Dog Eared Copy's 100+

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Dog Eared Copy's 100+

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Editado: Dez 30, 2014, 2:34 am


I'm back! I managed to hit my goal of 100 books in 2013 (and then some) but I didn't do as well in terms of writing reviews/commentary or interacting with other members of the group. Therefore, in 2014, I hope to not only read 100+, but post at least 50+ reviews and, participate more actively in this group! :-)

I will keep a rolling list going throughout the year, adding to it as I complete books and, posting the commentary separately.

I have already created mini-stacks of books, culled from the huge stacks of books that I hoard, that I want to tackle next year so we'll see how it goes!


001. The Stainless Steel Rat (The Stainless Steel Rat series, Book #1; by Harry Harrison; narrated by Phil Gigante)
>>> See Comments 5 & 9
002. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter series, Book #1; by J.K. Rowling; narrated by Jim Dale)
>>> See Comment 6
003. Fer-de-Lance (by Rex Stout)
>>> See Comments 11 & 18
004. Midnight Riot (Rivers of London series, Book #1; by Ben Aaronovitch; narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith)
>>> See Comment 13
005. Her Mad Hatter (The Kingdom series, Book #1; by Marie Hall)
006. Find Her, Keep Her (Love in the USA series, Book #1; by Z.L. Arkadie)
007. Gerard's Beauty (The Kingdom series, Book #2; by Marie Hall)
008. Red and Her Wolf (The Kingdom series, Book #3; by Marie Hall)
009. Small Favor (The Dresden Files #10 by Jim Butcher; narrated by James Marsters)
>>> See Comment 16; See also LT Review
010. The Proposal (The Perfect Match series, Book #1; by Lily Zante)
>>> See Comment 17
011. Carmen's New York Climax (New York Trilogy, Book #1; by Nikki Sex)
012. The Birchbark House (by Louise Erdrich; narrated by Nicolle Litrell)
013. Eleven (by Patricia Highsmith)
>>> See Comment 22; See also LT Review
014. Johnny Tremain (by Esther Forbes)
015. A Madness of Angels; Or The Resurrection of Matthew Swift (Matthew Swift series, Book #1; by Kate Griffin)

A Madness of Angels; Or The Resurrection of Matthew Swift (Matthew Swift series, Book #1; by Kate Griffin)

016. Bloodsucking Fiends (A Love Story novel, Book #1; by Christopher Moore)
017. Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return (Sequel to Persepolis: The Story of a Childhood ; by Marjane Satrapi)
018. License to Date (Better Date Than Never series, Book #6; by Susan Hatler)
019. Readerotica (Volume I by Adrianna de la Rosa, Isabelle Carruthers, Cheyenne Blue, Susannah Indigo, Taylor Stone, Diane Fisher, Janice Callisa, Mike Kimera, Chris Bridges and, Susie Santiago)
020. Solar (by Ian McEwan; narrated by Roger Allam)
>>> See Comment 26; See also LT Review
021. Why Science Does Not Disprove God (by Amir Aczel)
022. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter series, Book #2; by J.K. Rowling; narrated by Jim Dale)
023. The Hard Things about Hard Things: Building a Business When There are No Easy Answers (by Ben Horowitz)
024. Gregor and the Curse of the Warmbloods (Underland Chronicles, Book #3; by Suzanne Collins; narrated by Paul Boehmer)

Solar (by Ian McEwan; narrated by Roger Allam)

025. Stunner (by Niki Danforth)
026. The Pearl that Broke Its Shell (by Nadia Hashimi)
027. Carmen's New York Escape (New York Trilogy, Book #2;,by Nikki Sex)
028. Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, Book #1; by Marissa Meyer)
029. The Fault in Our Stars (by John Green)
030. Gregor and the Marks of Secret (Underland Chronicles, Book #4; by Suzanne Collins; narrated by Paul Boehmer)
031. My Korean Deli (by Ben Ryder Howe; narrated by Bronson Pinchot)
See Comment 31; See also LT Review
032. Material Witness (Joe Ledger series, Book #1.2; by Jonathan Maberry; narrated by Ray Porter)
>>> See Comment 32
033. Deep, Dark (Joe Ledger series Book #1.3; by Jonathan Maberry; narrated by Ray Porter)
>>> See Comment 32
034. Moon Over Soho (The Rivers of London series, Book #2; by Ben Aaronovitch)
035. The Dragon Factory (Joe Ledger series, Book #2; by Jonathan Maberry; narrated by Ray Porter)
>>> See Comment 32
036. Dog Days (Joe Ledger series, Book #2.1; by Jonathan Maberry; narrated by Ray Porter)
>>> See Comment 32

The Fault in Our Stars (by John Green)

037. The Stench of Honolulu (written and narrated by Jack Handey)
>>> See Comment 43
038. Proof: The Science of Booze (by Adam Rogers)
039. Euphoria (by Lily King)
040. Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First-Century Parenthood (written and narrated by Drew Magary)
See Comment 47; See also LT Review
041. Deadlocked 1 (by A.R. Wise; narrated by Brian Sutherland)
042. Borderlands (Inspector Devlin series, Book #1; by Brian McGilloway)
043. Just Another Day at the Office (by Jay Bonansinga)
044. Gregor and the Code of Claw (The Underland Chronicles, Book #5; by Suzanne Collins; narrated by Paul Boehmer)
045. Joe Ledger: Special Ops (by Jonathan Maberry)
>>> See Comment 37
046. Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls (written and narrated by David Sedaris)
>>> See Comment 49; See also LT Review
047. Secrets of a Wedding Night (Secret Brides, Book #1; by Valerie Bowman)
048. Secrets of a Runaway Bride (Secret Brides, Book #2; by Valerie Bowman)
049. Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue (by Tom Angleberger; narrated by Mark Turetsky et al)

Euphoria (by Lily King)

050. The Walking Dead, Vol. 8: Made to Suffer (by Robert Kirkman et al)
051. The Walkind Dead, Vol. 9: Here We Remain (by Robert Kirkman et al)
052. The Walking Dead, Vol. 10: What We Become (by Robert Kirkman et al)
053. The Boy in His Winter: An American Novel (by Norman Lock)
>>> See Comment 41
054. The Shining Girls (by Lauren Beukes)
055. Burglars Can't Be Choosers (Bernie Rhodenbarr series #1; by Lawrence Block)
056. The Walking Dead: The Rise of the Governor (by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga)
057. The Walking Dead, Vol. 11: Fear the Hunters (by Robert Kirkman et al)
058. The Walking Dead, Vol. 12: Life Among Them (by Robert Kirkman et al)
059. The Walking Dead, Vol. 13: Too Far Gone (by Robert Kirkman et al)
060. The Walking Dead, Vol. 14: No Way Out (by Robert Kirkman et al)
061. Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys? (written and narrated by Billy Crystal)
062. Ungifted (by Gordon Korman; narrated by Mark Turetsky et al)
063. Opal Fire (A Stacy Justice Msytery, Book #1; by Barbra Annino; narrated by Amy Rubinate)
064. The Woods (by Harlan Coben)
065. The Yellow Wallpaper (by Charlotte Perkins Gilman; narrated by Dawn Harvey))
066. A Wallflower Christmas (Wallflowers series, Book #5; by Lisa Kleypas)
>>> See Comment 51
067. Painted Horses (by Malcolm Brooks)

The Walking Dead, Vol. 8: Made to Suffer (by Robert Kirkman et al)

068. Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Stolen Diamonds (Cam Jensen series, Book #1; by David A. Adler; narrated by Alyson Silverman)
069. A Study in Emerald (written and narrated by Neil Gaiman)
070.The Ruby in the Smoke (A Sally Lockhart Mystery, Book #1; by Philip Pullman; narrated by Anton Lesser)
071. Love Potion #9 (by Claire Delacroix)
072. Flora & Ulysses (by Kate DiCamillo)
073. The Spinning Heart (by Donal Ryan; narrated by Wayne Farrell)
074. Daughter, Dancer, Traitor, Spy (by Elizabeth Kiem)
075. The Snow Child (by Eowyn Ivey)
076. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter novels, Book #3; by J.K. Rowling; narrated by Jim Dale)
077. Hider, Seeker, Secret Keeper (Sequel to Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy; by Elizabeth Kiem)
078. The Sandman, Volume 1: Preludes and Nocturnes (by Neil Gaiman et al)
079. Tomorrow and Tomorrow (by Thomas Sweterlitsch)
>>> See Comment 59

The Ruby in the Smoke (A Sally Lockhart Mystery, Book #1; by Philip Pullman; narrated by Anton Lesser)

080. Turn Coat (The Dresden Files, Book #11; by Jim Butcher; narrated by James Marsters)
081. Anansi Boys (by Neil Gaiman; narrated by Lenny Henry)
>>> See Comment 61
082. The Sandman, Volume 2: The Doll's House (by Neil Gaiman et al)
083. The Sandman, Volume 3: Dream Country (by Neil Gaiman et al)
084. The Martian (by Andy Weir; narrated by R.C. Bray)
>>> See Comment 62
085. The Shadow in the North (A Sally Lockhart Mystery, Book #2; by Philip Pullman; narrated by Anton Lesser)
>>> See Comment 66
086. The Sandman, Volume 4: Season of Mists (by Neil Gaiman et al)

Anansi Boys (by Neil Gaiman; narrated by Lenny Henry)

087. The Ruins of Gorlan: The Ranger's Apprentice (The Ranger's Apprentice series, Book #1; by John Flanagan; narrated by John Keating)
088. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter series, Book #4; by J.K. Rowling; narrated by Jim Dale)
089. Bloody Ridge and Beyond: A World War II Marine's Memoir of Edson's Raiders in the Pacific (by Marlin Groft & Larry Alexander)
090. World War One British Poets: Brooke, Owen, Sassoon, Rosenberg and Others (Unabridged) (edited by Candace Ward)
091. A Bollywood Affair (by Sonali Dev)
092. Every Dead Thing (by John Connolly)
>>> See Comments 68, 69, & 70; See also LT Review
093. On the Move (by Bono)
094. Vienna Nocturne (by Vivien Shotwell)
>>> See Comment 71; See also LT Review
095. The Tenth of December (by George Saunders)
096. Summer House with Swimming Pool (by Herman Koch)
>>> See Comment 72; See also LT Review

Summer House with Swimming Pool (by Herman Koch)

097. Sins of Our Fathers (by Shawn Lawrence Otto)
098. A Secret in Her Kiss (by Anna Randool)
099. The Bone Clocks (by David Mitchell)
>>> See Comment 74; See also LT Review
100. The Thing About December (by Donal Ryan; narrated by Wayne Farrell)
101. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill)
102. God'll Cut You Down: The Tangled Tale of a White Supremacist, a Black Hustler, a Murder, and How I Lost a Year in Mississippi
a.k.a. Murder in Mississippi (by John Safran)
103. Boy, Snow, Bird (by Helen Oyeyemi; narrated by Susan Bennett and Carra Patterson)
>>> See Comment 77
104. Boston Noir (edited by Dennis Lehane)

Boy, Snow, Bird (by Helen Oyeyemi; narrated by Susan Bennett and Carra Patterson)

105. The Good Shepherd: A Thousand-Year Journey from Psalm 23 to the New Testament (by Kenneth E. Bailey)
106. The Ruin of a Rogue (by Miranda Neville)
107. The Ploughmen (by Kim Zupan)
>>> See Comment 78
108. Boston Noir 2 (edited by Dennis Lehane, Mary Cotton & Jaime Clarke)
109. Devils in Exile (by Chuck Hogan)
110. The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen: Volume II (by Alan Moore and Kevin O'Neill)
111. How to Lose a Duke in Ten Days (An American Heiress in London romance novel, Book #2; by Laura Lee Guhrke)
112. The Tiger in the Well (Sally Lockhart mysteries, Book #3 by Philip Pullman; narrated by Anton Lesser)
113. Paperboy (by Thomas Macauley)
>>> See Comment 79
114. Prince of Thorns (Broken Empire series, Book #1; by Mark Lawrence)
115. King of Thorns (Broken Empire series, Book #2; by Mark Lawrence)
116. Click-Clack the Rattlebag (written and narrated by Neil Gaiman)

Prince of Thorns (Broken Empire series, Book #1; by Mark Lawrence)

117. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (by J.K. Rowling) - PRINT EDITION
118. When Corruption was King (by Robert Cooley)
119. The False Prince (Ascendence Trilogy, Book #1; by Jennifer A. Nielsen; narrated by Charlie McWade)
120. Romancing the Duke (Castles Ever After, Book #1; by Tessa Dare)
121. The Last Good Man (by A.J. Zazinski; narrated by Simon Vance)
>>> See Comment 80
122. The Midnight Mayor; Or The Inauguration of Matthew Swift (Matthew Swift series, Book #2; by Kate Griffin)
123. The Duchess War (The Brothers Sinister series, Book #1; by Courtney Milan)
124. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets (Harry Potter series, Book #2; by J.K. Rowling) - PRINT EDITION

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (by J.K. Rowling) - PRINT EDITION

125. Hack Attack: How the Truth Caught up with Rupert Murdoch (by Nick Davies)
126. Freak the Mighty (by Rodman Philbrick; narrated by Elden Hensen)
127. Her Christmas Earl: A Regency Novella (by Anna Campbell)
128. Emperor of Thorns (Broken Empire series, Book #3; by Mark Lawrence)
129. Phantom Terror: The Threat of Revolution and the Repression of Liberty 1789-1848 (by Adam Zamoyski)
130. Prince of Fools (Red Queen's War series, Book #1; by Mark Lawrence)
131. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (by J.K. Rowling)
132. Emperor Pickletine Rides the Bus (by Tom Angleberger; narrated by Mark Turetsky et al)

Prince of Fools (Red Queen's War series, Book #1; by Mark Lawrence)


How I Slept My Way to the Middle: Secrets and Stories from Stage, Screen, and Interwebs (by Kevin Pollack and Alan Goldsher; narrated by Kevin Pollack)
>>> See Comment 39

Dez 27, 2013, 2:33 am

Welcome back, Tanya! I too could do more participating (stupid busy year in 2013), this is a lovely bunch of readers.

Dez 27, 2013, 11:14 am

Yay for reviews! I have a goal to participate more, too. Life took over for much of last year and while I read everyone's threads, they probably have no idea I did. Sad and also a little creepy, probably.

Jan 3, 2014, 3:08 pm

Happy New Year Tanya & good luck with your 2014 reading challenges. I look forward to following you.

Editado: Jan 20, 2014, 12:12 am

I listened to The Stainless Steel Rat (The Stainless Steel Rat series, Book #1 by Harry Harrison; narrated by Phil Gigante, 5 hours.) James Bolivar diGriz is a con-man/thief who gets outsmarted into working for The Corps, a interstellar law enforcement agency. When shipbuilding plans, ostensibly for a transport ship, surface, diGriz senses something isn't right and launches feet first into tracking down what's what. The writing style seems to be a parody of Classic Noir and Space Opera with lots of one-liners and cleverness thrown in. I think I would like to re-read this one in print as the narrator distracted me too much from the story itself.

Editado: Jan 20, 2014, 12:12 am

I listened to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter series, Book #1 by J.K. Rowling; narrated by Jim Dale.) Harry Potter is an orphaned boy wizard sent to Hogwart's (a school for witchcraft and wizardry) to realize his talents and destiny. Dangerous intrigue and adventure ensue when Harry and his friends go on a quest to discover what is beyond the trap door in a forbidden wing... I listened to this a few years ago and so this was a re-listen. The first time around I was pretty underwhelmed by it: I had trouble distinguishing who was speaking during a couple of the dialogues and; I was unhappy that many of the adults featured were suspicious or cowardly types. My second listen fared much better as I knew what to expect. One day I would love to be able to listen to the audio as narrated by Stephen Fry :-)

Jan 4, 2014, 6:40 pm

Hi Tanya. It is so annoying when a busy life interrupts your LT time. I am also guilty of being waylaid by life and failing to put in as much as I would like here. This year, I hope, will be different. Happy reading.

Jan 4, 2014, 7:52 pm

>5 Tanya-dogearedcopy: I always found the Stainless Steel Rat stories amusing reads. But I'm curious... what was it about the narrator that you found so distracting?

Editado: Jan 4, 2014, 9:33 pm

>8 LShelby: Hey LShelby!

I should mention that I very fussy when it comes to audio book productions, so you can take my comments with a grain of salt: The narrator for The Stainless Steel Rat sounds like voice over talent that had worked very hard at character roles. What this means is, that instead of using his natural voice to deliver the text without getting in the way (e.g. Simon Vance, Grover Gardner, Bronson Pinchot...,) I felt like the narrator was in love with and showing off his own voice and his various character roles.

In all fairness, I understand that people who listen to Romance audiobooks seem to love him and; that Bob Reiss, a SFF blogger (The Guilded Earlobe) loves this author/narrator combination. He's just not my cuppa :-/

I think in this case, I would get much more out of the book if I were to read it in print :-)

Jan 5, 2014, 3:14 pm

>9 Tanya-dogearedcopy: Ah! I understand the problem, I think. Than you very much for expanding on that for me. :)

Editado: Jan 12, 2014, 3:32 am

I just finished Fer-de-Lance, a mystery written in 1934 and set in Prohibition-Era New York. Nero Wolfe, an obese and sedentary man with a fondness for orchids, is approached by an Italian immigrant woman whose brother has disappeared. While ordinarily the man's disappearance might have been dismissed with the probability that he had returned to Italy, a couple of details revealed during an interview turn this missing person's inquiry into a full blown case of interest and possible murder...

I'm glad I took the time to read a Nero Wolfe novel. They are somewhat iconic in the mystery genre, at least here in the US and; seeing a book that was written rich with the detail of the time it was written is fascinating. Rex Stout's skill in laying out a scene and having a solid & original plot line are undeniable; but I have to say that I'm really not too crazy about either Nero Wolfe or Archie Goodwin. Perhaps they are just a product of their time and, there's nothing wrong with that at all; but I had difficulty understanding them or what makes them tick. I was reminded that sometimes, a different culture isn't really a matter of a faraway or exotic place like another country but sometimes a matter of mere time. The slang alone had me googling!

If the next title in the series were to cross my path, I would probably grab it. I suspect that the more Nero Wolfe you experience in book, film, TV and radio, the more the Wolfe universe becomes real and makes sense :-)

Jan 5, 2014, 8:15 pm

Hi Tanya. I understand the later Nero Wolfe mysteries are better. I've only read the first so far as well, but I rather liked it. I must read the second!

And I'm also a Stainless Steel Rat fan (or was, when I read them as a teenager far too many years ago now). Very entertaining sci-fi comedy.

Editado: Jan 20, 2014, 12:12 am

I'm just finished listening to Midnight Riot (First in the Rivers of London series, by Ben Aaronovitch; narrated by Kobna Holdbrook-Smith.) Peter Grant is an ordinary police constable who happens to have some latent paranormal skills like being able to see a ghost! Nearly assigned to an administrative unit, he is rescued by an Inspector who recognizes his special talents and sets him to work on a case involving seemingly random and spontaneous acts of intense violence. Set in current day London and written by a Dr. Who screen-playwright, the story is full of fun and clever bits, though it may be a bit violent for some. The narrator has a lovely British accent undiluted by American influence and delivers the story believably; but a word of caution: The overall production quality is not very good at all. There are mouth noises, booth noises, uneven sound levels and, poor edits. Holdbrook-Smith hasn't learned how to control his breathing for narration work and there are a couple places where he seems unaccountably rushed as well. There are at least two more titles in this series and I'll probably go to print. This was an enormously enjoyable ride into urban fantasy and I can't wait to see what happens next :-)

Jan 8, 2014, 3:09 am

Oh the rest of the Rivers of London series is just as good. I read the first three, and four is on my wishlist :D

Jan 8, 2014, 5:16 am

Hurrah! A favourite of mine too, I'm hanging out for book #5. :)

Editado: Jan 20, 2014, 12:12 am

Small Favor
The Dresden Files, Book #10
by Jim Butcher (@longshotauthor)
narrated by James Marsters
(P) 2008, Penguin Audio
13 hours, 50 minutes

Harry Dresden, White Council Wizard and Warden (and the only practicing Wizard listed in the Chicago phone book!) repays the second of three favors owed to the Winter Queen, by rescuing crime lord Johnny Marcone from the forces that have kidnapped Marcone from his own panic room. The reasons and the method for the abduction, as well as the Winter Queen’s interest, are the substance of the story; but needless to say, Fae politics and grasps for power are at the heart of it all.

This is one of the better Dresden Files novels in that the writing is solid with few if any continuity errors (after listening to few Dresden Files, you learn to just roll with it and get to the point of the scene or action) and the cliches feel more natural to the dialogue. Karrin Murphy, a Chicago police officer and ally of Harry’s, returns to her recognizable self: a person of moral character and of the law, which had been distorted in Blood Rites (The Dresden Files #6.) Fans of the series will recognize all the usual suspects as well as many of the pop culture references - from Shakespeare to Tolkien to Hollywood ;-)

Despite an over-the-top showdown near the end of the book, Small Favor still feels rather subdued by comparison to the rest of the series thus far. At one point, Harry Dresden, heading into what is sure to be a confrontation thinks, “Where was the drama? Where were the explosions, the howling screams, the deafening sound track?” and; the listener may wonder as well. Is it the writing (lack of vitality?), the narration (uninspired?) {Or me (jaded?) That said, by the end of Small Favor, I was fully engaged and yes, I cried a little. OK, a lot (8 Kleenexes.)}

From the start, with Storm Front, James Marsters has been Harry Dresden. Interestingly, Small Favor was recorded at about the same time as Blood Rites (#6) in 2008 but the performances in Small Favor far outstrip those in Blood Rites. Marsters is more in command of the story, able to imbue the right tone to “Fuego” (fire spell) as the scenes’ moods dictated; and infuse the characters with humor and pathos. There were times that Marsters didn’t seem to have much to work with, but the drag was temporary and short.

Editado: Jan 25, 2014, 4:56 pm

Yesterday, I read The Proposal (A Perfect Match Series, Book #1; by Lily Zante) on my eReaders/apps. I had dnloaded the title earlier in the year (and listed it as one of my alternates in the eReader cat in the 2014 Category Challenge); but since I felt like a light romance, I thought this would fit the bill. Unfortunately, it was a disappointment: It was too light.

The premise is that uptight Sandra hires a male escort for a week-end to act as her real boyfriend. Ethan, acting as a male escort, is really a metal working artist who escorts for the extra cash to get his projects going. The idea is that Sandra needs to impress upon the family-values-oriented president of the company that she works for that she is not a workaholic, but instead well-rounded in her life. OK, fake-boyfriend-with-sizzle-turning-into-the-real-deal isn't original, but the big disappointment is that there was very little romance, no sex, and very little to sustain interest in Sandra or Ethan or any other of the one-dimensional characters in the story. It felt like only a part of a novel and, sure enough, if you want the "prequel," you need to buy Book #2 and, if you want to see where they end up, you need to buy Book #3. But with no tension or issue to resolve, who cares?

Moving along; Nothing to see here folks!

Editado: Jan 20, 2014, 11:15 pm

Over the week-end, I watched the 1936 film, Meet Nero Wolfe (starring Edward Arnold as Nero Wolfe and, Lionel Stander as Archie Goodwin.) Having been released two years after the publication of the novel upon which it was based, Fer-de-Lance, it served well to better inform me of the style and mood of the time, though the storyline was bastardized (of course!) In the film, we see more of the humor of Fer-de-Lance, the cocksure attitude of Archie and some of the details of living in the 30's that are inherent to a film made contemporaneously (or at least close to it!) with the book. It's not a great film, but interesting nonetheless :-)

Jan 21, 2014, 10:54 am

Oh well---that's a shame about The Proposal. The movie, which I think must have been loosely based off of it, at least premise wise, is one of the few romantic comedies I've enjoyed over the last few years! Of course, I loved it as much for the beautiful Alaskan scenery, but it was about what you'd expect from an easy escape romantic comedy.

Jan 23, 2014, 12:30 pm

>19 whitewavedarling: I think I was expecting something more along the lines of the film version of The Proposal (which I also love) as well; but it turns out the book was written very recently and only shares the name!

Jan 23, 2014, 12:44 pm

>20 Tanya-dogearedcopy:. Hmmm. That seems somewhat suspicious!

Editado: Fev 1, 2014, 3:36 pm

by Patricia Highsmith
with a Foreword by Graham Greene
Atlantic Monthly Press, January 1994

01. The Snail Watcher
02. The Birds Poised to Fly
03. The Terrapin
04. When the Fleet was in at Mobile
05. The Quest for Blank Claveringi
06. The Cries of Love
07. Mrs Afton, among thy Green Braes
08. The Heroine
09. Another Bridge to Cross
10. The Barbarians
11. The Empty Birdhouse

Eleven is a collection of eleven short stories, ostensibly shelved in the “Mystery and Suspense” genre, but really tends to be more in the vein of “Psychological Thriller” or even “Horror.” Mysteries generally develop along the lines of “whodunits”: plots with clues and denouement; whereas Highsmith’s shorts are studies into the dark taint of the human mind. Greed, vanity, paranoia and cynicism are treated in the stories with morbid fascination and leave the reader with a sense of unease and maybe even a shiver of recognition. The stories are disturbing for what they suggest: that each man, woman and even child lives with a fragile tension between their dark natures and societal constraints and; that it doesn’t take much for any individual to tip over and indulge their more horrific aspects.

Fev 1, 2014, 7:37 pm

I should read more Highsmith, I've only read the first Ripley, which was great.

Fev 1, 2014, 9:14 pm

A couple of years ago, my DH went through a Ripley phase, tearing through all her novels in a few weeks! Even though I'm pretty sure I read Strangers on a Train many years ago, I can't say that I remember enough of it to meaningfully say that I've read any Highsmith before now!

DH had put all his Highsmith reads in a stack to donate; but I decided to rescue them ;-)

Fev 2, 2014, 4:52 pm

You've sold me on Eleven--adding it to my list!

Editado: Fev 11, 2014, 10:59 pm

by Ian McEwan
narrated by Roger Allam
(P) 2010, Recorded Books
11 hours, 50 minutes
(includes interview between the author and his editor)

This isn’t so much a review as it is a witness testimony, not like on a court stand, but more like what you might see and hear at a religious revival! I admit that, in the past , I have committed the literary sin of not “getting” Ian McEwan. I read On Chesil Beach and Saturday with due diligence and lit-fic sobriety. In doing so, I was underwhelmed by the prose and declared McEwan “overrated” in rendering the psychological thriller to nothing more than a Tale of Anxiety (and at that, of a white older male anxiety!)

Then, I saw the light. Someone here on LT (and I'm sorry I cannot remember who!) mentioned that they had heard Ian McEwan read an excerpt from On Chesil Beach out loud with comic flair! And that the audience was not only enthralled, but laughing along with him! Hmmm, perhaps if I hadn’t dismissed my own sense of humour and replaced it with self-righteous literary pretensions, I might have enjoyed On Chesil Beach, and come to think of it, Saturday more than I had. With that in mind, I picked up Solar which I had heard was supposed to be pretty funny. Admittedly, I had also heard that this was not McEwan’s best and, as a validation of that opinion, it was not nominated for a ManBooker award. So it kind of figures, considering the high rate of ironic incidences in my life, that the McEwan that no one seems to like is the one that I absolutely adore!

The story features Michael Beard, a Nobel laureate who, when we meet him in his early fifties, is wallowing around in the collapse of his fifth marriage, a deteriorating body, and work in physics that is neither intellectually stimulating nor rewarding. The whole of Solar takes place over the course of about ten years (1999-2009) in which we watch Michael Beard muck his way around and through relationships, work and his health, always holding onto the promise of the next chapter in his life. It would be very easy to attach a lot of symbolic import to various artifices in the novel; but after listening to the interview of the author with his editor, you realize that, in doing so, you would be projecting too much into the novel. It is what it is and; what it is is a very honest portrayal of a man with all the absurdist elements that that may imply. Perhaps those who don’t like this novel don’t want to acknowledge that Michael Beard is very much an Everyman and, by default themselves; but I found common cause with the character for being flawed. Rather than finding Michael Beard an unlikable character, I was morbidly fascinated with his ability to have gotten as far as he had. I often found myself cheering for Michael even while admitting that he brought on most of his problems himself.

Roger Allam is a British narrator who delivered Ian McEwan’s novel flawlessly. The production uses British pronunciations, which may sound awkward to American ears, but it does not interfere with the understanding or enjoyment of the story. Allam reads the book “straight,” without comic intonations and also without dropping into the deadly neutral zone :-)

I loved Solar and I can’t wait to read McEwan’s next novel!

Fev 10, 2014, 5:37 pm

Yay! I think that was me who mentioned hearing McEwan reading from On Chesil Beach, and I'm glad it gave you an "in" to his works. I'm rather fond of McEwan (although some are better than others). And I'm glad you really liked Solar, it was a great read, IMO.

Fev 12, 2014, 1:35 pm

I'm glad to have some hope for Solar! I've been interested in this one, and avoided it because it's McEwan, who I really do think is overrated. (I say this having read On Chesil Beach, Atonement, and Amsterdam, which I'd heard was his best.) I liked Amsterdam the most, but was still decidedly unimpressed. In any case, I'm glad you included the lead-in to your review of Solar, as I now have some hope!

Editado: Fev 15, 2014, 8:04 pm

Tanya dear,
Do you recall the discussing the Girl With a Pearl Earring on my thread and you were sharing about your experience & near experiences with Vermeer's paintings? Well I recently came across this and wondered if you have read it.

Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland
"This luminous story begins in the present day, when a professor invites a colleague to his home to see a painting that he has kept secret for decades. The professor swears it is a Vermeer--but why has he hidden this important work for so long? The reasons unfold in a series of events that trace the ownership of the painting back to World War II and Amsterdam, and still further back to the moment of the work's inspiration. As the painting moves through each owner's hands, what was long hidden quietly surfaces, illuminating poignant moments in multiple lives. Vreeland's characters remind us, through their love of this mysterious painting, how beauty transforms and why we reach for it, what lasts and what in our lives is singular and unforgettable."

It sounds pretty fascinating to me and has a 3 1/2 star rating here on L.T.

Fev 17, 2014, 2:13 pm

OMGosh! I don't know how many times I saw this book on the shelves at various venues and didn't look at the covers! Putting it on my wish list now! :-)

Editado: Mar 13, 2014, 10:34 am

My Korean Deli
by Ben Ryder Howe; narrated by Bronson Pinchot)
8 hours, 52 minutes
(p) 2011, Blackstone Audio, Inc.

The author and his Korean wife buy a deli for her mother as a grand gesture of gratitude on behalf of the daughter. The mother-in-law, Kay, is a hard-working immigrant who channels her drive and ambitions into the Brooklyn store, ensnaring the whole family to work the deli to make it a going concern. Encroaching gentrification, razor thin profit margins, hard line revenue-seeking municipal authorities looking for store violations, eccentric customers and, Howe's cultural and physical ineptness at being a store clerk (rather than the Paris Review editor he really is) are some of the many challenges that the family encounters and meets head-on. The story ends rather anti-climatically, but overall the narrative provides interesting insight as to the workings of a convenience store and the thoughts of the author as he sheds the confines of his WASP upbringing. Bronson Pinchot demonstrates his range of character work without drawing attention to himself or making any of the characters seem like caricatures. His impersonation of George Plimpton is remarkable, but not less noteworthy are the voices he uses for Howe as the story's narrator, the mother-in-law, and the varied ethnic personalities.

Three stars for the book and an additional star for Bronson Pinchot's performance.

Editado: Abr 6, 2014, 10:06 pm

"Material Witness" (Joe Ledger series, Book 1.2);
"Deep, Dark"(Joe Ledger series, Book 1.3);
The Dragon Factory (Joe Ledger series, Book #2) AND;
"Dog Days" (Joe Ledger series, Book 2.1)
(by Jonathan Maberry; narrated by Ray Porter)

The Joe Ledger series combines military fiction and speculative fiction bordering on horror. Listeners can expect a lot of ordnance, martial arts and monsters, all set within a context of fighting a world threat. It's a lot of "hoo-rah" action, somewhat tempered by Joe's introspection and flaws. Not the best writing, but lot of fun if you're in the mood to kick some ass! Ray Porter is quintessentially Joe Ledger and definitely makes these stories work. I also have print editions of the shorts and, they just don't live and breath the way the audio does.

"Material Witness" takes place early in Joe Ledger's career, but after the first-in-series, Patient Zero. The Echo Team of the DMS (an elite and secret military arm of the US) is sent in to secure an author who has become a security risk. Joe and his comrades-in-arms find themselves in Deep Pines, the setting for Maberry's YA Rot & Ruin series, encountering strange allies and long odds against...

In "Deep, Dark," Joe and his unit are sent to Colorado to an underground lab facility to eradicate a terrorist infiltration; but to say that things are not what they would seem would be something of an understatement!

The Dragon Factory is a full-length novel that has Joe and the Echo Team racing against the clock as they try and stop an evilly mad scientist from implementing an Extinction Wave - a genocidal plan that would be executed through specially designed pathogens. There's a lot going on in this story: genetically engineered pathogens, transgenetic coding, gene therapies... and one could credibly argue that it's pretty over the top.

In "Dog Days," Joe wraps up a loose end from The Dragon Factory and; a canine comrade, Ghost, is introduced.

Maberry divides Joe's personality into three parts: The Civilized Man, The Cop and, The Warrior and; for the missions that Joe and the Echo Team are assigned, it is essential that the Warrior become the dominant aspect. As The Warrior is called upon time and again to go forward and The Civilized Man and The Cop are put on the back burners, the core - maybe even the soul - of Joe is being chipped away at. I think every boy blogger on the planet will rave about the high octane thrills to be had in any given installment of the series and in the series as a whole; but oddly, while many talk about the action hero, I think we're actually seeing the fracturing of a man from the inside out.

"Material Witness," "Deep, Dark" and "Dog Days" are interstitial stories in the Joe Ledger series and can be found in both short story collection, Joe Ledger: The Missing Files and Joe Ledger: Special Ops. They are also available individually.

Abr 1, 2014, 1:59 am


The good news is that in 3 months I've managed to read 36 books. At this pace, I will have read 100 books by the first week in September! That said, I fully expect work to slow me down this next quarter, so I'll be happy to hit 100 by year's end :-)

The other news however, is that I've been very bad about posting any sort of review or commentary about the books I've been reading. Though I've reading and posting on other people's threads, I haven't made the time to curate my own!

Starting this coming week-end, I hope to start catching up with the Maberry titles and then keep current with some Humor titles I'll be listening to in April. :-)

Editado: Abr 9, 2014, 8:13 pm

Many years ago, I worked as a light board operator for an Improve Comedy Club (WDC.) Before then, I really loved standup comedians, but after having worked backstage and having seen what many comics are like, I've been off of them (and sit-coms) for awhile. "Sordid" doesn't even begin to cover much of what I saw and heard. Anyway, that said, I was willing to listen to the Audies' finalists in the humor category (for The Armchair Audies) because, seriously, you would think I would be over it by now and; I'm more than open to being made to laugh. Ugh. I fell like the prince in that fairy tale wherein he doesn't laugh, but jesters from all over the known world are being brought in to see if any can get the prince to even crack a smile!

Last week, I wrapped up The Stench of Honolulu (written and narrated by Jack Handey) I couldn't wait for it to be done. Yes, even though I didn't like it, I listened all the way through just to make sure I didn't miss anything. I remember the Jack Handey bits on Saturday Night Live many years ago - short one or two lines voiced over a still shot of a sunset. Often the thought being expressed was incongruous to the picture and so unexpected that you had to laugh :-) "TSoH" is like 3 hours of those bits stitched together over a plot line of going to Hawaii on a treasure hunt. The main character, who nicknames himself, "Wrong Way Slurps," is an unreliable and often unlikable narrator. Handey delivers the whole narrative in a near deadpan. As much as I was predisposed to enjoying this, I didn't laugh once :-(

I started listening to Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First-Century Parenthood (written and narrated by Drew Magary.) "Bleh" on this one too. I think there are two kinds of parents: one type revolves around the child/-ren and the other revolves around the self. Guess which one Drew Magary is? In all fairness, there are tiny glimmers of unselfishness that may be grounds for giving him the benefit of the doubt; but then he goes and blows it with hostile diatribes. I'm not finding this funny either, but it is better than Handey's book.

Oh, wait. I'm listening to Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First-Century Parenthood right now, a purportedly "funny" book and I don't even know if I can finish. In this memoir, the author/narrator professes to have pinned down, screamed at (in the face with an intimidating voice,) spanked, *HIT* and thrown his 7-yo daughter into a cold shower when she threw a tantrum. The author then goes on to express remorse, like this incident is really about him.

1) If true, if the event actually happened, the violence of the scene in and of itself is nauseating and reveals this man to be seriously damaged;

2) If not true, if he made this event up, one has to ask "WHY?" He doesn't play it funny, more as a grab for sympathy for him losing his shit. He uses the pronoun "we" like he's the poster boy for frustrated parents, speaking for all of "us." Um, NO.

I know I have friends who believe in corporal punishment, that respect and fear go hand-in-glove; but I am not one of them. It's not funny, or acceptable. This audiobook just beat out The Stench of Honolulu: A Tropical Adventure for being the least funny :-(

So, so far:

04. The Stench of Honolulu
05. Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First-Century Parenthood

I have Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls(written and narrated by David Sedaris), Still Foolin' 'Em (written and narrated by Billy Crystal) and How I Slept My Way to the Middle (by Kevin Pollack and Alan Goldsher; narrated by Kevin Pollack) to chose form next.

Abr 9, 2014, 1:39 pm

I sympathize with backstage work putting you off of comedians :( I spent years as a techie at a roadhouse, and seeing the state of ballerinas' bodies as professional ballets came through has made it impossible for me to enjoy any sort of ballet dancing, even just childrens' since I can only think what they'll end up doing to themselves if they keep going! I am sorry this bout of reading is going so badly for you! I've only heard good things about Sedaris and the Billy Crystal book, so maybe your next read will be more enjoyable...

Editado: Abr 21, 2014, 1:52 am

Hmmm, it occurred to me that even if I'm not writing reviews or commentary about what I'm reading, I should still be posting about *what* I'm reading! In, the past few weeks I've been swamped with work and it's only now that I've been able to come up for air. I'm listening to two audiobooks:

Gregor and the Code of Claw (The Underland Chronicles, Bkk #5; by Suzanne Collins; narrated by Paul Boehmer) and;
Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls (written and narrated by David Sedaris)

"The Code of CLaw" is the fifth and final installment in the Underland series geared more toward children ages 8-12; but I would be lying if I said that Suzanne Collins hadn't gotten me hooked from Book #1! The novels are about a boy and his sister who fall into a subterranean world beneath NYC where there are giant rats, bats, mice, spiders and ants... and a colony of self-exiled humans who have adapted to life in the dark. There are times when the action is violent and dark, and even graphic (though never gratuitous) so I wouldn't recommend them for sensitive children. That said, my own daughter who is often squeamish, loves these books as well. I think this may be due, in no small part to the narrator, Paul Boehmer, who brings the characters to life. He's a little over-the-top, especially in the beginning, but he either evens out as the books progress or I've gotten used to him! ANyway, now that the series is coming to a close, we're dragging out the end a little bit, not really wanting the saga to end. The main character, Gregor a twelve year old boy, is ending into a battle in which it is prophesied that he will die...

I've read or listened to Sedaris before so it was with an open mind and a great deal of curiosity that I picked up Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls. The audio is a collection of routines or presentations that he has done. I was surprised at the acerbic tone to some of his material, but there is no base crudity or child abuse, so he's got that going for him!

In print, my attention right now is on Borderlands (The Inspector Devlin series, Book #1; by Brian McGilloway.) It's a police procedural set on the border between Northern and Southern Ireland. A dead girl has been found in an area marking the confluence of three waterways that delineate the two areas. I was expecting a mystery set during the Troubles, but this takes place in 2002, so the sectarian strife is more of a memory than a living fear. So far it's just okay. It's not nearly as gritty as I like for a book set in this area (I do love Irish Noir); but it's a quick read that I started last night and will finish tonight.

Editado: Abr 21, 2014, 4:52 pm

Joe Ledger: Special Ops
by Jonathan Maberry

Joe Ledger is a former Army Ranger and Baltimore police officer who has been recruited into a secret, elite U.S. government military branch to tackle the world's most dangerous bio-terrorists. With state-of-the-art weapons, the DMS (Department of Military Sciences) zeroes in on those who would wield mutated prions, re-coded genes and, pathogens to wreak havoc for political gain or otherwise dramatically change the world's social order. Ledger, along with the other members of Echo Team provide plenty of action-adventure with blazing guns, martial arts moves and the supporting intelligence provided by a super computer called MindReader. The main character himself is a flawed, conflicted man for all the “hoo-rah” that surrounds him however. While it could be argued that the stories in and of themselves seem over the top; it could be better argued that the fantastic is not as unrealistic as may be supposed. Jonathan Maberry has written (to date) six Joe Ledger novels, but the short stories are the glue that hold the cannon together. Some of the stories are teasers for a novel in the series, while others are codas (final chapters that wrap up loose ends) and still others are stand-alones. It is highly recommended that the short stories and novels be read in order (there is a reading chronology at the end of the book) unless you are indifferent to spoilers. The short stories are a gift to the Joe Ledger fan and are best enjoyed in audio format. Ray Porter, the narrator of the series brings Joe to life in a way that makes the print seem flat. There are two collections: Joe Ledger: The Missing Files and Joe Ledger: Special Ops. It is worth noting that the five stories in Joe Ledger: The Missing Files are contained in Joe Ledger: Special Ops; but the print edition of Joe Ledger: Special Ops also contains character profiles, the Reading Chronology and a written interview with Ray Porter that is not included in the audio format.

Joe Ledger: Special Ops
"Zero Tolerance"
"Deep, Dark"
"Material Witness"
"Mad Science"
"The Handyman Gets Out"
"Borrowed Power"
Inside the DMS (character profiles)
Joe Ledger Reading Chronology
Interview with Ray Porter

Special thanks to JournalStone for providing a print edition of Joe Ledger: Special Ops via the LibraryThing Early Reviewer program and; to Downpour for providing an advance copy of “Changeling,” for review purposes.

Editado: Abr 22, 2014, 9:53 pm

Just a quick update this week, before I plunge back into work:

Gregor and the Code of Claw (The Underland Chronicles Book #5, by Suzanne Collins; narrated by Paul Boehmer) - 4 out of 5 stars or a solid B both for the book and the series overall. Suzanne Collins created flawed but likable characters with realistic motivations against a darkly fantastic landscape. Yes, there was violence and death, but there was also intelligence, creativity and friendship - all themes that were well executed. The series ended bittersweet but will be remembered fondly. Yes, some kids have Harry Potter; but we have Gregor :-)

Now we're listening to Princess Labelmaker to the Rescue: An Origami Yoda Book by Tom Angleberger; narrated by Mark Turetsky et al.) Tommy and his friends continue the battle started in The Surprise Attack of Jabba the Puppett: An Origami Yoda Book in which they band together to fight Fun Time - a school program implemented to help students with standardized testing. The print books probably have a lot of visual appeal, but we love Mark Turetsky's Chewbacca impersonation, so audio it is :-) This is the penultimate book in the Origami Yoda series and we'll be sad to see this one end too.

I finished Let's Explore Diabetes with Owls (written and narrated by David Sedaris.) This was my first Sedaris book, and I was a little dismayed at the bitterness and contempt that laced some of his essays; but I would be lying if I didn't say I laughed. I gave it a sold 3 out of 5 stars. Review pending.

Now I'm queuing up How I Slept My Way to the Middle: Secrets and Stories from Stage, Screen, and Interwebs (written by Kevin Pollack and Alan Goldsher; narrated by Kevin Pollack.) I don't think I know who Kevin Pollack is; but I loved Alan Goldsher's Paul is Undead (narrated by Simon Vance) years ago, so we'll see...

Borderlands (Inspector Devlin series, Book #1; by Brian McGilloway) ended up just being okay. The story could have been set anywhere despite The Troubles having been invoked and, the generic quality left me uninvolved. A weak 3 out of five stars and, a pass on continuing the series.

I've got two other books going:

The Kite Runner (by Khaled Hosseini has been languishing on my nightstand and wanting for my attention. I should probably get back to that soon before I forget what I already read!

The other book is The Boy in His Winter (by Norman Lock) which I got via LT Early Reviewers program. It's short, but I'm struggling with it. The idea of the book is that Huck Finn and Jim have been on a raft, floating down the Mississippi for the past 150+ years, stuck in some sort of time warp. When they leave the river, time catches up to them... It's a neat idea, but outside of that, I'm not really sure what I'm looking at here. The author takes pains to divorce his work from Twain's in both style, language and mode (Twain's satire); but has yet to offer anything in return. I've only read the first of three parts; but it seems pretty pointless so far :-/

I finally got the review up for Joe Ledger: Special Ops (by Jonathan Maberry!) The book and audio were released today and I highly recommend the Joe Ledger series for the zombiie/action-adventure/mil-fic crowd :-)

That's it for this week! I'll be back! :-)

Abr 29, 2014, 1:27 pm

I just came off an 8-straight-day run of work so I didn't get much personal reading done but maybe I'll get a little breather this week and get some reading done:

I'm still trying to get through A Boy in His Winter (by Norman Lock.) It's only 190 pages long and the fact that it's taken me three weeks to get to page 132 in what would normally only take me a couple of hours to read, tells you something about how I feel about the book. Since I got it for review purposes though, I need to finish it and write something on it before May 13th!

Kevin Pollack is an actor, comic and celebrity impersonator who wrote and narrated How I Slept My Way to the Middle: Secrets and Stories from Stage, Screen, and Interwebs. As I'm something of a cultural hermit, I'm going to take his and other people's word for it that he is an entertainer of some merit but I have to say I am exceedingly underwhelmed by his performance as a narrator. The storytelling and impersonations are ill-timed and mostly weak respectively. I'm guessing that Pollack's talents are best appreciated live and onscreen. I'm not going to bother finishing this audio, instead going ahead and uploading Billy Crystal's Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys.

Editado: Maio 6, 2014, 10:05 pm

LOL, I made significant headway into The Boy in His Winter (by Norman Lock) last night, so there is hope that I will finish it and get the review in before next Tuesday!

I've also been catching up on my Walking Dead gns, have committed to reading up to trade volume 14 in the 2014 category challenge. I re-read The Walking Dead, Vol. 7: The Calm Before, read The Walking Dead, Vol. 8: Made to Suffer in eBook format, bought and read The Walking Dead, Vol. 9: Here We Remain on Free Comic Book Day and, have borrowed and read The Walking Dead, Vol, 10: What We Become from the library. Volumes 6-8 are very intense, dealing with the survivors and The Governor. "Made to Suffer" was a no-holds barred section of the overall story arc and left me a bit stunned. Vols 9 & 10 are a little anti-climatic, but I suspect Robert Kirkman et al will ratchet it all up again :-)

I've started The Shining Girls (by Lauren Beukes and am loving it; but as the saying goes, "It's your game to lose" - in this instance meaning that the only way that this book is going to end up with less than a four star rating is if the author blows it in the end. Possible. It's the story of a time traveling serial killer and he is much more interesting than the story of one of his victims who managed to survive. His and her stories are alternated by chapters.

In audio, I'm still listening to Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and, Where the Hell are My Keys? (written and narrated by Billy Crystal) which surprisingly, is just okay. It's memoir of Billy Crystal's career, with some of the sections performed live before an audience (as opposed to being performed in a studio.) His life and that of Kevin Pollack's were very similar in their childhood years, which only goes to show you that skill, talent and ambition can only take you so far. Luck is the key.

EDIT: I had a couple of hours to kill at the library while my daughter was folding (origami activity session) so I finally finished The Boy in His Winter. Man, I really hated that book! The premise was cool: Huckleberry Finn and Jim board a raft in 1830 and float down the Mississippi River. Time flows around them, but does not affect them. They essentially remain themselves, no further aged than when the set off on their journey unless they step off the raft. But this is essentially a book without structure/form, intent, strong characters or, style.

I also finished The Shining Girls (by Lauren Beukes,) BB from Connie :-) I thought this was a clever story about a time traveling serial killer and I ended up giving four stars :-)

I'll be writing and posting reviews this week for the Armchair Audies titles as well as for The Boy in His Winter.

Maio 12, 2014, 8:25 pm

The Boy in His Winter
by Norman Lock

On July 2, 1835, Huckleberry Finn and the runaway slave, Jim set out on a raft down the Mississippi River. For the next 170+ years, as the raft moves through time and events unfold onshore, Huck and Jim remain un-aged, living in a state of temporal suspension until Hurricane Katrina terminates the raft's journey in 2005. It is an intriguing premise for a novel; but the story quickly devolves into pointless and unsatisfying memoir of of Huck's life after leaving Hannibal, Missouri.

Norman Lock takes greats pains to divorce his Huck Finn from the character Mark Twain created by not adhering to the style, satire, language or personalities established in the American Classic; but offers the reader nothing in return. The opportunities for the characters to develop are squandered as the author keeps his Huck and Jim static and unresponsive to historic events or even to dramatic moments onshore. There is no sense that the Huckleberry Finn at the end of the novel is substantially different from the Huckleberry Finn at the beginning other than that his vocabulary has expanded.

The journey on the river and post-Katrina plot line serve only to move characters to different settings; and the descriptive prose is limited, uninspiring and fails to deliver any sense of vitality. Onshore life is relegated to the periphery while the core of the story line is an ambiguous haze of memory, ultimately an empty exchange.

Overall, this was a tediously boring and disappointing novel.

Editado: Maio 13, 2014, 1:10 pm

I read The Walking Dead: The Rise of the Governor (by Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga), the first in the Governor series which is a spinoff of The Walking Dead series. The Governor series portrays the back story of the The Walking Dead villain known as Philip Blake ("The Governor".) It wasn't great writing: Sometimes I thought the authors were trying a little hard to be poetic and, the plot heavily relied on the characters having the luck to make amazing and fortuitous finds in an apocalyptic landscape; and the descents into madness for a bit ham-fisted; but I give total props to the authors for completely surprising me in the end! Now onwards in The Walking Dead gns: I've got trade volumes 11-14 to work through this week :-)

I also read the first in the Bernie Rhodenbarr series, Burglars Can't be Choosers (by Lawrence Block.) It's was fun, if a bit dated. Bernie is a thief who targets apartments and Brownstones on the Upper East Side. On his last job, he doesn't find what he's looking for; but is instead implicated as the prime suspect in a homicide. It wasn't particularly violent or gritty for having been set in the pre-gentrified NYC. 3 stars with a smile :-)

I was going to give up on Billy Crystal's Still Foolin' 'Em: Where I've Been, Where I'm Going, and Where the Hell Are My Keys?; but decided to pick it back up and finish it off. I'm listening to it in audio (which the author narrates) and realizing how I've witnessed most of the comedian's career first-hand. I remember him on Soap and Saturday Night Live! Three stars without a smile. Literally, which is sad because while Billy Crystal has had some great moments as a comedian, The Old Jewish Man routine that he's running now doesn't really work. Maybe I'm not old enough to appreciate it; but really, I thought this kind of humor disappeared in the 1970s!

I'm starting to set up my personal Summer reading challenge, The Dark & Stormy Summer Reading Challenge 2014. Last year I challenged myself to read & review 40 books. This year, I'm setting the total number of books at 50; but only committing to writing about a dozen reviews. I realized last year that some books don't bring out the review-writing muse, they just "are." I will probably write more than a dozen reviews, that's all I'm wiling to promise though! :-)

Editado: Maio 21, 2014, 5:13 pm

The Stench of Honolulu: A Tropical Adventure
Written and Narrated by Jack Handey
Ⓟ 2013 Hachette Audio
3.25 hours

"Wrong Way Slurps," is the unreliable and unlikable narrator of this tale of a treasure hunt set in Hawaii. Hoping to sidestep The Pringle Brothers - the loan sharks to whom he owes money and, taking advantage of a fortuitous invitation extended by his friend, Don, Wrong Way Slurps sets off on a puerilely funny adventure.

The Stench of Honolulu features the signature deadpan voice of Jack Handey. Arguably best known for his contributions to Saturday Night Live in the form of “Deep Thoughts,” the author/narrator sticks to what he knows: crafting series of lines to be delivered in under one minute. In this case, hundreds of these lines are stitched together loosely over the course of over three hours to create an offbeat story.

The Stench of Honolulu is low comedy and will probably finds its best audience amongst those who delight in farce. Though TSoH did not appeal to my sense of humor, it was still a well executed production and, it is 100% created, original comic material (i.e. not a memoir or heavily autobiographical.) While author narrations are usually suspect, in this case Jack Handey was the best choice to deliver his trademark style and there is admirable consistency in his delivery.

Editado: Maio 20, 2014, 12:47 pm

Just a short update today as it's been a rough night. My 11-yo is sick with the flu and I'm the primary caregiver in these situations. DH gets to run to the store for Otter Pops, Gatorade and ginger ale :-/

I started reading Harlan Coben's The Woods in print this past week. It's the story of an attorney representing a rape victim in court while also dealing with the re-surfacing of an incident involving the disappearance of his sister when they were both teenagers. I started it in audio many years ago (narrated by Scott Brick) but it just didn't work out for me: The producers enhanced some of the dialogue (e.g. If the character was on the phone, they treated the voice so that it sounded like it was on the phone. It was gimmicky, clever and ultimately distracting) and; as much as I liked Scott Brick's narration of In Cold blood (by Truman Capote), I found his approach to the Coben rather nebulous, meaning that I wasn't clear what I was getting into.

I also started listening to Opal Fire (A Stacy Justice Mystery, Book #1; by Barbra Annino; narrated by Amy Rubinate. Stacy Justice is a newspaper reporter and the heir apparent to a legacy of witchcraft. Though she is reluctant to claim her gifts, it looks like they will be unearthed to help solve the mystery of who set fire to her cousin's bar, The Opal. I dnloaded this title because it qualified for a mini-challenge I am participating in (4 audiobooks, each with a jewel or precious stone in the title) and I was a little confused as to who this was targeted to in the beginning. At first I thought it was for children, then YA; but now I'm thinking New Adult. It's simple and silly, and I think ultimately a paranormal cozy of sorts. The narrator, while clear in her delivery, is driving through the material pretty fast and without any nuance to the reading. Though the rest of the series would have fit the challenge nicely (each had a gemstone in the title,) I think I'll go try some other titles instead.

Maio 21, 2014, 4:58 pm

Are you enjoying the Aaronson books? I've read the first four and am waiting for the next one to be written and have found them quite enjoyable. I also recently read Cinder and liked it a great deal; I need to pick up the next book soon.

Maio 21, 2014, 9:48 pm

>45 ronincats: I read the first two Rivers of London titles before work got in the way! IN a couple of weeks, I'll be starting my Dark & Stormy Summer Reading Challenge and I'm hoping to get the next two titles read in June :-)

Maio 22, 2014, 11:09 pm

Someone Could Get Hurt: A Memoir of Twenty-First-Century Parenthood
Written and Narrated by Drew Magary
Ⓟ 2013, Penguin Audio
4.80 hours

Someone Could Get Hurt is a reality-based book about Drew Magary’s experiences as a father as he struggles with the challenge of being a selfish prick at the same time. There are moments in this memoir of honesty, tenderness and even some humor, but it all comes at a cost. All parents make mistakes and it takes courage to admit them, but even if even a fraction of what Margary wrote is true when he reacted to his little girl in “a particularly difficult incident”*, the listener’s response can only be one of sickening revulsion. While he doesn’t play this section for laughs, there is an implicit tone suggesting, “What parent hasn’t lost their shit and done something heinous to their kids? It’s a horrible thing that happened, but it’s okay! It happens! The kids are resilient!” Hmmm… Let’s just say I vehemently disagree and this one section negates any positive feelings I had for this book altogether.

Technically, there was nothing wrong with the recording itself: The production values were solid. Authors narrating their own memoirs is appropriate and; Margary’s skill in delivering the material was well-paced, clear and genuine in feeling.

* 'Someone Could get Hurt' By Drew Magary: All I Ever Want As A Parent (EXCERPT) - In this article, Magary makes it seem that the only thing he did to his daughter was spank her. It should be noted that in the book, he recounts that he also screamed into her face, hit her and threw her into a cold shower.

OTHER: I dnloaded a digital copy of Someone Could Get Hurt (written and narrated by Drew Margary) from I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Editado: Maio 22, 2014, 11:15 pm

How I Slept My Way to the Middle: Secrets and Stories from Stage, Screen and, the Interwebs
Written by Kevin Pollak and Alan Goldsher; narrated by Kevin Pollak
Ⓟ 2013, Brilliance Audio
8.10 hours

Kevin Pollak’s career as an entertainer - comic, impersonator, show host, and actor - is the subject matter for this memoir. Whatever his merits are, his performance as an audiobook narrator are underwhelming. The storytelling and impersonations in are ill-timed and mostly weak respectively. Perhaps Pollak’s talents are best appreciated live and onscreen.

In Neil Genzlinger’s piece in the New York Time’s Sunday Book Review, “The Problem with Memoirs" (January 28, 2011,) Genzlinger advises that "If you’re jumping on a bandwagon, make sure you have better credentials than the people already on it." The story of Kevin Pollak’s life story and that of Billy Crystal’s (Still Foolin’ ‘Em) are remarkably similar: A Jewish boy discovers that he can get attention by being funny, impersonates a famous black person, performs at a Bar Mitzvah in front of his family and friends and Boom! a star is born! Except, the trajectory of Pollak’s career obviously arced lower than Billy Crystal’s - demonstrating that it takes more than skill, talent and ambition; but also a certain kind of luck. Pollak’s narrative lacks the vitality and timing and might have benefitted from performing some of his material live; but what couldn’t be fixed is that, despite being the narrative of an individual’s life, the events that served as plot points weren’t particularly unique or better than those of his contemporaries.

How I Slept My Way to the Middle is a reality-based book that, notwithstanding being a memoir of a comic, isn’t especially interesting, much less funny. Personally, I couldn’t hack more than a couple of hours before I DNF-ed this audiobook out of boredom.

OTHER: I borrowed a CD edition of How I Slept My Way to the Middle: Secrets and Stories from Stage, Screen and, the Interwebs (Written by Kevin Pollak and Alan Goldsher; narrated by Kevin Pollak) from the Jackson County Library System in Oregon. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Editado: Maio 24, 2014, 4:21 pm

Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls
Written and narrated by David Sedaris
Ⓟ 2013, Hachette Audio
8.10 hours

If humor is a house built on the foundations of pain, David Sedaris has built a comfortable home. Sedaris presents 26 stand-alone comic compositions, ranging from the autobiographical to the fictional - all reflecting Sedaris’ keen sense of irony tempered by a softly cynical wit. Sedaris alludes to outrageous and embittering experiences & situations that have been mitigated in their virulence by over-long familiarity, the passage of time and, a sense of humor that mocks the absurdities of life.

For those unfamiliar with Sedaris’ humor, it is is like being stung by a bee even as you eat the honey. There is an underlying tone of causticity even as you recognize the ridiculousness of the the situation at hand. If you are a homophobe, politically right-of-center and/or dress badly, you may feel more of the sting than the taste of the honey; but Sedaris is no less valid or funny for all that.

The whole of the audiobook is remarkable for its ambition in bringing in a number of different sessions of varying sound levels & qualities from different venues & studios in, as well as Andrew Bird’s interstitial music and an exclusive bonus track for audiobook listeners. Some of the “comic essays” are performed live before an audience while others are read in a studio; and in each case Sedaris has a great sense of timing and seeming intimacy with his listeners whether they are immediately present or not. Andrew Bird’s haunting gypsy string style music is fantastic, though it is unclear what the relationship between the music has with the material.

OTHER: I borrowed a CD edition of Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls (Written and narrated by David Sedaris) from the Jackson County Library System in Oregon. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Editado: Maio 24, 2014, 7:28 pm

Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell are My Keys?
Written and narrated by Billy Crystal
Ⓟ 2013, Macmillan Audio
8.10 hours

Still Foolin’ ‘Em is an autobiography of Billy Crystal’s career to date as told from the perspective of the 65 year old veteran comic, actor, writer and, producer. Crystal recognized as he was writing the book that some sections would be better presented live for the audiobook edition, so there are chapters which have been recorded in front of an audience. Whether live or from a studio, Crystal’s delivery is fast and his timing well-honed.

This isn’t really a comic album per se. It’s a memoir of a comic who delivers Borscht Belt or Matzoh Ball humor as a part of his personality. It’s interesting and engaging; but if you’re looking for jokes and routines, you’re better off checking out his old performances on television and film.

OTHER: I borrowed a CD edition of Still Foolin’ ‘Em: Where I’ve Been, Where I’m Going, and Where the Hell are My Keys? (Written and narrated by Billy Crystal) from the Jackson County Library System in Oregon. I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Editado: Maio 26, 2014, 12:49 pm

A Wallflower Christmas
Wallflower series, Book #5
By Lisa Kleypas

Hannah Appleton, Lady Natalie Blandon's companion, is called upon to vet Rafe Bowman, the prospective fiancé of her ladyship. Rafe Bowman is the relatively crass but undeniably good-looking brother to Lillian, Lady Westcliff (the first of the Wallflowers to find her HEA in Kleypas' popular romance quatrain.) Rafe, an American, needs a bit of acculturation to British manners if he is to succeed in wooing Lady Natalie; but the unprepossessing Hannah doesn't think Rafe will suit.

Surprisingly, owing to the merits of the first four Wallflower novels, A Wallflower Christmas is weak in its plot development and sexual tension. The opening chapters (boy meets girl) showed promise; but story was quickly reduced to its formulaic bones - what follows is a variation on the Classic Cinderella tale set in Victorian Era England - and the end result was little more than a gloss of what could have been an engaging full length novel in its own right.

To a certain extent, A Wallflower Christmas serves as a coda to the Wallflower series as readers catch a glimpses of the married lives of Lillian, Evie, Anabelle and Daisy; but if readers skip this title, they haven't missed anything. Overall, it's disappointing end to the series.

Editado: Jun 4, 2014, 11:33 am

Last Tuesday I was on a plane and so missed my weekly update. I'm about ten days into my Dark & Stormy Summer Reading Challenge:

"The Yellow Wallpaper" (by Charlotte Perkins Gilman; narrated by Dawn Harvey) - A nineteenth-century short story about a woman sequestered in an attic room and who becomes increasingly obsessed with the wallpaper; An exposition in top-grade horror writing;

A Wallflower Christmas (Wallflower series, Book #5; by Lisa Kleypas) - A disappointing follow-up to the Wallflower series. Fans of the series catch a glimpse into the lives of the protags of the original quartet and; bear witness to the weakly developed romance of an honorary Wallflower; Skip it and you won't have missed anything;

Painted Horses (by Malcolm Brooks) - Beautifully written novel about a young archaeologist sent out to Montana to check out an area slated for dam development; To be released August 5;

Flying Saucer to the Center of Your Mind: Selected Writings of John A. Keel (by John A. Keel; narrated by Michael Hacker) - Admittedly, I've only listened to a little bit of this; but enough to get the ideas or the "philosophy" of Keel. I'm very much an X-Files/Twilight Zone fan which, in this context means that I'm very much open to unconventional ideas; but Keel is too much of a crackpot for my tastes; Still I may end up listening to an essay or two here and there as the summer progresses;

Cam Jansen and the Mystery of the Stolen Diamonds (Cam Jansens series, Book #1 (by David A. Adler; narrated by Alyson Silverman) - Cam Jensen has a photographic memory which becomes useful as she witnesses a jewelry store robbery; Children's mystery ably narrated, but nothing overall to write home about;

"A Study in Emerald" (written and narrated by Neil Gaiman) - A short story set in Victorian England. This is a rather strange little mystery involving the investigation of the death of a German noble in London. I listened to this three years ago and was more than a little bemused by it then and, I can't say that I'm anymore enlightened now. Maybe if I read some H.P. Lovecraft before I try it again?

Editado: Set 15, 2014, 10:54 pm

Well, Hey! I just dug out the Retreat by Random House Reading Bingo card and discovered that I managed to finish off two rows!

06. A Book Written by Someone Under Thirty: A Madness of Angels: Or The Resurrection of Matthew Swift (by Kate Griffin) - written when the author was 23 years old;
07. A Book with Non-Human Characters: Small Favor (The Dresden Files #10; by Jim Butcher; narrated by James Marsters);
08. A Funny Book: Bloodsucking Fiends (by Christopher Moore)
09. A Book by a Female Author: The Birchbark House (by Louise Erdrich);
10. A Book with a Mystery: Fer-de-Lance (Nero Wolfe Book #1; by Rex Stout)

03. A Book That Became a Movie: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (by J.K. Rowling; narrated by Jim Dale)
08. A Funny Book: Bloodsucking Fiends (by Christopher Moore)
Free Square
17. A Best Selling Book: The Woods (by Harlan Coben) - #3 on the NYT Bestseller list on 05/13/2007 (Hardback list)
22. A Book That is More than 10 Years Old: Johnny Tremaine (by Esther Forbes) - published in 1943

I'll see if I can't run the board by Summer's End! :-)

EDIT: 06/15/2014 - I made a diagonal BINGO!

05. A Book with a Number in the Title: Eleven (by Patricia Highsmith);
09. A Book by a Female Author: The Birchbark House (by Louise Erdrich);
Free Square
16. A Book You Heard About Online: Love Potion #9 (by Claire Delacroix) - Recommended in a Yahoo! group;
20. A Book Your Friend Loves: The Spinning Heart (by Donal Ryan; narrated by Wayne Farrell) - Recommended by my friend and fellow LT member, Jennifer Conner

EDIT - 08/16/2014 - I made another BINGO across!

20. A Book Your Friend Loves: The Spinning Heart (by Donal Ryan; narrated by Wayne Farrell) - Recommended by my friend and fellow LT member, Jennifer Conner;
21. A Book that Scares You: Every Dead Thing (Charlie "Bird" Parker series, Book #1 by John Connolly) - Antagonists are serial killers of children. 'Nuff said;
22. A Book That is More than 10 Years Old: Johnny Tremaine (by Esther Forbes) - published in 1943;
23. The Second Book in a Series: Gerard's Beauty (Kingdom series by Marie Hall);
24. A Book with a Blue Cover: Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return (by Marjane Satrapi)

EDIT - 08/16/2014 - To add markers using lshelby's bingo card utility, and numerically rank diagonal winning entries in ascending order :-)

EDIT - 08/25/2014 - I MADE A COLUMN BINGO!

04. A Book Published This Year: Why Science Does Not Disprove God (by Amir Aczel) -published on 04/15/2014
09. A Book by a Female Author: The Birchbark House (by Louise Erdrich);
Free Square
13. A Book Set on Another Continent: Midnight Riot (Rivers of London Series, Book #1; by Ben Aaronovitch) - England is on the European Continent
18. A Book Based on a True Story: Vienna Nocturne (by Vivien Shotwell) - historical fictional biography about the 19th century soprano for whom Mozart created the role of Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro;
23. The Second Book in a Series: Gerard's Beauty (Kingdom series by Marie Hall)

EDIT: 09/15/2014 - I made the other diagonal! :-)

01. A Book with More Than 500 Pages: The Bone Clocks (by David Mitchell) - 640 pages;
07. A Book with Non-Human Characters: Small Favor (The Dresden Files #10; by Jim Butcher; narrated by James Marsters);
Free Square;
18. A Book Based on a True Story: Vienna Nocturne (by Vivien Shotwell) - historical fictional biography about the 19th century soprano for whom Mozart created the role of Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro;
24. A Book with a Blue Cover: Persepolis 2: The Story of a Return (by Marjane Satrapi)

Jun 10, 2014, 8:08 am

Sounds like real life is giving you a bit of a battering this year! Glad you're still (mostly) reading, although some disappointing titles, which is a shame.

Editado: Jun 10, 2014, 10:41 pm

>54 wookiebender: Yeah, I hit these rough patches where everything seems mediocre at best; but just when I'm ready to go on a reading sabbatical, something pops up and this time was no exception!

On Saturday, finished up The Ruby in the Smoke (Sally Lockhart Trilogy, Book #1; by Philip Pullman; narrated by Anton Lesser) - Sally Lockhart is a sixteen-year old orphan who is out to discover what "The Seven Blessings" are. She's sharp enough to know that she's in danger, brave/desperate enough to pursue her quest; and lucky so far to survive the vicissitudes of Victorian Era England. This is a thoroughly British story narrated brilliantly by Anton Lesser. The narrator's character voices are remarkable, but not less than the straight narrative. Fast, funny and clever. YA for all ages. The story is engaging and surprising, and the narrator delivers character voices expertly (One of those situations where you might not believe there's only one narrator performing the entirety of the book!) It's a series I'm going to continue: The next two are in audio; but the fourth title is print-only.

Now I'm listening to a lit-fic title, The Spinning Heart: A Novel (by Donal Ryan; narrated by Wayne Farrell.) Set in Ireland, this is the story of a building contractor who wipes out the pension and benefits (stamps and so on) of his workers to finance a big project that went bust. Each of the 21 sections of the book are told from a different and sometimes unexpected point of view. Wayne Farrell narrated the whole of the book, nuancing each section differently to differentiate each character. The book itself was Man Booker long list title. I'm loving both the story and the narration so far :-)

Admittedly though, I'm not faring as well with my print reading. I got hit with a book bullet on another thread and the book is not as intriguing as the recommending party made it sound! The book is called Love Potion #9 (by Claire Delacroix); and the premise is that in 1420, a gypsy woman watches her lover hung in accordance with medieval law. At the gallows, he swears that he will return to her. In anticipation, she contrives to take an immortality potion and wait for him. Fast forward 600+ years to modern day Canada where the gypsy woman is telling fortunes in Toronto: Her new neighbor Mitch bears an uncanny resemblance to "her" Sebastian. I think this is supposed to be a romance novel but it's really kind of a mess: Poor copy-editing, editing, writing... it's all over the place. I should finish it off tonight though and start in on one of the rather promising titles in my TBR stacks :-)

Jun 11, 2014, 7:37 am

As regards Love Potion #9, I think there's always room to not finish books. Too many good books out there to waste time on mediocre reads. And you've had too many poor reads of late!

Editado: Jun 17, 2014, 1:04 pm

I had grand ambitions for this summer reading-wise; but it occurs to me that they may not all be realized! For whatever reason, I'm not devouring books at my normal pace and; the books I set aside for the summer have languished!

The Ruby in the Smoke (Sally Lockhart Trilogy, Book #1; by Philip Pullman; narrated by Anton Lesser) - Sally Lockhart is a sixteen-year old orphan who is out to discover what "The Seven Blessings" are. She's sharp enough to know that she's in danger, brave/desperate enough to pursue her quest; and lucky so far to survive the vicissitudes of Victorian Era England. This is a thoroughly British story narrated brilliantly by Anton Lesser. The narrator's character voices are remarkable, but not less than the straight narrative. The story is engaging and surprising, and the narrator delivers character voices expertly (One of those situations where you might mot believe there's only one narrator performing the entirety of the book!) Fast, funny and clever; It's a series I'm going to continue. The next two are in audio; but the fourth title is print-only. YA for all ages.

The Spinning Heart: A Novel (by Donal Ryan; narrated by Wayne Farrell) - Set in Ireland, this is the story of a building contractor who wipes out the pension and benefits (stamps and so on) of his workers to finance a big project that went bust. Each of the 21 sections of the book are told from a different and sometimes unexpected point of view. Each character is rendered with artful nuance both by the author and by the narrator. Lit-Fic.

Love Potion #9 (by Claire Cross - In 1420, a gypsy woman watches her lover hung in accordance with medieval law. At the gallows, he swears that he will return to her. In anticipation, she contrives to take an immortality potion and wait for him. Fast forward 600+ years to modern day Canada where the gypsy woman is telling fortunes in Toronto: Her new neighbor Mitch bears an uncanny resemblance to "her" Sebastian. I think this is supposed to be a romance novel but it's really kind of a mess: Poor copy-editing, editing, writing... it's all over the place.

Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures (by Kate DiCamillo) - A squirrel survives a vacuuming and assumes "Superhero" qualities. Named "Ulysses" after the vacuum cleaner brand and, adopted by a little girl named Flora, the two see the world anew. The story is charming and quirky, with some cartoon panels added intermittently as short chapters. For Children Ages 8-12.

Editado: Jun 24, 2014, 1:56 pm

Last week was a little hectic: I survived being a soccer mom! Daughter went to British Soccer camp and all I had to do was laundry every other day, constantly locate lost items (shin guards, soccer socks, soccer ball, cleats...,) deal with Soccer Moms (Yes, capital letters) and listen to my daughter run around with a fake British accent... This week she's off to a week-long residential camp so hopefully I'll get a bit more reading done by next Tuesday! :-)

Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy (by Elizabeth Kiem) - The daughter of a famous ballet dancer, Marina is an promising ballet student in her own right in 1980s USSR. One day, however, her mother, Svetla disappears; and teen-aged Marina and her father escape to the West, specifically to that part of Brooklyn that came to be known as Little Odessa. Things get complicated as the secrets of Svetla threaten Marina and her father’s lives 8,000 miles away. The story is intriguing and the plot surprising. Not bad at all. YA Spy Thriller.

The Snow Child (by Eowyn Ivey) - A older couple move to the Alaskan Frontier to homestead around 1918. Childless and filed with yearning, they build a snowman in the form of a little girl. The next day, the avatar seems to have become real, much like the Classic fairytale. This is a beautifully written book that captures the love and anxiety of the would-be parents as well as the wonder of the natural landscape. Lit-Fic.

Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter series, Book #3; by J.K. Rowling; narrated by Jim Dale) - Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban, the stronghold designed to imprison the worst offenders in the realms of magic; and it looks like Sirius is headed for Hogwarts where Harry is embarking on his third year! More of the story around Harry’s parents’ deaths is revealed. So far the stories are just okay. I wonder how well they hold up against The Chronicles of Narnia (and vice versa?)

Jun 30, 2014, 9:39 pm

Tomorrow and Tomorrow
(by Thomas Sweterlitsch)

John Dominic Blaxton is a survivor of the terrorist's blast that leveled Pittsburgh, by virtue of the fact that he was out-of-town at the time. These days, he spends his time visiting a VR version of the city, researching survivors' claims for an insurance company; as well as to visit his previous life which included a wife. Things get complicated when one of his cases reveals that the victim may have been actually murdered before the blast and; on another assignment, he discovers the extent to which some will go to bury the past. This takes place in the near-future with lots of recognizable landmarks both geographically and culturally and; the technology isn't too "far out" to be incredible either, so the story's settings are native and accessible. The world-building is very good even if the writing is a bit more workman-like than fluid or poetic. Recommended for those who like mystery-thrillers; as well as those who like technology, but not necessarily science fiction.

Jul 2, 2014, 12:41 am

My daughter went away to a one-week residential camp last week, and while she was gone, I had planned a lot of reading - mostly to keep my mind off of the fact that my baby was away! It didn't really work out though: Not only was I more than a little depressed, hot weather and major allergy assaults left me enervated. Still, I did manage to read a couple things:

Hider, Seeker, Secret Keeper (Dukovskaya novels, Book #2; by Elizabeth Kiem) - Lana, the daughter of Marina Dokovskaya, is something of a rogue ballet dancer at the Bolshoi. Times have changed since her own mother danced during the Soviet regime, but politics and intrigue still shadow the family. Lana has a shot at performing at The Met in a performance of the Danse Sacrale from Stravinsky's "Rite of Spring"; but decades-old secrets and passions, as well as her own headstrong & wild ways, may conspire to close the opportunity. As with, Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy, what is going on is not obvious to the reader and, having an unreliable narrator (by virtue of the fact that the protag is a teenager and may be reading things more with an emotive sense than anything else) doesn't help. Outside of the ballet terms and Russian phrases, and the fact that the protag is old enough to kiss and drive, the lexile score is about 700 which puts it at about the fifth-grade level. That sounds about right.

The Sandman: Preludes & Nocturnes (The Sandman trade editions, Volume I; by Neil Gaiman) - The Sandman, a peripheral character in the DC lineup, is resurrected at the hands of Neil Gaiman, Sam Keith, Mike Dringenberg , and Malcolm Jones III in glorious (re-) colored panels. Now an '80s Goth figure, The Sandman has been accidentally summoned by a man who seeks to harness Death's power. Interesting plot line with a lot of DC comic book heroes making cameo appearances. Long an iconic series in the world of comic book fans, it's easy to see its appeal to those who feel disenfranchised, marginalized, or simply misunderstood. I'm looking forward to checking out more trade volumes.

Tomorrow and Tomorrow (by Tom Sweterlitsch) - I wrote the review above; but it's really inadequate to how good the book actually is. I keep searching the corners of my brain for the words that will light up the review and have others understand exactly how well-crafted it really is; but I'm failing miserably. I've read others' reviews for inspiration; but from them, I'm seeing a lot of confusion between the various realities and; a different summary of the book. I wonder if I got a later draft than others did because I had no issue tracking what was happening and; there were two distinct plot lines that only later converged. Anyway, the book has some great themes about letting go, the past and the present, identity, technological saturation, and the double-edged sword that is the right of privacy (Right to Be Remembered vs Right to Be Forgotten.) Despite my less-than inspiring review, I urge people to read it now before Hollywood gets its hands on it!

Turn Coat (The Dresden Files, Book #11; by Jim Butcher; narrated by James Marsters) - Warden Morgan comes to Harry Dresden, famed Chicagoan wizard detective and fellow warden, for sanctuary and help. It appears that Morgan has been framed for the murder of a senior White Council wizard. The act could create a schism within the Council and further fuel an ongoing war with other supernatural factions. Though Morgan has been historically Harry's enemy within the Council, Harry decides to take up the cause in the name of truth, justice, and the discovery who might be behind this treacherous double act of homicide and treason. The hook into the story was excellent and the plot tracks very well. Butcher's writing seems to have evened out and gotten better since Blood Rites (the nadir of Butcher's writing skills in The Dresden Files) though there are a few cut-and-paste phrases that are used multiple times within the story, and Butcher is addicted to his movies and cliched physical prototypes. Marsters, as always, inhabits the character of Harry completely, though there are moments where the narrative flow seems to jump in logic, maybe from the way Marsters interprets the lines. Characters are clearly delineated and Spike fans get to hear a bit of Marsters' British clip in the character of Binder :-)

Editado: Jul 10, 2014, 1:49 am

Anansi Boys
By Neil Gaiman
Narrated by Lenny Henry
(P) 2005, Harper Audio
10.1 hours

"Fat Charlie" Nancy is a rather unprepossessing guy. He’s an accountant. He has a fiancée that he hasn’t slept with yet. He suffers from stage fright when confronted with a karaoke mic. When things get rough there’s nothing more than he’s like to do than find succor with a bit of goat curry and a cup of tea. But when his unrepentantly flamboyant father passes away, Charlie travels from his home in England back to Florida for the funeral. From there on out, Fat Charlie discovers things about his family, his brother in particular, and especially himself that are harrowingly frightening, funny and amazing all at the same time. This story is Afro-Caribbean in nature and feels very different from Gaiman’s usual style of weird, drippy, wet London. The story dazzles with bright sunshine, flashes with slick and clever dialogue, and echoes with the rhythms of ancient drum beats from West Africa. But Gaiman’s trademark other-world-that-is-nowhere, a land where reality has a rather tenuous grip and is fascinating for its strangeness is still here in the form of a dreamlike place where the world begins and ancient folkloric figures inhabit.

Lenny Henry (Dawn French’s now ex-husband) is the British narrator who reflects the world beats of the story with relative facility: The English accents (natch) of Fat Charlie and other UK characters, and the smooth American voice of Fat Charlie’s brother in particular. While I wouldn’t say all his character voices (i.e. the older figures in the story) were on the mark, the rest of the cast, men and women alike, were well delineated without resorting to overly/extreme comic interpretations. There were a couple places where I didn’t catch a word; but overall, well paced, clear, and entertaining.


I followed up The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes with The Sandman: The Doll's House (by Neil Gaiman et al) - the second volume in the trade collection. In this story arc, we see The Sandman take inventory of his devastated Kingdom and discover that four key figures are missing. At the same time he seeks to find and perhaps recover these dream people, a vortex is brewing in the name of Desire... Gaiman has created a complex and intriguing world of interconnected character relationships and sub-plots. The aesthetic of the artwork dates from the 1980s &'90s (There's a couple panels that smack of Nagel) which is contemporary to the writing; but no where near as garish as the Alan Moore's world of The Watchman :-)

Now I'm halfway through The Martian (by Andy Weir; narrated by R.C. Bray) - This is a SFF novel about an American astronaut, Mark Watney, who got left behind in the planet of Mars. There's a lot of science that you need to pay attention to; but the payoff is in understanding the real challenges that Mark faces in his pursuit of food, clothing and shelter in an alien and hostile environment. Humor cuts the tension (plenty of great lines); but for some reason I'm starting to get a little restless. I'll probably wrap it up in the next couple of days.

Editado: Jul 13, 2014, 6:12 pm

The Martian
By Andy Weir
Narrated by R.C. Bray
(P) 2013, Podium Publishing
10 hrs, 53 minutes

Mark Watney is an American astronaut who is left for dead after a destructive sandstorm forces the evacuation of the third manned Mars mission, Ares III. Unfortunately, he wasn’t dead; and now he is confronted with the enormous challenges of figuring out how to survive in a hostile environment with the odds against his rescue. Relying on his ingenuity, sense of humor, salvage from the base camp, and the efforts of the world’s space bureaucracies, Watney needs to figure out out to sustain himself with air, water, food, clothing and shelter - in the face of miscalculations, equipment failure, and adverse weather. The enormous amount of exposition required to set up each challenge, however remarkable for its seeming veracity in regards to technical issues and resolutions, is often boring and tedious; but the payoff for the tenacious listener is being able to fully share in Watney’s triumphs and setbacks - his experience as if we were there with him.

The narrative follows Watney’s point-of-view, some action on Earth, onboard the spaceship Ares III, and every once in a while from a point-of-view dispossessed of any personality (recounting an action in which there are no plausible witnesses.) The narrator, R.C. Bray performs the role of the Mark Watney extremely well, lending credible voice to a character in an incredible situation. Bray also does well with the different genders and ages, though he does a little less well in rendering the foreign accents demanded of him; but the characters come to life and are well delineated. The story is told clearly and with sensitivity to the characters’ personalities.

On a personal note, I almost gave up on this audiobook halfway through; but I’m glad I didn’t. Despite things happening in the story, it wasn’t clear that the story was actually going anywhere; And I wasn’t sure that the constant grind of having science & technology explained to me was worth the one-liners and/or the end result of each challenge. But I ended up being emotionally vested in the fate of Mark Watney, and consider the hours spent listening to his story well spent.

Jul 15, 2014, 11:57 am

I picked up The Sandman: Dream Country (by Neil Gaiman et al) - the third trade volume in the Sandman gn series. This is a collection of four short stories; but not a story arc in and unto themselves:

"Calliope" is the story of the Greek muse who is trapped and held by successive two men;
"A Dream of a Thousand Cats" recalls a time in which cats ruled the world, and hope to do so one day again;
"A Midsummer's Night Dream" is Shakespeare's play whose premiere is presented to a rather unique audience and;
"Facade" is an epilogue featuring Element Girl, an obscure character in the DC Comics universe.

Comic books fans often cite this collection and, "A Midsummer's Night Dream" in particular as being the best or a favorite; but I struggled with the seemingly arcane references and felt that much went over my head. I borrowed this from the library; so I may end up buying it to take a more careful look at it again a my leisure.

Editado: Jul 16, 2014, 9:29 pm

On 07/16/2014, Thomas Sweterlitsch participated in a reddit/r/books/AMA (Ask Me Anything):
"I am scifi / cyberpunk author Thomas Sweterlitsch of TOMORROW AND TOMORROW, AMA!"

* I loved Tomorrow and Tomorrow (print) and have been recommending it to my friends who are readers of SF (natch,) of mystery, of thrillers, of lit-fic (for the struggling hero,) and for people who say they don't like SF... Did you have any say as to how your novel would be categorized? Did you have any idea when you wrote the book what "kind" of book you were writing?

* There seemed to be at least three kinds of reality in the book: The hero's present reality in WDC; the virtual reality in Pittsburgh; and his drug-induced reality. For all the heroin he seemed to be consuming, it didn't seem to color his world to the extent that a reader might expect. So my question is, why choose "brown sugar" as opposed to speed/meth or acid?

* When the audiobook was cast, did you have someone in mind from the LOC Library of Congress audiobook crowd Library for the Blind and Physically Handicapped originally? Did you have author approval over the narrator?

LetterSwitch/Author Tom Sweterlitsch:
Thank you--and thank you very much for spreading the word. i deeply appreciate that.

I did have author approval somewhat--or at least I was consulted. Here's how it worked: the Penguin audio department did auditions, and one morning I opened my email and found three audio clips of actors reading a few minutes of text. I was so impressed by the reader Adam Paul and wrote not one but two emails strongly recommending he get the job...and, he did! Other people definitely had their opinions in the mix, though. If you're an audio book fan, I highly recommend checking out his reading.

As for "brown sugar"--a friend of mine just asked about the origin of "brown sugar" and I was telling him that I wanted a drug that would have specific effects, etc., and he said he was hoping it was actual "brown sugar," not unlike Burgess's use of Milk in A Clockwork Orange. So--I'm stealing his answer. it's totally just brown sugar. Brown Sugar Double Plus.

The different layers of reality was important to me--I do a similar thing in the book I'm writing now, though not w/drug use. I'm interested in Freud's thinking about the "Uncanny" and try to play with that in my fiction quite a lot.

As for how to categorize the novel--you're right, it can go several ways. I did not have any say over how the book would be categorized. My publisher is pitching it as broadly as possible...but I'm definitely happy it's landing in the SF section at several stores.

I'm laughing at myself right now "Brown sugar" is just brown sugar! That certainly explains a lot! :-)

Thank you for taking the time to do an AMA here on reddit and answering my questions!

Editado: Jul 17, 2014, 9:45 am


Good News:
* By the end of June, I had read 79 titles. It looks like I'll make my 100 book target by the end of the summer :-)
* I've been better about posting commentary with weekly status updates and reviews :-)

Bad News:
* I haven't been present as much on other readers' threads. I've been reading others' posts, but not commenting as much. I'm losing the sense of community. Perhaps, just as I've been posting weekly status updates, I should dedicate a day to catch up and post on other people's threads. Yes, that's a plan!
* I haven't been hitting the TBR stacks as much as I had hoped. I may be hitting some sort of reading slump. I'm not sure what's going on in my head so it's hard to come up with a resolution. I'll have to think about it some more.

Editado: Jul 17, 2014, 12:14 pm

The Smoke in the North (Sally Lockhart mystery, Book #2; by Philip Pullman; narrated by Anton Lesser)

Sally is six years older than she was in The Ruby in the Smoke and now a twenty-two year old financial consultant in London. One of her clients, however, as been wiped out of her life's savings by taking Sally's advice in investing in a shipping interest, and Sally is determined to find out what happened to make a previously going concern fold. Her inquiries soon lead to a much larger scenario involving murder, romantic intrigue, and corporate conspiracies. Set against a backdrop of spiritualism and "the woman question" (The Married Women's Property Act, the marriage market, women in the work force...,) The Shadow in the North is rather brutal emotionally and doesn't shy away from the vicissitudes of the Victorian Age. Pullman doesn't pull any punches and shows the reader/listener a time and place of ruthless ambitions, greed, and violence visited upon those who have little or no defense against such social and moral inequities. Philip Pullman builds a world with seeming veracity and Anton Lesser brings it to life with superb characterizations and a classic British accent.

n.b. - Extreme violence directed against men, women, and a dog; Limited violence against a child.

Editado: Jul 22, 2014, 10:33 am

I'm listening to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter series, Book #4; by J.K. Rowling; narrated by Jim Dale) and it's not really holding my attention; but I will persevere! After the first twenty minutes and a day off from listening, I had to go back to the beginning and re-start as I didn't recognize the place where I had left off. I kept re-winding in 30 second increments for a few minutes before I said "To hell with it" and went back to 0:00:00! Normally, I would bail on the series by now, or even just read the synopses; but I did challenge myself to read the series this year. It seems that anything written my a Millennial has a reference to HP in their work, especially in the fantasy genre, so it would behoove me to understand what has become a foundation work. Anyway, apparently, you-know-who (he-whose-name-must-not-be-spoken) is after Harry. Again.

I'm also reading Bloody Ridge and Beyond: A World War II Marine's Memoir of Edson's Raiders in the Pacific (by Marlin Groft & Larry Alexander.) It's the NF account of a WWII Marine unit very much like Doolittle's Raiders (airborne strike team.) I have an ARC, so perhaps it's not fair for me to say; but the writing is pretty poor, reading more like the draft of a story as opposed to a full account. I see where Groft (the actual veteran who is recounting his experience) has been; but I'm not feeling it. I ordered a History Channel package of documentaries, "WWII Unsung Heroes" which has one or two features on Edson's Raiders. It's funny (in the ironic sense of the word); but normally I love "meaningful fiction" (as opposed to escapist fiction, though I have been reading more of that lately); and when it comes to movies or film, I love to watch beautiful people running around, blowing things up. When it comes to non-fiction, however, I really prefer a very strong narrative in print form; and as little deviation as possible from the facts when it comes to video. So, while I have a high tolerance for historical fiction; it drives me insane when I see anachronisms in film!

Editado: Jul 30, 2014, 10:42 am

I'm wrapping up Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter, Book #4, by J.K. Rowling; narrated by Jim Dale) - 3 discs to go out of 17; and am also finishing up Ranger's Apprentice, Book 1: The Ruins of Gorlan (by John Flanagan; narrated by John Keating.) Both are considered fantasy novels for middle graders, and as such I recognize that I'm not the intended audience; but still...

In "The Goblet of Fire," Harry Potter enters his fourth year at Hogwart's where he has been entered into a three-way wizarding contest - as the fourth contestant! Harry is placed in life threatening situations, and it looks like He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is at work again, though, even this late in the book, it is not clear how. The writing seems a bit bloated, and Dale seems to have lost a bit of his rather already-tenuous grip on some of the older character delineations; but so be it. At least now I know what is meant by an "auror" when it's mentioned in a book or in real life!

"The Ruins of Gorlan" is rather awkwardly written story about a fifteen-year old orphan who aspires to become a warrior apprentice; but is instead selected to become a ranger's apprentice. Rangers are mysterious-seeming for their ability to use camouflage, and being adepts in archery and knife-work; but such is the life of these medieval spies. The story sometimes shifts the third person POV within a scene, which disrupts the flow of the narrative and/or the mood. It's like having your train of thought broken. The narrator mispronounces words (e.g. "fief") and doesn't pay attention to textual cues (e.g. The line may read that the character has laid emphasis on a particular word, but Keating doesn't deliver the line with an emphasis on the word.) It's a bit violent as characters indulge in petty vindictiveness, but for all the action, I often find I'm not paying attention 100% of the time :-/

Right now, both books would be sitting comfortably in a "C/C-" range if I were grading.

In print, I just started Every Dead Thing by John Connolly) which is much more graphic than I had anticipated. From the description which explains that Charlie "Bird" Parker is a former cop that sees the dead; and from having read Connolly's Samuel Johnson series, I thought this would be a bit lighter, like Koontz's Odd Thomas series. But this is a little intense from the get-go with a gruesome double murder in the prologue to set the tone. I heard that the UK audio of this series was excellent, but not having access to UK audio nor wanting to do the US series which uses a bunches of different narrators, in addition to being incomplete, I went to print.

Editado: Ago 16, 2014, 12:57 am

I'm currently reading Every Dead Thing (by John Connolly.) The story is about Charlie "Bird" Parker, a former NYC cop who leaves the force after his family is brutally murdered and no culprit is found. Now doing some scut work for bail bondsmen and the sort, his current assignment takes him to the Tidewater region of Virginia and to pre-Katrina New Orleans. The protagonists all show complexity of character and development, and the settings are richly drawn. However, the villains of the piece are one dimensional ("evil") which underscores my theory that writers who create characters who perpetrate violence upon children are manipulating readers: There is no other way to feel about such a criminal other than they are corrupt. No gray area can be perceived, so in a way, the author has saved himself a lot a of work in providing an irredeemable character.

I've had this book in the stacks since February of last year when a good friend recommended it to me based on my love for gritty mysteries. Unfortunately, my friend either did not know or forgot that I have an issue with stories (fiction and non-fiction) which feature children being abused, tortured, and/or killed. Every Dead Thing starts off with a gruesome double homicide, one of the victims of which is a little girl. I thought that the worst was over, but there's more. I'm taking my time with this book, only doing as much as I can handle at any given point. After this, I will give the book away, most likely not continue with the rest of the series, and go find another book of lighter fare :-)

Editado: Ago 17, 2014, 5:27 pm

Every Dead Thing
by John Connolly

Charlie “Bird” Parker is an ex-cop who left the NYPD in the wake of the double homicide of his wife and daughter. The crime created a cloud of doubt, guilt and suspicion over Parker, who is haunted by ghostly images and memories. Now doing scut detective work for bail bondsman and the like, a former colleague asks him to discreetly look into a probable missing person case which has mob implications, and which takes Parker from New York to Virginia and eventually to pre-Katrina New Orleans.

Every Dead Thing is a character study of a grief stricken man who struggles to get his life back on track even as he is unsure of the ground upon which he stands. The action of the novel is carried by two cases which are related by the type of criminals ultimately pursued, serial killers. Some of the victims are children and on the whole the carnage is graphic and gruesome. Acknowledging that the antagonists are the foils against which the protagonists are defined and developed, and that Connolly makes feints at speculating at the natures of the killers, the homicides still have the effect of polarizing the readers into viewing the killers as irredeemably evil and thus rendering the antagonists as as one-dimensional. Richly descriptive detail and with a touch of mysticism, Every Dead Thing is a Southern Gothic tale that evokes some visceral responses and is not for the faint of heart. If you liked the movie, Seven Deadly Sins (starring Brad Pitt, Morgan Freeman, Kevin Spacey, and Gweneth Paltrow) and/or R.J. Ellory’s, A Quiet Belief in Angels, it is likely you will like Every Dead Thing as well.

Last night I was at a dinner party and the subject came up about villains and how they are portrayed. Does a well developed antagonist (e.g. back story, motive understood…) make the antagonist more sympathetic to a reader? Does having a well developed antagonist steal focus from the protagonist, or make for a more balanced (more interesting?) narrative?

Editado: Set 9, 2014, 1:43 pm

Vienna Nocturne
by Vivien Shotwell

Vienna Nocturne is a novel that traces the career and relationships of the 18th-century soprano Anna Storace as she moves from England to Naples, and then to Vienna. The primary focus of the story is Anna's intimate relationship with Mozart, who would create the role of Susanna in his opera buffa, Le Nozze di Figaro for her to act & sing. Shotwell's knowledge of opera, the basics of Anna's life as well as the rumors that circulated the young star are not to be denied; but the lushness of the settings, the passions of Anna's various love affairs, and the richness of the musical culture are all oddly muted by stilted writing and a naive approach to matters of the heart.

• Passages are composed of short, simple sentences that offer nothing in the way of lyricism or poignancy.
• There is a lack of transitional grace. At some points, years lapse between chapters, in others only days - which creates an arhythmic pace as well as a vacuum in which the texture of the story could have been enriched.
• The application of artistic license (e.g. fudging the time lines) was used to advance the less credible aspects of Anna's life, while the known facts of her life were left in the background. As extraordinary as Anna's life was, and as rich fodder that could have been for Shotwell's narrative, the author chose to feed into the rumors instead.
• At the same time, there are many opportunities for the imagination to take flight, but such chances seem to be tethered by overly conscious nods to historicity via exposition. It was if the author was saying that we couldn't take the fictional aspects too far as, after all, these were real people.
• Finally, the novel lacks inherent tension: Villainy and adversity, as well Anna's triumphs, run second to the melodrama each extreme creates, and as a result neither functions as the whetstone by which the other can be sharpened.

At the most basic level, the story provides some interesting color for the era; but fails to elicit sympathy for any of the characters, or engage in the fulsomeness of either Vienna or Anna's life.

Ago 30, 2014, 2:39 pm

Summer House with Swimming Pool: A Novel
By Herman Koch; Translated from the Dutch by Sam Garrett
Penguin Random House: Hogarth
Release Date: June 03, 2014
ISBN: 978-0-8041-3881-9

Marc Schlosser is a middle-aged general practitioner in a Dutch-speaking country presumably the Netherlands as that is where the author lives in the 21st century who, for a medical doctor, shows a surprisingly sordid and prurient interest in the human body. Koch has created an unlikable character who nonetheless represents a member of the professional bourgeoisie, shorn of naïveté, confident of his own intelligence and decisions. However, as the narrative of Summer House with Swimming Pool begins to unfold, it is clear that Dr. Schlosser's hubris may not be enough to shield him from the inquires of a medical board which is looking into the circumstances surrounding the death of one of Marc's patients. To complicate the professional crises, it is clear that there was a personal relationship between the doctor and patient as well, and that the death of the actor is somehow tied to events that occurred at a vacation rental the previous summer. The whole of Summer House with Swimming Pool is an exposition of biological imperative that also serves as the driving force behind this taut psychological thriller told from Dr. Schlosser's point-of-view. Some readers may be tempted to cheat and peek at the end pages, while others will rabidly devour pages in anticipation of what happens next; but care should be taken to not blow past a seemingly innocuous or irrelevant phase or sentence that proves to be otherwise. Though without Ian McEwan's sense of humor, those who liked Solar and/or Saturday will also probably enjoy Summer House with Swimming Pool as well.

Editado: Set 9, 2014, 9:24 pm

Right now I'm reading The Bone Clocks (by David Mitchell and I'm terribly disappointed so far (two-thirds of the way through.) I actually had no expectations going in other than that David Mitchell would write something lush and poignant a la The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet; but it isn't happening. I read 200 pages the day I got it, 150 the next day, 50 the next, and now I'm squirreling through the rest. Hopefully I'll be able to finish this off by the week-end. I would have DNF-ed it by now; but I did get a copy for review, so onwards... It's the story of Holly Sykes, a woman who has a peculiar psychic gift. In the opening section, it's 1984; she's fifteen-years old, and running away from home. The next four sections are told from the point of view of different people who know Holly with varying degrees of intimacy, and over the course of 50+ years (I haven't gotten to the last section so I don't know if there's another viewpoint or if the story returns to Holly's POV.) Mitchell takes some pains to differentiate each chapter stylistically in regard to the language and dialogue, but the distinctions are subtle (which is not to say nuanced.) The settings are sketchy and do not evoke the immediacy that his historical fiction did. Lastly, there's quite a bit of paranormal/fantastical stuff ham-fistedly inserted. I can't even... Mitchell fans are calling this "mesmerizing" and such; but I'm not seeing it.

I've also inexplicably drawn out a 6+ hour audiobook to 6 weeks now. It's actually a wonderfully piece of lit-fic called The Thing About December (by Donal Ryan; narrated by Wayne Farrell.) It's a prequel to Ryan's 2013 ManBooker longlisted title, The Spinning Hearts and classic in its Irish sensibility with its tragic undertow. Wayne Farrell takes on the character of a 24-year old man, a bit slow in the head, who has been orphaned. He's currently living where he has always lived, on a large farmstead that is becoming increasingly valuable in the eyes of the village who wants to develop it into housing estates... I should be done with this one by Friday as well :-)

Set 15, 2014, 1:58 pm

The Bone Clocks
By David Mitchell
Penguin Random House | Random House
Release Date:September 2, 2014

Holly is a fifteen-year old girl, running away from home after a major, if classic throw-down with her mother (“Live under our roof, obey our rules…”) In the course of her self-imposed exodus from her small English village, Holly experiences strange, realistic “daymares” and suffers from memory blackouts as well. David Mitchell explores the implications of the psychic phenomenon that have been manifested in Holly’s worldview by implementing a sort of “relay form” of narrative: The reader bears witness to Holly’s life through the first person points of view of four other people of varying degrees of intimacy in relation to Holly, and over the course of nearly sixty years.

The story as a whole is a somewhat inelegant mixture of popular drama (think Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire or even the original Indiana Jones movie), a bit of alternate cosmology (e.g. Neil Gaiman and/or Luc Besson’s movie, Lucy) and the descriptive stylings of each of the chapters. There are characters from Mitchell’s other novels who make appearances in The Bone Clocks, most notably Marinus from The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, which makes for some meta interest in Mitchell’s “biblioverse.” However, if the reader is expecting the same nuanced evocations of a time and place, or the poignancy of “Thousand Autumns,” The Bone Clocks falls short. The fantastical elements are heavy and rather awkwardly incorporated into the story; Though each section’s time, place and attitudes are marked by distinctive and unique details in language and quotidian items appropriate to the respective settings, there is a superficial quality to the characters themselves; and while it is not absolutely necessary to read Mitchell’s other novels, doing so adds to the fun and interest of The Bone Clocks, while conversely not having read Mitchell’s other novels may leave the reader feeling they are missing something.

Editado: Set 21, 2014, 1:50 pm

I finally finished The Thing About December (by Donal Ryan; narrated by Wayne Farrell.) It is a prequel to Ryan's Man Booker 2013 longlisted title The Spinning Heart (also narrated by Wayne Farrell.) The story is about "Johnsey" Cunliffe, a 24-year old man who is a little slow in the head and victim of lifelong bullying who is orphaned and the inheritor of a large farm. Pressures mount when the village decides that, in the throes of the economic and housing boom (about ten years ago? Cellphones and texting are mentioned in the text, but clearly the EU/Euro crises which saddled Ireland with debt hadn't happened much less the housing crash...), they want his land to develop into housing estates. The audio is only about 6 hours long, but it took me close to 6 weeks to listen to it! It's not that the writing or narration were bad; As a matter of fact, quite the opposite! It's just that the undercurrent of tragedy was strong from the very beginning and it was almost unbearable. I love Irish literature, but it often takes me time to screw up my courage to get through it! Anyway, Wayne Farrell takes a somewhat monotone approach to the voice of Johnsey which is a legitimate approach to the character. If you want to hear what the narrator can do in terms of vocal diversity, I would recommend The Spinning Heart in which he tackles 21 different points of view! There were a couple of voices in TSH that didn't work, but given the demands of the book in which each voice needed to be distinctive from each other, I found the whole remarkable.

I'm about to start Boy, Snow, Bird (by Helen Oyeyemi; narrated by Susan Bennett and Cara Patterson.)


In print, I've started the short story collection, Boston Noir (edited by Dennis Lehane.) There are eleven stories in this volume, each by a different author. In the introduction (by Lehane), he indirectly mentions the Hilltop Steakhouse in Braintree, MA. It was an iconic restaurant and butcher shop for over 50 years. When I was in college, my boyfriend's mother and aunts used to send us over to the butcher shop for orders, and most recently, my own family had dinner there about five years ago. It served Shirley Temples and Roy Rogers; The placemats had the map of the cow (which showed where the various cuts came from); And the waitresses looked like they were the same ones who opened the place in the sixties! One of the other things about The Hilltop was the fiberglass cows! They had a herd of them milling about outside the restaurant! Later the restaurant "penned" them in. It looks like the service and quality of the meals declined in the age of Yelp however, and last October, they closed. Whenever a part of the Boston I knew and loved disappears, I'm always a little sad :-(

Editado: Set 21, 2014, 1:55 pm

Hey! I just noticed that having completed The Thing About December (by Donal Ryan; narrated by Wayne Farrell), I've completed 100 titles! :-)

I don't think I'll match 2013's total of 169; but maybe 150? We'll see!

ETA - 09/21/2014 - Hmmm, it looks like there's a limit as to how many touchstones you can add to any given post. I had noticed it last year; but thought it was because I was impatient in regard to the loading time. Now though, it's clear that it's not a question of forbearance. Live and learn: Next year I will post 12 monthly "categories" at the top and then fill in each as the year progresses!

Editado: Set 29, 2014, 1:14 am

Boy, Snow, Bird
By Helen Oyeyemi
Narrated by Susan Bennett and Cara Patterson
Ⓟ 2014, Recorded Books
9 hours, 19 minutes

Once upon a time, there was an evil mother, a beautiful daughter, and an attentive father…. The narrative of their lives starts when Boy runs away from the home where she was physically and psychologically abused by The Rat Catcher, and ends up in a small artisanal town in Massachusetts. In Flax Hill, MA, Boy meets and marries a local widower who has a daughter of his own, a classical, ethereal beauty named Snow. With the arrival of Boy’s own daughter, named Bird, Boy and Snow’s promising relationship becomes estranged and culminates with Boy sending Snow away to live with another relative. Throughout all of Boy’s and Bird’s life, perhaps with Snow’s as well, there are fantastical, sometimes terrifying events involving visions, mirrors and tapping into the “technically impossible” aspects of the world in which they live.

Boy, Snow, Bird opens with the story told from twenty-year old Boy’s point of view. We are at once struck by her coldness, her emotional disconnect from events surrounding her and the seemingly heartless decisions she makes as her intellect supersedes her emotions. There are non sequiturs that jump out from the story in the blink of if an eye and just as quickly disappear. The confusing episodes remind the reader of the demi-world between wakefulness and sleep, a place where a feeling becomes manifest as in a dream with the equal chance that it will be a nightmare. This is the part of the novel where Oyeyemi successfully casts her first spell, luring the reader/listener into the twilight of Boy’s world.

The second section of Boy, Snow, Bird is told from thirteen-year old Bird’s point of view. Bird is precocious, inquisitive and vivacious, but impetuous and even a bit cruel. She is an aspiring journalist who is sharp enough to ferret out information even as she seeks to uncover the truth of the world around her. In the process of negotiating her burgeoning adolescence and dinner table politics, she strives to find her voice, test her boundaries, and wield her power. In this section, the clues as to what is really going on in this novel proliferate; but they are like the blue jewels set in the chain mail that Bird’s father makes: You can become mesmerized in the fairy tale references, without seeing how they connect to the whole of the narrative.

The last section of the novel reverts back to Boy, now a thirty-three year old mother and wife, and is the most controversial part of the book. It is a section fraught with twists, denouements and, a different kind of ending than many readers might have anticipated; but it is in the final part that the key to the novel is to be found (on page 299): “I need to know how to break a spell.”

When you see it, you can only marvel at the tale of enchantment that Helen Oyeyemi has spun.

Susan Bennett and Cara Patterson are the two narrators in the audiobook production. Ms Bennett performs the role of Boy, while Ms Patterson voices Bird (and Snow in the instance of the covert correspondence that Bird and Snow take up.) Ms Bennett lends a clear, detached, and an entirely appropriate voice to the character of Boy; though apparently 1950s Manhattan sounded like Brooklyn; the relative isolation from New York made no impact on Boy’s accent after thirteen years; and she was immune to her New England neighbors. Ms Patterson’s approach to Bird is also commendable for its brightness and briskness, which matches Bird’s personality; though it suffers somewhat by being obviously more mature than her character, and in comparison to Ms Bennett’s more professional finish.

Editado: Out 21, 2014, 10:45 am

The Ploughmen (by Kim Zupan)

I made a mistake. When I first received this book, I thought it was a Western based on the premise originally put forth by Elmore Leonard's "3:10 to Yuma" - a peculiar, dynamic relationship between a prisoner and the deputy assigned to guard him. I gave myself four days to read, think about and review this book; not realizing that I had badly misjudged the book from the start. The 256 pages of the novel need to be savored carefully over time, and any inclination to project ideas of black- and white-hatted cowboys into the story needs to be put aside.

The Ploughmen is a work of literary-fiction set in Montana that requires due diligence and undistracted contemplation. Yes, it does feature "a peculiar, dynamic relationship between a prisoner and the deputy assigned to guard him;" but the pages are filled with descriptive prose, a slow rhythmic pace punctuated infrequently by stark, brutal acts, and characters of concretized mindsets. Much of the book is devoted to portraying the landscape: clouds (cirrus clouds, cumulus clouds, gravid clouds, immane clouds...) and birds. The landscape in its graphic harshness wields its presence in the narrative like a weapon unto itself. The careful tempering of the story into measured passages forces the reader to slow down and take in the seemingly-portentous lines and their possible implications. It is against this landscape that the characters find themselves trapped as players upon a stage from which there is no exit. Val Millimaki is the deputy who cannot adapt to change. He holes himself up in his cabin with his memories as his wife escapes and his marriage crumbles. Gload, on the other hand, is the older "plough man" who realizes that nothing really changes once you have the perspective born of life experience. Both men steadfastly hold on to their respective core philosophies of idealism and nihilism at great personal cost, and by adhering to their personal convictions, ultimately both reap what they have sown.

Some of the language is archaic which may speak of a certain intellectual pretentiousness on the part of the author; but the the overall sense of craftsmanship, of planing and shaping the story to reveal the grain and beauty of both the the land and the men, is undeniable.

Nov 7, 2014, 4:39 pm

The Paperboy bills itself as a memoir of a twelve-year old boy who delivers newspapers in Belfast during the times of The Troubles (1970s.) Tony Macauley, an Protestant English boy, lived in the Shankill area of Belfast in the shadow of the peace walls and the commonplace occurrence of pubs being blown up; but despite the violence (both threatened and actualized) that permeated that time and place, Macauley writes a quaint account of being a pacifist paperboy more concerned with The Bay City Rollers, parallels (a type of trousers), and keeping his paper route money hidden from potential muggers. It's an interesting perspective, having been written from the viewpoint of a young teen who had the advantages of being sent to a public school and having encountered others who were not as different as he had been brought up to believe; but the intensity of living on the edge seems blunted by elements of near suburban normalcy. I suspect hearing Macauley tell these stories live is truly engaging, and you can discern a certain echo of his speaking style (e.g. " I was," " had," and so on); but in many places, there are cut-and paste phrases and repetitive descriptions which break up the over arc of the memoir, and the vernacular of both time and place may need some looking-up as the meaning may not be clear from the context.

Editado: Nov 15, 2014, 10:55 am

The Last Good Man
By A.J. Kazinski
Narrated by Simon Vance
Ⓟ 2012, HighBridge Audio
13.9 hours

The "Tzadikim Nistarim" are the 36 hidden righteous people of the earth according to Jewish mystic tradition. None of the 36 people self-identify as being good or righteous, but their actions have the effect of being socially just or averting a greater humanitarian disaster. If all the Tzadikim Nistarim are eliminated, humanity is doomed. In 2009, a number of seemingly unrelated deaths span the globe, and one man - an Italian police detective named Tomasso di Barber in Venice, makes the connection: Someone is killing the righteous people of the world. And so begins this international thriller that races against the clock to identify and secure the eponymous man of the book.

The Last Good Man has all the makings of a great thriller: a touch of the occult, international settings, deadlines with dire consequences if not met, spiritual musings, flawed protagonists, and an elusive villain... and yet, it all falls a bit flat. The novel's arc is robbed of tension with its schizophrenic quality: Is this going to be a police procedural set in Italy? Or is it going to be a Scandinavian crime thriller ? Is the whole of the novel supposed to be a sort of modern, metaphorical, Talmudic commentary? A.J. Kazinski seems to have mashed three novels into one, supplying the listener with an overabundance of detail and sub-plots (e.g. eighty cents, Skype sex, an Arab terrorist, an architect...) that do nothing to advance the story and worse, weaken the overall narrative until it collapses into a series of anti-climactic events.

Simon Vance is the British-American narrator who brings his BBC4 polish and credentials as a reader of international thrillers (e.g. The Millennium Trilogy - by Steig Larsson) to The Last Good Man. His reading is clear, the pace steady, pronunciations are consistent, all characters are delineated well and credibly... all the things that listeners have come to expect as de rigueur from a seasoned professional such as he.

OTHER: I dnloaded a digital copy of The Last Good Man (by A.J. Kazinski; narrated by Simon Vance) from I receive no monies, goods or services in exchange for reviewing the product and/or mentioning any of the persons or companies that are or may be implied in this post.

Dez 30, 2014, 2:44 am

Well, I managed to hit "100" in September, and I will have finished two more before 2015 rings in for a grand total of 132! The highlights of the year include the discovery of The Broken Trilogy (by Mark Lawrence) and the Sally Lockhart Mysteries in audio (by Philip Pullman; narrated by Anton Lesser.) Disappointments included The Bone Clocks (by David Mitchell), the decline of the Walking Dead series after volume 8, and the Armchair Audie finalists in the category of humor.

In 2013, I read 169 books so my overall total was down; but I knew it would be as I made more time to watch movies this year (103!); but it may bounce back up in 2015 as I try to wean myself away from heavy internet usage.

I hope you all had a wonderful winter holiday, and that all good things will continue to happen for you into 2015!


Dez 30, 2014, 9:00 am

169 - WOW! Well done.

Dez 31, 2014, 6:50 pm

132 is none too shabby! Happy New Year!