Friday the 13th – Spooky Books!

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Happy Friday the 13th!

I don’t read much traditional horror – actually these days I mostly just read romance – but  I do occasionally enjoy a book that just gives me the creeps. Some paranormal, some thriller, some that are just disturbing.

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Bury Me by Tara Sivec
Narrated by Stephanie Willis

This is one of my favourites and one I recommend often, but you have to listen to the audiobook. Stephanie Willis, the narrator, does such an incredible job. She is SO creepy. Part of what makes me love Bury Me so much is that Tara Sivec is known for her sexy, funny contemporary romances. And this is SO not any of those things. I love when an author can test out a different genre and do it so well. I love when an author can surprise me. The book itself is full of surprises, too. Seriously, though, listen to the audiobook.

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You by Caroline Kepnes
Narrated by Santino Fontana

Caroline Kepnes did such an incredible job with this thriller that she kind of screwed herself over – at least for me. What I mean is that, I’m still so disturbed after listening to this book almost two years ago that I haven’t been able to pick up the sequel. You was sometimes categorized as a romance. THIS IS NOT A ROMANCE, but it is really seductive. Like Bury Me, I listened to this audiobook and the narrator, Santino Fontana, really made it for me. The second-person narrative rarely works, but it is perfect for this book.

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The Witching Hour
by Anne Rice

I spent most of my high school sophomore year reading all 965 pages (in hardcover. Pretty sure the paperback is ~1200) of The Witching Hour, including during a few science classes when I really shouldn’t have been. I read at the mom’s recommendation – apparently age fifteen is when a girl is ready for witchcraft and demon sex. Though, the year before she had decided I needed to see A Clockwork Orange. Afterward saying “Well, I had forgotten about all the rape”. So, The Witching Hour was pretty tame.

Honestly, I can’t say it scared me. I think Anne Rice is classified as horror and, in a recent discussion, quite a few others brought up this and others in the series as one of the most disturbing books they’d read. Even if you are like me and not scared or disturbed by the kind of evil this book deals with, it brings the spooky Halloween feels.

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Black Bird of the Gallows
by Meg Kassel

Black Bird of the Gallows isn’t quite spooky, but it gets pretty creepy and it’s chock full of magic and mythology. It also has a good swoony romance so it’s perfect to enjoy curled up with a hot beverage. Beautifully written and really fun to read.

 

What are you reading this weekend? I think I’m going to give myself the creeps with Daughters Unto Devils by Amy Lukavics.

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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.

Audiobook Review: Binary Star

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Binary Star
Author: Sarah Gerard
Narrator: Sarah Gerard
Where I got it: ListenUp (my employer)
Length: 3 hours
Purchase: ListenUp | Audible
GoodReads
Synopsis: The language of the stars is the language of the body. Like a star, the anorexic burns fuel that isn’t replenished; she is held together by her own gravity.

With luminous, lyrical prose, Binary Star is an impassioned account of a young woman struggling with anorexia and her long-distance, alcoholic boyfriend. On a road-trip circumnavigating the United States, they stumble into a book on veganarchism, and believe they’ve found a direction.

Binary Star is an intense, fast-moving saga of two young lovers and the culture that keeps them sick (or at least inundated with quick-fix solutions); a society that sells diet pills, sleeping pills, magazines that profile celebrities who lose weight or too much weight or put on weight, and books that pimp diet secrets or recipes for success.
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Audiobook Review: Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

Simon vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda
Author: Becky Albertalli
Narrator: Michael Crouch
Run-time: 6 hrs, 45 mins

GoodReads synopsis:
Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing with, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

My Review: 

Me + This Book Me + This Book

Simon, 17, finds solace in his family, friendships, and anonymously exchanging emails with someone who calls himself “Blue”. All that is threatened when a classmate stumbles across Simon’s emails with Blue and threatens to out Simon to the whole school if he doesn’t help him get what he wants. The story follows Simon as he tries to live his normal life – high school, drama club, his almost-too-supportive family, his friends and their dramas, falling for Blue, trying to figure out who Blue is – all while being blackmailed.

I loved it. Simon’s story is touching and swoon-worthy. Start to finish the characters are all lovable and relatable and real. It’s about high schoolers and high school drama but was able to avoid the eye roll-inducing effect that some YA has on adult readers. The atmosphere of Simon’s high school seemed so real and so Today- for example, rumors are spread and secrets are shared through the school’s Tumblr and the Spier family has Facebook scavenger hunts on Christmas Eve.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Michael Crouch. He has a really great YA voice and captured Simon’s emotions expertly. His character voices were subtle but distinct. I’ll look out for more narrated by him.

The story takes place in Metro Atlanta. My life also takes place in Metro Atlanta, so the references to local places were a really fun bonus. Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda is a really wonderful book and, if you like YA, should be your next book.

Audiobook Review: Searching for Grace Kelly

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Searching for Grace Kelly
Author: Michael Callahan
Narrator: Kristin Kalbli
Where I got it: ListenUp (my employer)
Length: 9.5 hours
Purchase: ListenUp | Audible

This book follows three young women living in New York City’s glamorous Barbizon hotel in the mid-1950s as they figure out who they are, what they want in life, and which path to choose to get what they want. There is Laura, who is interning at Mademoiselle and hoping to become a writer. She is a proper New England woman studying at Smith. Her roommate, Dolly, is in secretarial school, mostly hoping to meet a husband. The third girl in the group is Vivian, who works as a cigarette girl in a popular nightclub, but her true love is singing. The three explore the city, fall in love, have their heartbroken and get into trouble, sometimes really real trouble.

Searching for Grace Kelly surprised me. The characters are all multi-dimensional and interesting. I especially loved Vivian, but connected with all three. Fair warning, this story doesn’t end with a happily ever after. I like books that break my heart, at least a little, and this one did.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Kristin Kalbli. Kristin did such a beautiful job with this audiobook. The character voices were so real and perfectly suited to each character. She expressed the characters’ emotions expertly without taking away from the story’s words. I loved this as an audiobook.

Audiobook Review: The Good Life Elsewhere

The Good Life Elsewhere
Author: Vladimir Lorchenkov
Format: Audiobook (ListenUp Title – disclaimer)
Narrator: Daniel Thomas May
SynopsisThe Good Life Elsewhere is a very funny book. It is also a very sad one. In it, Moldovan writer Vladimir Lorchenkov tells the story of a group of villagers and their tragicomic efforts, against all odds and at any cost, to emigrate from Europe’s most impoverished nation to Italy for work. This is a book with wild imagination and heartbreaking honesty, grim appraisals alongside optimistic commentary about the nature of human striving. The Good Life Elsewhere aims to present the complexity of a new Europe, where allegiances shift but memories are rooted in place. The book integrates small-scale human follies with strategic partnerships, unification plans, and the Soviet legacies that still hang over the former East Bloc. Lorchenkov addresses the vexing question of what to do when many formerly pro-Soviet/pro-Russia countries want to link arms with their West European brethren. In Lorchenkov’s uproarious tale, an orthodox priest is deserted by his wife for an art-dealing atheist; a mechanic redesigns his tractor for travel by air and sea; thousands of villagers take to the road on a modern-day religious crusade to make it to the promised land of Italy; meanwhile, politicians remain politicians. Like many great satirists from Voltaire to Gogol to Vonnegut, Lorchenkov makes use of the grotesque to both horrify us and help us laugh. It is not often that stories from forgotten countries such as Moldova reach us in the English-speaking world. A country where 25 percent of its population works abroad, where remittances make up nearly 40 percent of the GDP, where alcohol consumption per capita is the highest in the world, and which has the lowest per capita income in all of Europe – this is a country that surely has its problems. But, as Lorchenkov also aptly shows, it’s a country whose residents don’t easily give up.

Review: The Good Life Elsewhere takes us on a miserable trek from Moldova to Italy and back again over and over. It’s miserable for the Moldovan villagers desperate to emigrate to Italy, but it’s a wonderful read for the rest of us. The story finds humor and irony in horrible situations and I was surprised that the comedy translated so well. The villagers’ attempts to improve their life, by leaving behind the ones they have, are range from downright stupid ideas to strokes of brilliance in their creativity and in their ingenuity. The stories are incredibly bleak, but the book still instills hope.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Daniel Thomas May, and loved it. His characterizations were amazing! For an American narrator to develop such a variety of unique Moldovan voices was very impressive. You don’t need to know a thing about Moldova to connect with these characters. Great book.