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!

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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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Goodbye, Vitamin – Rachel Khong

51+SgqT67tL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.

Publication Date: July 11th, 2017

Page Count: 208 (Hardcover)

From the Jacket:

Freshly disengaged from her fiancé and feeling that life has not turned out quite the way she planned, thirty-year-old Ruth quits her job, leaves town and arrives at her parents’ home to find that situation more complicated than she’d realized. Her father, a prominent history professor, is losing his memory and is only erratically lucid. Ruth’s mother, meanwhile, is lucidly erratic. But as Ruth’s father’s condition intensifies, the comedy in her situation takes hold, gently transforming her all her grief.
Told in captivating glimpses and drawn from a deep well of insight, humor, and unexpected tenderness, Goodbye, Vitamin pilots through the loss, love, and absurdity of finding one’s footing in this life.

When I initially read the jacket for this book, I considered not starting it. Expecting a sad, despairing narrative about a young woman watching her father slowly decline from Alzheimer’s disease, I was very pleasantly surprised to find Goodbye, Vitamin really isn’t about that at all. Ruth does in fact, return home to care for her father, Howard, who is losing his memory. However, the plot focuses on a year they spend together, while Khong expertly weaves in details from the past. It’s about love and the complexities and dysfunction of families. Written in journal entires that flow together almost like a stream of consciousness, it is impossible to put down. Khong’s prose is so stark and tender and I think it’s the simplicity of it that pulled me in.

This story is so quirky and bittersweet. Ruth’s father keeps a journal of all of the things she says to him as a young child, and these tidbits were my favorite part. The limitless imagination of children is perfectly rendered in these entries and they pulled mightily at my heart strings. Each one a reminder of how fleeting the time is when children are young and full of wonder. Despite being exhausting, and often feeling like each day is just surviving to the end of it, it made me pause and remember to cherish these moments with them.

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Final Thoughts: This book is heartwarming and tender and quirky and even funny, despite the dark subject matter. The overall impression is very bittersweet, but I still enjoyed it immensely. It’s a quick read and the writing is truly terrific. I will definitely pick up more by this author in the future.

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Favorite Characters: The Howard who writes the journal entries

Memorable Quotes:

If I were you is something I’ve never really understood. Why say, “If I were you”? Why say, “If I were you,” when the problem is you’re not me? I wish people would say, “Since I am me, ” followed by whatever advice it is they have.

What imperfect carriers of love we are, and what imperfect givers. That the reasons we can care for one another can have nothing to do with the person cared for. That it has only to do with who we were around that person — what we felt about that person.

At one point Dad emerges, shirtless, into the kitchen, to brew himself coffee. I get my nipples from him, I realize, alarmed.

July 2017 Wrap-Up

July was a big month for reading for me, and I finished 11 books in total. I checked off several books that I’ve been meaning to get to for a while, as well as discovered some brand new ones that had not been on my TBR.  Despite this, I still have an ever growing stack on my nightstand that I fear I will never see the bottom of. It really is true that the more you read, the more you realize you haven’t read.

Some of my favorites this month were….

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As Ginny Moon would say, “well dang!” I loved this book SO. MUCH! This one is told from the perspective of Ginny, an autistic 14 year old growing up in the foster care system. She’s brave, stubborn, funny, smart, and fiercely loyal. I’m recommending this one to everyone I see.

 

 

 

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I was expecting this to be another run of the mill YA romance. Not to say that there is anything wrong with those, because if you look at my reading list, I clearly LOVE THEM. But I was pleasantly surprised to find some very creative ideas presented that really set it apart. I listened on audio, and the two narrators they cast do a lovely job. This is sweet and the ending had me wiping my eyes and blaming allergies.

 

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My Lady Jane was so much fun to read. It’s a very funny and creative retelling of history that frequently breaks the fourth wall. I laughed out loud on more than one occasion and found the romance to be very sweet. I’m excited to see what these ladies come up with next.

 

 

 

Honorable mention to Jennifer Niven’s All The Bright Places. This was such an exceptionally beautiful story, made even more touching by listening to the author’s note at the end of the book. I’m really glad I read this one.

Because I enjoyed The Sun is Also a Star so much, I fully expected to love Everything Everything. I was really underwhelmed by that one, which is a bummer because I was really excited to watch the movie. Also, What Light by Jay Asher got really good reviews, and was the only thing I could find available on Overdrive that I wanted to listen to. I went in with high hopes, as it takes place during Christmas on a Christmas tree farm. As an extreme Christmas lover, I figured this would be pretty hard to screw up. Unfortunately, while the story was sweet, I spent most of it bored out of my mind. A lot of the plot was unbelievable and the dialogue was pretty cheesy.

Also, I organized my shelves today and I think they look lovely sorted by color. It will be an absolute nightmare to find anything, but THEY’RE SO PRETTY.

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The whole line up…..

 

 

The Hate U Give – 5 crowns

This Savage Song – 4 crowns

Geekerella – 5 crowns

My Lady Jane – 4 crowns

The Sun is Also a Star – 5 crowns

All the Bright Places – 5 crowns

Ginny Moon – 5 crowns

The Girl Before – 2 crowns

Everything Everything – 3 crowns

Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore – 5 crowns

What Light – 3 crowns