Category Archives: Misc.

In Praise of Audiobooks

iStock_audiobookI have a new love in my life. It is the all-mighty audiobook, and after only a few months together, I think we’re in it for the long haul.

I should probably clarify that it’s not like I’m all “OMG, what is this new fascinating technology that reads to me??” I used to listen to books on CD all the time, especially when I was in grad school and had a six hour drive home to face at the end of each quarter, but I kind of got out of the habit. After I got my iPhone, I’d listen from time to time to something on one of the free sites, but I usually just preferred a good old fashioned book.

I signed up for an audible.com account a few months ago, when I was faced with a seven hour drive and had reached a gap in audiobooks of the Anne of Green Gables series available in the public domain (that gap, for those interested, is Anne of Windy Poplars, forcing you to skip to the yawn-inducing Anne’s House of Dreams). Sticking with my theme, my first purchase was another L.M. Montgomery book, Emily of New Moon, which I adore (sadly, an audiobook of Windy Poplars doesn’t seem to exist). I had planned to try it out for the free month and then most likely cancel the service. But… I kind of got hooked. I work in a job that requires a lot of focused work, the kind of work that allows me to wear headphones whenever I want. But it’s also sort of repetitive work after a while, and I get bored with music, so podcasts have been a staple in my workweek listening for a long time. (Recommendations? This American Life is just as good as every hipster you know says it is. Ditto Welcome to Night Vale, though in a COMPLETELY different way.) So audiobooks are right up my alley.

The first book I actually purchased? Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? And Other Concerns by Mindy Kaling. Otherwise known as that book I already own and have already read and even reviewed right here on this site. So why would I buy an audiobook of it? Because Mindy was reading it, and additional voices were being provided by BJ Novak and Michael Shure. Now, everyone not addicted to the Thursday night NBC lineup just glazed over a little, but for fans of The Office this is GOLD. Hearing Mindy’s own voice and inflections added a whole new level of funny to the book. And so when September rolled around and it was time to redeem another book, I didn’t hesitate – Bossypants it was, read by Tina Fey herself. Another win, as is most things that Tina Fey touches, stands near, or thinks about for more than thirty seconds. I hadn’t read Bossypants and was utterly charmed not only by the book itself, but by Tina’s reading of it. 

I’ve moved away from the funny memoirs by funny women of NBC phase and have since branched out into novels. I listened to most of The Fault in Our Stars during one long day at work, during which I was walking around my office with my earbuds in my ears because I just could. Not. Stop. My latest purchase is Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell, which I highly recommend  as well (look for a review of both soon!). I love the freedom that audiobooks are giving me – letting me listen as I work or run errands or even clean my house. They help make mundane tasks much more interesting.

So if you find yourself with a stack of books on your to-read list and no time to read them, give it a try. Hit up your local library, download one of the public domain apps for your phone, or try Audible – the first month is free (kinda like that first hit of crack is free, just to suck you in). I’m pretty sure you’ll fall in love with them too.


Top 10 Books I Found at BEA

Over a week (or 2?) later and I am STILL recovering from BEA. As always, it was amazing couple of days and I am still sorting through everything. That being said, I do have a few titles that have stood out for me that I am pretty excited about, so without further ado, here is my list of BEA books I can’t wait to read.

  1. Jepp, Who Defied the Stars by Katherine Marsh (Hyperion, October 2012) – The first book on my list, I actually had the chance to read last week and I was so glad I did. This was the first book I picked up, and it was completely on a whim. This is a historical fiction YA that takes place in the late 1500’s and follows the life of a dwarf named Jepp who ends up as a court dwarf at Coudenberg Palace and it throws his world into turmoil. From meeting other dwarfs for the first time, being forced to jump out of pies and crossing paths with nobles, princesses and even Tycho Brahe himself (not this Tycho, this one!), Jepp learns to defy the stars and take his destiny into his own hands. Honestly, this was just a well told story that made me hit the books to learn more. Read it!
  2. The Cupcake Diaries by Katherine Kallinis and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne (HarperOne, 2011) – I have to admit, before I picked up this book, I had never heard of DC Cupcakes. I picked it up because not only do I love cupcakes and thought a cupcake book would be fun, but they were giving away FREE cupcakes with the book. Ladies and Gentlemen, I have to tell you that it was the most amazing cupcake I have ever put in my mouth and it has made me go on a cupcake crusade. Part memoir, part cookbook, this book is awesome, and not just because the one recipe I have tried so far was not only easy to follow and gave great baking tips, but the cupcakes turned out delicious. If you love cupcakes, baking, or have taken the plunge and started your own business, then you will enjoy this book.
  3. The High-Skies Adventures of Blue Jay the Pirate by Scott Nash (Candlewick, September 2012) – I LOVE pirates and this book just seems really fun. The back copy states that “…between outwitting villainous crows and outrunning murderous weasels, it’s all Blue Jay and the rest of the crew can do to stay together and stay alive.” The ink illustrations bring to life Blue Jay and his crew in all of their pirate glory. The final book will be in color, so I am looking forward to seeing everything finished! This looks like a great pick for the young swashbucklers in your life!
  4. Splendors and Glooms by Laura Amy Schlitz (Candlewick, August, 2012) – Another Candlewick book. It is safe to say that I LOVE this publishing house and the beautiful books they make. Splendors and Glooms is about Master puppeteer Grisini, two children, Lizzie and Parsefall, and Clara, a local rich girl (who hired Grisini to entertain at her birthday party and goes missing). As you might suspect, the blame is cast upon Grisini and by extension, Lissie and Parsefall. Enter an old rivalry and a witch with a deadly inheritance and a great mystery is born. This was a book that the employees at the Candlewick booth said they were really excited about and not to miss it!
  5. The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin (Orbit, 2012) – This is the first book of the Dreamblood series. Since I am not sure how to explain it, here is a look at the back copy. I haven’t read it yet, but it sounded pretty interesting. In the ancient city-state of Gujaareh, peace is the only law. Upon its rooftops and among the shadows of it’s cobbled streets wait the Gatherers–the keepers of this peace. Their duty is to harvest the magic of the sleeping mind and use it to heal, soothe… and kill those judged corrupt.”
    It sounds just crazy enough to be awesome and I can’t wait to get to it!
  6. Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef by Gabrielle Hamilton (Random House, 2011) – This book has been out for a while, but when I picked it up and read what it was about, it seemed right up my alley (not to mention the great cover!). I am a big fan of food and memoirs. Throw them together and I am a happy camper. This book is a look at Gabrielle’s life and how she ended up opening her acclaimed New York restaurant, Prune. If food is your thing, then this is your book.
  7. Beta by Rachel Cohn (Hyperion, October 2012), “Elysia is created in a laboratory, born as a sixteen-year-old girl, an empty vessel with no life experience to draw from. She is a Beta, an experimental model of a teenage clone. She was replicated from another teenage girl, who had to die in order for Elysia to exist. Elysia’s purpose is to serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth.” Need I say more? This is the first in a series, so I have high hopes that this is as exciting as it sounds. I know that cloning isn’t a new thing in science fictions, but maybe Beta will give it a new twist that lets it stand on its own. Hyperion doesn’t usually let me down!
  8. Colin Fischer by Ashley Edward Miller & Zack Stentz (Razorbill, November 2012) – Razorbill is an imprint of Penguin and this is one of their upcoming middle reader books. I am really looking forward to reading this one with my little brother. “Colin is Wayne Connelley’s best-and only-hope of proving his innocence after being accused of blowing up a birthday cake in the school cafeteria.” I love a good mystery, especially one that involves cake and quirky Sherlock Holmes types (“Colin cannot stand to be touched. He does not like the color blue. He needs index cards to recognize facial expressions.“)
  9. The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken (Hyperion, December 2012) – This book just sounds dark and creepy, which can be incredibly exciting. Here is what I learned from the back of the book: When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that gets her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government ‘rehabilitation camp.’ She might have survived the mysterious disease that’s killed most of America’s children, but she and the others have emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they can’t control.” The book seems to follow into her teen years when she eventually escapes Thurmond and ends up on the run. I really need to know what this “something” is and what is so dangerous. I am saving this one to read when I am in the mood for a good scare!
  10. Princess Academy: Palace of Stone by Shannon Hale (Bloomsbury, August 2012) – So I picked this up having not read the first Princess Academy book. Of course I went out and bought the first one and I am in the middle of reading it with with my little sister. It is SO fun. I haven’t read the back of this one yet, because I don’t want any spoilers, but I have a feeling that Hale will not disappoint me.

There are a lot more books, but these are my top 10. Keep checking back for reviews and giveaways! We have some great books to share from BEA!


Housekeeping

A few updates:

We’re up for the Independent Book Blogger Awards.  You should probably vote for us.  If we win, we get to go to BEA where we’ll pick up lots of new books to review for your reading pleasure.

We’ve also started Tumblring.  Yes, I made that word up.  Just go with it.


We Got Apps

Out of the many YA vampire books that have emerged post-Twilight, Richelle Mead’s Vampire Academy series is one of the most popular. Though the concept is fairly ridiculous. It’s a boarding school!  Of Vampires!  But it features strong, interesting characters (mostly), fast-paced action, and a fresh and detailed Vampire mythology.  The series stars Rose, a tough, sarcastic heroine who is more than capable of taking care of herself, but still has a lot to learn.  Her love interests include Dimitri, her super-intense trainer who is 7 years her senior (appropriate!), and Adrian, the charismatic bad boy.  I could do without Rose’s whiny and needy best friend Lissa, but the rest of the characters flesh out the world nicely.  The series went on a bit too long for my taste, but I’d recommend it to anyone looking for a good soapy, yet action-packed, YA series.  So when it was announced Penguin was launching an app called “The World of Richelle Mead,” I decided to check it out.  It’s, to my knowledge, the first app based on a YA book or series.  It opens up so many possibilities for authors and publishers to reach out and interact with readers. Plus it was free, so why not?

The first section of the app is the bookshelf, presumably the impetus behind this whole venture.  This is where fans can purchase enhanced e-book versions of the Vampire Academy and spinoff Bloodlines series.  These e-books are designed to look like actual books (pretty!) and contain extra behind the scenes info from the author herself.  I don’t blame Penguin or Mead for adding extra content as way to get people to buy e-books directly from them, but it’s kind of crappy to do that to the hardcore fans who presumably already own the books.  I mean at least with Pottermore (which I assume will become an app soon) the background info is separate from the eventual e-books (and free!). The e-books will also link to any tweets or Facebook posts that fellow app users have made about the book.  I personally find that to be useless and uninteresting, but your mileage may vary.

The second section is all about the characters.  Click on a locket and it will tell you all about that character.  You can also find out the relationship between two characters by dragging their lockets together.  It’s a beautifully designed page, but since the character bios only include info from the books, I assume that this feature will only be useful for readers bypassing the original series and jumping straight into the spinoff series.  Although, if you sway your tablet from side to side then you can make ALL of the lockets swing wildly off the page.  This provides whole seconds of fun.

Next is the obligatory author page.  There’s a brief bio as well Mead’s twitter feed and a few short video interviews.  It’s fine, but there’s really not much to say as I don’t think fans will be spending a lot of time here.

Lastly we have the community section.  This contains polls, links to fan communities on Facebook and twitter, and a VA news page.  There’s also a world map that posts the locations of everyone currently reading one of the enhanced e-books.  I find it creepy in a Big Brother is watching sort of way.  Now I’m not much for joining communities (although I am for watching Community), but it seems like they could do a lot more with fan interaction.

Actually, that seems to be the theme for the entire enterprise: they could do more.  The app is fine, but doesn’t provide much in the way of activity. There could be games and quizzes and who knows what else!  I’m not planning on buying any e-books, so I don’t anticipate spending more time on this app, but I’m curious to see who else jumps into this arena. What YA author do you think should get an app next?


OCD: Striking When You Least Expect It

Lately, I have had a bad case of OMG LET’S ORGANIZE ALL THE THINGS. Normally, this is not a problem for me, as I have enormous blinders when it comes to things like clutter and chaos. But every once in a while, it catches up to me, and all of a sudden, I find myself sitting at work stewing the unfairness of having to be chained to my desk when there are closets to be cleared out.

This weekend, my occasional OCD crept up on me when I was trying to figure out if we’d written about a particular book and realized that we have no way of easily finding something, other than our haphazard tags and whatnot. ‘No more!’ I declared to myself. ‘I will ORGANIZE ALL THE THINGS.’ And three hours later, we have a handy-dandy index of every book that we’ve reviewed, organized alphabetically by author, for your convenience and my sanity. It’s called the Master Reading List, it’ll live right up there on the top bar, and it will be updated semi-regularly.

Or, you know, whenever my OCD strikes again.


The Big 1-0-0

Last week, when I posted my latest book review, I looked up and realized that was our 99th post.

(Flailing ensued.)

We started this little blog as a whim, not sure if we’d keep the momentum up past the first week, but here we are, with a blog 100 posts strong, and we couldn’t be more excited! Celebration was in order. And so last Wednesday night (yes, it takes this long to get six people to write a post together), the Rampant Readers piled into Princess Consuela’s living room to participate in our first every cupcake night!

(You can just assume that there was more flailing when we first came up with that idea.)

To keep it somewhat on the topic of books, and to justify making a meal out of six different kinds of cupcake, we decided to each grab a different cookbook, make a different type of cupcake, and then see who had the best recipe. You know, for the education of others. And science. We’re givers around here.

(Also, as  it turned out, we brought our total cupcake count down from a gluttonous six types to a ladylike five, because Captain Awesome went rogue and made pie instead. There were no complaints from the rest of us.)

Our initial idea was to have a cupcake-off, presumably with fancy prizes and whatnot. I was looking forward to making someone carefully walk their cupcake from the kitchen to the table without dropping it like they do in those fancy cake competitions. This… didn’t so much happen. Instead, we just sat around and ate a lot and talked a lot and generally had a grand time. And really, isn’t that a better outcome? We didn’t want to have to come back on here in post 101 and update you that due to unforeseen cupcake competition shenanigans, one or more RR writers would no longer be able to read/write/walk upright. So instead of having a big unveiling of the winner, we are placing that crown on all our heads and instead telling you about the long, hard road to cupcake night. As anyone who has seen Cupcake Wars can attest, baking is serious business, and only the strong survive.

rhymenocerous: 

It was the perfect plan.  My mom gave me What’s New, Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson for Christmas.  So when the Rampant Reads crew announced our cupcake party, I was thinking, “Swell, I can use my special cupcake book.  It will be a gift from my mom that actually gets some use.  Unlike the Popcorn Cookbook I got last year.  Which is confusing, because how many recipes for popcorn can there be?  1) Unwrap popcorn package 2) put in microwave 3) enjoy.” And as you can see from the cover, the cupcake book is pretty cheery looking, with adorable ducks on it.  

“Oh, look how easy it is to create cupcakes disguised as squirrels!” I imagine Alan trilling.

“Darling, you can just whip up a batch of cupcakes festooned with lifelike flamingos in the afternoon before your children are home from soccer practice!” Karen probably replies.

Goddam liars.

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2012 – A Lot to Be Excited About

Let's hope the Mayans were wrong.

It’s the time of year for lists. Many many lists. Magazines, newspapers, blogs, toilet paper companies, all of ’em are doing their Best of 2011 lists. While I would love to know what the 5 Softest Toilet Papers of 2011 were, we thought it would be more interesting to look ahead to 2012 and talk about the books to be published that we are excited about reading. So, barring that end of the world thing that the Mayans predicted, here are a few books that each Rampant Reads lady can’t wait to get her greedy mitts on.

(NOTE: Rhymenocerous just had to go off to Russia while we wrote this post, so her picks aren’t in this list. Let’s all just be jealous and have a vodka shot in her honor.)


Anatasia Beaverhausen:

The Fault in our Stars by John Green (Jan. 10)

I don’t have to wait long for this one and THANK GOODNESS. They released the first 2 chapters online (you can read them online here) and I am already hooked. The premise sounds a bit grim – girl with terminal cancer finds love – but John’s writing and superb characters will change your expectations and make this not to miss. Plus, he signed EVERY SINGLE PRE-ORDERED COPY, god bless him.

Black Heart by Holly Black (Apr. 3)

Holly is one of my favorite YA authors, as evidenced by my treasured signed copy of Tithe in my intro post. This is the 3rd book in her superb “Curse Workers” series and I can’t wait to see where she takes it.

The Doors of Stone (The Kingkiller Chronicles Day 3) by Patrick Rothfuss (Date ?)

Rothbuss exploded onto the fantasy scene with the first book in this series, The Name of the Wind, in 2009, and his brilliant writing and playing with fantasy tropes made it an instant hit with fantasy fans. I think even folks who aren’t fantasy people would eat this series up. Each book takes place over one day and I am DYING to finish this up. GIVE ME A RELEASE DATE!!
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