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Audiobook Failure: Help, please!

October 19, 2011

Book-lovers: Help!

I have gone through six or seven audiobooks in the past three weeks, and haven’t been able to get into any of them. Either the recording quality is horrible, or the reader is really bad, or the book just doesn’t hold my interest.

Any favorites? Must-listens? I’m currently considering listening to the entire Harry Potter series, mostly because I’ve heard good things about the audio version, and I’ve never re-read the entire series (although I’ve re-read the first and second book a few times for whatever reason; they must have been laying around or something). Also because that would keep me occupied on the road for awhile; seven large novels in a row. Woohoo!

But then what? I’m definitely not opposed to a re-read if I’ve read it before. YA or even children’s novels would be okay.

My library has a certain number out on display but I’m kind of going through them, and am at the point where I need to request them but don’t know what to request.

Also, my local library is heavy on the thrillers. That would be okay too, but I don’t know who’s good. I should ask Terri this, she likes thrillers.

Also: other avenues for audio? I like books — I’ve done the podcast thing and that’s fun sometimes, but I really like books.

Open to suggestions. Please!

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Book: Mockingjay

October 18, 2011
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I admit it; I cried.

I actually sobbed half my drive home.

Actually, I did that twice, two separate listening episodes.

But I can’t tell you why, without revealing spoilers. Still, for those in the know, the first was when that one character was mercilessly, surprisingly stolen away from us in that mad escape. The second was the one towards the end, the one that nearly stole the life out of Katniss, the flame blown out.

This was so much better than Catching Fire. Almost immediately better. Whereas in Catching Fire I was annoyed half the time by what was happening in the book, and had a hard time separating my distaste of the narrator (the reader) from the actual story — this time, I was so swept up in what was happening, I almost totally forgot that it was being horribly butchered by a terrible reader. Almost. But seriously, this reader is so bad, it would take a really freaking good book to make me overlook the terrible narration, so you know the story was good.

If you haven’t decided to read these books yet, hop to it, people! So good. Well, the first and the third, but of course you have to read the second one to get to the third.

I’ve read some accounts that some people were disappointed by the somewhat bleak ending of Mockingjay. I actually found it refreshing in its bleakness — if you want happy endings, go read Twilight (is that really a happy ending? I guess we’re supposed to think so). The ending to The Hunger Games series sounds exactly like what would happen if you were put through everything Katniss had been through. You can’t exactly bounce back from that — you survive, you find pockets of happiness, but you are never the same, and you know the horrors that the world, and humankind, are capable of. You go on, you move on, but you don’t bounce back, unless you are severely unbalanced.

I found the last half the book to be unstoppable. I couldn’t stop thinking about it. The losses were catastrophic, the emotional toll unthinkable. Still, it was a fantastic action book and even though I am usually not a fan of dystopia, I really, really enjoyed it. People also talk about the love triangle — in this book it’s almost an afterthought. First and foremost is the war, Katniss’ role in the war, and all the accompanying horrors of war. She does end up with one of her men, but it’s almost by default. Still, it felt right to me.

I do feel like Peeta got cheated in this book — poor Peeta! At least he starts to recover towards the end, unlike Katniss, who starts to unravel.

I could go on and on about the reality-TV parallels, the War-Is-Bad theme, the love triangle, blah blah blah, but you can get all that on other blogs who’ve done more extensive reviews of this series. There’s even a collection of essays about the book. So I’ll just leave it with this: emotionally wrenching, super-duper fast-paced, shocking and merciless — a much better ending than I was led to believe by the ending of Catching Fire. Not exactly happy, but satisfying and real. I felt devastated by the end of the book, which usually means the book evoked an emotional response from me, which means, happy or not, the book was successful.

I have to admit: I hope the movies are really good.

Surfacing (briefly)

October 14, 2011

Whew. Work has been so busy for the past couple of weeks. Working-late-and-weekends kind of busy, which is (thankfully) rare for my job. It went from being pretty miserable to – yesterday – a happy triumph as finally all the pieces came together and it went from being really, really hard to really, really fun. I need to remember this for next time. Which will probably be… oh, next week.

However! A few brief reading notes and such.

I’m a few chapters into The Lantern. I’m supposed to be participating in the group read for this, but haven’t been able to do my posting (which I will try to make up for, tomorrow). So far, so good. It’s about what I expected — fairly good, lots of description, not terribly gripping. We’ll see how it goes. I am really hoping to tear through it this weekend as I have a pile of more very tempting RIP books waiting for me that I’d like to read before Halloween.

My number finally came up in the library queue for Mockingjay (audiobook) and I’m currently making up excuses to drive, to listen to it. I will be done with it by Sunday, I’m pretty sure (all those weekend errands, you know). Happily, this is better than I expected, and I’m really into it. I wasn’t so impressed by the second book, but the third is pretty great so far. I’m about halfway through.

Some recent adorableness from the new pets. Terri sends me photo updates most days, which is really fun and helps me stay sane when things are crazy busy.

Finn says, “That dang dog is on the bed again!”

Guilty as charged.

Thomas finds his own bed. He’s our “special” child.

And let’s not forget our fine feathered friends outside.

Oh! In other very important news, the bedroom paint has been selected, purchased, and the first coat is on the walls! We will be finishing it this weekend. We finally (FINALLY) went with Pratt & Lambert’s Good Earth, which looks great with our eastern light and need to have a warm, cozy-feeling room with a nice saturated color (can you tell we’ve been researching how to choose a color?). I will post pictures when it’s done. I am sure it will throw the sorry state of our bedroom furniture into harsh light, but oh well. Painting was the first step. Then we can catch up with everything else.

The winter garden has been planted. However, last night Terri says to me, “Are there supposed to be big holes dug into the garden?” Um. No. So I’m guessing the squirrels have been busy planting peanuts (and searching for other goodies in the garden). Hoping they left some seeds undisturbed. We’ll see what comes up.

And, that’s about it for now. More book posting over the weekend. And sleeping. The dog got me up at 4 am this morning. I was not pleased. Good thing she’s cute.

Book: A Red Herring Without Mustard

October 8, 2011
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Flavia de Luce never fails to charm.

In this third installation, our heroine and intrepid detective Flavia de Luce attempts to solve the near-murder of a gypsy. In doing so, she encounters a real murder, uncovers an old mystery, investigates secret religions and has a few awfully sweet moments with her curmudgeonly, long-suffering father.

As with all the other Flavia mysteries, the point isn’t so much the mystery (although it’s clever and puzzling and fun), it’s the charm of spunky Miss de Luce and her hometown of Bishop’s Lacey. Flying through the village on her bicycle, Gladys, Flavia is the perfect embodiment of a spunky, smart, but still sensitive 11-year-old girl. In fact, it’s her sensitivity underneath her smarty-pants exterior which makes me love her.

Her older sisters, Daphne and Ophelia, are absolutely horrible for her (for reasons which are really not made clear — with each book, a little bit more of the de Luce family history is revealed, and hopefully one of these days Daffy or Feely will spill and we’ll all know why they torment Flavia). Flavia gives as good as she gets, but it’s two against one and they’re bigger, stronger, and meaner. When they’ve taken a prank just a step or two too far, Flavia’s genuine hurt and shakiness made me so sad for her. She is a little girl alone in a big house filled with people who are preoccupied and too busy for her. With no mother to run to for comfort, she turns to chemistry and mystery-solving.

Also, I love that she is a chemist.

I think what struck me most in this installment was the emphasis on her relationships. She is puzzled by her sisters’ persistent nastiness towards her, and hurt by her father’s distance. In this book, she makes steps towards a closer relationship with her father, which was nice to see. I like that things are not wrapped up neatly, and no one makes big grand gestures. It’s all about the subtle changes — a kind look instead of a sharp one. A painting thoughtfully placed. An absence of a reprimand. These are the things that tell us (and Flavia) that her father understands, on some level.

I know there’s another Flavia book coming out soon (or is it out already?) but I’m going to save it for perhaps a holiday read.

Also, can I give a big THANK YOU to whoever designs these covers? The Flavia book covers are always in fabulous colors with enigmatic symbols. Perfect. b

sweet doggie

October 6, 2011
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Today is Terri’s birthday. We went to our favorite park for some bird-photography, and Chelsea came along for her first trip to this park. It had been pouring all day and then the sun came out for a few hours. So off we went!

OK, seriously. It does not get much cuter than this soft little face:

She loved running on the path. I need to run with her more. 

I think she’d also like some nature hikes.

She was in doggie heaven. We’ve been dying to bring our own dog to this park since we moved here. Finally!

We love her *so* much. This past week or two she’s been relaxing more and is settling into her real home. It’s so much fun to witness her realization that this is *home*.

Book: The Third Circle

October 5, 2011
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Oh dear.

It was supposed to be a light mystery, set in Victorian London, featuring a woman who had a paranormal talent for crystal-working (whatever that means) and a mesmerist, on the trail of a serial killer called The Midnight Monster. The fourth in a series of mysteries called The Arcane Society Mysteries (or something like that) — I figured, well, if I like it, then there’s more in the series, and that’s always a good thing. Also who can resist a series called The Arcane Society?  Perfect commute-listening for RIP, yes?

Except for one little thing.

It.

Was.

A.

ROMANCE NOVEL!!!!

Augh! I should have known. Dark and handsome mesmerists and unlucky-in-love crystal-workers thrown together by danger in Victorian London always equal cheesy romance. Duh! But I was in a hurry at the library and needed something RIP-worthy to listen to in the car, so I did not employ my own paranormal talent for sussing out cheesy romance novels, and was hoodwinked into listening to this.

To be fair, by the end of the book I was enjoying the light romance, but this was mostly due to the extraordinary vocal talents of the reader, who did an awesome job of making this very middle-of-the-road romance into something slightly more thrilling.

It wasn’t that bad, I guess. Totally bland, uninspired writing peppered with enough genuine humor (again, enhanced by the very good narrator) to keep my interest. A decent light romance that didn’t feature too many heaving bosoms or “himselfs” (although Himself did eventually come out; of course he did — he always makes an appearance in cheesy romance novels, doesn’t he? He thrusts Himself into the situation at some point; can’t help Himself. ) There was a kidnapping, a couple of murders, a few really boring legends, a totally unscary serial killer, some high society hijinks and of course the ritual losing of virginity in the conservatory.

OK, fine, Thaddeus Ware was a pretty good character, dark and brooding and powerful, as his type of Leading Man usually is. Poor Leona Hewitt, the spunky and totally-unaware-of-her-beauty heroine didn’t stand a chance against his somewhat possessive attraction to her. And once she saved him from the nightmare hallucinations, well, you knew it was destiny, right? They were linked psychically, forever. Oh, and the dog too. The dog is linked psychically as well. Mustn’t forget the dog.

Eh. It was okay. The narrator was fantastic and kept me interested. My eyes almost rolled out of their sockets at several points, and the story surrounding the romance was incredibly bad and weak (what? did the climax happen already? not the one in the conservatory… the other one. Almost missed it…), but Thaddeus and Leona were likeable and there were bits of genuine humor sprinkled throughout the book (which, again, the narrator totally capitalized on, poor narrator)

I won’t be picking up anything else by Amanda Quick anytime soon, although if I were stuck on a long journey and all I had to read was one of her Arcane Society mysteries, I guess I could get through it with a mild chuckle here and there. Not very RIP, and kind of a waste of a morning commute, but now I have better audiobooks, so onward! Currently in the CD player: Edgar Allan Poe horrors. Totally, certifiably, RIP.

 

amirite?

October 1, 2011

Adorable, right? Who wouldn’t want to cruise around on one of these? I kinda want one for myself.

I also realized that with a scooter, then we could go out for a nightly “walk and roll.” Get it? Heh.

We will probably not get one of these fancy ones yet. For one thing, they didn’t get very good reviews. But they are awfully darn cute. We will probably get one that looks like a Tonka toy, which is also acceptable. We need the kind that breaks down so you can fit it in your car. So we can walk and roll anywhere! I think Terri will need a biker cap. And a sidecar for Chelsea.

(sorry, person who took this adorable picture, I forgot to grab your photo credit)