You Are My Only by Beth Kephart – Book Review

You Are My Only by Beth Kephart
Published by EgmontUSA

Baby is the only bright spot in Emmy Rane’s life, until the day she vanishes. Emmy runs into the house for but a moment, and when she comes back, Baby is nowhere to be seen, nowhere to be found. Mad with grief and suspected in the disappearance of her child, Emmy soon finds herself institutionalized. Fourteen years later, Sophie is in yet another new house in yet another new town; not that moving makes things so difficult, since her mother homeschools her and rarely lets her leave the house or talk to anyone else. This time is different, though, because this time Sophie surreptitiously makes friends with the next door neighbor and the aunts who are raising him. As she begins to break out of the shell her mother has concocted, Sophie begins to learn things about her life that will change it for good.

I generally adore Beth Kephart’s poetic writing style, but her lovely prose does also have a tendency to put the reader at a remove from her story and characters, as I discovered in Dangerous Neighbors. This problem is exacerbated in You Are My Only by the fact that there are two main characters, who each have their share of narration and who are split by place and time. Emmy is a particularly difficult character to get a handle on. Is she supposed to be of below average intelligence or mentally ill even before Baby disappeared? If not, why is she so odd even from the beginning? Why is it so easy to paint her as crazy and have her institutionalized? What is with the fact her child didn’t seem to have a name, other than Baby? Sophie is a more robust character, and one who is easier to identify with, as she begins to break out of the constraints her mother has put on her life, and begins uncovering the secret of her past.

I think my biggest issue with You Are My Only is that it is written as a young adult book at all. There’s nothing I would particularly worry about in giving it to any teenager, but with half of the story told from Emmy’s point of view, it seems it might have worked better as an adult novel. Perhaps had it been written as an adult novel, the mother’s pain of losing her precious child could have been written in a way that was more immediate and less removed. I assume it is because this is a young adult novel that Sophie is the better developed character, but that seriously weakens the story as a whole. I would have liked to see them developed equally well, tapping more fully into both the woman and the teenager. That could have been an immensely powerful book, whereas this is somewhat disappointing – especially because the connection between the two stories is painfully obvious. If this story had to be young adult, Emmy should have been given an even smaller role, or none at all; as it is she simply detracts from the emotional charge of the novel.

I really like Kephart’s young adult writing when the story she is telling makes sense as a young adult book, and I think I would enjoy her writing for adults as well, but You Are My Only is neither fish nor fowl and simply doesn’t work for me. Try Nothing But Ghosts or Undercover instead.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, via Netgalley.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos – Audiobook Review

Dead End in Norvelt by Jack Gantos, narrated by Jack Gantos
Published in audio by Macmillan Audio, published in print by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux (BYR), both imprints of Macmillan

Synopsis:

Growing up can be difficult, especially when you live in an exceedingly quirky town called Norvelt that was originally founded by Eleanor Roosevelt that consists mostly of elderly people. It is even harder when you’re Jack Gantos and you’re grounded for the summer thanks to conflicting directions from your mom who loves Norvelt and your father who hates it. It looks like it might be a boring summer for Jack, until he is apprenticed to the town’s arthritic obit writer and medical examiner. Suddenly, being grounded has never been so interesting.

Thoughts on the story:

Quirkiness abounds! Gantos seems to have a great love for the absurd, but at times while listening, I felt that the goal was absurdity for its own sake, which I did not find particularly endearing. In fact, I was nearly halfway into Dead End in Norvelt before I determined that I would, indeed, continue through to the end and not simply abandon the book. Eventually, though, the town of Norvelt and its inhabitants grew on me and, by the end, I was even a bit sad that the book had ended.

One interesting thing about Dead End in Norvelt is the way it blends events from Gantos’s own life with those that occurred only in his imagination. I often wondered exactly where that line was.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Like the story, Gantos’s narration took some time to grow on me. He came across initially as a somewhat less funny David Sedaris. In general, though, I do think he was the best person to tell his own story, as he was able to perfectly give voice to some of the oddness contained therein.

Overall:

Although I am not overly enthusiastic about Dead End in Norvelt, I do think it is worth picking up if the synopsis interests you, or if you are in the mood for a quirky listen.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: .
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Wither by Lauren DeStefano – Mini Book Review

Wither by Lauren DeStefano
Published by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

This is the first book in the Chemical Garden trilogy.

Okay, so, here’s the deal. I read Wither months and months ago and the review got put off and put off, because I had some major issues with the book, and the negative reviews are never fun to write. The writing was perfectly good, but the main character was annoying and the world that DeStefano created didn’t make a heck of a lot of sense to me.

Before I go any further, here’s the publisher’s synopsis from Indiebound:

By age sixteen, Rhine Ellery has four years left to live. She can thank modern science for this genetic time bomb. A botched effort to create a perfect race has left all males with a lifespan of 25 years, and females with a lifespan of 20 years. Geneticists are seeking a miracle antidote to restore the human race, desperate orphans crowd the population, crime and poverty have skyrocketed, and young girls are being kidnapped and sold as polygamous brides to bear more children.

When Rhine is kidnapped and sold as a bride, she vows to do all she can to escape. Her husband, Linden, is hopelessly in love with her, and Rhine can’t bring herself to hate him as much as she’d like to. He opens her to a magical world of wealth and illusion she never thought existed, and it almost makes it possible to ignore the clock ticking away her short life. But Rhine quickly learns that not everything in her new husband’s strange world is what it seems. Her father-in-law, an eccentric doctor bent on finding the antidote, is hoarding corpses in the basement. Her fellow sister wives are to be trusted one day and feared the next, and Rhine is desperate to communicate to her twin brother that she is safe and alive. Will Rhine be able to escape–before her time runs out?

Together with one of Linden’s servants, Gabriel, Rhine attempts to escape just before her seventeenth birthday. But in a world that continues to spiral into anarchy, is there any hope for freedom?

It had the potential to be a really interesting story, especially as it was repeatedly compared to The Handmaid’s Tale. This world was much more one created by circumstances, however, as opposed to malevolent forces within the government. We’ve got science-created shortened lifespans and most of the rest of the world allegedly destroyed by melting ice caps, but Rhine is kidnapped and taken to Florida, which is evidently not underwater (yup, you read that right).

My biggest issue was with the technology. I could have accepted a lack of many of the technologies that we know now had society fully collapsed after the geneticists screwed things up, but there was some pretty elaborate technology and yet nobody even mentioned a computer.

I’m also not completely convinced that there were need to be Gatherers to kidnap girls and take them to these polygamous marriages. Rhine and so many other girls were living in constant fear of being murdered for the little food they had, or alternatively starving to death. In contrast, her life for Linden is pampered and easy, if somewhat constrained. It seems that there would be hungry girls vying for these spaces, if only to get by.

Wither got a lot of love when it came out, but I am relieved to find that I am not the only one to have had serious issues with it (and everyone seems confused about the Florida thing). There is a very interesting review on Goodreads that goes into even more detail, and points a few things out that I missed.

I think I’d be interested if DeStefano tried her hand at something contemporary, but I’m less than impressed with her world creating, and I don’t think I’ll be reading the rest of the Chemical Garden trilogy.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Publisher, via GalleyGrab.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone – Audiobook Thoughts

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
Published in audio by Listening Library, published in print by Scholastic

Synopsis:

What more is there to say about Harry Potter, particularly the first book in the series? Harry is terribly mistreated by his relatives and has a generally miserable life, until he finds out he is a wizard. The discovery is slightly bittersweet when Harry finds out that his parents were brutally murdered by the now-disappeared evil wizard Voldemort.

Thoughts on the story:

It may be that I’ve finally just read this series too many times. I’m starting to see things that don’t quite line up throughout (I blame Michelle for pointing out inconsistencies in book 7 when we watched the movie). I was also struck on this reread at just how ridiculous the opening scene with the Dudleys really is. They might as well have been tying Harry to a railroad track and twirling their mustaches. Honestly, it sort of annoyed me a little. Eventually I was able to get back into the book, but it took longer than usual.

Thoughts on the audio production:

I’ve listened to the rest of the series in audio narrated by Jim Dale before and been impressed, but at times during Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone I distinctly heard Dale make mouth noises, such as lip smacking, which sort of disgusted me and turned me off.

Overall:

I was all excited about going through the series again, but now I’m feeling sort of blah about it. Anyone up for convincingme?

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio | Print*
Indiebound: Audio | Print*

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And now from a brief word from our friends over at Audiobook Jukebox:

Are you a blogger who reviews audiobooks? Whether you review them regularly, occasionally, or exclusively, there’s a new place to find free review copies for your perusal. The site is called Audiobook Jukebox and we’ve recently started a new program called Solid Gold Reviewers.

The idea is to have a place where audiobook publishers can offer titles for review and reviewers can select those titles which interest them the most. At the beginning of this month, 9 publishers helped us get started by offering 42 titles and over 100 copies for review. I’d like to invite you to check out the guidelines and then take a look at the titles listed.

I hope you’ll see something interesting to listen to and review. If not, check back next month (we already have some additional publishers who’ve said they’ll contribute). If we all participate, more publishers will contribute more of the audio we love. In turn, we’ll have the chance to tell others about more great listens!

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I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: library.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson – Book Review

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson
Published by HarperTeen, an imprint of HarperCollins

Ginny’s Aunt Peg has always been incredibly fun, so when Ginny receives 13 blue envelopes from Peg and instructions to fly to Europe, she knows there is something special in store for her. Made all the more special by the fact that Peg has recently died, and must have created all these instructions for Ginny before she passed away. If there is one thing that the envelopes guarantee, it is an adventure.

Maureen Johnson is just such a fun, engaging writer, and 13 Little Blue Envelopes is no exception. Ginny is an adorable, loveable heroine. She has doubts and flaws like any realistic human being, but she manages not to be an overly obnoxious teen, even while she was asserting her independence from the adults in her life. Ginny’s adventure, too, is great fun, and Johnson keeps the story rolling along, while at the same time allowing Ginny some introspection.

All in all, great fun, and I’m intrigued to check out The Last Little Blue Envelope for the conclusion of Ginny’s story.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Personal copy.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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