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.

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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.