28 April 2012

The Tommyknockers, by Stephen King

Well, holy Hannah.

Or, hmm.

Not the King story I was expecting. A little bit of horror, but a whole lot of science fiction. Written in the late 1980s, the fear of nuclear power plants and technology taking over the world was certainly forefront of conspiracy theories at that time. Reading it now does make it a little dated, of course, but I don't know. It wasn't bad. I think it was a little bit good.

There are different degrees of good, such as "stellar-oh-my-gawd-holy-crap-that-was-amazing" (11/22/63 and 'Salem's Lot), to "ho-hum-but-not-bad" (The Colorado Kid). But I have yet to close a Stephen King book and think, "Wow, that was sufficiently horrible." I hope I don't ever experience that since I'm enjoying the journey so far.

The Tommyknockers is listed as #61 out of #62 out of all of Stephen King books. That's right, second to LAST on the rankings listed here (thanks to The New Dork Review of Books for posting it). I can't say if that ranking is nuts or not, but I can say that if this is considered almost *the* worst of Stephen King's books, then I've got nowhere to go but up in the Uncle Stevie world and it's going to be an incredibly fantastic ride since I sort of dug this book.

The 1980s experienced several frightening events, and one of them left a huge impression on history: Chernobyl. Those images from the horrible tragedy in Russia, nuclear radiation destroying lives painfully, will never be forgotten. The debate for nuclear power plants to be built in suburban neighborhoods caused intense arguments and in The Tommyknockers, Gard (James Eric Gardener) actively protests against it all. A struggling poet with an addiction to alcohol, it seems his only outlet and safe place is his best friend Bobbi Anderson. A fellow writer, she lives in the tiny town of Haven, Maine and lives on the land once owned by her uncle who passed away years before. When out walking with her dog one day, she discovers a piece of hard, unvarnished metal jutting out from the earth. While her dog, Peter, barks at her to leave it alone (why don't they ever listen to the dog??), Bobbi has a sudden urge to begin digging to see whatever is buried under the dirt.

As Bobbi begins to dig, the energy from the hidden object becomes stronger. A ship of some sort, a UFO ship of massive proportions is slowly unearthed and the power reverberating from it begins to overwhelm and control the town. True to King fashion, the town becomes its own character, isolated from other cities with just a few small roads through and out of it, with no major highway connecting it to anything else. It's a town somewhere in the middle of nowhere and the residents are slowly losing their minds and their bodies. Literally. They lose their teeth one by one as the power overtakes them, and I began to accept that the wasted bodies became similar to what might happen if nuclear radiation were to spill out into a neighborhood.

Not my favorite King story, but you know what? As ridiculous as some of the sections were, I still enjoyed it. Granted, there was the rise of a suped-up vacuum cleaner and a Coke machine, but I just got it. I totally understood King's disgust with society, technology becoming more advanced before we could keep up with it, and the fear of nuclear power plants right around the corner from schools and neighborhoods. (That is freaky, you know?) Apparently, King also wrote this at the peak of his addiction according to the article linked above, so it makes complete sense why all of his characters have some jacked up habit. The story meanders here and there, doing that awesome thing that King does which is to take a brand new character and tell their back story for a few pages, and it becomes so absorbing, you think that they're suddenly a new character to cheer on in the book. He tells a story and doesn't mince words. And I just love it when he does that.

Others said:
Let me know if you've reviewed this so I can link to your review here.

Publisher: G.P. Putnam's Sons
Release Date: 1987
Pages: 558

FTC Disclosure: I checked out The Tommyknockers from my local Virginia Beach Public Library.

About the Author
Stephen King is the author of more than fifty novels, including The StandThe Dark Tower series, ItThe Shining, oh...what more can be written that one doesn't already know. So here you go, click here to visit this wicked cool author's official website.

The Stephen King Project. My education (and others') continues! The Tommyknockers is another selection for the challenge Kathleen and I are hosting. The site can be found (with other participants' reviews) here.


24 April 2012

Snuff, by Terry Pratchett (Audio Review)

I am so conflicted on this one.

I really, really, and I mean really wanted to love this one. There is a Terry Pratchett fandom that is obviously out there for  a reason, and I know others have read or listened to the audio who absolutely loved it and I so wish I fell into that camp. Undeniably, there were so many elements that I enjoyed about it (particularly the surprising humor), but unfortunately, I am left slightly undecided on this one.

Sam Vines is finally going to take a vacation. As the commander of the City Watch for Ankh-Morpork, he religiously shirks vacation time since there's always something he needs to fix in his city, but his own wife, Lady Sibyl convinces him that a trip to the country is important for them.

While on vacation, Sam really can't shy away from the need to solve a crime, even if it's not in his jurisdiction. When a murdered goblin is discovered, it's Sam who not only needs to solve the murder, but he does have to somehow set right the long-standing misconception that goblins were talentless, disgusting, (not to mention smelly) and all-around useless beings in existence. Well, disgusting at times they may be, but they are still members of society, and no amount of disgust should make them not regarded as individuals afforded the same rights as everybody else.

I knew this was part of a very large series, but I heard Snuff was easily read as a stand-alone. After all, this is book THIRTY-THREE in an extremely popular series called Discworld, which I've never heard of before. *ducks* I realize a ton of choked guffaws are now occurring in the science fiction fan world, but please bear with me, I'm relatively new to this genre (or this type of sci-fi fantasy) so don't give me a virtual smackdown. Snuff absolutely was extremely, and surprisingly, funny and not tough to follow as a stand-alone, but I haven't developed the love for these characters and sci-fi as I would hope to have at this point. I mean, I'm almost there, but I'm not all the way there yet. Does that make sense? Don't answer that.

I did enjoy Terry Pratchett's ability to create this very unique and distinct world. It was certainly an escape for me, and I really appreciated how racism, objectification, infidelity, murder, and more social issues were incorporated into this fictional land. Pratchett brings this to the forefront in Snuff and surprisingly, I did find myself giggling away at all of the hidden meanings, especially Sam Vines' perspective on marriages, interactions with fellow pub-drinkers, and more.

Ultimately, I'd have to say that while I'm certainly not going to walk completely away from Terry Pratchett stories, I think the next time I read one of the books from the Discworld series, I'll stick with the printed version first to get comfortable with the rhythm before diving into the audio. That's probably what it is. The audio was just a bit tougher to get into, even though I did enjoy the narrator's voice.

Audio Notes: I enjoyed Stephen Briggs' narration, even though his voice was very tough to get used to right off the bat. I do feel he had just the right British accent that tended to scoff at the ridicule of unbecoming traits in others. Click here for the five-minute Audible.com sample (click the play button beneath the book cover picture).

Others said:

Publisher: Harper Audio
Release Date: 10/11/2011
Audio Time: 11 hours, 29 minutes
Narrator: Stephen Briggs

About the Author
Sir Terry Pratchett is the celebrated author of the long-running fantasy Discworld series. With over 65 million books sold worldwide in 37 languages, his place in publishing history is undeniable.

Visit the author:
This is another selection for Teresa's 2012 Audio Book Challenge.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this audiobook on Audible.com


Discussion is good. Cyberbullying is bad. This is not a blanket response and pronouncement that everyone is cyberbullying. This is just a humble post on the very few who are not truly discussing an issue, but rather who might be coming very close to cyberbullying.

I won't make this a long post and I won't link to anything. Suffice it to say that something sad happened the other day with a fellow blogger and the world of online bashing rose up and decided to condemn and destroy. A Twitter hashtag was even created and who knows how much more. I understand the disappointment that comes with news like this, but when pictures are posted, threatening comments are posted, or a hashtag gets created, it goes much, much too far.

We love books, we love to read, we love to chat them up. We have our own self-made forum in our blogs to celebrate writing. Any money we put towards designing our blog comes from our own pocket, not from anything else. We have day jobs, whether we are a stay-at-home mother or whether we commute to an office. Blogging does not pay the bills and it doesn't pay the bills for the blogger I'm referencing.

I re-read my first paragraph from my review yesterday about a book which included the serious topic of  cyberbullying. If I don't feel like something's right, I shouldn't stay quiet, which is what I normally do when it comes to drama. But re-reading that first paragraph this morning was a reminder for me.

It doesn't matter who it is. It doesn't matter what it is about. It doesn't matter what caused it.

Cyberbullying is never the answer.

These are real people with real day jobs that are being affected when threatening emails and comments are posted. We are a blogging community. Wrong is wrong, but cyberbullying is never the answer.

Please. Before you click "send," before you click "post," before you tweet, please. Walk away from your computer and away from the drama that we can all so easily jump into and take a few minutes to think about what you were just about to post. Think about who you are possibly damaging. It never makes me feel good to think that someone's whole livelihood and reputation might be destroyed, no matter what may have initially caused the disappointment. If something was lifted from my blog by someone else, I would be disappointed and heartbroken, but what would make me thoroughly devastated was to know that someone was being bullied because of it, in apparent defense of me. That is not defending. That is a witch hunt.



23 April 2012

So Far Away, by Meg Mitchell Moore

It seems like lately I'm reading a lot of intense books focusing on loss and regret, but this one touched these elements and shook the foundation much, much more. So Far Away (available for pre-order now) by Meg Mitchell Moore is a reminder to not look away, to not expect that someone else will take care of the problem that is right before you. After all, maybe you're supposed to be the one to fix it.

Bridget was an Irish immigrant who moved to Boston and became a maid for a rich family in the early 1920s. When her diary is uncovered in the cellar of a house by thirteen-year-old Natalie, it's Bridget's story that brings Natalie into Kathleen's life. Through this stirring and heart-rending story, Meg Mitchell Moore has beautifully woven three lives together to create hope for two women who are at different points in life. Natalie is beginning her young adult journey and Kathleen nears retirement. Each has their own pain to share, but both have just as much at stake.

At thirteen-years-old, Natalie is a little older than her years. Dealing with her parents' separation and her mother's depression that leaves her sleeping throughout the day and night, along with the cruel cyberbullying from her former best friend is completely devastating and has made her grow up much sooner than she should. People disappoint and drop their loyalties with others all the time, but she shouldn't have had to learn it so young in life. Her independent study project in school has grabbed her interest and has provided the distraction needed for her when she finds an old notebook in the cellar of her house on Milk Street, hidden in the shadowy back corners. Researching its potential relationship to her family brings her to the Massachusetts State Archives and to Kathleen.

In her late fifties, Kathleen feels like she has already lived her life and suffered losses with no chance to recover. With her husband passing away at the start of their marriage, Kathleen's daughter Susannah is everything to her, but when she loses Susannah, too, life becomes just one more day after another. When she meets Natalie, Kathleen doesn't initially understand that maybe this young girl might be someone she can finally help, to make up for all of her earlier losses. She doesn't realize that through Natalie, and through Bridget's diary, Kathleen may even be able to save herself.

I enjoyed this book and found that it was quite difficult to put the story down. Each character had a distinct voice, even secondary characters like Kathleen's co-worker Neil, who was struggling to adopt a child from Haiti with his partner, Adam, ended up being a background story that became just as important to me as the book went along. I enjoyed each aspect of the story and felt all of the crucial messages that the characters delivered, but Natalie's story was ultimately the one I anxiously waited for it to return back to when the perspective shifted either to Kathleen or to Bridget's diary. I guess I just wanted to make sure this young girl was okay. Her tormented school life completely enveloped me, simply because I just can't stand it when people pick on others. I cannot stand it.

Cyberbullying is just not something to sweep under the rug nowadays. Each generation develops different ways, meaner tactics representative of the times to exert influence and control over others, and today's younger generation uses social media and texting to bully. Physical fighting happens, but cyberbullying now adds a completely different complexity to it. School systems can no longer avoid this deeper issue, and I think the biggest message to all of us, those with or without children, those who work with children and anyone who comes in contact with today's generation, should take this passage seriously (note: this is an uncorrected proof so the finished copy may reflect changes):
Who did Kathleen think she was, to think that she could get involved with this mess with Natalie? Then again, who was she to think she couldn't?
With painfully difficult moments and hard truths of life, I enjoyed the story and writing immensely. It's clear that Meg Mitchell Moore has a passion for the subject matter, and she is an author I'll look forward to more from her, and I'll also be sure to pick up her debut novel, The Arrivals, as well.

So Far Away had all the elements I enjoy: Boston, archives, research, an old diary. It's given me a lot to think about and I very much so recommend this book.

Others said:
Let me know if I've missed your review so I can link to it here.

Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Release Date: 5/29/2012 (available for pre-order now)
Pages: 336

About the Author
Meg Mitchell Moore worked for several years as a journalist. Her work has been published in Yankee, Continental, Women's Health, Advertising Age and many other business and consumer magazines. She received a B.A. from Providence College and a Master's Degree in English Literature from New York University. The Arrivals is her first novel. Meg lives in Newburyport, Massachusetts, with her husband, their three children and a beloved border collie.

Visit the author:

FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher through Netgalley for my honest review.


16 April 2012

I don't know if I've said it before, so I'll do it now: fantasy and/or dystopian novels are *that* much better on audio. With the right narrators, the tension is fantastic, and this story is no different. The adaptation of Irish mythology into this YA book was absolutely fantastic. Me hit the "stop" button? Nah, I don't think so. The Scorpio Races was one of those audio books I would made excuses to run errands so I could be in the car. I needed to know what happened next!

The remote (fictional) island of Thisby, off the coast of Ireland, has an annual event unlike any other. Each year in November, the elusive and dangerous water-horses, known as the capaill uisce (pronounced capell-ishka), are ridden in fierce horse races sometimes resulting in death, either for the rider or for the horse. There is a magic to these incredible beasts, who easily hypnotize a rider before bringing them back to their beloved sea and drowning them. Capaill uisce are flesh-eating horses: they will fight, attack, bite, and devour a human, but to many it can be worth the risk since the winner of The Scorpio Races collects an extraordinary amount of money.

Told from two perspectives, Puck (Kate) Connolly and Sean Kendrick are riding the races this year. It's the first for Puck, but Sean, a four-time winner of the races, has a bigger win on his hands. Nineteen-years-old with no family or friends, Sean Kendrick is the water horse expert, and can easily calm a beast down with his quiet and calm manner. His veteran winning status, combined with a mysterious and brooding personality, assures him to be the likely winner, but the win for him is even greater this year. His one love is the water horse he'll ride again, Corr. Majestic, tough, and most definitely still wild, Corr is only calmed by Sean Kendrick and their bond is easily felt throughout the story. Corr is owned by Sean's boss, Benjamin Malvern,  and Benjamin's son, Mutt, maintains a deep jealousy that eventually corrupts everything around him.

Not only has Puck decided to not ride a water horse, but instead ride her own personal horse, she is also the first female to ever ride the races. She consistently presents the island residents with more reasons to attempt to bar her in any way they can, but a win for her could save her home for both her older brother Gabe, who has decided to fend for himself and move to the mainland, and younger brother, Finn. Losing their parents to a capaill uisce has made the races even more frightening but this is Puck's chance to keep her remaining family together.

Both stories for Puck and Sean are so compelling and the ending tugged at my heartstrings considerably. I ask myself, why have I not read/listened to any other Maggie Stiefvater story before? That'll have to change, and quickly.

This is an exceptionally well-told tale of despair, hope, adventure, and first love. Sean Kendrick was sexy and brooding, and Puck was petulant and feisty. At odds initially, Puck's horse causes chaos on the beach and it's up to Sean to calm all the beasts down, but it initially sets the stage of yet another obstacle to overcome for both Puck and Sean to become friends and ultimately much more. The setting of this tiny Irish island was brilliantly described, and in audio form, it was beautifully magical. It wasn't difficult to smell, feel, and breathe the sea air. Thinking back on the story now, I honestly cannot imagine reading the printed word since the setting and narrators were so mesmerizing. I fell in love with Sean Kendrick and found myself conflicted with whom to root for. My only complaint was I expected much more to be shared in the evolution of Puck's actual training, but it ended up being a bit quiet on that subject. Let's be honest, though. That's a minor quibble compared to the meat of this story, which was thoroughly fantastic.

An entrancing tale of adventure, family, hope, and love, Maggie Stiefvater creates magic once again in The Scorpio Races. This was my first Maggie Stiefvater story, and I'm pretty sure I'll be selecting more of her works, especially in audio.

Audio Notes: As a fairly new listener of audio books, I couldn't have been happier with both of the narrators cast to voice Sean Kendrick and Puck Connolly. They were equally masterful in the emotions, the characters, and each event that transcended standard tension and crafted an experience that was extremely absorbing. Click here to listen to the sample on Audible.com (click the "play" button below the cover). You may need to have an Audible.com membership, so check it out on iTunes. On her blog, Maggie Stiefvater has an incredible interview with both of the narrators and includes pictures of the cast (Steve West as Sean Kendrick!!), so click here to read.

Additionally, Maggie Stiefvater plays the instruments throughout the audio which was wonderful, and her Afterword was a delight to listen to, particularly as she trails off with laughter in the end...

Others said:

Publisher: Scholastic Audio
Release Date: 10/18/2011
Audio Time: 12 hours, 6 minutes
Narrators: Steve West, Fiona Hardingham

About the Author
Maggie Stiefvater is the best selling author of The Shiver Trilogy and The Scorpio Races, among others. She is an award-winning color pencil artist, and also plays the Celtic harp, the piano, and the bagpipes. She lived in Virginia with her husband, two children, two dogs, and a cat.

Follow the author:

This is another selection for the 2012 Audio Book Challenge hosted by Teresa and also a selection for Carl's 2012 Once Upon a Time Challenge. Reviews from Once Upon a Time Challenge participants can be found here.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this audio book on Audible.com


14 April 2012

Saturday Snapshot: Roma the Dog and "Cousin" Otis

This is what happens when Otis, my sister's dog, comes by to visit for the day. Otis is a 110 pound Chocolate Lab and he is the sweetest dog around. Roma, also superbly sweet, is only 60 pounds. Together, they romp around the yard and RUN all. day. long. I get exhausted watching them.

For more Saturday Snapshots, please visit Alyce with At Home With Books.


08 April 2012

You wouldn't be where you are if you weren't mostly a winner - a winner, that is, at those matches that have counted the most. And yet there have been games, matches, tournaments that you've lost. And among these, surely, are games, matches, tournaments that you've known all along you were losing. Surely there are those that have been lost from the start, those in which your intellect proved itself to be the limited and temporary and mortal intellect that it does not always seem to be. When you find yourself playing such a game or match or tournament, what is the proper way to proceed? What story do you tell yourself when that enormous certainty is upon you and you scrape up against the edges of your own self?*
A copy of the letter from Irina's father to Aleksandr is found after his death. The question is crucial, so important for him to have answered, and especially by the famous Russian chess prodigy who has seen definitive battles of logic and skill. Surely he, of all people who have battled and won and sometimes lost, would have the answer which would help define her father's last days. Irina's father, a man who died much too soon from the vicious hereditary illness Huntington's Disease wants this answer, but never received it before he died. When his daughter, Irina, an English professor in Boston, learns that she will also succumb to the brutal hereditary illness of Huntington's as well, she quits her job and travels to Russia to find the man who never answered her father's letter from twenty years before. After all, the journey to find this answer may help define her final days, to give her some form of comfort, or perhaps closure, as well. At the very least, it gives her something to do. She certainly doesn't want to just keep teaching and waiting around to die.

Told in two perspectives switching between Aleksandr and Irina, focusing on politics, chess, love, and death, it's a story that never could have a happy ending, but powerful delivers answers and questions all around. Irina must find her answers, and come to terms with her own life, her death, and ultimately, truly, deeply living. Why watch someone else live their lives? Why not live your own? And really, really live it.

I admit that I struggled a little initially with the story, but to be honest, I can't quite identify what my challenge was. I didn't mind all the chess-speak, and didn't find the frigid, austere setting of St. Petersburg boring at all. Something just initially didn't click for me, but eventually, the rhythm of the story was discovered somewhere at the fifty-page mark when knowing each of the characters felt clearer to me. There's pain in each story, of course. Aleksandr's is told during his time in the early 1980s, describing not only his rise within the chess world, but his introduction to Cold War politics. Obviously there was quite a bit of control held over a public figure at that time, and Aleksandr experiences nothing different. From defiant protesting and subversion from government, then succumbing to the magical evil of politics when the reward is a warm bed, good food, and the ability to play chess all the time.

Irina's story is contemporary, beginning in 2006, and the letter is the vehicle that moves her to travel to Russia to track Aleksandr down. It's all incredibly absorbing and fascinating, and both stories are tough and painful to read. Sadness is a bleak landscape but can be perfectly felt for a reader, and both characters endure emotional turmoil. I was intrigued by both of them, Aleksandr for his loss of his one true love and eventual regrets; and Irina, who after all, does a most unconventional, but quite frankly, practical thing when faced with a slow and painful death. Bravely wanting to spare her family and friends from everything that will soon come, she spends her final days searching for the man who might be able to answer one question. The question has now become her own and Irina's fascinating journey leaves the reader with much to ruminate on and discuss.

This will be a brilliant story for book clubs, and provides so many opportunities to share personal experiences and thoughts. Perhaps my initial challenge was that at times, it seemed to get a bit sidetracked unnecessarily, but ultimately this was a solid debut that tugged at the heartstrings and was commandingly beautiful. Jennifer duBois' gifted story is a penetrating narrative through the toughest crusades a person can ever go through: the ability to live life and find meaning no matter when or how it all might end.

Comprehensive, quiet, and earnestly told, Jennifer duBois' debut is one to remember. I know I will be looking for her next book.

About the Author
Jennifer duBois is a recent graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and is currently completing a Wallace Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University. Originally from western Massachusetts, she lives in Northern California.

Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Release Date: 3/20/2012
Pages: 384

Follow the author:
Thanks to TLC Book Tours for inviting me to this book tour and to the publisher for providing me with an Advanced Reader's Copy. To visit all the blog tour stops, please click here.

*Note: The passage quoted comes from an Advanced Reader's Copy. The final finished book may reflect changes.


05 April 2012

The Rook, by Daniel O'Malley

Let's get this out of the way first. You know me, do I ever highlight technical things? Nah. Never. So let's get this out and move on because I want to get to the good stuff. My only technical issue is that this book occasionally shifted perspectives and it could be a little bit jarring. That's it. That is my only issue. Moving on.

Snickering, shrieking, supernatural abilities and bumbled confusions, hilarity...this is The Rook by Daniel O'Malley. I admit, I had no idea what to expect from this book (I sometimes don't read the jacket, I just read the first few pages) and initially walked into this taking it extremely seriously. I mean, the cover made me think that this was a very thriller-esque book and I needed to pay attention, possibly take notes because it would be confusing. Instead, what I subsequently realized was that this book is a lot of fun, serious in some ways and delightfully funny in most, and actually made me think that this is what the Ministry of Magic in Harry Potter's world would be like if told from a very important, regularly frightened, but well-meaning adult working in the government of magic. Once I accepted that, this book ended up being so. much. FUN.

Myfanwy (sounds like Tiffany) Thomas has opened her eyes and has no idea who she is. While a plethora of letters await her, (written by herself to herself when she was told by random psychics that she was going to lose her memory), she learns that she works at the Checquy (pronounced Shek-eh), a secret organization that has been around for hundreds of years, and whose sole objective is to protect the British Isles by fighting supernatural forces. Oh, and one other thing she's learning about herself is that she's got a seriously deadly ability to connect into others' nervous systems and control them. She could make you turn that gun around (the one that you decided to threaten her with) and shoot yourself in the face. Or perhaps she'd instead make you put the gun down and claw your insides out of your body through your mouth. Yes, she could make you do that. Which is probably a good thing, considering she just learned from her own letters that someone within the organization has betrayed her and will try to kill her. It is an exceptionally good thing she's got this supernatural ability.

In the days before she lost her memory, she was a meek little church mouse who rose to the rank of Rook within the Checquy because she was a brilliant administrator, but she was absolutely not someone who could do battle. Now she realizes she's a lot tougher than she's ever given herself credit for. No one else gives her that credit either, so this newly found confidence becomes the perfect defense. Who would ever think this little mouse would bite back?

All right, I also admit there is a sad side to this whole extraordinary ridiculous story. Myfanwy's letters to herself before her memory loss truly ache at the knowledge that someone within the team she's worked with her whole life will betray her, effectively killing her by destroying her memory and personality. While the letters are extremely helpful and informative, there are moments in which they clearly reflect her denial to believe she will no longer be who she is at that exact moment when she was writing the letters to her future self. It's a quandary to be in, and had this story not been so fun, I might have felt really, really bad for her. But then the next section begins with some insane-tentacles spilling out of a blob that is consuming a police station and people are breaking walls by resting their hand lightly on it, and it all becomes insanely and boisterously pleasant and lively yet again.

Good gracious, this was an absolutely FUN reading experience! I soon found myself hooked right into this absurdly bizarre and hilariously fun journey for confused Myfanwy. I'd say she boggles and flubs along, but not really. She uncovers a new side of herself and that was the best part of it all. Daniel O'Malley's story was fantastic and I cannot wait for the next installment!

Others said:
Books I Done Read
Fantasy Book Critic
The Guilded Earlobe (Audio Review)
Linus's Blanket

FTC Disclosure: I received this book from the publisher via NetGalley.

Publisher: Little, Brown, and Company
Release Date: 1/11/2012
Pages: 486

About the Author
Dan O'Malley graduated from Michigan State University and earned a Master's Degree in medieval history from Ohio State University. He then returned to his childhood home, Australia. He now works for the Australian Transport Safety Bureau, writing press releases for government investigations of plane crashes and runaway boats.

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This is my first selection for the Once Upon a Time Challenge hosted by Carl. Reviews for all challenge participants can be found here.


03 April 2012

The Woman in Black, by Susan Hill (Audio Review)

Settling down one night, Arthur Kipps is pressured to share a ghost story with his young family. Amidst the crackling of the fire and the quiet cold of the night, Arthur refuses, as his imagination cannot conjure up anything that would be more frightening than his own experience, and for that, he will not share that story with his children. But it's one that still haunts him and he decides to record it to hopefully lift the burden of the most terrifying experience of his life.

Susan Hill's gothic ghost story is beautifully told and, to be honest, eerily fun. As Arthur writes his story of a time when he was a new lawyer trying to get his feet wet and impress his boss, he is assigned the task of closing up the estate of a woman who has just passed away in the mysterious and quiet town of Crythin Gifford. The house sits alone and hidden within the marshes and fog, and Arthur stays on at the house, reviewing papers and documents and discarding anything that is unnecessary to maintain. It's the haunting and recurring visitations of children and a woman in black that frighten him beyond anything he's ever imagined. When he realizes that even the town is aware of these fearful presences, he begins to question everything around him.

A delightfully creepy story that satisfied all around and I'm eager for more from Susan Hill. My only complaint was that I wish I had waited until this year's RIP Challenge to listen to it so I could benefit from the full ghost story experience. The cooler months around Halloween provide a much more suitable atmosphere for me, and I feel the fear of these stories even more so. But, that's not a complaint against the story at all, just on my own lack of timing!

Audio Notes: At just a little over four hours, Paul Andsell delivered a solid performance that kept me fixed and attentive. His voice was extremely effective to narrate the emotional and frightening roller coaster ride that the character was experiencing, and I'll certainly be eager to listen to more from him in future audio books.

Others said:
The Avid Reader's Musings
Book Group of One
Buttery Books
Just Book Reading
Leighanne's Lit
Psychotic State
Things Mean A Lot

Publisher: Long Barn Books, Blackstone Audio
Release Date: 10/31/2006
Audio Time: 4 hours, 36 minutes
Narrator: Paul Andsell

About the Author
Susan Hill is an English author of fiction and non-fiction books. Her novels include The Woman in Black, The Mist in the Mirror, and I'm the King of the Castle, for which she received the Somerset Maugham Award in 1971.

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This is another selection for the 2012 Audio Book Challenge hosted by Teresa.

FTC Disclosure: I purchased this book on Audible.com