Monday, June 25, 2012

Audio Review: Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Format: Unabridged Audio
Challenge: 2012 Audio Book Challenge
Purchase: IndieBound

I originally received the book format of this to read and review. I don't know what made me switch to the audio version but I'm glad I did. I gave the book copy to my mom and she loved it. And I absolutely enjoyed the audio format.

I have far exceeded my audio book goal for this year, having only signed up to listen to 6 for the 2012 Audio Book Challenge. I am now up to 10 for the year. The selections I've been choosing are from many different genres, from memoir to mystery. This selection was my first venture into honest to goodness women's fiction.

I've read one other Jennifer Weiner book a few years back and really enjoyed it. I haven't read a TON of women's fiction and unfortunately, the marketing of the covers tends to look the same from book to book. Women on a beach, walking down a road, all in pastels and light colors, etc etc. I tend to glaze over books because they don't stand out. Luckily, I looked passed that when I chose Jennifer's books.

Her stories are real and complicated, filled with characters that you feel like you know. Though in the two books I have experienced, the endings were summed up quite nicely, it doesn't leave a corny feel. 

Here is a description of Then Came You from Goodreads:

The lives of four very different women intertwine in unexpected ways in this new novel by bestselling author Jennifer Weiner (In Her Shoes; Best Friends Forever). Each woman has a problem: Princeton senior Jules Wildgren needs money to help her dad cure his addiction; Pennsylvania housewife Annie Barrow is gasping to stay financially afloat; India Bishop yearns to have a child, an urge that her stepdaughter Bettina can only regard with deeply skepticism until she finds herself in a most unexpected situation. Interlocking dramas designed to ensnare; bound to be a bestseller.

The audio has four distinct narrators, for each woman. They made the characters pop. Bettina was a brat (though justified most of the time) and the narrators voice was perfect. Annie was warm, earthy, friendly, sweet and the narrator was right on. Jules was serious, frank and smart. India was exotic, savvy and all I could think of was Catherine Zeta Jones. Though the narrator was NOT her, she did an awesome job.

At first, I was a tad impatient how they were all going to collide but towards the middle, it picked up. I then appreciated the back story build in the beginning. Very interesting look at the definitions of family and having a child. Each character made you feel so many things. At times I hated Bettina's privileged snottiness, or India's self centeredness. And times I loved how frank Jules was or how sweet and naive Annie was.

It was such a lovely listen overall. It was like having friends in my car telling me their story. It was so simple yet intricate all at the same time. For branching out into women's fiction, I was pleased with this choice. 

Rating: Recommend
This is a very good pick for book clubs. With the many different voices and sides to the story, you will find plenty to talk about. The definition of a family. What makes a mother. Loyalty. Forgiveness. I recommend for readers of Jodi Picoult and Kristin Hannah. 

Author's Website:
Jennifer Weiner

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Review: Gold by Chris Cleave

Gold by Chris Cleave
Genre: Fiction
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
Format: ARC from Publisher
Release date: July 10, 2012
Purchase: IndieBound

Chris Cleave will always remind me of a glorious time in my book selling days. I was given an ARC of Little Bee many years ago and loved it. I made displays. I recommended it to everyone. I made it my #1 book to hand sell that year. And it worked. Me and thousands of others helped it become a bestseller. It was perfect for book clubs, for those readers who wanted to try something edgier, different, unique. Because of how strongly I felt for Little Bee, I was very much interested in his new book Gold. On a side note, his covers are gorgeous and draw me in instantly. Isn't this one divine?

Gold has a much different feel than Little Bee, still charged but not as dark or political. It tells a very unique story that sets around Olympic bicyclists. Who knew?

Here is a description from Goodreads:
Gold is the story of Zoe and Kate, world-class athletes who have been friends and rivals since their first day of Elite training. They’ve loved, fought, betrayed, forgiven, consoled, gloried, and grown up together. Now on the eve of London 2012, their last Olympics, both women will be tested to their physical and emotional limits. They must confront each other and their own mortality to decide, when lives are at stake: What would you sacrifice for the people you love, if it meant giving up the thing that was most important to you in the world?

I read this way back in January, having received a very early copy. I should have written my review at that time while it was all fresh in my mind but...I slipped. I still very much remember liking it and being moved by it with each page. Cleave is good at portraying our flaws as humans but also our triumphs. Especially with the Summer Olympics coming up, this book is so filled with the passion, the drive, the sweat, the pain that comes with being an athlete. How much do you lose on your way to the top? What really is important? The Gold? Or your family?

There is always a little bit of intrigue surrounding his books, where you can't really explain what they are all about without giving too much away. I would agree with that. I would say if you are looking for a very well written, character driven novel, this would be for you. Throw in a very fractured love story, and the sport of cycling, you open it up to many more readers.

Rating: Recommend
Different than Little Bee, but worth reading. Chris Cleave is a talent worth experiencing.

Author website:
Chris Cleave

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Fela! on Broadway

For those of you who know me in real life and maybe even a few of you who have followed me long enough on this site, it is no surprise that I am a lover of all things theater.

Before I had a child, it was a regular yearly trip to New York with my best friend, Trever, to see the city and to see as many shows as possible. Some of my favorites have been Sweeney Todd, Grey Gardens and The Glass Menegarie.

I also grew up being a part of theater, having spent seven summers attending the Children's Theater Company at the college in my hometown.  I also participated in my small town's theater and even did my senior year highschool play. I played the accordion. I was awesome.

Since I've been an adult however, I have not participated myself but have tried to go to as many shows as I can afford.

Just recently I came across an opportunity to review the show Fela! at one of the theaters in the Twin Cities, the Ordway. I sent in my information and the very next day, was sent the information for two free tickets to the show. 

I was amazed and thrilled and a little too excited! 

Fela! was one of the shows I had on my list to see the last time I was in New York but I could not fit it in. I am so glad this opportunity came up because it was, quite, simply one of the best shows I have ever seen. Definitely in the Top 5.

Here is a little about Fela! if you are not familiar. (from the Fela! Wiki website)

Fela! is a musical with a book by Bill T. Jones and Jim Lewis, based on music and lyrics by the late Nigerian singer Fela Kuti, with additional music by Aaron Johnson and Jordan Mclean and additional lyrics by Jim Lewis. It is based on events in the life of groundbreaking Nigerian composer and activist Fela Anikulapo Kuti. It portrays Kuti in the days when he was the target of 1,000 government soldiers assigned to end his public performances at the legendary Lagos nightclub The Shrine.
The musical ran Off-Broadway for one month in 2008 and premiered on Broadway on November 23, 2009. The Off-Broadway production won the Lucille Lortel Awards for Best Musical, Outstanding Choreographer for Bill T. Jones, and Outstanding Costume Design for Marina Draghici. The Broadway production received eleven 2010 Tony Awardnominations and won Best ChoreographyBest Costume Design of a Musical, and Best Sound Design of a Musical.[1]

I went in knowing his music and his politics. My husband, who is a drummer, has been a fan for many years. We own many recordings of his music and have seen documentaries of his life. We even, just a few months ago, saw one of Fela's sons, Seun Kuti perform in town. Amazing. I was curious as to how Fela's life would translate to a Broadway musical stage.

I found it to be a perfect blend of his music, his politics, his vibrant personality and masterful musicianship. His music is loud, vibrant, full of passion and his stage performances come with many dancers and musicians. I sat in awe as the dancers gave such a passionate, athletic performance. Wow! How they can stand after a 2 show day, I don't know! The crowd even was instructed to get up and move. All inhibitions aside, I was impressed with the way the crowd responded to the actor who portrayed Fela. I could get a sense of how Fela, in real life, could easily draw in his many followers. We were swept up and didn't hesitate to shake our you-know-whats. It was so much fun!!

Theater, to me, gives me such an immediate sensation. I'm drawn in. Like reading, it's a way to lose yourself in a story but it's there, front and center, in your face. I love it. This show is a testament of how theater can transform you to a different place and open your eyes to a world not really know to many. 

I highly recommend this to any fans of theater but also of dance and vibrant music. Afro-beat has a pulse that can not be summed up too easily with words. It's an experience you have to see live. Fela's power as a human, a politician, a humanitarian and a musician comes out in this. I can see why there were a million people at his funeral.

Thanks again to the Ordway for this wonderful Blogger Night opportunity.

Site of interest:
Fela! on Broadway

Must watch video:

Happy Viewing and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Saturday, June 9, 2012


If I had actually gone to BEA this year (sorry, didn't post that I changed my mind about going! No money!) , this would have been one the titles that I would have waited in line for. Libba Bray is, by far, one of my favorite Young Adult authors. I absolutely adored her Great and Terrible Beauty Trilogy.

The Diviners is due out in September and when I noticed a copy on our ARC shelf at work, I squealed. I did. And gasped a little.

I have been reading it every chance I can get. It is shaping up to be just as good as her others. 

Here's a little description from Goodreads:
Evie O'Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is pos-i-toot-ly thrilled. New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfield girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is Evie has to live with her Uncle Will, curator of The Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult--also known as "The Museum of the Creepy Crawlies."
When a rash of occult-based murders comes to light, Evie and her uncle are right in the thick of the investigation. And through it all, Evie has a secret: a mysterious power that could help catch the killer--if he doesn't catch her first.

Score for me!!!

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Review: Wild by Cheryl Strayed

Wild by Cheryl Strayed
Publisher: Knopf
Genre: Memoir
Format: Unabridged Audio
Challenge: 2012 Audio Book Challenge

I knew Oprah would get my vibes of how awesome this book is and pick it for her new book club choice. Yes, Oprah is back and she picked this stellar memoir as her first pick for her new Oprah Book Club 2.0.

Normally, I am not an Oprah book girl. Chalk it up to working in book retail for so long. She kind of wears on you. Yes, she did huge things for book business but she also held tight to that crazy control like a mad woman. And sometimes us folks on the frontlines were left hanging.

Anyway, this isn't a post about Oprah. It's a post about a magnificent book that is going to be getting a ton of well deserved attention. I am very happy about that. 

WIld by Cheryl Strayed first got quite a bit of attention in my neck of the woods, most notably, the bookstore I work at. She is a local gal, having been raised in Northern Minnesota. A lot of her story mentions her time growing up and living here in her early years. It had been a consistent seller since it's release last winter. I had this on my list for awhile and it took me until the buzz died down to finally listen to it on audio.

It was STELLAR. The narrator was exceptional and had the range of emotion, the sadness, the intensity, the humor that was covered in the highs and lows of Strayed's life.

The story starts off with Strayed's mother dying of cancer at a very early age. She is in her early 20s at the time and is floored that her beautiful, healthy living, natural, organic loving mother is dying of cancer. This event sets her on a downward spiral of bad decisions and hard living. Four years after her mother's death, she was in a place so far removed from her former self, that the only way to get back, was to do something drastic. Going through a divorce, estranged from her siblings, distant from her friends, Strayed makes the decision to hike the Pacific Coast Trail from the Mojave Desert to Washington State. Devouring her guide book, she plans intricately every step of the way; the supplies, the money, the time. And yes, she does it alone.

Never in a million years do I think I could ever do this and because of that I thought, "Holy Shit, girl, you are awesome!" But then again, if I were to go through what she did losing her mother so young, I just may have felt that intense need to squelch by grief by taking a wild pilgrimage.

I was so absorbed in her journey that when it came to an end, I was really sad. Though the book ends on a relatively light and happy note, I still felt very invested in her journey. She encounters so much a long the way, her bravery is outstanding. Bears, lost shoes, creepy dudes, bad weather, crappy food...the list goes on. But she also encounters wonderful folks on their own journeys, kind people who offer her supplies and food and a place to camp and new friendships.

I never expected anything bad to happen to her along the way and even when it gets rough, you really get the sense that she will carry through. Sprinkled in her time on the trail, she also shares stories from her childhood, her marriage, her youth, etc.

Told with such warmth, humor, smarts, and some badassery (yes, I made that word up), Strayed's journey is one to share with your best friend, your sister, your mother. Whether you are going through a loss or just need to get to the root of who you are, Wild will leave you with hope and inspiration. It may not lead to a three month hike alone in the woods, but it may give you courage to take your own kind of pilgrimage.

Rating: Recommend
HIGHLY. I can relate to the bad decisions made in your twenties. I can relate to the trying to find who you really are. I can relate to the feeling of nostalgia when you lose someone close to you. I invested so much of my emotion in Strayed's story, I have nothing but good things to say about it. If you are looking for a well told memoir that doesn't hold back, this is for you. 

Author's Website:
Cheryl Strayed

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Year of Mysterious Giveaways: June 2012

The Year of Mysterious Giveaways: June 2012
(and the May winner!)

The one thing I love about offering a mystery to give away each month is that there are SO many types of mystery/thrillers out there. That is why I love this genre so. Last month I had a psychological suspense. This month I have more of an adventure/espionage/political thriller for you all.

If you are not familiar with the Bourne novels, you may be familiar with the movies starring Matt Damon (yummo! yes, I said yummo). Fun, fast paced, full of action.

Here is a description from Goodreads:

Jason Bourne is back in this new novel in Robert Ludlum's bestselling series written by New York Times bestselling author Eric Van Lustbader.
The man Jason Bourne fishes out of the frozen lake is near death, bleeding profusely from a gunshot wound and drowning. He awakens as an amnesiac, with no memory of who he is or why he was shot--and Bourne is eerily reminded of his own past.

Contest Rules:
Contest Runs from June 6- June 30
Please leave your email address
Please reside in the United States
Please be a follower of my blog.

The winner will be announced on June 30 and the book will be sent directly from the publisher. Thanks to them for offering a copy to give away.

WINNER OF GONE GIRL BY GILLIAN FLYNN (from May's Year of Mysterious Giveaway) is
Stacy from A Novel Source!

Happy Reading and as always, thanks for stopping by!

red headed book child