Plus One, by Elizabeth Fama (audio)

In the world post-Spanish flu, the population has been split into halves: those that live and work in the day (Rays) and those who occupy the night (Smudges). The choice of which half you’re in has more to do with genetics than ability, and once you’re born into one or the other, it’s rare that any change will occur. Sol is a smudge, working a tedious after-night-school job while looking after a grandfather who is dying from cancer. Her brother is one of the miracles, having been switched over to a Ray a couple years back, and he and his wife just had a baby. Sol’s grandfather wants nothing more than to see his great-granddaughter before he dies, and Sol is determined to make that happen. She cannot contact her brother, so instead, she embarks on a foolhardy plan to injure herself and kidnap her niece for a day.

First note: I got this book via Sync YA.

Second note: At first I thought the book was self-published because Sync YA says that the audio production is via the author. Some inconsistencies in the text (see seventh note) seemed to confirm my suspicions. However, I looked the book up after reading and discovered that this was published by a division of Macmillan. I don’t know if the audio portion is self-published or self-funded or what. I do know that the narrator (Julia Whelan) is a fairly prominent audio narrator.

Third note: The audio included original music by what I assume is a relative of the author’s, given the same last name. The two original music sections appeared first in the middle of the book, sung and played, and then at the end when the book was over. While Julia Whelan read the audiobook and did a fine job with it, I don’t believe she was part of the singing/music-playing. Most of it was a male voice, and the parts with female voice didn’t sound like her. Either way, I enjoyed the audio production, but not the original music sections. I found these interludes irritating and unnecessary. The first one is broken into sections with narration between, so I couldn’t skip it, but I skipped through the last song. Only after it was done did I realize the book was over and the last half hour of the production was a prequel short story.

Fourth note: I didn’t listen to the prequel short story. I liked the book okay, but maybe not enough to listen to more, be that future sequels or the prequel short.

Fifth note: The story itself was interesting, just the right level of tension, enough hints going on that I figured out a few things beforehand but not others. But again, it wasn’t life-changing, and I’m fine reading it as a standalone. I think it worked well that way.

Sixth note: That’s kind of a moot point, though. While this is supposed to be the first in a series, it came out in 2014 and there’s no entry for anything further on GoodReads at this point.

Seventh note: I started noticing a few odd things about this alternate dystopian history. It’s a close alternate, with technology advancing similarly to ours. I could accept that they had texts and cell phones and such. Sure. But I was a little startled, first, to hear the narrator described by another character as looking like she came from a concentration camp. I associate concentration camps with WWII, which is of course after the split in the alternative history. So I looked up concentration camps and discovered that while they are most associated with WWII, that particular name was ascribed to prison and internment camps as early as the mid-1800s. Woohoo for new facts! However, then some makeup was described as being like Betty Boop, a cartoon character that didn’t appear until after the split in the history here. I can accept – maybe – that a character is described with a word that didn’t become popular until the 1940s our world, but I have a much harder time thinking that Betty Boop would also make an appearance in that close alternate world.

Posted in 2017, Prose, Young Adult | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Sunday Coffee – Break

Over the last couple months, especially this last month, I’ve had less time to spend on blog-stuff, and less motivation to go along with it. This has only increased as we’ve started remodeling our basement. With the boys getting out of school in a few days, a big change on the horizon, and a personal renewed focus on my health, I think I’m going to take a few months away from the blog. I’ll still be reading/commenting on others’ blogs, but I want to take some time away from reviews and other posts. Of course, I might get the itch to return in a few weeks instead of a few months, and if that’s the case, so be it. But I should be back by the time the kids start school again this fall at the latest. In the meantime, I hope you’re all well, and that you have a lovely summer season!

ETA: A few reviews may show up through the summer if I get around to writing out my thoughts on books I read. However, I’m not really here in full capacity and won’t be responding to comments or anything until after I’m back in August or September.

Posted in Personal | Tagged | 4 Comments

Strong is the New Pretty, by Kate Parker

Subtitled: A Celebration of Girls Being Themselves

This photo-journal is a collection of girls of all ages exhibiting all sorts of strength: confidence, kindness, independence, creativity, and more. I was drawn to the book during my mini-retreat to Minneapolis a couple weeks back because of the cover photo. As a former swimmer, I tend to get pulled in by these sorts of photos, and I loved the premise of the book. As a collection, it definitely delivered. So much is represented here. Athletics, dance, mud, teamwork, illness, color, religion, music, ability… Each photo is accompanied by a quote from the girl pictured. Some are profound, some are silly, and some fall everywhere along that spectrum. It was a lovely celebration, and I’m happy to have the book on my shelf.

Posted in 2017, Adult, Visual | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Wellness Wednesday #55: June 1st

buttonMay is a very tough month for me. It didn’t used to be, but since 2014, this month has become one filled with triggers and body blows. Psychological trauma, when compounded day after day after day, gets stored in your subconscious. It can come out again on anniversaries even when you’re unaware consciously that the anniversary has come around again. That can be a real problem when over a third of the days in a month have painful triggers attached.

I knew this month would be hard. I tried to prepare myself for it. My preparations generally failed. I ate too much. I drank too much. I had several breakdowns. I became agoraphobic and rarely left the house. My attempts to focus – even on little projects like typing a blog post – became big productions of strength and will to manage. It. Sucked.

(Starting to run again!)

Mid-month, I decided to make a few changes. I began my happy-picture project. At the same time, I decided to track my food no matter what for those 100 days, even if I binged. I decided to cut out all alcohol for those days, too, hoping that would kick-start my metabolism into actually losing weight. These last few weeks haven’t been easy, but things have improved health-wise. I’ve kept to my plans and have been rewarded with a slow downward trend on my scale. Additionally, my foot is finally mostly healed (yay!) so I’m slowly building up to more intense exercise again. For the first time since that sprain/break nearly two years ago, I’m really excited about weight loss, fitness, and my physical health.

June 1st is a time of renewal for me. Eighteen years ago, I had a waking up moment on this day, and every year, it feels like a new start similar to January 1st. This year, the feeling is stronger due to some recent personal circumstances that I’m afraid I can’t yet discuss on the blog. Point is, tomorrow feels like a real new beginning. I have real optimism for what this new year will bring for me, and I look forward to greeting that special day tomorrow.

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Most Anticipated Rest-of-2017 Releases

The rest of 2017 looks amazing when it comes to book releases that I’m anticipating. A few came out in the first half of this year, but there’s a ton to come still and some are ones I’ve waited for forever. I have a dozen of these, however, instead of just ten, and I didn’t want to leave any off, so here goes:

1. Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson – Most anticipated book of the year, period. I’ve already pre-ordered the Audible version. (November)

2. The Scarecrow Queen by Melinda Salisbury – For some reason GoodReads says this came out in March (maybe in the UK?) but I’ll have to wait for months to get to the end of the series here. Boo! (October)

3. The Savage Dawn by Melissa Grey – Another series ender I can’t wait to get my hands on. (July)

4. The Empty Grave by Jonathan Stroud – This is one of my favorite ongoing series and I’ll pre-order the audio as soon as it becomes available! (September)

5. Into the Bright Unknown by Rae Carson – Another series ender – lots of those this year! (October)

6. Mrs. Fletcher by Tom Perrotta – I just heard about this one a week ago! It sounds awesome and I just love Perrotta. (August)

7. Tarnished City by Vic James – I read the first book of this series a few months back and it was amazing. Hopefully the sequel will be just as wonderful. (September)

8. White Sand Vol 2 by Brandon Sanderson – While I’m not terribly fond of the art in these graphic novels, I will definitely keep reading for the story! (July)

9. All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater – New Stiefvater? Yes please! (October)

10. The Renegades by Marissa Meyer – This one, honestly, is on my to-investigate list. I adore Meyer but I’m not usually a fan of vigilante books, so we’ll see. I’m looking forward to seeing how she handles the subject. (November)

11. Wonder Woman: Warbringer by Leigh Bardugo – Like the last book, this is a to-investigate book because I adore Bardugo but I’m not a fan of superheroes. I can’t wait to see Bardugo’s take on the subject! (August)

12. Lethal White by Robert Galbraith – Okay technically this one might not come out this year. There’s still not a release date. But I hope I hope I hope so I’m putting it here anyway, haha. (TBD)

What’s on your list? What else good is coming out that I haven’t seen?


Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

Posted in Book Talk | Tagged | 6 Comments

Sunday Coffee – Rereads and Minis

It’s been a strange reading month for me. I’ve read a lot, far more than usual, and reviewed very little. The majority of that is due to rereads. After Readathon last month, I felt like diving back in to some of my old favorites. First I listened my way through the Cormoran Strike series by Robert Galbraith. Then I started up with the Raven Cycle audiobooks again. In between, I read a few new-to-me books. Those I enjoyed, I reviewed (or will review soon). Those I didn’t…well, I’ll just do a couple mini-reviews below. Beyond that, tons of my library holds all came in at once. Over a dozen arrived in the course of two weeks, many of them right before my mini-vacation. I have a whole stack to preview and either keep to read or cull from my to-investigate list. So far I’ve only made it through a few. The ones I still have left to go through (or plan to read through to completion) are pictured to the left, excluding the half-dozen in my audio queue.

And now, the mini-reviews:

The Husband’s Secret by Liane Moriarty
After my last experience with Moriarty, I wanted to read more. This book captured me right away, but when the titled-secret finally appeared, I felt sick. Nothing could make this secret okay, and the way the book dealt with it just furthered my sick-feeling. I had sick-dreams and a lot of immediate icky depression following my reading of the book. It was well-written, but completely turned me off of reading more Moriarty books for awhile, I’m afraid. There was one quote I liked, though:

There was no such thing as a good divorce for children. She’d read that somewhere, just a few weeks ago, before all this. Even when the split was perfectly amicable, even when both parents made a huge effort, the children suffered.

Miss You by Kate Eberlen (audio)
I loved the premise of this one. Tess and Gus are meant to be, but they keep almost-meeting and missing their chance. The book takes us over sixteen years until they finally do meet. Once again, I loved this one at first. Both Tess and Gus’ stories were interesting. However, at one point they both grew to be unlikable characters, and their individual lives went on for way too long. Probably 90% of the book was separate, and only 10% at the end once they finally meet. Maybe even less. It meant the book dragged on very slowly after a time, and then rushed at the end. There were some things about after they meet that really bothered me, but I won’t reveal them for spoiler-sake. The premise is one I always find interesting, but I often find the execution disappointing, and Miss You followed that same pattern. I wasn’t the biggest fan of the audio performance (Anna Acton and Finlay Robertson) either.

Posted in 2017, Adult, Book Talk, Prose | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

Literally, by Lucy Keating

Annabelle has the perfect life – until the plot-twists begin. Suddenly, her parents are separating and they’re selling the house she’s grown up in. A new boy appears at school and he’s perfect for her, but Annabelle is drawn toward another boy she’s always hated before. Worst of all, author Lucy Keating shows up in her creative writing course and announces she’s writing a new book, with Annabelle as the star.

So, yes, this is like Stranger Than Fiction in some ways, except that the author-character is the book author (or, at least, a fictional version of the book author). I think it was rather cheeky for Keating to insert a glamorized, fictional version of herself into this book. It was awesome. And then – how often can you say this? – this was a book full of flat, stereotypical characters that I actually liked because they were supposed to be flat, stereotypical characters. Of course, as they rebel against Keating (in ever more drastic ways), they become rounder, more real characters, breaking away from their fictional molds. Once again: it was awesome.

As a writer, I’ve many times had the experience of my characters rebelling against what I planned for them. Keating tells Annabelle at one point, “Elliot. He wasn’t even supposed to be a main character. He was just supposed to be Sam’s annoying friend, comic relief when you were at home. But he kept pushing his own boundaries.” It’s a familiar experience – side characters that suddenly grow into more, you discovering the depths of characters as you write and edit and rewrite and edit. I once spoke to my son’s elementary class about the writing process and I told them that rewriting was my favorite because you learn so much about the characters in the first draft that it’s like spending time with friends in the second. Sometimes the characters you create turn around and show you things about a book that you never even knew were there. And if you force characters away from what they would do organically…often it leads to stilted, flat scenes with stilted, flat characters. I love that Keating has taken that whole experience and turned it into a quirky fictional novel. It was a very fun read.

Posted in 2017, Prose, Young Adult | Tagged , | 3 Comments