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 2016-03-12 at 11.10.19 PM

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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Hot Little Hands – Abigail Ulman

Screen Shot 2016-06-30 at 10.23.37 PMFrom the jacket:

Claire is magnetic. On the cusp of adulthood and letting go of her adolescence one miserable responsibility at a time, she’s moved from London to San Francisco to work toward her PhD and minor in cheap whiskey, pour-over coffee, and guys who can’t be bothered to shower. When she finds out she’s pregnant by a heartsick ex-boyfriend, the solution seems clear, if only to her.

Kira is a talented thirteen-year-old Russian gymnast who leaves her traditional family to travel to America.

Elise and Jenni, two Australian high school students, seek asylum from the hooking up and heavy drinking they’ve been doing for years by reenrolling in their childhood sleepaway camp.

Over the course of nine loosely connected stories, Hot Little Hands introduces us to young women, at once clever and naïve, who struggle to navigate the chronic uncertainty and very real dangers that come with being impatient for the future and reluctant to leave childhood behind.

Ulman absolutely nails it in this debut short story collection. Her characters are so vividly imagined, incredibly relatable, flawed, and full of angst. I do not read a lot of short story collections, but Hot Little Hands has me both regretting and rethinking that habit. The beginning of each of the nine stories brought with it the excitement you feel when you start a really great new book; each one ending with a satisfying, and sometimes extremely surprising conclusion.

As always, I’m going to get into more detail after the jump. Continue on at your own discretion.

Continue reading “Hot Little Hands – Abigail Ulman”

Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell

Screen Shot 2016-04-22 at 10.10.49 PM.pngFrom the jacket:

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? And does she even want to move on if it means leaving Simon Snow behind?

Fangirl is an honest, hilarious, and tender coming of age story that is as accessible and relatable as the Breakfast club is re-watchable. Rainbow Rowell has expertly captured the zeitgeist of the American young adult growing up in the twenty-tens. The decade of Tumblr, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat & YouTube; the decade of likes, followers, online forums, and global internet communities. In Fangirl, she portrays, with razor sharp accuracy, the raw and vulnerable emotions felt when you find yourself out on your own for the very first time, completely out of your comfort zone, and navigating a grown up world that is largely uncharted territory. She does all this while managing to remain completely timeless as well.

I’m going into more detail after the jump. Read at your discretion.

Continue reading “Fangirl – Rainbow Rowell”