Monday, November 25, 2013

Audiobook Review: Dairy Queen

Dairy Queen, by Catherine Gilbert Murdock. Narrated by Natalie Moore. The Goodreads summary:
When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said. Harsh words indeed, from Brian Nelson of all people. But, D.J. can't help admitting, maybe he's right. When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said. Stuff like why her best friend, Amber, isn't so friendly anymore. Or why her little brother, Curtis, never opens his mouth. Why her mom has two jobs and a big secret. Why her college-football-star brothers won't even call home. Why her dad would go ballistic if she tried out for the high school football team herself. And why Brian is so, so out of her league. When you don't talk, there's a lot of stuff that ends up not getting said. Welcome to the summer that fifteen-year-old D.J. Schwenk of Red Bend, Wisconsin, learns to talk, and ends up having an awful lot of stuff to say.

This book was better than I expected. Which considering my expectations were fairly low, that doesn’t necessarily mean much. Except, it turns out this book is completely adorable. Like, SO adorable. But more than that, it manages to take on the issues that come with growing up in a way that feels real without being depressing or heavy-handed.

DJ is kind of my hero. She’s just all kinds of awesome. Her life seems like it sucks: she’s pretty much shouldering all the work on her family’s dairy farm, her older brothers aren’t speaking to the rest of the family, her dad’s health is affecting her school life, and she has to spend time training Brian Nelson, the quarterback at a rival high school. But DJ takes it all head on, and she never gets negative about her situation. Yes, she’s unhappy and unsatisfied at times, but she’s too resilient to let it keep her down. One of the other things that I love about DJ is that she’s never ashamed of where she comes from. She’s from a struggling farm in a poor town, but she never has anything mean or denigrating to say about them.

I really appreciated that the focus of this book wasn’t on romance. Yes, DJ and Brian have a little something going on, but the story was more about DJ learning how to communicate about things that matter and figuring out what she wants. Usually I’m all about the romance, but I think a heavier emphasis on it would’ve detracted from this story. Plus, honestly, Brian is a bit of a douche. A douche with redeeming qualities, yes, but douche all the same. And knowing that about Brian, I was a little worried about how things would work out between him and DJ in the end, but I can happily say that I liked where their relationship was when the book was over.

As for things specific to the audiobook, I loved the narrator, Natalie Moore. I felt like she was spot on in her portrayal of DJ, and to put things over the top, she even did this Wisconsin accent that was 100 percent fantastic. That accent somehow made DJ even more DJ than she would’ve been if I had just been reading this book in my head.

Overall, a great book and a great audiobook as well. I really liked that the book dealt with a variety of issues but didn’t bite off more than it could chew, so I ended the book feeling totally satisfied. I just discovered on Goodreads that there are two more books in the series, so I’ll be snapping those up for sure. I totally recommend this book, especially to fans of the Ruby Oliver series.

Rating: 4 / 5

Monday, November 4, 2013

Review: Fangirl

Fangirl, by Rainbow Rowell. The Goodreads summary:
Cath is a Simon Snow fan.

Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan . . .

But for Cath, being a fan is her life — and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.

Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.

Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.

Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words . . . And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.

For Cath, the question is: Can she do this?

Can she make it without Wren holding her hand? Is she ready to start living her own life? Writing her own stories?

And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?
Hooray for rock-solid contemporary YAs. Or I guess, technically, this is New Adult. But either way, it was pretty dang good. Everyone told me that it was, and I was excited to read it, but I was a little afraid that I would end up being that one person who wasn’t impressed. Happily that wasn’t the case, and I loved this book from the first page.

One of the things I appreciated most about this book is how well rounded it felt. Like, it wasn’t just about Cath’s relationship with Levi. It was also about her relationship with her sister and her father and her mother, as well as her relationship with her writing and her own anxieties. And I just really liked how balanced it all felt, like all the different aspects got just the right amount of time. I’ll admit I was surprised that the mother aspect didn’t play a bigger part, but I mean that as more of an observation than a critique.

Cath was a character I could relate to. She’s introverted and more comfortable with words than people, and I really felt for her each time she was in a situation that made her feel insecure or uncomfortable. And although Cath is standoffish towards the other characters in the book, I never felt like she was pushing me away as a reader—I wanted to be with her every step of the way.

Levi is one of those balls of exuberance and joy that are always so refreshing to find in YA/NA. He’s just so nice and so good to and for Cath. But at the same time, he doesn’t feel unrealistic. He’s not perfect, and that makes me like him even more. Plus, he had my favorite line from the book: “Are you rooting for me? Are you hoping I pull this off?” Swoon.

Baz and Simon—I was pretty much as invested in their story as I was in the main story. They’re both characters in a series of books that Cath loves, and interspersed throughout “Fangirl” are excerpts both from Cath’s fan fiction as well as from the “real” books that these characters come from. I was a little unsure at first how well these Simon and Baz excerpts would integrate with the main story, but I quickly forgot that worry. Because even though Baz is in love with Simon, I’m in love with Baz. I kind of really wish Cath’s Carry On, Simon story really existed so I could read all of it instead of just excerpts.

The one thing I wasn’t crazy about in “Fangirl” was the ending. It felt a little anti-climactic to me. Not that I was expecting huge action or something. I just mean that I was expecting it to end with a strong Cath and Levi scene, but instead it ended with two story excerpts, so I didn’t realize I’d hit the end until I was already there, and that always leaves me feeling a little restless—like there should’ve been more.

Overall, one of the better YA/NAs I’ve read this year. Except for that minor complaint about the ending (which admittedly was probably the fault of my own misguided expectations), I was impressed with how well done it all was. And did I mention it has a ridiculously adorable and perfect cover? It’s hands down my favorite cover so far this year.

Rating: 4.5 / 5
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...