Catch-Up Quick Takes: My Plain Jane; The Rest of Us Just Live Here; The Ables

Here’s another batch of overdue takes on some good audiobooks. I don’t have the time for full-posts, so read the official blurbs if you need more information. Last time I tried one of these, I didn’t do such a good job on the “Quick” part, so I’m being more strict with myself this go-around. To that end: the narrators of these do a very capable job with their texts, but I don’t have a lot to say about their performance (I’d be happy to listen to other books by them, I should add).

My Plain JaneMy Plain Jane

by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows,
Fiona Hardingham (Narrator)
Series: The Lady Janies, #2
Unabridged Audiobook, 10 hrs., 7 min.
HarperAudio, 2018
Read: September 24-28, 2019
(the official blurb)
I was really looking forward to this sequel to My Lady Jane, especially because it would involve a supernatural Jane Eyre retelling with a strong comedic sensibility. It wasn’t what I’d hoped it would be, but it was still a lot of fun.

The best part of it was having Charlotte Brontë as a character in the story—as Jane’s best (living) friend. I enjoyed Charlotte’s character enough that I’d willingly read a sequel about her.

And yes, I said, “living” there—Helen, the poor girl from Lowood Institution whose death was so hard for Jane is still around in ghost form. The death was still hard on Jane, but having Helen around as a ghost ended up becoming a different kind of obstacle for her to overcome.

I’d have expected a better link between the Janes—at least a stronger link in the supernatural aspects of the stories—than what we got.

Still, it was a fun listen and I’m definitely coming back for the next installment about Calamity Jane.
3 Stars

The Rest of Us Just Live HereThe Rest of Us Just Live Here

by Patrick Ness, James Fouhey (Narrator)
Unabridged Audiobook, 6 hrs., 23 mins
Read: October 7, 2019
(the official blurb)
I loved the idea of exploring the lives of the “regular kids” in a high school characterized by heroes, legends, slayers, etc. Basically, the kids at Sunnyvale High who know that Buffy is saving their skin on a semi-regular basis who aren’t Xander, Willow, Cordelia, etc. While Buffy is fighting vampires and the rest, these kids have family drama, fall in love, get rejected, worry about the future (assuming they don’t get eaten by the Monster of the Week) and all the rest. She may be the hero in general, but they’re the heroes of their own lives.

So Patrick Ness tells the story of one group of these students on the verge of graduation (while the world is being saved from a threat too complicated to talk about).

Great, great concept. The execution was . . . okay. I enjoyed it, but it didn’t leave me dancing in the aisle or anything. This is only my second Ness, but it didn’t feel like this was really his wheelhouse—maybe I’m wrong, maybe A Monster Calls is that thing that’s out of the norm for him.
3 Stars

The AbelsThe Abels

by Jeremy Scott, Eric Michael Summerer (Narrator)
Series: The Ables, #1
Unabridged Audiobook, 14 hrs., 5 mins
Tantor Audio, 2019
Read: October 18-21, 2019
(the official blurb)
The concept behind this was fantastic—seriously. An upper-MG/younger-YA novel about a Special Education class in a Super Hero High School? Genius. You’ve got the kid with telekinesis who was born blind, the teleporter who lost his vision in an accident, a wheelchair-bound telepath (okay, that’s been done before), a kid with Down Syndrome who has the genetic markers for superpowers, but no one’s sure what they are, and so on. These students come together and learn how to work together and become the heroes they dream of being.

This was a blast—think early-Percy Jackson kind of quality. Some solid emotional moments, real character growth, great action. There was one gut-punch of a surprise that I still can’t believe that Scott had the nerve to make—and two big reveals that sealed the deal for me (one that I saw coming for miles, but he executed well enough that I don’t care; and one that I should’ve seen coming, but didn’t).

This one will be enjoyed by readers of all ages, I expect. Recommended.

3.5 Stars

2019 Library Love Challenge

My Lady Jane (Audiobook) Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows, Katherine Kellgren: This YA Romance/Alt-History/Fantasy is simply delightful

My Lady JaneMy Lady Jane

by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows, Katherine Kellgren (Narrator)
Series: The Lady Janies, #1

Unabridged Audiobook, 13 hrs., 47 min.
HarperAudio, 2016
Read: July 2 – 5, 2016

           You may think you know the story. It goes like this: once upon a time, there was a sixteen-year-old girl named Jane Grey, who was forced to marry a complete strange (Lord Guildford or Gilford or Gifford-something-or-other), and shortly thereafter found herself ruler of a country. She was queen for nine days. Then she quite literally lost her head.

Yes, it’s a tragedy, if you consider the disengagement of one’s head from one’s body tragic. (We are merely narrators, and would hate to make assumptions as to what the reader would find tragic.)

We have a different tale to tell.

Pay attention. We’ve tweaked minor details. We’ve completely rearranged major details. Some names have been changed to protect the innocent (or not-so-innocent, or simply because we thought a name was terrible and we liked another name better). And we’ve added a touch of magic to keep things interesting. So really anything could happen.

This is how we think Jane’s story should have gone.

So begins the Prologue to this wonderfully fun book. It’s that second paragraph — but specifically the parenthetical sentence — that locked in my appreciation for the book. Thankfully, it continued to be as good as that paragraph, but I was going to be a fan of anything that happened from that point on.

The advantage you have with historical figures that no one knows anything about, is historical novelists — particularly those who like to play with their history — can do pretty much what they want. Lady Jane Grey is probably the English monarch that people know the least about (if they know about her at all) making her perfect fodder for this story.

This is one of those books that I can’t figure out how to summarize, so I’m just going to steal the publisher’s blurb, as much as I hate doing that, but my attempts have a mess, and theirs worked:

           In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind YA fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.

Like that could go wrong.

The characters are wonderful — no one’s perfectly good, or perfectly evil (although there are a few that come close in both directions). The authors keep things moving well, never letting the story detract from the characters, or one part of the narrative take over (there’s plenty of action, romance, friendship, espionage for everyone). Yes there’s magic, yes there’s comedy, but there’s also a lot of heart — a lot of joyful storytelling. This has it all. I really can’t point to a favorite bit, or favorite theme or anything. This is just one of those books I enjoyed all of.

Inside this novel is a love letter to books — and Jane is the representative book lover par excellence (though she could like poetry and novels a bit more) — there’s a treasure trove of quotations about reading, books, and related topics in these pages. All of them delightful.

The novel is clearly clever, witty, with a lot of heart, etc., but what sealed the deal for me was Katherine Kelgren’s outstanding performance. I would’ve enjoyed the novel pretty much no matter who wrote it (I’m not sure Scott Brick or Dick Hill could’ve pulled if off, but you never know), but Kelgren absolutely sold it. Her accent work was outstanding, the life and verve she brought to the project just wowed me.

I’m blathering on, I realize — yet I’m not sure I’ve actually said anything. Bah — just grab the book or audiobook. I don’t care if you’re YA or just A, if you like romance or not, male or female — if you like a fun story that’s well told and never takes itself too seriously (but never makes a joke out of anything important), read it. You’ll have a blast.

—–

4 Stars2018 Library Love Challenge