Jersey City, NJ | Member Since 2010
If You Could Be Mine is the story of two girls in Tehran who have been best friends since childhood. The protagonist, Sahar, is a very smart young woman on track for the top university in Iran. Nasrin is a spoiled rich girl whose parents are intend for her to marry as soon as she leaves high school. Neither of these situations is painted as unusual in Iranian society within the context of the book. Farizan clearly establishes the country's culture without it seeming intimidating or anti-Islam.
Negin Farsad's narration makes the story more emotionally resonant than I think it would be otherwise. Sahar spends a lot of time being angry about her situation (understandable), and defensive of her decision to pursue a sex change so she might marry Nasrin instead of her fiance. Farsad easily finds the essential nuances within that anger, creating strong, unwavering characters.
As the story is in first person singular, we don't see any of Nasrin's real feelings on the subject of her impending marriage beyond her outside behavior, and what she says to Sahar. I would have liked to know the complicated feelings going on in Nasrin's head as well; it surely could not have been easy to choose duty and a life of ease, or the love of your life.
Overall, I found If You Could Be Mine thoughtful and well-written, with fully developed characters and socially relevant storylines. I liked the insight into underground queer culture in Iran. I would have rather seen a sweet ending, or a bitter ending, rather than a bittersweet one, but I'm glad Sahar was able to make the choices she did.
Oh man... I love Francesca Lia Block, and this was totally going to get five stars from me. Spoilers spoilers spoilers. BUT.
Pen has sex with the Enchanted King on the Island, after Hex throws a fit about illusions and storms off without saying a) where he's going, b) if he's even coming back. It doesn't appear like he's coming back. For all intents and purposes, it looks like homeboy flew the coop and abandoned them all. Not to mention the Island is a wild place of enchantments and everyone is vaguely high on love drugs the whole time they're there. The King loves Pen and has seen her in prophecies. Built this whole island for her, so she would be in comfort, and rest in order to go further on her journey and put the world back to order.
Hex LEAVES. Pen, thoroughly distraught, turns to the person who appears to love her to most in the world and makes a conscious choice to sleep with them.
Which she then beats herself up about, slut shames, and generally is way too hard on herself without placing any blame on the situation Hex left her in. And then later is like, "But I was drunk and high and you know what that's like!"
And I'm like, girl, you made a conscious choice and that's okay! Hex fucked up too! You're both allowed to fuck up and still love each other! Abandoning your partner is not okay. Neither is cheating - but she didn't even know it was cheating, because he left.
And then she's pregnant.
Now, this is a retelling of Greek epics, which means this baby might be Achilles, but Pen has also been both Odysseus AND Aeneas so far, and the Iliad happens BEFORE The Odyssey or The Aeneid in episodic structure, so I don't know where Block is going with this.
Also I am SICK of women becoming pregnant to advance the plot. It's boring, cliche, and I expected better.
What a freaking thrill ride. Karen Abbott found four of the most interesting and well-documented women in the Civil War and took off like a shot. One narcissist, two socialites, one cross-dresser, all spies.
I'm relatively knowledgeable about the American Civil War thanks to my father and the constant rehashing of the history from 4th grade through high school. Never before have I read something that gets so perfectly in depth about what the hell happened in Richmond. The microfocus on this particular city lends more depth and humanity to each person we meet--whether that's Pinkerton (mhmm, how did you think they started?) or Stonewall Jackson (yeah, he's there, too.)
It was a great look at how thoroughly incompetent some of the Union Generals were. This is less a history-written-by-the-winners... there's a lot of facepalming over McClellan.
Anyway, give it a listen.
The narrator, Karen White, was not great. 3 of 5 stars for her. She has the tendency to read in a stilted, serious "this is nonfiction" pattern, rather give way to the delightful narrative flow Abbott provided.
I got caught up in my life, so Indexing took me by surprise when I saw it on the Audible homepage on Tuesday.
Narrated by Mary Robinette Kowal.
And I was like, Toby Day and Henrietta (Henry!!) Marchen* cannot have a similar voice, that would be weird.
But it wasn't that weird after a while. In fact, I kind of like it. Kowal's familiar hard-boiled cadence transported my brain into a similar, but entirely new, world.
Imagine the most powerful magical force in the universe was a neutral, non-corporeal non-entity that existed to do nothing but complete fairytales over and over again with whoever was handy. Now imagine that in order to combat the ever-invasive narrative (think of it as kudzu!), there's a government agency called the ATI - a little like the X-Files!
Every person has the potential to be drawn into the Narrative. Every fairytale has an index number, every tale is indexed and classified. And everyone, absolutely everyone, who has been drawn into the Narrative, is watched for the rest of their lives. Because when fairytales activate... there's a lot of collateral damage. There's no such thing as a real Ever After, or when there is, it's not good.
Indexing is a compilation of serial novellas, much like McGuire's "Velveteen Vs." series. I found the beginning to be very thrilling. It lagged a little in the middle, but picked right back up at the end again. I didn't realize it was a serial until afterwards, so parts of it felt extremely disjointed, and I was wondering if I just kept missing parts (I didn't!)
The thing I most love about McGuire's more recent work is her easy inclusion of LGBT characters. It always feels natural in her word, as natural as the magic that drives the plot.
Can't wait for the next one :)
*Loving the continued feminine full name with a masculine nickname trend. LOVE IT.
Mara Altman deftly tackles the extremely taboo first world problem of hair removal in modern America.
Of COURSE I don't want you to know about my unmentionable hairs. It's obvious I have arm hair, and sometimes I give up on my pits and legs for a few months at time because lalala I can wear tights and longsleeves, and I am Staunchly Feminist about my lower region. But I have parts you don't know about. Emergency tweezers in my purse.
We don't talk about this. EVER. We never talk about emergency tweezers, and Mara Altman WANTS TO TALK ABOUT IT. And it's a beautiful thing.
I wish we lived in a society where this was not a big deal. But if we did, then I wouldn't be able to listen to Mara's hilarious exploration of our culture, how it came to be, and the terrifying billion-dollar industry that now stands because of it.
In short, if you're a person who grooms, listen to this. Now. It'll take you like an hour. And you'll laugh and commiserate the whole way through.
Imagine a world where instead of Hollywood, the Kardashians, Real Housewives, and the Bachelor, you had The Super Patriots. And The Super Patriots had the world's best marketing division. And it's always on. Velveteen’s world looks and functions exactly like ours, except their celebrities are superhumans – and the marketing division decides the vantage points of good and evil. As you can imagine, anyone not with them must be against them – but when 95% of the world’s operational superheroes are with them… being against them gets a little tricky.
Velveteen is a superhuman whose focus has always been on the human, rather than the super. She wants the world to reflect that back at her. I do, too. She is a heroine I could have met on the subway yesterday.
When Seanan McGuire started writing Velveteen shorts, I don't think she expected her "silly superhero stories" to resonate so soundly with the world we live in, to tell a truth so firmly and make us laugh until we cry with poignancy and wit. I haven’t listened with a book without stopping for a long time but, I powered through Velveteen (clocking in at twelve and half hours) in almost exactly two days. That should tell you something about Velveteen and the enrapturing world she takes you to.
This book was fantastically written and has a great plot, but please see below for why it gets a 2 star rating from me. Spoilers. Spoilers everywhere.
Arielle DeLisle is a FANTASTIC narrator, and I will be looking for other books read by her.
Audrey McCarthy is your typical teen programmer - shy, introverted, and brilliant. She's also very poor - her dad died three years ago in a terrible work accident, and her mom is a lunch lady. When Public (read: Facebook) announces an app contest with Danny Beaton (read: Justin Bieber) as the spokesperson, she knows its her only chance to go to the college she deserves to go to. So, she programs The Boyfriend App - a sophisticated dating algorithm (read: OkCupid) with GPS capabilities that will alert you when your highest match is within 100 yards. While initially a great craze, the teenagers occasionally end up so mismatched that fights break out everywhere and BFA soon loses steam, knocking it out of the running to win. During an effort to get back in the running, Audrey accidentally discovers nefarious neurotransmitting software within Public's basic applications and OPS, and modifies it to turn BFA 2.0's female-only users into date-rape machines.
That's right, she programs the app to emit a sonic signal that elicits dopamine and oxytocin production in the brain of the user's target. User A likes Target A - she makes eye contact, turns the app on, Phone A sends a signal to Phone B, Phone B begins emitting the sonic signal, and Target A becomes her willing slave - all without knowing and/or understanding what is happening. This is sonic rohypnol.
Well, it's clear to me that you can't have a co-ed user base for this, since we would all automatically assume that boys would use it for sexy purposes and girls just use it for love and affection and makeouts. Good, clean things.
Audrey seems to understand that this is not an okay thing on an individual level, but that does not stop her from justifying its use for her gain. Two wrongs don't make a right, Audrey. This book could have a lot darker.
Of course, there's lots of techno-politics to keep it interesting - dirty corporate secrets, blackmail, all that good stuff.
It's all quite well-written. Slow in the beginning, but it picks up significantly.
I love reading about female engineers, and I love YA. This book was fantastic, but its promotion of using subliminal neurotechnology to remove a person's agency was extremely disturbing. It bothers me that Audrey didn't face any kind of consequence for that - she still gets the guy, in fact, he wasn't even doped when he came to her rescue in the first place, so that makes it all okay.
That and Katie Sise completely lifted the teenage fight/2.0 craze scene from Mean Girls - it was fun, and I understand why she would do it as it had to be a blast to write, but there was no originality there.
What a satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. May contain minor spoilers.
I love how neatly everything about Gwen's family was tied up - it was an excellent decision on Gier's part to head in that direction.
I love that the butler gets in on the adventurous action!
Nothing in the world is going to convince me to get behind Gideon, however, but that's mostly because I'm really bored of the Darcy trope. I get it, he's mean because he loves you. I did like their ending, it was sweet and well-deserved.
Oh, Francesca Lia Block, never change.
To be completely honest, I didn't even read the description for this book, so I had no idea what it was actually about until I started listening.
She wonderfully infuses grim dystopia with fairy dust. Love In The Time of Global Warming is a pretty straightforward retelling of the Odyssey, with (as usual, for her) a cast of teenagers, and mad scientists for villains.
It's lush, there's no better word to describe the writing. Smearing fairy dust under your eyes. Richly detailed.
I was never scared - I know the story of the Odyssey, but I loved the diversity of the cast, though at times it was a little too perfect. Block always makes sure to include the weird kids and the queer kids, and this book has them all in spades. I love that she breaks from heteronormativity and writes as if it matters without queerness being the focal point of the story. The journey about love is the story, about remembering your family, and how to get home.
Julia Whalen was a wonderful choice to narrate this dreamland. She gets the dreamy parts, and the exciting parts just right. She never breaks from Pen's truth.
I pre-ordered Not a Match because like many twenty-somethings living in the New York metropolitan area, I have tried internet dating. It's the the only way I to meet people and successfully filter out the creeps and crazies 100% of 75% of the time. If the cosmopolitan mating call of dark, expensive cocktail soaked lounges with too-loud music after 9 doesn't appeal to you, and for some reason your best friend's mother won't set you up with a nice Jewish boy... yeah, the internet is where its at. There are a lot of sites, a lot of members, a lot of weirdos, a lot of liars, and somewhere... SOMEWHERE... is your perfect match.
Just do the math. Literally. Brian Donovan wrote an equation for you (kind of.)
I've been on a lot of disastrous, semi-disastrous, or dull dates (and will likely go on many more), and I wish they'd been half as entertaining as Brian Donovan. His prose is sardonic, his wit dry, and his writing style entertaining.
Ax Norman was a great narrator; effusive where necessary, sarcastic in the right spots. He embodied the voice of Donovan's New York-style of storytelling very well. I kept reaching for my coffee thinking it was a cocktail and remembering I was in the office, and not a bar in the village, on a first date, listening to his stories.
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