My first reading update of the new year! #IMWAYR

Welp, I said I wasn’t participating in any reading challenges, and then here comes Audible with their three  audiobooks in three months challenge, complete with a $20 gift card if you complete it.

Audible Challenge 2020

And if you thought your girl wasn’t going to read and WIN MONEY for doing so, then you don’t know me at all. Not to mention I have (a) plenty of audiobook credits to spare and (b) a 20-minute commute Monday-Thursday while I teach the winter session. So. Here we are.

Continue reading “My first reading update of the new year! #IMWAYR”

Picture Book Review: Go the F*ck to Sleep

I know you’re not thirsty. That’s bullshit. Stop lying. Lie the fuck down, my darling, and sleep.

I am sure you have heard of Go the Fuck to Sleep written by Adam Mansbach and illustrated by Ricardo Cortés, My library actually had a copy of this book, so I had to read it. I had to.

Don’t worry, the book is not for kids. It is strictly written for adults, any adult who has a kid that won’t just go to sleep already. And, yeah, all the love in the world doesn’t keep parents from secretly cursing their children who won’t go to sleep.

The illustrations are great. All these scenes of nighttime tranquility and an awake kid just right there ruining it all.

Let me put it this way: my daughter is thirteen and I can STILL relate to this book.

So much fun. So, so much fun. A book for parents to read while they wait for their kids to go to sleep. Brilliant.

Oh, and if you haven’t heard it already: Samuel L. Jackson reads the book. And talks about why the book speaks to him. Ha!

Source: Library


Audiobook Reviews: Precocious British Kids

Why are British kids’ books so clever and fun? It kind of seems unfair to the rest of the kids in the world, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I had some good fun listening to two audiobooks featuring brilliantly fun British kids earlier this year: Matilda by Roald Dahl (narrated by Ron Keith) and Jeremy Brown: Secret Agent by Simon Chesire (narrated by Richard Mitchley).

I am mostly familiar with Matilda through the adorable movie. And though I didn’t think it possible, the Trunchbull is way, way worse in book form than in movie form. I mean, I was seriously not prepared for how terrible that woman is, and I have seen the movie more than once.

And while I know I should have loved Matilda (the book), I wound up only really, really liking it. Why? Because the scene where Miss Honey revealed her life story to Matilda made me so uncomfortable. Book Matilda is only five, and while she is super bright and seems mature, she is still only five. Imagining a wee little five-year-old listening to Miss Honey just didn’t sit right with me.

That said, I loved everything else about the book.

Jeremy Brown: Secret Agent was a pick of my daughter’s, I think. At any rate, we really dug listening to the adventures the kids went on. The word play in the stories is excellent. And, wow, I really love Jeremy’s sidekick Patsy. She is AMAZING. Mostly because she loves eating and beating people up. Oh, and she will not have Jeremy calling her a sidekick at all, so he has to come up with different ways to refer to her that don’t offend her. Love Patsy.

Jeremy’s fine, too. But Patsy owns my heart. Maybe I am secretly really aggressive? It’s possible.

Source: Library

Mini Reviews: Summer Audiobooks

So, yes, my life has been chaotic and busy, mostly due to all of the teaching and grading I’ve done this summer. Oh, and the moving. So add it all together, and that left me with precious little time to read and even less time to actually update. So! Mini reviews! I’ll start with audiobooks, then do fiction, non-fiction, picture books, and BSC graphic novels.

Trust needs time to heal, but forgiveness is a decision.

Let It Go: Forgive So You Can Be Forgiven by T.D. Jakes (read by the author): In this book, Jakes offers information about why forgiveness is necessary. He also gives information about how to forgive. My favorite part of the book is that he spends a lot of time focusing on forgiving oneself, something that I think often goes overlooked when talking about forgiveness. The book has a Biblical bent–Jakes references Bible verses throughout–but gets more explicitly Christian as the book goes on.

I listened to this book while packing, and it was engaging enough, except sometimes I found myself tuning out. That may have had more to do with Jakes’s narration than the content, honestly. I was expecting to hear Jakes, the exuberant and exciting preacher, not Jakes, the subdued book reader. So, yes, I was looking for more of a performance with the narration and got a bedtime reading voice. I never quite got over that.

That said, I probably would have enjoyed it more if I read it on the page because I would have heard Jakes’s voice the way I wanted to in my head. Good content, though. And I loved the woman who introduced the chapters.

Audiobook Challenge: 3/12; POC Challenge: 4/25

Source: Audiobook Jukebox Solid Gold Reviewer Program

Invisible by Pete Hautman (read by Norm Lee): This one was actually a reread for me, but it was new for my daughter. (We listened to it together in the car.) Brief synopsis: Dougie has been labeled troubled by his family and schoolmates, but he doesn’t think he is, nor does his best friend Andy. This book chronicles Dougie’s relationship with Andy and his obsession with a classmate, and some of the decisions he makes in between.

The book was really captivating. As a reader/listener we could tell something was off with Dougie, but it was hard to tell until his interactions with other people. My daughter thought that was really well done, and the characterization was good. She liked it a lot more than I did since I just found it okay. To the book’s credit, we did need to know what was going to happen and finished it pretty quickly, so that’s a plus.

Audiobook Challenge: 2/12

Source: Library

Seriously…I’m Kidding by Ellen Degeneres (read by the author): Guys, I love Ellen Degeneres. I just do. She’s so great. She’s fun and funny, and her audiobook was fun and funny, too. My favorite bits were (a) when she talked about being a Cover Girl and how that doesn’t make her just another gorgeous blond and (b) when she meditated. The meditating bit was great because it’s exactly how my mind works when I attempt quiet meditation, which is to say it goes all over the place.

Anyway, I am 100% sure that this book is more fun as an audiobook because Ellen is kind of ridiculous and her delivery is fantastic. Some bits are just her reading funny words or making weird noises. Oh, and I loved the way she introduces each chapter. She gets more and more enthusiastic about them as the book goes on.

My daughter listened to this one with me as well, and we had a lot of fun. In fact, she would turn to me at various times in the car and say, “Ellen is so silly!”

Relatedly, I know Ellen is happy that Finding Nemo is getting a sequel. The fact that it didn’t have one is a sticking point in the book.

Audiobook Challenge: 1/12

Source: Library

Audiobook Review: Sorry, Wrong Number

Sorry, Wrong Number by Lucille Fletcher (performed here by L.A. Theater Works) is a famous one-act play (made into a movie!) about a handicapped woman who overhears a murder being plotted and starts to FREAK OUT because she can’t get anybody to do anything about it.

This book is only 23 minutes long, and it is INTENSE. We listened to it while running errands today, and, wow, we were totally invested in the story. The voice work is fantastic. I love that the play is performed by a full cast, and the voice-only production (with a few ringing phones and busy signals thrown in) kind of adds to the mounting terror. Everything is so sparse that it’s like I was sitting trapped in the room with Mrs. Stevenson, trying to get someone to listen to me.

I think because this book is so short, it would be an excellent introduction to audiobooks for someone who wants to try them out. Not only is the action intense, but the storyline is clear, and it’s easy to keep track of all of the characters and what’s going on. Also? It’s really fun to listen to.

Audiobook Challenge: 8; Page to Screen: 7

Note: I received this book for free to review from the publisher through the Solid Gold Reviewer program over at Audiobook Jukebox.

Audiobook Review: Howl’s Moving Castle

In the land of Ingary where such things as seven-league boots and cloaks of invisibility really exist, it is quite a misfortune to be born the eldest of the three. Everyone knows you are the one who will fail first, and worst, if the three of you set out to seek your fortunes.

Every once in a while, I’ll read a book that I can honestly say I have no clue what’s going on in it, but still I enjoy it very much.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Dianna Wynne Jones is one of those books.

Oh, sure, I can give you a rundown of the basic plot: Sophie pisses off the Witch of the Waste who then hits Sophie with a curse so that she turns into an old woman. Sophie, who previous to the curse had settled for being the oldest and therefore the one with no choices, leaves home so as not to freak anybody out and takes up residence in Howl’s castle, which moves across the countryside. Howl has a reputation for destroying young girls, but since Sophie’s no longer young, she’s not afraid. While staying with Howl, she meets Calcifer the fire demon who asks her to break a spell on him. And the other resident of the moving castle is Michael, Howl’s apprentice.

Then some stuff happens with seven league boots, moving between worlds, the witch, Howl being vain and trying to get all the ladies to love him, and Sophie being really nosy or ornery because she’s old. I mean, a lot happens that I can’t really explain so well.

All I do know is that I was completely wrapped up in the story.

This was my second time reading the book. The first time I read it in paperback form; this time, I listened to the audiobook. The narrator, Jenny Sterlin, is fantastic. All of the characters have different and distinct voices, even young Sophie compared to old Sophie.

I listened to most of the book on a very long road trip, and I will admit that I had to shut it off a few times because I got sleepy. I don’t know if it’s because the pace of the story is a little slow or what. But I did need a break from time to time.

That said, even though this was my second time reading the book, I can give you a better run down of some of the plot stuff, though I couldn’t remember the terms of Calcifer’s contract so kept missing all of the hints. And because I was listening instead of holding a physical book, I couldn’t mark the passages to go back and say, “ohhhhhh.” Which means I want to go back and re-read it again in paper form.

I do know that I had the exact same response to the end of the book that I had the first time I read it. It just makes me smile and smile and clap my hands together.

Also, Sophie is the best. Such a great character. I really kind of love her.

YA of the ’80s and ’90s: 7; Support Your Local Library: 40; YA Reading Challenge: 35; Howl’s Moving Castle: 7;  Page to Screen: 6

Audiobook Review: Ella Enchanted

Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine is a reread for me, though the audiobook narrated by Eden Riegel is a brand new experience. It has been years–years!–since I’ve read EE. In fact, the last (and first) time I read the book was right after the movie came out.

What can I say about this book? It is pretty much perfection. I love Ella so much. I LOVE HER. Love, love, love, LOVE. I wish words could adequately express how awesome Ella is because she is JUST THAT AWESOME. She’s smart, funny, clever, stubborn, bullheaded, and just…I just love her is all. She is so great.

I mean, really. That is my largest take away from the book.

And, yes, the rest of the book is awesome, too, but mostly I just love Ella THE MOST.

As for how it fares as an audiobook: I’m not the biggest fan of Riegel as a narrator–only because Ella sounds much younger than fifteen. And, yes, I realize that’s how Riegel sounds in real life, but that’s not the way I expect Ella to sound. Also, there are weird musical interludes that I didn’t care for.

That said, I could ignore all of that because the story is just so amazingly fantastic.

Did I mention I love Ella? She is really my favorite. Love her.

YA of the ’80s and ’90s: 6; Support Your Local Library: 38; YA Reading Challenge: 34; Audiobook Challenge: 6/6; Page to Screen: 5/5;

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

Audiobook Review: The Red Pyramid

I guess it started in London, the night our dad blew up the British Museum.

The Red Pyramid is Book One of The Kane Chronicles, Rick Riordan’s take on Egyptian mythology. Much like Percy Jackson, the two main characters, siblings Carter and Sadie Kane, discover that they have magical powers and are descendants of gods.

The audiobook is narrated by Kevin R. Free and Katherine Kellgreen.

What I Liked

– Awesome characters. AWESOME characters. You know the author is doing something right when you love a baboon that only speaks in grunts. Seriously.

– Speaking of awesome characters, I love Sadie and Carter SO MUCH. Just so much. I love their relationship and how they’re jealous of each other, but how they grow to love and trust each other. Not only that, but the way Riordan handles their personalities is A+.

– I also really appreciate the way race is handled in this novel. The kids are mixed (black dad/white mom). Carter looks like their dad, and Sadie looks just like her mom (i.e., she can pass). So part of the tension is that people doubt their authenticity as brother and sister or even that Sadie is a member of their family (mom is dead).

What I really appreciate, though, is that Carter deals with things black boys have to deal with–especially when it comes to appearance. His father is highly educated and talks to Carter a lot about the importance of how he presents himself through dress and speech. Carter also notes moments of being uncomfortable in stores and–not in these words–shopping while black. What I’m saying is Carter is an authentic black teen.

Sadie is, well, British. Her concerns are white British girl concerns. It’s fun having two such different characters.

– Riordan knows how to drop some knowledge/facts without being boring. I learned a lot about Egypt and Egyptian mythology but didn’t feel like I was being taught a history/mythology lesson.

– I loved Kevin Free as a narrator for Carter. Kathleen Kellgreen was mostly good as a narrator for Sadie. I mean, she’s sufficiently British, so that really helped to differentiate the voices, but…see next section for more.

What I Didn’t Like

– As I hinted at above, I liked Kellgreen as a narrator–mostly. However, sometimes Sadie sounded completely frantic for long stretches of the narrative. I mean, yes, the stakes were high and things were moving quickly, but I don’t want my narrator to actually sound like she’s dialed up to 10 the entire time.

I listened to this with my daughter, and she pretty much hated Sadie’s parts and couldn’t wait to get back to Carter’s sections in the book.

– This book is TOO LONG. I love that Riordan packs so much in, but the book seriously started to drag in the middle. Yes, a lot happened; yes, it was exciting. But it was exhausting. The good news is that the book picks up again near the end. However, I still felt the need to take a break from it and wanted to hurry up and get to the end.

In conclusion: I did like this book a lot, but the length and some of the narration kept me from loving it. That said, I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

Support Your Local LIbrary: 30/30; YA Reading Challenge: 27; Audiobook Challenge: 3/6; POC Challenge: 17