Rabbit Cake – Annie Hartnett

51VXza6M2kLPublisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Publication Date: March 7th, 2017

Listening Length: 7 hours and 7 minutes

From the Jacket:

Elvis Babbitt has a head for the facts: she knows science proves yellow is the happiest color, she knows a healthy male giraffe weighs about 3,000 pounds, and she knows that the naked mole rat is the longest living rodent. She knows she should plan to grieve her mother, who has recently drowned while sleepwalking, for exactly eighteen months. But there are things Elvis doesn’t yet know―like how to keep her sister Lizzie from poisoning herself while sleep-eating or why her father has started wearing her mother’s silk bathrobe around the house. Elvis investigates the strange circumstances of her mother’s death and finds comfort, if not answers, in the people (and animals) of Freedom, Alabama. As hilarious a storyteller as she is heartbreakingly honest, Elvis is a truly original voice in this exploration of grief, family, and the endurance of humor after loss.

Rabbit Cake is a coming of age story about loss and grief, full of humor and quirky characters. Despite the dark subject matter, I found myself giggling out loud and shaking my head in disbelief as I read about the crazy antics of Elvis and her family. This has been compared with Where’d You Go Bernadette, a personal favorite of mine.  And while it’s not quite as much fun as Bernadette, I soon found myself both understanding and agreeing with the comparison.  It was also very reminiscent of Ginny Moon, and I think that is because of the young age of the narrator and the innocent and analytical filter through which she views the world.

Elvis Babbitt is living a relatively normal, happy life in Alabama with her two parents, who she gets along well with, and her older sister, Lizzie, who she is convinced hates her. At ten years old, she’s getting ready to start junior high, when her mother drowns unexpectedly while sleep walking. Elvis navigates through this loss over the next eighteen months, checking each week off of her grief chart as one crazy thing after another happens. Hartnett writes in a unique and beautiful voice, of a family trying to put itself back together in the wake of this unexpected loss.

While I think I would have loved this book in any form, I’m really glad I chose the audio version of this one. Katie Schorr delivers the narration in a simple and straightforward way that completely captures the essence of Elvis. At one point, through her voice, we’re listening to Elvis describe her father, walking around in her mother’s old silk bathrobe, her lipstick on his face, while having a conversation with a parrot who can imitate her mother’s voice. This book is a bag of cats and it’s just so much fun.

Final Thoughts: I cannot recommend Rabbit Cake enough. It’s a quick and enjoyable read that feels light despite the substantial subject matter. Annie Hartnett has one of the most original voices I’ve read in a while, and I cannot wait to see what she comes out with next. This is a truly terrific debut, and I have no doubt I’ll come back to it again. If you’ve read this, please let me know what you thought in the comments!

Rating: Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.24.27 AM

Favorite Characters: It’s rare when I love all of the characters in a book, but for this one, I totally do. They are all zany and crazy and wonderful and oh so memorable.

Memorable Quotes:

It’s not easy to label people one illness or another. We’re all different combinations of crazy.


The Girl Before – JP Delaney


Publisher: Random House Audio

Publication Date: January 24, 2017

Listening Length: 9 hours and 59 minutes

From the Jacket:

Please make a list of every possession you consider essential to your life.

The request seems odd, even intrusive—and for the two women who answer, the consequences are devastating.

Reeling from a traumatic break-in, Emma wants a new place to live. But none of the apartments she sees are affordable or feel safe. Until One Folgate Street. The house is an architectural masterpiece: a minimalist design of pale stone, plate glass, and soaring ceilings. But there are rules. The enigmatic architect who designed the house retains full control: no books, no throw pillows, no photos or clutter or personal effects of any kind. The space is intended to transform its occupant—and it does.

After a personal tragedy, Jane needs a fresh start. When she finds One Folgate Street she is instantly drawn to the space—and to its aloof but seductive creator. Moving in, Jane soon learns about the untimely death of the home’s previous tenant, a woman similar to Jane in age and appearance. As Jane tries to untangle truth from lies, she unwittingly follows the same patterns, makes the same choices, crosses paths with the same people, and experiences the same terror, as the girl before.

Unpopular opinion time. I absolutely loathed this book. I hate finished it just because I thought surely, at some point with all of the rave reviews I read, it would get better.

Spoiler alert: It did not get any better.

There were only two redeeming factors for me. The first, was listening to the audio version. Emilia Fox and Finty Williams do a lovely job narrating this terrible content. The second, was doing a buddy read with my wife. She had print and I had audio, and we must be soulmates because we equally abhorred it. I’m going to go into detail about my issues with this book below, so this post will be spoiler central. You’ve been warned.

I went into this book thinking that it would be a psychological thriller about a super intelligent house that interferes with the lives of the women who live there. Turns out its actually about a moderately smart house with outdated technology, the wealthy sociopath who designed it, and the women who (completely inexplicably) fall for him. This book was rated highly by multiple sources that I have a lot of respect for. It was compared with The Girl on the Train, The Silent Wife, and Gone Girl. This book is like none of those books at all.

Let’s start with the way that every women in the book falls all over herself when they lay eyes on Edward. They all comment on how incredibly handsome he is. Really? I won’t get into all of the reasons why it is incredibly unrealistic that every single woman would be attracted to this guy, but I do feel like its worth noting. First impressions aside, he’s also completely weird, controlling, judgmental, and all around awful. Delaney describes the intense chemistry between Jane/Edward and Emma/Edward without providing any believable details. Saying someone has the best sex of their life is not the same as writing believable sex scenes.

I also almost lost my eyes to the back of my head due to the eye rolling that happened while I was reading the details of Jane’s pregnancies. It’s like Delaney went to a pregnancy forum, took all of the details there, and made them all into hyperbole. For someone who has never been pregnant or been close to someone that has been pregnant, this may not be an issue at all. For me, it was a constant source of annoyance that detracted even more from the plot. I read an interview with the author about his use of a pseudonym for this book. He talks about one of the reasons he liked it is because it makes the gender of the author ambiguous and he had a number of women tell him that they thought a woman wrote the book. NO. Just, no.

One of the worst things about this book, other than the cheesy dialogue and terrible sex scenes, are all of the smoking guns. Delany creates a whole table full of smoking guns, and then WALKS AWAY FROM THE TABLE. There’s a reason that everyone is so shocked that Simon is actually the murderer. It’s because it is completely outside of his character! That doesn’t make this a good story. It makes it an example of terrible writing.

And what about Edward and all of his crazy trying to recreate the relationship with Jane that he had with Emma? We never touch on that again, except in the very last paragraph where the reader is led to believe that more women would continue to move into this house and fall for this bag of cats. I wondered on more than one occasion while reading, if the author just hates women and/or just considers them all incredibly stupid.

Deep breaths.

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Final Thoughts: If you’ve followed my blog for a while, you know that I basically NEVER write negative reviews. But in this case, I felt like I must. I truly do not understand the hype. If you want a good psychological thriller, read all of the other books this one is compared to, and skip this one. Who else has read this? Did you love it or hate it? I’d love to hear your thoughts here.

Rating: Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.25.30 AM

Favorite Characters: None

Memorable Quotes: There were several memorably bad quotes, but I did not make note of them.


The Scorpio Races – Maggie Stiefvater

Scorpio-paperback-websitePublisher: Scholastic Audio

Publication Date: October 18th, 2011

Listening Length: 12 hours and six minutes

Narrated By: Steve West & Fiona Hardingham

From the Jacket:

Some race to win. Others race to survive.

It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line.
Some riders live.
Others die.
At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.
Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a choice. So she enters the competition – the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen.

I’ve been sitting on this review for days, writing and rewriting it in my head. I keep a list of my all-time favorite books, that has slowly grown over the past couple of decades. Since I began this blog, I’ve added a few to that list, but I’ve only written a review for one of them. There is a lot of pressure in trying to eloquently capture what you love so much about a book in order to share it with others. I finished The Scorpio Races last week (the last of the Maggie Stiefvater books out and available for me to read) and immediately added it to my favorites list.

First things first, let’s start with the audio performance. The Scorpio Races is told from the dual perspectives of Sean Kendrick, read by Steve West, and Puck Connolly, read by Fiona Hardingham. Both did a wonderful job, but Steve West has the voice of a god. It reminds me so much of Neil Gaiman, who, if you haven’t already had the pleasure of listening to on audio, should rectify immediately. His voice is deep, precise, and sonorous, and I would really like it if he narrated my life from now on.

At the end of the book, there is an interview with Maggie Stievfater. In it, she talks about how she wanted to book to transport readers to the magical island of Thisby, so they would feel as if they were there while reading it. She accomplished this so completely that when I close my eyes and think about the story, I can see myself standing at the edge of the shore, under the cliffs, with the breeze blowing through my hair and the ocean in my ears. It is incredible.

The Scorpio Races is a story of magic and history and tradition and water horses. It’s about the people of Thisby and how their lives are shaped by the races that happen every November. It’s about the choice between staying where you’ve always been or having the courage to try and find something new.

I love a book with a strong female lead and Stiefvater delivers. Puck Connolly has never raced before, and this year she finds she must race to secure the well-being of her family. She is the first girl ever to enter the races, and must deal with all of the people who do not think she belongs as well as her own fear and uncertainty. She is strong and brave and determined as hell, and I love her.

Final thoughts: I love this story so much. It is the perfect book to bring on a trip and just get lost in. It makes me feel like cozy blankets and warm fires. Thunderstorms and hot chocolate and thick fuzzy socks. I have no doubt I’ll come back to it time and again.

Rating: Screen Shot 2018-01-04 at 12.20.19 AM

Favorite Characters: Puck, Sean, Holly, Finn

Memorable Quotes:

There are moments that you’ll remember for the rest of your life and there are moments that you think you’ll remember for the rest of your life, and it’s not often they turn out to be the same moment.

Tell me what it’s like. The race.

What it’s like is a battle. A mess of horses and men and blood. The fastest and strongest of what is left from two weeks of preparation on the sand. It’s the surf in your face, the deadly magic of November on your skin, the Scorpio drums in the place of your heartbeat. It’s speed, if you’re lucky. It’s life and it’s death or it’s both, and there’s nothing like it.