Size Doesn’t Matter (31): Mini Reviews by a Lazy Blogger

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (31): Mini Reviews by a Lazy BloggerThe Cat Who Came in Off the Roof by Annie M. G. Schmidt
Narrator: Katherine Kellgren
Length: 4 hrs, 2 mins
Published by Listening Library on January 19, 2016
Genres: Fantasy
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
three-half-stars

In the tradition of "The Cricket in Times Square" comes this charming tale of courage, friendship, and what it really means to be human. This classic, which originated in Holland and has withstood the test of time worldwide, will appeal to readers young and old and dog and cat lovers alike!
An act of kindness brings shy reporter Mr. Tibble into contact with the unusual Miss Minou. Tibble is close to losing his job because he only writes stories about cats. Fortunately, Minou provides him with real news. She gets the juicy inside information from her local feline friends, who are the eyes and ears of the neighborhood. Tibble is appreciative, but he wonders how she does it. He "has" noticed that Minou is terrified of dogs and can climb trees and rooftops with elegance and ease. . . . It s almost as if she s a cat herself. But how can that be?

Cats + Katherine Kellgren narration = a no-brainer. My personal theory is that Kellgren loves narrating stories with animals the most because she gets to make all sorts of fun sounds, based on how much she goes to town with howls and meows.

The Cat Who Came in Off the Roof came out in 1970, and it does have an old feel about it, perhaps because it’s a kid’s book about a shy reporter. Like, it’s not as much of  a thing to have kid’s books be about adults anymore. Still, it’s a very cute story, albeit a bit strange.

Obviously, I loved absolutely everything about the cats. The premise, odd though it is, of a cat being turned into a human girl works surprisingly well. Miss Minou’s cattish habits are amusing, and I love the cat network. The romance shoe-horned in at the end threw me off guard, though, especially considering that View Spoiler ».

The audiobook is short and excellent. I’d recommend it if you love cats or Kellgren’s narration.

I received this book for free from Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (31): Mini Reviews by a Lazy BloggerAnna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
Narrator: Allan Corduner
Length: 6 hrs, 30 mins
Published by Listening Library on January 26, 2016
Genres: Historical
Format: Audiobook
Source: Publisher
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
two-stars

A stunning, literary, and wholly original debut novel set in Poland during the Second World War perfect for readers of The Book Thief.

Kraków, 1939. A million marching soldiers and a thousand barking dogs. This is no place to grow up. Anna Łania is just seven years old when the Germans take her father, a linguistics professor, during their purge of intellectuals in Poland. She’s alone.

And then Anna meets the Swallow Man. He is a mystery, strange and tall, a skilled deceiver with more than a little magic up his sleeve. And when the soldiers in the streets look at him, they see what he wants them to see.

The Swallow Man is not Anna’s father—she knows that very well—but she also knows that, like her father, he’s in danger of being taken, and like her father, he has a gift for languages: Polish, Russian, German, Yiddish, even Bird. When he summons a bright, beautiful swallow down to his hand to stop her from crying, Anna is entranced. She follows him into the wilderness.

Over the course of their travels together, Anna and the Swallow Man will dodge bombs, tame soldiers, and even, despite their better judgment, make a friend. But in a world gone mad, everything can prove dangerous. Even the Swallow Man.

Destined to become a classic, Gavriel Savit’s stunning debut reveals life’s hardest lessons while celebrating its miraculous possibilities.

Anna and the Swallow Man is the first book I’ve read this year that I haven’t liked. Now, I do think there are good things about it for sure, like the writing, but my enjoyment just was not there.

The description starts out by saying that it’s perfect for fans of The Book Thief, and that’s certainly accurate. Sort of. See, the problem for me was, to a large degree, that this book felt like it was trying so damn hard to be The Book Thief. The circumstances are not identical by any means, but the tone and the writing were so reminiscent of The Book Thief. Unfortunately, though the book’s beautiful, I’d rather have just reread The Book Thief than spent my time on Anna and the Swallow Man.

Another issue I had was that this book is awkwardly straddling the divide between middle grade and children’s. For the most part, it felt like a middle grade to me, with Anna’s wide-eyed innocence, the way the Germans are described as wolves and the Soviets as bears, and the fairy tale feeling. But then at the end View Spoiler » which isn’t really something I expect to see in a middle grade novel. On GR, it’s tagged as both. On Amazon, the product details say the age range is 12 and up, which is YA, but the best sellers ranks put it in Teens once and Children’s books twice. That’s kind of a mess.

One of the things The Book Thief managed to do brilliantly was to have a distance from the characters in the narration, but still to make the characters real and to make you able to really feel with them. Anna and the Swallow Man didn’t manage this for me. From the start, it felt more fanciful than believable, with Anna quickly forgetting her actual father to travel along with the Swallow Man. Now, I get why she went with him, since she didn’t have a lot of other options, but I’d expect way more mourning for her lost father or for her to want to go back to Krakow in hopes of finding him returned. It’s not like she knows for sure that he died and has any sort of closure; we all know that’s probably what happened but she’s a little girl at that point. This is a common problem I find in fiction that starts with a tragic loss but isn’t about grief; often that gets skipped entirely and then the character feels either heartless or just unrealistic.

Anna and the Swallow Man has merits but ultimately I wasn’t able to appreciate them overmuch, because it felt like the novel was trying too hard to be literary, sacrificing characterization to do so.

Size Doesn’t Matter (31): Mini Reviews by a Lazy BloggerWritten in Red by Anne Bishop
Narrator: Alexandra Harris
Length: 18 hrs, 32 mins
Series: The Others #1
Published by Penguin Audio on March 5, 2013
Genres: Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Romance
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
AmazonThe Book DepositoryAudible
Goodreads
five-stars

As a "cassandra sangue," or blood prophet, Meg Corbyn can see the future when her skin is cut--a gift that feels more like a curse. Meg's Controller keeps her enslaved so he can have full access to her visions. But when she escapes, the only safe place Meg can hide is at the Lakeside Courtyard--a business district operated by the Others.

Shape-shifter Simon Wolfgard is reluctant to hire the stranger who inquires about the Human Liaison job. First, he senses she's keeping a secret, and second, she doesn't smell like human prey. Yet a stronger instinct propels him to give Meg the job. And when he learns the truth about Meg and that she's wanted by the government, he'll have to decide if she's worth the fight between humans and the Others that will surely follow.

Though my memory of this series is better than usual, I decided that I wanted to start over from the beginning before diving into Marked in Flesh, the fourth book in the series. I am SO HAPPY with that life choice because I really fucking love these books and these characters. So much so that sometimes I almost start crying because of how much I love them which okay yes scary place.

I finished Written in Red on audiobook in just over two days. It is EIGHTEEN HOURS LONG. If you’re not an audiobook reader, that’s a pretty long audiobook, and often ones that long take me a week plus, depending how into them I am. So yeah.

I’m upgrading my rating to five stars because this is a super favorite. I’m sure it has some flaws, but I really don’t give a shit. I love it fully.

Meg is sweetest cinnamon roll in all the land. She is the puffiest of Huffles. Her primary strength is her sweetness and kindness, which wins over the Others to her. She’s open-minded and doesn’t allow societal prejudices to keep her from giving people a chance. She gives everyone a chance, including shifters and monsters. Sure, she sometimes ends up in danger because she can be a bit too trusting, but she has friends to help her because of it too. Plus, she is trusting and sweet, but she’s not a doormat. Meg knows the horrors of the world, and she is fierce underneath, despite the fact that she doesn’t want to hurt anyone. Oh right, here’s the almost crying again. MEG IS SPECIAL OKAY.

It’s not just Meg, though. I love all of the residents of the courtyard with such a fierceness. Simon, gruff but so caring underneath his bristling exterior. Sam, who is the cutest child ever. Tess, scariest of the terra indigene but also baker of cookies. Nathan and the crows helping out at the liaison’s office. Henry Bearguard. They’re all so precious.

Also, I love that Bishop doesn’t skimp on the viciousness of the terra indigene. They do eat humans; they are vicious monsters from a human perspective. They think of people as “meat,” “bunnies,” and “monkeys.” It’s nothing to them to bite off the hand of a shoplifter or murder a person and then sell the meat at their butcher shop. Meeting Meg makes them give humans more of a chance, but they don’t turn into fluffy Edwards and Jacobs. They are all very dangerous.

Anyway, I love this series super a lot, so you should read it if you haven’t listened to my pushing yet.

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