Elegy for Eddie [Audiobook Review]

TitleElegy for Eddie
Author: Jaqueline Winspear
Narrator: Orlagh Cassidy
Genre: Mystery; Historical Fiction
Pages: 368
Audio: 10.2 hours
Year: 2012
Publisher: HarperAudio
Source: Library
Book Rating: 4/5
Audio Rating: 5/5

Summary:

When Eddie, a simple man with a special ability to work with horses from Maisie’s childhood is killed in a factory accident, Maisie is solicited by some Lambeth childhood acquaintances to investigate. Soon after, it appears that someone more powerful than she is interested in keeping her from the truth. Meanwhile, Maisie is becoming less and less comfortable in her new position of wealth and in her relationship with James. Maisie must do some soul-searching along with solving the mystery of Eddie’s death.

My Thoughts:

Just as I was starting to tire of Maisie Dobbs, the character, someone calls her out on the exact thing that annoys me. Which made this one a little more interesting. Maisie grows as a person in each book, but in a few of them, there is a bigger leap forward. This is one of those books. And the mystery, which at first doesn’t seem to great, turns into something much larger. I ended up liking Elegy for Eddie and I am excited to be almost caught up to real time Maisie Dobbs publishing.

Audiobook Thoughts:

Orlagh continues to be the perfect Maisie.

Delirium Stories: Hana, Annabel, and Raven [Mini-Review]

Title: Delirium Stories: Hana, Annabel & Raven
Author: Lauren Oliver
Genre: Short Stories; Dystopian
Pages: 224
Year: 2013
Publisher: HarperCollins
Source: Personal Collection
Rating: 4/5

Publisher’s Summary:

Hana is told through the perspective of Lena’s best friend, Hana Tate. Set during the tumultuous summer before Lena and Hana are supposed to be cured, this story is a poignant and revealing look at a moment when the girls’ paths diverge and their futures are altered forever.

Lena’s mother, Annabel, has always been a mystery — a ghost from Lena’s past — until now. Her journey from teenage runaway to prisoner of the state is a taut, gripping narrative that expands the Delirium world and illuminates events — and Lena — through a new point of view.

And as the passionate, fierce leader of a rebel group in the Wilds, Raven plays an integral role in the resistance effort and comes into Lena’s life at a crucial time. Crackling with intensity, Raven is a brilliant story told in the voice of one of the strongest and most tenacious characters in the Delirium world.

Mini-Review:

So I read these stories long after I finished the second book in the series and I still haven’t read the last book so I spent a lot of this trying to remember who everyone was and how they fit into Lena’s story. I wish series books came with summaries for people with poor memories like me. But once I figured it out again, I enjoyed the stories and the new perspective. I especially liked Hana’s since it was the basically the first book from her perspective. And reading Raven’s backstory was helpful to see why she is the way she is.

I need to finish this series…

Cress [Audiobook Review]

Spoiler Free, I promise.

Title: Cress
Author: Marissa Meyer
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Genre: Young Adult; Science Fiction
Pages: 560 pages
Audio: 15.6 hours
Year: 2014
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Source: Personal Collection
Book Rating: 4.5/5
Audio Rating: 5/5

Summary:

I’m going to skip this in order to avoid spoilers. You can read the publisher’s description here.

My Thoughts:

You all know I loved Cinder and Scarlet, right? Well, this third installment in The Lunar Chronicles did not disappoint me either. Once again, I am going to try to push a series that has lunar people and cyborgs on you. Deal with it.

I don’t want to say too much, since this is the third book in a series and I could get spoilery pretty fast here. There is a lot going on this one. We add another “main” character to the mix which means we have to balance even more storylines. Like the title characters before her, Cress is (very) loosely based on a fairytale: Rapunzel.  We’ve actually met Cress before but she takes a lead role here.

One thing I didn’t like – and here I go being vague again – is that one main character was MIA for most of the book. It left me feeling a little unbalanced.

But, overall, this book is fast-paced and action-packed, twisting and turning until it’s suddenly over and we’re left wanting more. If you haven’t taken my advice to try this series yet, you’re really missing out.

Audiobook Thoughts:

Rebecca Soler is downright amazing in this series. I wouldn’t dream of reading it in print.

Salt, Sugar, Fat [Audiobook Review]

Title: Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us
Author: Michael Moss
Narrator: Scott Brick
Genre: Nonfiction; Science
Pages: 480
Audio: 14.6 hours
Year: 2013
Publisher: Random House Audio
Source: Personal Collection
Book Rating: 4/5

Summary (from publisher):

Every year, the average American eats thirty-three pounds of cheese and seventy pounds of sugar. Every day, we ingest 8,500 milligrams of salt, double the recommended amount, almost none of which comes from the shakers on our table. It comes from processed food, an industry that hauls in $1 trillion in annual sales. In Salt Sugar Fat, Pulitzer Prize–winning investigative reporter Michael Moss shows how we ended up here. Featuring examples from Kraft, Coca-Cola, Lunchables, Frito-Lay, Nestlé, Oreos, Capri Sun, and many more, Moss’s explosive, empowering narrative is grounded in meticulous, eye-opening research. He takes us into labs where scientists calculate the “bliss point” of sugary beverages, unearths marketing techniques taken straight from tobacco company playbooks, and talks to concerned insiders who make startling confessions. Just as millions of “heavy users” are addicted to salt, sugar, and fat, so too are the companies that peddle them. You will never look at a nutrition label the same way again.

My Thoughts:

The food industry infuriates me. The foods that are unhealthy are cheapest and taste the best (at least until you get used to real food again). It’s easy to know that foods high in salt, sugar, or fat are bad to for you, but it’s almost impossible to stay away from them. Moss shows us the science behind our addiction and how the processed food industry has taken advantage of it, to our disadvantage.

This book only increased my disdain for the food industry, but I think it is important for us to understand why we are addicted to these unhealthy “foods.” I would definitely recommend this one if you want to know what you’re really eating and why.

Also, don’t buy your kid lunchables. Just don’t.

Audiobook Thoughts:

I’m not even going to pretend to remember what the audio production was like at this point. But it must not have been awful.

The Circle [Audiobook Review]

Title: The Circle
Author: Dave Eggers
Narrator: Dion Graham
Genre: Fiction; Dystopian
Pages: 504
Audio: 13.6 hours
Year: 2013
Publisher: Random House Audio
Source: Personal Collection
Book Rating: 1/5
Audio Rating: 2/5

Summary:

When Mae gets a job at The Circle (think Google on an even bigger scale) she thinks her dreams have come true. But she soon finds that meeting The Circle’s expectations are harder than she anticipated. Constant internet contact, hyper-socialization, and an inability to escape any of it leave Mae at a crossroads. Will she accept the new age and help “close The Circle” or will she fight back?

My Thoughts:

Unless Dave Eggers is your hero, you can skip this book. It’s about ten times longer than it needs to me. It barely has a plot. It makes it’s point and then makes it again and again and again and again. I wish I’d put it down when I was two hours in like I almost did.

I thought this would be the book for me – a somewhat-dystopian book about social media – but it clearly wasn’t. This was my first Dave Eggers book and I certainly haven’t been convinced that I should go back and read any of his others. I think I’ll stick with McSweeny’s.

Audiobook Thoughts:

I thought it was an odd choice to have a male narrator for this one. The main character is female. The book is in third person but it is told from her perspective only.

The Dangerous Animals Club [Audiobook Review]

Title: The Dangerous Animals Club
Author: Stephen Tobolowsky
Narrator: Stephen Tobolowsky
Genre: Memoir
Pages: 352
Audio: 11.6 hours
Year: 2012
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Source: Personal Collection
Book Rating: 4/5
Audio Rating: 5/5

Summary:

Actor Stephen Tobolowsky shares stories from his childhood, his marriage, and his career.

My Thoughts:

We started listening to this one on a family road trip. Whenever E was asleep, Ben and I would put it on. E didn’t actually sleep as much as I expected him to, so we each had to finish it on our own. But we were both enjoying it so much that there was doubt that we would.

Stephen Tobolowsky, as he explains it, is that guy you recognize but you’re from where (the store down the street? the laundromat?). You recognize him from television and films. But he’s a solid character actor – not one to stand out or be memorable. But he is in practically everything, from Groundhog Day to Glee. And he has amassed some wonderful stories which he tells masterfully.

The book started with stories from his childhood and those mostly featuring animals (the title story is about a tarantula- and scorpion-catching club he was in as a boy in Texas). The stories then move on to his schooling, his relationships, and his career. He has had an interesting life so far and his tales are well-crafted. If you just want to listen to some good storytelling, this one is for you.

Audiobook Thoughts:

Tobolowsky reads this one himself, as he should. You’ll recognize his voice, even if you don’t recognize his name. He’s a born storyteller.

Fun Home [Book Review]

TitleFun Home
Author: Alison Bechdel
Genre: Graphic memoir
Pages: 232
Year: 2006
Publisher: Mariner Books
Source: Personal Collection
Rating: 4/5

Summary:

When Alison Bechdel is in college, two very big things happen to her. She comes out and her father dies. To her, these are not unrelated. In this graphic novel (well…memoir), she explains why.

My Thoughts:

I am once again faced with the challenge of reviewing a memoir without passing judgment on the author’s life. But, in some ways, Fun Home is only half-memoir, as her father’s story is just as important to her exploration of their relationship. And because she uses a less common medium – the graphic memoir – to tell her story, it makes it a little easier.

At its heart, this is a story about a father and a daughter with a very complicated relationship. But it’s really so much more.

One thing graphic novels/memoirs have going for them is the ability to use visual cues and themes. For example, the repeat image of Bechdel’s father crossing the road seconds before his death made a very powerful, very effective, and very quick reminder of what prompted her story. Ben, who studied this in class and is the reason I read it in the first time, tells me there are all sorts of visual themes, like her pants and the use of photographs.

Another thing that made this book interesting were the literary motifs. Each section of the book uses a book – like Ulysses or The Great Gatsby – to help tell the story. This makes it extra enjoyable for Great Books readers.

*****

I assume a lot of you have read this (it seems to be popular in college/grad school courses these days). What did you think?

The Madness Underneath [Mini-Review]

Title: The Madness Underneath
Author: Maureen Johnson
Genre: Paranormal YA
Pages: 304
Year: 2013
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Source: Library
Rating: 3.5/5

Publisher’s Summary:

After her near-fatal run-in with the Jack the Ripper copycat, Rory Devereaux has been living in Bristol under the close watch of her parents. So when her therapist suddenly suggests she return to Wexford, Rory jumps at the chance to get back to her friends. But Rory’s brush with the Ripper touched her more than she thought possible: she’s become a human terminus, with the power to eliminate ghosts on contact. She soon finds out that the Shades—the city’s secret ghost-fighting police—are responsible for her return. The Ripper may be gone, but now there is a string of new inexplicable deaths threatening London. Rory has evidence that the deaths are no coincidence. Something much more sinister is going on, and now she must convince the squad to listen to her before it’s too late.

My (Really) Quick Thoughts:

I really liked  The Name of the Star. A lot. But as much as I liked it, I didn’t think it needed a sequel. That said, given the chance to go back to Rory’s story, I read The Madness Underneath anyway because sometimes I am proven wrong. And it was an enjoyable experience because it is Maureen Johnson and her books are always enjoyable. But my mind wasn’t changed about the necessity of a sequel.

Are you sick of the series-ization of everything YA these days?

Night Film [Book Review]

Title: Night Film
Author: Marisha Pessl
Genre: Noir; Suspense; Mystery
Pages: 624
Year: 2013
Publisher: Random House
Source: Personal Collection
Rating: 5/5

Summary:

When Ashley Cordova is found dead, Scott McGrath, an investigative journalist, is compelled to investigate. A few years earlier, an investigation into her father, mysterious filmmaker Stanislav Cordova, ruined his career. Now he’s determined to find something on Cordova – something that will bring him down. But Cordova isn’t going to make it easy.

My Thoughts:

This book might be better than Special Topics in Calamity Physics. It was so twisted and suspenseful that despite its heft, I couldn’t put it down. Like in Special Topics, Pessl shows her attention to detail and ability to weave a complicated tale.

While I give Pessl credit for her creativity, I was not a big fan of the integration of technology. I stopped using the app pretty early on because I found it distracting. But that’s fine. I just stopped using it. If you like it, use it. If you don’t, don’t. Easy enough.

I don’t have a lot to say (nor do I have a lot of review writing time this weekend), but that shouldn’t lead you to believe I have anything less than love for this book.

Grave Mercy [Audiobook Review]

Note: Until I get caught up, Thursdays will be reviews of books I read some time last year and never reviewed. They will be closer to mini-reviews than regular reviews. 

Title: Grave Mercy
Author: Robin LeFevers
Narrator: Erin Moon
Genre: Historical Fiction
Pages: 560
Audio: 14.2 hours
Year: 2912
Publisher: Recorded Books
Source: Library (I think…)
Book Rating: 3/5

Summary:

I read this awhile ago, so I was going to use the publisher’s summary and then I remembered that I didn’t like the publisher’s summary because it sort of gave away a plot twist WAY down the line, so here is my attempt, many months later, at telling you what this book is about.

In 15th Century Brittany, Ismae is meant to marry a brute of a man when she is saved and delivered to the convent of St. Mortain. She chooses to stay at the convent and serve St. Mortain, the god of death as one of his assassins. She is given an assignment in the high court of Brittany, during time of great political turmoil, where she finds treason, lies, and, potentially, love.

My Thoughts:

Once I understood that Brittany is not Britain and that, at the time this book is set, it was a region trying to maintain its independence from France, things made a lot more sense (I will not tell you just HOW far into the book I was before having this realization). I highly recommend reading the Wikipedia page on Brittany before starting this one if you are not a history buff.

The setting is, obviously, new to me and it is full of plenty of things to keep this book interesting. Politics, alliances, treason, family, love – it certainly didn’t lull. At the same time, the book didn’t grab me for some reason I am not able to explain.

Audiobook Thoughts:

I am not even going to pretend I remember what the audio production was like. But I would remember if it’d been awful.