Great Listens from the Audible.com Editors’ Sale

audible editors sale

I was pumped to get an email this morning from Audible about their new editors’ picks sale – 100 books, each one $4.95. Maybe I’m still coasting on the high from last night’s book club meeting (check back tomorrow for a post), but I just want to bury myself in books. Audio is no exception.

I feverishly tweeted my book recs this morning, but I thought a more in-depth post might be better. All three books are ones I’ve actually listened to, purchased through Audible – so I can personally vouch for both excellence in writing and narration.

Here are my top three picks from the list:

John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars: I listened to this one around the time I was going through a teenage narrator phase. If you still haven’t read the book, you’ve got to listen to the audio version. It’s beautifully done; the characters and emotions really come through in the narration. If you’ve only read the book, do yourself a favor and grab the audio version. I guarantee it will bring a new experience!

Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You: Y’all. I listened to this after I compiled my favorite books of 2014, and I wish I had waited so I could add this. I love this book. It is the kind of book that stays with you. It’s a bittersweet portrait of a family coping with a sudden tragedy. Ng is a writer to watch.

John Scalzi’s Lock In: One of the best sci-fi books of 2014, Scalzi manages to bring a new perspective to the nature of identity and personhood. Innovative and imaginative, Lock In secures Scalzi’s position as a mainstream genre author.

Of course, I had to get myself a little something! I picked up Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. This one is narrated by Claire Danes; I’m excited to listen to one of my all-time favorites. I also got Phillip Meyer’s The Son. My dad gave me his hardback version when it first came out (after he’d already read it!), but I still haven’t read it. I thought I would give the audio a try since it’s a little easier to carry around. My last purchase was Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, which has been on my Amazon wish list for a while.

Thanks for reading! What are you getting from the Audible Editors’ Sale?

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So You Want to Stop “Distancing the Other”: Recommended Reading

I’ve written before about the importance of diversity in literature (I, II, III), but I never offered any recommendations from my own reads. With the news lately (including events last week in my current locale), I think it is important to resume those conversations. I’ve put together a list of book recommendations meant to encourage conversation about politics of identity, stereotyping, and what I’ve called “distancing the other” in the past.

Some of the suggestions will be familiar, but I’m hoping there may be some new titles. If you have recommendations of your own, please leave them in the comments!

distancing the other

Obligatory: How to Support the Ferguson Library

When I first conceptualized this list, I had two definite novels in mind. The very obvious (IMHO) choice, To Kill a Mockingbird.

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“Atticus–” said Jem bleakly.
He turned in the doorway. “What, son?”
“How could they do it, how could they?”
“I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it — seems that only children weep.”

The other book was The Dry Grass of August. I tend to see this on lists like “You read The Help, now what?”

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Spoilers: Set in the 1950s, a culminating event of the book involves the tragic death of the protagonist’s family’s black maid. There’s little hope of real justice. Later, a white boy dies from a faulty repair and the tragedy spurs the white community (and the protagonist’s family) into action.

Relevant.

I also thought of my favorite Grisham novel, A Time to Kill. If you’ve only seen the film, you’re doing yourself a disservice. This is Grisham at his best.

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When I was going through my Goodreads list, I stumbled upon a few books that I thought would be good additions.

Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet is one of my favorite books. I listened to the audiobook, and at times it had me bawling in my car. It’s a beautiful story of young love, family, and identity set in Seattle in WWII.

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A wonderful supernatural genre pick about segregation, stereotypes, and extremism is Red Moon.

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You could also try out City of Stairs, which has a more mythical feel and explores themes of colonialism.

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And if you’re more into sci-fi, try Dark Eden.

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Obviously I can’t resist mentioning my favorite book of the year, The Girl in the Road. If you’ve felt like my suggestions above are too mainstream and you’re looking for an Atwood vide, give this a read. Perception plays a huge role in this book, so I feel like it fits well in the context of this list.

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Another one you may have missed is The Kitchen House, a tragic and touching period piece that explores the relationships of slave women and an indentured orphan. Class and social dynamics are significant.

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Running the Rift won the Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. Set in Rwanda on the cusp of civil war, it features gorgeous prose that captures the heartbreak of conflict.

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For YA fans, I’ll admit that I’m not quite on the up and up since I tend to pick rather mainstream options. However, I don’t think you can go wrong with Tamora Pierce’s series. I’m a personal fan of the Song of the Lioness Quartet, but the Circle of Magic series seems to be popular, too. I strongly suggest checking out the We Need Diverse Books website. They have some great resources for reading lists, and these holiday stocking stuffer graphics make book-buying super easy.

Since I’m just getting into comics and graphic novels, my only suggestion is – you guessed it – Brian K. Vaughan’s brilliant, imaginative Saga.

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Really, though: keep talking. Books are just one way to experience different perspectives other than your own. Have conversations, share experiences, and look beyond your limited perceptions.

Please, leave more suggestions and any feedback in the comments!

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Goodreads Choice Awards 2014: The Winners

Missed my finals recap? Check it out here!

The final votes have been tallied and the winners announced! So, how much crow am I eating from my predictions? Let’s see…

best books of 2014

Note: All cover images taken from Goodreads pages, individually linked below.

Fiction

My prediction: Landline by Rainbow Rowell. Popular appeal and well-written, with plenty of press earlier in the year to garner attention voting.

Winner: Landline by Rainbow Rowell. I was genuinely happy to see this when I opened the app on my phone this morning. This isn’t even my favorite Rowell book – Eleanor & Park takes that spot – but it’s a well-deserved victory for a talented author. Congrats!

Mystery & Thriller

My prediction: The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith or Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King. Both authors pull big numbers, and Robert Galbraith (aka J.K. Rowling) has pulled an upset before. The Casual Vacancy didn’t have a high enough rating to garner an opening round nomination, but ended up winning the 2012 Best Fiction Award.

Winner: Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King. We’re not talking “score one for the little guy” here. This is an established author with an active fan base. No surprise, but no real thrill, either.

Fantasy

My prediction: The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman. Again, popular appeal and great publicity earlier in the year make this one an obvious pick in my mind…

Winner: The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness. So not only did this one win, it did so by a huge margin. I’m glad to see Patrick Rothfuss was up there – yay! – but I’m still thrown off by the Harkness victory over Grossman. I mean, come on. It seemed like positive press for The Magician’s Land overshadowed the very fact that The Book of Life was on the shelves. Ugh.

Science Fiction

My prediction: California by Edan Lepucki. See: her personality, and also Colbert.

Winner: The Martian by Andy Weir. I’m actually really happy about this – I started the audiobook last week and I love this book. It had some pretty good press earlier in the year. Since I don’t read a ton of Sci Fi, I’m not sure if this is an unexpected victory. Either way, I’m loving this book and glad to see it win.

Horror

My prediction: The Girl with All the Gifts by M.R. Carey. It’s been on a lot of reading rec lists on multiple websites/blogs I follow, many of which have little in common except, it turns out, this book.

Winner: Prince Lestat by Anne Rice. For all the reasons I listed for Robert Galbraith and Stephen King, I should have predicted this one. I take some comfort in knowing that the winner beat out my prediction by about 2100 votes. I was close, dang it.

History & Biography

My prediction: I’m going with In the Kingdom of Ice: The Grand and Terrible Polar Journey of the USS Jeannette by Hampton Sides for the win on this one. Purely a numbers game – I actually checked out how many people rated each of the finalists and the average scores for this category, because I just don’t know, guys.

Winner: The Romanov Sisters: The Lost Lives of the Daughters of Nicholas and Alexandra by Helen Rappaport. Don’t bet against Anastasia, y’all.

Graphic Novels & Comics

My prediction: Saga by Brian K. Vaughan (writer) and Fiona Staples (artist). It is the graphic novel right now, so anything else would be a massive upset.

Winner: Serenity: Leaves on the Wind by Zack Whedon, Georges Jeanty (Penciller), Fabio Moon (Artist). I get it, we love Whedon and Firefly was one of the best TV shows ever. I want to give this is a shot, but I think I’m just being a Saga snob.

Reminder: The following categories were not included as my interest is limited (or nonexistent this year): Historical Fiction, Romance, Humor, Nonfiction, Memoir & Autobiography, Business Books, Food & Cookbooks, Poetry, Debut Goodreads Author, Young Adult Fiction, Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction, Middle Grade & Children’s, Picture Books.

What did you think of the winners? Drop a note in the comments!

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Goodreads Choice Awards 2014

It’s time to vote for your favorite books of 2014. Which ones will take the cake?

I love the Goodreads Choice Awards. It’s a chance for me to vote for my favorite books from the last year and discover books that missed my lengthy wish list or towering TBR stack. The opening round starts today and runs until the 8th, with semifinals and finals running the 10th – 17th and the 17th – 24th respectively. Each week, I’ll post an overview of books for which I’m voting in each category, along with the books I own that I should have also read, and books I need to add to my wish list ASAP!

Goodreads Choice Awards 2014

The following categories were not included as my interest is limited (or nonexistent this year): Romance, Humor, Nonfiction, Memoir & Autobiography, Food & Cookbooks, Poetry, Debut Goodreads Author, Young Adult Fiction, Young Adult Fantasy & Science Fiction, Middle Grade & Children’s, Picture Books.

Fiction

Voting for: Landline by Rainbow Rowell. Embarrassingly, this is the only nominated book I’ve read in this category!

Should’ve also read: Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel. An autographed copy (somehow) sits on my shelf, and it keeps popping up in blog posts and ‘best of’ lists.

Adding to the wish list: Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood. One of my hands-down favorite authors, I completely missed the boat (and all the great reviews!).

Mystery & Thriller

Voting for: None of these…yet! After reading a ton of mystery/thriller types in the last couple of years, I gave myself a bigger break from the genre than I thought.

Should’ve also read: Natchez Burning by Greg Iles. The Secret Place by Tana French. Mr. Mercedes by Stephen King. All three are on a physical or Kindle shelf, waiting to be read.

Adding to the wish list: I think I have plenty to get through already, no?

Historical Fiction

Voting for: None of these! I’m not a huge historical fiction fan, and I didn’t read any of the nominated books.

Should’ve also read: All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I’m pretty sure this is on a shelf at home…

Adding to the wish list: Edge of Eternity by Ken Follett. I really should get around to the Century Trilogy, given I spent a chunk of the summer listening to Pillars of the Earth in what has to be my sixth reread.

Fantasy

Voting for: The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman. Easily one of the best trilogy enders of all time. Also the only one I’ve read and finished. That may change by next week!

Should’ve also read: City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett. The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss. The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness. I have all three, and I’m actually in the middle of City of Stairs!

Adding to the wish list: The Emperor’s Blades by Brian Staveley. I don’t know, it just sounds like something I should try out (probably the GRRM reference).

Science Fiction

Voting for: Annihilation by Jeff Vandermeer. I may love John Scalzi, but Lock In can’t compete with this brilliant trilogy opener.

Should’ve also read: Does Ancillary Justice, prequel to Ancillary Sword count? Probably not.

Adding to the wish list: The Martian by Anthony Weir. I’ve heard some great things, and I’m intrigued by the blurb since it involves one Tom Hanks movie melding with another (Apollo 13 and Cast Away). Tom Hanks is the Martian? That’s the Shyamalan twist!

Horror

Voting for: The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon. No surprise, since I noted it was my current favorite horror pick (above Josh Malerman’s debut Bird Box).

Should’ve also read: None of the other books are in existing collections.

Adding to the wish list: The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. Carey. I haven’t bought into the hype, but maybe I should?

History & Biography

Voting for: Savage Harvest: A Tale of Cannibals, Colonialism, and Michael Rockefeller’s Tragic Quest for Primitive Art by Carl Hoffman. Other than being the only one I read, Hoffman does a nice job tying the colonialism and cultural relativism pieces together.

Should’ve also read: None of the other nominated books are pending a read.

Adding to the wish list: Liar, Temptress, Soldier, Spy: Four Women Undercover in the Civil War by Karen Abbott. Sally Ride: America’s First Woman in Space by Lynn Sherr. Ladies represent.

Business Books

Voting for: None, as I haven’t read any…

Should’ve also read: Creativity, Inc: Overcoming the Unseen Forces That Stand in the Way of True Inspiration by Ed Catmull, Amy Wallace. Just sitting on my shelf, but whenever I go to grab a new book I’m not feeling that one.

Adding to the wish list: #GIRLBOSS by Sophia Amoruso, Christina Ferrucci. I’ve seen a handful of Facebook comments that make me think I would appreciate this.

Graphic Novels & Comics

Voting for: Possibly Saga. I just read Volume 1 yesterday (as a NaNoWriMo break) and loved it, so I rush ordered the next two volumes on Amazon, which I’ll read ASAP.

Should’ve also read: None await me…

Adding to the wish list: The Locke & Key series and Rat Queens have come up in several blogs I follow (and a handful of subreddits), so why not?

How are you voting? Drop a note in the comments!

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Certified Scary Reads, Halloween 2014

In the mood for a spine-tingling read? Check out my favorite scary books of 2014 (so far!).

PicMonkey Collage2Note: all images courtesy of GoodReads

Recs, clockwise from top:

Night Film by Marisha Pessl

The Winter People by Jennifer McMahon

Don’t Breathe a Word by Jennifer McMahon

Red Moon by Benjamin Percy

The Fever by Megan Abbot

The Three by Sarah Lotz

Conversion by Katherine Howe

Bird Box by Josh Malerman

Of these, I honestly couldn’t tell you which one is the creepiest or most frightening. Parents might argue over Jennifer McMahon’s titles, The Fever, The Three, or Conversion. Film buffs might find some interesting parallels to Kubrick and urban legends in Night Film.  Genre purists might find Malerman’s debut to be the most disturbing on a psychological and even visceral level. Me? I’d probably go with The Winter People right now.

Other recs? Drop a note in the comments!

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The Masked Songbird by Emmie Mears

GO READ THIS

I’m really pumped to share this review with y’all because it’s a pretty different book than I would normally pick out. I met Emmie at a writing conference in 2012 and I was so impressed with her. She was so down-to-earth and fun, and she radiated confidence. When she posted about her book being published, I was so excited for her – because it’s obvious she’s worked her butt off and made hard choices to prioritize her writing.

So obviously I pre-ordered The Masked Songbird for my Kindle. And, uh, once I found my Kindle, dusted it off, and charged it, I loved it.

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Here’s the synopsis from Goodreads:

Mildly hapless Edinburgh accountant Gwenllian Maule is surviving. She’s got a boyfriend, a rescued pet bird and a flatmate to share rent. Gwen’s biggest challenges: stretching her last twenty quid until payday and not antagonizing her terrifying boss.

Then Gwen mistakenly drinks a mysterious beverage that gives her heightened senses, accelerated healing powers and astonishing strength. All of which come in handy the night she rescues her activist neighbour from a beat-down by political thugs.

Now Gwen must figure out what else the serum has done to her body, who else is interested and how her boss is involved. Finally—and most mysteriously—she must uncover how this whole debacle is connected to the looming referendum on Scottish independence.

Gwen’s hunt for answers will test her superpowers and endanger her family, her friends—even her country.

I don’t read a ton of urban fantasy, and while I love comic book flicks, I don’t tend to gravitate toward the action/thriller side of fiction. Something I’ve admitted could be an unfortunate oversight. Because The Masked Songbird falls into the “superhero” category, it features familiar tropes. This book is essentially the Shrike origin story, so you’ve got your mysterious accident, even more mysterious powers, flirting with vigilantism, and adoption of the secret identity.

Origin stories aren’t my favorite, but The Masked Songbird succeeds because Mears knows her characters and her pacing. Gwen can be flustered and passive, but also charismatic and resilient. She might not make the best choices, but she will grow from her mistakes. It’s refreshing to see a character so well-balanced in terms of flaws and strengths. Gwen feels real; the kind of person you’d grab a pint with, or share a scone. Although nobody feels “one note” in this book, Gwen is the real standout to me.

The pacing works very well. Especially with the superhero genre, you have to know your beats. Mears knows when to keep the reader anxious, when to make them laugh or cry. Tearing up on the recumbent bike in the gym? Yep, that’s me. Almost ruptured something trying not to wake Scott and Huckleberry from laughing too hard? You betcha. Deliberately saving this book for my workouts because it would push me? Heck yeah.

Setting the novel against the backdrop of the Scottish referendum made the story resonate even more in the wake of the “no” vote. It features prominently in the plot, and it’s woven in well. Some of those tears came from well-placed and well-timed Saor Alba moments – no surprise given Emmie’s personal posts of late.

Please give The Masked Songbird a read. It’s the first in the planned Scottish Songbird series, and I can’t wait for future installments.

Want to share an opinion about this book? Drop a note in the comments!

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Go Read This! | Webcomics (Part I?)

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As someone who got ahold of my parents’ Calvin & Hobbes, The Far Side, and Bloom County collections around the same time I wrapped up Hooked on Phonics (I thought they were picture books, and thus age appropriate), I’ve always been a fan of comic strips. I’m getting more into comics proper, but I thought I’d share some of my favorite webcomics.

Girls with Slingshots

Published every weekday, this webcomic features life in your twenties (now thirties!) for a group of friends. Anchored by fun-loving, sometimes (usually?) unlucky-in-love besties Hazel and Jamie, GWS packs in emotional punches and has the diverse cast book bloggers dream of.

(Note: This is HUGE, but worthwhile to read from the beginning because of how dynamics shift over time. Seriously, so good.)

A personal favorite: #1585

JSPH (Junior Scientist Power Hour)

Somewhat affiliated with PA, I tend to gravitate more toward JSPH these days because Abby’s comics are weird, whimsical, and delightful. This is quirky humor at its finest.

(Note: Abby’s also behind The Last Halloween, which I haven’t delved into yet).

A personal favorite: Deflecting Pick Up Lines with Me, Abby

Monsterkind

Set in a world of monsters, this one is heavy on social themes like equality and safety. Fans of X-Men may appreciate this webcomic.

A personal favorite: 099

Nimona

Almost finished with its run, but don’t let that stop you. A series about what it means to be a hero, a villain, or just plain ole you, this blends fantasy and engineering in almost Asgardian fashion.

A personal favorite: Chapter 3 Page 11 (light spoilers)

Our Valued Customers

A webcomic about customers in a comic book store, OVC captures moments of hilarity, vapidness, and withering condescension. If Party Down‘s Roman penned comics, they would be like this.

A personal favorite: Happy 4th of July!

Penny Arcade

PA features riffing on current tech/geek events, along with commentary about their personal lives (the recent series about “the talk” with one of the artists’ sons is hilarious). If you like dark humor and shows like Silicon Valley, you’ll enjoy this long-running strip.

A personal favorite: Catsby

Run Freak Run

The Spanish Inquisition meets Supernatural, with gorgeous black and white design.

A personal favorite: Chapter 2 Page 6

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Self-described as a “webcomic of romance, math, sarcasm, and language,” this is another popular, well-known webcomic. Fans of Rainbow Rowell will appreciate this one.

A personal favorite: Shadowfacts

Any you’d like to share? Leave a comment with the link to your favorite! Feel free to self promote!

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