Monday, October 31, 2011

It's Monday! Happy Halloween! 6

It's Monday is hosted by Sheila from Book Journeys.

Happy Monday everyone!

Last week I got some great Halloween reviews up.

A Discovery of Witches by Debra Harkness - Twilight for grown-ups
Ready Player One by Ernie Cline - Loved this 80's adventure!
Crossing Over by Anna Kendall - A boy talks to medieval dead
The Death Cure by James Dashner - A disappointing ending to The Maze Runner

I'm traveling this week so won't be posting nearly as much, and I'm listening to the huge 47 hour 1Q84. I'm into Hour 34, so past the halfway point! I loved this book at the beginning, but the middle sagged a bit. I'm hoping it will pick up as we near the end.

Happy Halloween! What's up with you?

Friday, October 28, 2011

Audiobook review: The Death Cure by James Dashner

The conclusion to the Maze Runner trilogy.

The Death Cure by James Dashner
Maze Runner Trilogy: 1. Maze Runner, 2. Scorch Trials
Genre: Young adult apocalyptic dystopian science fiction
Length: 8h 55m
Audio publisher: Listening Library, 2011
Read by: Mark Deakens
From: Library OverDrive

Story: They've gotten out of the maze and out of the scorch. Thomas and his friends are now at WICKED headquarters. What final trial awaits?

Thoughts: I'm a big fan of this trilogy. I was surprised by how much I liked The Maze Runner. Then The Scorch Trials stepped up with  non-stop action. For the third installment, I wanted explanations of why these trials were necessary. A lot of questions were raised in the first two books, and I eagerly anticipated the answers.

The Death Cure gave me my explanations, but I came away unsatisfied. The story behind WICKED and their trials didn't make a lot of sense to my public-health training. There are a lot of new characters and a lot of running around for a final book. Thomas' choices add to the confusion. I liked that not everything was explained, but it seems that many threads were left for Thomas to learn off-page. The last book is always the hardest since it has to tie everything together, but my expectations exceeded the reality for The Death Cure.

Reading: Mark Deakens gave a solid reading every bit as good as the last two books. I'm looking forward to hearing him read other titles.

Cover: I love the snow on this cover. Brings in feelings of bleakness and chill. Brr.

Final thoughts: I was a little disappointed by this final installment to the Maze Runner Trilogy. My vote is for Scorch Trials as the best book of the three.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

Jenn is finishing up Mx3 over at her bookshelves and RIP VI is still going strong at Stainless Steel Droppings. Jen hosts Sound Bytes every Friday at Devourer of Books.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Audiobook Review: Crossing Over by Anna Kendall

If you could talk to dead people, what would you ask?

Crossing Over
Author: Anna Kendall
Series: First book in Souvline Moor series
Genre: YA historical paranormal
Length: 9h 34m
Read by: Simon Vance
Audio publisher: Blackstone Audio, 2010
From: Library

Story: Roger can talk to the dead. He doesn't talk to ghosts. He goes to the land of the Dead and talks to them there. But Roger has to be careful. If anyone finds out about his talent, they'll think he's a witch, and witches are burned in the land of the Living.

Thoughts: There are several striking things about this book. First, the land of the Dead is great. It's huge and constantly changing. Roger has been crossing over since he was little and is completely unfazed by it. The inhabitants follow certain rules that Roger figured out a while ago, but I wonder how accurate he is. I would have liked Roger to use some trial and error during his trips, explore a little, and try new things. Have fun with his superpower! Instead, Roger treats his crosses like a dreary job.

Roger is not a hero. He admits to being a coward, but he's only afraid of the living. He's completely self-centered and self-absorbed. This is understandable since he's been abused and pretty much on his own, but he has no empathy. Roger is the only person he knows who can go to the land of the Dead and return at will, but he has no curiosity about why this is or desire to find anyone with similar abilities. He crosses to get information to further his aims, but he has no desire to learn about the people who are there or to help them in any way, even when his actions have unexpected consequences. He doesn't care much about the living, either, except for the targets of his obsessions.

I liked the theme of misinformation that runs through the book. Roger is constantly lying to people and they are lying to him. Most of the time, Roger doesn't care that they're lying. He doesn't try to figure out the truth. He just wants to survive. I like that a lot of things are never explained. People just say things and we never find out if it's the truth or not.

Although Roger's gift is the ability to cross over, he doesn't do it very often. The majority of the book follows Roger as he survives his harsh world of an abusive uncle, scarce food, and constant fear.

The tone of Crossing Over reminds me of the First Law Trilogy by Joe Abercrombie. In both series I want to be sympathetic to the protagonists but they keep doing unsympathetic things. Both series left me with a feeling of unease, that something's wrong. When I was enjoying myself, I felt like I shouldn't be.This feeling continues until the end of the First Law Trilogy, and I wonder if the Crossing Over Trilogy will have some kind of twist in the third book that will explain and justify this feeling.

This is the first book in a planned series, but I couldn't find anything about the rest of the books. Crossing Over does a good job standing alone. It does seem more on the adult side of YA, with a lot of discussion of sex and disturbing violence. Update - Simon Vance was kind enough to let me know the second book in the Souvline Series, Dark Mist Rising is available now on Audible. Thanks, Simon!

Reading: Simon Vance can do no wrong. He was great reading this book. I especially liked all of the different accents and the different voices for the women.

Final thoughts: In the end, I liked Crossing Over. It's for people who want a little harder-edged YA fantasy, but don't mind long stretches of daily court life and intrigue.

Grade: 4 out of 5

This will be one of my last posts for MX3 from Jenn's Bookshelves and RIP VI from Stainless Steel Droppings. Sad

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Audiobook Review: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

What a great book! Action, adventure, romance. With lots and lots of of I ♥ the 80's: Revenge of the geek.

Ready Player One
Author: Ernest Cline
Genre: Dystopian adventure SF
Length: 15h 46m
Read by: Wil Wheaton
Audio publisher: Random House Audio, 2011
From: Library OverDrive

Story: The billionaire computer programmer James Halliday dies, and his fortune will go to the person who can find a secret hidden in his virtual reality universe, OASIS. Everyone is on the lookout. Wade has spent the past five years learning everything he can about 80's books, movies, and video games in an effort to uncover a clue to the treasure. He's dedicated. And the 80's are better than his life now.

My thoughts: I grew up in the 80's. I had a TRS-80 Color Computer II, played Zork, and listened to Duran Duran. I even played Dungeons and Dragons. So this book was written for me. The question is, will anyone who didn't grow up in the 80's get anything out of this book? I don't know. Some of the references have withstood time: Star Wars, Indiana Jones. Most haven't. That's what makes them fun. I didn't get the majority of the music or early video game references, and that didn't damper my enjoyment of the story. The most obscure were explained for us newbies without being pedantic. And it's not all 80's. There are Firefly and Matrix shout-outs along with Lord of the Rings.

The book follows Wade, and I loved learning about his life beyond the 80's. The story unfolds like a John Hughes movie with details of the world he lives in, both the real world and in OASIS, uncovered as Wade goes about his daily tasks evading bullies and going to school. The quest to find the treasure steamrolls in and action scenes fill in the gaps. There's even a love interest for variety. Yes, the plot hits each of the standard movie beats, but it moves along fast and I was enjoying it too much to care.

I liked the fact that NOT everyone in Wade's world is crazy about the 80's. Only a small group of people have chosen to dedicate their life to this decade. These people are driven to solve the clues and find the treasure using 80's trivia. I'm so sorry for them. To watch any of these 80's shows now would be torture. They are only good in retrospect.

Reading: I'm apprehensive of celebrity readers. I don't want the person reading to distract from the story, so I was worried when I found out Wil Wheaton read Ready Player One. As soon as the book started, my fears were put to rest. Wil Wheaton's energy and enthusiasm for the material come through. Some of the characters sound a little too similar, especially Wade and H, but since the secondary characters don't say much, it wasn't too a big deal.

Minor pointsFood: The people in Wade's world don't appear to eat meat. It's too expensive and resource-intensive. Forced vegetarianism. It's coming.
Cover: This book has one of the worst covers I've ever seen. It took me several months to pick the book up because the cover is so bad.
Spoiler nit: ****I can't believe that A only had that blemish! I was expecting her to have no legs or be a dwarf or something. I guess she didn't watch any 90's infomercials. Hasn't she heard of Bare Escentuals?

Final thoughts: If you ♥ 80's geekiness, read this book. If you don' can still read this book, and we'll talk.

Grade: 5 out of 5

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Audiobook Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Intelligent heroine, library intrigue and vampires. Why is this not my favorite book?

A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
Series: All Souls Trilogy
Genre: Paranormal romance
Length: 24h 02m
Audio Publisher: Penguin Audio, 2011
Read by: Jennifer Ikeda
From: Audible

Story: Diana Bishop is a professor on sabbatical at Oxford researching alchemical texts. During her study, she comes across Ashmole 782. She returns it to the stacks, but soon finds every witch, demon and vampire in England wants to get their hands on that manuscript, especially Matthew Clairmont, a vampire geneticist who has been looking for the Ashmole for 150 years. He needs Diana to get it.

Thoughts: Intelligent heroine, library intrigue, and vampires are exactly what I want in a book. I love the thought of vampires working in research labs. They're perfect for it! The late-night hours, antisocial behavior, and decade-long projects fit right in with immortal night owls. Thought somehow the laboratorians I know are not as amazingly handsome or snappily dressed as the ones in A Discovery of Witches. It seems everyone in this book is perfect, especially the heroine Diana. She has a photographic memory, teaches at Yale, and is a witch. Only she doesn't use her witch powers because that would somehow be cheating on her massive intellect.

This is the first book in a series, so after setting up the search for Ashmole 782, the book completely abandons that plot to concentrate on the vampire romance. I don't care for paternalistic love interests, and it was too bad Diana stopped being an intelligent professional as soon as a hot guy entered the room. It was also weird how much the hot guy loves yoga.

Reading: I hadn't listened to Jennifer Ikeda before, but did a great job on the reading. She puts in just the right amount of elitism into her reading of Diana, and I really liked her elitist male voices, too.

Final thoughts: A Discovery of Witches is less Da Vinci Code and more Twilight: The College Years, but there are indications the next book will be Outlander with vampires.

Grade: 3 out of 5

The Oddiophile has a fantastic flow chart to help you decide if you should read Discovery of Witches. I wish I had seen it before I started!

Murder, monsters and mayhem is the darling of the fabulous Jenn of Jenn's Bookshelves while Carl of Stainless Steel Droppings is the mastermind behind RIP VI.

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? 5

Thanks to Sheila from Book Journey for It's Monday!

I read-a-long with the 24 Hour Read-A-Thon yesterday. It was so much fun! I cheered on many bloggers and found some great new blogs. I have to thank the organizers again, especially the head cheerleaders who were so organized. Thanks!

Last week I put up reviews
Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol - So much fun! My perfect graphic novel.
I Am Legend audiobook by Robert Matheson - Such a great story. Much better than the movie.

This week I'm finishing up reviews for

Discovery of Witches by Debrah Harkness
Ready Player One by Earnest Cline

and for the Read a Thon I read

The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness
The Amulet 2 graphic novel by Kazu Kibuishi

How was your week?

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Read-a-thon updates

Here are my final read-a-thon totals.
Started and finished: 2 books (750 pages) and 2 graphic novels (361p)
Sanctuary by Meg Cabot, The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness, Amulet #2, Runaways #4
Finished (started earlier) 1 book (114p)
Ghostgirl #2
Started (didn't finish) 1 book (50p), 1 graphic novel (32p)
The Haunting of Hill House, Mr Punch
Listened to 5 short stories and 1 audiobook disk
Robert Matheson, Crossing Over

Total pages read: 1307!

I am very impressed with myself. Good showing. I'm especially glad to have read The Ask and the Answer. That was one that I tried in audio, and that didn't work for me, but I wasn't finding the time to read it in paper version.

Thanks to all the organizers and everyone who stopped by! Sleep well!

End of the read-a-thon!  Whew, this last hour was killer. I listened to my audiobook Crossing Over. I had a great time reading! I'm so glad I participated.

I finished 4 books, 5 short stories, read tons of pages and had fun. Can't wait until spring!

6:00 am Only 2 hours left! I just finished Runaways #4: True Believers by Brian K Vaughan. I think that's 4 books down! What to read next? I think I have to take the audiobook out for another walk. Keep strong!

5:00 Time flies! Still going strong. I'm reading Runaways #4 and loving it. Had a great yoga workout for the challenge. I tried to doctor some zombie bookcovers, but photoshop is not my strong suit.

3:00 Beautiful outside. So many stars! Fresh air woke me up and time to cheer! Let's see who's still up.

2:30 Finally finished The Ask and the Answer. A little too much torture for me, so I'm glad I'm done. Looks like the third book is about war. I always like the first books in these series the best. They have small, personal challenges instead of world and universe-wide issues to solve. Oh well.

Time for a walk to clear my head and then on to the graphic novels. Onward!

1:00 Another 100 pages down. Oh no, I'm starting to get tired. Not a good sign. Two more hours and I should be done with this book. Then on to some cheering!

Midnight! Time to open the wine! Another 100 pages down on The Ask and the Answer. I'm waiting for it to move on to the next part of the story. I may need to do another walkabout after 1 to get some of the kinks out.

11:00 Got in 100 more pages of TAATA. What's going to happen next?!?

I also looked up some vocab words that I ran across this morning:
miscegenation (from 1-800-WHERE-R-YOU) = interracial marriage
atavistic (from The Haunting of Hill House) = evolutionary throwback

9:30 update: Mr. PK Dick wasn't doing it for me, so I switched to The Ask and the Answer by Patrick Ness, and it's cruising. Down 71 pages. I'd tried to listen to this one before, but that did not go well. This kind of YA can be read so much faster than it can be listened to, and it kind of dragged in audio. I really liked the first one in audio. But there are so many thoughts and asides that it's easier to understand written down. I'm off to read more!

Read-a-thon midway quiz

Made it through 13 hours of reading, so I thought I'd do the mid-way quiz:

Mid-Even Survey

1. What are you reading right now?  The Ask and the Answer
2. How many books have you read so far? 3 + 5 short stories
3. What book are yo most looking forward to? Mr Punch Graphic Novel by Neil Gaiman
4. Did you have to make any special arrangements? Just make sure I had enough books and snacks
5. How did you deal with interruptions? I put my audiobook headphones on when I had to go outside or do the dishes. I'm loving Crossing Over read by Simon Vance
6. Read-a-thon surprises? That it's going so fast!
7. How to improve next year? Everyone's done such a great job. No improvement necessary!
8. Do differently? I ran out of my favorite tea, Throat Coat. I'll be sure to stock up next year.
9. Tired? No!
10. Tips? I really like reading graphic novels between chapter books. They're quick reads and the panels use my eye muscles differently. It's like an eye massage.

What works for you?

Friday, October 21, 2011

Ready for the 24-Hour Read-a-Thon

So, I'm ready. I have my books. I have my snacks. Now I just have to get to sleep so I can get up and read. I will be updating this post, but probably less than once an hour. I'll also be cheerleading for part, so I hope to see how some of the rest of you are doing on your blogs. Sleep well and happy reading. It's going to be fun!

Oct 22, 9am: hour 1 read 50 pages of The Haunting of Hill House. Ready for hour 2!

10am: Read 114 pages of Ghostgirl: Homecoming by Tonya Hurley. I had started that one before, so it's done! Hour 2 was great. Now that's it warmed up a bit, I'm going to move over to the sun porch where it's quieter. I'm also thinking a snack is in order. On to hour 3!

11am: Read 50 pages of Meg Cabot's 1-800-WHERE-R-You book Sanctuary. I think this is book 3 in the series. I'm reading them out of order. Maybe book 4. Anyway, it's really good and easy to read. This hour I'm cheerleading for Team Cocoa Puffs. Go puffs! See you on the other side.

12:45: I was cheering for the past 1 1/2 hours. Yeah team Cocoa Puffs! People are getting through a lot of good books. Now for some lunch and a walk outside. With audiobook, of course.

3:00 Wow, time flies. Since the last post I got 50 more pages into Sanctuary and finished 4 Richard Matheson short stories on audio: "Buried Talents," "The Near Departed," "Prey," "Witch War," and "Dance of the Dead." They were all really bad. I think I have to switch my audio selection. Now starts the serious reading.

4:45 Finished one book! Sanctuary by Meg Cabot. I got through 131 pages in that stretch. Now I need some aspirin for my headache. i think I'm going to go for another walk before the sun sets and then read some graphic novels. Now on my player: Crossing Over by Anna Kendall aka Nancy Dress. Read by Simon Vance. Simon will take all my pains away. Stay focused!

7:30 Finished another book! The graphic novel Amulet: Book 2 by Kazu Kibuishi. I liked this one better than the first in the series. There are a lot of good Star Wars references. I also wanted to add this photo of the graphic novels I have around and may or may not finish in the next 12 hours. Next up: some Philip K Dick short stories, Minority Report and Other Classics. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to cheer me on! It really is inspiring.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Audiobook Review: I Am Legend by Richard Matheson

I'm on a monster kick and had heard I Am Legend (1954) by Richard Matheson has zombies and/or vampires. Since it's almost Halloween, that's what I want!

Genre: Post-apocalyptic horror
Length: 5h 19m
Audio publisher: Blackstone Audio (2007)
Read by: Robertson Dean
From: Local library OverDrive
Note: The version I listened to was I Am Legend and Other Stories (10h 52m)

Story: Robert Neville has been living alone in his Los Angeles area home for three years. He gets up every day at 5:30. He's inside everyday by dark. He's got plenty of food and wine. What he doesn't have is companionship, because he's the last man on earth.

Thoughts: What a fabulous story. I loved the deliberate way Neville went about his daily errands and how he used the scientific method to learn what he need to know. If I was the last person on earth, I would spend my time in the library, too. What I wouldn't do is use an alarm to wake up at 5:30 am. It's the end of the world, sleep in! Descriptions of I Am Legend say it has vampires. I can see where that comes from, but when vampires travel in packs and are as slow-moving as these ones, they're more like zombies. I guess it's all a matter of food source: blood vs brains. The book takes place in 1976, and I didn't realize when I was listening that it was written in 1954! I thought it was written in the 1970's and was wondering why some of the technology was a little off. A manual choke in a car, for example. Overall an excellent story about what it means to be human and what makes life worth living.

Reading: Robertson Dean has acted in a lot of movies and tv shows, but this is the first time I've listened to him in an audiobook. I loved his deep voice. His slow, methodical reading was perfect for Robert Neville. His female voices weren't as melodious, so its lucky the female characters don't say much.

Film: After I listened to I Am Legend, I had to watch the 2007 film with Will Smith to see what was altered. The book and film are not at all the same. They differ in every detail. It was fun to see the different takes on the same story, and I like the parts they added to the movie. I found the movie to be a little too simplistic and upbeat, so I prefer the book.

Final thoughts: A must-listen cannon classic for both vampire and zombie aficionados.

Grade: 5 out of 5

This post is a part of Murder, Monsters, and Mayhem by Jenn's Bookshelves and RIP VI by Stainless Steel Droppings.

Winners in the Literary Blog Hop

Thanks to everyone who stopped by on Leeswamees' Literary Blog Hop! I had a great time and met some cool new blogs.

I separated all of the entrants by their choice of book, and through the magic of, we have some winners!

The winner of The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters is: Mia

The winner of The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon is: Cat

This week I was given a second copy of The Shadow of the Wind, so I'm going to put that into the giveaway, too.

The winner of the second copy of The Shadow of the Wind is: Isabella F.

Congratulations to all the winners! I will be sending you an e-mail notification. Please respond with your address by this Saturday.

Thanks again to everyone who participated. The Blog Hop was a great success!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Graphic novel review: Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol

Anya's Ghost by Vera Brosgol is creepy fun!

Genre: YA Paranormal
Publisher: First Second, 2011
From: Local Library

Story: Anya is a typical highschooler who doesn't feel like she fits in. Her parents are immigrants from Russia, her brother is weirdly happy, and the guy she likes is seeing someone else. It's enough to make her skip school and hang out under the tracks. On her way Anya falls into a well and discovers a skeleton with a ghost attached. Anya wants to solve the ghost's murder, but things keep getting in the way. Here's a 17-page preview from First Second.

My take: I am a sucker for ghost stories and wish I had a ghost friend of my own. Anya's Ghost is a great ghost story. It's engaging, quirky, and even a little scary. I read it in one sitting and was sad when it was over.

Anya wouldn't be a typical American teenager if she wasn't insecure, and she wants to be a typical American. Her complaining gets a little annoying at times, but things pick up when she decides to takes action. I loved how the secondary characters were all well-defined. Anya's friend, the guy she likes, his girlfriend, all have their own unique characteristics. Anya's Russian family is fabulous. I'd love to read the story of Anya's brother. He seems like he gets up to some interesting activities.

Artwork: I am a fan of black, white, and grey comics and this one is an excellent use of the medium. The simple lines and and clean panels let the story jump out. I especially liked the dialogue-free panels. They convey so much better than words what's going through Anya's head.

Final thoughts: Anya's Ghost is a scary-fun teen ghost story perfect for Halloween!

Grade: 5 out of 5

This review is part of Murder, Monsters and Mayhem sponsored by Jenn's Bookshelves and RIP sponsored by Stainless Steel Droppings.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Audiobook review: The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

When I picked up The Shadow of the Wind (2001) by Carlos Ruiz Zafon, all I knew was Stephen King called it "one gorgeous read." Stephen and I will have to agree to disagree.

Genre: Historical gothic romance with magical realism
Length: 18h 10m
Audio publisher: Penguin Audiobooks, 2004
Read by: Jonathan Davis
From: Local library

Story: 10-year-old Daniel is taken by his father to see the Cemetery of Forgotten Books, a huge sanctuary of lost and under-read titles. Daniel must choose one book to adopt and make sure it will never disappear. Daniel chooses The Shadow of the Wind. The book ensnares him and sends him on a quest to learn more about the author.

Review: I loved the Cemetery of Forgotten Books. I would have liked to spend the whole story there exploring and getting to know its patrons and employees. Unfortunately, the book quickly leaves the Cemetery to join Daniel as he grows up and peruses lead after lead following the author of The Shadow of the Wind.

The characters in this book are marvelous. The blind literature expert. The book buyer who dresses like Lord Byron. The homeless man who may or may not be a spy. However, with all these characters, several plots  in the present and the past, and every cliche ever invented, the book was too much for me. I just couldn't care as much as Daniel about The Shadow of the Wind, its author, or the 20 or so other people whose lives the book ruined.

I did like how women in this book are assessed by how literate they are, instead of by their wealth or beauty (or in addition to their wealth and beauty).

Reading and production: Jonathan Davis does an excellent job. He speaks fluent Spanish, so puts the correct accents in all the right places. It's hard when a book takes place in a non-English speaking country. Should the reader give everyone Spanish accents? Only some people? I'm of the mind that no one should have an accent unless there's some other reason for it. I found it strange that Daniel's dad had such a heavy accent while Daniel had none.

I was distressed by the music that was overlayed on the reading. This happened several times and was always distracting. The music was loud, jarring, and prevented me from hearing what was being read.

Final thoughts: Although I enjoyed the writing and some of the elements of The Shadow of the Wind, the book as a whole didn't work for me. It was too jam-packed and rambling a story for me to relate.

Grade: 3 out of 5

Other bloggers really enjoyed The Shadow of the Wind.
You've Gotta Read This raves about it.
Outlandish Dreaming highly recommends it.
Literate Housewife enjoyed it as well.

Murder, Monsters and Mayhem is sponsored by Jenn at Jenn's Bookshelves. RIP is run by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

It's Monday, What are You Reading? - 4

Thanks to Sheila from Book Journey for hosting It's Monday!

This week I started my first Blog Hop with Leeswammes' Literary Giveaway. I'm giving away copies of The Shadow of the Wind and The Little StrangerCheck out my post to enter and find links to other participating bloggers on the hop.

I've been reading and listening to a lot of scary stories for October.
The Passage Audio by Justin Cronin
The Little Stranger Audio by Sarah Waters
The Walking Dead Graphic Novel by Robert Kirkman
I also talked about my 5 Favorite Monsters.

Up this week is Anya's Ghost, I Am Legend, A Discovery of Witches, and I will finish Haunting of Hill House eventually.

What are you reading?

5 Best -- Monsters

Cassandra at Indie Reader Houston has a great weekly meme of 5 Best Books. This week's theme -- Monsters and Freaks.

I find that most monsters are just misunderstood and only want to belong. Here are some that come to mind.

5. The Beast Seen in many romance books. Rose Daughter by Robin McKinley
4. The Phantom Called "the Stranger" in The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon.
3. Zombie Vampires Vampires that travel in packs and don't try to fit in with society, but instead overrun it. They come in fast (The Passage) or slow varieties like in I Am Legend by Richard Matheson.
2. The Kraken Who isn't scared of immensely huge sea creatures? Kraken by China Mieville
1. The Plague Huge monsters may bump in the night, but it's the little ones that scare me. For Heaven's sake, wash your hands! Doomsday Book by Connie Willis

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Graphic novel review: The Walking Dead issues 1-18

The Walking Dead Season 2 starts Sunday on AMC!

To prepare, I wanted to read the source material. I had to see how far the show veered away from its origins and get some hints on where it might go from here.

Writer: Robert Kirkman
Penciler, inker: Tony Moore, Charlie Adlard
Grey tones: Tony Moore, Cliff Rathburn
Cover: Charlie Adlard, Cliff Rathburn
Genre: Post-apocalyptic horror
Publisher: Image Comics
From: Local library
Reviewing: Issues 1-18; Chapters 1-3

Recap: Officer Rick Grimes wakes up from a coma to an eerie silence. Instead of doctors and nurses, the hospital is full of flesh-eating zombies. Rick sets off to find his wife and son in this dangerous, post-apocalyptic world.

Review: I loved the first season of The Walking Dead. It started off with an amazing pilot, and although it went down in excitement a bit after that, any TV show with zombies ranks pretty high on my list. However, I didn't know what to expect from the comic.

The Walking Dead comic, of course, is packed with zombies and zombie killings, but it focuses on the humans who are left and their relationships as they try to survive. The characters understandably get on each other's nerves. In the show, they depiction of these annoyances and personality conflicts make the characters seem petty. In the comic they come off as real people. It's not about the zombies. I love how much of the story is told with images instead of words. It sets an atmosphere of loss and desperation. No one expects to live long, but somehow they have hope that things will get better.

Artwork: I am relatively new to graphic novels and tend to gravitate towards ones with cartoonish drawings and lots of white space. The Walking Dead is the opposite of that. There is so much ink that many of the panels look black. For this comic, it works. It's amazing how realistic and elaborate the drawings are. There's a lot of detail, especially on the zombies. The color scheme is black and white with grey shading, and the shadows really add to the story. It's quite noir.

For so few people left in the world, this story has a lot of characters. I don't know why, but all the white guys look alike to me, especially when everyone has black hair. It was especially hard to keep the men straight after they changed their clothes or grew beards. Luckily, there are a lot of different ages and ethnicities among the characters, so eventually I was able to keep track of who's who, even if I couldn't remember their names. People keep dying off, and that makes it easier.

TV Show: Season 1 of The Walking Dead roughly covers issues 1-6 of the comic. The comic and the show started off the same, but the show adds some excellent details. There is more of a government presence, both in the initial phases of the outbreak and with the CDC. I haven't run across the character of Merle in the comic, and other significant plot points were changed. So far, I like the changes that were made in the show. The world seems to have more depth, and there's a concrete element of hope. In the comic the characters are hopeful, but it's hard to see why.

CompilationsThe Walking Dead first came out as a monthly comic in 2003. So far, there are 89 issues. The comics have been compiled into several sets: The Walking Dead volumes each have 6 issues per volume, The Walking Dead books contain 12 issues each, and the 1,000 page Walking Dead Compendium One covers issues 1-48.

The Compendium One was a little hard to read because it doesn't have any issue breaks or page numbers. There are chapter breaks every 6 issues, but this is a large chunk to get through in one sitting.

Final thoughts: I'm glad I took a look at The Walking Dead comic before starting season 2 of the TV show. The plots of the show and comic are different, but the show may re-visit the comic for future story lines. Lets hope so, since the stories in the comic are really compelling. I know I couldn't have lasted as long as these survivors have.

Note: I've only gotten through the first half of the Compendium. Can't want to see what happens next!

Murder, Monsters and Mayhem is sponsored by Jenn's Bookshelves. RIP is sponsored by Stainless Steel Droppings.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Literary Blog Hop Giveaway

Welcome to Nerfreader! Here I talk about audiobooks and graphic novels, mostly science fiction, fantasy, mystery, or anything with some sort of paranormal. Even literary fiction.

Thanks to Leeswammes for hosting the October Literary Blog Hop. I've been introduced to so many cool blogs.

Two winners will get these great Halloween-themed books. They're both gently read paperbacks, and the giveaway is open worldwide.

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. I loved this book! It's creepy with an eerie house, eccentric characters, and strange happenings.

Here's a link to my review of the The Little Stranger audiobook.

Steven King said, "Several sleepless nights are guaranteed."

The Little Stranger was shortlisted for the 2009 Man Booker Prize.
I'm listening to The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafon right now. This is the English edition translated by Lucia Graves. The book started out being about books and how books influence people, but it's gone in a different direction since then. I don't know how it will end up.

Steven King said, "This is one gorgeous read."

So if Steven King liked these books, they must be good!

The paperback versions of these books will go to two lucky winners. To enter, just leave a comment with the name of the book you'd prefer, or you can enter both drawings with one comment. Be sure the comment system has your e-mail so I can contact you. You do not need to follow Nerfreader to enter, but feel free to follow if you'd like.

Thanks for stopping by! Be sure to check out the other great blogs on the hop.

  1. Leeswammes
  2. Devouring Texts
  3. The Book Whisperer
  4. Seaside Book Nook
  5. The Scarlet Letter (US only)
  6. Rikki's Teleidoscope
  7. Bibliosue
  8. Curled Up With a Good Book and a Cup of Tea
  9. The Book Diva's Reads
  10. Gaskella
  11. Lucybird's Book Blog
  12. Kim's Bookish Place
  13. The Book Garden
  14. Under My Apple Tree
  15. Helen Smith
  16. Sam Still Reading
  17. Nishita's Rants and Raves
  18. Ephemeral Digest
  19. Bookworm with a View
  20. The Parrish Lantern
  21. Dolce Bellezza
  22. Lena Sledge Blog
  23. Book Clutter
  24. I Am A Reader, Not A Writer (US only)
  25. The Blue Bookcase
  26. Book Journey (US only)
  27. The House of the Seven Tails (US only)
  28. In One Eye, Out the Other (US only)
  29. Read, Write & Live
  30. Fresh Ink Books

  1. Living, Learning, and Loving Life (US only)
  2. Bibliophile By the Sea
  3. Laurie Here Reading & Writing Reviews
  4. Amy's Book World (US only)
  5. Teadevotee
  6. Joy's Book Blog
  7. Word Crushes (US only)
  8. Thinking About Loud!
  9. Kinna Reads
  10. Sweeping Me
  11. Minding Spot (US only)
  12. Babies, Books, and Signs (US only)
  13. Lisa Beth Darling
  14. Tony's Reading List
  15. SusieBookworm (US only)
  16. Tell Me A Story
  17. Close Encounters with the Night Kind
  18. Nerfreader
  19. Mevrouw Kinderboek (Netherlands, Belgium)
  20. Boekblogger (Netherlands)
  21. In Spring it is the Dawn
  22. No Page Left Behind
  23. Elle Lit

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Audiobook Review: The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters

The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters is my ideal book: eerie house, eccentric characters, and strange happenings. It's just creepy.

Genre: Gothic
Length: 15h 54m
Audio publisher: Penguin Audiobooks, 2009
Read by: Simon Vance
From: Local library

Recap: The Ayres family have been living in Hundreds Hall for centuries, but with Mr. Ayres gone, his wife and children are having a hard time keeping the crumbling place together. When Dr. Faraday is called in for a maid hysterical with fright, is it her imagination? Or is it something a little stranger?

Review: I get goosebumps just thinking about The Little Stranger. I want to stop everything listen to it again right now. I am a huge Hitchcock fan, but to me an eerie book is better than an eerie movie. It's more subtle, the characters are better developed and the suspense is longer-lasting.

The story starts a little slow, but I feel this adds to the ambiance. The book is from the point of view of local Dr. Faraday as he meets the inhabitants of Hundreds Hall after World War II. A limited number of characters allow us to experience them as people, each with their strengths and foibles. No one is spared from Dr. Faraday's frank assessments, and the doctor has some foibles himself.

A large dose of historical fiction provides details on the English countryside, Dr. Faraday's work as a country doctor, and the minute of life in Hundreds. These are all shown very naturally. The descriptions of day-to-day worries ground the novel and made it come alive. The book has a lot to say on the social changes in England after the war, both among the classes and for women, and these themes are seamlessly integrated into the story.

On top of this grounded reality are the strange happenings. Mysterious sounds, curious markings, and unexpected shadows seem to plague the hall. Is it the settling of an old house? A nasty prank? Are the inhabitants delusional? I'm sure I missed most of the clues during my first listen. That's why I have to listen  again.

Reading: When I'm looking for a new audio book, whatever Simon Vance has read recently is always an excellent choice. His smooth British accent gives me chills even when the story isn't scary. His skilled readings draw me into any novel and make me want to stay.

Final thoughts: An evocative gothic tale with themes of class distinction, suspicion and paranoia, this complex and subtle book sends slow chills that build to the end.

Grade: 5 out of 5

Companion books and movies: Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot, Suspicion directed by Alfred Hitchcock.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Audiobook Review: The Passage by Justin Cronin

I was excited to find The Passage by Justin Cronin on CD. So excited that I listened to the whole thing before I realized this is an abridged version. Then I decided the abridged version is a good thing.

Genre: Science fiction, horror
Series: The Passage, book 1
Length: 14h 30m - abridged
Audio publisher: Random House Audio, 2010
Read by: Edward Herrmann
From: Local library

Recap: A previously unknown virus is found deep in the jungle of Bolivia. The US military believes the virus can be used to improve the human condition, but strange things are happening in the top secret base where the experiments are performed. The virus seems to have unexpected side effects....

ReviewThe Passage is my kind of horror story: a virus, super secret experiments, things going horribly awry. I love dystopias but had seen the word "vampire" attached to this book, so I was skeptical. To my relief, there are no magnetic, brooding men in capes. Some may call the infected people "vampires," but the virals are inhuman, wild, and very, very scary. That's more like it.

The Passage starts by following several point-of-view characters, but the story is primarily about Amy, a lost little girl with a difficult life, as she is pulled from one place to another. Following her as she grows up, we are provided with additional information on the virus, the experiments, and the people involved. I really enjoyed the depth of detail given for each character. Not only do we learn their backgrounds, but we find out what specifically led them to their current situations. I especially appreciated that none of the characters are perfect. Everyone has their flaws. These flaws define them, and they tend to show up at the least opportune times.

With so many characters and points-of-view, the story was a little hard to follow at first. It starts slowly, but as the threads entwine, the tension builds, and things get interesting. Be warned that the book is divided into two parts. It was jarring to go over this break and have to meet a new group of people on the other side, but the story eventually smoothed itself out. It's survival of the fittest, but it's a great ride.

Abridgment: If you've been waiting to read The Passage because it's just too thick, the abridged audio version is the way to go. The story is told in 14 hours, compared to 36 unabridged. The whole story is there, just streamlined.

When The Passage first came out, I attempted to listen to the unabridged version, but I didn't get past section one. Although I was surprised to find this was an abridged version, I think the abridgment helped by moving the plot along. I'm curious about the pieces I missed, but I don't feel like I lost anything vital. I'm ready for book two coming out in summer, 2012!

Reading: Edward Herrmann does a great job reading. I know him as Lorelei's father from Gilmore Girls, but this doesn't distract from his reading. Instead, his voice lends solemnity and authority to the story.

I was surprised when the epilogue was read by a different narrator. I don't know who she is since she's not credited on the package or websites I checked. The change in voice was unexpected. I would have preferred to have one reader for the whole story.

Nums: Love the cover!

Final thoughts: The Passage lives up to the hype. It's an exciting outbreak story with a unique and chilling threat. The abridged audio version keeps the plot moving while maintaining character detail.

Grade: 4 out of 5

This book is part of October's Murder, Monsters and Mayhem by Jenn's Bookshelves and RIP at Stainless Steel Droppings.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

It's (almost) Monday, what are you reading? - 3

It's Monday is the brainchild of the incomparable Sheila from Book Journey.

This week I started Murder, Monsters and Mayhem at Jenn's Bookshelves, and RIP at Stainless Steel Droppings. I tackled a lot of nice and scary Halloween books and got some good recommendations for more.

I had a lot of fun with The Scorch Trials by James Dashner. The Death Cure, book 3, comes out on Tuesday, Oct 11!

I was surprised how much I enjoyed Johnny and the Dead by Terry Pratchett since I didn't care as much for the first book in the series, Only You Can Save Mankind.

The action-adventure dystopian novel Children of Paranoia was not for me, but I know many people who really enjoyed its fast pace and realistic setting. I even got into a little discussion with the author over on Goodreads.

October 7 was Ada Lovelace Day, in celebration of the amazing woman who developed first computer program in 1842 and died when she was only 36. I celebrated by reading steampunk webcomics.

I just finished The Passage by Justin Cronin on audio, and it wasn't until I was done that I realized I was listening to the abridged version. I feel like I got the gist of the story, though I might have to tackle the 37 hour unabridged version before book 2 comes out this summer.

I'm just past half way on The Little Stranger by Sarah Waters. Love Steven Vance's narration!

When I'm not listening, I'm reading The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson to get another take on living in the country and tackling the huge doorstop of The Walking Dead Compendium One.

Ooh, spooky! Feels like fall.

This week I changed my comments system. I think all the comments were saved, but it looks the links to your great avatar photos were lost. I hope your avatars show up in the comments today. They're so much fun.

Friday, October 7, 2011

It's Ada Lovelace Day - read Steampunk Webcomics!

In honor of Ada Lovelace, mathematician and steampunk programmer, today I am reading steampunk webcomics put out by some very smart women (and men).

Hark, A Vagrant, the fabulous and funny musings of Kate Beaton, shows the absurdity of historical and literary figures, Ada Lovelace among them. I always learn something new about history or literature when I visit her site.

Lovelace and Babbage. Ada has her own comic! Where she solves crime with Charles Babbage! By Sydney Padua, there are several episodes on her website, and a new, free ipad application with historical references.

Girl Genius, the Hugo-award winning comic from Phil and Kaja Foglio, has Agatha Heterodyne as the genius in question. She's a whiz at making clockwork robots and doesn't let the men in her life stand in her way.

Virtuoso is steampunk Africa! With a matriarchal society! and Dinosaurs! Jon Munger and Krista Brennan have a fabulous story I just discovered.

Freak Angels by Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield is more post-apocalyptic, but it has a steampunk flair and strong women characters. For mature audiences

I'm looking to add some some more great webcomics to my pile. What are your favorites?

More on webcomics:
5 Webcomics That Make Me Smile

Thanks to The Mad Hatter's Bookshelf and Book Review for the Virtuoso recommendation. He's got a lot of good paper-version graphic novels to recommend, too.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Audiobook review: Children of Paranoia by Trevor Shane

Children of Paranoia by Trevor Shane is the first book in the Children of Paranoia trilogy. I picked this one up on the recommendation of The Guilded Earlobe, but I didn't enjoy it as much as he did.

Genre: Dystopian action
Length: 12h 11m
Audio publisher: Penguin Audiobooks, 2011
Read by: Steven Boyer and Emma Galvin
From: Audible

Recap: Joseph is a soldier in a hidden guerrilla war. He lives in society but is separate from it. He doesn't know who his fellow soldiers are. He doesn't know who his enemies are. All that he knows is his enemies are evil and must die.

ReviewChildren of Paranoia a chilling tale that could be taking place right here and now. The book is non-stop action in a world a little too similar to our own that explores themes of duty, love, fanaticism, and revenge.

The story follows Joseph as he goes about his job as an assassin and keeps a record in his journal. He's good at his work but gets no enjoyment from killing. I enjoyed the meticulous planing and carrying out of his assignments, but the journal framework took away a lot of the suspense since Joseph had to survive in order to write his story.

Joseph isn't the smartest or most fearless of his colleagues, and his boredom and depression really come through. He's in his 20's, and the juxtaposition between his job as a ruthless killer and his complete lack of social skills in normal life led to some funny situations. There are obvious parallels between the war Joseph is fighting and religious wars past and present, but Joseph's cult provides none of the community, philosophy, or history supplied by actual religious organizations to inspire such fervent devotion. Instead, Joseph is paranoid with no delusions he can ever be safe.

Reading: Steven Boyer reads the majority of the book with Emma Galvin covering the prologue and epilogue. This is the first time I've listened to Steven Boyer, and I liked his reading. His voice sounds young and is well suited to express both Joseph's deliberation and his depression. Emma Galvin's direct reading style really moved along her short sections.

Final thoughts: Full of violence and action, this dystopian portrait-of-a-life didn't provide enough information on the whys of the world to keep me engaged.

Grade: 2.5 out of 5

Additional views on Children of Paranoia from The Guilded Earlobe, Jenn's Bookshelves, and more blogs.

This post is part of RIP VI hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings,
Murder, Monsters and Mayhem at Jenn's Bookshelves, and
Sound Bytes hosted by Jen at Devourer of Books.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Audio Review: Johnny and the Dead by Terry Pratchett

Johnny and the Dead (1993) by Terry Pratchett, read by Richard Mitchley, is the second book in the Johnny Maxwell series after Only You Can Save Mankind. There's a lot of trademark Pratchett humor in this Halloween book for kids.

Genre: children's paranormal
Length: 4h
Audio publisher: Random House Audio GO, 2007
From: Library OverDrive

Recap: Johnny has returned from space and can now hear ghosts. But the cemetery is to be sold for development. Can Johnny and the ghosts stop the bulldozers?

Review: I love Halloween. It's my favorite holiday, so this second book in the Johnny Maxwell series hits my sweet spot. Terry Pratchett is a comedy master, and Johnny and the Dead has some really funny parts. The writing has tightened up a bit from Only You Can Save Mankind. The plot is smoother and the laughs louder. Luckily, Johnny and the Dead can stand on its own.

Johnny and his friends are the best part of these books. They're well developed and play off of one another with expert timing. I was disappointed the female friend from the first book isn't around, but Wobbler, Yo-less and BigMac hold their own. Published in 1993, a few of the references have become dated, but in all the book holds up surprisingly well.

Reading: Richard Mitchley is an amazing reader. His enjoyment just bursts out, and he does great sound effects, especially static. My Britishism dictionary was added to with the pronunciation of the word "mall." It rimes with "pal."

Final Thoughts: A fun ghost story for younger readers.

Grade: 4 out of 5

This post is part of Murder, Monsters and Mayhem hosted by Jenn at Jenn's Bookshelf
and RIP VI hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Audio Review: Scorch Trials by James Dashner

The Scorch Trials is the second book in the Maze Runner Trilogy by James Dashner, read by Mark Deakens. I got it from my library's OverDrive as soon as I finished the book one and was not disappointed. I liked this book better than the first!

The Maze Runner Trilogy: 1) The Maze Runner
Genre: Young adult apocalyptic dystopian science fiction
Length: 10h 22m
Audio publisher: Listening Library, 2010

Recap: After the trials of The Maze Runner, Thomas and his friends are not through with their testing: they have graduated to Phase Two. New challenges are in store as the kids jump through WICKED's hoops, fighting and hoping to survive.

Review: I loved this book. It was non-stop action. As soon as one hurdle was passed, the crew was thrown right onto another. The world is so deadly, but interesting. But more than the action, I loved the mystery. Why are these kids on trial? How can they not remember anything? What are WICKED's aims? Few of the questions brought up in book one are answered and more are added to the pile as Thomas and his gang try to figure out what's going on and what they're going to do about it.

A lot of the book takes place in Thomas' head as he remembers more of his past and tries to make sense of what they're going through. Thomas has grown up a bit and isn't as annoying as in The Maze Runner. I like the dialogue between the kids. It seems really natural as they call each other names and don't take any bull. One quibble I have is we aren't introduced to more of the Gladies traveling with Thomas. We know the ones who were prominent in book one, but there are several more hangers-on. What are they all doing back there?

The Scorch Trials is an excellent sequel to The Maze Runner. I liked it better than the first book, which never happens. I have high hopes that The Death Cure will explain the meaning behind all of this in a nice, satisfying package.

Reading: Mark Deakens has become one of my favorite audiobook readers. His voices for the different characters are subtle, but distinct. His calm and soothing voice is a nice contrast to all the crazy action of the story.

Final Thoughts: If you've read The Maze Runner, then you're already sold on this book. If you haven't read The Maze Runner, and you like action with your dystopia, read it. Book three of The Maze Runner Trilogy, The Death Cure comes out in October. I can't wait!

Grade: 4.5 out of 5

This post is part of Murder, Monsters and Mayhem hosted by Jenn at Jenn's Bookshelf
and RIP VI hosted by Carl at Stainless Steel Droppings.