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Tuesday, August 23, 2011


by Jennifer Haigh
audiobook: 10.6 hours
narrated by Therese Plummer

Why I Read It

I don't generally read books like this but after seeing all the fantastic reviews for it during the TLC Book Tour (and hearing that it was not a Catholic-bashing book*) I knew I had to give it a try.

About the Book

A Boston priest is accused of molesting a young boy and the fall-out in the community is huge. The priest's mother and sister family stand by him but his brother (father of two boys himself) wants nothing to do with him anymore.  Parishioners struggle to match this horrible accusation with the priest they've trusted for years while the media crucifies him in light of all the other scandals in the Catholic Church in recent years.

The story is told by the priest's sister as she tries to put together the chain of events that led to the accusation.

My Thoughts 

This is a fantastic book! I feel like these characters are people I know in real life. They are each unique and real enough to walk off the page. The story kept my attention from the start and I held my breath in anticipation as secrets were revealed in the latter half of the book.

Some of you know this already but my husband was molested by a teacher at a Christian school. It took years for him to tell anyone about it. When he finally did, the teacher was brought to trial and eventually convicted and sent to jail. School staff and students' families were split over the issue; some believed the kids (there ended up being more than just my husband) while others accused them of lying and stood by the teacher. It was a painful time for everyone involved. That anger and pain and confusion were all captured by Haigh in this book, and she did it in a very convincing way.

In retrospect I should have seen how the book would turn out but I was so engrossed in the story that I didn't think ahead and the ending took me by surprise.

As I said at the beginning of my review, it was a great, great book. I am very glad I broke out of my normal reading range and gave this one a chance.

* I was raised Catholic and although I now attend a non-denominational church I still have a great love for the Catholic Church.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

American Gods

by Neil Gaiman
audiobook: 19.65 hours
narrated by Dennis Boutsikaris, Daniel Oreskes,
Ron McLarty, Sarah Jones (a full cast production)

Why I Read It

Back when I reviewed Stardust I said that even though I enjoyed the book I wasn't really a Gaiman fan. I also said that I still wanted to give American Gods a shot because the idea of the book intrigued me. So when the 10th anniversary edition of AG was offered to me on audio for review I was quite pleased to give it a listen.

About the Book

Shadow is serving his last few days in jail when he gets the news that his wife was killed in a car accident. He is released a few days early and has to decide what to do with his life from here on out.  Having few other options, Shadow takes a job as a body guard/chauffeur by a mysterious man named Mr. Wednesday. During his travels with his new employer he meets an odd assortment of characters and comes to realize that these "people" are actually old world gods who are down on their luck because they don't have enough worshippers anymore. He is drawn into Mr. Wednesday's plot to gather the old world gods to fight for turf against the new gods of America - Media, Computers, etc. But things may not be exactly as they seem ...

Note on the 10th Anniversary Edition

This edition of the book includes all the sections that were originally edited. The book is now the way that Gaiman originally intended it to be.

My Thoughts 

Gaiman fans will probably want to throw tomatoes at me but I have to admit that I was more impressed with the IDEA of the book than with the book itself. I loved the way that Gaiman took America's obsessions with the latest and greatest thing and turned those obsessions into actual gods. I also loved how the old world gods (and their current jobs) were described. But that was about all that I really did like. I couldn't really get into the story and I often felt like I was missing something important. Maybe I just didn't get it?

On the other hand the actual audio production was great. I'm not generally a fan of full cast productions because I often can't recall which character belongs with which voice, but I didn't have that problem here. With only four narrators - and each of those having a unique voice - it was easy to follow the narration.

Your Thoughts 

Did you love this book? If so, what am I missing?! Are you a Gaiman fan? What makes you love him? Honestly most of his books sort of give me the creeps, and that's just from reading the summaries!

Friday, August 19, 2011

NPR's Top 100 Fantasy/SciFi Books

It's been a while since I've posted a list of any sort but I got a bit excited when I saw the one Ryan from Wordsmithonia posted. It was a list of the top 100 fantasy/scifi books as compiled by NPR.  There are some great books on there and a lot that I haven't heard of either!  Of course there are also a lot that I don't want to read either ...

Check out the list for yourself below. The ones in red are books I've read (27.5 books) and the ones in blue are ones that I've seen the movie/tv version but not actually read (7 books). Does this list make you want to add anything to your TBR list?

1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
2. The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
3. Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card
4. The Dune Chronicles by Frank Herbert
5. A Song of Ice and Fire Series by George R.R. Martin
6. 1984 by George Orwell
7. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
8. The Foundation Trilogy by Isaac Asimov
9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
10. American Gods by Neil Gaiman
11. The Princess Bride by William Goldman
12. The Wheel of Time Series by Robert Jordan
13. Animal Farm by George Orwell
14. Neuromancer by William Gibson
15. Watchmen by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons
16. I, Robot by Isaac Asimov
17. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
18. The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
19. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
20. Frankenstein by Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley
21. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick
22. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood
23. The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King
24. 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke
25. The Stand by Stephen King
26. Snow Crash Neal Stephenson
27. The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury
28. Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut
29. The Sandman Series by Neil Gaiman
30. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
31. Starship Troopers by Robert A. Heinlein
32. Watership Down by Richard Adams
33. Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
34. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein
35. A Canticle for Leibowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr.
36. The Time Machine by H.G. Wells
37. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne
38. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
39. The War of the Worlds by H.G. Wells
40. The Amber Chronicles by Roger Zelazny
41. The Belgariad by David Eddings
42. The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
43. Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
44. Ringworld by Larry Niven
45. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
46. The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
47. The Once and Future King by T.H. White
48. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
49. Childhood's End by Arthur C. Clarke
50. Contact by Carl Sagan
51. The Hyperion Cantos by Dan Simmons
52. Stardust by Neil Gaiman
53. Cryptonomicon by Neal Stephenson
54. World War Z by Max Brooks
55. The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
56. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman
57. Small Gods by Terry Pratchett
58. The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, The Unbeliever by Stephen R. Donaldson
59. The Vorkosigan Saga by Lois McMaster Bujold
60. Going Postal by Terry Pratchett
61. The Mote in Gods Eye by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
62. The Sword of Truth Series by Terry Goodkind
63. The Road by Cormac McCarthy
64. Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke
65. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson
66. The Riftwar Saga by Raymond E. Feist
67. The Sword of Shannara by Terry Brooks
68. The Conan the Barbarian Series by Robert E. Howard & Mark Schultz
69. The Farseer Trilogy by Robin Hobb
70. The Time Traveler's Wife by Audrey Niffenegger
71. The Way of the Kings by Brandon Sanderson
72. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne
73. The Legend of Drizzt Series by R. A. Salvatore
74. Old Man's War by Jon Scalzi
75. The Diamond Age by Neal Stephenson
76. Rendezvous with Rama by Arthur C. Clarke
77. The Kushiel's Legacy Series by Jacqueline Carey
78. The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin
79. Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury
80. Wicked by Gregory Maguire
81. The Malazan Book of the Fallen Series by Steven Erikson
82. The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde
83. The Culture Series by Iain Banks
84. The Crystal Cave by Mary Stewart
85. Anathem by Neal Stephenson
86. The Codex Alera Series by Jim Butcher
87. The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe
88. The Thrawn Trilogy by Timothy Zahn
89. The Outlander Series by Diana Gabaldon
90. The Elric Saga by Michael Moorcock
91. The Illustrated Man by Ray Bradbury (I've read some stories from this collection)
92. Sunshine by Robin McKinley
93. A Fire Upon the Deep by Vernor Vinge
94. The Caves of Steel by Isaac Asimov
95. The Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson
96. Lucifer's Hammer by Larry Niven & Jerry Pournelle
97. Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
98. Perdido Street Station by China Mieville
99. The Xanath Series by Piers Anthony
100. The Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Three Mini Reviews - vacation books

August has been a travel month in my house.  We drove 7 hours to North Carolina to take Kiddo to camp then 7 hours back home the next day.  At the end of camp we flew to North Carolina, drove an hour to pick up Kiddo, drove an hour back to the airport, then flew to Disney World in Florida. After a week we flew home again.  Needless to say, all that travel time gave me lots of opportunities to listen to audio books and to read.  Here are some quick thoughts on a few of those books.

Forever (Wolves of Mercy Falls, Book 3)Forever, by Maggie Stiefvater (400 pages) - This is the final book in the Wolves of Mercy Falls series. I mentioned in my reviews of book one and book two that although I really like the author's twist on werewolf mythology I'm not really in love with the story itself; that continued for me in book three. The relationship between Grace and Sam just doesn't move me. Isabel is still my favorite character (she's nothing like me but I feel like I really understand her) and Cole yet again adds some excitement and intensity to the story. And even though I didn't love it I still felt like it was a good end to the series, so I'm not disappointed in it either.

Drums of Autumn (Outlander)Drums of Autumn, by Diana Gabaldon (44.75 hours, narrated by Davina Porter) - This is book four in the Outlander series and continues the story of Jamie and Claire, but with a twist. I'm looking forward to continuing the series soon. *** MINOR SPOILER ALERT FOR PREVIOUS BOOKS IN THE SERIES *** I didn't think I'd like the story as much once it moved to pre-revolution America but I actually really enjoyed the setting and the new characters. I also liked the way Briana's and Roger's relationship developed - I figured they'd end up in the past somehow but I wasn't sure how or why. I'm definitely excited to see what happens next for all of them! (And as a side note, much of the story takes place in the Cape Fear River area so imagine my delight as we drove through North Carolina and saw signs for the Cape Fear River!)

Other KingdomsOther Kingdoms, by Richard Matheson (8.5 hours, narrated by Bronson Pinchot)- Hubby and I needed a book to listen to on one of our drives without Kiddo and this was available for download from our library. It is the story of a young American man named Alex who survives WWI and goes to live in a small village in England. While there he discovers that the forest in inhabited by The Little People, and that they may not be as friendly as he has always heard. We wanted to listen to the book because it is by the same guy who wrote I AM LEGEND, and we figured that was a good enough recommendation. Sadly it was not. The first half of the book was great! The story is told by Alex at age 82. He's spent his life writing cheesy horror stories and now he wants to share the truth about what happened to him at age 18 in England. The writing is fun to read - Alex continually comments on his sentence structure or word choice, critiquing himself as if he were editing one of his horror tales. This made the storytelling aspect of the book very entertaining.  Unfortunately the plot became rather predictable and boring and really didn't keep our attention once we hit the midway point. I finished it on my own once we got back home and told Hubby he didn't miss much. (Oh, one quick note about the narrator. He did a very convincing New York accent - appropriate for Alex - but I wasn't a huge fan; that accent drove me a bit batty! I don't know why, since my mother and lots of relatives talk that way, but for some reason it really got to me.)

I've read a few more books but they were sent to me for review and I always give review books their own posts. They should be coming up in a few days, if I can make time to write them!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

BEA (mini) Book Review: Lebensborn

by Jo Ann Bender
364 pages

LebensbornWhile wandering the aisles at BEA back in May I came across author Jo Ann Bender signing copies of her WWII fiction novel and had to get a copy for myself. The book sounded familiar to me, and I thought maybe I'd read a review of it on someone's blog. And of course I'm intrigued by anything set in this time period.

Antoinette is the main character in this story. She is a young French girl living in a town which has just been occupied by the Nazis. The officers move into her house (her father is the mayor) and one of them takes an interest in Antoinette. Although he doesn't rape her, he does coerce her into his bed, and eventually she becomes pregnant. At this point the officer ships her to a Lebensborn, a home for women bearing racially pure children for the Fuhrer. And now Antoinette's adventures are just beginning!

The book got off to a great start. I enjoyed getting to know the characters and I felt like the story was very believable. It was a bit wordy and overly descriptive, but I could ignore that as long since the story was moving along at a nice pace.  About halfway through the plot began to get more and more far-fetched. Around this time those excessive descriptions began to really annoy me. Add in a few plot holes and, in the end, I have to say that I was rather disappointed. It's a shame, because this book had a lot of potential.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

BEA Book Review: Waltzing With The Enemy

by Rasia Kliot and Helen Mitsios
287 pages

Waltzing With the Enemy: A Mother and Daughter Confront the Aftermath of the HolocaustDuring the panel I moderated at BEA I mentioned that I enjoy non-fiction. Immediately after the panel author Helen Mitsios introduced herself, thrilled to finally find a non-fiction fan (she hadn't had much success connecting with the right bloggers at that point). When she told me about the book she'd written with her mother, I knew I wanted to read it.

In the first part of the book Helen's mom, Rasia, explains how she used her wits and some luck to survive the Holocaust.  In the second part of the book Helen describes her own life and how her Rasia's experiences affected her daughter. Helen didn't find out she was Jewish until she was almost a teenager. Combined with other issues in her family, this fact had a huge impact on how Helen viewed herself, which she shares in her portion of the book.

Other than one minor thing which I'll discuss next, I really enjoyed this book. Rasia's experiences and the way she survived are simply amazing and would make for fascinating reading on their own. The fact that her experience affected her daughter's life should be obvious, but I have never read anything about the children of survivors and how they deal with their own (and their parents') issues. Helen's part of the book was well-written and (for the most part) interesting.

And here we come to the one thing I didn't like about the book. A huge part of Helen's story is how she came to grips with her own issues. That's great, because I was very interested in it. However I felt that she spent too much time focusing on which psychologist said what in his latest book and which researcher has a new theory.  This section dragged for me and I feel it could have been cut down considerably.

Other than that one issue though, I really enjoyed this book. I'm so glad Helen came up and introduced herself!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

BEA (mini) Book Review: Something Inside of Me

by Chitoka Webb
200 pages

Something Inside of Me: How to Hang On To Heaven When You're Going Through HellI met Chitoka while I was at BEA in New York back in May and I really enjoyed the time I spent chatting with her. She is a lovely conversationalist and it was for that reason that I decided to read her book, even though it isn't something I'd normally pick up.

This book is a short memoir that seeks to inspire readers to fight through hard times.  Chitoka overcame a variety of obstacles to become a successful business woman and she relied on "something inside of her" to get her there.

Although I enjoyed learning more about Chitoka's life I can't say that I loved the book. It wasn't bad but it wasn't great either. I think perhaps I'd have enjoyed it more if it had been shortened and included in a collection with other inspiring true stories.
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