Talmadge is in town selling the fruit from his orchard one day when he notices two girls watching him. They're very young and very pregnant. He dozes...moreTalmadge is in town selling the fruit from his orchard one day when he notices two girls watching him. They're very young and very pregnant. He dozes off for a few minutes and wakes as the girls run away with some fruit they've stolen. He decides not to chase them because they look hungry. A day or two later, the girls show up at the orchard. He starts cooking extra food and leaving it out for them but they won't let him get too close.
Meanwhile, a stranger shows up in town looking for girls who sound an awful lot like the two Talmadge is watching over. Talmadge ponders things for a while and decides to meet with the stranger at his homestead. Talmadge does not like what he sees. The man, Michaelson, eventually offers to let Talmadge have 20 minutes with a nine-year-old girl for $2. Talmadge quickly leaves, resolved that Michaelson will never get his two girls back.
I really liked this on audio. Narrator Mark Bramhall's rough voice suited the feel of the story perfectly.
I got frustrated with the book though. A large part of it centers around Talmadge trying to find the youngest girl, Della, after she's grown up and left home. Della doesn't seem to give a flip about anything at that point, and she definitely doesn't care that she's breaking his heart. I tried to tell myself that she'd been through unimaginable things and I needed to cut her some slack but I couldn't. Then I would try to remind myself of the Prodigal Son and the parable of the lost sheep and that still didn't work (I don't know what it was about this book that brought out the Biblical references; it's not remotely religious). Della doesn't want to be found and I thought that should be the end of it. I'm obviously not a parent.
I tried looking at it from Talmadge's point of view. He feels responsible for Della. But he also lost a sister when he was in his teens. She went into the woods one day and never came back. He just can't find it in himself to let Della go as long as he thinks he knows where she is, and especially not after he learns that she's in trouble. I could wrap my head around things a little better from his perspective. But I still wanted to shake him and point out that he was neglecting the girl who was still at home--sweet, faithful Angeline.
Angeline got the short end of everything. She's a good girl so Talmadge doesn't feel he has to worry about her too much. She's pretty self-sufficient too. But even she seems to be hurt that Talmadge starts running off and leaving her alone to chase after Della, whom she barely remembers. I can't decide if it was Bramhall's narration falling short in this one respect or if Angeline was really written this way, but she did come across as a bit clueless. I had a hard time remembering how young she was as well. Her whole dialog seemed to be, "I don't understand," or "What's going on?" or "Tell me what's happening." Bramhall's high, breathless narration for her part didn't help.
By the last few chapters, I was pretty much done so I'd tuned out. I kind of heard what happened to everybody but I was lost in my own thoughts by then.
The book really is well-written and has a strong sense of place. This could have been a case of the wrong book at the wrong time for me. If you're in the mood for something fairly dark that explores the way that families can be formed and torn apart, give it a try.(less)
Annajane Hudgens and Mason Bayless got married when they were fairly young. Both their mothers were opposed to the idea but the young lovers didn't ca...moreAnnajane Hudgens and Mason Bayless got married when they were fairly young. Both their mothers were opposed to the idea but the young lovers didn't care; they were in love. Their relationship slowly fell apart due to miscommunication, stubbornness, and the crumbling effect of both their mothers chipping away at them at every opportunity.
Five years after the divorce, Annajane is engaged to another man and attending Mason's second wedding. She finally admits to herself that she cares for him and she has to stop the wedding just as Mason's young daughter gets violently sick in the church aisle. Annajane finds herself with an unexpected opportunity to set things right with him.
I just adore Mary Kay Andrews's books because they are so much fun to read! The characters generally come to life for me, I find myself laughing at the trouble they inevitably get themselves into, and the settings feel real. Spring Fever is no exception.
Annajane is not perfect by any means but I liked her. She's doing her best with her life. She works hard, she's trying to get over Mason, she's trying to deal with her overbearing mother, and she's trying not to let her good sense be overruled by her ticking biological clock. Her best friend, Pokey--who has the best nickname I have ever heard-- is Mason's sister, so the ex-couple have been involved in each other's lives through Pokey whether they like it or not. When Mason unexpectedly brings home an infant daughter from a brief "fling" shortly after their divorce, Annajane is hurt, of course. But she learns to love little Sophie and the feeling is mutual.
I didn't know what to think of Mason at first. We first see him through Annajane's lens of "what went wrong" and he doesn't come out of that looking too good. But as the story moved on, I really started to like him. He's a true, responsible gentleman to be counted on. I pretty much loved him as much as Annajane did by the end!
There were a couple of things that did have me wanting to reach through my car speakers and knock some sense into everyone's heads. I don't want to spoil anything but there was one obvious whopper of a lie that gets told and everyone buys it, hook, line, and sinker. I knew what was going on as soon as the character in question said it! Ugh! There were a couple of other small instances of this too. I get frustrated when otherwise intelligent characters get a convenient case of brain death to further the plot.
I was a little disappointed by the ending. There were three characters who desperately needed a good old karma-slap but they never really got it. Two of them did to an extent, but it happened "offstage." The reader doesn't really get to see it happen, Annajane and Pokey just mention it in the epilogue. Talk about unsatisfying!
I have listened to several of Mary Kay Andrews's books but this is the first one I've listened to that was narrated by Kathleen McInerney. She sounded a bit young for the roles and her accents were uneven to say the least. Otherwise, I did enjoy her narration.
If you're looking for an easy, breezy beach read, you can't go wrong with this book or any of Andrews's other work.(less)
Percy Jackson finds himself entering a camp of Roman demigods near San Francisco with only the vaguest memory of who he is. The Romans accept him and...morePercy Jackson finds himself entering a camp of Roman demigods near San Francisco with only the vaguest memory of who he is. The Romans accept him and he finds himself on a quest with Hazel and Frank, a couple of other demigods. They must make their way to Alaska, "The Land Beyond the Gods," defeat a giant, win back the Roman standard, and free Thanatos, aka Death. All in about four days. No sweat.
As much as I loved reading Percy Jackson in print, I have to say that I love listening to Joshua Swanson's narration of this spin-off series even more. He sounds as excited as I feel to find out what's going to happen next. He does a great job of voicing all the different characters, and he makes all these smart alecky demigods sound as smart alecky as they really are. I can't recommend this series on audio highly enough!
I do really like this series so far. I seem to have never reviewed the first book, The Lost Hero, but I did enjoy it. I mostly listen to audio books in the car but I had to bring this one in the house with me and listen as I cooked or cleaned or even just got all my stuff ready for the next day. I couldn't wait to see what was going to happen next.
Percy sounds a little older and wiser in this book. He's kind of filling a big brother role for Hazel and Frank. He's been on enough quests to know how it works, even if he has lost his memory. He doesn't dominate the other two; he acknowledges that Frank is the leader and he lets Frank make the tough calls. I respect him for that. He's still hilarious though and I just love him.
I felt bad for Hazel but I liked her a lot. She's carrying around some serious baggage from her past. She sees this quest as a chance to correct some mistakes she's made. She's a tough warrior in her own right and wise beyond her years.
Frank's pretty cool too. His demigod ability is awesome! He's been going through a rough time as well. It was nice to watch him dealing with that and growing past his insecurities and into his abilities.
The book is full of action and humor and is a fast read in any format. Rick Riordan fans will not be disappointed. I'll be picking up the third book pretty soon, I'm sure!(less)
After the recession hits, Clay Jannon finds himself out of a job. He spends hours walking the streets of San Francisco, trying to find something, anyt...moreAfter the recession hits, Clay Jannon finds himself out of a job. He spends hours walking the streets of San Francisco, trying to find something, anything. He wanders into Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore and finds himself working as a bookstore clerk. But there aren't really very many customers. Well, there are a few impassioned, odd people who come in and request books from what Clay refers to as the "Wayback List," books he's not supposed to look at. He likes Mr. Penumbra and when it starts to look like Mr. Penumbra might be in some kind of trouble, Clay calls in his friends to help the owner out.
Oh. My. Gosh. I enjoyed the heck out of this audio book! I described it to my husband as "The Da Vinci Code for tech-savvy bibliophiles." (I enjoyed The Da Vinci Code so that's a compliment.) People in robes, secret messages, clues, and only one man to tie them together. What's not to love?
I loved the characters. Clay is pretty funny and I loved listening to his internal monologues. I loved Mr. Penumbra's willingness to do whatever he felt needed to be done. And that he was willing to listen to Clay's crazy ideas without being an old codger. He embraced the technology Clay introduced him to! Clay's friends were all pretty funny and talented in their own unique ways too.
I wouldn't describe myself as "tech-savvy," so I have no idea how much of the technology described in here is real and how much is made up. Some of it was pretty cool. And some of it was a little...not so cool. There were some ideas I wouldn't mind discussing in a book group or something. Like how one character who works at Google seems to think that all information should be shared freely. A good idea in theory but if authors aren't getting paid for their writing, how will they have time to write more books for us to read? Stuff like that.
Ari Fliakos did a fabulous job narrating the audio book. I'm so glad I listened to it! I'm sure his delivery added something to the story.
For a fun, hard-to-describe book, give this one a try, especially on audio. I was thoroughly entertained.(less)
Lieutenant Eve Dallas is assigned to lead a high-profile murder investigation into the death of a Senator's granddaughter. But the granddaughter was a...moreLieutenant Eve Dallas is assigned to lead a high-profile murder investigation into the death of a Senator's granddaughter. But the granddaughter was a "licensed companion," i.e. prostitute, and she was murdered in a pretty graphic way. Working mostly alone, Dallas must find the murderer before he kills again.
I had such a love/hate relationship with this book at times. Mostly, I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it. But then Roarke, the drop-dead gorgeous bazillionaire and number 1 suspect (with an Irish accent, no less!), would do something that was supposed to be all hot and dominating, I assume, and irritate the absolute hell out of me. As a completely made-up example, let me offer this: "No, I'm not trying to seduce you right now, Lieutenant. When I do decide to seduce you, I won't be trying, I'll be doing it. And you'll like it more than you've ever liked anything in your life." Again, that is completely my own fabrication but it is true to how I perceived Roarke. I was hoping Eve would kick him in the balls a few times, just to bring his ego down to size. Either he got better as the book progressed or I resigned myself to him, but either way it didn't bother me as much by the end. I actually liked him a lot when he gave all that crap a rest.
Roarke's ego aside, I have to admit that I couldn't wait to get in my car and continue listening to this book. I don't really read romance novels, I guess because I assume it's all "heaving bosoms," etc. and my sense of humor would get in the way of all that mess. So I started this with some trepidation. I was hooked in the first half-hour.
I really liked Eve Dallas. She's a strong loner who obviously has a pretty messed-up past. She's a woman in a man's world, even in the near future of 2058, but she's doing well for herself. She refuses to be intimidated by the Senator or her own superiors. She is investigating this murder her way and she knows she'll crack it if they'll just leave her alone.
I kind of guessed whodunnit pretty early on. There was much more to it than I expected though and I was honestly shocked when everything was revealed. I do wonder if the narrator may have unconsciously clued me in a little. One voice was pretty creepy with no real reason and that was the person I zeroed in on.
I did love Susan Ericksen's narration. Her characters had voices that were just distinct enough that I could easily keep track of who was speaking without being distracting. I would definitely listen to more books she's narrated.
I found the very, very end to be kind of silly and a little weak. Luckily that was short and followed some pretty intense action.
There was some pretty graphic violence toward women and girls in this book. If that's a trigger for you, you should stay away. It's never gratuitous or presented as anything other than sick and disgusting, but it is definitely there.
Otherwise, I recommend this if you think you can overlook Roarke's raging ego. Eve is a strong heroine and the resolution was a surprise. I'll be continuing the series on audio.(less)
If you've read Cinder, you know where it leaves off. If not, I won't spoil it for you. So let's just say that Cinder's story arc continues. Meanwhile,...moreIf you've read Cinder, you know where it leaves off. If not, I won't spoil it for you. So let's just say that Cinder's story arc continues. Meanwhile, in France...
Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing and has been for about two weeks. Scarlet is worried sick but doesn't know where to start looking for her. None of the villagers are willing to help because they think eccentric Grandma has just finally gone off the deep end and wandered away. A new street fighter shows up in town and he seems to know something about Grandma's disappearance. But can Scarlet trust him?
I didn't like this quite as much as Cinder but I definitely still enjoyed it. By introducing Scarlet, Marissa Meyer managed to avoid my common complaint that the second book in a series is just filler. Had she stayed exclusively with Cinder's story, I'd probably be complaining. By shifting the focus, she fills in a lot of back story without a big info dump and we learn everything in a way that feels very natural. Hats off for that one! It's apparently a hard thing to do.
My problem was with Scarlet herself. She was angry and yelling for at least 85% of the book. At least it felt that way. If she wasn't yelling, she was thinking about yelling, and very occasionally she was crying. The girl goes through a lot of stress, so to a point it felt authentic. But after that point, I wanted Scarlet to grow emotionally and feel something other than anger or sadness. That's a little unfair but not completely so. I'm not sure if that's how the author wrote her or if that was just the narrator's interpretation. And while I'm picking on that end of things, it irritated me that Scarlet was the only character in the book with an accent. There are other French people who don't have accents. I guess it was a way to remind me that this was Scarlet and not Cinder speaking? I don't know but it bothered me.
I really liked the other new characters though. I liked Wolf, the street fighter, a lot. I thought I had him figured out but I was never entirely sure of where he stood or what was going on with him. Even narcissistic Thorne won me over. He is what he is. I appreciate that kind of self-honesty. There are hints that there are bigger things to be seen from him, but right now, we're good.
As for poor Emperor Kai--I just want to tell him that everything's going to be okay, even though I have no idea at this point if it will be or not. He has no idea what's going on with Cinder. He has no idea if his emotions for her are real or if he's been manipulated. But while he's dealing with his own personal pain and confusion, he's doing his best for his people, even at great personal cost to himself. I really, really like this guy.
Other than Scarlet's...anger issues...I still like Rebecca Soler's narration. Her voice is age-appropriate and she gives the characters life and emotion. I'll keep listening to the series on audio, at least for one more book. I may have to switch to print if Scarlet stays this shrill though.
I highly recommend this one for anyone looking for a very different take on some classic fairy tales. This series gets huge points for originality.(less)
I chose to listen to this because it showed up in my digital library's "recently added" lists and I recognized it as having been nominated for a coupl...moreI chose to listen to this because it showed up in my digital library's "recently added" lists and I recognized it as having been nominated for a couple of Audie awards. "I can't go wrong with something that's been nominated for an award, right?" I reasoned with myself.
It was terrible.
Had it been any longer than two hours, I would have stopped after about 30 minutes. I felt the writer was trying way too hard to be funny and as a result, the whole thing just fell flat. The plot, such as it was, would circle miles out of the way to set up a joke that didn't even make me smile.
The basics are here--the evil stepmother, Snow White, the mother wishing for a child fitting Snow White's description...I guess that's about it. There were tons of other fairy- and folk tale creatures dragged in by the skin of their teeth, which I should have loved, but I didn't. I mostly didn't see any rhyme or reason for who was included and who wasn't. I honestly can't even remember what happened to most of them.
Snow White was super annoying. I believe that was kind of the point, but man, she set my teeth on edge. She's supposed to be about fifteen but she's voiced by Sandra Oh, who is at least as far from fifteen as I am, and she generally acts about two years old. Temper tantrums? Seriously? Not attractive or enjoyable.
I could go on but I won't. I'm sure there's an audience for this, I just don't know who it would be. If you're interested, don't let me dissuade you from trying it out; at two hours long, you don't have much to lose.(less)
I'm not an NPR listener but something about this title caught my eye. I downloaded it at the end of the year when I was trying to squeeze in one last...moreI'm not an NPR listener but something about this title caught my eye. I downloaded it at the end of the year when I was trying to squeeze in one last nonfiction book to complete a reading challenge. Only about two hours long, I knew I could listen to it in just a couple of days on my commute.
The first part was unimpressive. At this point I've forgotten what most of those stories were. I do remember one about a young lady aging out of foster care that made me feel sad for her and others like her. Otherwise, its a pretty big blank.
And then I got to the second part. Here were the stories that wouldn't let me go.
A young man getting off the farm and into college with not much more than his determination and "Ten dollars and a dream."
A small town basketball team making it to the state playoffs, taking the hometown pride with them.
An elderly woman telling a story about her misfortune with a...unique... bra when she was younger had me laughing out loud!
Following a couple after that big earthquake in China flattened their apartment building with their young son and a set of their parents inside.
My favorite was probably the one about the US Marshals who kept their charges safe during school integrations in the Civil Rights era.
Most of these had me near tears for different reasons. And I'm seriously not a crier.
I don't know if the stories really were that uneven or if it just took me half the book to settle into what NPR is about. But once I got into it, I loved it. I felt like I experienced a huge range of human emotion in a short time span. I was saddened, I was angry, I was proud, you name it, I probably felt it.
I do highly recommend this. It would be a good read on a day when you're just feeling down and ready to give up on humanity. This is more what we're about than anything you'll see on the news.(less)
Mma Ramotswe has just gotten engaged to Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni. But she's not going to let a little thing like that change her life too much. She's sti...moreMma Ramotswe has just gotten engaged to Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni. But she's not going to let a little thing like that change her life too much. She's still running her business and solving mysteries with her unique blend of luck, insight, persistence, and wisdom.
I'm missing something. I know I am. Too many people love these books for it to be a fluke. I just don't love them. I don't dislike them either. I don't really feel much either way.
I like Mmma Ramotswe herself. She has a kind heart and I love her solutions to problems. I remember her being a little trickier in the first book, but it has been years since I read it, so maybe I'm wrong.
Mr. J. L. B. Matekoni doesn't really know what he's gotten himself into. He has a kind heart as well, so I like him with Mma Ramotswe, but I think he's going to get trampled by her personality. Although I was shocked at one big thing he undertakes without first consulting with Mma Ramotswe!
I tried this second book in the series on audio, thinking that the stories have a bit of a "spoken word" feel to them. It worked a bit better for me, but I'm still not left longing to read more. The bonus of the audio was that I wasn't constantly tripping over unfamiliar names. I feel perfectly confident saying them now. I thought Lisette Lecat's soft voice was a perfect accompaniment to these simple-on-the-surface tales.
I think I'm going to give up on the series now, but if you're interested in them, definitely give them a try. I seem to be in the minority in not loving them.(less)
Jacky Faber finds herself working for the Royal Navy again after being mistakenly pressed into service. The ship she finds herself on is in bad shape,...moreJacky Faber finds herself working for the Royal Navy again after being mistakenly pressed into service. The ship she finds herself on is in bad shape, with a sick, evil captain who reigns with an iron fist and who has let his boat and his crew get into bad shape. Nothing can keep Jacky down for long though and she's soon making friends and plans in equal measure.
I cannot express how much I love listening to Katherine Kellgren narrate this series. She doesn't hold anything back and narrates in a larger-than-life tone that is completely in keeping with Jacky's character. Kellgren sounds like she is having the time of her life reading these books and that makes me love them all the more.
I would love them anyway because Jacky is such a great character. Why do we tend to love girls who dress up as boys and live the life they want? I probably just answered my own question. She's loyal and fierce and sly and intelligent and greedy and too big for her britches. She's a big mess of contradictions and that makes her feel so darn real.
My one complaint about this book is that we have to travel down the road of an older man trying to prey on attractive young Jacky again. It's a different man, but, really. Teenage girls of any era do have things to worry about other than lecherous old men trying to have their way with them. It didn't take up as much of the book as I was afraid it would but as soon as it came up I rolled my eyes and thought, "Here we go again."
Jaimy is starting to get on my nerves too. He's as fussy and as much of a stickler for the rules as a prissy old maid. I forget what Jacky see in him. He only sees the woman that Jacky could have been if her early years had been different, not the impetuous, ambitious ragamuffin that she actually is.
Other than that, this book was full of adventure, drama, suspense, and laughs. It is everything that a good story should be.
This series is a blast and girls who can see the appeal of living life on your own terms will love it. I highly, highly recommend trying it out on audio.(less)
In The Prince of Frogtown, Rick Bragg sets out to discover the father that he never really knew. I have read these books all out of order, but apparen...moreIn The Prince of Frogtown, Rick Bragg sets out to discover the father that he never really knew. I have read these books all out of order, but apparently in All Over But the Shoutin', Bragg painted his father, Charlie, as a no-account mean drunk. After its publication, people who knew his father came to him and said, "I wish you'd talked to me before you wrote all that." So he talked to them and this is the result. His father is still a no-account mean drunk, but Rick and the reader come away with a better understanding of the man.
Having now read one of Bragg's books and listened to another, I am torn about the best medium. I'm left thinking that the best thing for everyone would be if his publishers just gave us one of those readalong books I remember from when I was little. "You'll know it's time to turn the page when you hear the chime ring like this: Dlililing!" Man, I loved those things. I could listen to Rick Bragg all day. His slow speech, his accent, his word choice--it's all the language of my family and the stories we tell. We might not be up on a stage telling stories, but we sure can take the smallest event from our days and spin it out into a good long tale. But as I was listening, I found myself just absolutely dying to mark quotes in a physical copy. Whether Bragg was cracking a joke about understanding a woman's thinking (A passage that included mapping the stars on a bubble gum wrapper with chalk and only got better from there), telling a hilarious story about his father scaring his grandmother half to death when he was little, or making a keen observation about fathers and sons or even mothers and sons, there were real jewels in here. And I couldn't mark them or flag them. Readalong books. Are you paying attention, publishers? That's the way to go.
Anyway, I loved this just as much as I loved Ava's Man. It's a darker book because his father had a lot of darkness inside him. But I enjoyed the stories of Charlie as a child and teenager, before he went to war and came back haunted. His life even then was not an easy one and I think we all are left wondering whether he would have turned out pretty much the same way even if he hadn't ever gone to Korea. He had good moments sometimes too, and even though I knew how things had to turn out, I was left hoping that this time he would change his life. He never did and I was left thankful for my own steadfast father.
The book goes back and forth between stories of Charlie and stories about Rick and his stepson. I really liked that setup. It felt like Rick gained a better understanding of his father as he realized how hard fatherhood is if you're trying to do it right. His long-suffering wife deserves an award, I swear. He makes mistakes along the way, but it sounds like he gets it right in the end. The love he feels for his stepson just comes through so clearly as he reads about him, even when he's talking about what a mama's boy the kid is.
I have discovered that I love Rick Bragg's writing, so I'll be searching out all his books. I highly recommend him.(less)
September is bored at home. Her dad is fighting a far-off war and her mom is working long shifts at the factory. When the Green Wind comes along and o...moreSeptember is bored at home. Her dad is fighting a far-off war and her mom is working long shifts at the factory. When the Green Wind comes along and offers to take her to fairyland, she jumps at the chance. But all is not well in fairyland. Good Queen Mallow has disappeared and The Marquess rules in her place. The Marquess has introduced laws and bureaucracy to the fey. It isn't long before September finds herself on a quest that sets her at odds with The Marquess, and that is never a safe place to be.
What a delight! I was immediately thrown back to my favorite classic children's fantasies--Alice in Wonderland, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz... I'm sure there are more, but those are the big ones. Yet it was wholly its own story when it came to actual plot. There were nods to other books, but the characters and places that September encounters on her journey were unique and fun. There's the loyal wyverary A-through-L (He's a cross between a wyvern and a library. Yes, a library), Lye the soap golem, Calpurnia the velo wrangler, Saturday the marid, Iago the panther of storms, and many, many more. Each will live in my memory for a long time to come. I will think of them fondly and dream of the adventures we might have had if only a wind had offered to take me to fairyland when I was a child.
I really liked September and her loyal friends. September feels like a real little girl. She's heartless sometimes, as the narrator points out, but she's one of the most loyal and true characters you will ever meet. She literally sails to the end of the earth for her friends. She's brave and resourceful and has a strong sense of right and wrong. She's also afraid and tired and gives up hope a time or two, and just does the best she can, which is all that can ever be asked of anyone. A-through-L is a big sweetie. He is fierce in his love of September. He knows everything about anything that starts with a letter in the first bit of the alphabet. Saturday has had a hard life, but he finds it in himself to trust and love. Gleam comes in very late but she even won a place in my heart. Heck, while I'm at it, I have to mention how loyal and tireless the smoking jacket and jeweled key are as well.
I loved the whole feel of the book. It just seemed like I was reading a much older fairy tale, from the very classic wording of the title to the basic shape of September's quest. Because all good quest stories do follow a pattern, as they should. They are conveying basic life truths, and truth always wears the same shape. The fun beginning, the first shadows, the revelation of trouble, the decision to do what one can against it, the darkness and aloneness of despair, and finally coming out the other side a more tried-and-tested and truer version of oneself. The path may be well-worn, but when it is well-told, as it is here, it will always call to us.
Author Catherynne M. Valente reads this herself, and I have to say that I was pretty indifferent to her narration. It could have been better but it could have been much worse. The one advantage the audio had for me was that when the narrator decided to address the audience, it bothered me less in an audiobook than it does in print. That device has started to bug me over the past couple of years but the audio made it easier to swallow.
Read this in either print or audio, and if you have a smallish person around you, read it with them. This deserves a place on every little reader's bookshelf, and they will love you if you are the one who introduces it into their hearts.(less)
Old friends Ellis, Julia, and Dorie have rented a beach house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a month. They've realized that their lives are...moreOld friends Ellis, Julia, and Dorie have rented a beach house on the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a month. They've realized that their lives are moving along quickly and they want to spend some time together again. Ellis makes the arrangements and they all show up for a lazy vacation for the month of August.
But they're all in tough places in their lives. Ellis was recently downsized, Julia's disenchanted with her modeling career, and Dorie's just not her normal perky self. With Ellis and Dorie worried about money, Dorie seizes on the opportunity to rent out the extra bedroom on the top floor of the house to a perfect stranger she meets in a diner one day, Madison. But Madison has troubles of her own.
So this wasn't one of my favorite MKA novels (that would have to be one of the Savannah books), but it was still a fun little escape. It was wonderful to hear about August on the Outer Banks as I drove around in the last gray days of winter, wondering if there was really a sun up there somewhere.
I loved Ellis, Julia, and Dorie--from a distance. Ellis is a control freak and she was pushing my buttons at the beginning. Julia is pushy in her own way and too nosy for her own good. Dorie is a sweetheart though. And Madison is so bristly and quiet that I even felt like she was pushing me away--and we find out her story very early on. But they felt like a real group of old friends in the way that they laughed and fought and told it to each other straight.
Ty, the next-door neighbor, is a dreamboat of a man. He's not perfect either, being entirely too stubborn for his own good, but I was happy to "watch" him from afar.
This is the second book I've listened to that was narrated by Isabel Keating and I really like her. She doesn't go overboard with the voices but I can always tell who's talking. She just has a great speaking voice.
There were a couple of things that I didn't like though. The first is the big romance. It just happened waaaaay too fast. Don't get me wrong--I do love my happily-ever-afters, but this was faster than the speed of light! The other thing is that the author didn't quite capture the feel of the Outer Banks for me the way that she captures the feel of Savannah. The women could be on any Southern beach. The Outer Banks are a special place but I couldn't tell it from this book. Or maybe it's just that I'm a North Carolina girl and overly sensitive!
Those two things aside, this was a perfect escapist read that will have you ready to grab your girlfriends and head to the beach.(less)
Cinder is a cyborg living in New Beijing with her evil guardian (read: adoptive mother) and two adoptive sisters. She single-handedly supports the fam...moreCinder is a cyborg living in New Beijing with her evil guardian (read: adoptive mother) and two adoptive sisters. She single-handedly supports the family by working as a mechanic in the local market. One day, she looks up and finds young, handsome Prince Kai in her booth. He asks her to fix a broken android for him and engages in some pretty harmless flirting.
That night, Cinder's life takes a turn for the worse. Her beloved younger sister, Peony, is diagnosed with an incurable plague. Her guardian blames Cinder and starts making life much, much harder.
Prince Kai is having a hard time himself. The Lunar Queen has decided that she is going to marry him or start a war. Kai genuinely cares about his people and would do almost anything to protect them, but he just can't bring himself to agree to marry the evil queen. She invites herself to his palace, where he gets to see what a ruthless ruler she really is.
I had my reservations about this. I love me a retold fairy tale, don't get me wrong. But it's all science-fictiony. Cyborgs? Androids? Not my thing. And then it's set in a future that sounds a little post-apocalyptic? Definitely not my thing. And yet, searching around for something mildly dystopian to read for a reading challenge, this is what I chose. That cover. The rave reviews. It's worth a shot, right?
Absolutely. Yay! I pretty much loved it!
Cinder had me from the beginning. She's so self-reliant but she doesn't hate people. Give me an evil stepmother and make me do all the work to support her lazy ass? I would hate everybody. Cinder loves her younger sister and even the family android, who was very spunky and cute, I must admit. She tries so hard to forget about Prince Kai and not be all fan-girly like the rest of the country, but she just can't get him out of her head. She faces everything that is thrown at her without a whole lot of resentment; she just tries to do what she can to get through it. She could easily have been a whiny teen and I wouldn't have blamed her, but I wouldn't have liked the book either. She rocked.
Prince Kai. We came so, so close to a lasting character crush. It's there, don't get me wrong, but he isn't way up in my top tier. He had the perfect opportunity but he just didn't do what I wanted him to do. He took the high road and did what was best for his country. I should love him for that, shouldn't I? No. I wanted the gigantic gesture for the girl that he is on his way to loving. Screw the millions of other people in the country. I'm only being slightly sarcastic. He was great though. Funny, smart, approachable, and accessible. He seems to be wise beyond his years, but he could be a snarky teen too. I kept picturing him as Disney's Aladdin for some reason. Maybe because he first shows up in a market? That didn't help the crush-o-meter any.
There's enough of the original fairy tale here to be recognizable, but it is very much it's own story. My poor husband had no idea what I was reading.
"Hey. You know that Cinderella-cyborg book I'm listening to? You won't believe what just happened in it."
"The Cinderella-cyborg book." Duh.
"Oh, come on. I've told you all about it. You know, the prince's android is broken and she's a cyborg and she's fixing it and there's this plague--"
"Suresuresure. What about it?"
"We-ell," and off I would go. Poor thing. He heard all about it and he never did understand what I was talking about. He's so good about humoring me.
Reading it, it all makes sense. Cinderella as a cyborg? Abso-freaking-lutely. She kicks ass.
There were a few times when I wondered if it was supposed to be quite so obvious where things were headed, but then a big twist that I didn't see coming would throw me off. I was right about the big things but a lot of the details were surprising. I'm very happy about that.
I was not happy with the ending. It just sort of stops! I hate that! Good thing the next book comes out this week.
The narrator, Rebecca Soler, did a great job. She sounds young enough to match the part and she didn't hesitate to reflect Cinder's emotions.
If I haven't confused you past the point of no return, read this. It's a good story that transcends whatever genres we might try to fit it into. (less)
Jill Conner Browne writes a fictional account of how the Sweet Potato Queens came into being and how they truly became queens through some terrible de...moreJill Conner Browne writes a fictional account of how the Sweet Potato Queens came into being and how they truly became queens through some terrible decisions and heartbreak.
I absolutely loved the first chapter of this book. It was sheer perfection I tell you. It starts when the queens are in high school and haven't really figured out that they're queens yet. They are always being looked down upon by the high school beauty queen, a bitch if ever there was one. I was shrieking with laughter and doing a corny little fist pump all alone in my car by the time the chapter ended. "You tell her, Queens!" I was repeating the last few sentences of that chapter to anyone who would listen for days, complete with my best Southern drawl.
That was by far my favorite part. The Queens seem determined to make every mistake it is possible to make when it comes to love. There were still definitely some funny parts, but I had gotten so attached to these characters in that first chapter that I just wanted everything to go right for them. But I think Browne's ultimate message is that we are all Queens, no matter what horrendously bad decision we have made in our lives. We just need to pick ourselves back up, dust off our crowns, and start singing "Tiny Bubbles" again.
I am torn between recommending the print or audio versions. I listened to the audio, read by Browne herself, and had a blast listening to her. I am definitely a Southern girl, but up here in the Southern Appalachians, we have more of a twang, and Browne definitely has a drawl. I could listen to her talk all day, I swear. No matter the slight differences in accents, I think that Southerners all have a similar rhythm to our storytelling, so listening to her read this book just felt deeply right.
On the other hand, there were so many quotes I wanted to mark, but there was no way for me to do that! Maybe I'll check the print book out of the library and look for the best bits. One that I can sort of remember is something like, "She was letting that word fly. You know, the one we called the firetruck word back then because it began and ended in the same letters."
For a laugh-out-loud, ultimately feel-good book, go ahead and pick this up in whatever format tickles your fancy. It might not have quite lived up to the high expectations I had after the first chapter, but it is definitely a girl-power book, and we all need to read those every once in a while.(less)
Famous puppeteer Rupert Porson rolls into Flavia's village with his assistant in tow one day. His van has broken down and they are stranded. The vicar...moreFamous puppeteer Rupert Porson rolls into Flavia's village with his assistant in tow one day. His van has broken down and they are stranded. The vicar and Flavia help the pair out and the vicar asks Rupert to put on a show for the townspeople. He reluctantly agrees.
The first shock of the show comes when the puppet of Jack appears. He looks just like a young boy who died in the village. The second shock comes when Rupert, not the giant, comes crashing down onto the stage, dead. Flavia can't resist investigating.
This didn't quite have the charm and originality of the first book, but it was still good. I think this one felt a bit too dark for me. I typically steer clear of books that involve children's deaths. I know it happens, but I prefer to read in a world where it doesn't. I guess I like to keep my head in the sand.
The mystery twisted and turned and I had absolutely no idea whodunnit. Once the big reveal arrived, I completely bought it. It was very well done.
I still adore Flavia de Luce. She is so smart and funny and prickly but she is hurting inside. Her sisters get downright vicious when she pushes them far enough. And I think that is part of her problem. She wants some attention and pushing their buttons is the only way to reliably get it. That makes her sound like a needy brat and she's not; she's mostly happy tinkering away in her chemistry lab alone. But we all need human contact now and again, even self-sufficient Flavia.
In my review of The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie, I wrote about my love/hate relationship with narrator Jayne Entwistle. She had grown on me by the end of that book so I continued in audio with this second installment. Now that I'm used to her, I can't imagine reading these books in any other format.
I recommend this series for readers who like precocious, strong female narrators. Flavia is a character I will always remember. I will definitely be continuing with the series.(less)
HeLa cells (named after the woman they came from, Henrietta Lacks) have been used for about 60 years by scientists all over the world for all kinds of...moreHeLa cells (named after the woman they came from, Henrietta Lacks) have been used for about 60 years by scientists all over the world for all kinds of cellular research. Yet very few scientists could tell you the real name of the woman the cells came from, much less anything about her. Yet somehow, Rebecca Skloot stumbled onto the cells in a high school biology class. The teacher even got Henrietta's name right. The lesson spawned a years-long fascination with HeLa cells, Henrietta Lacks herself, her family, and the ethical questions that arise from the story. This book is the product of that research.
I would honestly never have picked this book up on my own, but I've heard so many good things about the audio version that I decided to give it a try. One can't listen to fluff alone! All the praise is well-deserved.
There is so much to chew over here. Parts were pretty upsetting, for a lot of different reasons. Henrietta's children had a very hard life after she passed away, and as I told my husband just a bit about it, he cut me off and said, "Why do you always read books like that? Doesn't it depress you?" Yes, it does, but it also reminds me how good I have it in comparison. We all need a little attitude adjustment occasionally, and difficult books like this serve that purpose for me. But aside from the family's personal hardships, it was hard to hear about Henrietta's death. It was not by any means an easy one. And then, less personal but more relevant to most of us, there were the ethical questions raised by Henrietta's story. I know times have changed, but I was appalled by the complete disregard for the family. Privacy was barely a concern for anyone, much less informed consent. The family didn't know anything about Henrietta's cells in research until decades after her death. Decades. Fifty years later, no one had ever taken the time to explain what was going on with the cells and the family couldn't tell fact from fiction. A collection of all Henrietta's cells at that time would weigh tons? There are a lot of clones of Henrietta walking around in London? It all sounded equally crazy and therefore equally plausible.
This is only a side note to the story, but it rang so true with me that I have to mention it. A woman who was present at Henrietta's partial autopsy mentioned how much Henrietta's toenail polish bothered her. The woman had kept a clinical distance until then, but those toes made her realize that the body on the table had been a living, breathing person shortly before. I have mentioned in my review of Second Hand Heart that I used to very occasionally be the tiniest of tiny cogs in the organ donation process, doing electrocardiograms on organ donors before any harvesting began. I clearly remember a beautiful fifty-ish female organ donor and how much her perfect manicure bothered me. I never had full detachment when I had to fill that role, but she bothered me a lot. She had no idea what was in store for her when she got that manicure. So I know exactly where the observer was coming from.
The book focused a little more on the family than I expected. My heart broke for them. They seem to have had such hard lives. And the research done on their mother's cells has done so much good for so many people, but they themselves don't even have the health insurance to be able to afford any of the medications or other advances that she helped bring about. There's something just not right there.
The very last section was all about the ethics of cell research and where we stand today. I for one was surprised. I may not have the details exactly right, so don't hold me to any of this, but really, we don't have any rights to our own tissue. We mostly assume that if, say, our spleen is removed, it's going to be incinerated, right? There are no guarantees that's what's going to happen. There is apparently usually some small print buried in the consent form that lets the hospital or doctor or someone use it however they see fit. There are arguments that if we as individuals retain any rights to our tissue, we can throw up roadblocks to research. But what does happen? A company gets a patent on a gene (like a breast cancer gene) and charges ridiculous amounts of money for other researchers to use it. So much for cooperation for the common good, right? This really happened.
Maybe I was tuned out (I'm not a perfect audio book listener), but I wish there had been a bigger section about all the things HeLa cells have been used for. They're so common, it's probably hard to narrow down the list and then write meaningfully about it. Let's face it, something like "HeLa has been used to manufacture the polio vaccine, develop the atomic bomb, and has been sent into space" would get a little boring. But I wish I had a bigger idea about the research. Like I said, it might have been in there and I was too busy yelling at the drivers around me to notice.
I really liked Cassandra Campbell's narration. She was very clear and easy to listen to. Maybe I was projecting, but I thought she sounded a little upset when she was reading the worst parts about the abuse Henrietta's children endured. It made her seem more human instead of just an emotionless voice reading me this book.
You don't have to be a scientist to understand this book by any means. If you're interested in any of the topics--the research, the ethics, or the personal story--grab this one. I recommend the audio, but I'm sure this is a fascinating book in any format.(less)