12 March 2018

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: The Mixed-Reviews Edition

4 book reviews, 3 book listsYawn! I hate the spring change to Daylight Savings Time. The fall doesn’t bother me, but it will take me all week to get used to waking up an hour early. I am happy about extra light at the end of the workday, but it’s so hard to adjust!

We’re slowing catching up on all the shows we missed during the February sports/speical events. Fortunately, neither of us is a basketball fan, so we’re spared March Madness.

Coming up this week I have a fun post over at the AudioFile Magazine blog in celebration of Pi Day. If you’re an audiobook fan, be sure to click on over on Wednesday afternoon.

What I Read Last Week

Review: The Hunger by Alma KatsuThe Hunger by Alma Katsu (Putnam, March 6): I’ve always had a fascination with the Donner Party story; people do desperate things in desperate situations. In this reimagining of history, Katsu provides a paranormal/spooky element to explain the wagon train’s misfortunes. You don’t have to know anything about the facts to enjoy the story, but if you’re familiar with the names and places (such as Jim Bridger and Chimney Rock) then the novel will be just that much more fun. I really loved the way Katsu mixed the facts with a good dose of creep factor. I don’t want to spoil anything, but I was particularly impressed with the way she provided an explanation for why only some of the survivors admitted to cannibalism. The unabridged audiobook (Penguin Audio; 10 hr, 34 min) was nicely read by Kirsten Potter. Her expressiveness added to the undercurrent of forboding and picked up on the characters’ personalities. Even better, I was grateful she didn’t give the ending away. Recommended in print or audio. (review copy)

Review: The Spring Girls by Anna ToddThe Spring Girls by Anna Todd (Gallery, January 2) I love modern-day retellings of beloved classics. It’s fun to see what favorite characters would be like if they could be transported a century or two into the future. Thus I was eager to read Todd’s version of Little Women. In this story the Spring sisters live on an army base near New Orleans while their father is deployed overseas. Their mother, renamed Meredith, has a hard time coping, and Meg, Jo, and Beth pitch in to help; Amy is too young to contribute much. That’s about where the similarities end. I found it very hard to connect the Spring sisters to the March girls, and it had nothing to do with the contemporary issues young women faced, such as social media, sex, and high school. Instead, this retelling just seemed to lack all the charm of the original. Amy is a spoiled brat, Beth is basically the family servant, the mom is emotionally absent, Laurie wears a man-bun and is half Italian, Meg is boy crazy, and Jo is clueless. Ugh. If I hadn’t had to listen to the audiobook for a freelance assignment I would have quit early on. The unabridged audiobook (Simon & Schuster Audio; 11 hr, 25 min) was read by Cassandra Campbell, Joy Osmanski, Erin Mallon, and Madeliene Maby. Their performances were fine (except Laurie is given a stilted and weirdly accented voice) but couldn’t save this retelling. (more on the audiobook at AudioFile magazine)

Review: Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi and read by the fabulous Bahni Turpin (Macmillan Audio; 18 hr, 9 min): I don’t know why, but I ended up bailing after about 90 minutes. I love Turpin’s performance, and I usually enjoy anything in the fantasy genre, but I just wasn’t getting swept into the story. I decided not to return the audiobook to Audible because I may give it another chance. I think part of my issue may have been one of language—the book contains quite a few non-English words and without a glossary and without seeing the words in the print, I think I simply kept getting lost; I was even having trouble remembering who the bad guys were. This book may be a good candidate for a print and audio combo read or maybe I’m simply better off reading this one with my eyes. I provided a short description of the book last week. (personal copy)

Review: Brazen written and illustrated by Pénélope BagieuBrazen written and illustrated by Pénélope Bagieu (First Second, March 6): I loved this collection of short biographies of 29 women who bucked tradition, expectations, or the law to fulfill their potentials and/or to make a difference in the world. The audience for this fabulous graphic / comic book is adult, though I wouldn’t hesitate to share it with teens or even middle grade readers (your own boundaries for young readers may differ from mine). I was familiar with some of the women, such as Temple Grandin (a scientist who is on the autism spectrum), Nellie Bly (fearless investigative journalist), and Josephine Baker (singer / dancer and French spy), but there were many other women who were new to me, such as Annette Kellerman (polio survivor, swimmer, feminist), Wu Zwtian (a Tang dynasty empress), and Sonita Alizadeh (an Iranian rapper). The artwork is expressive, colorful, and easy to follow. You may want to read this book all in one or go (as I did) or read only a biography or two at time. Perfect for Women’s History Month and a volume you’ll want in your permanent collection. (review copy)

Book Lists

I love themed lists of books (which comes as no surprise to those of you who read my weekly round-ups). Here are three that caught my eye last week.

  • Esquire magazine’s “25 Best True Crime Books Everyone Should Read”: I’ve read only a handful of the books on this list, but most of the others were already on my radar. Two of the recommendations (Helter Skelter and I’ll Be Gone in the Dark) were among the scariest books I’ve ever read—these are true stories (yikes!).
  • Bustle’s “21 Sci-Fi Books to Read after You Watch Annihilation”: Although I’m not quite sure I’d call them all science fiction (Welcome to Night Vale is on the list), most of the recommended titles look good to me. I’ve read very few of them.
  • Southern Living magazine’s “50 Books from the Last 50 Years That Everyone Should Read at Least Once”: There are some awesome, amazing books on this list (A Thousand Acres is one of my favorites), but there are also books that I know everyone loved but me (for example, Let the Great World Spin). Still this is a solid list, and I’d like to read many of the titles I’ve missed.


Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 3/12/18, 7:22 AM  

Wasn't I'll Be Gone absolutely terrifying?! I haven't read Helter Skelter yet, but I want to. Wish it was available in audio.

Thanks for sharing these lists!

Amanda 3/12/18, 8:35 AM  

There's a kindle 5-chapter sneak peek of Children of Blood and Bone up on Amazon for free, if you wanted to see if a print version will help you more. I read it back in January and have been itching to get my hands on the full book ever since. When it came out, I sampled the audiobook, and while I loved the narrator's voice, I was still getting confused despite having read the first few chapters in print! I've decided to read the book first and then perhaps try the audio again, because I'm about a fifth of the way through and can already tell this is one I'm going to read a couple times.

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 3/12/18, 8:35 AM  

I’m a huge fan of lists, especially book lists. I will have to check out the last list on your list of lists.

Mystica 3/12/18, 9:05 AM  

I like the cover of The Spring Girls.

Susie | Novel Visits 3/12/18, 9:06 AM  

The Hunger sounds fascinating and creepy. I'm going to keep it in mind, plus I picked up a couple to check out from your twitter feed last night. Thanks for that!

Harvee 3/12/18, 9:09 AM  

I'm reading two short story collections right now and the short biographies does look interesting

Kay 3/12/18, 9:49 AM  

I've read a couple of other good reviews of The Hunger. Interesting premise with the Donner Party. Have it on my list. I think I noticed The Spring Girls and hoped that one would be good, but I think I'll give it a pass now. Just too many better books.

Laurel-Rain Snow 3/12/18, 10:44 AM  

I loved A Thousand Acres...and also have the movie.

I am sorry that The Spring Girls was disappointing...and I'm glad I didn't buy it!

Enjoy your week...and hopefully you will adjust to the time change soon. I hate it too!

Thanks for visiting my blog.

Mae Travels 3/12/18, 11:11 AM  

Someone should write a book about the Donner Party and the overall American Imagination. Or maybe it's been done. Such an irresistible subject for more and more writing.

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Kathy Martin 3/12/18, 11:34 AM  

Interesting variety of books. I've seen Children of Blood and Bone touted lots of places but it doesn't grab me. I know I'm not in the majority here but -- oh, well. I can't like everything. The Spring Girls sounds like a nice idea that just didn't work well. I'll stick to Little Women which I actually liked a lot less than Little Men. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

(Diane) bookchickdi 3/12/18, 12:48 PM  

Brazen sounds interesting and it's too bad that The Spring Girls was a disappointment; I love modern retellings of classics as well.

Vicki 3/12/18, 3:04 PM  

Brazen sounds really good!

bermudaonion 3/12/18, 4:06 PM  

You're not the first one to say The Spring Girls is a miss. :( I don't like the spring time change either!

Sue Jackson 3/12/18, 7:01 PM  

Quite a variety for your last week! Sorry to hear that two of them didn;t work for you. I have heard lots of great reviews of Children of Blood & Bone, so maybe you are right & it is better in print.

We haven;t seen Annihilation yet, but I want to! I'm going to check out that sci fi list.

Enjoy your books this week...and good luck waking up!


Book By Book

Aj @ Read All The Things! 3/12/18, 7:02 PM  

I hate the time change. It messes up everything. I just added The Hunger to my TBR list because it sounds amazing. Have a great week!

Aj @ Read All The Things!

pussreboots 3/12/18, 11:02 PM  

I'm adding The Hunger and Brazen to my wishlist. Come see what I'm reading

Greg 3/12/18, 11:45 PM  

I'm not a spring ahead fan either. Or March Madness, for that matter. Which is good because more reading time. :)

The Hunger is one I want to read. And I'll have to check out that Bustle sci- fi list too. I'm intrigued by Annihilation and kinda want to see it, undecided on the book tho.

Heidenkind 3/13/18, 1:35 AM  

It’s amazing how fast that hour when we “fall back” goes, isn’t it? I actually love Daylight Savings Time, but I swear to god I spend at least a week wondering where my hour went.

Susan Schleicher 3/15/18, 12:35 PM  

I have been seeing The Hunger everywhere. I need to check it out. And The Spring Girls looks intriguing. Have a great weekend and happy reading!

Les in Oregon 3/17/18, 6:35 PM  

I'm very much interested in reading The Hunger. I read another book about the Donner party (Impatient With Desire by Gabrielle Burton) almost a decade ago and thought it was a worthwhile read. You can find my post about it here, if you're interested.

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