04 June 2018

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Good Books for Young and Old

5 mini book reviewsLast week was insanely crazy with work. I had editing deadlines and writing deadlines all piled up on each other. But I still managed to finish five books and make progress on a sixth.

How did I do that? Mr. BFR was off fishing with his friends for the week. So I had all the time to myself. I read at all my meals, never turned on the TV, and had an audiobook on speakers whenever I could.

I'm happy he's back home, but I was also happy to get in so much reading time. Here's what I read.

Review of Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls, Books 1–2, edited by Fancesca Cavallo and Elena FavilliGood Night Stories for Rebel Girls, Books 1–2, edited by Fancesca Cavallo and Elena Favilli (Listening Library; 6 hr, 59 min, June 19). Put this audiobook (sold in two parts on Audible) on your reading list. Buy it for the young people in your life. Listen to it yourself. As the subtitle says, this is a collection of "200 Tales of Extraordinary Women," and the stories are inspiring, moving, and empowering. Forget the target audience of middle grade girls. Rebel Girls is for everyone: all ages, all genders. The stories are short, really short—but each is a biography of a rebel woman from ancient history to the current century. Some of the people everyone's heard of, such as Jane Austen, Marie Curie, Qui Jin, Sappho, and Frida Kahlo. Others were totally new to me (though maybe you'll recognize the names): Ameenah Gurib-Fakim (president & scientist), Wang Zhenyi (astronomer), Maya Gabeira (surfer), Grace O'Malley (pirate), and Eufrosina Cruz (activist and politician). Each volume contains the stories of 100 women and girls, arranged alphabetically and spanning the world. This is not a Euro-centric collection, and the women profiled excelled at politics, sports, science, cultural change, the arts, and more. The overriding message is that girls can dream of doing whatever they want: they can be smart, brave, and strong and if you don't believe it, here are 200 true-life stories to prove it. I am recommending, nay insisting, that you listen to Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls because the two volumes are brilliantly read by a cast of fantastic audio performers, among them Mozhan MarnĂ², Janeane Garofalo, Esperanza Spalding, Ashley Judd, Alicia Keys, and Esperanza Spalding. My full audiobook review will be available at AudioFile magazine, but let me assure you there are no weak links in the performances or the stories. (copy for a freelance assignment)

Review of The Perfect Couple by Elin HilderbrandThe Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand (Little, Brown, June 19): If it's summer, it's time for a new Hilderbrand novel. I can't say I've read all 21 of Hilderbrand's books, but I can say I've never been disappointed. This year's outing combines all the expected Nantucket details, great characters, up-to-date plot, and good food with a murder mystery. Just days after the island is recovering from the Fourth of July celebrations and tourists, the very wealthy Garrison-Winburys are hosting their son's wedding. Greer has managed the entire event (with the help of the island's best wedding planner and caterers) because her future daughter-in-law, Celeste Otis, is completely focused on her mother, who is battling end-stage cancer. There are delicious subplots involving secret affairs, a social media influencer who slept with her ex-boss, an airport security agent looking for love, an antiques dealer involved in fraud, and a famous author facing her first rejection. Everyone seems to be hiding something, and the cops are having a hard time figuring out the sequence of events that ended in the death of the maid of honor in the dark hours after the rehearsal dinner. This smart, sharp story is one of the must-read books of the summer. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 12 hr, 8 min) read by Erin Bennett. She did a fantastic job with the accents, pacing, and characterizations. I was captivated by her unforced expressiveness and easy-to-listen to voice. Get out your beach towel, pour yourself some expensive rum, put in your earbuds, and get ready for a trip to Nantucket. (audiobook copy provided by the publisher)

Reivew of Brightly Burning by Alexa DonneBrightly Burning by Alexa Donne (HMH Books for Young Readers, May 1): I love classic retellings and I love how Donne reimagined Jane Eyre as a futuristic, space age story. Earth is in the grips of an Ice Age, but the lucky humans are safe in space ships, orbiting the planet until it's safe to return to ground. Stella Ainsley was sent to live on an orphan ship after being rejected by her rich aunt. Despite becoming both a teacher and an accomplished engineer, she wants more out of life. So when offered a job as governess on a privately owned ship, the Rochester, she accepts, ignoring rumors that the ship is haunted. From there, the plot riffs on the main plot points of Jane Eyre, keeping all the familiar parts of the story—for example, Aunt Reed, a crew member named Poole, a secretive boss, and laughter in the night—but setting them on a space ship with cool technology. Stella is pretty kickass and doesn't let her heart get in the way of doing what she knows is right for humanity, herself, and her friends. I especially like the fact that Donne didn't hesitate to dispense with some of the original story arcs, thus keeping the story moving forward to a satisfying ending. If you haven't read Jane Eyre, you would still enjoy Brightly Burning, but a lot of the fun for me was recognizing characters and events from the classic. (review copy provided by the publisher)

Review of A People's History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A. VillarealA People's History of the Vampire Uprising by Raymond A. Villareal (Mulholland, June 5): Sometime in the near future a CDC virology researcher is sent to Arizona to investigate a suspicious death, but when Lauren arrives at the morgue, she's told the body has been stolen. Officials, however, can show her the body of another person who seemed to die under similar circumstances. Later that night, she's told the body got up and walked away. That day is forever known as Day 1 of the Nogales organic blood illness (NOBI). The story of what happens next is told a series of reports, newspaper articles, FBI documents, diaries, and interviews. The format is slightly derivative (see Mira Grant's Newsflesh trilogy or Sylvain Neuvel's Themis Files), but plot itself is unique, and the different perspectives on the vampire phenomenon are well thought out. For example, if people were infected by a virus that turned them into vampires, would they have rights under various disability laws? What if those people asked to be turned into vampires? Everyone has opinions on this and all kinds of other issues and complications caused by the rise of the vampires (called Gloamings in the book), including Hollywood, the Vatican, and Washington, DC. Meanwhile, Lauren and her team are interested in trying to isolate the virus and perhaps find a cure, and those acts are also considered controversial. A People's History of the Vampire Uprising is a fun addition to the vampire genre. The unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio, 13 hr, 26 min) is read by 10 narrators, including Christine Lakin, Robert Petkoff, and Karissa Vacker. I've grown quite fond of full-cast productions, especially when everyone does a good job. The expressive and well-matched performances added to my overall enjoyment of the story. (print and audiobook copies provided by the publisher)

Review of The City on the Other Side by Mairghread Scott, illustrated by Robin RobinsonThe City on the Other Side by Mairghread Scott, illustrated by Robin Robinson (First Second, April 24): Isabel lives in San Francisco with her high-society mother, who is more concerned with her own life than that of her daughter's. If it weren't for the household staff, Isabel would be left totally alone. When she is taken to live with her artist father for the summer, Isabel is even more isolated. Her dad has no household staff and spends all his time in his studio. One day when playing in the woods, she finds a fay who has crossed the veil into the human world. As Isabel touches him she is transported to an alternate San Francisco, where two fairy factions are at war. Before the fay dies, he gives Isabel the power to bring peace, if only she can find the rightful prince and heir to the throne. With the help of some new friends, she sets out to find the prince. The City on the Other Side is a fun middle grade comic about a lonely girl who finds her courage and learns to make friends. There's plenty of action as she escapes the bad guys and figures out who is trustworthy and who isn't. The illustrations clearly show the action and the characters' emotions, and the fanciful creatures, including a delightful friendly mushroom, are unique and well rendered. Recommended for younger readers who like adventure and fantasy. (copy provided by the publisher)


Beth F 6/4/18, 6:44 AM  

Commenting on my own post to get around the current blogger glitch.

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 6/4/18, 7:11 AM  

Sometimes it's so nice to have some time to yourself! Glad you got so much reading done!
I toyed with buy Rebel Girls for my daughter for Xmas last year, but she was only 4, so I thought I'd wait till she was a little older and can appreciate the stories a bit more.

Clarissa 6/4/18, 8:05 AM  

I cannot keep up with you! Every time I read your post, more goes on my to-read list.

I bought the Rebel Girls book as part of their kickstarter and gave them out to all the kids in the family as well as my son’s school. This is exactly the kind of role model stories we should be reading to our children the moment they will sit and listen.

rhapsodyinbooks 6/4/18, 8:50 AM  

The Rebel Girls book sounds great!

Susie | Novel Visits 6/4/18, 8:53 AM  

Wow! You did get a lot of reading in last week. Goodnight Stories for Rebel Girls sounds truly amazing. I'll eventually get it for both my granddaughters, but at 2 & 5, I think I'll need to wait a few years. In the meantime, I should listen myself.

bermudaonion 6/4/18, 9:02 AM  

It sounds like it was the perfect time for Mr. BFR to be away. Julie and I tried to get the new Hilderbrand at Book Expo but they ran out of copies right before we got to the front of the line.

Laurel-Rain Snow 6/4/18, 11:47 AM  

I love Hilderband's books, too, and I just realized I still have a couple of unread books of hers...yikes! Must find them and pull them forward.

Enjoy your reading, and thanks for visiting my blog.

Laurel-Rain Snow 6/4/18, 11:48 AM  

Oops! A misspelling of HILDERBRAND.

collettakay 6/4/18, 1:44 PM  

I've not read anything by Hilderbrand but I might have to add some to my wishlist! This week I'm reading a library book:



Yvonne 6/4/18, 2:20 PM  

I love Elin Hilderbrand books, but I'm so far behind on hers. I have to play catch up. Hope you have a great week!

Vicki 6/4/18, 2:48 PM  

I have a few of Hilderbrand's books that I still haven't read. Reading your post makes me want to read one soon.

Kathy Martin 6/4/18, 3:34 PM  

You read a nice variety of books last week. Sometimes it is nice to have some alone time to do what you want when you want. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Kathryn T 6/4/18, 3:38 PM  

Always good to have a little alone space to do as you please. I love Erin Bennett as a narrator so must look for this one on Audible. Story sounds like it has complications!

Kay 6/4/18, 3:51 PM  

Nice to have some uninterrupted reading time. I totally understand. My husband is in AZ for a few days on a golf trip. I miss him, but I'm glad he's well enough to go and it gives me a bit more reading time as well as watching a few old movies. I've read several of Elin Hilderbrand's books, but I don't think I knew this one had a mystery. Will definitely need to pick it up.

Sue Jackson 6/4/18, 7:00 PM  

Oooh...I want to read/listen to Brightly Burning! I like sci fi anyway, but I love Jane Eyre and just reread it last summer. Sounds great!

And The City on the Other Side reminded me that I didn't get the First Second catalogs this spring like I usually do - I need to contact them because I am missing my graphic novel fix!

Oh, and I love my husband, but alone weeks are the BEST! Good for you for leaving the TV off, too. My husband was away last week...but my two sons were home for college, so no quiet time and the TV on all the time! lol

Enjoy your books this week -


2018 Big Book Summer Challenge

Sue Jackson 6/4/18, 7:01 PM  

Just saw your comment at the top - what's the Blogger glitch??


Greg 6/4/18, 10:47 PM  

Ooh what a reading week! I think Brightly Burning sounds good (and I've seen a good review of it) and People's History sounds super interesting as well. Good Night Stories sounds like it would be a great gift as well, thanks for sharing it.

Have a super week!

Daryl 6/6/18, 11:09 AM  

another post filled with a lot of good books .. thanks

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