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Friday, August 4, 2017

Mighty Jack & the Goblin King by Ben Hatke | Blog Tour

It's no secret around here that I love Ben Hatke's work. All of it. Every last drop of ink, right down to the tiniest, silliest character. Everything is very vivid and lively, with bright, bold colors* and big, big emotions, and I always, always, always finish his stories with a giant smile on my face.

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King was no exception. It's got that perfect blend of whimsical fantasy, sweet and fearless characters, and lush, vibrant coloring that I've come to associate with Hatke's work, and it's also possibly the funniest book he's written, thanks in large part to the goblins (goblins! Anf gobblets! I WANT A GOBBLET. Dammit, how does Ben always make me care about and want these silly little creatures in every. single. book.) As I've said before (in probably every review of Ben Hatke's work that I've ever written), the story feels like elements of my childhood come to life. It's a retelling of Jack and the Beanstalk, so of course there's that, but also, the giants remind me of the Gorgs from Fraggle Rock, with maybe a dash of Little Monsters and something else from my childhood that I can't quite out my finger on. And Jack and Lilly . . . where to even begin with Jack and Lilly. They're all the best bits of all of my childhood favorite adventurers combined, but with more modern finesse.  There's really nothing not to like about them, and I very, very much would like to see an entire series featuring the adventures of Lilly   the motherfreaking Goblin King!.

This one plunges right into the action, wasting no time from where the first book left off. This is great, but it also means that you definitely should read book one first (though that said, there is enough info given, and most people are familiar enough with the concept of Jack and the Beanstalk, that the majority of readers would still be able to pick this up and read/understand/enjoy it just fine, even without having read book 1. But, dude, read book 1. It's good!) The stakes feel very high in this (poor Lilly gets dragged through the ringer from page one!), and Ben reinterprets/repurposes original elements from Jack and the Beanstalk and similar tales in very fun, clever ways.

And it's just a joy to read. I mean, there's a giant suit full of rats, you guys. I know that's probably repugnant to a lot of you, but I mean, clearly with a blog name like "The Book Rat," I'm more than happy to find surprise rats in my books... And yeah, okay, maybe the rats aren't really good guys here (typical), and maybe a fewof them get a little stabbed. But still. The old sight gag of something smaller (two kids stacked one on the other's shoulders, etc), pretending to be full-sized and Very Important is only made funnier and more absurd by the fact that it's rats. But even for those of you who won't be won over by the rats, I can't imagine there will be many people who will pick this or any of Hatke's books up and not be charmed. And those who are already fans may find a surprise special guest or two tucked away in these pages...

If I haven't already made it clear, you should be reading Ben Hatke's books. Like, now.
Lucky for you, this hits stores TOMORROW SEPTEMBER 5TH, I know which month I'm in, really. O_O

*And shout out to Alex Campbell and Hilary Sycamore on the gorgeous coloring for this series!

Don't want to take my word for it? Check out others' thoughts on the rest of the Mighty Jack blog tour! Or watch Ben talk about creativity and shenanigans to Paste magazine here!

Mighty Jack and the Goblin King by Ben Hatke
Adventure, Fairy Tale Retelling; 207 pages
September 5th 2017 by First Second

The garden behind Jack’s house has gone wild with creatures set loose by the magic beans Jack and his kid sister Maddy planted. One particularly mean creature has kidnapped Maddy and carried her off. Now Jack and his neighbor Lilly must follow her to a world between worlds beyond the vines and stalks, where giants grind the bones of human children to feed their beast in the castle up above, and a fearsome goblin king rules down below. It'll take more than Lilly’s bag of concoctions and tricks, and more than one hero, to rescue Maddy, reunite Jack's family, and bring them all safely home again.

Ben Hatke is the author and illustrator of the New York Times–bestselling Zita the Spacegirl trilogy, the picture books Julia's House for Lost Creatures and Nobody Likes a Goblin, and the graphic novels Little Robot and Mighty Jack. He lives and works in the Shenandoah Valley with his wife and their boisterous pack of daughters. benhatke.com

Friday, July 21, 2017

THE TRUTH . . . is on audio | ad

I have a confession to make: I don't think I've ever seen a single complete episode of The X-Files. Maybe one. It's always seemed like something I would really like, and I have close friends who were pretty much obsessed with it, and yet. . . When it originally aired, I think there was something else I watched that came on at the same time, I dunno, and then maybe after awhile, it just seemed like it'd be too hard to catch up on. In this age of Netflix and binge-watching, I've thought about starting it, but it's just always seemed like such an undertaking, you know?

I've always intended to watch it, I just haven't.

But this month, The X-Files: Cold Cases is a featured title on Audible, and I've been listening to it a bit to get a feel for it (which is maybe silly of me, since it takes place after the original series run, so... probably spoilers, yeah?), and it's reminding me that I really should go and start a good ol' binge, because I probably really would love the show. And the audiobook.

It's performed (narrated certainly is not the right description in this case) by  Gillian Anderson and David Duchovny, of course, along with additional cast and sound effects -- the works. This makes it unlike other audiobooks I've listened to at this point, because though I have full cast recordings in my audio collection, I've not yet listened to anything that wasn't narrated by a single person doing multiple voices as needed. This is more akin to the old school radio dramas -- the OG audiobooks, if you will -- that captivated audiences in the early decades of the last century.  It feels more immersive, more immediate, than audiobooks generally do (and they already feel a bit more immersive than a text book, since there's a voice and sounds in your ear). It makes for a pretty neat listening experience, and one that I'm sure will be a hit with the legions of X-Files fans.

And hey, if it sounds like something that'd be up your alley, you can download it for free as part of a FREE 30 day Audible trial -- Or maybe you want a different X-Files book (they've got it) or any other of the many, many audiobooks Audible has to offer. Doesn't even have to be about aliens! They've got it all.

You know what they say: the free audiobook is out there. . . 

*gazes off into the night sky*

[Also, did you know that Gillian Anderson wrote a book?!]

about the book:
The X-Files: Cold Cases
Written by: Joe Harris, Chris Carter, Dirk Maggs - adaptation
Narrated by: David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Mitch Pileggi, Willliam B. Davis, Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, Bruce Harwood
Length: 4 hrs and 5 mins

The series that had a generation looking to the sky gets a breathtaking audio reprise in an original full-cast dramatization featuring actors David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson returning to voice FBI agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully.

Based upon the graphic novels by Joe Harris - with creative direction from series creator Chris Carter - and adapted specifically for the audio format by aural auteur Dirk Maggs (The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Alien: Out of the Shadows), Cold Cases marks yet another thrilling addition to the pantheon of X-Files stories. Featuring a mind-blowing and otherworldly soundscape of liquefying aliens, hissing creatures, and humming spacecraft, listeners get to experience the duo's investigations like never before.

Set after the events of The X-Files: I Want to Believe and providing additional backstory to the incidents that pulled Mulder and Scully out of reclusion prior to 2016's miniseries revival, a database breach at FBI headquarters allows an unknown group to access and capitalize on those investigations left unsolved - dubbed cold cases - by the secret department once known as The X-Files. As friends and foes of the agency long thought gone begin to inexplicably reappear, former agents Mulder and Scully come out of anonymity to face a growing conspiracy that involves not only their former department but the US government and forces not of this world.

Here, fans are treated once again to Mulder and Scully's irreplicable chemistry as only the series' leads could deliver, Duchovny's deadpan and cynical aloofness finding its natural counterpoint in Anderson's unwavering intelligence and rigidity. Appearances from series regulars and the actors who made them fan favorites round out this must-listen arc: the gruff, no-BS righteousness of Walter Skinner (Mitch Pileggi); the distinctive click-puff of the Cigarette Smoking Man (William B. Davis); and the stooge-like hijinks of three beloved conspiracy theorists called the Lone Gunmen (Tom Braidwood, Dean Haglund, and Bruce Harwood).

Whether you're a believer or a skeptic, find your "I Want to Believe" poster. Break out that makeshift alien stiletto. Grab a pack of Morley cigarettes.

The truth is out there. You just have to listen.
Join the conversation: #istillwanttobelieve

©2016 The X-Files ™ & © 2016 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.  All Rights Reserved. (P)2017 Audible Originals, LLC. THE X-FILES THEME Written by MARK SNOW, Published by T C F MUSIC PUBLISHING, INC. (ASCAP), Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible.  The opinions and text are all mine.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


So, uh... You guys have been asking me about Austen in August on Twitter for some time now, and I've been dilly dallying and tweeting things like "I'll have a post up soon, I promise!" but all the while, I've been debating whether or not to even have it this year. Frankly, I've just been feeling really worn down and tired, and the idea of all of the work that goes into it -- I've just had a mental block about it; if I don't think about it, I can keep putting it off and August will never come, right? I mean, all I want to do is cuddle my precious kitten and take a nap...

But no. Apparently the world keeps turning, and the fact of the matter is that I do love Austen in August, and I do love the enthusiasm and discussions you guys bring. And I have been bookmarking pages and jotting notes of things I want to share for AIA, so clearly I made my mind up without informing the rest of my mind? That's how that works, right?

But, um, it's almost August. As Austen would say, procrastination is a bitch. (It's true. She said that. Had it embroidered on a handkerchief and everything.) So Austen in "August" is once again going to start late and spill over into September a bit (but don't worry, Austen's just as good in September, I promise). And disclaimer: you might have to cut me some slack this year. A little. Maybe. (please?)

But that's enough preamble, I think. Most of you know the drill by now, but for those who don't or need a refresher:
What the Eff is AIA?
The Deets:
  1. Austen in August is a celebration of all things Jane Austen, featuring reviews, discussions, vlogs, giveaways, interviews and more! [See years onetwothreefourmother-freaking five, because it's been half a decade, yo!, six, because we didn't stop there, and holy crap seven -- we've been doing this for so long!] You can stop by any time during these 2 weeks and get lost in Austen. It's all very austentatious. . . alright, I'll stop now.
  2. It runs AUGUST 20th through SEPTEMBER 2nd, and everyone is welcome to participate. You can just read and comment on the daily posts, if you'd like, but  as always, I will also be welcoming guest posts. Wanna review or giveaway your favorite adaptation? Share your Top 5 MOJ (Moments of Jane)? Discuss why Edmund is actually totally a catch *gag*? I'd love to host your awesome post! Fill out the form below with what you'd like to do and I'll reserve a spot for you!
  3. Are you an Austenite author who wants to be involved? EMAIL ME! I'd love to have you involved!
  4. Once again I will be hosting an Austen Read Along to coincide with the event, but hey! We've worked our way through all of the Big Six! We could read the juvenalia, or letters, or anything really, but I thought it could also be fun to start in on some adaptations! What say you?  Answer in the poll below, and I'll update with what we're reading in about a week!

That about covers it.
So if you're interested in being a featured guest right here on this blog (or on my vlog!),fill out the form below! It'll remain open for the next few weeks, after which you can email me directly if you're still interested.

You guys are always amazing at contributing your time, creativity and enthusiasm to this event every year, I luuurve you for it and I can't wait to see what you come up with! And I said this last year (and the year before, and will forever and evermore), but I meeeeeeeeeaaaan it:
I don't ever want anyone to feel obligated to contribute in any way, but if you've been on the fence and too shy in the past, I'd love to feature you this year! I LOVE pulling in new Janeites, you have NO IDEA.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

#30DayBookBinge: Week 4 | VLOG

Uh, so enjoy this super mellow, animal-filled, chill final vlog of the #30DayBookBinge (that also happens to be a week late. Oops).

Let me know in the comments how you did this month, and what you'd like to see added or done differently next time! And if you didn't participate, let me know if you plan to!



"Old Bossa" and "Lightning on a Blue Sky" by Twin Musicom are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/)
Artist: http://www.twinmusicom.org/

Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored video, though some of these books were sent to me for review consideration. All opinions are my own.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Week THREE of the #30DayBookBinge -- I'm on a roll, y'all!

Another week bites the dust! Enjoy the stroll down memory lane, 'cause... I found a box of old stuff. ^_^
And I am on a roll with this #30DayBookBinge, y'all. Loving. It.
Alsoooo, sorry for the occasionally super quiet, whispery voice. That's what I get for vlogging at bedtime...

Yes Please

Also Mentioned:
More of Me
In the Woods
Critical Role

Unthunk -- Perpetuum
Podington Bear -- La Di Day

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

In It For The LOLS. . . | Audible Ambassadors [ad]

As any of you who have been following (or participating in!) the #30DayBookBinge will know, I've been getting in a lot of audibook time while I garden this month. Yes, yes, I took my own advice -- shocking, I know.

And I've come to realize something -- the audiobooks that win me over, that I tend to reach for, that I'm most excited about -- now, right here and right now -- are all really freaking funny.

They can be funny in different ways, from the dry yet absurd The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, to the off-beat and zany  Yes Please, or even the sorta-sexy-but-also-really-damn-funny Austentatious, which I've talked about before.  It can be hard to lure me into audiobooks sometimes, because I am very picky about narrators and voices and pacing and all kinds of other things that I can use as excuses. But a good, funny narrator? Well, then it really doesn't much matter what the story is, tbh.

If it's funny enough to make me forget I'm weeding my garden or doing my dishes (my god, how I loathe doing dishes...), then I'm in. And if makes me inelegantly laugh-snort, then all the better. I like an audiobook -- and a narrator -- that makes me feel light, that makes me feel happy, that makes me feel like I'm listening to an old friend. . .

That said, I know there's a whole big world of audiobooks and experiences out there that I should really be dipping my toes into. Some of you have recommended books in the past that were fantastical and mythological, because hearing the language and pronunciation helped transport you to the world (an experience which my listening of Exquisite Captive validates). I know others who love a good scary audiobook, because the around-the-campfire vibes help send the shivers down their spines.

So my question to you is: what type of story or narrator helps transport you when you listen to audiobooks? Or more importantly, which really, really excellent ones do you recommend I try?!

And if you're curious to try any of the books I mentioned (or any of the many other riotously funny audiobooks out there), remember, you can get the book of your choice, absolutely free!! as part of a FREE 30-DAY TRIAL TO AUDIBLE. So. . . take advantage of that.
(Seriously. Take my advice sooner than I take my advice. I am an audiobook convert, and I could kick myself for not have embraced them sooner.)

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible. The opinions and text are all mine.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

#30DayBookBinge, Week Two | Vlog

So after much hair-pulling and some delay, the "magical disappearing vlog" that I had to redo is finally ready! (And please, for the love of jeebus, if there are any issues or weirdness or audio-level offness, just ignore it. This vlog was about to be the death of me. *insert unimpressed emoji*)

ANYWHO, I hope everyone's #30DayBookBinge is going FANTASTIC! After an iffy start to week 2, mine has really picked up, and I'm starting to feel like I'm back in the groove of things! Now, lemme go find some wood to knock on...

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
A Face Like Glass
Words in Deep Blue
Yes Please
A Darker Shade of Magic
Weird Books Review Trio
Words in Deep Blue review
More of the binge


Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored video.
Music: Riot "Safety Net" and "Jupiter One"
Silent Partner "Soul Search"
Jimmy Fontanez "Salgre" all from the YT creator library

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

A Trio of Weird Books | #30DayBookBinge REVIEW

I mean... there's a definite theme to the books I've been reading for the #30DayBookBinge...
Also: outdoor reviews! In public! With bugs! (blech)

(I would normally have made a nice, shiny thumbnail for this video, but I was very amused by the way I was nuzzling Conjured, so...)


Conjured by Sarah Beth Durst
Eve has a new home, a new face, and a new name—but no memories of her past. She’s been told that she's in a witness protection program. That she escaped a dangerous magic-wielding serial killer who still hunts her. The only thing she knows for sure is that there is something horrifying in her memories the people hiding her want to access—and there is nothing they won’t say—or do—to her to get her to remember.

At night she dreams of a tattered carnival tent and buttons being sewn into her skin. But during the day, she shelves books at the local library, trying to not let anyone know that she can do things—things like change the color of her eyes or walk through walls. When she does use her strange powers, she blacks out and is drawn into terrifying visions, returning to find that days or weeks have passed—and she’s lost all short-term memories. Eve must find out who and what she really is before the killer finds her—but the truth may be more dangerous than anyone could have ever imagined.

The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
(audio narrated by Stephen Fry)

Seconds before Earth is demolished to make way for a galactic freeway, Arthur Dent is plucked off the planet by his friend Ford Prefect, a researcher for the revised edition of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy who, for the last fifteen years, has been posing as an out-of-work actor.

Together, this dynamic pair began a journey through space aided by a galaxyful of fellow travelers: Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed, three-armed, ex-hippie and totally out-to-lunch president of the galaxy; Trillian (formerly Tricia McMillan), Zaphod’s girlfriend, whom Arthur tried to pick up at a cocktail party once upon a time zone; Marvin, a paranoid, brilliant, and chronically depressed robot; and Veet Voojagig, a former graduate student obsessed with the disappearance of all the ballpoint pens he’s bought over the years.

Where are these pens? Why are we born? Why do we die? For all the answers, stick your thumb to the stars!

A Face Like Glass by Frances Hardinge
In the underground city of Caverna the world's most skilled craftsmen toil in the darkness to create delicacies beyond compare. They create wines that can remove memories, cheeses that can make you hallucinate and perfumes that convince you to trust the wearer even as they slit your throat. The people of Caverna are more ordinary, but for one thing: their faces are as blank as untouched snow. Expressions must be learned. Only the famous Facesmiths can teach a person to show (or fake) joy, despair or fear — at a price.

Into this dark and distrustful world comes Neverfell, a little girl with no memory of her past and a face so terrifying to those around her that she must wear a mask at all times. For Neverfell's emotions are as obvious on her face as those of the most skilled Facesmiths, though entirely genuine. And that makes her very dangerous indeed ...

Also mentioned WORDS IN DEEP BLUE by Cath Crowley -- Review here!

Disclosure: This is NOT a sponsored video, though one of these books were sent to me for review consideration purposes. All opinions are honest and my own, and all bugs are cuddly and not trying to eat my face (or so they claim).

Monday, June 12, 2017

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley | Review

Words in Deep Blue by Cath Crowley
Contemporary, 288 pages
Published June 6th 2017 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (first published in Australia, August 30th 2016)

Years ago, Rachel had a crush on Henry Jones. The day before she moved away, she tucked a love letter into his favorite book in his family’s bookshop. She waited. But Henry never came.

Now Rachel has returned to the city—and to the bookshop—to work alongside the boy she’d rather not see, if at all possible, for the rest of her life. But Rachel needs the distraction. Her brother drowned months ago, and she can’t feel anything anymore.

As Henry and Rachel work side by side—surrounded by books, watching love stories unfold, exchanging letters between the pages—they find hope in each other. Because life may be uncontrollable, even unbearable sometimes. But it’s possible that words, and love, and second chances are enough.

I don't know what has taken me so long to read more by Cath Crowley. Way back when, shortly after I first started blogging, I reviewed Crowley's A Little Wanting Song, making it among the very first review books ever sent to me, what?! Even more shocking is that I requested it. ME, request a contemporary book. I know, shocking.

Even more shocking was how much I loved it. Or maybe not shocking at all, because Cath Crowley is just really, really good at what she does. So much of what I said then applies here, today, with Crowley's most recent book, Words in Deep Blue. It features that same seemingly-effortless writing (I say "seemingly" because I know it wasn't; nothing good ever is) and characters who seem real and flawed and thoroughly engaging. Her writing flows, it just pulls you along in this inviting, seamless way, so that when you only intend to sit down and read a chapter or two, you suddenly find yourself having read half the book, and realizing that you probably should have gone to bed hours ago -- but hey, you're in this deep, why stop now? But unlike a lot of unputdownable writing, it's not "potato chip writing;" it's not junk food for your brain that is just easy and throwaway and utterly garbage but so fun you just can't put it down. Crowley's writing has substance and heart and those painful gut-punches that make you wish you could put it down to just process and be less hurt for a minute, but damned if you don't just have to keep reading.

All of that said, this is told in alternating POVs -- Rachel and Henry -- and I expect some people will be very frustrated with Henry and how slow on the uptake he can be. But honestly, this quality felt very realistic to me. Not to malign teenage boys, but they're not known for being the most emotionally aware / attuned creatures on the planet, and a depiction of a boy who thinks he's in love with the pretty, vivacious, popular girl who's using him is not the most unrealistic idea, or even the most revolutionary trope -- and that's probably for a reason. I think we've all known Henrys* at some point in our lives. Hell, nearly every viewer-insert MPDG-chasing teen/20-something male lead of cutesy-but-"deepish" romance or comedy movies of the last 25 years has been a Henry on at least some level. (But this Henry is much better, realer, and far less nauseating than those Henrys.)

And honestly, even if you're not the biggest fan of teens and their romancifulness, there is so much more to this book than that.  For all the truly heartbreaking and frustratingly real elements in the book, there is such a hopeful, life-affirming thread. . .  Frankly, it was goddamn refreshing. I think I needed this book in some ways, and I think a lot of teens (and those who read books written for them) will find things they connect with and 'need' in Crowley's story, too. And though it deals with heavy things like grief and depression and family turmoil, it never feels weighted down by it. Nor does it feel too light or dismissive of these heavy things. It just feels honest. And it's worth reading for the amazingness that is the Letter Library, alone. ALL book lovers will long to go there, I would lay good Monopoly money on it.  It's going to inspire a lot of wistful reader-sighs. . .

And it once again reminded me that not all contemporary is fluffy or cheesy, Misty, nor is it all saccharine and faux-deep trauma porn; there is some really good stuff out there and you should read more of it, for the love of all things bookish.
But since I was saying essentially the same thing in my A Little Wanting Song review, well. . . I clearly don't learn too quickly, or take my own advice.

But you should! And you should read this, it's really quick, really readable, and really good.

* There was a debate on twitter about the proper way to pluralize Henry -- Henrys or Henries. Both make me borderline uncomfortable with how wrong they look, but  ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.  It was also discussed whether I planned to verb the name Henry as well, and I think I'm going to do so now. "To Henry" is to interact with someone in a thoroughly charming, adorably passionate, and uncommonly clueless way, utterly unaware of your own needs and desires as you somehow manage to nevertheless bumble through to the perfectly right outcome. Should you find yourself Henrying in life. . . well, don't worry, it'll all turn out for the best.

Also, I used "nor" twice in this, who even am I?

Alsooooooo, can we talk about how much I love the Australian cover?  I mean, both are gorgeous, but that paper bird tho! *swoon*

Disclosure: WORDS IN DEEP BLUE was sent to my by the awesome people at Random House for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are honest, and my own.

Friday, June 9, 2017

My #30DayBookBinge Vloggage -- Week One Down!

The #30DayBookBinge is off and running, and here's how my first week of this impromptu challenge went!
Big props to everyone who's participating and has been tweeting & updating on Twitter, or challenging themselves to really push their reading this month. You guys are killing it!

More about the challenge can be found here, and the printables can be downloaded, saved and/or printed, here.

Music: Otis McDonald "Not for Nothing" and Riot "Jupiter One," both from the YT creator library.


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