Audiobook Review: Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money

Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan. *sticks out tongue*

Let me just say that Mr. Chickee’s Funny Money (written by Christopher Paul Curtis and narrated by Joe Holt) is perfect for a road trip. Perfect. My daughter and I laughed SO HARD during various parts of the book. It was kind of amazing.

The characters are fantastic, the narrator is great, and the plot is so absurd. I mean, just really. Basically, the book asks what you would do if you, as a nine-year-old member of Flint Future Detectives and the second smartest kid in your grade, received a quadrillion dollar bill from one of your neighbors.

If you are Steven, you have to deal with a father who forces you to think critically, a mother who tries to use psychobabble on you, a best friend who is younger than you but looks older, a ginormous dog that looks like a bear, a secret agent with something to prove, and a dictionary that insults you every time you use it.

It’s just a lot to deal with is all.

But it’s so fun to listen to.

Quirky Brown: 7; Support Your Local Library: 37; Audiobook Challenge: 5/6; POC Reading Challenge: 22

Audiobook Review: The Lost Hero

“Love is the most powerful motivator in the world. It spurs mortals to greatness. Their noblest and bravest acts are done for love.”

My daughter wanted me to read The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan, the first book in his Heroes of Olympus series. I got the audiobook (which is narrated by Joshua Swanson) from the library when we went on a road trip so we could listen to it together. All I have to say about the book is: Rick Riordan, how are you so great???

You know, I’m really starting to appreciate his work and not just because I am some superfan of his books. Because no, that’s not it. What he does that’s so brilliant (besides making mythology completely accessible) is create these fantastic characters who are so interesting and fully formed. I mean, can I tell you how much I love Leo? I love Leo SO VERY MUCH. I want to bake him cookies and watch iCarly with him (because you know he secretly watches it and admires Spencer’s handiwork). Then, he and my daughter could build fun stuff together. He’d be the son I never had and the big brother she always wanted. THAT IS HOW MUCH I LOVE LEO. I would feed him actual food.

Other Things I Liked

– The introduction of Native American mythology/beliefs. Having Piper as a character allows Riordan to explore some of the similarities (and differences!) between not only the Roman and Greek gods but also allows for space to talk about Native American stories. So great.

– Seeing Camp Half-Blood from new characters’ perspectives and especially reading about the different cabins was ace. So fun seeing Butch from Iris Cabin, Clovis from the Hypnos cabin, and inside the cabins the main characters belonged to. (DEAR J. K. ROWLING, DO THIS WITH THE HARRY POTTER WORLD, PLEASE!!!!)

– I still love Rachel Elizabeth Dare. I would read a whole book about her.

– The title works on ~levels~.

What I Didn’t Like

Unfortunately, the narrator was not that great. He had a very robotic reading voice and read almost all of the characters (except Leo and Coach Hedge [LOVE COACH HEDGE]) and some of the minor characters) and their dialogue with these odd pauses. I mean, he’s not worse than the Percy Jackson narrator, but even that dude read Annabeth with some spirit.

Also, he pronounced Hera and Gaea wrong. It drove me NUTS. My daughter and I would correct his pronunciation every time. That’s not good.

Thankfully, the story overcomes the narrator. I had to know what would happen. So, kudos to Mr. Riordan. I really wish they would find worthy narrators for his books, though. (Kane Chronicles, thankfully, does not suffer from this issue.)

In conclusion: AWESOME book, so-so narrator. The book is definitely worth the read, no matter which version you procure.

Support Your Local Library: 36; YA Reading Challenge: 32; Audiobook Challenge: 4/6; POC Reading Challenge: 21

Book Review: Shine, Coconut Moon

It dawns on me, clear as a summer sky, how wrapping a turban, speaking the language of your parents’ parents’ parents, and celebrating the same holidays that everyone before you celebrated are all like little thank-yous to those who survived. Those seemingly small things are a long-held memory whispered from the lips of the past into the ear of the future.

I really liked Shine, Coconut Moon by Neesha Meminger. It’s the story of Samar, a girl who has to confront her Indian heritage five days after the September 11th attacks when her turbaned, Sikh uncle shows up on her doorstep.

What I Liked

– I loved how complicated the relationships are in this book–especially the relationships Samar’s mom has with her brother and parents. The level of depth reminded me a lot of Gilmore Girls and how Rory relates to her grandparents, but then Lorelai has this whole other level of complex views on the way she was raised and how she communicates with her parents. That is some good stuff right there.

– The boy stuff was handled well. I am so glad this story did not become about the boy, but that the boy is part of Samar’s life and is another relationship she’s trying to navigate. (Have I mentioned how much I hate when stories of this sort become about the boy? UGH. Pet peeve. Anyway, this book does not fall into that trap, so let’s move on.)

– Samar’s relationship with Molly is also really well-handled. Their brief falling out felt true to life as did their subsequent making up. I love how much Samar is a part of Molly’s family, and the ease and familiarity they have with one another.

– Uncle Sandeep = fantastic.

– I love how well the title relates to the story.

What I Didn’t Like

– My only complaint, really, is that there wasn’t enough of that daughter-parent-grandparent conflict. I just wanted so much more of that, but I guess that’s why there are Gilmore Girls repeats/DVDs.

– I felt this book could have been longer. Doing so may have fleshed out some of the other characters. At the same time, I think Meminger did everything she needed to do with this story, so maybe I just wanted more to read.

In conclusion: I really liked this book. Meminger does a great job exploring issues of identity and family and what happens when you don’t know your family, but would like to get to know them. She also touches on the idea that there are no perfect families, which is great since Samar idealizes the extended family. Good stuff.

Support Your Local Library: 35; YA Reading Challenge: 31; POC Reading Challenge: 20

Book Review: Love, Inc.

The only reason any of us got out of bed today was to plot revenge. It’s quite a resuscitator.

Love, Inc. by Yvonne Collins & Sandy Rideout is the story of three girls who become friends and business partners after meeting in group therapy. Their business starts out focusing on revenge, but then they expand into matchmaking, mediation, and surveillance.

What I Liked

– I love the premise. Not just the revenge business, but that the three girls are also dealing with their parents’ divorces and trying to navigate their own relationships.

– Zahra is the narrator, and I like her a lot. In fact, I like all three of the girls. They have distinct personalities, clear motivations, and good growth. Also, their interests are really varied. Zahra’s wants to be a chef, Syd is a fantastic artist, and Kali is…I’m not sure what she’s into besides flirting. Computer programming, I think? (I remember now. Music.)

– The relationships are well-developed, and the characters are likable–except for the characters we’re not supposed to like, so that’s great.

– Zahra is first-generation American on her mother’s side, and a definite clash of cultures occur between her and her maternal grandparents. What I especially like about the authors’ take on it is that Zahra’s not navigating how to be American; she’s navigating taking sides in her parents’ separation. I mean, yes, questions of identity, but I like that the framework is a little different than what I’m used to in YA lit.

– I kind of love the cover. It just hits on all of the elements from the book, and I especially like that it looks like Zahra could be leaning out of a food truck.

– Although who Zahra ends up with is totally predictable (totally), I do like the way they get there.

– “Framily.”

What I Didn’t Like

– The book is a little long. I’m not sure how it could be shorter or why it would be, but it felt long. Also, I went on a day trip and left the book at home, and, when I got home and saw it, I was surprised I was still reading it. I was just like, “Oh yeah. I didn’t finish that book yet.”

In conclusion: I was looking for a fun and light-hearted book to read, and this one delivered. Great characters, great premise. It would make a great pool/beach read.

POC Challenge: 19; YA Reading Challenge: 30; Support Your Local Library: 34

Book Review: Bossypants

By the second week, I realized what made this experience so fun and different. For the first time ever, I was performing in front of an audience that wanted to see me.

Unpopular opinion time: I did not like Bossypants by Tina Fey all that much.

I don’t know if it was a case of high expectations, or I was just in a mood. All I know is this book was just okay for me. I didn’t like it; I didn’t hate it. It’s just, you know, okay.

There are elements that I like. I love that she clearly loves and respects Amy Poehler. I liked her mother’s prayer for a daughter. I liked the stories of her as a kid growing up in the Pennsylvania theater (those sections actually reminded me of Meg Cabot’s novels/heroines). I also LOVED the pictures of her growing up. (My daughter: “Is that a boy?”)

I think, what didn’t work for me, is that the book is uneven and at times Fey tries too hard. I can see her trying to be funny, so it doesn’t feel very organic. It feels like she thought she needed to be funny instead of just telling her story. Maybe that’s the way she talks. I have no idea. It just didn’t work for me on the page.

I know the book has a lot of awesome reviews, and people who really love it and Tina. I have no real opinion on Fey besides loving Mean Girls, so I don’t know if being a fan of hers increases the appreciation of the story or the style. All I know is that I found the book, you know, okay.

Support Your Local Library: 33

Mini Reviews: September

September was not a great month for books for me. I read quite a few, but none made that big of an impression, so it was hard to get motivated to blog about them, especially when I had so many other things to do. Like grade. The grading never ends.

               

Page by Paige by Laura Lee Gulledge: I won this graphic novel from Vasilly, host of the Graphic Novels Challenge. It was, by far, my favorite of this batch. Not only does the book win for having a protagonist named Paige Turner (her parents love books!), but I loved the illustrations and the storyline. Paige moves with her family from Charlottesville, VA to Brooklyn, NY and has to learn how to navigate the big city and make new friends. There’s a great mix of styles, the characters are ace, and Paige, of course, comes of age with aplomb.

YA Reading Challenge: 28; Graphic Novels Challenge: 8/10

Fixing Delilah by Sarah Ockler: I won this a book in a contest hosted by Sara Zarr. I was going to say that she sent it to me because we’re besties, but, unfortunately, that’s a lie. She has commented directly to me on her blog, though. I’ll take what I can get.

But I digress. The point is not my fictional friendship with Sara Zarr. The point is this book! Which I thought was just okay. I liked the exploration of family and family secrets, but I found all of the characters pretty flat and didn’t feel like I even know/understood the main character that much and hers is a first-person narrative. I was also disappointed in the way the relationship with the mother was handled. Elements of the book are great; I just wish they had been executed better.

YA Reading Challenge: 29; Off the Shelf: 10

I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron: A collection of essays about aging that I picked up at the library book sale because I saw it mentioned on a few blogs. This one was strictly a bathroom book. Though, I did love the essay about purses. And this quote:

Every so often I look up from the book and see a roomful of people waiting for me to make a decision…and I can’t believe they don’t understand that what I’m doing is Much More Important. I’m reading the most wonderful book.

Off the Shelf: 11

Workin’ It! RuPaul’s Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style by RuPaul: This book is worth it for the pictures alone. Seriously.

I wanted to like it more than I did. Ru focuses on how to look and feel good. He also tells his beauty secrets and! I learned how to tuck. Which I don’t need to know, but, you know, for those who wonder. The big issue I have with the book is that it’s kind of all over the place. Is it how to be the best drag queen? How to have confidence out of drag? The secret of Ru’s success? All of those things but in no real cohesive style or order.

Fun fact: Ru refuses to dress up for Halloween on principle. Because why is it not okay every other day of the year? Love.

Like I said, the pictures are fantastic. Get it, Ru!

Support Your Local Library: 32; POC Reading Challenge: 18