If I Still Read Books, I Would Read These Books

I’m not very good at reviewing books, and I’m only sort of okay at reading them, but I can still grow a list of books I WANT to read like the best of them. So I am breaking my radio silence to share some books that I wish I were reading.

Plus, it’s just been a long time since I’ve done a TBR post.

I felt like Jennifer Weiner had a little slump there for a few books but I loved her last one and this one sounds so good.

This is my intellectual add. I probably won’t actually read it. Because that would require me to read something other than YA.

I adored Lydia’s first book. Of course I will be reading this one.

I will be devouring this the minute it arrives in the mail from Jen. (Get it?)

I haven’t actually read anything by Jojo Moyes before. But I keep meaning to.

This one has been on my TBR for awhile but I swear I am pushing it to the top. You can thank Erica.

*****

So what would you like to be reading?

This Side of Salvation [Book Review]

TitleThis Side of Salvation
Author: Jere Smith-Ready
Genre: Contemporary Young Adult
Pages: 384
Year: 2014
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Public Library
Rating: 5/5

Summary:

After David’s brother died, his family got religious. And then his parents got SUPER religious and joined up with a group of people who believe in the Rush – the rapture at a specific time and place. David doesn’t buy it and neither does his sister. But when they come back from an after-prom party the night of the alleged Rush, they find their parents gone. The two, along with David’s best friend and girlfriend go on a search, while – in alternating chapters – we learn exactly how they got to this point.

My Thoughts:

This book solidified my love of Jeri Smith-Ready. You all know I adored her Shade series. But, it turns out she can write about more than ghosts and solstices.

This book stays engaging by alternating between the past and the present. I would finish one chapter and just keep going with the next and the next. It was a perfect read to cope with this year-long reading slump.

I loved David. I loved Bailey. I loved Mara. The parents drove me crazy. The teenage angst was perfect. The conflicted relationships with God were realistic. I simply loved this story.

I hope you all check this out. I know Jeri’s Shade series wasn’t for everyone, but this book is. I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.

TSS: June in Review

It’s hard to believe the year is half over and it’s time to wrap up June. Well, I’m a day early. But I won’t finish a book by tomorrow. So here I am.

Books/Blogging

YOU GUYS. I had my best reading month all year! I finished 5 books and it was amazing. I am sticking with YA for awhile to keep this up.

  • The One by Kiera Cass
  • Siren’s Song by Heather McCollum
  • This Side of Salvation by Jeri Smith-Ready
  • Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Roburn
  • The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wicker

Look for those reviews soon…

I also reviewed:

And shared:

Health

I am actually going for a run this morning. A real, legit run. I got injured in early April so it’s been nearly 3 months since I’ve gone on one. And I have suffered for it. But I’m excited to hit the pavement again. Despite the humidity and heat.

I tried to do that ab challenge in June that everyone was doing – and I made it much further than everyone else I knew – but I gave up around Day 22. It just got too hard. Thinking about doing a yoga challenge in July to stay active while I can’t actually get to the gym or dance class.

Evan

Evan is a handful. Ben left and he seems to be pretty terrified that I am also going to leave. Other than daycare (where he has always been comfortable with me dropping him off), he barely lets me leave the room. Ben’s sister is here this weekend helping me out (she was getting me ice cream as I typed this), which is great, we’re going to see Ben next weekend in Minnesota for a wedding (where I plan on promptly handing Evan over to someone and then running away), my mom will be here the weekend after that, then just one more weekend on my own before we head to New Mexico for Ben’s graduation. I can do that. Right?

The Sunday Salon.com

Summer Shorts ’14: A Discussion with Author Jane Cawthorne and Narrator Dawn Harvey

June is Audiobook Month and the audiobook community is giving back! Spoken Freely, a group of more than 40 professional narrators, has teamed with Going Public and Tantor Media to celebrate June is Audiobook Month (JIAM) by offering Summer Shorts ’14, an audio collection of poetry, short stories and essays. All proceeds from sales of the collection will go to ProLiteracy, a national literacy outreach and advocacy organization.

Throughout June 2014, 1-2 stories, poems and essays will be released online each day via Going Public, as well as on various author and book blogs. As a “Thank you!” to listeners, pieces will be available for free online listening on their day of release. As a bonus for those who purchase the full collection from Tantor Media in support of ProLiteracy, there are over 20 additional tracks only available via the compilation download. You can purchase the collectionHERE. Special pricing of $9.99 through June 30th, in celebration of JIAM. $14.99 from July 1st forward. You can read more about the project here.

Today I have the pleasure of hosting author Jane Cawthorne and narrator Dawn Harvey. Their contribution to this project is Something as Big as a Mountain. Since I had both Jane and Dawn, I thought I would host a little discussion about the making of an audiobook and the interaction of author and narrator.

*****

As an author, what is it like to have your book turned into an audiobook? Do you struggle sharing your words to another voice?

Jane: No because I wrote a couple of plays and one was produced many times. I got used to hearing my work interpreted in a variety of ways. It was a really important thing for me to learn as a writer. I try my best to write in a way that conveys my intention, but readers bring their own experience and knowledge to the text and they interpret it in their own way.  The tone, inflection and delivery of the words can change everything. Often these changes are for the better. Most of the time, I don’t know how a reader is interpreting the work as he or she reads, but with an audio book, it’s right there.
How do you ensure that you do your best to capture the voice created by the author?

Dawn: Before I even think to go anywhere near a microphone, I have spent a lot of time reading and analyzing the work.  I pull out character and story information, research places and names, research accents and dialects, find voices for the characters and make a note of anything that I don’t understand or that doesn’t seem right to me.   I’ve been quite lucky in that, with several of the books/stories that I have narrated, I have been able to communicate with the author prior to recording.  By the time I get into the recording booth, I know the stories and the characters almost as well as the author does.   Many times while preparing books I have found errors or discrepancies in the material that had been missed by the author and his/her editors.  You know that you’ve studied the material very well when you catch things that all other have missed!   By discussing with the author anything that has me confused or that doesn’t sit right, I ensure that I am telling the story that they want to have told.  At the end of the day, by working together in this way, we create a better reading experience for readers (where I have helped to correct the manuscript) and a better listening experience for listeners because I have told the story that the author was trying to tell.  When you can’t clarify things with the author, you do the best you can with what you’ve got.  The internet helps sometimes.  In either case, and particularly with a good writer, their voice speaks to you through the writing itself.  If you get the story, you hear the voice.

Can you describe the author/narrator interaction? Do you work closely with each other?

Jane: Dawn had me listen to an early take. She invited me to comment and I felt free to make suggestions. But really, it was great so I think I might have made a correction on a place name pronunciation or something minor like that. Dawn’s voice is really deep and sonorous and she has a very serious take on this work, probably more serious than me. I can be a little self-deprecating. But the serious take is appropriate because it is about a big challenge. When I first wrote it and did a public reading, I got  kind of choked up. Of course Dawn can keep things on a more even keel and stay professional. In other words, Dawn can read it better than I can.

Dawn: I work as closely with the author as the author will let me!  I try to collaborate with them as much as possible.  But I can add that Jane’s case was different from the other works I have done because I have known Jane for a long time.  Several years ago, I was in a play she had written called “The Mother Auditions”.   We bonded during that show and have kept in touch ever since.  As well as being friends, we support and appreciate each other’s professional works.  So, working with Jane was easy.  I was never afraid she would be offended by my questions or comments (always scary when you point out imperfections in someone’s baby!) nor I by her’s.  We both wanted to create the best listening experience we could and egos can get in the way of that.  Neither Jane nor I operate that way and I knew that going in so that helped to make this a really great experience.

Tell us a little bit about Something as Big as a Mountain. It is autobiographical, yes?

Jane: Something As Big as a Mountain is about my experience as a novice mountaineer. I have always been a back country hiker and I had started doing some climbing and I decided at almost fifty years old that I’d go mountaineering for the first time. Who does that? I wasn’t consciously aware of my real motivation. Part way through the trip, I realized I was trying to prove to myself that I could accomplish something so physically demanding after recovering from cancer. I was trying to prove that I was better and the illness was behind me. As a mountaineer, I was a bit of a disaster, but in terms of showing myself I had moved past a bad time in my life, it went pretty well.

How did you approach Something as Big as a Mountain? Is it a challenge to narrate an autobiographical story?

As I have already mentioned, Jane and I have known each other for several years.  I went to a public reading she did a few years ago where she read an excerpt from “Something as Big as a Mountain.”  I loved the piece.  When you listen to the story, if you haven’t already, you’ll be taken by Jane’s style of writing.  Her descriptions of the scenery and her experiences in it are so incredible.  So, when Xe Sands invited me to take part in this project, I immediately thought of the story I’d heard Jane read.   I contacted her to ask if I could use that story I had heard her read at the public reading.  I was thrilled when she immediately said yes.  She sent me the story right away – but it was the wrong one.  She had sent me “Weight”.  I read it but I knew it wasn’t the story I had been thinking of, the name of which I didn’t remember.  Turns out that I must have gone to two readings and Jane and I were each thinking of different ones.  She then sent me “Mountain.”  Subsequently, Xe indicated that she was looking for some bonus pieces so “Weight” ended up in the bonus material.  Well, that was a good story but a major digression from the question.  I knew Jane but I didn’t know about her fight with cancer until I read the whole story.  The excerpt I’d heard her read didn’t mention the cancer if I recall correctly.  I can’t imagine I would have forgotten.  So, I knew Jane and now I had found out this thing about her past that she has had to live through.  I lost my best friend to cancer a few years ago and that sits just in the back of my mind all the time so this story hit home with me in terms of what Jane had gone through because I knew what Deb had gone through.  I think that being Jane’s friend made me even more connected to the story than I might otherwise have been.  As a narrator, being connected to the story is the key to any good narration and I have never felt so connected to a story before.   I am very proud of how this story turned out and I’m sure my connection with Jane is why it worked so well.

It is necessary to have this connection in all stories.  In autobiographical ones, there is a feeling of greater responsibility in “getting it right” because these are events that really happened, not a fiction.  Fiction can be interpreted by the reader.  Best not to be “interpreting” too much in autobiographies or you can get away from the truth of the author.  I guess that would be the biggest challenge of audiobooks in general but I didn’t feel that challenge in this particular case for the reasons I stated above.

*****

Thank you Jane and Dawn for taking part in this project and giving us a little inside look at audiobooks.  Something as Big as a Mountain is fantastic, and I urge you all to take a list. Plus, if you purchase the full collection, you’ll get an additional short story, Weight, written by Jane and narrated by Dawn (which I, personally, think I liked even more).
Listen to Something as a Big as a Mountain:

A little about Jane Cawthorne:

I’m a Canadian, living in Boston and am currently completing an MFA in Creative Writing at Pine Manor College. When I first started writing professionally, I wrote opinion pieces for newspapers and magazines, taking up the topics that haunted me as a teacher. My shift into fiction started with a few creative non-fiction essays. I tried my hand at short fiction and wrote a couple of plays as well. Now, I’m working on a novel. I don’t talk about work in progress because, in the immortal words of Gord Downie, “no one’s interested in something you didn’t do.” I’ve also recently joined the Crabapple Mews Collective, a group of writers helping each other publish great work.

A little about Dawn Harvey:

I am also a Canadian and I live in Calgary, Alberta.  I’ve been performing most of my life but somehow along the way I also picked up both Bachelor and Master of Laws degrees.  Sometimes life leads us in strange directions but mine, thankfully, led me straight back to the arts several years ago after a short hiatus.  I began narrating audiobooks about 3 years ago and am absolutely loving it.  Take a girl who loves to read, talk and act and give her a job as an audiobook narrator and you pretty much have bliss!  I am so thrilled to have been included in the Summer Shorts program this year with so many talented narrators.  Thanks Xe Sands – sure hope we can do this again next year!

Check out yesterday’s posts

Mike ChamberlainThe Statement of Randolph Carter, by H.P. Lovecraft @ MV Freeman’s blog
Dufris/AudioComics, Audio Theatre: Cask of Amontillado, by Edgar Allan Poe @ Jenn’s Bookshelves
John McLainThe Black Cat, by Edgar Allan Poe @ Going Public

and don’t miss tomorrow’s:

Tanya EbyThe Girl at the Gate, by Lucy Maud Montgomery @ Miss Susie’s Reading & Observations

And, finally, a big thank you to Xe Sands for organizing this HUGE project and, as the month is wrapping up, a big congratulations as well!

The Sunday Salon [6.22.14]

Well, I had grand plans of blogging a lot this month. My goal was two book reviews a week. And then Ben went to New Mexico and I remembered how hard it is to be a full time mom and a full time lawyer and still feel like blogging at the end of the day.

I also haven’t taken out my camera in awhile. It’s hard to chase a 2-year-old and snap photos on anything but an iPhone.

But, as busy as life is at the moment, I have been reading a little bit more than usual. The key, apparently, is to read really compelling YA (and staying up past my bedtime). That might be all I read until E is in kindergarten.

I am catching up on my own shows while Ben is away: Doctor Who, Dance Academy, Grey’s Anatomy.

I also just got my orthotics from my podiatrist and have been given the green light to start running again. This is somewhat problematic, as it is a billion degrees out and I have no one to watch Evan unless I go to the gym (and the gym daycare isn’t always okay with Evan). But still exciting!

I am hosting my book club today. We’re discussing The Golem and the Jinny. And hoping that Evan isn’t really sick because I need to get to an important hearing on Monday. And counting down until Thursday when some reinforcements (my sister-in-law) fly in and save me.

What are you up to?

The Sunday Salon.com

Madame Bovary [Audiobook Review]


Title: Madame Bovary
Author: Gustave Flaubert
Narrator: Kate Reading
Genre: Classic
Pages: 384 pages
Audio: 13.8
Year: Original – 1856 | Edition – 2010
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Source: Personal Collection
Book Rating: 1.5/5
Audio Rating: 4/5

Summary:

Charles Bovary had a tough childhood but he eventually becomes a doctor anyway. Sort of. He gets married to a girl but he falls for another. Lucky for him, Madame Bovary number one dies and he can marry Madame Bovary number two. But, she’s not quite as crazy about him as he is about her. And she feels pretty stifled in her country life. So she cheats on him. A lot. And it doesn’t end well.

My Thoughts:

Ugh. This book. I don’t get it – why are we still reading this?

Perhaps I am not intelligent or cultured or patient enough to appreciate how amazing this novel is. The wikipedia entry for Madame Bovary states: “Long established as one of the greatest novels ever written, the book has often been described as a “perfect” work of fiction.” 

I disagree.

Vehemently.

I can understand why, at the time it was written, this book would have been shocking. But how can it still be so widely read and highly regarded 150 years later?

It’s boring. I actually have no idea how a book about adultery can be this boring. I was listening to this one when I was training for my 10k and it actually made my long runs even worse.

Beyond the fact that it is really boring and the characters were miserable companions for 14 hours of my life, I don’t have much else to say. If you want my opinion, find another classic to read. If you want an adulteress, go with Anna Karenina – it’s well worth the additional pages.

Audiobook Thoughts:

The audiobook was fine. I have no complaints. And I certainly wouldn’t have finished this thing in print.

No, I Won’t Be Reading that E-Novella

This post follows up on a little mini-rant on twitter the other day about how every series now comes with little novellas between books.

I pretty much hate these extra stories. I’ve read a few (Wicked Lovely’s Stopping Times and Old Habits; Delirium’s Anabel, Hana, and Raven; Newsflesh’s Countdown; Fallen’s Fallen in Love) and I’ve decided I am not reading anymore. Here’s why.

They rarely move the story forward, but instead add a level of detail to a character or an event that wasn’t included in an actual official book in that series. Or they tell the same story from someone else’s perspective. They are not necessary to the story.

As such, they seem like a money-making scam. It seems like publishers see how much money a series is bringing in and decide, let’s see how much money we can get out of these suckers. Now, I know that publishing is a for-profit industry and no one is in it just for the joy of books. I am happy to pay for a book. But do I really want to shell out another $2 for a few dozen pages every other week?  It’s sort of like how I feel about the new trend of breaking the last installment in a book series into two movies. You, movie studio, are only doing that to make money. Admit it.

They make me anxious. To be fair, all of the books that exist in the world that I want to read already make me anxious. But if I add all of these little novellas to my TBR pile, it’s certainly not helping things. There is simply not enough time in the world for me to keep up with every series I am reading AND read those 40 extra pages that no one thought important enough to actually put in the book. But skipping them also makes me anxious. I loathe reading things out of order. And skipping something that might have the tiniest chance of being important to the story makes me nervous. So it’s a lose-lose here on the reading anxiety front.

I can see why some people might like them (you do get even more of your favorite series, right?), but these people must have different priorities from me because every series seems like it is doing this and I just can’t possibly keep up.

  • The Lunar Chronicles has 3 novellas.
  • Shade (Jeri-Smith Ready) has 2.
  • Newsflesh has 4.
  • Divergent has 5.
  • Across the Universe has 1.
  • Shades of London has 1.
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone has 1.

I would list these as some of my favorite series. But I will not (and, really, cannot) read 17 novellas plus all the ones that have yet to be published. I just won’t. (Okay, I’m a little tempted to read that last one because I love Zuzana so much).

So, I’m putting my foot down.  I can’t make the publishing industry stop this trend, but I can stop taking part in it. Unless JK Rowling wants to write one for Harry Potter, or unless someone makes a really compelling argument for an exception, I won’t be reading anymore of these things that are not really part of the series. Publishers, if a story is really important, please make it a real book.

Siren’s Song [Book Review]

Title: Siren’s Song
Author: Heather McCollum
Genre: YA Paranormal Romance
Pages: 376
Year: 2014
Publisher: Spencer Hill Press
Source: Review Copy from NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

Summary:

Jule has always had a mesmerizing voice, just like her mother. When Luke moves to town, the two are immediately attracted to each other. But her voice, instead of its usual spellbinding effect, causes only anger and violence in Luke. When Luke comes clean about his real history, Jule finds herself caught in a 200-year-old tale, desperate to hold on to Luke and to end an awful curse.

My Thoughts:

Overall, I enjoyed this one. It was unique for me – I don’t think I’ve read a book about a siren before and the paranormal backstory/mythology is really interesting.

While the topic was unique, this one did have some similarities to Twilight: girl has crush on boy who can’t seem to figure out whether to love her or kill her. It even – in what I hope was an intentional tongue-and-cheek moment – quotes it at one point. So if you like Twilight – and I won’t make you raise your hand if you do – you might like this one.

While the Luke-Jule relationship was certainly central to the book, I think my favorite aspect of the book was the powerful friendship between Jule and her best friend, Carly. Although it wavers for a moment, the bond between these two is unbreakable. This is actually one thing I loved (and miss) about high school – that amazing level of friendship that only teenage girls seem capable of, and I love finding YA books that capture this.

One possible con – I occasionally got an abusive relationship vibe from this one. Luke – because of the curse and because of his growing strength – actually harms Jule at times and it made me a little uncomfortable when she wasn’t upset by this (and that she was okay with a boy silencing her voice). But I seem to be the only person on the internet that feels this way so maybe I am being a little oversensitive.

Despite this, I can definitely recommend Siren’s Song If you’re looking for a new paranormal YA novel.