Wednesday, June 13, 2018

#AudiobookMonth: Revisiting The Chronicles Of Narnia as an Adult

I was hoping to tackle this topic during #WyrdAndWonder, but I just ran out of time. However, it is the perfect topic to talk about while celebrating #AudioBookMonth.  Awhile ago I decided to see if my library had the Chronicles of Narnia on audio, because I spent a lot of time as a kid reading those books and I wanted to see if the experience would be different for me listening to them as a adult. I ended up coming away with two main viewpoints:

  1. Holy, the Christian Allegory in these books is SO heavy handed
  2. I DEFINITELY never finished this series

I think as a kid I didn't really notice how heavy handed the Christianity themes were in these novels, which probably explains why my mother let me read them in the first place. (Sidebar: this is the woman that didn't let me read Harry Potter!) It's pretty clear in the Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe that Aslan is symbolism for Jesus, which I got even then, but there were some other things that I just never picked up on. I also think that the books are definitely a symbol of the time they are written in, because the female characters feel like they are never given any agency. Which annoys me so much, because it seems like Lucy is such a headstrong independent girl, but we don't really get to see Lucy as an adult. I think it's safe to say she is regulated into a traditional "women's roles" especially since Peter is the "High King" and all laws need to come from him. Which I never understood because Peter always seemed so boring to me!

I listened to the series not in the order of the publication date, but in the new chronological order. I think it makes sense to read them like that, but it was definitely a challenge when I was a kid trying to figure out what order I was supposed to read them in.I think this might be partly why I never finished the series. Although, I do think another reason I never finished the series is because at the end it's not about Lucy and her siblings, because they are "too old to go back to Narnia" but her cousin and his random school mate. WHY?? Why would I care about them? Spoiler alert, I did not care about them.

Here are my initial thoughts about each of the audiobooks respectively. There are definitely spoilers in this post, but these books came out in the 50s, so don't blame me that you haven't read them yet. One thing that I will say that annoyed me overall is that there was a different narrator for each novel, and I didn't like all of them:

The Magician's Nephew Narrated by Kenneth Branaugh

I actually liked this one, and I thought it was interesting to see a Narnia before the Pevensie siblings land in Narnia. It's a cool way to see why the White Witch is the way she is. I think it's also believed that the Digory in this story is actually the professor from the Lion, The Witch & The Wardobe, which I find super interesting. Kenneth Branaugh did a fine job as narrator, a little boring at times, but I didn't mind listening to him. 

The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe Narrated by Michael York

I think like most people this is my favorite of the series. It just brings back so many childhood memories! I still love it. I was a little thrown off when there was a different narrator for this one so it was a little jarring at first, but I think York was a little more interested in what he was reading than Branaugh. I would definitely recommend at least doing this one on audio.

The Horse and His Boy Narrated by Alex Jennings

So this is the first one that I think throws a wrench into things. This is the first book in the series that doesn't center about the Pevensie siblings, and maybe that's why I didn't like it. There's also a very footsteps "that's when I carried you" moment in this book that I felt was so over the top. I honestly don't remember much about the narrator in this one. They were fine, but I wasn't overly impressed. I also felt like there were some racist overtones in this one when talking about the Calormen people. Defintiely a product of the time, but still not okay.

Prince Caspian Narrated by Lynn Redgrave

This one is the first book when the Pevensie siblings return to Narnia, and it's how they first come to understand that time in Narnia works much different than their own. When they return they are legends in Narnia's timeline, even though not much time has passed for them. This is the point where Aslan deems that Susan and Peter are "too old" to return. That annoyed me so much! I get that is supposed to be a lesson of them growing up and moving on from childhood ideas, but it still annoyed me. I think this is first of the audiobooks that had a female narrator, which was interesting to me.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader Narrated by Derek Jacobi

This is one is definitely a fan favorite. It's all about adventure! In this one Lucy and Edmund get pulled into Narnia with their annoying cousin that they seem to really hate but then they are very concerned when he disappears. What happens to Eustace in his disappearance was my favorite part from this book. I didn't really like the narrator in this one, I thought his voice for Lucy was terrible. I have mixed feelings about this one, because this is the last one with Lucy and Edmund. Having a book about Narnia without Lucy just doesn't make sense to me.

The Silver Chair Narrated by Jeremy Northam

This the first book in the series after Lucy and Edmund are told they can't go back to Narnia and I have to admit I had a hard time with it. It's centers on the Pevensie's cousin Eustace and his schoolmate Jill. It just feels so weird to read about different characters in Narnia, but I think the plot about the Giants was really interesting. I'm not sure if we really saw Giants in Narnia before this.

The Last Battle Narrated By Patrick Stewart

Full disclosure I am VERY conflicted about the final installment of the Chronicles of Narnia. It's good because it wraps up the story and everyone that ever went to Narnia gets to go back, and Patrick Steward (CAPTAIN FREAKING PICARD) narrates it and he's amazing! On the other hand, the reason why Lucy and her siblings can come back to Narnia because the Narnia they went to wasn't the "real Narnia" is just utter bullshit and sloppy writing. Also there is a scene where Eustance & Jill put mud on their faces to blend in with the Calormen people. Um...what in the actual f, that is basically blackface?!? This part really bothered me, and it made me really realize that C.S. Lewis wrote this in a time when things like that was generally accepted. It 100% does not make it OKAY, and it really bothered me. It kind of put a bad taste in my mouth for the entire series. So it's safe to say, I was kind of relieved when I was finally just finished with this series.

So was after revisiting this series as an adult, how do I feel? I shouldn't have finished this series. The first couple are still interesting to me, and I still love The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, it will always be the first novel in this series for, just once Lucy is gone from the series, I don't really care.

What do you think about this series? Did you love it has a child? Would you read it as a adult?

Happy Reads Everyone!

Monday, June 11, 2018

Audiobook Review: The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Release Date: April 26, 2016
Format: Audiobook narrated by Priya Ayyar 
My Rating: 

Goodreads ★ Amazon ★ B&N ★ TBD

Fate and fortune. Power and passion. What does it take to be the queen of a kingdom when you’re only seventeen?

Maya is cursed. With a horoscope that promises a marriage of death and destruction, she has earned only the scorn and fear of her father’s kingdom. Content to follow more scholarly pursuits, her whole world is torn apart when her father, the Raja, arranges a wedding of political convenience to quell outside rebellions. Soon Maya becomes the queen of Akaran and wife of Amar. Neither roles are what she expected: As Akaran’s queen, she finds her voice and power. As Amar’s wife, she finds something else entirely: Compassion. Protection. Desire…

But Akaran has its own secrets—thousands of locked doors, gardens of glass, and a tree that bears memories instead of fruit. Soon, Maya suspects her life is in danger. Yet who, besides her husband, can she trust? With the fate of the human and Otherworldly realms hanging in the balance, Maya must unravel an ancient mystery that spans reincarnated lives to save those she loves the most…including herself.
I love a good mythology story, and The Star-Touched Queen reads so well as a mythology/folklore story. I saw that another reader asked the author on GoodReads what stories this is based on, and she pulled out a ton of different Hindu Myth stories that I have never heard of but now I want to widen my reading experiences and read at some point.

I feel that what really made this story come alive for me was the narration. I was super excited to hear a women of color narrating the story for another woman of color. I really enjoyed Priya Ayyar's narration, and I felt like all the different accents she does for the other characters felt so authentic. It really made me understand the culture of the world Maya lived it, and get a feel for a world unlike my own. I think I might have gotten some of this if I just read the text, but Ayyar's narration just really opened up this world to me. I also like that I could hear the proper pronunciation of everything in this book by doing the audio, where if I read it myself I think I would constantly be second-guessing everything.

Maya's story is an interesting one, she is pretty much shunned in her culture just because of a horoscope saying she would be entangled with death. The people in her life are incredibly cruel and essentially use her as a scapegoat for everything. Woman die in childbirth? It's Maya's fault. Wives get the sweating sickness? It's Maya's fault. The beginning of the novel was really hard to read because of how she was treated. It was just really heartbreaking to read, but I knew that something was going to happen for her to escape this life, so I pressed on. So if you are reading this book and are feeling the same way, I say you try to move forward before giving up on this one.

I will say that towards the middle of the book, is when the story lost me a little bit. Maya comes off a little too naive. As I was listening to events unraveling, I couldn't believe who she was listening to. It was so obvious that this person was tricking her! I couldn't stand it! I do think that's kind of the point, because although a lot of time has passed in the human world, Maya is still a young girl, and young girls make mistakes. Her journey to redeem herself and find herself back to Amar was one of the more interesting things about this book. It's also at this point, where Maya meet Kamala, who ended up being one of my favorite characters.

I also wasn't completely sold on the romance between Amar and Maya. I kept thinking that I missed something or fell asleep while listening to this audio, but I don't think I did. I was just very lukewarm on them, and it didn't feel like there was a strong feeling between them until they are separated. Maybe that was the point?

One thing I do love about this one is that it's one of the few fantasy standalones in YA! I have been on the search for standalone genre fiction, and it's really hard to find, especially in fantasy. There is a second book, but it's more a companion book about Maya's sister which I think doesn't matter if you read this one first. I love books like that.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Happy Reads Everyone!

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Audiobook Review: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Book Store

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Release Date: October 2nd, 2012
Format: Audiobook narrated by Ari Fliakos
My Rating: 

Goodreads ★ Amazon ★ B&N ★ TBD

A gleeful and exhilarating tale of global conspiracy, complex code-breaking, high-tech data visualization, young love, rollicking adventure, and the secret to eternal life—mostly set in a hole-in-the-wall San Francisco bookstore

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon out of his life as a San Francisco Web-design drone—and serendipity, sheer curiosity, and the ability to climb a ladder like a monkey has landed him a new gig working the night shift at Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore. But after just a few days on the job, Clay begins to realize that this store is even more curious than the name suggests. There are only a few customers, but they come in repeatedly and never seem to actually buy anything, instead “checking out” impossibly obscure volumes from strange corners of the store, all according to some elaborate, long-standing arrangement with the gnomic Mr. Penumbra. The store must be a front for something larger, Clay concludes, and soon he’s embarked on a complex analysis of the customers’ behavior and roped his friends into helping to figure out just what’s going on. But once they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, it turns out the secrets extend far outside the walls of the bookstore.

With irresistible brio and dazzling intelligence, Robin Sloan has crafted a literary adventure story for the twenty-first century, evoking both the fairy-tale charm of Haruki Murakami and the enthusiastic novel-of-ideas wizardry of Neal Stephenson or a young Umberto Eco, but with a unique and feisty sensibility that’s rare to the world of literary fiction. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore is exactly what it sounds like: an establishment you have to enter and will never want to leave, a modern-day cabinet of wonders ready to give a jolt of energy to every curious reader, no matter the time of day.
So going into this book I had no idea what I was getting into. I heard about this one on the Get Booked podcast, and it was suggested for someone that liked Lev Grossman's The Magicians, so I went into this one thinking there was magic and was slightly disappointed when magic wasn't a thing. HOWEVER! This book was still really interesting to me, because it is one of the first adult contemporary books I have read that I felt like related to my life. It wasn't just about married people having affairs! So this one was definitely a surprise to me, but I loved that it was able to weave tech and the book selling world together in a delightful marriage.

Like I said I have a real hard time with adult novels, because I just can't connect with them, but with reading about Clay's adventure I could really relate to him. Clay starts the book off telling us about how he used to be a designer for a bagel shop's corporate office and talks at length about the award winning logo that he built for them, when that job bottoms out and he finds the first thing he can (being a bookseller at a 24-hour store) he also really gets into the nitty gritty of the digital marketplace. I work in marketing, so I fully understand all the google paid search and remarketing ads he was doing, so I felt like I could relate to his life so much. I found it really cool to read about a contemporary person working in the same industry that I do. I also felt like it's explained really well in the book that if you had no idea how the digital ad marketplace works it's spelled out in this novel really well. I loved that he and his best friend were still obsessed with their favorite book series from childhood. I think a lot of people my age can relate to that.

I was kind of surprised the Google let their name be used so much in this book, because they tend to not want their name to be used because how it can reflect their brand. I honestly was tired of hearing about Google at a certain point. This book makes them look so amazing, so it's no doubt why they were okay with this.

One thing that did bother me was the love interest Kat. I liked that Kat was more interested in advancing her career than a romantic relationship with our protagonist. I also loved that she was a coder, but it felt that she was slightly a "manic pixie dream girl" when viewed from Clay's perspective. Honestly, I am a little more interested in a book about her.

I think if I read the text-version of this novel I might not have rated it as high. I definitely think that the narrator was a big part in why I liked this one so much. I don't think I have listened to anything Ari Fliakos has narrated before, but I definitely think I will be looking out for his other work. There's actually a plot-point about Clay listening to an audiobook and it makes him put some things together, but it's because of listening to the audio that he discovers this when he never put it together before. I loved that! Also, since this is the audio it switches from "Clay's voice" to the old-school book on tape he is listening to, and I think the narration here and the production done on it to make it sound that way was awesome! I definitely would recommend doing this one on audio over reading the text for that reason alone.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Happy Reads Everyone!

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

ARC Review: The Brightsiders By Jen Wilde

The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde
Publisher: Swoon reads
Release Date: May 22nd, 2018
Format: Egalley, 304 pages
Source: Netgalley*
My Rating: 
★ 1/2

Goodreads ★ Amazon ★ B&N ★ TBD

A teen rockstar has to navigate family, love, coming out, and life in the spotlight after being labeled the latest celebrity trainwreck in Jen Wilde's quirky and utterly relatable novel. 

As a rock star drummer in the hit band The Brightsiders, Emmy King’s life should be perfect. But there’s nothing the paparazzi love more than watching a celebrity crash and burn. When a night of partying lands Emmy in hospital and her girlfriend in jail, she’s branded the latest tabloid train wreck. 

Luckily, Emmy has her friends and bandmates, including the super-swoonworthy Alfie, to help her pick up the pieces of her life. She knows hooking up with a band member is exactly the kind of trouble she should be avoiding, and yet Emmy and Alfie Just. Keep. Kissing.

Will the inevitable fallout turn her into a clickbait scandal (again)? Or will she find the strength to stand on her own?
This was my first time reading a book by Jen Wilde, but she might be familiar to YA readers if you have read Queens of Geek. I have that book, but I just haven't gotten around to reading it yet. Her latest installment, The Brightsiders is actually already available for sale, but life got in the way for me and I wasn't able to finish this advanced reader copy until now. I have to admit that I have some complicated feelings about this book, and I really struggled with how I should rate this one. 

On the one hand I think this book does something that a lot of YA books need to strive for, and that's have a diverse group of characters. Our main character Emmy is a bisexual female, Alfie is genderqueer and pansexual, Chole is a black non-binary person that uses they/them pronouns, and Ryan is an Korean-American also in the queer community. There are also some other side characters that are also queer. It was great to read about people not like me, because I really want to read from different perspectives that don't mirror my own. The diversity in this book never felt like it was forced. The way Wilde writes all these different characters made it feel so natural. They were just living their lives being themselves, and that's exactly how it should be. It also was a different experience for me to read about a non-binary person, it took some getting used in the writing, but I think that is just because it's not something I'm familiar with or have read in a book before. 

I did find myself not being able to put this book down because I just wanted to find out what was going to happen next. For me that is an indication that I am really enjoying a book. For me, books don't always get a higher rating because the writing or plot is particular amazing, sometimes if I just have a good experience with a book and really latch onto the characters I give it a higher rating. This is why I'm conflicted, because I did really enjoy it a lot, but I have some issues with the plot that makes me reconsider what type of rating I should give it. 

Here's my issue with the there one? It seems like a lot of the plot just hinged on drama with Emmy and her god-awful gaslighting parents, and her ex-girlfriend. It just felt like not much else was going on. It felt like some of the plot points were just way too dramatic and it was unrealistic. I even found myself rolling my eyes at some of it, because most of this book is just really about a famous girl getting chased my the paparazzi all the time, and it wasn't all that interesting. But I also have to keep in mind that Emmy is young, and she still is a teenager. Everything is so dramatic when you are 17. I also expected this book to be more about the music since they are in fact a band, but it felt like it focused less on the band making music and more on Emmy's dating life and the downsides of being famous. There's nothing inherently wrong with that, I think I just wanted something a little more out of this one.

Do you recommend this one? ABSOLUTELY! If you are seeking a diverse read, and are okay with reading about someone cutting off contact with emotionally abusive people, I say go for it. It has a happy ending, so I think you will be satisfied when you finish it.

Have you read this book? What do you think? Do you think this is one you will add to your TBR?
*I received a free egalley copy of this book in exchange for my honest review

Happy Reads Everyone!