Audiobook: How to Be Both

by Ali Smith
Read by John Banks
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Content: There’s probably six or so f-bombs spread through the whole book. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

I knew very little about this book before picking it up, only that it made for an excellent book group discussion in one of the book groups at the store, and that a couple people on staff really loved it. It was enough for me to use my last credit to get the audio. The other thing I knew was that this book is two novellas in one, and that half the books printed have one first, and the other half are reversed. You don’t know, previous to picking it up, whose story you will get first.

The two stories are interconnected looks at art and perception. One is contemporary, the story of a mother-daughter relationship. The other is a stream-of-consciousness from the perspective of an Italian Renaissance painter in the 1400s. I really don’t want to say much more than that, except I read it Camera-Eyes, and I thoroughly enjoyed the way the two stories weaved together. It gave me much to think about.

Also, once I got used to the narrator (and the book), I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this one. I enjoyed his style, and that he didn’t try to do falsetto female voices. Everything was pretty matter-of-fact, which took a bit to fall into the groove with, but once I did, was quite lovely.

An excellent read.

The Truth Commission

by Susan Juby
First sentence: “First let me say that this will not be an easy tale to tell, so I’ll warm up with an author’s note.”
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Review copy pilfered off the ARC shelves at my place of employment.
Content: There’s some discussion of rape and bullying and a character doing drugs, but there’s no swearing, etc. It’s currently in the Teen section (grades 9-12), but I’d give it to a 7th or 8th grader.

This is going to be quick since I need to head to work. The basic story: Normandy Pale (she’s a girl) goes to an elite art school on an island off the coast of British Columbia. Her claim to fame? Her older sister immortalized a very awful version of their family in a cult popular graphic novel.

Normandy has never been happy with this, but when her sister shows back up into their lives (having suddenly left a prestigious art college in California), she’s really not happy. Add to that her friends Neil and Dusk (her name is really Dawn, but her personality is more Dusk-like) deciding that what they need to do is elicit Truth from people who aren’t fully honest with themselves, Normandy’s a bit of a mess.

Told as a work of “creative non-fiction” (complete with footnotes), this is really a delightful read. Juby’s exploring things like perception and truth, and whether or not it’s good to be honest with each other and with ourselves. It has a messy ending (being “true to life”), and some bumps along the way (the parents were particularly milquetoast) but in the end, I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Girl In Reverse

by Barbara Stuber
First sentence: “Say it, Lily.”
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Content: There’s some mild swearing and kissing. It’s probably a more complicated plot than the Middle Grade section warrants, so it’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Lillian Firestone is an adopted daughter of Chinese heritage. Which makes her a target in Kansas City in 1951, the height of the Korean War. She took the bullying and name-calling when she was younger, but now that she’s 16, she’s taking a stand. Sort of. She walked out of class and school one day, and that act started a domino chain of events that led to the discovery of her birth parents.

There’s art involved and a lot of Chinese culture as Lily goes on this journey.

(I’m tired. Can you tell?)

I wanted to like this book. I love the cover, I love the ideas, the conflict. But I could never connect with Lily. She drove. me. nuts. Completely. And so I started skimming, skipping ahead just to see what happens. And yeah, everything’s tied up in a nice little bow.

It had potential, and I’m sure some readers will really love the art and China elements. But I wasn’t really one of them.

Audio Book: Daughter of Smoke & Bone

by Laini Taylor
read by Khristine Hvam
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is some talk about sex (though all the actual sex is off screen), a lot of violence, and some mild swearing. Is in the teen (grades 9 and up) section of the bookstore, though I didn’t have any problems with C (now 14) reading it.

I’ve been wanting to reread this (and Days of Blood & Starlight) in anticipation of Dreams of Gods & Monsters coming out. And so, when I saw that this one is out in audio, I snatched it up. (You should have seen me; I was fangirling all over the place. Kind of like when a customer came in to preorder Gods & Monsters. We were just gushing.) Anyway. I don’t have much to add about the story that I didn’t already say when I first read this. ┬áBut the audio was glorious. Hvam captured all the voices perfectly. To a spunky Zuzanna (love her best still) to Akiva and Karou, to the various chimera and seraphim that run throughout the book. (Brimstone is EXACTLY like I heard him in my head.) It was a joy to listen to. And one of those books that made you want to sit in the car, listening for hours on end.

If you haven’t had a chance to experience Taylor in all her awesomeness, you need to. And with the third coming out, take a weekend and splurge and read all three. You won’t regret it.