ARC August Book Review: A Curious Tale of the In-Between

IMAG0066A Curious Tale of The In-Between (Pram #1)
Lauren DeStafano
Paperback (ARC – BEA 2015)
Middle Grade
Amazon
GoodReads
Synopsis: Pram Bellamy is special—she can talk to ghosts. She doesn’t have too many friends amongst the living, but that’s all right. She has her books, she has her aunts, and she has her best friend, the ghostly Felix.

Then Pram meets Clarence, a boy from school who has also lost a parent and is looking for answers. Together they arrive at the door of the mysterious Lady Savant, who promises to help. But this spiritualist knows the true nature of Pram’s power, and what she has planned is more terrifying than any ghost.

Lauren DeStefano is beloved by critics and readers alike, and her middle grade debut is lyrical, evocative and not to be missed.

Review: Excellent Middle Grade read. When it comes to children’s book & middle grade books, I prefer a bit of magic and whimsy and this was perfect. When I think of great middle grade, I think of books that deal with real life pain and real life hardship, but still have the innocence and wonder of childhood.

Pram’s mother hangs herself while pregnant. Pram dies, too, but the doctors save her (conveniently, her mom chose a tree right outside of a hospital, so they got to her pretty quickly). Because of this, Pram has a connection to the spirit world and lives In-Between life and death. She lives with her aunts, who run an old folks’ home and is home schools until she’s 11. Because of this, her only friend is a ghost named Felix —

Obviously this is how I pictured Felix the whole time

— who spends his time around the pond at the home’s property.

Until, she starts school, where she meets sweet, blue-eyed Clarence Blue, who grieves for his mother. His grief has lost him most of his friends, but Pram knows grief well. The story follows their friendship and their quest to find their lost parents. The channels for finding them is a bit suspect and they end up facing very real danger.

Do you want to figure out your family secrets with your two best friends – one alive, one dead? DUH. If you like middle grade fiction have a middle schooler in your life, I recommend this one.

This was one of the many books I picked up at Book Expo America in May.

There it is. Yes, the spatula was BEA swag, too.

There it is. In with my BEA Day 2 Haul. Yes, the spatula was BEA swag, too.

We are looking to add new Middle Grade & YA audiobooks to ListenUp’s catalog, so those are the books I went to first. This was actually the first book I pulled from the stack to read. Bloomsbury has the audio covered, so ListenUp won’t get to do the audiobook, but it was  great book to be my first BEA ARC read.

ARC August Update

This week I am reading Need, by Joelle Charbonneau.  I’m not super impressed yet, but I’m not far into it. My ARC has a different cover than GoodReads & Amazon have. I like theirs better.

I’m listening to some spicy romance novels that ListenUp recorded – Watch Me and Naughty Little Secret, both by Shayla Black writing as Shelley Bradley.

I’ve finished and need to review Illuminae and Infinite Home (ARCs) and Never Let Me GoExpedition Indigoand The Martian (Audiobooks).

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ARC August Review: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything
Author: Nicola Yoon
Format: ARC (Print)
Publisher: 
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Release Date: September 3, 2015
Length:
320 Pages
Where I Got It:
Book Expo America

Synopsis: Madeline Whittier is allergic to the outside world. So allergic, in fact, that she has never left the house in all of her seventeen years. But when Olly moves in next door, and wants to talk to Maddie, tiny holes start to appear in the protective bubble her mother has built around her. Olly writes his IM address on a piece of paper, shows it at her window, and suddenly, a door opens. But does Maddie dare to step outside her comfort zone?

Everything, Everything is about the thrill and heartbreak that happens when we break out of our shell to do crazy, sometimes death-defying things for love.


Review: Sweet Lord Cleopatra this book is wonderful, wonderful. It has all of the things that are good about young adult romance and very few of the overused tropes.

Maddie was diagnosed with Severe Combined Immunodeficiency (SCID) as a baby and has spent her whole life since in her home. People with SCID are basically allergic to anything and everything – you know, like Bubble Boy.

Maddie’s whole house is  bubble, basically – her mom and her nurse, the only two people she ever has face-to-face interaction with (her brother and father died when she was a baby) – go through a sanitizing/disinfecting chamber before entering the house, there’s a very fancy air filtration system, etc. She is in school online and talks with her teachers and tutors through Skype. She doesn’t have friends beyond those she knows through Tumblr.

A new family moves next door and that changes Everything, Everything. By miming through their windows, then writing with dry erase, then moving to email and IM, Maddie and the boy next door, Olly, become friends. Then consider being more than friends – which is extra complicated since Maddie can’t leave her house or touch any one.

I devoured this book in a few hours. I could not put it down.

This year has been a good year in reading for me and I keep finding myself declaring books The Best Book I’ve Read This Year. I feel like I’ve said it so much that no one is going to take me seriously anymore, if they ever did. So, I won’t say that – though I’m thinking it -but I will say that this book will for sure be on my Top 10 List of the Year. Probably my Top 5. Maybe my Top 1. I think you should read it.

When the audiobook comes out, I’ll listen to it – though there are some visual aspects of the story that would be lost. If they made a movie, I would cast Zoe Kravitz or Zendaya as Maddie –

   

(or Amandla Sternberg – I assume we have a few years before this happens)

and for Olly, maybe Colton Haynes? I don’t know who is young and foxy other than JHutch and he isn’t who I picture as Olly. Who are young hot actors? Anyway, I’d watch that movie.

 

My giant BEA haul left me with about 50 ARCs. I might get to 10 of them before their release dates. Maybe fewer because I might just re-read Everything, Everything 10 times instead. Nicola Yoon is going to be at this year’s Decatur Book Festival and I’m seriously considering ducking out of Dragon Con for a few hours to try to meet her and let her know how special this book is to me.

Audiobook Review: Nine Kinds of Naked

Nine Kinds of Naked
Author: Tony Vigorito
Narrator: Kristin Kalbli
Publisher: ListenUp Audiobooks (Disclaimer)
Length: 11 hours 47 min
Where I Got It: ListenUp
GoodReads

Synopsis: Join cult favorite Tony Vigorito in his acclaimed, surreal whirlwind of a novel exploring chaos theory. A prisoner spins a playing card into a somersault, stirring a wind that becomes a tornado that takes off the roof of a church in nearby Normal, Illinois. Elizabeth Wildhack is born in that church and someday she will meet that prisoner, a man named Diablo, on the streets of New Orleans—where a hurricane-like Great White Spot hovers off the coast. But how is it all interconnected? And what does it have to do with a time-traveling serf and a secret society whose motto is “Walk away?”

REVIEW

I’ve been sitting on this review for awhile because I wasn’t quite sure what to say. I knew going in that this book was pretty out-there and unusual. After the audiobook was finished, it was sent to Tom Robbins, who had this to say:

“Tony Vigorito has created that rarity…, a novel of ideas that also happens to be entertaining. And yes, fun. And like those maverick classics, Alice in Wonderland and Gargantua, Nine Kind of Naked is as fanciful and inventive in its form, its structure, as it is in its observations. Like Hesse’s ‘magic theater,’… it fed tasty crackers to all the hungry parrots in my mental aviary.” – Tom Robbins

So, I knew it was some kind of special. I expected humor and weirdness. And, those two things were there, but I didn’t expect this book to be so soothing.

Nine Kinds of Naked explores the butterfly effect, except the butterfly is actually the wind. A very strong wind. A tornado. Its effects reach across time and the lives touched by it intertwine. The quirky character are developed through their philosophical banter. Vigorito uses language beautifully and powerfully. The whole thing made me smile.

It may feel a bit random in the beginning, but the characters various story lines eventually come together brilliantly.

This audiobook was published by ListenUp Audiobooks, where I work. So, I got to hear the narrator auditions. One in particular stuck out as absolutely hilarious, but we decided that it was too funny. It worked for one scene, but might not be a really pleasant listen for nearly 12 hours. Before listening to this, I was still on the fence about our decision, but now I’m confident that Kristin was the right choice. The overall story was such an unexpected joy and her voice was a perfect fit. I loved her character voices, especially Diablo and Elizabeth. I loved listening to scenes with both of them.

I really love this audiobook. I didn’t work on it directly, but I’m proud that it came from ListenUp. We also published another of Vigorito’s audiobooks, Just a Couple of Days, which I haven’t listened to yet, but I’m really looking forward to it.

Audiobook Review: Red Queen

The Red Queen
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Narrator: by Amanda Dolan
Publisher: Harper Collins
Length: 12 hrs, 40 min
Where I Got It: ListenUp
GoodReads

Synopsis: Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with red and those with silver. Mare and her family are lowly Reds, destined to serve the Silver elite whose supernatural abilities make them nearly gods. Mare steals what she can to help her family survive, but when her best friend is conscripted into the army she gambles everything to win his freedom. A twist of fate leads her to the royal palace itself, where, in front of the king and all his nobles, she discovers a power of her own—an ability she didn’t know she had. Except . . . her blood is Red.

To hide this impossibility, the king forces her into the role of a lost Silver princess and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks her new position to aid the Scarlet Guard—the leaders of a Red rebellion. Her actions put into motion a deadly and violent dance, pitting prince against prince—and Mare against her own heart.

Review

Red Queen is the Hunger Games with some magic thrown in. If it were a little different from Hunger Games, it would have been awesome. But I’m loyal to Hunger Games and I kept comparing everything that happened in Red Queen to it, which was really detrimental to my opinion of Red Queen.

Moving on – In the world of Red Queen, there are two kinds of people – Reds & Silvers. Reds are those with red blood. They are your normal, average, human people. Silvers have, yep, silver blood. They are the ruling class, mostly because they have special gifts and abilities. For amusement and to remind the reds of their strength, the silvers often use their powers to fight each other to the death in an arena.

Mare is clever and a surviver. She pickpockets to keep her family afloat and ends up with a job in the palace, where she (and the world) discover that she, despite being Red, has powers, too. The ruling family launch a cover-up.

I feel like I’ve read this story before and this version of it didn’t leave me very impressed. However, I did like the way characters were developed and the twists in the plot. I liked the family dynamics explored, both in Mare’s family and the royal family.

I think I may have enjoyed this one more not in audio. The narrator, Amanda Dolan, did not work for me. The choices she made as far as character voices and pacing were mostly fine, but I just didn’t like listening to her voice. If I decide to read the sequel, I’ll opt for print.

I found this fan casting from She is Booked on Tumblr. I’d watch it.

ARC August

Read, Sleep, Repeat is hosting the 3rd annual ARC August. An event to inspire us to actually read some ARCs. I have enough that I could only read ARCs for the next year, so I’m definitely participating. Plus, I need to get my NetGalley rating WAY up, because I’ve been truly awful over there.

Basically, this is me with ARCs:

So, hopefully this will help me get through some of my TBR stack!

Rules:

The rules are very simple

  • It may be a physical ARC or and eARC but it MUST be an ARC
  • Yes it can be an ARC that has released as long as it’s an ARC I’m not going to nit pick much
  • HAVE FUN WITH THIS! Feeling like you are being “forced” to read is the best way turn a fun event into a yucky obligation.
  • Update post!

I have my BEA haul to choose from, plus The Truth According to Us, by Annie Barrow (NetGalley – that one came out last month, but I haven’t gotten to it yet). Maybe a few more NetGalley ones if I’m approved.

Will you be participating?

Top Ten Tuesday: Ten Recently Acquired Books

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly event hosted by the Broke and the Bookish. Check out all of today’s participating blogs here.

About a month and a half ago, I acquired a lot of books.

Book Expo America day 1 haul. #bea2015

A post shared by Holly Bryant-Simpson (@hollishter) on

So, I’m going to be sifting through those for quite awhile. Right now I’m reading Illuminae and loving it.

I think next I’ll dive into either Girl Waits with Gun or Hunter.

I’m listening to Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro right now and will move to The Passion of Marie Romanov, by Laura Rose and Everything I Never Told You, by Celeste Ng when I finish.

Finally, I borrowed Radi Os, by Ronald Johnson from a friend. It’s a book of poetry made by cutting away parts of Paradise Lost. It seems really cool and I’m excited to read it.

What books have you picked up recently?