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’ve never read Breakfast at Tiffany’s before this, though I saw the movie years ago. I was surprised to learn that the book is so different than the movie, and I feel like I need to watch it again now to compare. If you’ve only seen the film version of Breakfast at Tiffany’s you may be interested to read the source material behind the classic film. The tone is totally different, and there are some major plot changes.
The story centers on Holly Golightly, a flawed and flighty girl of nineteen living in New York City. She wakes up her neighbors late at night, and asks them to let her into her apartment since she always forgets her key. That’s how she meets her neighbor, the unnamed narrator of the story. Holly dubs the narrator Fred after her brother, and the two become friendly. “Fred” is a writer, and the free-spirited, dark and damaged Holly is his muse. Fred gets caught in the web of Holly’s crazy life.
Breakfast at Tiffany’s was originally published in 1958 and the slim novella packs a lot of story into its 150 or so pages. Truman Capote’s writing makes you feel like you’re the narrator getting to know Holly, and leaves you just as captivated/confused/appalled as he is. It is a complex character portrait that kept me guessing to the end.I can imagine this book was quite controversial for its day, especially in regards to the frank discussion of sexual identity, and even gay marriage.
This is his Michael C. Hall's first audiobook performance, and he really commits to the story. I think the audiobook is the perfect way to experience the book for the first time. Hall’s tone has a richness to it, and he makes each character sound distinct. Hall uses different accents and voices in his performance that help to paint a vivid picture. I preferred his male voices in the audiobook overall, but Halls’ Holly captures her quirky and complicated essence. At just under 3 hours long, this audiobook delivers a compelling, nostalgic story.
Sinner is a book about two supporting characters from Maggie Stiefvater’s Wolves of Mercy Falls series, Cole and Isabel. I will always have a soft spot for this series because of Shiver, one of the first paranormal books I truly loved. But, I never really warmed to Cole and Isabel per se; I was usually waiting for the story to go back to the lead couple Sam and Grace. I’ll have to say though that Sinner shows that Cole and Isabel are quite interesting in their own right! Sinner feels like a totally different story that’s less rooted in werewolf lore and more reality-based. With a new LA locale and a little distance from Forever, Sinner forges its own path.
In Sinner, Cole St. Clair leaves Minnesota for LA to record a new album, while a reality TV crew tags along to document the process. But the Real Reason Cole’s in LA is to be reunited with girl-that-got-away Isabel Culpepper. Isabel is in LA with her family, working in a boutique and going to school. Isabel and Cole are their own worst enemies in terms of getting back together – both are very headstrong and stubborn and masters at hiding their emotions. And just maybe a reality TV setting is not the best backdrop for their reunion.
Cole is trying to put the pieces of his life back together, mending fences, trying to live the straight edge life, and rebuilding his band. His band NARKOTIKA was once larger than life and the reality show gig will help reintroduce him to fans. But the producer of the show has less than noble intentions and would like nothing more than for Cole to trip up live in front of the cameras. How does Isabel fit in with this plan?
Isabel thought she put Cole behind her- but when he marches into her store back from the dead all the old feelings she’s buried come back. Isabel is dealing with some family drama in the House of Ruin and processing her parents’ seemingly inevitable divorce. Adding a werewolf in LA to the equation is all she needs. Didn’t she leave the wolves behind her? She’s not sure what kind of surprise his arrival will bring.
It’s an entertaining ride watching Cole and Isabel get reacquainted and figure out what they want in life. I’m glad Maggie Stiefvater thought to give these two their own story. It’s been ages since I’ve read the Shiver books, but this book is so completely different it doesn’t matter.
Dan Bittner and Emma Galvin narrate the audiobook, reprising their Forever performances. Both narrators give a lot of personality to these larger than life characters. Emma Galvin plays tough very well, and Dan Bittner is a good choice for the gregarious Cole. There are some cool side characters in Sinner; from Cole’s driver friend Leon, to Baby the reality TV producer, to Isabel’s cousin Sofia, and the narrators bring these characters to life as well. Cole also has to participate in some radio interviews to promote himself and the audiobook production gives it an authentic feel. At the end of the audiobook there’s a Maggie Stiefvater bonus track featuring her Sinner book playlist song Taking On The Sun.
This is a different sort of book for Maggie Stiefvater and I like it! It’s more contemporary in feel than paranormal, and more mature as well. You can still recognize Stiefvater’s lovely prose though and it is good to be back with these characters. Fans of the Wolves of Mercy Falls should check out this book, even if some of the details of the trilogy are kind of fuzzy.
Jenny Han’s latest book hits just the right notes for summer reading. To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is funny, touching, romantic and fast-paced and the perfect contemporary YA choice for your beach bag. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Lara Jean’s story as she navigates her way through love, friendship and family drama.
The scoop on To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is that Lara Jean is the quiet middle child – overshadowed by perfect know-it-all Margot and precocious younger sister Kitty. Lara Jean is kind of the Jan Brady of the group. The three Song girls lost their mother at a young age, and Margot takes on a mothering type role for the family. When Margot leaves for college, she also breaks it off with boy next-door Josh, someone who happens to be a secret letter recipient. Awkward! With Margot now off in Scotland, Lara Jean has to step up and help her dad by taking on some more responsibility. But first she has to deal with the repercussions of her secret letters that are now no longer a secret!
The delivery of the secret letters puts Lara Jean’s life in an uproar. Sweet family friend Josh is obviously confused to receive a love note from his ex-girlfriend’s sister (even though Josh and Lara Jean kinda liked each other first.) Then, popular, handsome, charismatic Peter Kavinsky receives his letter and that changes the game altogether. Perhaps they can help each other make their objects of affection jealous by staging a fake romance? (Lara Jean still has a crush on Josh and Peter is not quite over his ex) Sounds like a perfect scenario right- what could go wrong?!
Lara Jean has to gain confidence and put herself out there for the first time- no more hiding behind secret letters or her sister Margot. She’s a little shy and awkward which makes her more endearing. But going through these new challenges could give her just the confidence boost she needs.
To all The Boys is a love letter to sisters as well as to first crushes. The sisters are so close since losing their mom and honor her by keeping family traditions alive. The girls are half Korean and their dad makes sure to include Korean meals as one of the ways to remember their mom. Lara Jean’s cultural observations were also insightful.
Narrator Laura Knight Keating is a good fit for this audiobook, and brings out the humor in the story. She sounds age appropriate and differentiates all the characters. Her pacing is good and overall I think she did a solid job overall and I’d listen to her again in the sequel. The audiobook is a Whispersync for Kindle title and it’s quite affordable if you own the kindle edition.
Listen to To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before if you like: Contemporary YA, Anna and the French Kiss, The Summer I Turned Pretty series, and romantic comedies.
This book features two outsiders that form a friendship so I totally get the Eleanor & Park (and The Fault in Our Stars) comparison you see in the official description. If you like those books you will probably like this book as well, though Cammie McGovern forges her own path with her novel.
Amy has cerebral palsy, uses a walker to get around and a voice tablet to communicate. She excels in school in every area except socially, and aims to remedy that in her senior year of high school. She convinces her mom to hire peer aides instead of a professional aide to help her out at school as a way to break the ice and make some friends. She particularly wants Matthew to apply because he’s the only person that really sees her and tells it like it is. Matthew, along with four other students/aides, alternate days with Amy, and before long their connection deepens. Matthew’s OCD tendencies work in his favor to make him an attentive and thorough aide, though Amy wants him to set his sights higher.
Amy and Matthew both have their challenges to overcome, though McGovern shows that they have the same hopes and dreams as everyone else. Everyone has their issues, as we see in Amy and Matthew’s friendship circle, and some are just more visible than others.
With the trend being alternating first-person pov, it’s refreshing that McGovern chooses third person pov for Say What You Will. I still was able to connect to both Amy and Matthew, though the third person format also created a barrier that was somehow appropriate to the story. McGovern does a great job of keeping the tension up throughout the novel, through distance, and other twists in the narrative. This is an emotional book that I thought about even when I wasn’t reading it. I still kind of wish McGovern didn’t have to go there with the twist in this novel, though I get that it made sense for the characters to go through this challenge.
Rebecca Lowman (Eleanor & Park) performs the audiobook, furthering the E&P comparison. Lowman’s voice works well for mature YA titles like this, and I like listening to her because her vocal work complements the story and doesn’t detract. I did speed up the audiobook though to about 1.5x since this was a “re-read” for me – the audio quality was still good at that speed so take from that what you will. In the book there are some email and text exchanges between Matthew and Amy so if that is a pet peeve for your audio listening (hearing the email addresses called out several times) you may want to pick up the print edition. I didn’t find it annoying personally.
Listen to Say What You Will if you like: Smart contemporary YA, quirky characters, books that challenge you, and a side of dramarama in your stories.
We Were Liars is about a group of four family friends that call themselves the Liars. They summer with their families every year at an exclusive island off Cape Cod. During the 15th summer everything falls apart, and our unreliable narrator Cadence (Cady) Sinclair Eastman suffers a head injury and selective amnesia. The reader follows a scant trail of breadcrumbs to put it all together, but still, the final act will likely shock you.
It took me some time to warm up to this group of privileged teens. But as the book wore on I got more curious about Cady, her cousins Johnny and Mirren, and her love interest Gat, the outsider, who only see each other in the summer and live separate lives during the school year. Issues of class, race, gender roles, and privilege are on the table among the Liars, and their old-money families are at the mercy of Cady’s grandfather who holds the purse strings.
After the mysterious incident in the 15th summer, Cady returns two years later a different person. She’s dyed her hair black, has memory loss and migraines, and gives away her belongings. And adding to the mystery angle, all the Liars and family members are instructed not to tell Cady what happened two years ago. My mind was going to all kinds of dark places, but I was still way off base.
With the setting and Cady’s foggy headspace there is a dreamy quality to the book that is further enhanced by the dark fairytales that Cady references in the story.
E. Lockhart’s writing is smart and poetic, and the book is cleverly crafted. I did feel detached from the story and the characters at times, but I’m thinking that’s part of the design of the book. Even if you feel a lack of connection to the story at first the mystery has a great payoff in the end that gives you all the feels.
Narrator Ariadne Meyers made Cady’s confused state of mind believable. Her tone of voice is convincing when portraying these blue blood type characters. The pacing was fine and the male and female voices and age ranges were distinct. One reason you might want to go with the print version instead though is to flip back for reference. With a high concept book like this with so many surprises, the audio makes it tricky to go back and re-listen if you need to. However, listening to the story does make it feel more mysterious and chilling and Meyers does a good job selling this story.
Listen to We Were Liars if you like: High concept mystery, literary YA, unreliable narrators, and twisty stories.
Akhil Sharma’s Family Life is a mostly autobiographical novel that tells the story of the Mishra family who immigrate to the US from India in the 70s in pursuit of a better life. Their welcome to the states is short-lived, however. A tragic accident soon occurs that shatters their hopes and dreams.
Family Life is a slim audiobook, but this is not a book I could read in one sitting, personally. The Mishra family story is emotionally draining, and though there are lighter moments sprinkled into the narrative, mainly this book just made me sad.
The story is that the Mishra family is starting to adjust to life in the US, and their eldest son Birju is thriving and accepted to the Bronx High School of Science. A tragic swimming pool accident leaves Birju severely brain damaged, and his younger brother Ajay and his parents are left reeling.
The point of view of Family Life is from Birju’s brother Ajay’s perspective. We follow Ajay from age 8 to 40 and see how his family collapses after the accident. Ajay’s dad turns to alcohol, and his mother devotes her life to caring for Birju. Ajay is kind of left to his own devices in a new country and new school. He has few friends and is bullied, but finds his way through books and writing, and achieves academic success. Though even his success is tinged with sadness, as Birju never got the chance to reach his own goals.
Akhil Sharma packs a punch with this novel, and makes you feel the impact of the family tragedy straight to the gut. Sharma plays with time over the novel, as Ajay starts out a kid trying to find himself, to an academic superstar, to an accomplished adult. It’s somewhat easier to digest this story through Ajay’s eyes, which brings some lightness to the situation. The book touches on race, culture, alcoholism, depression, and family and gives you a lot to think about.
Narrator Vikas Adam conveys Ajay’s character from a high voiced 8-year-old to a serious 40-year-old man, and his emotional ups and downs over the years. The audiobook makes the story feel even more real, as Adam brings Ajay’s parents’ struggles to life. Adam performs the novel with an authentic sounding Indian accent, and makes you feel a connection to the characters. However, even though this audiobook is just under 6 hours long I had to take frequent breaks from listening because the subject is such a downer. I have listened to Vikas Adam before in Katie McGarry’s Crash Into You and look forward to hearing more from him.
What’s the Story? - Julie Murphy’s debut Side Effects May Vary is an unconventional cancer book, with an unpleasant protagonist. What happens when you’re supposed to die, and you even complete your bucket list, but you beat the odds and survive? How do you live with the decisions you made when you thought you were dying?
Petulant Protagonist - Much of your reading experience will depend on how you react to Alice as a character. She is difficult to say the least. She uses her cancer bucket list as a way to exact revenge on her jerk of an ex (Luke) and her adversary (Celeste) that stole him. I don’t mind flawed characters and I appreciate the unconventional approach Murphy takes with Alice’s character- she makes a cancer patient unsympathetic. But personally I thought Alice’s character made this book a chore to read at times.
Time (Clock of the Heart) – Side Effects has a “Now” and “Then” device, that illustrates where we are now (cancer remission), and how we got there with then (living with cancer, bucket list). Time jumps between now and then, introducing pieces of the puzzle to put together throughout the book.
He Said, She Said - In addition to the now and then story structure, Side Effects features dual perspective, with Alice and Harvey (her long-suffering friend/love interest) taking alternate chapters. This was a good choice for this book. Alice and Harvey don’t have the best communication so being in their heads allow us to see where they’re coming from.
Love Story - Alice and Harvey grew up together since their parents are best friends. Harvey loves Alice and she strings him along for much of the book. They are not best friends or boyfriend-girlfriend, but something undefinable that makes for a messy, misunderstood relationship. I can’t say I shipped this pairing and I wanted so much more for good guy Harvey.
Mean Girls - This is probably the first revenge/cancer book I’ve read, and the pranks in this book take a page right out of Carrie.
Ballerina out of Control - Another activity that links Alice and Harvey is ballet. Harvey’s mom runs a dance studio, where Alice danced and Harvey played piano. Alice is a gifted dancer, but isn’t sure if she wants to stick with it. Now that she’s well, can she find her way back to the studio?
Reach for the Stars – Alice and Harvey have some growing to do in this book. Alice has to learn to live now that she has the opportunity, and Harvey also has to decide if he can move on from Alice, or what if any relationship they can have. There is character growth, and it’s realistically portrayed. Nothing is going to come easy for these two or change overnight, and that’s okay.
Listen to this audiobook and call me in the morning -Cassandra Campbell made the voice of Alice a little more palatable. Though Alice’s words and actions are harmful at times, Campbell’s performance is fair to the character and she doesn’t make her sound like a monster. You could feel her emotional struggle and torment in her voice. Kirby Heyborne’s Harvey performance is gentle like the character, and matures over the course of the book. Heyborne is a good choice for nice guy characters, though he is certainly capable of conveying the frustration and intensity of the character as well. Though the performances were satisfying, this is not a book I wanted to listen to all the time, due to the nature of the story.
Golden Boy is an intense and emotional read that centers on Max Walker, an intersex teen. We follow Max’s story through the eyes of the important people in Max’s life: Max’s parents, brother, doctor, and girlfriend, and Max as well. This book provides food for thought about gender roles and identity, and this book really stretched my mind. Max’s story is inspiring, heartbreaking, and thought provoking. If you’re interested in crossover books, gender issues and just great storytelling I think you’ll really respond to Golden Boy.
The multi-POV format works very well in Golden Boy. It’s enlightening to get different reads on Max and see that how people react is not necessarily what you’d expect. The parents (Karen and Steve) provide the history and why they made certain medical and gender choices about Max from the beginning, and where there was conflict between them. Steve’s POV comes in late in the story, and before that we have to rely on only Karen’s side of the story. Max’s younger brother Daniel is quite a character – he says just what he means, and hero worship’s Max. Archie is Max’s doctor and is one of the first in Max’s circle of trust. And Sylvie is Max’s love interest.
This was my first book on intersexuality and it opened my eyes about my own gender assumptions. There are not a lot of fiction or YA books out there that tackle intersexuality and gender issues and Tarttelin expertly addresses these topics and makes me hunger for more.
This book had me so on edge- I was so worried about Max and angry and stressed about the situation. At one point at the end I was afraid I’d throw my iPhone across the room but thankfully it didn’t come to that. I had to put the book down though after a very traumatic incident in the narrative- it was just so vivid and upsetting. But my thoughts kept straying back to Golden Boy and I returned of course to finish this powerful story. Abigail Tarttelin seems like she’s well versed in the intersex topic and makes this book informative and quite gripping. The multi-pov’s work together so beautifully and give the reader such a well-rounded reading experience. Can’t wait to read what Tarttelin writes next.
Audio notes – Yay for full cast audiobooks! This audiobook is perfection- there’s a narrator for each characters’ POV, which fully brings Max’s story to life. The vocal performance of Max in particular is splendidly portrayed. It was just like listening to a play, so well acted and full of emotion. I did speed up the narration a little bit because I was eager to find out what happened and the audio sounds great at 1.25x.If you are inclined to listen to audiobooks, you won’t regret listening to this one.
Easy fans rejoice: Breakable is finally out! Easy is Jacqueline’s story, about a college girl with a broken heart who is reeling after an attack. She falls for her savior, Lucas, who has his own battle scars. In the second book in the Contours of the Heart series we get Lucas’ backstory. Plus, we get to see the events from Easy from Lucas’ perspective. This book answers all your burning questions about Lucas, and if you are a Lucas fan (*raises hand*) this book is for you!
Breakable is two stories in one, and Landon/Lucas are two halves of the same coin. Landon’s chapters deal with the past, up until he leaves for college. Lucas’s chapters cover the present day, including the college years and his relationship with Jacqueline. If you’ve read Easy you know that there is some terrible tragedy in Landon’s past, and hearing about it from Landon’s perspective is about as heart-wrenching as you might expect. Landon’s life unraveled in a heartbeat and that’s spelled out in all its glory. The stories hinted at from Easy are fleshed out and we see the journey that led him to be the man he is with Jacqueline.
It is so cool to get Lucas’ perspective of the events in Easy and to fill in some of the blanks about this mysterious tattooed and pierced “bad boy.” I have to say all my questions about Lucas were answered in Breakable. Some of the things I wondered about from Easy: Does Lucas have any friends (besides Francis the cat?) How did he end up at the nightclub dancing with Jacqueline? Why did he keep up the Lucas/Landon deception for so long? Why was Lucas so distant before winter break? And did Lucas know about “Operation Bad Boy Phase?” All of these questions and more are answered in Breakable.
Every Lucas/Jacqueline scene is included in Breakable, plus bonus scenes. You don’t have to read (or re-read) to Easy first because a lot of the story is covered, though it is through different eyes. I did re-listen to Easy recently though and didn’t feel like Breakable was repetitive. It was so interesting to me to see the story through Lucas’ pov, and Lucas’ voice is very distinct from Easy’s Jacqueline.
Zachary Webber performs this audiobook, and I’m familiar with his narration from Red Hill, A Beautiful Wedding, and Maybe Someday. Fun fact: Zachary is Tammara Webber’s son! So, that must have been a benefit to be able to ask mom about a characters’ accent, or pronunciation or what have you. Webber has a throaty voice that’s a good fit for Lucas. He has to go through a full range of emotions to perform Lucas/Landon’s parts. Webber does a great job of conveying Mr. Maxfield’s emotional landscape in Breakable, from his childhood years to the present day. He has a wide range of voices in his repertoire, from Lucas’ calm and cool voice, to the various girls/women in his life, and he does a mean “old man” voice. I sped up the audiobook a little because I was impatient to get through the book, though Webber’s pacing was steady and consistent throughout. I’d listen to this audiobook again.
This series is essential New Adult reading and I'm eager to see what Tammara Webber has cooked for us next.
Faking Normal is Courtney C. Stevens’ debut novel, and it’s one I’ve had on my radar for a few months since I’m a realistic fiction fan. It’s about a girl dealing with the aftermath of a traumatic event, and how she copes, and who she can turn to in her darkest hours.
We piece together a mystery in Faking Normal. We know that Alexi is hurting from an event that happened over the summer. We can see her hurt herself, and avoiding social events, but we don’t know why. Alexi keeps it all inside, like the title says, and can’t confide in her friends or family. Help comes from an unlikely source in the form of Bodee, a boy who is also suffering a great deal. Even though his pain is also so raw, or maybe because of that, he sees through Alexi’s façade and is able to get through to her the way that no one else can.
Though I haven’t been in Alexi’s specific situation, it felt to me that her behavior was realistic given the circumstances. We all have things we keep to ourselves, and the pain of Alexi’s secret felt very real. My heart went out to her, wanting her to reach out to someone for help, but understanding she was not physically or mentally ready to do so. She cuts as a coping mechanism, and another source of comfort are the lyrics the mysterious “Captain Lyric” leaves for Alexi on her desk at school.
Alexi’s friendship with Bodee is one of my favorite parts of the book. Sometimes people are there for you right when you need him, and Bodee is so sweet and careful with Alexi that he makes her feel truly safe.
I picked up the audiobook of Faking Normal, because I saw that one of my favorite narrators Emma Galvin performs it. Galvin does well with a variety of genres, but I think she’s particularly successful with action packed reads like Divergent. That said, Galvin connects with the characters and makes Alexi’s pain feel real. Galvin uses a Southern accent to go with the book’s setting, and makes both the male and female voices sound distinct. Lyrics play an important part in the narrative, so this book is probably just as powerful in print, though I didn't feel like I was missing out with the audio.
Faking Normal is a powerful, emotional read along the same vein as Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson. Alexi’s story arc is satisfying even though everything is not completely tied up at the end. Looking forward to reading more by this author.
Matthew Quick’s latest book, The Good Luck of Right Now, is a coming of age about a man learning to live on his own after his mother’s death. Bartholomew is pushing 40 but has missed a lot of social milestones, like making friends, having a drink with a girl at a bar, or getting a job. He’s working on his personal growth strategy by writing letters to Richard Gere, an actor his mother admired.
Like Quick’s other books, The Good Luck of Right Now is offbeat and filled with quirky characters, with a focus on mental health, religion, and personal discovery. It’s happy, sad, heartwarming, strange, and very entertaining.
Bartholomew Neil’s story plays out through his letters to Richard Gere. He spends his time going to church, talking with family friend, the recently “defrocked” Father McNamee, and studying up on Buddhism at the library. His crush on the “Girlbrarian” is another reason that Bartholomew needs a lot of study time.
Bartholomew also has an angry voice inside of him that eats at him and he has a lot to work through. Bartholomew’s grief counselor wants him to work on his self-improvement goals, and to be more independent. He meets a kindred spirit at a support group. Max is grieving his beloved cat, and his Tourette’s means the f-word appears almost every other word in his scenes. In what Bartholomew would call synchronicity, it turns out Max is the girlbrarian’s brother.
The action shifts from Philadelphia to Canada when the group of misfits leave town on an important cat/dad finding mission.
The title plays very much into the philosophy of the story, and refers to the flip side of bad luck. Bad, terrible things occur to the characters in the book, and Bartholomew’s mother taught him to put a positive spin on bad luck. Maybe their bad luck means someone else will have good fortune. It’s a theme that comes up time and again.
Oliver Wyman does an outstanding job with the audiobook narration, and really inhabits the characters. His Bartholomew is kind and sincere, but Wyman also brings that angry voice to life as well. I also really enjoyed his voice for the cat obsessed, foul-mouthed Max. The book is so cinematic in feel like Quick’s Silver Linings Playbook and benefits from Wyman’s skilled narration.
Though this book is written with an adult audience in mind, I think that it definitely has YA appeal, with its unconventional coming of age story. I really liked this offbeat story, and since there is a movie in the works, I’m already trying to cast it in my head. I hope Richard Gere makes a cameo at least! If you like quirky, heartwarming books about road trips, mental illness, and self-discovery, or Matthew Quick’s other books, this one might be right up your alley.
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