Category Archives: Jez

Year of Yes: How to Dance It Out, Stand in the Sun, and Be Your Own Person by Shonda Rhimes (2015)

yearofyesA lot of things are going well for Shonda Rhimes—she is, after all, Shonda Rhimes, the woman who rules Thursday night, the woman behind shows like Grey’s Anatomy, Scandal, and How to Get Away with Murder. She gets invited to award ceremonies, presidential dinners, and talk shows—but as her sister points out one Thanksgiving, she never actually does any of these things. She gets invited and she talks about them, but Shonda never, ever says yes. Her sister’s words sit with her for months until suddenly she wakes up on her birthday and realizes she wants to finally do something. Shonda decides, for one year, she will start saying yes to everything that scares her.

Year of Yes is about that journey. It’s partially a memoir of her time in show business, but more than that, Year of Yes is about how saying “yes” changed her life, not just in that she was suddenly making college commencement speeches and losing weight, but also in how she began to think about the world and connect with her family. This short read makes for an excellent self-help book for anyone who has ever felt stuck in their lives and wanted to do more, but was never sure how. It’s encouraging, inspiring, and most of all, fun.

Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm (audiobook, 2016)

grimmsfairytalesThis new audiobook edition of the classic Grimm’s Fairy Tales by Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm is the perfect way to revisit old favorites or discover them for the first time. Included are 21 tales, each read by a talented narrator that perfectly matches the unique feel of the story. For this recording, Books on Tape gathered the best narrators in the business and you’ll certainly hear some familiar voices in this award-winning audiobook. Travelling with young children? This audiobook is the perfect title to listen to!

The Circle by Dave Eggers (2013)

circleImagine if Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, and Apple were all bought out by the same mega-company. All of your data, from your food preferences to your medical history, would be linked and readily available. All of your work and your social life would be online. Then imagine there are cameras everywhere that you can check feeds of at any moment to keep an eye on revolts in the Middle East or the surf conditions at your favorite beach. All of this and more are possible with the Circle—and this future is not too far off from our own.

The main character, Mae, is a newbie at the Circle, working in Customer Experience, answering tech questions, but her role at the media giant quickly grows as the Circle becomes the center of her life. Readers will follow in awestruck terror as Mae becomes tied up in this world, even at the risk of her parents and former friend, even at the risk of her own privacy. This book is not a thriller, but at times, it might feel like one, as you shout helplessly at the page for Mae and others at the Circle to change their ways. Dave EggersThe Circle – a sci-fi dystopia – will feel all too familiar to anyone concerned with technology, social media, and privacy, and serves as a warning as well as being a page turner you won’t be able to put down.

The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman (2016)

viewfromEven when writing nonfiction, award-winning fantasy author Neil Gaiman never fails. In this first collection, Gaiman includes a variety of essays, speeches, articles, and introductions. His topics include books, fairy tales, music, authors (living and dead), and writing, just to name a few. The pieces towards the beginning, on the importance of books and libraries, is likely to warm the heart of any reader, and his thoughts on any subject are always precise, intelligent, and beautifully worded. Gaiman manages to put into words the things we’ve all been feeling, but never quite knew how to speak about.

While his introductions to other books might feel incomplete without the books themselves, they were still interesting to read because Gaiman talks about how each influenced his own life or books he’s written that I’ve loved. Additionally, some of these introductions are written for books by authors he has known and it was fascinating to read about these authors I’ve always seen on book spines, but now have a more personal understanding of through Gaiman’s eyes.

Gaiman himself reads the audiobook of The View from the Cheap Seats, and his soothing voice will make any drive more relaxing and comfortable. I personally spent 8 hours on a road trip listening to this audiobook and not once wanted to turn it off, even for a moment.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster (2015)

starwarsforceLove the newest Star Wars movie, but wish it had more detail? Or want to experience it all over in a new way? Check out the novelization of The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster. This book follows the same plot as the movie, but with a few extra scenes, and a little more insight to what the characters are thinking and feeling.

The true magic, however, is in the audiobook. Brilliantly narrated by Marc Thompson, who has recorded dozens of Star Wars audiobooks, this adaptation does something most audiobooks don’t: it includes sound effects and music. While sound effects can often be distracting and unwanted in audiobooks, this one blends them in seamlessly and the soundtrack by John Williams really grounds the story—and even adds to the drama when you hear a character’s familiar theme starting to play in the background.

Overall, this is a great way to experience what, by now, is likely to be a familiar story. If you’re going on a road trip, this is an excellent audiobook to listen to with your whole family.

Broadcast Hysteria: Orson Welles’s War of the Worlds and the Art of Fake News by A. Brad Schwartz (2015)

broadcasthysteriaWe’ve all heard the stories: in October 1938, Orson Welles adapted the classic alien invasion novel The War of the Worlds for radio and the broadcast was so realistic that it made people flee from their homes in terror. Or maybe you’ve heard that it was all a myth, that newspapers made the whole thing up to try to discount the new medium of the radio. Like most stories, the truth is somewhere in between. Orson Welles’s broadcast really did frighten listeners, and some people did leave their homes, but the panic was not as dire as history would remember—nor was it as simple.

In Broadcast Hysteria, A. Brad Schwartz uses newspaper articles, Princeton research, and first-hand accounts to examine the many factors that made the War of the Worlds broadcast such a sensation, including the Nazi rise to power, previous radio-based panics, the use of fake news bulletins, and much more. You won’t believe how intricate this web can be—or how much it has influenced media today.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) by Felicia Day (2015)

neverweirdProclaimed the Queen of the Geeks, Felicia Day is a well-known internet personality, who has appeared in many television shows like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and is perhaps best known for her role as Penny in Dr. Horrible’s Sing-a-Long Blog. In this memoir, Day shares her strange childhood in which she was “home schooled” by way of taking any type of lessons available, reading anything she could get her hands on, and then skipping over a high school diploma in favor of starting college at 16 to pursue dual degrees in math and violin. After moving to L.A. and balancing her acting career with her online gaming addiction, Day eventually combined the two to create The Guild, one of the internet’s first web series. She now runs Geek and Sundry, one of the biggest online networks for gaming culture and independent web series.

You’re Never Weird on the Internet (Almost) provides an interesting look at the life and rise to fame of nerd culture icon Felicia Day which provides no shortage of geeky references and funny anecdotes. Day herself reads the audiobook in a casual style that feels both friendly and familiar.

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (2015)

whynotmeMindy Kaling is back with the follow-up to her first memoir, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and the second book may be even better than the first. The creator and star of The Mindy Project provides a hilarious look at her life in television, being a woman of color in Hollywood, her attempts at finding love, relationship with BJ Novak, and what it takes to be beautiful. Kaling’s humor is always on point, especially as she reads the audiobook herself, but it does not overshadow the weight of her words or the clever observations made. Why Not Me? is a fun read that will make you laugh out loud and hope for nothing more than for Kaling to become your best friend.

The Dark Between the Stars (2014) and The Blood of the Cosmos (2015) by Kevin J. Anderson

darkbetweenstarsLove wide worlds full of details and interwoven stories similar to A Game of Thrones, but want something more technologically advanced? The Saga of Shadows is the ideal series for you.

In the far future, humanity has moved out among the stars and formed clans and colonies throughout the galaxy, working alongside alien races like the Ildirans. Twenty years after the elemental war, as told in Kevin J. Anderson’s previous series, The Saga of Seven Suns, this trilogy follows the lives of dozens of characters and their families through multiple points of view as a new threat rises in the form of the Shana Rei, shadow-like creatures who want to destroy all of creation.bloodcosmos

Anderson does well to balance the large-scale battles with more individual struggles, such as the loss of one’s home, disease, love, and family. The first book, The Dark Between the Stars, is an excellent start, and the Hugo-nominated sequel, The Blood of the Cosmos, is even better. The third book in the trilogy, Eternity’s Mind, is expected to release in summer 2016.

Lumberjanes by Noelle Stevenson (2015)

lumberjanesJo, April, Molly, Mal, and Ripley are teen lumberjane scouts at Miss Quinzella Thiskwin Penniquiqul Thistle Crumpet’s Camp for Hardcore Lady Types, where they spend the summer learning valuable skills like knot-tying, archery, and battling supernatural creatures. As the girls start running into monsters and brainwashed boy scouts, they realize things at camp may not be what they seem and begin to investigate.

Comic fans will recognize the names Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Faith Erin Hicks, and Shannon Watters and know this is not a series to be missed. Lumberjanes is full of fantastic female characters and references to powerful women (often using phrases like “Oh my Bessie Coleman!”), fun dialogue, and intriguing mysteries. Lumberjanes Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 collect issues #1-8, but if you’re like me and simply can’t get enough, you can check out newer issues through Hoopla or eReadIllinois.