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Book Blogger Appreciation Week Day One #BBAW2012

graphic for BBAW 2012Monday’s Topic for BBAW: Appreciation! There are no awards this year, but it can still be hard to navigate the huge universe of book blogging. Share with your readers some of the blogs you enjoy reading daily and why.

Book Blogger Appreciation Week is a great time to find a new favorite book blog or catch up with an old favorite that you’ve lost track of. Every day, I realize how many more book blogs there are out there than I am aware of, or could possibly read weekly – much less daily – but here are just two of my current faves for book and audiobook recommendations that are a good match for my reading/listening type.

Beth Fish Reads — I admire the look of this blog and the detailed reviews of mostly literary fiction, but other types of books, as well. In working on this post, I realized that I never actually subscribed to Beth Fish Reads, and have just been visiting scattershot, so have now subscribed.

Devourer of Books — In addition to posting thoughtful, well-written reviews of mostly literary and women’s fiction (and beautiful baby photos), Jen at Devourer of Books reviews a lot of audiobooks. She also offers a regular Friday feature, Sound Bytes, that rounds up links to new audiobook reviews from other bloggers.

The Guilded Earlobe — Although I’m off zombie books for the moment, I still like to see what Bob at The Guilded Earlobe thinks about the latest in S/F and zombie lit in audiobook format. I’ve actually purchased a few audiobooks on his recommendation that were hard to find at the library, and that proves he is a bad influence and an enabler of my audiobook habit.

Read in a Single Sitting — Stephanie at Read in a Single Sitting shares her own bookish thoughts and keeps readers up to date on publishing news, literary scandals, outrageous online opinions, and other highlights of the week in the blogosphere. I also appreciate her excellent book reviews. She recently reviewed the audiobook edition of The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides so well that I doubt I will ever get around to writing my own.

There are other blogs that I’ve been trying to keep up with lately, where I can read reviews or just bookish conversation. These bloggers, in addition to the two I’ve mentioned already, have also been very welcoming to me in the blogging community at large. I’m sure I’m forgetting a few, but all of these bloggers are very faithful in their updates (much better than me) and I like to keep up with what they are reading and doing:

BermudaOnion’s Weblog — Kathy is so nice!
The Bibliotaphe’s Closet – Zara’s book habit is much worse than mine.
The Bluestocking Society — Who knew there were so many Utah authors?
Book Chatter — Ti tells it like it is…
Book Journey — No one can really keep up with Sheila!
Care’s Online Book Club — I never miss a post!
Coffee and a Book Chick — Natalie puts out a fun, literate blog.
Fyrefly’s Book Blog — Nicki’s TBR pile stats are phenomenal.
The Literate Housewife — Love Jennifer’s audiobook recommendations!
Popcorn Reads — Fun posts from Mk that I get in my email.
PubWrites — Caitie F. is reading her way through 1,001 books.
Readerbuzz — Deb is a cook as well as a reader!

There are so many others that I follow on Twitter (and check in on their blogs from there) that I know I’m forgetting to mention here. I should have prepared this post ahead of time! I’m sorry if I forgot you, faithful posters and commenters! Especially if you’re one of those super-organized bloggers with posts scheduled days or weeks in advance, because you won’t understand and excuse my unpreparedness for Book Blogger Appreciation Week. (I had the darn badge on my site for over a week; I thought I was doing so well!)

Thank you to Amy at My Friend Amy for organizing Book Blogger Appreciation Week 2012!

Bloggiesta Time Again!

Badge for Bloggiesta event

I heard about the last Bloggiesta from seeing a participation post from Zara at A Bibliotaphe’s Closet, so here’s my contribution to spreading the word this time around to anyone with a book blog who’s looking for an excuse a reason to spend more time working on it. Bloggiesta Fall 2012 is coming, the weekend of September 28–30!

If you decide to participate in Bloggiesta Fall 2012, you can expect:

  • to spend time that weekend (as much or as little as your schedule allows) working on your blog
  • to create a to-do list to share on your blog and link up with other participants
  • to hopefully participate in several mini-challenges and learn something new
  • to connect with other participants through blog-hopping or Twitter
  • to make new blogging friends
  • to come away at the end of the three days with a spiffed-up blog!
Originally created nearly four years ago by Natasha of Maw Books, Bloggiesta is co-hosted by Danielle of There’s A Book and Suey from It’s All About Books. Read more about Bloggiesta and sign up to participate at There’s A Book.
P.S. If you’ve been thinking about starting your own book blog, this is a great way to jump into the deep end and get your own blog up and running.
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Malady in a Monastery: The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (AUDIO)

Cover image of The Beautiful Mystery audio editionSet in a monastery deep in a forest in northernmost Quebec in mid-September when the leaves are already turning, The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny (narrated by the talented Ralph Cosham) is a great audiobook to listen to as nights are getting longer and winter looms. In this eighth Chief Inspector Gamache novel, there’s no visit to the village of Three Pines, where readers of the first seven novels may have imagined spending quiet nights in the local B&B (quiet, except for when there has been a murder in or around the village), but meeting the fictional monks of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-Les-Loups and catching up with the continuing story of the fallout for the chief inspector and his second-in-command, Jean Guy Beauvoir, from traumatic events of the previous year (see Bury Your Dead and A Trick of the Light) more than made up for not hearing about my favorite Three Pines characters – Clara, Peter, Gabri, Olivier, Myrna, and Ruth.

“Some malady is coming upon us. / We wait. We wait.” These lines from T.S. Eliot’s play Murder in the Cathedral keeps entering the mind of Armand Gamache, the usually mild-mannered head of homicide at the Sûreté du Québec, during the time he spends at the remote St. Gilbertine monastery. No outsiders have ever before been allowed entrance; in fact, no outsiders – including the Pope – had known the monastery even existed until a few years ago. Chief Inspector Gamache appreciates the beauty of poetry and of the Gregorian chant that the monks have suddenly become famous for, but he’s no pushover when it comes to investigating murder. In this case, that murderer is clearly one of the twenty-three cloistered monks remaining in the building with the thick stone walls, behind the door that is always kept locked, but that isn’t the most dangerous thing lying in wait for Armand Gamache and his more philistine, but beloved, friend and lieutenant Jean Guy.

Listen to an excerpt from The Beautiful Mystery as narrated by Ralph Cosham here. If you like audiobooks at all, I guarantee you’ll like the audio editions of Louise Penny’s books, but you should start with Still Life, the first one. (Still Life is also a good one to read in the fall, if I remember correctly.) The only quibbles I had with The Beautiful Mystery narration is the way the author distinctly pronounced the “o” in the word “Catholic” (“Cath-oh-lic”) which sounded odd to me, and that he forgot to use the French pronunciation of the name “David.” Otherwise, the audiobook narration was as heavenly and mesmerizing as the Gregorian chant that was sung to near perfection by the monks of Saint-Gilbert-Entre-Les-Loups.

The Beautiful Mystery (Unabridged)
Penny, Louise
Macmillan Audio
August 28, 2012
978-1-4272-2609-9
13.5 hours on 11 CDs

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Beautiful Mystery on CD from Macmillan Audio through Audiobook Jukebox.

Other opinions of The Beautiful Mystery audiobook (all raves):
AudioFile
Bookin’ with “Bingo”
Thoughts in Progress

You may also be interested in my review of The Cruelest Month by Louise Penny, here.

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What It Means to Be Real: Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks

cover imageWritten from a clever point of view that it took only about fifteen minutes of listening to Matthew Brown’s reading for me to warm up to, Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks is narrated by Budo, the imaginary friend of Max Delaney, a smart eight-year-old boy with a great imagination, an eye for detail, and an unofficial diagnosis of being somewhere on the autism spectrum (although his father believes Max is just a “late bloomer.”) Thanks to Max’s strong imagination, Budo is very well formed for an imaginary friend – some of whom, he explains, are no more than spots on a wall, or are missing body parts, such as ears. Budo also claims that being imaginary, and only visible to Max, doesn’t mean he isn’t real.

Sounds cutesy, I know. At first it did seem just too convenient that Budo was constrained in some ways by the limits of Max’s imagination (who, though precocious, is still a child), yet at the same time, can sound and act very adult, learning things that Max can’t and even getting into friendly arguments with him. Budo speculates early on that when Max as a four-year old first brought Budo into being, he may have imagined him as a teenager, an adult,  or maybe “a boy with a grown-up’s brain.” Budo describes his strange place in the world living in the “spaces between  as straddling the fence. “I’m not exactly a kid, but I’m not exactly an adult either.”

But the author (and the talented audiobook narrator) manage to pull off this tricky adult-child voice, which could easily become grating. The voice of Budo talking about Max – his talents and his limitations – and about Max’s parents – how they argue over what is best for Max and whether he needs more than just patience – allow for insight into how it might feel to be Max, to have constant sensory overload around people, even family, and a high-functioning brain that’s more comfortable in a world of video games and imagined battles than in the real world.

Although he worries a lot about Max and tries to help him navigate the daily life of school and home, Budo also has his own existential concerns. He has seen many imaginary friends go “poof,” and he’s desperate to know what happens after the “poof.” He knows that he only exists as long as Max continues to believe in him. After the plot heats up, Budo’s place in Max’s world gets called into question even more. This would make a good book discussion book for a philosophically minded group. There’s a lot to talk about in the differences between Max and Budo, Max’s world and Budo’s world, and the different disconnects each of them has with the world of Max’s parents (i.e. the real world. Maybe?)

Read an excerpt of Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend here to get a sense of how the short sentences and chapters look on the page.

Read other reviews and find the link to a sample of the Macmillan audiobook on these blogs:
Jenn’s Bookshelves

The Literate Housewife

The Reading Frenzy (includes author interview)
Shelf Awareness (includes narrator interview)

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend
Dicks, Matthew (author)
Brown, Matthew (narrator)
Macmillan Audio
August 21, 2012
9781427225887
9 hours on 9 CDs

Disclosure: I received a review copy of this audiobook on CD from Macmillan Audio at Book Expo America.

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Waiting on Wednesday – The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny

“Waiting On Wednesday” is a weekly event, hosted at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we’re eagerly anticipating. This week’s pre-publication “can’t-wait-to-read” selection is:

The Beautiful Mystery (Unabridged Audio)

by Louise Penny
Narrated by Ralph Cosham

Publication Date: August 28, 2012

I knew this was coming out, but didn’t realize how soon! If you haven’t met Chief Inspector Armand Gamache, the head of Homicide for the Surete du Quebec yet, here’s your chance. I’m sure these are great books to read, too, but I listen to them on audio, narrated by Ralph Cosham. He brings out the humor in this mystery series, but has the appropriate gravitas for the many serious themes that run through the books (including, but not limited to, murder).

Listen to an audiobook sample on the author’s Web site here. She also reports that the audio edition of The Beautiful Mystery has already won an Earphones award from Audiofile. (See? I told you they were great audiobooks!)

Read my review of one of the earlier books in the series here.

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Nightlife in the Afterlife: Hereafter by Terri Bruce (Blog Tour)

Hereafter Blog Tour buttonIn Hereafter, an entertaining novel by first-time author Terri Bruce, 36-year-old Irene crashes her car driving home drunk after a night out with girlfriends and literally wakes up dead. It takes a little while for Irene to realize that she’s a ghost because she can still drive her car; her house in Salem, Mass., looks the same; her widowed mother still leaves annoying messages on Irene’s answering machine; and Irene has woken up wearing the same short, clingy, red dress from what seems like the night before.

But why can’t she remember anything after the big, harvest moon that looked like it was dead ahead on the road before her? Why did she wake up standing next to the car, not sitting behind the wheel? Why do vague memories of swirling water outside her car windows keep surfacing? Why didn’t anyone call the police to report a car parked on the side of the road by the river? And the biggest question of all – how could she have died before she’d done all the things she’d been meaning (vaguely) to do someday? Like grow up and stop acting like a teenager, for example.

As a ghost, Irene feels so much like herself that she finds it hard to accept that the afterlife can’t be the same as her old life (i.e. lots of hanging out in bars with friends) without all the downsides (e.g.  jobs, chores, family obligations, and hangovers.) Although Irene is someone who has to learn everything the hard way, as her father told her once, she luckily finds early on a good (though underage) friend in Jonah, a teenager from Irene’s neighborhood who has investigated theories of the afterlife and experimented enough with out-of-body experiences that he can see dead people like Irene. Mature and sensible, Jonah is like a 36-year-old in a 14-year-old’s body, while with Irene it’s more like the other way around.

Hereafter is a contemporary, paranormal fantasy that uses dark humor (also sarcasm, innovative insults, and ironic observations) to reflect on the serious topic of how best to live, and includes numerous factoids (mostly from Jonah) on beliefs about an afterlife in different cultures and at different times. There’s a bit of sexual tension but the author doesn’t go overboard with sex scenes, keeping readers interested instead with tight dialogue and nuggets gleaned from her extensive research. Readers looking for a lighthearted book that still touches on some serious themes or for a novel with fantasy elements that doesn’t feature a sexy vampire huntress or a paranormal detective agency might try Hereafter. Set in the fall in Salem and Boston, it would be an especially good one to read in September or October.

Author Terri Bruce has generously offered an international giveaway, with your choice of either a print copy or a e-book (in any format) of Hereafter. Giveaway runs through Sept. 10. Comments on this review are welcome but not necessary to enter the giveaway.

Click here to enter giveaway contest (Open internationally)

This is stop #6 on the Hereafter blog tour. The next stop is author Kristi Petersen Schoonover‘s blog, where Terri Bruce will be writing a guest post.

Check out Stops 1-5 for contests, other giveaways, and more info on Hereafter and author Terri Bruce:

8/13/12 Verbose Veracity HEREAFTER Excerpt Reading

8/14/12 Little Read Riding Hood Guest Post (Favorite Books w/Red Dresses) on the Cover) and Giveaway (copy of HEREAFTER)

8/15/12 Sonnet O’Dell Interview

8/16/12 I’m a Book Shark Guest Post (Top Ten Books w/Ghosts)  and Giveaway

8/17/12 Kelly A. Harmon Guest Post (Chinese Ghost Month) and The Writers’ Lens Blog Tour Writing Contest Start

For a list of all stops on the Hereafter blog tour, click here.

Hereafter
Eternal Press
August 1, 2012
eBook ISBN: 9781615727247
$7.95
Print ISBN: 9781615727254

Disclosure: I received a free e-galley of Hereafter from the author when I volunteered to participate in the Hereafter blog tour, but have also paid for a paperback copy from Barnes and Noble either for myself or to donate to the library so others can read it. (I haven’t decided which.)

A Thread of Sadness: The Untelling by Tayari Jones (AUDIO)

Cover image of The Untelling audio editionIn The Untelling, an emotional roller coaster of a second novel by Tayari Jones, author of the critically acclaimed novel Silver Sparrow (Algonquin, 2011), only Aria Jackson’s prickly mother calls her by her given name, “Ariadne,” a too-grand name from Shakespeare that Aria – who already stuck out in school due to entering puberty very early – never felt comfortable with.

Aria and her sister, Hermione, along with their mother, survived the single-car accident that killed their father (the driver) and six-month-old baby sister Genevieve when Aria was only nine and the family was on the way to her dance recital. At age 25, Aria has graduated from college, gotten a job, and is sharing an apartment in an un-gentrified neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia with a friend, but she still remembers the accident vividly – how her father swerved to avoid an oncoming car, how the cake she was holding in her lap was ruined, and how “silent and impossibly bent” Genevieve looked in her mother’s arms as her mother hurried out of the front passenger seat, leaving Ariadne in the back.

This traumatic car accident left the Jackson family broken, financially and psychologically. The Untelling is the story, narrated by Aria, of how she tries to go on to have a normal life, despite being permanently branded as different from girls with whole families. Reading between the lines, the reader gathers that Aria has never felt that she really belongs, has few friends, struggles to act natural around people, and regrets not having the close-knit family she had before the accident.

The audio edition of The Untelling (AudioGo, 2005,) is narrated very well by Michelle Blackmon. It must have been hard to figure out how to pitch Aria’s voice because of her unusual personality – a mix of naivete and defensiveness; the reader can’t be sure how perceptive she is about her roommate, her boyfriend, her mother, or even herself. Other characters in the novel range from Cynthia, a neighborhood crack addict, to Lawrence, Aria’s boss at the nonprofit literacy agency she works at who wants to adopt a baby with his partner, and Michelle Blackmon differentiates the voices well, without making the male voices unnaturally gruff or deep. All of the main characters in the book are African-American – an interesting perspective for readers outside of the black community who are accustomed to reading white-centric fiction – but race isn’t a theme of the novel.

Readers who liked The Taste of Salt by Martha Southgate (also a first-person story of a woman with a messed-up family) or who like realistic novels about women’s lives of quiet desperation will be moved by Aria’s story in The Untelling. (Most mainstream reviews I’ve seen give away a lot of the plot, so beware of spoilers, even visiting the publisher’s Web site.)

I haven’t read Silver Sparrow yet, but plan to soon.

The Untelling
Jones, Tayari
Narrator: Blackmon, Marjorie
AudioGo
ISBN-13: 978-0-7927-3638-7
Unabridged
Length:  8 Hr 25 Min, on 7 CDs

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