Book Review: The Everlasting Rose

The Details:

The MUCH anticipated sequel to The Belles is on its way in 2019– and it is worth waiting for! If you’re unfamiliar with The Belles, it may be helpful to check out my review of Dhonielle Clayton’s first book in this YA Fantasy series lush with commentary on societal beauty expectations and power. Basically, the Belles have control of arcane magic to shape the bodies and manners of human beings. Without them, people fade to gray (gris). When a twisted monarch takes the throne, however, the Belle power is under attack, as are the Belles themselves.

Camille, former favorite of the Queen, is on the run with two Belle sisters and her former body guard, Remy. Together they must avoid capture and lead the resistance against the queen, which includes uniting with some unusual allies. Who can Camille trust? The answer is: almost no one.


Lots more interesting world-building in this book, including more details about how Belles are “born” and mythology on where they came from. The idea of beauty is less of a focus here. The tagline “The Resistance is Here” on the cover really hits at the essence of this book. Corrupt power has to be met with resistance, both violent and nonviolent. The development and use of Belle magic in battle scenes is a real change here– and an interesting one.

Only downside for me was a bit too much reliance on newsprint and letters to build the plot in the first quarter of the book. When a character is “reading” so much important information rather than gathering it in a more active way, it can slow down the flow a little. Otherwise, tons of great scenes, awesome character development, and a new host of teacup pets to wish were real.

Over all, a satisfying second book, with hints that a third could be possible here? No cliffhanger, exactly, but lots of details that leave the reader eager to return to Orleans.


The Details:

The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton, out March 5, 2019 by Freeform

Add it to your Goodreads shelf and pre-order on Amazon or IndieBound.


Thank you NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review!


Me? Sleep? Why would I do that??

I’ve been averaging 4-5 hours of broken sleep a night for the past two weeks. I don’t know if the baby is going through a growth spurt or if I can just diagnose it as “baby wierdness” (a real and all-too-prevalent condition). No matter the reason, I have to be up with him when he’s up and audiobooks have been keeping me company.

I always roll my eyes when people say that listening to audiobooks isn’t “really reading”. Sure, my eyes aren’t tracking each word, but my brain is engaged in the same imaginative exercise– sometimes moreso since I’m half-dreaming in the middle of the night anyway. Being read to, especially by a great narrator, can make chores more bareable or these middle of the night feedings more alert.

I admit I have an audiocrush on more than a few of them. What follows are my audiobook narrator crushes, and no, Jim Dale isn’t on there (although he has my undying love for his fantastic work on Harry Potter)

Narrator Stand-Outs

First, Bahni Turpin.

Turpin narrates quite a few of the books in my Audible library, including The Hate U GiveThe Underground Railroad, and Bad Feminist. She could read my grocery list and I would toss all the money at her.

Second, Wil Wheaton

I hadn’t read, or listened to, any John Scalzi before this year, but Wheaton’s voice is the perfect companion to his quirky sci-fi texts. The Collapsing Empire got me hooked with not only Wheaton’s voice, but also the kick-ass cast of strong ladies, and I dug into his older works with Wheaton narrating the Trekkie homage of Redshirts (a perfect pairing for us The Next Generation fans).

Third, Rebecca Soler

Ms. Soler’s voice is the one that’s been keeping me company the past few weeks. Too tired for overtly “literary” works, I turned to Marissa Meyer’s The Lunar Chronicles. They were honestly delightful with a wide variety of accents and pacing in her reading. Soler, obviously, enjoyed reading them as well. You can hear it in her voice, and in the interview between Soler and the author after the end of Winter, the final book in the series.

Thanks, Rebecca, for keeping me conscious.

BP-SN_350wFourthKatherine Kellgren

I bought the Timeless Tales of Beatrix Potter for my kiddos, and Kellgren’s reading brings Potter’s work to life in a way that I envy (and, with a background in theater, I like to think that I’m a pretty good reader to my children). She sings tunes to Potter’s made up songs and uses voices that somehow sound both refined (because of the accent) and hilarious. My kids laugh every time– their favorite is “The Tale of Squirrel Nutkin.”

Fifth, Readers of Long, Long, Long Books

I like big books and I cannot lie. I like them even more when someone else reads them to me, but I can only imagine the strain and time that goes into narrating forty-hour-plus novels. A few stand-out examples:

  • Stephen Fry’s Sherlock Holmes, a 62 hour behemouth, which also includes personal commentary by Fry about some of the stories
  • Anna Karenina read by Maggie Gyllenhaal, which clocks in at 36 hours. I’m not sure I would have gotten around to reading this classic otherwise, but it touched me to my core with her sensitive reading. Gyllenhall talks about this experience here. 
  • Another book I never would have taken on was Infinite Jest, read by Sean Pratt. I would love to sit down and talk to him about the process of reading this book– the layers upon layers and the footnotes upon footnotes. I ended up buying a physical copy to pair with the audio version, mostly for footnote reference, but Pratt’s wry timing partnered well with Foster Wallace’s surrealism.

Finally, Authors who Read Their Works Really, Really Well

And that’s not all authors, unfortunately. A few in my collection who do, however:

  • Arnold Lobel reads his collection of tales about best friends in Frog and Toad Audio Collection. Lobel’s recordings have stood the passage of time since he has been dead for many years, and his easy pace and diction, plus emphasis on the fun, make him an ideal reader to children.
  • Unlike her collection Bad Feminist, Roxane Gay chooses to narrate Hunger herself– and it was the most stirring thing I listened to last year. Even if you don’t love audiobooks, you need to check it out.
  • As you would expect with a comedian, Trevor Noah is the best possible reader for his memoir Born a Crime. The funny parts actually made me laugh out loud, and the horrifying parts were devestating. I try not to judge people’s reading habits because books are great in all forms, but I feel like you miss half of the experience if you don’t hear him read it.

There are many more, of course, (like Alice Walker’s warm reading of The Color Purple that will leave you breathless).

Maybe you don’t like being read to any more. Maybe you haven’t tried it lately… but maybe you should. There are so many fabulous recordings out there to keep you awake, teach you something new, and make you laugh or ugly cry(oh lord, George Newbern’s reading of A Man Called Ove did me in).

What’s the best audiobook you’ve ever heard? I have three credits on Audible burning a hold in my digital pocket.

Bookish Resolutions for the New Year

I’ll be doing my end of the year wrap-up in a few days, but wanted to pass along my most recent essay as you’re setting your reading goals for the New Year:

Bookish Resolutions for the New Year

Goodreads challenge

I reached my goal of 125– and surpassed it by almost another 30 (still a few days left in the year!) Would love to hear about what you’re planning to read in the new year.


Southern-Set Book Pairings to Try

It’s funny how books end up accidentally being in conversation with one another, just because you happened to pick them at the right time. Those accidental connections and conversations between texts are some of my favorite things about reading, so I have a few suggestions for book pairings if you’re stuck in a reading rut.

The American South has never been a particular interest of mine. I’ve taken classes about Southern lit, but not being from the South myself meant a certain amount of distance or extra context needed. For some reason, though, I keep picking up great Southern-set books this year that I can’t stop recommending. In an ideal world, I would adore seeing these authors in conversation with each other on an actual panel, but life rarely works like that. If you have further suggestions for either category, let me know in the comments!

Modern Southern Art and Trauma Narratives

I reviewed Nick White’s debut earlier this year, and I just finished Whitaker’s novel last week. I couldn’t put either down easily. White’s book is as points disturbing and thrilling, unraveling the narrator’s past at a “homosexual rehabilitation” camp. Whitaker’s book follows two women as they archive their childhoods in animation and the ways their relationship sustains and complicates their lives.  Both texts tackle film, memory, and trauma in the American South in really interesting ways and an AWP panel with these authors would be worth the plane ticket anywhere, in my opinion. Let me know if this becomes a thing, because these two authors have some very interesting ideas about creativity and the way art twists the past.

Too-Real Civil War-Themed Dystopias

In Ben Winters’s novel, slavery continues to exist in four of the US states. One young black man works as a bounty hunter to recover a slave called Jackdaw and gets sucked into an abolitionist ring called Underground Airlines. I won’t ruin the plot further, but this book is a dystopian thriller, which seems to be Winters’ sweet spot.

Omar El Akkad’s book, on the other hand, while dystopian, shifts more toward the literary than the commerical, and is one of the most sober books I’ve read this year. El Akkad was a journalist for years, covering stories from the Arab Spring to Guantanamo Bay, elements which clearly appear in this book. American War is set during and after a second Civil War.  Readers trace the history of a girl, Sarat, and her transformation from civilian to warrior. What her cause becomes remains the question up until the end of the novel.

These books are incredibly different in tone, but what they hold in common is a a kernel of unrest and brokenness that speaks to why dystopian novels are so powerful. I can’t guarantee that if you loved one, you will love the other. I will say that they both get at the heart of personal choice in the face of a national crisis.


I would love more book suggestions for either category! Post below if you’ve got them!

Book Review: ARTEMIS by Andy Weir

The Review:

I nearly bailed on this one– but am glad I didn’t.
Like many readers, I was blown away by THE MARTIAN. With such a huge breakout book, a second book has high expectations.

What this book isn’t: like THE MARTIAN in theme or character
What this book is: a rouge-ish caper for the future of the moon

Jazz , our narrator, was born in Saudi Arabia, and her single father moved her to the moon colony Artemis at age six. Because of the reduced gravity, Jazz’s prospects for ever living a safe life back on Earth are limited, but no fear– she’s made a life– or multiple lives– for herself on the moon. Not only is she a delivery girl, but also a smuggler with big ambitions, all while trying to get her permit to lead expeditions on the surface to rich tourists.

When offered a job with a fee she can’t turn down, Jazz gets more attention than she’d like and that kind of attention comes with knives and death threats. A caper helps ensure not only Jazz’s survival, but the future of a democratic moon colony, and her crew is up to the challenge– almost.

The reason I nearly ditched the book early on was a “man writing woman” tone to Jazz’s character. For instance, she describes how good she looks in an ensemble she’s putting on as a disguise. Similarly, Jazz talks often about liking sex, or having it a lot, but never seems to have sexual attraction at all on the page. When it does happen, it feels forced. However, Jazz is entertaining to follow because of her wry sense of humor and distinct, if twisted, understanding of right and wrong.

Much of Weir’s first book laid on the shoulders of the title “Martian,” but the strengths in this book come in the ensemble cast of complicated, riotous personalities. Jazz’s father is a favorite character in the book, as are her various personalities in power that she comes up against– the policeman Rudy, the head of the tourist tour program, Bob, and former best friend, Dale.

Weir paints an interesting setting for this novel. Unlike THE MARTIAN, ARTEMIS focuses not one what is possible in the very near future, but what could be possible in the next fifty years. The characters live in interconnected bubbles with all the necessary components of life. Weir’s books are “sciencey” sci-fi, but never so overly technical that the reader gets lost.

Over all, the first fifty pages are a bit of a character study and the “love” plots of the book don’t work well for me as a reader, but the rollicking plot and chemistry of the characters kept me hooked. As far as I’m concerned, a good follow-up book with room to grow for his third.

The Details:

ARTEMIS by Andy Weir (Crown Publishing)

Release Date: November 17, 2017

Find it on Amazon, B&N, Parnassus, or add it on Goodreads!


Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review

Book Review: Spoonbenders

The Review:

The Amazing Telemachus Family was disgraced on national TV years ago and hasn’t been the same since. A generation later, and minus the family matriarch, Teddy and his now-grown children Irene, Frankie, and Buddy view their psychic gifts as more curse than blessing. Add into the works a mob boss calling in his due, a secret government program, plus all of the trappings of the early 1990s and you have the recipe for a raucous new novel by Daryl Gregory.

I’ll keep this review as spoiler-free as possible, but let me start off with a few comparative books and movies that came to mind. Spoonbenders has the hilarious dialogue of Arrested Development with all of the flawed and complex characterization of The Corrections. Unlike Franzen’s deeply unlikeable characters, however, Spoonbenders shows the depths– funny and tragic– while also keeping you solidly on the side of the Telemachus clan. Standout characters for me included Irene. She, perhaps more than her siblings, showed how truly double-edged a “talent” can be.

This novel is told in alternating perspectives from the POVs of family members. Each chapter advances the overall plot and helps describe the “how we got here” portion of the backstory. In my experience, it’s hard for an author to balance the back and front story, but Gregory did it with ease and I tore through this book in three solid sittings. At points, I even found the backstory portions of this novel hilariously Infinite Jesty. And while Gregory’s book delves into the weird with unabashed joy, it doesn’t range as far as David Foster Wallace does– to the book’s credit. Simply put, this book is a twisty family drama, heavy on the humor and light-to-medium on the sci-fi.

Completely taken by surprise by this book. Add it to your TBR if you’re looking for a funny, thrilling book.

The Details

Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory

Published by: Knopf on June 27, 2017

Find it on: Goodreads, Amazon, B&N, and Parnassus


Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Lying Game

The Review:

Four friends from boarding school share a common secret, but how long can something stay hidden in a small town, especially if that something is a body?

Fifteen years after their expected graduation date, Isa receives an urgent text from her friend Kate. When she and the others rush to Kate’s side, they discover that their secret is in jeopardy. The past isn’t the only thing that threatens the group, as threats begin to surface. Somebody knows something.

For Isa, the stakes to keep the secret are high and make her a compelling narrator. She’s been forced to lie on her job forms. She’s keeping secrets from her boyfriend. Besides all of that, she’s a strong woman, caught in the fraught new-ness of motherhood. Can I just say that a leading lady in a thriller who is a nursing mother is one of my favorite aspects of this story? Bravo, Ruth Ware, for tackling the complicated and often antithetical worries of those early months of parenting, mixed up with a heart-racing plot.

I’m also a sucker for boarding school stories and rural England, and Ware paints all the trappings of both in bold. If you liked her other novels, including The Woman in Cabin 10 , you’re sure to like this one. Another great mystery from Ware, with fascinating leading women and some heart-racing moments. Lots to love about this mystery.

The Details:

The Lying Game by Ruth Ware, Gallery/Scout Press

Release Date: July 25, 2017

Find it on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, or Parnassus

Thanks to NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: The Girl with the Red Balloon

The Review:

34448522What if there were a group of magicians responsible for getting people out of war zones and oppression to safety? This idea is central to Locke’s premise, and delivers well in the two plot lines they put forth in this book (one during WWII and one in 1988 Berlin).

When a balloon designed by the magician balloonmakers (the Schöpfers) goes awry, main character Ellie travels from the current day, on accident, to 1988 Berlin, where she learns more about her grandfather’s Holocaust past and her own abilities. She’s rescued by Kai, the Romani love interest and an assistant to the Schöpfers, and Mitzi, the headstrong German friend. The chemistry between these three characters make every scene of this book sparkle.

Some of the strongest elements of this book are its musings on identity and the past. In this time of social upheaval in the real world, it’s satisfying to see Ellie come to grips with her identity a 21st century teen in a 20th century world. Locke doesn’t shy away from nuances of religious and sexual identity throughout, much to the benefit of the characters. By the end of the book, I really “knew” Ellie.

While some of the finer plot points later on seemed a little rushed to me (or perhaps I was in such a hurry to find out the exciting conclusion), I loved the premise and its delivery. Here’s hoping for more books in this universe!

Look out for this book in September. It will not appear on a red balloon (probably), but you’ll still want a way to make sure it’s in your hands.

The Details:

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke, Albert Whitman Company

Due out: September 1, 2017

Add it to Goodreads or pre-order from Amazon
Thank you to NetGalley for a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Hag-Seed

The Review:

For the record, I am a bigger Shakespeare fan than the average person, so perhaps Margaret Atwood’s upcoming book, Hag-Seed hits closer to my target than many. This is a clever little novel. Like most Hogarth Shakespeare books, it’s brief read and a modern retelling. Felix is unseated from his role as director of a theater company and seeks revenge. After going into hiding for years, he uses a prison “acting company” to stage a performance that will help him accomplish it.

This book is very self-aware- The Tempest within putting on a play of The Tempest. Atwood also weaves in Shakespearean references from other plays, especially Hamlet. One could read this book without any past encounter with Shakespeare, but it definitely helps to have a bit of a background. If you aren’t familiar with The Tempest, Atwood gives long, explanatory conversations about the characters and plot which can get a bit long and feel unnatural at times. Still, the main character is technically teaching the text to his “students” so a bit of this can be forgiven. Atwood also includes a synopsis of the original play in the back of the book, if one would need.


Familiarity with the theater in general also helps with enjoyment of this novel. As the main character, Felix, is a director/actor, much of his world-view is shaped from the perspective of the stage and it reads that way.  Also, as with much of Atwood, she zooms in on prison themes (Alias Grace, Heart Goes Last).

The book would have been only “just-okay” with me without the play off of the idea of Miranda/Ariel throughout, which I won’t spoil because it is truly on-target, pitch-perfect Atwood at work.

Overall, a great read. Thanks to NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.

The Details:

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Release Date: October 11, 2016

Published by Hogarth