Saturday, June 28, 2014

sync this week: Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock and October Mourning

Sync's offerings this week (Thursday, June 26 through Wednesday, July 2, 2014) are:

In addition to the P-38, there are four gifts, one for each of my friends. I want to say good-bye to them properly. I want to give them each something to remember me by. To let them know I really cared about them and I'm sorry I couldn't be more than I was — that I couldn't stick around — and that what's going to happen today isn't their fault.
Today is Leonard Peacock's birthday. It is also the day he hides a gun in his backpack. Because today is the day he will kill his former best friend, and then himself, with his grandfather's P-38 pistol.
But first he must say good-bye to the four people who matter most to him: his Humphrey Bogart — obsessed next-door neighbor, Walt; his classmate Baback, a violin virtuoso; Lauren, the Christian homeschooler he has a crush on; and Herr Silverman, who teaches the high school's class on the Holocaust. Speaking to each in turn, Leonard slowly reveals his secrets as the hours tick by and the moment of truth approaches.
In this riveting book, acclaimed author Matthew Quick unflinchingly examines the impossible choices that must be made — and the light in us all that never goes out.

The edition of Forgive Me, Leonard Peacock offered by Sync is narrated by Noah Galvin, courtesy of Hachette Audio.

On the night of October 6, 1998, a gay twenty-one-year-old college student named Matthew Shepard was lured from a Wyoming bar by two young men, savagely beaten, tied to a remote fence, and left to die. Gay Awareness Week was beginning at the University of Wyoming, and the keynote speaker was Lesléa Newman, discussing her book Heather Has Two Mommies. Shaken, the author addressed the large audience that gathered, but she remained haunted by Matthew’s murder. October Mourning, a novel in verse, is her deeply felt response to the events of that tragic day. Using her poetic imagination, the author creates fictitious monologues from various points of view, including the fence Matthew was tied to, the stars that watched over him, the deer that kept him company, and Matthew himself. More than a decade later, this stunning cycle of sixty-eight poems serves as an illumination for readers too young to remember, and as a powerful, enduring tribute to Matthew Shepard’s life.

The edition of October Mourning offered by Sync is narrated by Emily Beresford, Luke Daniels, Tom Parks, Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd, Christina Traister; courtesy of Brilliance Audio.

Go here to get this week's downloads.

Note: these books don't expire like the e-audiobooks you get from the library. So, be sure to download the books even if you don't think you'll get around to listening to them right away.

More information about Sync and this year's schedule of offerings is available in this post.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

synce this week: I'd Tell You I Love You, but then I'd Have to Kill You and Anne of Green Gables

Sync's offerings this week (Thursday, June 19 through Wednesday, June 25, 2014) are:

Cammie Morgan is a student at the Gallagher Academy for Exceptional Young Women, a fairly typical all-girls school—that is, if every school taught advanced martial arts in PE and the latest in chemical warfare in science, and students received extra credit for breaking CIA codes in computer class. The Gallagher Academy might claim to be a school for geniuses but its really a school for spies.
Even though Cammie is fluent in fourteen languages and capable of killing a man in seven different ways, she has no idea what to do when she meets an ordinary boy who thinks shes an ordinary girl. Sure, she can tap his phone, hack into his computer, or track him through town with the skill of a real “pavement artist”—but can she maneuver a relationship with someone who can never know the truth about her?
Cammie Morgan may be an elite spy-in-training, but in her sophomore year, shes on her most dangerous mission—falling in love.

The edition of I'd Tell You I Love You, but then I'd Have to Kill You offered by Sync is narrated by Renée Raudman, courtesy of Brilliance Audio.

As soon as Anne Shirley arrived at the snug, white farmhouse called Green Gables, she knew she wanted to stay forever... but would the Cuthberts send her back to the orphanage? Anne knows she's not what they expected — a skinny girl with decidedly red hair and a temper to match. If only she could convince them to let her stay, she'd try very hard not to keep rushing headlong into scrapes or blurt out the very first thing she had to say. Anne was not like anybody else, everyone at Green Gables agreed; she was special — a girl with an enormous imagination. This orphan girl dreamed of the day when she could call herself Anne of Green Gables.

The version Anne of Green Gables offered by Sync is narrated by Colleen Winton, courtesy of Post Hypnotic Press.

Go here to get this week's downloads.

Note: these books don't expire like the e-audiobooks you get from the library. So, be sure to download the books even if you don't think you'll get around to listening to them right away.

More information about Sync and this year's schedule of offerings is available in this post.

Thursday, June 12, 2014

sync this week: Code Name Verity and The Hiding Place

Sync's offerings this week (Thursday, June 12 through Wednesday, June 18, 2014) are:

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Bloom, with John and Elizabeth Sherril

Oct. 11th, 1943 — A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it's barely begun.
When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she's sure she doesn't stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she's living a spy's worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.
As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?

The edition of Code Name Verity offered by Sync is narrated by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell, courtesy of Bolinda Audio. I highly recommend that you download this book. You can read by review of Code Name Verity in this post.

The amazing story of Corrie ten Boom, a heroine of the Dutch Resistance who helped Jews escape from the Nazis and became one of the most remarkable evangelists of the 20th century, is told in her classic memoir, now retold for a new generation.

The edition of The Hiding Place offered by Sync is narrated by Bernadette Dunne, courtesy of Christian Audio.

Go here to get this week's downloads.

Note: these books don't expire like the e-audiobooks you get from the library. So, be sure to download the books even if you don't think you'll get around to listening to them right away.

More information about Sync and this year's schedule of offerings is available in this post.

Thursday, June 05, 2014

sync this week: All Our Yesterdays and Julius Caesar

Sync's offerings this week (Thursday, June 5 through Wednesday, June 11, 2014) are:

All Our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill and
Julius Caesar by Shakespeare

Imprisoned in the heart of a secret military base, Em has nothing except the voice of the boy in the cell next door and the list of instructions she finds taped inside the drain.
Only Em can complete the final instruction. Shes tried everything to prevent the creation of a time machine that will tear the world apart. She holds the proof: a list she has never seen before, written in her own hand. Each failed attempt in the past has led her to the same terrible present—imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic man called the doctor while war rages outside.
Marina has loved her best friend James since the day he moved next door when they were children. A gorgeous, introverted science prodigy from one of Americas most famous families, James finally seems to be seeing Marina in a new way, too. But on one disastrous night, Jamess life crumbles apart, and with it, Marinas hopes for their future. Now someone is trying to kill him. Marina will protect James, no matter what. Even if it means opening her eyes to a truth so terrible that she may not survive it. At least not as the girl she once was.
All Our Yesterdays is a wrenching, brilliantly plotted story of fierce love, unthinkable sacrifice, and the infinite implications of our every choice.

The edition of All Our Yesterdays offered by Sync is narrated by Meredith Mitchell, courtesy of Tantor Audio.

In this striking tragedy of political conflict, Shakespeare turns to the ancient Roman world and to the famous assassination of Julius Caesar by his republican opponents. The play is one of tumultuous rivalry, of prophetic warnings–“Beware the ides of March”–and of moving public oratory, “Friends, Romans, countrymen!” Ironies abound and most of all for Brutus, whose fate it is to learn that his idealistic motives for joining the conspiracy against a would-be dictator are not enough to sustain the movement once Caesar is dead.

The version Julius Caesar (aka Oedipus the King) offered by Sync is performed by Performed by Richard Dreyfuss, JoBeth Williams, Stacy Keach, Kelsey Grammer, and a full cast; courtesy of L.A. Theatre Works.

Go here to get this week's downloads.

Note: these books don't expire like the e-audiobooks you get from the library. So, be sure to download the books even if you don't think you'll get around to listening to them right away.

More information about Sync and this year's schedule of offerings is available in this post.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

sync this week: Confessions of a Murder Suspect and Murder at the Vicarage

Sync's offerings this week (Thursday, May 29 through Wednesday, June 4, 2014) are:

Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson and Maxine Paetro
Hachette Audio edition, narrated by Emma Galvin
Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie
Harper Audio edition, narrated by Richard E. Grant

James Patterson returns to the genre that made him famous with a thrilling teen detective series about the mysterious and magnificently wealthy Angel family... and the dark secrets they're keeping from one another.
On the night Malcolm and Maud Angel are murdered, Tandy Angel knows just three things: 1) She was the last person to see her parents alive. 2) The police have no suspects besides Tandy and her three siblings. 3) She can't trust anyone — maybe not even herself. Having grown up under Malcolm and Maud's intense perfectionist demands, no child comes away undamaged. Tandy decides that she will have to clear the family name, but digging deeper into her powerful parents' affairs is a dangerous — and revealing — game. Who knows what the Angels are truly capable of?

Murder at the Vicarage marks the debut of Agatha Christie’s unflappable and much beloved female detective, Miss Jane Marple. With her gift for sniffing out the malevolent side of human nature, Miss Marple is led on her first case to a crime scene at the local vicarage. Colonel Protheroe, the magistrate whom everyone in town hates, has been shot through the head. No one heard the shot. There are no leads. Yet, everyone surrounding the vicarage seems to have a reason to want the Colonel dead. It is a race against the clock as Miss Marple sets out on the twisted trail of the mysterious killer without so much as a bit of help from the local police.

Go here to get this week's downloads.

Note: these books don't expire like the e-audiobooks you get from the library. So, be sure to download the books even if you don't think you'll get around to listening to them right away.

More information about Sync and this year's schedule of offerings is available in this post.

Friday, May 23, 2014

sync this week: Cruel Beauty and
Oedipus Rex

Sync's offerings this week (Thursday, May 22 through Wednesday May 28, 2014) are:

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge and
Oedipus Rex by Sophocles

Since birth, Nyx has been betrothed to the evil ruler of her kingdom--all because of a reckless bargain her father struck. And since birth, she has been training to kill him.
Betrayed by her family yet bound to obey, Nyx rails against her fate. Still, on her seventeenth birthday, she abandons everything she's ever known to marry the all-powerful, immortal Ignifex. Her plan? Seduce him, disarm him, and break the nine-hundred-year-old curse he put on her people.
But Ignifex is not what Nyx expected. The strangely charming lord beguiles her, and his castle--a shifting maze of magical rooms--enthralls her. As Nyx searches for a way to free her homeland by uncovering Ignifex's secrets, she finds herself unwillingly drawn to him. But even if she can bring herself to love her sworn enemy, how can she refuse her duty to kill him?
Based on the classic fairy tale "Beauty and the Beast," Cruel Beauty is a dazzling love story about our deepest desires and their power to change our destiny.

The edition of Cruel Beauty offered by Sync is narrated by Elizabeth Knowelden, courtesy of Harper Audio.

One of the greatest of the classic Greek tragedies and a masterpiece of dramatic construction. Catastrophe ensues when King Oedipus discovers he has inadvertently killed his father and married his mother. Masterly use of dramatic irony greatly intensifies impact of agonizing events. Sophocles' finest play, Oedipus Rex ranks as a towering landmark of Western drama.

The version Oedipus Rex (aka Oedipus the King) offered by Sync is performed by Michael Sheen and a full cast, courtesy of Naxos AudioBooks.

Go here to get this week's downloads.

Note: these books don't expire like the e-audiobooks you get from the library. So, be sure to download the books even if you don't think you'll get around to listening to them right away.

More information about Sync and this year's schedule of offerings is available in this post.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

2014 Sync schedule

Sync YA literature into your earphones with
two free audiobook downloads each week
May 15 - August 13, 2014

Teens and other readers of young adult literature will have the opportunity to listen to bestselling titles and required reading classics this summer. Each week from May 15 to August 13, 2014, Sync, a program sponsored by AudioFile Magazine, will offer two free audiobook downloads.

The audiobook pairings will include a popular YA title and a classic that connects with the YA title's theme and is likely to show up on a student's summer reading lists.

SYNC Schedule:

May 15 - May 21
May 22 - May 28
  • Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge,
    Narrated by Elizabeth Knowelden (Harper Audio)
  • Oedipus the King by Sophocles,
    Performed by Michael Sheen and a full cast (Naxos AudioBooks)

May 29 - June 4

June 5 - June 11
  • All our Yesterdays by Cristin Terrill,
    Narrated by Meredith Mitchell (Tantor Audio)
  • Julius Caesar by William Shakespeare,
    Performed by Richard Dreyfuss, JoBeth Williams, Stacy Keach, Kelsey Grammer, and a full cast (L.A. Theatre Works)
June 12 - June 18
  • Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (highly recommended, see post),
    Narrated by Morven Christie and Lucy Gaskell (Bolinda Audio)
  • The Hiding Place by Corrie Ten Boom
    Narrated by Bernadette Dunne (christianaudio)
June 19 - June 25

June 26 – July 2
July 3 - July 9
July 10 - July 16
July 17 – July 23
July 24 – July 30
July 31 – August 6
August 7 – August 13
  • Living a Life that Matters by Ben Lesser,
    Narrated by Jonathan Silverman and Ben Lesser (Remembrance Publishing)
  • The Shawl by Cynthia Ozick,
    Narrated by Yelena Shmulenson (HighBridge Audio)
Another important note is that these books don't expire like th e-audiobooks you get from the library. So, be sure to check in each week to download the books even if you don't think you'll get around to reading them right away.

More information about Sync is available on the Sync website.

better late than never: the first week of Sync 2014

Audiobook Sync, the annual summertime audiobook extravaganza, started early this year. Week one is already underway.

Sync's offerings this week (through Wednesday, May 21, 2014) are:

Warp: The Reluctant Assassin by Eoin Colfer
Listening Library edition, narrated by Maxwell Caulfield
The Time Machine by H. G. Wells
Listening Library edition, narrated by Derek Jacobi

Riley, a teen orphan boy living in Victorian London, has had the misfortune of being apprenticed to Albert Garrick, an illusionist who has fallen on difficult times and now uses his unique conjuring skills to gain access to victims' dwellings. On one such escapade, Garrick brings his reluctant apprentice along and urges him to commit his first killing. Riley is saved from having to commit the grisly act when the intended victim turns out to be a scientist from the future, part of the FBI's Witness Anonymous Relocation Program (WARP) Riley is unwittingly transported via wormhole to modern day London, followed closely by Garrick.
In modern London, Riley is helped by Chevron Savano, a nineteen-year-old FBI agent sent to London as punishment after a disastrous undercover, anti-terrorist operation in Los Angeles. Together Riley and Chevie must evade Garrick, who has been fundamentally altered by his trip through the wormhole. Garrick is now not only evil, but he also possesses all of the scientist's knowledge. He is determined to track Riley down and use the timekey in Chevie's possession to make his way back to Victorian London where he can literally change the world.

When the Time Traveller courageously stepped out of his machine for the first time, he found himself in the year 802,700--and everything has changed. In another, more utopian age, creatures seemed to dwell together in perfect harmony. The Time Traveller thought he could study these marvelous beings--unearth their secret and then return to his own time--until he discovered that his invention, his only avenue of escape, had been stolen.

Go here to get this week's downloads.

Note: these books don't expire like the e-audiobooks you get from the library. So, be sure to download the books even if you don't think you'll get around to listening to them right away.

More information about Sync and this year's schedule of offerings is available in this post.

Monday, March 03, 2014

books for a one year-old

Last weekend Russell and I attended a birthday party for a one year-old.  We brought two books for the birthday girl, The Adventures of Lowly Worm and What Do People Do All Day? both by Richard Scarry. Here's more or less what I wrote in the card:
I was so glad to see these two books on the birthday girl's wishlist because I would have bought them for her anyway. What Do People Do All Day? was the most popular book in the [maiden name] household for many a year and Lowly Worm taught the [maiden name] girls how to behave in polite society. My mom would often prompt my sister and/or I with "Would Lowly Worm say/do..." when we were learning to navigate through through the world.
I hope these books serve the birthday girl as well as our family's copies served my sister and I.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

February Reading Recap

Books Read in February

18. The Girl in the Road by Monica Byrne - Netgalley
17. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin - Netgalley
16. Death in a Strange Country by Donna Leon (see post) - public library via my mom
15. Death at La Fenice by Donna Leon - (see post) - public library via my mom
14. To Tempt a Viking by Michelle Willingham - Netgalley
13. We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (audio) - public library
12. The Bat by Jo Nesbo - public library
- "A Story in Emerald" by Neil Gaiman (see post)
in New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird, edited by Paula Guran - purchased
11. Fire by Kristin Cashore (audio) - public library

Monday, February 17, 2014

quotable Gabrielle Zevin

We read to know we're not alone.  We read because we are alone.  We read and we are not alone.  We are not alone. (The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry)
I read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry from start to finish this afternoon/evening. The novel is scheduled for release on 1 April 2014.  I recommend it highly.
disclosure (because we can't have an endorsement without a disclosure statement): I received a review copy of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry from Algonquin Books via NetGalley. A review is forthcoming.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

"A Study in Emerald" by Neil Gaiman
and the Martin Wallace board game
of the same name

Neil Gaiman's "A Story in Emerald" is a particularly well-conceived mashup of Sherlock Holmes and the Cthulhu Mythos, which was originally published in Shadows over Baker Street, edited by Michael Reaves and John Pelan. I first learned about it last April when Russell came across a Kickstarter campaign for a board game by Martin Wallace inspired by the story. We were sufficiently intrigued to back the campaign and I used Russell's June birthday as an excuse to buy a book in which the story appeared:  New Cthulhu: The Recent Weird.

Our copy of A Study in Emerald (the game) arrived at Chez Morsie sometime around Christmas, but we hadn't gotten around to playing it so when our friend Michael brought his copy to game night last week, I jumped at the chance to learn the game even though I hadn't read Gaiman's story yet. I read the story today.

The story is set in an alternate Victorian London that should seem pretty familiar to readers. The biggest difference between "A Study in Emerald"'s London and that of Doyle is that Victoria is one of the Great Old Ones, who have been ruling the planet for the past 700 years. Like Doyle's "A Study in Scarlet," "A Study in Emerald" introduces the consulting detective and his narrating companion. There is a murder with which Inspector Lestrade and his team need assistance. At the crime scene "RACHE" is spelled out in the victim's blood, though in this case the blood is green. While I am no expert on the Sherlock Holmes canon, it seemed to me that Gaiman admirably maintained the feel of Doyle's/Watson's writing (though this is helped along by the fact the story's introductory passages mirror that of "A Study in Scarlet"). I liked how Gaiman was able to introduce the backstory of the Great Old One's takeover without having it seem like a tangent. While I enjoyed "A Study in Emerald" as I was reading it, when I finished the story I was thrilled. I can't explain why without spoiling it (I even insisted that Russell must read it himself). There's more in "A Study in Emerald" for Sherlockians than there is for Lovecraft aficionados, but I'd recommend it to both (and especially to readers who appreciate both Doyle's and Lovecraft's worlds).

A Study in Emerald (the game) is built upon the political tensions described in Gaiman's story: the Great Old Ones rule the world, but there is a group of "restorationists" plotting to overthrow them. In the game, which plays 2-5, players are randomly and secretly assigned to either the Loyalist or Restorationist factions. Ours was a 4-player game and I was the token Restorationist; I did not win.

Interestingly enough, per Wallace's design notes, the inspiration for A Study in Emerald was not Gaiman's story but The World that Never Was by Alex Butterworth, a history of anarchism.
I felt that there was enough material her for a board game but was note sure about the reception it would receive. I had this feeling that some players might object to a game where your main occupation would be going around blowing up various world leaders. It just so happened that I had recently read "A Study in Emerald" which suggested a solution to my problem--turn the leaders into monsters, thus depriving them of any sympathy they may otherwise garner. (Design notes, A Study in Emerald rule book, 16)
Not to mention the added cache of both Gaiman and the Cthulhu mythos with gamers.  If nothing else, the "A Study in Emerald" overlay was marketing genius.  I don't tend to spend much time reading rule books (preferring to have games taught to me) and I would skip over design notes just as I usually skip over acknowledgments in the books that I read. I had Russell dig out our copy of the rule book when I started writing this post because I wanted to read Wallace's justification of his inclusion of zombies1 (and vampires) in the game when they don't appear in the story,2 and that's how I learned about the real inspiration for the game, which I found particularly interesting.
  1. For what it's worth I was holding my own against in the Loyalist faction until the zombies card was in play. When Dan, who had the zombies card in his card, managed to get his hands on a card that allowed his deck to cycle more quickly, I (and the Restorationist cause) was doomed.
  2. He justifies zombies because of a real life Dr. Frankenstein-type individual that appears in Butterworth. He has no good excuse for including vampires.

seasonal reading: Wintersmith
by Terry Pratchett

Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett
series: Tiffany Aching (3); Discworld (35)

With so many parts of the US having a particularly cold and/or snowy winter and Punxsutawney Phil predicting another 6 weeks of winter today on Groundhog Day1, Terry Pratchett's Wintersmith seems like the most appropriate of reading choices.

Wintersmith is the third book in Pratchett's Tiffany Aching Adventures (after Wee Free Men and A Hat Full of Sky), which follows the coming-of-age adventures of a young witch (and her bumbling, not-quite-accidental helpmeets, the Nac Mac Feegle2) who lives within his Discworld world.

In Wintersmith, Tiffany inadvertently draws the attention of the titular character, who is the personification of the winter. The Wintersmith's attempts to woo Tiffany yield a long and preposterously harsh winter (with Tiffany-shaped snowflakes no less). Tiffany must find a way to subdue with Wintersmith while, unbeknownst to Tiffany, the Nac Mac Feegle train up a hero (who will be familiar to readers of the series) to rescue Spring from the underworld (that hero himself draws the parallel to Orpheus). More importantly (from the bildungsroman3 perspective at least), Tiffany must take responsibility for her role in attracting the Wintersmith.

I've mentioned before that the Tiffany Aching books were my primary reading matter during the recent family flu epidemic.  While I enjoyed the books (which came highly recommended by my father), I feel like I would have liked them better if I hadn't read them one right after the other.4 It just seems to be that my reading of the series would have benefited from enough of a gap that absolutely everything from the previous installment(s) was not so fresh in my mind.
  1. Groundhog Day (aka Candlemas): "On Candlemas the woodchuck is said to emerge from his hibernation in order to look for his shadow. If he sees it, he will return to his burrow for six more weeks. If he doesn't, he knows that spring will arrive soon. The belief is related to the association of Candlemas with the sowing of the crops, sunny weather foreboding harsh days and so poor planting" (The Folklore of American Holidays edited by Cohen and Coffin, 65).
  2. The titular characters of Wee Free Men.  Loveable rogues, the Nac Mac Feegle are like tiny, very clannish Scotsmen, who happen to be fairies (or pixies, I guess) and have the social structure of bees.  Their primary interests are drinking, brawling, and stealing.
  3. I suppose this should be bildungsbuchreihe (or something like that) since it's not a novel, but the overarching storyline of a series.
  4. Some series beg for binge reading, others do not.

January 2014 reading recap

Books Read in January

10. The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier (review forthcoming) - Netgalley
9. Graceling by Kristin Cashore (audio; see post) - public library
8. Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett (see post) - from my dad
7. Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (see post) - from my mom
6. Courtney Crumrin: The Night Things by Ted Naifeh (see post) - purchased at independent comic book/gaming shop
5. The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston (audio; see post) - public library
4. A Hat Full of Sky by Terry Pratchett (see post on Wintersmith) - from my dad
3. Wee Free Men by Terry Pratchett (mentioned in this post; see also post on Wintersmith) - from my dad
2. Far From You by Tess Sharpe (double-review post with How Sweet It Is by Melissa Brayden forthcoming) - Netgalley
1. The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh (see post) - Netgalley

Saturday, February 01, 2014

mom-approved: Donna Leon

Yesterday I ran straight from work to the public library on an errand for my mom. Lately she's been stuck at home in pain with limited mobility because of a herniated disc in her back or something along those lines. Now, my mom is a voracious reader. Her favorite genres are historical fiction and mysteries, though like me she reads broadly across most fiction genres and appreciates the occasional nonfiction title when it relates to long-term or of-the-moment interests. However, right now she's only interested in reading books from one particular author: Donna Leon. Two of the Donna Leon books she requested from one of our library system's other branches had come in and I needed to collect them before the library closed at 6 pm.

She's working her way (possibly nonsequentially) through the books in Leon's Guido Brunetti series of mysteries set in Venice. So far there are 23 titles in the series:
  1. Death At La Fenice (1992)
  2. Death in a Strange Country (1993)
  3. The Anonymous Venetian aka Dressed for Death (1994)
  4. A Venetian Reckoning aka Death And Judgment (1995)
  5. Acqua Alta aka Death in High Water (1996)
  6. The Death of Faith aka Quietly in Their Sleep (1997)
  7. A Noble Radiance (1997)
  8. Fatal Remedies (1998)
  9. Friends in High Places (1999)
  10. A Sea of Troubles (2001)
  11. Willful Behavior (2002)
  12. Uniform Justice (2003)
  13. Doctored Evidence (2004)
  14. Blood from a Stone (2005)
  15. Through a Glass Darkly (2006)
  16. Suffer the Little Children (2007)
  17. The Girl of His Dreams (2008)
  18. About Face (2009)
  19. A Question of Belief (2010)
  20. Drawing Conclusions (2011)
  21. Beastly Things (2012)
  22. The Golden Egg (2013)
  23. By Its Cover (2014)
Leon has also published a stand-alone novel, The Jewels of Paradise (2012), which is also set in Venice.

I'm pretty sure that I have a copy of Acqua Alta kicking around here, in turn I am pretty sure that I got it from my mom and that she picked it up as vacation reading. When I figure out where I put the book (if indeed I am remembering this all correctly), I'll read it and see whether I find the series as exciting as my mom does.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Graceling by Kristin Cashore
series: Seven Kingdoms (1)

I don't remember the last time I "read" an audiobook so quickly. I finished Graceling today, only four days after I checked it out from the library's e-audio repository. Between recovering from the flu and the heavy snow (read: time spent outside shoveling), I've had lots of opportunity to listen lately, but I have to admit that I also made time to listen. I was utterly charmed by Graceling and by its main characters Katsa (despite her decidedly unsympathetic special ability) and Po (and also by Bitterblue, a secondary character, who seems to be the protagonist of the series' third installment). I wanted to know what would happen to them, if they'd be able to overcome the obstacles they were facing, so I manufactured listening time.

My reluctant-reader sister is going to be receiving a copy of the audio version of Graceling for her birthday.

Cashore's second book, Fire, another installment of the Seven Kingdoms series, was available from the library's ebook repository so I checked it out in anticipation of my quick completion of Graceling. I started Fire shortly after finishing Graceling. I didn't get far (my second round of snow shoveling today ended up taking much less time than I expected), but I already know that I'm not going to enjoy it as much as Graceling. Fire is a prequel to Graceling and just from what little I've heard (again, I'm listening to the audio version), I can tell that it's going to involve one of the least palatable characters from Graceling. Now I'm trying to decide whether I should wait some time before continuing on with Fire or not.

a novel cure for the flu

I'd been ill for about a week before I was actually able to remember that I wanted to look up "flu" in The Novel Cure, which I received for my birthday (see post) when I was actually in the position to find the book. Even though I'd had the book since the end of September, I hadn't actually gone to it looking for a novel cure to anything before now.

In The Novel Cure, Elderkin and Berthoud suggest Agatha Christie, specifically Poirot, as a cure for the flu. They recommend The Murder of Roger Ackroyd. Unfortunately I didn't have any Christie in the house and the public library didn't have any ebook or e-audio versions available to check out. I refuse to pay for ebooks so I was out of luck. Following Elderkin and Berthoud's logic, I decided that what I needed was an engrossing mystery.

source: my mom
(she picked it up at the take-a-book-leave-a-book shelf at a hotel)

Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch (published as Midnight Riot in the US)
series: Peter Grant (1)

A paranormal police procedural, Rivers of London takes place in a modern day London, in which the Metropolitan Police Service has a special, secret branch responsible for dealing with "the magic" when it poses a threat to the Queen's peace.  Probationary Constable Peter Grant (protagonist and first-person narrator) learns of the secret branch when he's assigned to assist Detective Chief Inspector Thomas Nightingale with a case.  That doesn't happen, though, until after Grant has interviewed an eyewitness to a murder who just happens to be a ghost. 

The primary storyline (serial murder) was a bit overcomplicated1 for my flu-addled brain, but I enjoyed Rivers of London nonetheless.  The secondary (titular) storyline was quite interesting and easy to follow.  I also appreciated the overarching story of the protagonist as he first discovers the world of magic and then becomes an apprentice wizard.

Aaronovitch does a great job of world-building.  There's the recognizable and well-described London from which he lifts the veil.  He gives readers just enough paranormal activity to indicate the extent to which magic permeates his world, but not enough to overwhelm them and/or the story.  British magic has an interesting backstory (Isaac Newton "codif[ied] its basic principles," 81) as I'm sure does Nightingale, to whom Grant becomes apprenticed.   Home base for the secret branch (The Folly) is also populated by an inexplicable character named Molly, who is indispensable to the functioning of the branch.

Peter Grant is an everyman character (mixed race, distractible, and decidedly average with the exception of an aptitude for magic).  He also has two love interests:  another probationary constable (who I assume will be a recurring character in the series as it goes forward) and a magical person he encounters in the course of his work on the titular storyline.

I read Rivers of London ravenously and I'm quite eager to read more of Peter Grant's adventures. There are three more books (so far) in the series, but it seems like only the second installment (Moon Over Soho)2 has been published in the US so far.3

A note on the cover art. I much prefer the art on Rivers of London (and the other British editions) to the art on Midnight Riot (and the other American editions). I felt that way even before scanning other reviews and coming across one that mentioned a concern about white-washing with regard to the American editions.4 The art of the British covers focuses on the city, while the art of the American cover focuses on the character (and with that character focus, obscuring the race is problematic). Additionally, the British editions are quirky, with little details (about the story and about London) hidden in the artwork. I love that.
  1. It's described thusly (from the perspective of PC Grant) on the Rivers of London page of the author's website: "there’s something festering at the heart of the city I love, a malicious vengeful spirit that takes ordinary Londoners and twists them into grotesque mannequins to act out its drama of violence and despair. The spirit of riot and rebellion has awakened in the city, and it’s falling to me to bring order out of chaos – or die trying" (The Folly/Books/Rivers of London).
  2. Thankfully they haven't changed the title of this one for the American audience.
  3. Though a quick search of the public library catalog informs me that I can also get #3, Whispers Under Ground, from the library even though my branch doesn't have a copy.
  4. Neth Space shows two different versions of both American editions' covers and discusses this issue, see Neth Space: Another White-washed Cover?.  I don't particularly either version of either of the American covers.  The British cover art is much more appealing to me on many different levels.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Courtney Crumrin: The Night Things
by Ted Naifeh

source: purchased
Courtney Crumrin: The Night Things by Ted Naifeh
series: Courtney Crumrin Special Edition (1)

I purchased The Night Things last year at a local independent comic book/game shop (Modern Myths in Mamaroneck, NY) to read myself and then possibly send along to one of my nieces or nephews as appropriate. While I was immediately drawn to the Courtney Crumrin books (it seems like each of these hardcover special editions collects four issues of the comic) as the covers showcase Naifeh's characteristic gloomy artwork and are nicely tactile, but I held out for quite a while before I actually handed over my money.

I decided to read The Night Things last night as I needed a break from my regularly-scheduled flu reading (Terry Pratchett's Tiffany Aching Adventures; I'm on the third installment now). I have to admit, though, that I was a bit underwhelmed by it.  When collected together the story seems disjointed in a way that it wouldn't when read in its original format.  And, I wished there was more character development specifically with regard to Courtney's relationship to Aloysius. I will, however, give The Night Things another chance since it's quite likely that I'll be less critical when I'm not feeling so poorly.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston

The Witch's Daughter by Paula Brackston

I've had The Witch's Daughter loaded on my pocket electronic device for the last little while. I've listened to it while commuting and shoveling snow, and most recently while suffering from the flu and not having the energy to do much anything else.

The Witch's Daughter is the story of a tenant farmer 17th century England who essentially becomes a witch to escape persecution for witchcraft (as should be obvious from the book's title, Bess' mother hanged) and then spends the next 400 years running from the warlock who aided her transformation (and who wants to claim her for himself). The book is set in 2007, but it includes long flashbacks to various periods in the titular character's life: the plague-ridden early 1600s, in which Bess should have lived out her entire life, Victorian London (complete with Jack the Ripper), and Flanders during World War I. The book long at 400+ pages or 13+ hours, but it didn't drag for me.  

My pet peeve about the story is that Bess, each time she reinvents herself, uses some form of her actual name (and she maintains her appearance complete with her distinctive white widow's streak). Of course her nemesis is going to find her again and again when she does such a poor job of hiding. The fact that Gideon (the warlock) disguises himself so well really highlights this failing of Bess'.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh

The Weight of Blood by Laura McHugh
It was common knowledge that in the hills, with infinite hiding places, bodies disappeared. They were fed to hogs or buried deep in the woods or dropped into abandoned wells. They were not dismembered and set out on display. It just wasn't how things were done. It was that lack of adherence to custom that seemed to frighten people the most. Why would someone risk getting caught in order to show us what he'd done to Cheri when it would have been so easy to keep her body hidden? The only reasonable explanation was that an outsider was responsible, and outsiders bred fear in a way no homegrown criminal could. (12)
When 17-year-old Lucy Dane's developmentally delayed friend disappeared one year earlier, no one in their small town of Henbane, Missouri seemed particularly concerned, not even Cheri's mother. Cheri's first pegged as a runway then quickly forgotten. The discovery of Cheri's dismembered body first brought news crews, then a run on locks and ammunition, but that fervor is short-lived. A lack of leads coupled with the passage of time allows Cheri's murder to fade quietly into the backdrop of life in Henbane. Only Lucy, whose own mother disappeared 16 years earlier, continues to search for answers.

As Lucy begins to find clues about Cheri's life during that unaccounted for year, she begins to hope that she'll be able to discover information about her mother's mysterious disappearance as well. However the more Lucy learns, the more complicated both present and past seems to be. As the novel unfolds parallels are drawn between Cheri's disappearance and that of Lila Dane. In order to unearth the truth about her mother's disappearance Lucy will have to "look past what [she's] always been taught and listen to what [she] know[s] in [her] bones to be true" (223).

The Weight of Blood is an exploration of the ties that bind and the weight of blood. McHugh intersperses the contemporary narrative with flashback's to Lila's life during (and immediately before) her time in Henbane and utilizes different points of view at different times in the novel to great effect  (though readers who dislike multiple POV novels are going to have trouble with this one as the POV characters multiply in the second half of the book).  McHugh's characters are well-drawn and multifaceted (another obvious symptom of McHugh's effective use of different viewpoints throughout the novel).  The story is both gripping (even after readers find out who is most likely responsible for Lila's disappearance, they will still keep turning the pages desperate to learn exactly what happened to her) and evocative (McHugh charts both physical and interior landscapes so clearly for her readers). 

The Weight of Blood will be available in March 2014. It's McHugh's debut novel and I look forward to reading whatever she puts out next.
disclosure: I received a review copy of The Weight of Blood from Random House via NetGalley.

word: susurrus

A wonderful, onomatopoeic word discovery in Terry Pratchett's Wee Free Men:
Another and larger part of Tiffany's brain was thinking of the word susurrus. It was a word that not many people have thought about, ever. [...]
Susurrus... according to her grandmother's dictionary, it meant "a low soft sound, as of whispering or muttering." Tiffany liked the taste of the word. It made her think of mysterious people in long cloaks whispering important secrets behind a door: susurrusssusurrusss... (4)
Emphasis not mine.

Thursday, January 02, 2014

remembering what else I read in 2013

My last reading recap post for 2013 was in July (see post) at which point I had read 70 books so far that year. Shortly thereafter the stress of everyday life left me without the will to keep track of my reading (the last book I actively noted down was #71).  I'm doing my best to reconstruct my books-read-in-2013 list (as seen below), but I am certain that I've missed more than a few (particularly library books).  I will come back and edit this post as I remember books I've neglected to add to the list.

Posts on many of the books listed below will be forthcoming in the next weeks.  Any my 2014 blog-related resolution is the same as my (failed) goal for last year:   to post at least something about every book that I read this year, preferably immediately or shortly after I either finish or officially give up on it. Let's hope I'm more successful this year.

Books read August-December 2013 (incomplete)

? Tesla's Attic by Neal Shusterman and Eric Elfman - Netgalley
? The Archived by Victoria Schwab - personal collection (gift)
? The Midnight Rose by Lucinda Riley - Netgalley
? Phoenix Island by John Dixon- Netgalley
? Defy by Sara B. Larson - Netgalley
? Sleighbells in the Snow by Sarah Morgan (see post) - Netgalley
? Children of Men by P.D. James - BookMooch
? Reality Boy by A.S. King - Netgalley
? How Sweet It Is by Melissa Brayden - Netgalley
? Curtsies and Conspiracies by Gail Carriger - personal collection (purchased)
? Etiquette and Espionage by Gail Carriger (reread; see post) - personal collection (purchased)
? A Wicked Pursuit by Isabella Bradford - Netgalley
? The Colors of Blue by Lance McCulloch - Netgalley
- Vampires in the Lemon Grove by Karen Russell (I should never have attempted this on a 7-day "speed read" checkout; of course I didn't manage to finish it within that timeframe) - public library
? The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani - public library
? The Caged Graves by Dianne K. Salerni - public library
? Little Joe by Michael E. Glasscock III - Netgalley
? Tin Star by Cecil Castellucci - Netgalley
? A Death-Struck Year by Makiia Lucier - Netgalley
? Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - public library
? The Hollow by Jessica Verday - public library
? Sekret by Lindsay Smith - Netgalley
- If Only You People Could Follow Directions by Jessica Hendry Nelson (I found the title of this book particularly appealing, but there was just too much difficulty in this memoir for me to handle given the amount of stress I was under) - Netgalley
? The Hanging Judge by Michael Ponsor - Netgalley
? Allegiant by Veronica Roth (see post)- personal collection (gift)
? Insurgent by Veronica Roth (reread; see post) - personal collection
? The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert - Netgalley
? Divergent by Veronica Roth (reread; see post) - personal collection
? Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (see post)- personal collection (gift)
- One Great Year by Tamara Veitch and Rene DeFazio (I gave up on this book after two valiant efforts, not my cup of tea) - Netgalley
? Delectable by Adrianne Lee (see post) - Netgalley
? Heavens Rise by Christopher Rice - Netgalley
? Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell (see post) - public library
? Fundraising the Dead by Sheila Connolly (see post)- personal collection (gift)
- One Thousand and One Nights by Hanan al-Shaykh - public library
(read 100 pages before I had to return it to the library)
? Escaping Reality: The Secret Life of Amy Bensen by Lisa Renee Jones - Netgalley
? The Land of Dreams by Vidar Sundstol - Netgalley
? Louisiana Fever by D.J. Donaldson - review copy from publicist
71. Slice of Cherry by Dia Reeves - personal copy (purchased at the Strand)