boyfriend and he laughed for like five minutes. He did think that the accent Oliver Wyman does for Yol was pretty good for a white guy impersonating a Korean, so there’s that at least. It just seems to me that if you’re going to give a Korean character a non-Korean name and a non-country-of-residence name, you have to explain why, because otherwise it looks like no research has been done.
Oliver Wyman’s a talented narrator. He does a great job with various accents and it’s no trouble keeping all the different characters apart. Audiobook is the right format on these stories for me. For one thing, free, and, for another, with them not being my genre of choice, they’re much more fun to listen to.
Sanderson fans, if you didn’t know this series was free on Audible, what are you doing? Ditto audiobook fans and mystery fans....more
Pretty much what I was expecting, but I was curious enough I had to try. This is one of those cases where klutsiness and insecurity seChapters read: 3
Pretty much what I was expecting, but I was curious enough I had to try. This is one of those cases where klutsiness and insecurity seems to be the heroine's sole personality. I'm not curious about where the story goes, so I'm bowing out....more
As of this writing, I was chatting with Debby (Snuggly Oranges) about this seFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
As of this writing, I was chatting with Debby (Snuggly Oranges) about this series very recently. That made me reflect on how much my attitude on this series has changed. Though I read the first book twice, I still can’t say I liked it, and, even now that I know how good the series gets, I still highly doubt I’d like the first book. Yet, here I am now, enough of a fan to read accompanying novellas that aren’t essential to the overall story, something I rarely bother to do.
The short stories themselves remind me mostly of all the things that I ended up loving about the Fire and Thorns series. I love how brutal Carson can be to her characters. Pretty much every story is one of some level of despair. The story about Mara is deeply sad. Hector’s story has a scene that will probably haunt me forever it was so disgusting.
I also think that Carson’s genius is inherent in the way she can make you reevaluate a character, just like she took me from loathing Elisa to respecting her. That’s not an easy thing to do. I love that there’s a story from Alodia’s point of view. Elisa spends a lot of time hating on Alodia, her all too perfect sister. It’s nice that she gets a chance to speak for herself, and I also like getting to see Elisa through her eyes.
Mara’s story, “The Shattered Mountain”, ended up being my favorite one. Mara isn’t a character I really remembered too much about from the series. Yeah, I remember her romance and that she was part of the group, but that’s about it. I recall her as being somewhat prickly. If I’m right about that, then I can see why. She’s been through so much tough shit, because of family and the war. I would like to give her massive hugs.
Hector’s story was probably the most fascinating in terms of relating to the plot of the overall series. You learn things both about Alejandro’s previous marriage and about how Hector ended up being made the head guard at such a young age. Sure, I would have preferred some extra adult Hector time, since I can’t swoon over fifteen-year-old Hector, but it was good.
The stories also reminded me how badly I loathe the words “rear” and “belly,” of which Carson is overfond. You know how most people feel about the word “moist”? That’s how I’ve come to feel about those two words. Partly, it’s because they feel like words someone might say to a child and partly because I can’t imagine men really using them to describe their bodies. Sure, the feel isn’t modern, but also it’s a fantasy and there has to be some other word for it. If I ever read part of this series again, I’m taking a shot every time I hit one of those words and reporting back how drunk I get, because that will be more fun than wincing every time.
The rest of my problems all stem from the audiobook, which is a shame because I loved the audiobooks for the series. First off, they used the same narrators from the rest of the series. Using the same Hector narrator makes perfect sense, but I’m not sure why Jennifer Ikeda is reading for Alodia and Mara. I like her narration, but I associate her voice with Elisa. Yes, those two POVs are third person, but I still don’t like that they don’t get their own voices. I had to keep reminding myself, especially with Alodia, that I wasn’t listening to an Elisa story.
More problematic is Hector’s story. For some reason, the production on “The King’s Guard” was terrible. If it had been the first story, I would have DNFed the audiobook immediately, but, since it was last, I was stuck. It’s not Luis Moreno’s fault. It’s like they forgot to edit his section. His breaths have been left in, from deep gasps to little pants. It’s deeply unpleasant to listen to. Every so often, I could even here some background noises. I’m hoping that I somehow got an early version from Harper, but I couldn’t verify that since the Audible sample only has Jennifer Ikeda’s narration.
Rarely, in my audiobook reviews, am I going to tell you to go with the print over the audio (assuming you’re an audiobook fan). I try not to listen to the audiobook version if I feel like it’s negatively impacting my experience. However, this one snuck up on me, and I’ve got to say I don’t personally recommend this format, unless someone can tell me Hector’s section is fine in the purchased version....more
Alright, guys. This is going to ACTUALLY be a short review. I thought about nFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Alright, guys. This is going to ACTUALLY be a short review. I thought about not reviewing this one, since I don’t have much to say about it, but other people do mini reviews and they can be a nice change of pace, so let’s do this thing.
The Tell-Tale Start wasn’t on my radar at all, but it showed up highlighted in an email about Halloween audiobooks, so I figured I’d give it a shot, because it was short and I’m willing to experiment with audiobooks. I liked it enough to want to finish, but not enough to want to read more. Now I’m going to break it down bullet point style.
Really liked the little turf war between Shakespeare and Poe in the afterlife. The way they mock each other is delightful. It also made me think affectionately of Poe from the Croak trilogy by Gina Damico, which I can relate to almost anything. Liked the connection between the twins and the consideration of its applications. I’m not sure how much this will be appreciated by the middle grade audience, but the way these two literally know what the other is thinking at all times is pretty cool, and I like that McAlpine really considered the implications of this. Confused by why the twins talked aloud to one another so much if they knew everything they were thinking already. Though I suppose it would have been creepy if they never communicated with one another out loud. Reminded of how the Weasley twins must have been when they were wee humans, performing pranks and generally being a nuisance. Of course, they would be way more lovable than the Poes. Disappointed at how much I don’t care about the characters. The POV is distancing. Roderick the cat is obviously the best character. Annoyed by the fact that Arte Johnson isn’t a very good narrator, at least for this listener. Whenever he read a line as the twins, I cringed. The Tell-Tale Start was well worth the three hours it took from my life, but it’s also really not my kind of middle grade....more
I hereby decree 2015 the year of series binging. Sure, this series iFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
I hereby decree 2015 the year of series binging. Sure, this series isn’t finished, but I got through the audiobooks of the first two installments in about a week, which, I flatter myself, isn’t too shabby. People have told me great things of Stroud’s Bartimaeus books, but I wasn’t sure if they were my thing. The Lockwood and Co. books, however, are a delight and, yes, I do actually intend to get to Bartimaeus at some point as a result. The Whispering Skull wasn’t quite as compelling for me as The Screaming Staircase, but that could be due to the narrator change.
Narrator swaps are one of the frustrating things about being an audiobook listener. Sure, I knew ahead of time that there was a change in narrator between books one and two, so I thought I was prepared. The thing is that I ended up really loving Miranda Raison’s narration. Katie Lyons does her best, keeping her accents and such well-aligned with Raison’s. However, Raison did a really nice job distinguishing between the characters, whereas I had trouble knowing who was speaking in The Whispering Skull sometimes. Schedules being what they are, it’s not always possible to get the same narrator, but it can be really sad.
Coming along with a step down in my affection for the narration was a decrease in my attachment. Since I didn’t always know who was talking and the narration wasn’t as lively, the characters didn’t feel as real to me as they did in book one. They are, largely, unchanged. One of the things that tends to lose me in middle grade series is the lack of development that the kids go through, because, if they grow too fast, they’ll suddenly be young adults. The Whispering Skull avoids this with some nice arcs for George and Lockwood, which come up at the very end of the novel.
The mystery also didn’t catch my fancy quite as much. It’s a bit more of a typical investigation with murders and clue-hunting, with less of the ghost hunting. The Whispering Skull has less of a paranormal horror vibe and is more of a straight up mystery. I actually didn’t realize until this moment that I prefer horror to mysteries apparently, which I don’t think I would have guessed.
I think my favorite aspect of the book is the titular whispering skull. It begins talking to Lucy at the end of the previous book. First off, I’m all for Lucy’s new talent, and I want to know what she can do with it. Perhaps more importantly, I love what a gray area the skull is. It’s unclear whether it’s a malevolent force or an ally. So far, it sort of seems like both. Also, the skull totally finds undead pleasure in messing with Lockwood and Co., which amuses me very much.
This all sounds quite negative, but The Whispering Skull IS a satisfactory follow up to The Screaming Staircase. I’d say that its main fault is really in following after such an excellent book that was narrated so well. My eagerness for the third book in the series is in no way diminished, though I hope Miranda Raison returns....more
Collected nonfiction is a phrase that would generallyFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
Actual rating: 2.5 stars
Collected nonfiction is a phrase that would generally send me running for the hills. Sure there’s good nonfiction. I was a freaking history major even, but nonfiction is pretty close to my last choice when it comes to pop culture. However, I make exceptions for really cool people, like Terry Pratchett. I’m not a Discworld fan to the degree that I attend Discworld cons (in fact, tbh, I didn’t know they existed until I listened to this book), but I own quite a few and will own more as soon as I get time to binge a 40 book series. I will not, however, be purchasing a print copy of this book so I can keep it in my collection.
The stories, taken individually, are good. If you enjoy Terry Pratchett’s humor and have the same stance on assisted death, then you’ll enjoy them. Personally, I think he’s hilarious, so that wasn’t the issue. For the casual Discworld fan like myself, there’s some really fascinating stuff about his writing process. Discworld is apparently about 1/3 happenstance, 1/3 random, and 1/3 research into stuff one would not expect.
Pratchett has very interesting things to say on fantasy as a whole as well. He maintains, for one, that ALL fiction is fantasy. I actually agree with this, though I do not share his disdain for the term magical realism. It is true, though, that genre distinctions don’t matter as much as people think they do and that people need to start respecting fantasy and other so-called genre fiction.
The other significant included topic is on Pratchett’s Alzheimer’s disease. I knew he had it, but didn’t know anything about it really. He talks a lot about the future and how it affects him now. This turns into the discussion of Britain and how it should allow doctor assisted suicide, though he hates that term. This subject is a bit of a clunky fit with the rest, which is all writing-based, but I learned the most here.
Taken as a whole, A Slip of the Keyboard is not a good collection. The thing is that Pratchett wrote these speeches and articles over years and for various places. He gets asked to talk about a lot of the same things by different groups. As such, his collected nonfiction is incredibly repetitive. I often feared I’d accidentally rewound my iPod, because I kept hearing the same, slightly modified, stories and arguments over and over again. That’s not fun.
To truly enjoy A Slip of the Keyboard, it would need to be much shorter, cleansed of redundancies, or I would need to have gotten the print and skipped a good deal, which I actually don’t really do....more
I would be lying if I said I had any interest in Nightmares! aside from theFor more reviews, gifs, Cover Snark and more, visit A Reader of Fictions.
I would be lying if I said I had any interest in Nightmares! aside from the fact that Jason Segel wrote it. Have I been disappointed in innumerable celebrity books in the past? Why, yes. Do I think that actors are necessarily talented authors? In many cases, probably not. Will I ever learn? Unlikely. But, hey, sometimes celebrity books aren’t just capitalizing on fame for a book deal; sometimes they’re good. It’s true that Jason Segel’s narration was a big part of my enjoyment, but Nightmares! is also a great middle grade story in its own right.
My intro was all about Jason Segel, but I am very aware that he’s not the sole author. I suspect much of the credit, perhaps most, is due to Kirsten Miller. She’s an established author and I’ve heard good stuff about How to Live a Life of Crime. Obviously I don’t know who did what, but the two obviously made a great team. Nightmares! is both delightfully silly and surprisingly deep.
I must admit that I didn’t find the nightmare landscape all that thrilling. The various monsters don’t have what it takes to scare me, despite me being a scaredy cat. The things that amused and terrified me as a kid aren’t the same as what get me now. Though the giant cockroach was still upsetting. I’ll give them that. Of course, the giant cockroach was a nice nightmare, and I would still spray it with RAID until it stopped twitching. NOT OKAY. For that reason, the adventurey parts were not hugely interesting to me.
However, I do love what the nightmares stand for. Sure, the nightmares are horrors and in and of themselves, especially when they can interact directly with the kids, but they actually represent deeper and more logical fears. There’s a reason that Paige is afraid of the dark and that Charlie’s witch looks like his stepmother. The book really considers the way the human mind will create a fear to mask the one that really bothers us. Rather than dealing with the sadness over a parents’ death, for example, a kid might be afraid of the dark.
Nightmares! is probably best compared to Monsters, Inc. The set up is actually really similar. There’s a whole industry built up to keep kids scared every night while they dream. However, most nightmares are actually trying to help the kids deal psychologically and get over their fears. Unfortunately, evil nightmares are trying to take over to keep kids scared. I thought that it was cool how not all nightmares are bad, except, you know, for the cockroach because they should all die and are never acceptable.
The real reason I enjoyed this so much, though, was Jason Segel. The best audiobook narrators, I think, are not only willing but delighted to sound completely ridiculous. This is why Katherine Kellgren is one of the best narrators of all time. Jason Segel, as you might guess from his performances is just such a narrator. He does all sorts of crazy voices and reads with a lot of emotion. He’s just fun to listen to. His voices for females are pretty abominable, but otherwise his performance was perfection.
Nightmares! is a sweet book about family and overcoming your fears. It’s also really awesome on audiobook....more