Eargasm, or, Why I’m Shy to Review Audiobooks

As a hobby blogger, this was my MOST (and only) SERIOUS BUSINESS QUESTION. Do I review my Audible “reads”? Cross my heart, there’s a logic here. I’ve finished multiple audiobooks that I’d never get halfway through in print; physical books do not get a lot of leeway when it comes to abusing my attention span.

Problem is, I friggin’ love Audible. Not reviewing audiobooks disqualifies easily half my library. Bored at the gym? Plan to spend the next six hours knitting that scarf you promised your best friend? Go get your earbuds, it’s Audible time.

The crux of it is: even if nobody reads this blog but my scarfless best friend (hey girl hey), I’d like to be able to write a reliable review. I think being able to see the bias makes a big difference, though, and all I can do is try. I encourage particularly vocal feedback from anyone who has read these books themselves, and everyone else should take this review post with a grain of salt.

Reading this book was like doing a trust fall with your summer camp bestie, but then she turns at the last minute to check out the lifeguard. Rebecca Hamilton’s “The Forever Girl” is the first book in a long series that I am just never going to read. I was so into it until the protagonist, who was written with a strong and unique voice, fell into a corny banter with a man who has been watching her from afar, sometimes as a squirrel. Do not write me a compelling heroine that forgets how to be compelling in the presence of a dude. Do not drop me on my ass on the beach because Clayton Morris isn’t wearing his shirt. That’s all, and it’s not a lot to ask.

Zero sparkly wands out of five, and a pox on rakishly charming men and trust falls.

“The Sin Eater’s Daughter” by Melinda Salisbury had some pretty high hopes for itself. I don’t think it lived up to all of them, but there are a lot of aspects that I did enjoy. The moral and social implications of the protagonist’s “blessing,” for example, are examined in a way that doesn’t lecture the reader. But the plot and its twists were just too predictable for me. If I’d actually been reading this book, I probably wouldn’t have finished it. Ironically, that would have sucked because the ending was the FUCKING BEST. My inner feminist was happy and it catered to my shamelessly romantic heart… Worth it? Oh yes.

Three sparkly wands out of five.

“Dreamer’s Pool” by Juliet Marillier is my whole audiobook problem. I like this book more for having listened to it. Hell, I never would have read it otherwise. I do not read high fantasy books, I do not read mysteries, and I do not have the patience for three points of view to finally coalesce into a realization that I came to 200 pages ago. This was proof that a good cast can liven up a slow book. Though I do, in addition, appreciate the lack of George R R Martin syndrome.* I don’t really know why I enjoyed this book, since I technically shouldn’t have, but I’m interested enough to listen to the next one.

Three?? sparkly wands out of five.

* Primary symptoms include needless misogyny, rape, and violence; faux medieval realism; and excessive character death. Look! I wrote a bonus review of that whole series! Zero sparkly wands for creepy old men who write books so gory they circle back around to boring.


Rosamund Hodge Defies the Sophomore Slump

Screen Shot 2015-05-09 at 21.00.55

So I’m at a dinner party, or the pub, or on a date, taking part in my least favourite activity: small talk. The person I’m talking to hears me say that I’m an avid reader, and the next thing out of their mouth is, “Oh! What’s your favourite book?”

This is how I know that this person does not read avidly. Anyone who does knows what a brutal, terrible question this is. F-favourite? You mean today? Or this week? Wait, you mean ever? That’s not how books work!

My answer varies depending on how much I like that person and how much I’ll have to interact with them in the future. The fastest way for them to magically see a friend on the other side of the room is to wax lyrical about DFW’s “Infinite Jest,”* a 1,079 page postmodernist treaty on ennui, ment – aha, see? It works every time.

If I actually want to have a conversation, I’ll recommend a favourite author instead. But even there, I’m fickle. Or I was, until recently. I’d bounce between Neil Gaimain (sometimes too icky), Robin McKinley (love? yes. favourite? mm…), and whomever I adored that week. But wow. Wow with hyphens between each letter w-o-w. I still don’t have a favourite book, but Rosamund Hodge just blew everyone out of the water for favourite author.

I am a demographic of one, blindly devoted to gritty fairy tale reboots with feminist leanings and character growth and happy endings that are sometimes more bitter than sweet. These books were written for exactly me.

And when I say “reboot” I don’t mean “thin retelling with different names.” I mean beautifully fleshed-out worlds full of magic and politics. You might be familiar with their stories, but if you took away Beauty and the Beast (“Cruel Beauty”) or Cinderella (“Gilded Ashes”) or Red Riding Hood (“Crimson Bound”) you’d still have well crafted stories about the lives of compelling and complex young women.

I want to have something bad to say about these books. (Maybe it’s that I want more queer content? But then, I always do.) I’d have to go back and read with the intent to find flaws, though, which is just silly. I’ve seen the worst this genre has to offer and Rosamund Hodge has brought water to a desert of brooding male leads and plucky ingenues. I’m just going to sit in my oasis and splash about – and I encourage you all to join me.

Cruel Beauty (AUDIBLE.COM) – Four sparkly wands out of five (I have to dock one because of the potential for Audiobook Bias; a good reader can make even a terrible story compelling.)

Gilded Ashes – Four sparkly wands out of five (I wanted this to be more fleshed out, especially the endings!)

Crimson Bound – Five sparkly wands out of five.

* Use with caution: If you’re at an English Department wine and cheese mixer, you might actually catch someone’s interest.

Three Cheers for March Releases! (None of which are featured here.)

Because my latest reads just aren’t cutting it.

22351151First up, Gigi Pandian’s “The Accidental Alchemist,” first in a series I have no intention of continuing. There’s nothing really wrong with this book, except that other authors have done it better. It reminded me strongly of Deborah Harkness’ recently-completed “All Souls” trilogy, with a smattering of Paula Brackston’s “The Witch’s Daughter.” (The former had a punchier heroine and the latter was deeper and more compelling.) Unfortunately for Pandian, that meant reading this was lot like going on a rebound date after a really amazing relationship you’re not over. But since I can’t actually fault it for not being the book I wanted to read, this one gets three sparkly wands out of five.

13600701Next, McCormick Templeman’s “The Glass Casket.” Ohhh my goddd this book. This book is not the kind of YA that adult readers can also enjoy. It drew upon “Snow White and Rose Red” – no relation to the Disney story – which is one of my favourite old-timey fairy tales. But it was slow and predictable, and I have strong disapproving feelings about books that try to sound like they’re from another time when they’re clearly not. So despite the fact that it’s a fairy tale retelling, I just can’t care enough to summon more than two sparkly wands.

Unter-The-Never-Sky-Veronica-RossiAnd finally, the rarest of books: A DNF. I never leave a book unfinished, if only because it’s hard to irritate me enough to make me run away screaming. But Veronica Rossi’s “Under the Never Sky” is so brutally cliché that every plot point in the first hundred pages* aligns perfectly with a @DystopianYA tweet. Now, look. I enjoy the tropes within genre fiction – that’s why I read it. But when an author can’t be bothered to contribute to her own book, there’s nothing that compels me to stick around for the ride. Zero sparkly wands and a fairy loses its wings.

The good news is that March brought new releases with it – including two sequels I’ve been salivating over for a long time (and one I’m indifferent to but will inevitably get desperate and read, let’s be honest). This means that there’s a high likelihood I’ll stop bitching and perk up, [Insert Spring metaphor here].

*I usually know by page 65, but 100 is a nice, arbitrary number that makes it look like I’m fair, so I make myself get to that point if I want to complain about a book here. Which, of course I do.