Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I’ve Recently Added To My TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme by The Broke and the Bookish where fellow book bloggers, and anyone who wants, can contribute to a themed top ten list. Today we are t pick the top ten books we’ve recently added to our tbr (to be read) piles. OMG, this list reminds me of all the books that are coming out this year!

e2536-toptentuesday

Next book in series list:

New to me authors and series:

  • Witch and Wizard by James Patterson. My sister-in-law recommended this book to me and I still need to get my hands on a copy.
  • The Girl with All the Gifts by  M.R. Carey. Another sister-in-law recommendation
  • How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran. I keep seeing this pop up in my reader by book bloggers reviewing and raving about it. I think I need to give this one a try.

Neil Gaiman, because he gets his own list.

Best Books of 2015

Last year because I was reading law book and studying I did not even reach my own book challenge, so I set the sights low for myself this year, hoping to get back on track and start reading more. I challenged myself to read 30 books and I’ve read 39, plus I’m halfway through two more books and hope to finish them before the year is out. I’m very pleased with my accomplishment of meeting and exceeding my goal, as well as, tackling some of my “Want to Read” list and never ending tbr pile.

Here are my favorite books of 2015 in no particular order.

15726583

Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is an amazing book. I can’t believe it took me this long to track down a copy and ready it. Read my review here.

18194405

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman is a perfectly intricate plot that plays across years and worlds. A must read. My review is here.

13620052

InterWorld is another wonderfully written book by Neil Gaiman, this time with a co-author Michael Reaves, about multiple universes and how the tiny decisions in our lives have rippling affects. Read my review here.

18693684

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman is the final book in his The Magician’s Trilogy and is full of flawed characters and wonderful world building. As I said in my review:

“Real life in all its glory and sadness spills itself across the pages and that is the beauty of Grossman’s characters. Not that they have magic and spells, but that they have life, and they live it.”

13618440

Dreams of Gods and Monsters is the final chapter in Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy. I actually liked this book the best in the series, which was a wonderful surprise. You can read my full review here. But be warned there may be spoilers about the first two books in the series.

6978960

Graveyard Shift by Angela Roquet is a fun light urban fantasy tale about a grim reaper, but the story has depth and the characters are fully developed. But my favorite part of this book is her female characters have actual agency, a nice shift from many of the urban fantasy series I read this year. Read my review here.

Audiobook Review: InterWorld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves

I read a lot of young adult stories this summer, and I mean young adult series, not your typical 16 or 17 year old, but about protagonists who were 12, for example. InterWorld, co-authored by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves and read by  Christopher Evan Welch, was probably my favorite young young adult series from this year. I borrowed a copy from my library.

13620052

Summary from GoodReads:

When Newbery Medal winner Neil Gaiman and Emmy Award winner Michael Reaves teamed up, they created the bestselling YA novelInterWorld.

InterWorld tells the story of Joey Harker, a very average kid who discovers that his world is only one of a trillion alternate earths. Some of these earths are ruled by magic. Some are ruled by science. All are at war.

Joey teams up with alternate versions of himself from an array of these worlds. Together, the army of Joeys must battle evil magicians Lord Dogknife and Lady Indigo to keep the balance of power between all the earths stable. Teens—and tweens and adults—who obsessively read the His Dark Materials and Harry Potter series will be riveted by InterWorldand its sequel, The Silver Dream.

I always love a good story about alternate universes and the different versions of people that can exist because a certain decision was made at a cross road in life or a specific environment shaped a person into a slightly different version of his or herself. Joey discovers alternate versions of himself that have wings, that are cybernetic, that have animal like features, all because he has the ability to slide into the inbetween and through that to the alternate worlds. Of course this isn’t all fun and games and he must use his powers to help keep the worlds safe, fight the bad guys, and use both magic and science to rid the world of evil.

I like Joey as a character, he is charming, intelligent, and acts like a 12 year old without me wanting to hit him upside the head too many times. His cleverness aids his ability to fight evil, but not always his ability to understand people or politics. He meets older versions of himself and learns from them. He has to get along with the different versions of himself, even if he doesn’t quite understand them always. He’s clever, but he gains wisdom as the story progresses, and that is a trait of a good character to me.

Christopher Evan Welch does a great job narrating. He has slightly different accents and character voices to keep the listener from getting too confused between the different versions of Joey . It works well that they are all versions of each other, because the voice over acting of one person makes even more sense in this particular story. Welch is dynamic and engaging in his story telling and I thought he did a good job.

The overall plot line is rather straightforward, having maybe one twist I didn’t see coming, but the character and world building are wonderful and engaging, in true Neil Gaiman fashion. If you like young adult series about great characters and fun worlds, check out InterWorld by Neil Gaiman and Michael Reaves.

Audio Book Review: The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I downloaded The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman (as read by the author himself) via Audible with a free credit. I’m quite a fan of Gaiman, so when I was searching for an audio book I am always drawn to his stories and discovered this one.

ocean at the end of the lane

Summary from Audible:

Sussex, England: A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. He is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock. He hasn’t thought of Lettie in decades, and yet sitting by the pond (a pond that she’d claimed was an ocean), the unremembered past comes flooding back. Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie – magical, comforting, wise beyond her years – promised to protect him, no matter what.

One of the reasons that I am constantly downloading audiobooks is that I like to listen to stories as I fall asleep at night as well as listen to them as I drive around town. I started The Ocean at the End of the Lane and immediately found myself drawn to this strange otherworldly tale, at times scary and intense, always imaginative and all consuming. But soon discovered this is not a good bed time story. I would lie there at night as Chris slept soundly beside me, wide awake staring at my phone to caught up in the story, too scared to stop the story, too frightened to keep going. I would pause it, try to drift off, then worried about the boy, sit up and start it again. Restless I started a different audiobook and drifted off to sleep within a matter of minutes.

This is not a book to try to fall asleep to.

Like his other stories, The Ocean at the End of the Lane is full of strange mythologies interwoven with such relatable characters that I was pulled into the story, sucked in, and had to fight to find my way out again. Though the main part of the story happens in a man’s past when he is quite young, it is not a story for children. At the same time, Gaiman is able to capture the voice of a young boy, reminding me of how I used to view the world, that I began to recall my own childhood, well, at least all the scary moments of growing up.

quote

As I’ve come to expect from Gaiman, his prose is wonderful and wonderfully read by himself. The pacing of Gaiman’s writing is beyond compare and I never step outside the story to wonder what will happen because I am always entranced by what is happening, in that moment. Some times so engulfed in the story that I can’t sleep. Gaiman has such an amazing talent for voice acting that I have come to love the stories he reads himself. Just the other day I was in a bookstore and discovered a book of his I have yet to read, but didn’t pick it up because I want to find out if it is an audiobook instead. My queue in Audible is full of books by Gaiman and I don’t see that discontinuing any time soon.

I realize that my review more describes my experience reading this book than what it is about, but as far as I can tell, this is the best way to review this book. For one, to describe the story would be to ruin the magic of the tale, anything more said than the blurb ruins the world building and character building that Gaiman worked hard to create. Secondly, I’m not alone in my experiential review of this book. Patrick Rothfuss’ own meandering love story about this book is more about his experience of reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane than a typical review.

This is a story to experience. So, go out there and find your experience. Buy a copy, listen to the audiobook, fall in love with Gaiman just a little bit more.

Book Quotes I Love

Clicking on the second and third pictures will take you to posts that have even more pictures of book quotes.

 

wilson quote

Graphic Novel Book Review: The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes

The Sandman, Vol. 1: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman is a graphic novel series I keep hearing about, so I decided it was time to at least attempt to read it. We all know I’m not the biggest fan of graphic novels.

SANDMAN

Synopsis from GoodReads

In Preludes and Nocturnes, Neil Gaiman weaves the story of a man interested in capturing the physical manifestation of Death but who instead captures the King of Dreams.

Summary from Such a Book Nerd

Beginning in 1916 with a ceremony attempting to capture Death, Sandman kicks off big.   The ceremony goes wrong, and instead The Sandman – a strange figure – is brought to earth/reality.  From that moment on, people fall into the sleeping sickness, and don’t awaken for decades.  Sandman is kept in a  glass bubble until 1988, when his original captors are old men.  Finally freed, he’s out for revenge on those who kept him locked up all those years.  Arriving home, he sees the remains of his crumbled kingdom – which, in his absence, has fallen apart.

He learns from the three graces that he must collect three items to regain his power – a bag of sand, a helmet, and a ruby.

What I enjoyed about this graphic novel that it had some short stories, a few longer pieces of the arch for the season (the collecting of the three items), as well as, laid the ground work for the larger story about the sandman. I thought the stories were well written and that the art added to the feel of the story in a way that made sense and made the story telling more interesting.

Some of the art work was very heavy and dark. And I did find it interesting that the silhouette of the sandman looked kind of like Gaiman. But of all ways to consume a horror story, the graphic novel may be my newest favorite. I’m not a huge horror fan (dare I tell you, but Stephen Kings Salem Lot puts me to sleep without fail as it is overly descriptive?) But I did find the horror stories compelling in this format.

Perhaps my favorite  character though was Death. She was quite memorable, and one of the reasons that I will probably continue reading the graphic novels. 

sandmandeath

You can read another review here on Such a Book Nerd or on Some Reading.

Audio Book Review: American Gods

american gods

Everyone, and everyone, has recommended I read American Gods. They told me it should be my first taste of Gaiman. But, I’m never one to do what everyone tells me. So I picked at Gaiman’s prolific work, reading some of his children’s books, his graphic novel The Sandman series, fell in love with Neverwhere, and even watched him sing with his lovely wife Amanda Palmer on Youtube. Then I decided it was time to delve into the oh so popular American Gods. Chris ordered it on Audible and once he was finished I started listening to the story. It took me a while to get through it because I had just moved to Texas. I read the 10th Anniversary edition, with the author’s preferred text. (Following synopsis from GoodReads)

. . . . Locked behind bars for three years, Shadow did his time, quietly waiting for the magic day when he could return to Eagle Point, Indiana. A man no longer scared of what tomorrow might bring, all he wanted was to be with Laura, the wife he deeply loved, and start a new life. But just days before his release, Laura and Shadow’s best friend are killed in an accident. With his life in pieces and nothing to keep him tethered, Shadow accepts a job from a beguiling stranger he meets on the way home, an enigmatic man who calls himself Mr. Wednesday. A trickster and rogue, Wednesday seems to know more about Shadow than Shadow does himself.

Life as Wednesday’s bodyguard, driver, and errand boy is far more interesting and dangerous than Shadow ever imagined. It is a job that takes him on a dark and strange road trip and introduces him to a host of eccentric characters whose fates are mysteriously intertwined with his own.

Along the way, Shadow will learn that the past never dies; that everyone, including his beloved Laura, harbors secrets; and that dreams, totems, legends, and myths are more real than we know. Ultimately, he will discover that beneath the placid surface of everyday life, a storm is brewing – an epic war for the very soul of America – and that he is standing squarely in its path. . . . 

According to the author, either one loves this book or hates it. Apparently, Chris and I are not everyone because he found the book just so, so, and while I enjoyed the book, Gaiman’s way with words is quite wonderful, I didn’t exactly fall in love with it. I see the appeal though, Gaiman pulls from many mythologies, across the world, and compares them to those we Americans hold dear. And it’s not football, like you might think. The imagery that Gaiman pulls out of his head and puts down on paper is amazing. I was thoroughly entertained the entire time. Further, I enjoyed the many twists and turns of the book.

What American Gods does is makes one think. What gods do we hold dear, and why? Are they more important, do they compete with the old gods? Is there anything wrong with that?

However, those twists I mentioned? Well, perhaps it is because I’m my father’s daughter, but I saw each of them coming before it was more than a whisper of a thought in the book. I was not at all surprised by the ending. They were excellent twists, they were unusual and captivating, but I guessed a good 80% of them before they happened. This doesn’t make the book less enjoyable, but it is probably why I didn’t fall in love with it.

I did really like this as an audio book. The voice over actors are all very good, and there are many of them, so the different people are all distinguishable. Even though I can tell some of the voice over actors read several parts, they read them differently enough that even before the narrator says who is talking you can tell. That is the hallmark of a good voice over actor to me. Additionally, I wouldn’t have read the book nearly as fast in person because I was only really able to listen to this as I drove to work. Some times it made leaving the car hard, but it was always fun to come back to on the drive home.

I do recommend reading this piece of Gaiman’s work. It is excellent, a contemporary novel with a twist of the supernatural. Like his other work, Gaiman’s book will make you think and ponder the things we have deemed gods. The start is a bit slow, but once the story hits its stride it surges forward and may drag you to the end before you are ready.

30 Days of Thankful: Books and The Ones I Loved in 2013

As you have probably guessed by now, I’m trying to catch up on my 30 Days of Thankful Challenge. There is a reason, and you will see why tomorrow. So, you get four posts from me today! Woot. Aren’t you lucky? 🙂

I always do an end of the year, here are my favorite books go back and read my links so I get better stats post, so I’m doing a two-fer here and posting a think I’m thankful for and following tradition. ‘Cause I’m awesome like that. Also, everyone else is posting their favorite books and I have to jump on the bandwagon now, cause I’m good at that. Some times. Ok, like every once in a while.

Hoo, boy this is difficult. I read a lot of books in 2013 and a lot of really good books in 2013 and some I haven’t even gotten around to reviewing yet. Here are my favorites.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein (click on the link to read my full review)

Summary: Code Name Verity is a historical fictitious tale, Wein writes the struggles of two friends as they help their country in a time of need. The story is written from both girls’ perspectives, and I guess it could also be termed an epistolary tale, as it is told from the letters one girl writes and the reports another girl writes.

Why I loved it: I liked the period that it was set in and the way the story unfolds. There are a lot of twists and turns I didn’t see coming. I especially love the relationship between the two girls, their friendship is inspiring and amazing. Wein’s writing is excellent and makes the amazing (could be true, but wasn’t) tale all that much better.

Cinder by Melissa Meyer (click on the link to read my full review)

SummaryCinder is a fairy tale retelling of the classic Cinderella story, but this one has cyborgs, plagues, and a Moon Queen who threatens the Earth’s existence!!!

Why I loved it: This book has all sorts of elements that I absolutely adore. It had cool sci/fi centered around androids and cyborgs, a dystopian future because of a plague, and a really cool take on retelling fairy tales. Meyers takes all of these elements and brings them into a cohesive story that has heart, great character development, and interesting relationships. I read the second book immediately, and I greatly anticipate the third book in the series, Cress, when it is expected to be published in February 2014 (there is a count down on the author’s page).

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman (click on the link to read my full review)

Summary: When Richard Mayhew stops one day to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London pavement, his life is forever altered, for he finds himself propelled into an alternative reality that exists in a subterranean labyrinth of sewer canals and abandoned subway stations. He has fallen through the cracks of reality and has landed somewhere different, somewhere that is Neverwhere. Blurb from GoodReads

Why I loved it: Honestly, this is when I fell in love with Neil Gaiman, and then I discovered his wife Amanda Palmer and they became my favorite people that I’ll never know in real life of 2013. Gaiman has an amazing way with words and story telling, that I even got my hands on a copy of his comic book series The Sandman. And long time readers know how much I hate to read graphic novels. This was also the year I started really listening to audio books and I enjoyed listening to Gaiman read his own creation.

Gaiman has an excellent speaking voice, is a good voice actor, and  hearing the story from the author was one of the best parts of this audiobook. The minute I started listening to Neverwhere I was entranced.  I also like how Gaiman writes stories that discuss greater human themes in subtle and engaging ways. He does this without preaching, he does it with out pointing it out, he just makes his comments about society fall at the right moment from the right person.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (click on the link to read my full review)

Summary: The Raven Boys follows the story of Blue and four boys from a local prep school set in the Virginia nowhere. Blue, daughter to a psychic, goes with her “aunt” to the corpse road on St. Marks Eve as amplifier for her psychic aunt who sits on a wall drawing a strange symbol waiting for the soon to be dead people to walk down the path. Every St. Marks Eve those people who will be dead within the next year appear as ghosts traveling the corpse road and Blue’s family takes down names to tell clients if they are soon to die. Blue never sees any of them herself, merely an energy amp, she is tasked with writing down the names and waits for her aunt to be finished. But this fateful St. Marks Eve (sorry, I couldn’t help myself) she sees a ghost, a boy who calls himself Gansey. No less shocked her aunt tells her “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

Why I loved it: I know a lot of people had some difficulty with this book, even devoted Stiefvater fans. But I loved it. It was dark and startling and unsettling. If felt like and unfinished tale, a beginning, and it is. I don’t mind the first book in a series, being a bit raw, I think it was done on purpose. Once again, Stiefvater is a masterful storyteller, pulling pieces of the story from each of the five characters. The magic of the book is just as entrancing as the story itself, and I have high expectations for the finished product (supposedly there will be four books).

Awesome – Stylized – Adaptation of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere

 

awesomeadaptations25

Awesome Adaptations is a weekly bookish meme, hosted at Alisa Selene’s books blog, Picturemereading. Each week she writes about an adaptation of a book that she think is worth seeing and has challenged herself to come up with suggestions to match a category. Any format (television series, film, web series, etc.) is acceptable as long as it is based in some form on a book. Today I’m participating in An Awesomely Stylized Adaptation.

neverwhereRecently I reviewed Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman which I listened to as an audiobook and it was read by Gaiman himself. I really enjoyed the story. I thought his commentary on the people who fall through the cracks in society was timely, engaging, and I really like that he took it to a fantastical level instead of a breaking, on-the-nose type of literary commentary. I liked the tone of the story, how it was quirky and dark at the same time. I also felt like I gained a lot of insight from how Gaiman read the book.

Right after I finished the audiobook the BBC announced they were doing a dramatization of the book with several well known actors playing the main parts. Gaiman scored a voice over part or two himself. It is a six part adaption the novel adapted by Dirk Maggs. James McAvoy plays Richard and the voice over cast also includes Natalie Dormer, David Harewood, Sophie Okonedo, Benedict Cumberbatch, Christopher Lee, and Anthony Head. I enjoyed this dramatization of Neverwhere. I thought it carried over the same dark and fantastical themes as the original source material. It was quirky and thought provoking. There were some exposition points by the actors that did not flow as well as the original prose by Gaiman and at times McAvoy over acted his voice acting. Overall I thought it was a wonderful adaptation that stayed fairly true to the original writing and exhibited the same dark world that Gaiman created, but I would recommend also reading or listening to the book and not just relying on this stylized adaptation to give you the story Gaiman unleashed to the world. (I found the mp3 files here if you weren’t able to listen to them when they made it on to BBC4 Radio iPlayer.) Richard and Door in cartoon style.

neverwhere-cast-greetings

I found some lovely fan art doing my review and writing up this post. Including Marc Brownlow’s illustration of Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar. A character study of the main characters in the book. Pencil(?) illustration of Lady Door. Even some cosplay of Lady Door

Audio Book Review: Neverwhere

neverwhere

I’ve had my palm read twice. The first time was an elderly black woman Willie Jean, a self proclaimed psychic. She lived in a huge store front where she gave readings and lived in a built in loft in the back. Her house was full of stuff. Mostly yellowing newspapers and garbage. One summer she was hospitalized for a time and a group from the neighborhood went through her house and cleaned it up so that when she got back she wouldn’t get some kind of infection. I still have paint splatter on a pair of my jeans that are from helping paint the kitchen walls yellow and Willie Jean’s.

I was visiting my Mom in Chicago, before I moved out here, and we went over to visit with her and bring her food. I was sitting next to her on the couch and she kept eyeing me with interest. Without warning she snatched up my hand and pressed her fingers into my palm. I was a tad startled and my mother just explained that Willie Jean read people by the …vibratations?… feeling their palms. I just wondered if I was supposed to pay for a reading I didn’t really want.

What did she tell me? “You have a sweet soul, but you have a lot of learning about life to do.” I was 21 at the time, and none of this came as a surprise.

The second time I had my palm read, it was also against my wishes. I must send out some kind of energy that entrances people who like to read palms, I really don’t know. I was working with this . . . quirky guy Danny (honestly, quirky is the nicest way to talk about him. I have other Danny stories that are far more ridiculous than this) a scrawny white guy who wore shirts that were two sizes too big and was trying to make it in the acting business. He asked to read my palm. I told him, No thank you. Several weeks later he grabbed my hand and told me that my “creative line” was really strong and curved sharply. That I should watch out because I had an overactive imagination. Again, not much of a surprise to me.

Danny also once tried to rearrange my aura. He literally was pulling at the air around my head until I told him to stop. I said I wanted my aura the way it was. That I was contemplating something and that just because he wanted my aura to be brighter and happier didn’t mean I did and he should leave it alone. (Ask me some other time about the birthday sex conversation I had with him.) Oh Danny.

I guess Richard Mayhew never had these experiences with quirky people when he was younger because when an old woman reads his palm one day and tells him that his life will begin with Door, he is slightly freaked out and fails to listen to her.

When Richard Mayhew stops one day to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London pavement, his life is forever altered, for he finds himself propelled into an alternative reality that exists in a subterranean labyrinth of sewer canals and abandoned subway stations. He has fallen through the cracks of reality and has landed somewhere different, somewhere that is Neverwhere. Blurb from GoodReads

I checked out Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman via my library’s helpful audiobook selection and got the unabridged, author’s preferred text edition, that is read by the author himself. Why preferred text? What does this mean? Well, I found an explanation about previous publisher going under and Gaiman having to get a second publisher for his story. I’m really glad I got the audio book, it is a story that renders itself well to being heard and experienced as a listener to an accomplished storyteller. Gaiman has an excellent speaking voice, is a good voice actor, and  hearing the story from the author was one of the best parts of this audiobook. I’m slowly becoming one of Neil Gaiman’s most devoted fans. I say slowly because my TBR pile is huge and it is taking me a while to get to some of his books that I’ve been meaning to read for  years. I read The Graveyard Book as an introduction to his work and was eager to get my hands onto  more of his stories. (I’m also a huge fan of his wife! They are an awesome couple!) The minute I started listening to Neverwhere I was entranced.

Richard Mayhew is kind of an Everyman.  He life takes a sharp turn toward the weird and he falls down the rabbit hole. At the bottom of that hole is a deep well of water and it takes him a while, but eventually Richard learns to swim among the treacherous waters. I like Richard’s transformation across the story, it is subtle, but by the end Richard has been changed by his adventures. All he wants is to get back to his normal life, but in the end he discovers he isn’t so normal himself. The girl he meets is in all kinds of trouble and drags Richard along with her. Door is strong, smart, and cunning. She also uses people to get what she wants. But in a straightforward kind of way, that I must applaud her forthright attitude and actions. She gets stuff done, she makes the moves on the chessboard she needs to, and she fights for what she wants. The side characters in this book are just as delightful, and every single person serves a purpose to move the story in a unique direction. Gaiman’s prose and storytelling are masterful.

I also like how Gaiman writes stories that discuss greater human themes in subtle and engaging ways. Neverwhere is about the people who fall through the cracks of society and gives them their own world and universe. Humanizing the homeless man sitting on the street corner and showing us how we fail to see all of humanity as we pass by it. He does this without preaching, he does it with out pointing it out, he just makes his comments about society fall at the right moment from the right person onto the page of his story.