Friday, January 20, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds

Tamara Drewe by Posy Simmonds
Genre: Contemporary fiction
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin, 2008
From: Library

Read Tamara Drew on The Guardian's website

Story: A modern update of Far from the Madding Crowd, Tamara Drew tells the story of "incomers," people who come to the country for the views, versus locals who actually have to live there. London columnist and incomer Tamara returns to her childhood home with a new nose and new wardrobe after her mother's death. The writers at the retreat farm next door are all in love with her except Beth who runs the retreat and manages her famous writer husband's affairs. Told over the course of a year, the story shows the routines of farm life as the humans intentionally and unintentionally hurt one another.

Thoughts: Wow. Tamara Drewe is my perfect graphic novel. It's the story of jealousy, self-destruction, rural life, celebrity, writing, and cows. It follows the first-person account of several of the characters, so we really get to know Beth, Tamara, Andy, Glen and Casey. The dialogue is witty and the characterizations realistic as everyone says the wrong thing and annoys everyone else. Pages are set up so the interior thoughts of the characters are written in paragraphs and only the dialogue is framed out in graphics panels. This is a great way to get more of the complex story into the graphic form. Tamara Drewe is definitely for adults as there is quite a bit of nudity and adult situations. I found it funny that the occasional swear words are ****'d out. One character in particular has all of his speech bubbles *****'d. I appreciated this since it made him more pathetic than offensive. These touches really added a lot of meaning into the few things each character says.

Artwork: The art is fantastic, and I loved the washed-out colors. Most of the panels are in blues with only splashes of pink or yellow for emphasis. I particularly liked the inclusion of letters and tabloid articles to fill us in on events going on in London.

Final thoughts: A fabulous novel for anyone who likes Thomas Hardy, soap operas, farm life or writing. If you haven't read graphic novels before, Tamara Drew is an excellent place to start.

Extra note: Tamara Drewe was made into a 2010 movie starring Luke Evens.

Grade: 5 out of 5

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Audiobook review: Goldfinger by Ian Fleming

Goldfinger (1959) by Ian Fleming
Series: 7th James Bond book, 3rd movie
Genre: Gentleman spy
Length: 8h 28m
Audio publisher: Blackstone Audio, 2000
Read by: Simon Vance
From: publisher

This review is full of spoilers, so be warned!

Story: Tired of killing people for a living, when his flight is delayed in Miami, James Bond takes some time for himself. At the airport he's recognized by a fellow player from Casino Royale who asks Bond for help in exchange for a night at a swank hotel. Bond is to find how a certain Auric Goldfinger always wins the daily canasta game. Back in England, Goldfinger's name comes up as a matter of national security and M wants Bond to track him down.

Thoughts: The James Bond at the beginning of Goldfinger is a complete departure from the James Bond at the beginning of Dr. No. In Dr. No, James was jumping at the bit and couldn't wait to get back in the action. Now he's been working for awhile, and he's sick of killing. He needs a vacation. He does have a martini, and again it's a vodka martini with lemon. There's even a bit about how vodka has less toxins than other spirits because it's filtered, but James doesn't really care. He just likes the taste.

The solution to the canasta cheating was quite obvious, so it was funny that Junius DuPont kept playing with Goldfinger and keeps losing. Just stop playing! I guess addiction is tough to fight. When James gets back to England, he tracks down Goldfinger at the golf course, resulting in the longest game of golf described in literature. I never thought it would end. I hope James tipped his caddie well.

The plot with the gold went over my head. I mean, Goldfinger buys used gold, so he's not stealing, then he sells the gold somewhere else to make money. Isn't this the basis of the stock market? The gold was in people's dressers before he got it, so how is this national security? I guess is he's not paying enough taxes or something. Anyway, James doesn't like Goldfinger because Goldfinger's short, so that's reason enough for James to track him down. I don't know what James is supposed to do when he finds Goldfinger. Kill him? For being rich? or short?

I really liked Tilly Masterton when she showed up. She doesn't like James and won't put up with his bull. He wrecks her car, but she gets him take her where she wants to go. She should have taken that shot at Goldfinger and not listened to anything James said. After they're captured, Tilly loses all agency and becomes a nothing character, which is unfortunate.

For the amount of exposure the gold woman gets, she never shows up in the book. It's mentioned that Goldfinger likes to paint his women and kills them this way, but it's all in the backstory. James never sees a gold woman.

I lost interest in the story after James was captured. I liked how James' personality came out then. He was prepared to die, and his job was to make it easier for 008 to avenge his death, but the plot became cartoonish, and we could only sit back and see how it played out.

In Dr No, I liked the names that described people, but Pussy Galore  is too much. She wasn't much of a character, and the stuff about James converting her with his manliness was over the top. I'll just pretend that James did die at Goldfinger's lair and everything after that was just a dream.

Reading: Simon Vance was professional as ever and made some of the more outlandish parts of this book palatable with his smooth delivery. My very favorite part was the extremely minor character of an American doctor. I think he has one line, but I loved Simon Vance's delivery of the nerdy American. I don't think I've heard Simon Vance do an American accent like that before. Usually the Americans in these books are Texas millionaires or military men. I kept waiting for the nerd to come back, but he never did. Now my goal in life is to find more books where Simon Vance voices a nerdy American male. It was brilliant!

Final thoughts: With Dr. No, I preferred the book to the movie, but with Goldfinger, I'm not so sure. I'm looking forward to watching the movie and seeing how it's different. And to hear the famous lines "Do you expect me to talk?" "No, Mr. Bond. I expect you to die."

Many thanks to Blackstone Audio for providing this copy of Goldfinger to review!

This post is part of the Shaken, Not Stirred challenge. We'll be watching Goldfinger starting at 9:30 pm Eastern US time on Saturday, January 21 and commenting on twitter at #shakennotstirred. Join us!

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Audiobook review: If I Were You by L Ron Hubbard

If I Were You (1940) by L Ron Hubbard and L Sprague de Camp
Genre: Fantasy action
Length: 2h 6m
Audio publisher: Galaxy Press, 2008
Read by: Nancy Cartwright and full cast (Lynsey Bartilson, Corey Burton, Bob Caso, RF Daley, Jennifer Darling, John Mariano, Jim Meskimen, Phil Proctor and Tait Ruppert)
From: the publisher
More information at

Story: If I Were You contains two short stories: "If I Were You" is the story of the circus dwarf Little Tom Little who desperately wants to be the master of ceremonies. When he inherits a mysterious book from the fortune teller, his dreams may come true, in a different way than he thinks.

In "The Last Drop," Mac the bartender is on the search for the perfect drink. He thinks he has made it using a new liqueur from Borneo, only there are unfortunate side effects.

Thoughts: Originally published in the magazine Five-Novels Monthly, these stories are pure pulp: over the top, yet so much fun. "If I Were You" has a byline by L Ron Hubbard while "The Last Drop" was written by L Sprague de Camp and L Ron Hubbard. They both have mysterious forces, evil bad guys, and lots of running around. My favorite part is when the bar patrons are discussing the square-cube law, the fact that when something doubles in size, its volume is increased by 8 and weight is similarly affected. This is so often ignored in fiction and in this type of fiction specifically. But in this story they bring it out there, discuss it directly, and the events in the story follow the law. Priceless!

Reading: It was strange hearing Bart Simpson pop up as Little Tom Little in "If I Were You," but Nancy Cartwright and the other actors pull it all together. I normally don't like full-cast recordings since the acting often takes away from the story, but full-cast is how these stories are meant to be read. I especially loved the main narrator and am disappointed I can't tell who it is from the way the credits are listed. His voice is perfect for radio, and his introductions, along with the music, really set the stage and get the action moving.

Final thoughts: A great bit of pulp-fiction nostalgia with Bart Simpson thrown in.

Grade: 4 out of 5

I want to thank Galaxy Press for providing a copy of this book for review.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Foundation discussion continues

Foundation part 2 discussion is here. See the links to everyone's thoughts at Stainless Steel Droppings and sign up for the group read of Foundation and Empire. The starting questions provided by Carl are at the end of this post. This post contains many spoilers for Foundation but not for the other books in the series.

The whole goal of psychohistory is to reduce the "time of barbarism." The people from Foundation believe this will be achieved by keeping the Foundation intact, technology functioning, and expanding to take over the universe.  These aren't things that Hari Seldon told them to do. He told them to write an encyclopedia, and then admitted that the project was a ruse. So are they still writing the encyclopedia? It seems so. Are they doing the right things according to psychohistory? No one knows. It seems so, but in Hari Seldon's second appearance, he told them not to bother spreading their religion, and they went ahead and did just that. Hari didn't make a third appearance, so we don't know if this last was a Seldon crisis or if they are on track.

It makes sense that the power would shift from being religious to being economic & religious and then just economic. This seems to follow Earth's history. The Foundation planets look like they are already be coming out of the barbarism. They have plenty of durable goods and spaceships to get around. They only fight non-Foundation planets. It was hard to tell how many planets were in the Foundation. Half? More? It seemed like the non-Foundation planets were in the minority.

Mallow's plan of leaving technology that people become dependent on is a common practice. It reminded me again of development work. It's very easy to give a refrigerator to a clinic for vaccines, but in order for the vaccine to stay cold there has to be electricity, someone able to fix it when it breaks down, the availability of parts, money to buy parts and pay the technician, transportation to get the technician and parts to the broken machine, and on and on. I also liked the changes to the Foundation's technology over time. Because they had few resources, they made things smaller using limited metal. Their new innovations surpassed the original, older designs.

I did like the ending of the Salvador Hardin section, but it seemed to be an awful lot of planning and effort when psychohistory is supposed to function without these things. Mostly psychohistory seems to be a way to lull your opponent. You say you're not doing anything because you don't want to mess up the timeline, when in fact, you've got all kinds of plans and schemes in motion. Hardin and Mallow both functioned this way. Seldon is their religion and like all religions is being used for personal ends. So far these people have been able to convince us that following their interests is the same as following the Foundation's interests, but it could all be a lie.

I was struck by how vain and bitchy the one female character was, and I don't believe that she or anyone else would be so taken in by those new clothes. In the last post I was surprised by how quickly the Seldon religion was absorbed by the planet's population. Here again it seems that the fashions that were given to the planet were very quickly adopted. Just because something is new doesn't mean it's going to be in demand. Both religion and fashion are firmly placed in precedent. The things that are desirable as "innovation" are only slightly different than the current standard. Even if the President's wife or whatever his title is shows up in the new alien style, it doesn't mean it's going to catch on. I found it far more realistic that changes in the factories could be done quickly and lead to problems later on. The kitchen gadgets could be adopted faster than the fashion styles, but it would still take longer than it does in this book. It just seemed strange that a book that deals with millennia feels the need to accelerate the other slow ways that society changes.

This second half was even more difficult to do in audio. With all new settings and characters, it was hard to find something to hold on to through the reading.

Overall, I didn't remember much about this book, and I'm sure it will soon leave my memory again. Since each short section is heavy on plot and light on characters, Foundation is more of a thought exercise than a fun read.

Salvador Hardin was the first character in the book that we got to spend any significant time with.  What are your thoughts on the grande finale of his plotting, scheming and maneuvering to get the Foundation through to the next Seldon crisis?

What are your thoughts on the way in which control/manipulation to achieve Foundation ends began to shift with The Traders?

One of the interesting things about Seldon's psychohistory is how much one man can actually affect it.  In Foundation we see characters like Hardin and Mallow as key figures for positioning things just right to work towards Seldon's later predictions.   Do you see this as a contradiction to what Seldon said about psychohistory at the beginning of our story or part of an overall plan? Discuss.

Did you see similarities or differences between the way in which Salvador Hardin and Hober Mallow operated and what are your thoughts about this final section of Foundation?  Would you have been content as a reader back then with how everything played out?

Has your concept/thoughts of what Seldon was trying to do changed at all since the book began?

Any final thoughts on the story as a whole, its structure, what it did or did not accomplish, how it worked for you, etc?

Friday, January 13, 2012

Graphic Novel review: Jellaby by Kean Soo

Jellaby by Kean Soo
Genre: Middle grade fantasy
Publisher: Hyperion Books, 2008
From: Library

Read the first two chapters and Jellaby shorts on The Secret Friend Society

Story: Portia's bored. Her elementary school classes are too easy. Her mom's always working. There's nothing to do. Until one night Portia has a strange dream. She wakes up and sees something out in the woods. It's a monster! But the monster is more scared than she is, so she takes it home.

Thoughts: I loved this book. Portia is too smart for her own good. She has no friends. The teachers don't understand her. Only Jellaby and her mom accept her for who she is. Is Portia really good at hiding the huge, purple monster, or are Portia and her friend Jason, aka carrot boy, the only ones who can see him?

The comparison of Jellaby to Calvin and Hobbes can't be avoided. The art style is even similar. But having another person interact with Jellaby makes him much more real. In fact, there's no indication that he's imaginary. When Portia and Jellaby first meet and they are just having fun together, it made my day. But the story quickly progresses to the quest to find Jellaby's home. This is only the first book, so there's more to come.

Art: Jellaby's black and white drawings with purple shading lend a muted and surreal feeling to the panels, especially the scary ones at night. There are some splashes of carrot boy orange to provide a pop of color.

Final thoughts: Read it now! But make sure you have Jellaby: Monster in the City nearby because you won't want it to end.

Grade: 5 out of 5

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Audiobook review: The Apothecary by Maile Maloy

The Apothecary by Maile Maloy
Genre: YA historical fantasy
Length: 7h 35m
Audio publisher: Penguin Audiobooks, 2011
Read by: Cristin Milioti
From: Library

Story: In 1952, Janie moves from Los Angeles to London. The cool guy at school, Benjamin, also happens to be the son of the neighborhood apothecary. When the Benjamin's dad is kidnapped, he and Janie must keep safe his ancient book, the Pharmacopoeia. That doesn't mean they can't try out some of its secrets...

Thoughts: The Apothecary is a fun story of kids trying fit in and learning about a mysterious magic world right under their nose. Set in 1952, it takes place in a very realistic London where there are no sock hops or poodle skirts but instead food shortages and ration cards. Everything is backwards and grey in London after sunny Los Angeles, and I really felt for Janie as she adjusted to her new school and life. Then Benjamin catches her eye with his non-conformist ways and the story takes off with kidnappings, chases, murder, and magic.

Reading: Cristin Milioti's young-sounding voice works well for 14 year-old Janie. I liked all of the British accents she was able to put into the story, especially dreamy Benjamin.

Final thoughts: The Apothecary is a fun story of magic and growing up that stands well on its own while still leaving some room for sequels.

Grade: 4 out of 5

Monday, January 9, 2012

Foundation Group Read part 1

Carl over at Stainless Steel Droppings is kindly hosting a groupread of Isaac Asimov's Foundation. You can still join!

Here are my spoiler-filled thoughts on the first half of Foundation (parts I, II, and III chapters 1-4). I've included Carl's groupread questions at the end of the post.

This is my second time reading Foundation. The first was when I was in the Peace Corps. I'd brought a stack of books with me that I'd heard about but never read including Lord of the Rings and Northanger Abbey. I had always thought reading Isaac Asimov was like reading Albert Einstein: esoteric and way over my head, so when I read Foundation I was glad it was neither. I had to laugh when I went in search of a copy for this read and found it shelved in the Young Adult section of the library. Ouch!

This time I listened to an audio version read by the fabulous Scott Brick and have the paper version for reference. I remember almost nothing about the book from my first read: Hari Seldon, psychohistory, and that's about it. Foundation is hard to follow on audio because there's not much to hold on to. It's more a description of psychohistory than a cohesive story. None of the characters are particularly sympathetic, and we don't stay on any character long enough to build up a rapport.

I still don't understand psychohistory. It's neither psychology nor history but a type of statistics to predict the future. I thought it strange that the Emperor was so upset about Seldon's prediction. If the Empire will fall in 500 years, that means it will last for 500 years. That's long enough for this Emperor. Or just ignore Seldon. Bringing Seldon to trial just gives creditably to his predictions. The point of psychohistory seems to be that most people have no power so can be removed from the equation. There are only certain points in time when action makes a difference in the long view, and the people who will be in power at those times tend to be predictable.

I'm having a hard time engaging with Foundation because no one has any agency. Hari Seldon set up his chessboard before the book started and now the galaxy is just playing the game out. Hari's dead, so he can't affect anything. He purposefully didn't teach anyone psychohistory, so they can't affect anything. Salvor Hardin's job is to do nothing. And no one will know if Seldon was right until 1,500+ years in the future. By then no one will have any idea who he was, so who cares?

My favorite part of the book is the religion that controls science. This is such a fabulous idea and so incredibly patronizing. It keeps the copyright on science for trade to neighboring planets, and also keeps science secure during the Years of Barbarism to come. Limiting access to science is preventing new inventions, but since the neighbor planets live in medieval times, they don't have the technology to invent. It highlights one of the key issues in development work. Do you give people the most up-to-date, best technology you have or do you give them something that fits with their culture that can be sustained with local resources? Here the religion is changing and taking over the culture. Fascinating. I'm surprised the religion has caught on so quickly. It's only been two generations that it's been in existence. Didn't the planets have their own religions before this? And what about technology? All of these planets were settled and have spaceships. Why are they so afraid of nuclear power?  It is strange that one government could control so many planets. They must have a vast army or some rare material that the other planets need.

What's keeping me reading now is I've forgotten how this one ends, and I want to get to the Mule in the next book. What are your thoughts?

Group read starting questions:
- For the purpose of satisfying curiosity, is this your first time reading Foundation or have you read it before?
- For those who have read it before, how has it held up to your memory/feelings about previous reads?
- For those reading Foundation for the first time, what expectations did you have going in and has it met them or surprised you in any way?
- What are your thoughts about the structure of the novel thus far? (I am referring to the brief glimpses of different parts of the history of the Foundation with big time gaps between events in the novel)
- What are your initial thoughts on the field of psychohistory?
- What, if anything, is holding your interest thus far, what are you enjoying about Foundation?
- What, if anything, are you not enjoying about Foundation?
- You may have covered this in answering the other questions, but if not, what are your thoughts/feelings about the Galactic Empire.  Is it a practical thing to have a galaxy spanning government? Can you imagine such a thing and do  you think it would work?
- What are your thoughts on Hardin's creation of a religious system in which to house scientific ideas and technology while keeping the users of that science and technology in the dark?

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: The Last Dragon by Jane Yolen and Rebecca Guay

The Last Dragon
Writer: Jane Yolen
Artist: Rebecca Guay
Genre: Fantasy
Publisher: Dark Horse, 2011
From: Publisher through NetGalley
Check out the beautiful images in this preview

Story: It's been 200 years since dragons have been seen, but something's been taking the village's sheep and cows. Can they find a hero in time or will it be up to the healer's daughter to save the day?

Thoughts: The Last Dragon isn't written like my usual graphic novel. There are several pages of text at the beginning providing background on the dragon wars and the rest of the story relies heavily on description and dialogue. Luckily, most of the words can be ignored in favor of the gorgeous pictures. Just look at the cover. The images are amazing. They seem to be colored in pastel and watercolor, and the hues are beautifully muted. On my first pass through, I just gazed at the pictures. It took some effort to buckle down and concentrate on the words. I liked the story of Tansy the healer's daughter, but the focus quickly shifts to other people in the village. I wish there had been more on Tansy since she's a great character: feisty, intelligent, and willing to leverage other people's strengths to make up for her weaknesses. But really, the story is secondary to the fabulous images.

Final thoughts: The amazing pictures in this novel more than make up for the weaknesses in the story.

Grade: 4.5 out of 5

Friday, January 6, 2012

Audiobook Review: A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs

"In one respect at least the Martians are a happy people; they have no lawyers." -- John Carter, A Princess of Mars

A Princess of Mars (1917) by Edgar Rice Burroughs
Genre: Science fiction romance
Length: 7h 26m
Audio publisher: LibriVox, 2008
Read by: Marc Nelson
Download audiobook from LibriVox
Download ebook from Project Gutenberg

Story: After ending the War of Northern Aggression on the less than victorious side, Captain John Carter of Virginia traveled West to look for gold. In Arizona he found a strange cave where he passes out and later wakes up on what must be Mars. John is then taken captive by its mysterious green inhabitants. Luckily, due to the limited Martian gravity, John possesses extraordinary strength, speed, and the ability to leap tall buildings. John spends his time learning the language and customs of the green Martians until the day they take another prisoner, this time a red Martian who looks almost human and happens to be a princess.

Thoughts: A Princess of Mars follows John Carter through his various Martian adventures. The beginning spends a lot of time describing the green Martians' way of life: their social structure, class system, methods of reproduction, manner of education. Even though these digressions are pretty dry, I came to enjoy them since they're very detailed and well thought-out. The group of Martians that finds John Carter is well described, but the other types of Martians, especially the red Martians, are not as well-formed. The red Martians look like humans and are more technologically advanced than the green, but I wasn't sure how their social structure differed. Mars is a very violent place.  Everyone is obsessed by war, and all conflicts are solved by killing. Sometimes John Carter comes up with a clever instead of a violent solution, but these are few and far between.
Usually he just uses his fists. And his superpowers.

My favorite parts of the book were the descriptions of the Martian technology, especially their oxygen creation system. I would have liked to learn more about those aspects and less about hand-to-hand combat.

I wasn't prepared for the very dense writing style in A Princess of Mars, but I loved it. Here's an example:
I do not believe that I am made of the stuff which constitutes heroes, because, in all of the hundreds of instances that my voluntary acts have placed me face to face with death, I cannot recall a single one where any alternative step to that I took occurred to me until many hours later.
The whole book is written like that. It's fun to listen to, but I could only handle it for short stretches. I missed a lot of the beauty of the phrasing by listening to the audio since I was focused on the words' meaning instead of their placement, but I don't know if I'd have been able to power through the visual version. I can barely get through that sentence.

I also had a few issues with continuity. There are said to be no mammals on Mars, but everyone sleeps on furs. More confusing was John Carter's ability to read minds, which came and went. He's also the only person who can lie, but then meets up with other liers, so maybe it's only green Martians who tell the truth. I did like how they were all vegetarians.

Reading: Marc Nelson did a fabulous job. I can't imagine reading some of that text silently, never mind aloud. He flawlessly delivered every run-on sentence and compound prepositional phrase in a way that brought out the meanings of the words and made them fun.

Final thoughts: While I'm glad I listened to A Princess of Mars, I'm not clamoring to listen to its many sequels.The story is interesting for historical value, and it has a lot of great ideas scattered through, but the emphasis on mindless violence turned me off.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

This book qualifies for several challenges as a science fiction classic:
Vintage Sci Fi Sci Fi Science Fiction Experience Sci Fi Readers

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Graphic Novel Review: Britten and Brulightly by Hannah Berry

"As it did every morning...with spiteful inevitability...the sun rose."

Britten and Brülightly by Hannah Berry
Genre: Detective noir
Publisher: Metropolitan Books, 2008
Check out some sample pages
From: Local library

Story: There's not much sun in the noir city where Fernández Britten makes his living as a "researcher." He's tired of telling jealous and vengeful lovers what they already know, so now he doesn't get out of bed for less than murder. He doesn't get out of bed much. But today he has a case. With his partner, Stewart Brülightly, who happens to be a talking teabag, Britten is off to meet a lady of mystery and talk about murder.

Thoughts: Mysterious death. Long silences. Rain. Britten and Brülightly has it all. This isn't a kid's book but instead a noir mystery with violence, murder, and even swearing. I think this is the first graphic novel I've checked out that's shelved in the adult section. Instead of hard-boiled, Britten is world-weary. He's seen more than his share of deceit and cares too much to let it go. His partner, although a teabag, has managed to stay upbeat. Stewart adds some levity to the bleak existence that's weighing Britten down. The plot moves swiftly, and Britten is swept along. He wants to help people, but the truth only makes things worse. And he's too intelligent to go after anything but the truth.

Art: The artwork in Britten and Brülightly is amazing. Each panel is painted with just the faintest touch of color creating a washed-out image that adds to the bleak atmosphere. The city is  populated with the most beautifully drawn details. A desk. A fish. A shoe. The never-ending rain and angles looking down on Britten from a height only emphasize his insignificance. My one criticism is some of the lettering is hard to read. I love how the narration is written out in cursive, but it takes a couple of passes to get the whole gist. The story is well-done, and the art that makes this book.

Final thoughts: If you like noir or detectives or graphic novels or tea, you should read Britten and Brülightly. Well, maybe not tea. I wouldn't want Stewart in my cup. But it's an excellent choice for any graphic novel fan and mystery buffs who want to give graphic novels a try.

Grade: 5 out of 5

This review is part of the Graphic Novels Challenge.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Winners in the Happy New Year Giveaway Hop

Thanks to everyone who stopped by on the Happy New Year Giveaway Hop sponsored by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer and Bab's Book Bistro.

The winners have both gotten back to me, and the prizes are ready to be shipped.

Brenna from Blisfully Brenna won the ARC of Cinder, and
Michelle from Book Briefs who won the Audible 3-month membership.

Congratulations to them both!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Trencarrow Secret by Anita Davison

Trencarrow Secret by Anita Davison
Genre: Gothic historical romance
Length: 12h 22m
Audio publisher: Iambik audio, 2011
Read by: Ruth Golding

Story: Isabel Hart is almost twenty-one and has lived a very sheltered life. She has debilitating fears of the lake and the maze at her family's country house. She is also afraid to acknowledge the many secrets her family keeps: her mother's illness, her father's way of coping, why her fiance wants to marry her, her sister's early life. As she begins overcoming her fears, Isabel starts to see her family as they really are, and the true secrets of Trencarrow are revealed.

Thoughts: Trencarrow Secret could be described as Gothic, but it doesn't take place in the traditional Gothic setting. Trencarrow is an open and airy mansion filled with the Harts' friends and relations all congregating for Isabel's twenty-first birthday. The Gothic moodiness is in Isabel's mind, where her fears cast a shadow over everything and everyone. Isabel is naive and acts young for her age, although this could be a realistic portrayal of a sheltered gentleman's daughter of the time: dutiful, docile, and a slave to propriety.

Romance is on the sidelines as Isabel thinks about what she wants from life and from marriage. As the story progresses, more and more people reveal their true selves to Isabel, and she tries to come to terms with the unwelcome changes around her. The book moves fairly slowly as each person's secret is revealed. Mystery is downplayed as the secrets are plain to everyone except Isabel, and she wants to keep them hidden.

I enjoyed this book more in hindsight than while listening to it. At the time I didn't quite know what to think. Some of the secrets were not secret at all while others were too well hidden. I wish the hidden ones had come out a little sooner so I could have enjoyed them more at the time.

Reading: Ruth Golding does a fabulous job. Her older-sounding voice lends a feel of nostalgia to the story, as if Isabel is thinking back to her time in Trencarrow. The voice for Isabel is childish and whining, fitting the character. Sometimes the younger female voices started to sound a little similar, especially Isabel and Laura, but I enjoyed her male voices immensely.

Final thoughts: Not quite a romance and not quite a mystery, Trencarrow Secret is more Gothic in hindsight than it appears at first glance.

Grade: 3.5 out of 5

Thanks to Iambik and Audiobook Jukebox for providing an audio copy of this book for review.