Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Inferno: A Novel

Author:  Dan Brown
Series:  Robert Langdon, Book 4
Year: 2013
Publisher:  Random House Audio
Narrator:  Paul Michael

Goodreads Synopsis:
In his international blockbusters The Da Vinci Code, Angels & Demons, and The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown masterfully fused history, art, codes, and symbols. In this riveting new thriller, Brown returns to his element and has crafted his highest-stakes novel to date.
In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology, Robert Langdon, is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces: Dante’s Inferno.
Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust...before the world is irrevocably altered.

 Same characters, same story, different book.  I really enjoyed listening to this book even though there's nothing new about it. It's another Robert Langdon story where he's saving the world and it's once again in Italy. It made my commute much shorter (except when Brown went off onto expositional tangents). 

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Windup Girl

Author:  Paulo Bacigalupi
Year: 2009
Publisher: Audible Frontiers
Narrator:  Jonathan Davis

Goodreads Summary:

Anderson Lake is a company man, AgriGen's Calorie Man in Thailand. Under cover as a factory manager, Anderson combs Bangkok's street markets in search of foodstuffs thought to be extinct, hoping to reap the bounty of history's lost calories. There, he encounters Emiko...

Emiko is the Windup Girl, a strange and beautiful creature. One of the New People, Emiko is not human; instead, she is an engineered being, creche-grown and programmed to satisfy the decadent whims of a Kyoto businessman, but now abandoned to the streets of Bangkok. Regarded as soulless beings by some, devils by others, New People are slaves, soldiers, and toys of the rich in a chilling near future in which calorie companies rule the world, the oil age has passed, and the side effects of bio-engineered plagues run rampant across the globe.

What Happens when calories become currency? What happens when bio-terrorism becomes a tool for corporate profits, when said bio-terrorism's genetic drift forces mankind to the cusp of post-human evolution? Award-winning author Paolo Bacigalupi delivers one of the most highly acclaimed science fiction novels of the twenty-first century.


This was one of the most creative and imaginative books that I have read. Bacigalupi created a magnificent world that is harsh and brutal. His imaginings as to what could happen with our world in the future (maybe not too distal) are horrifying. This story was beautifully written. I did have a hard time following the audiobook and kept getting the characters confused.  That's something that might have been rectified if I had a physical book. I think it's because the names are all different and difficult. I wanted more Emiko and was a little disappointed that the book wasn't all about her. I'd like to see more in this world and with these characters.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

No Rest for the Wicked

Author: Kresley Cole
Series:  Immortals After Dark, Book 3
Year:  2006
Publisher:  Pocket Star Books
Pages:  356

Goodreads Summary:

In this next installment in the Immortals After Dark Series, USA Today Bestselling author Kresley Cole delivers a scorching tale about a forbidding vampire who lives in the shadows and the beautiful assassin who hunts him there. 
A vampire soldier weary of life...
Centuries ago, Sebastian Wroth was turned into a vampire—a nightmare in his mind—against his will. Burdened with hatred and alone for ages, he sees little reason to live. Until an exquisite, fey creature comes to kill him, inadvertently saving him instead.
A valkyrie assassin dispatched to destroy him...
When Kaderin the Cold Hearted lost her two beloved sisters to a vampire attack long ago, a benevolent force deadened her sorrow—accidentally extinguishing all of her emotions. Yet whenever she encounters Sebastian, her feelings—particularly lust—emerge multiplied. For the first time, she's unable to complete a kill.
Competitors in a legendary hunt...
The prize of the month-long contest is powerful enough to change history, and Kaderin will do anything to win it for her sisters. Wanting only to win her, forever, Sebastian competes as well, taking every opportunity—as they travel to ancient tombs and through catacombs, seeking relics around the world—to use her new feelings to seduce her. But when forced to choose between the vampire she's falling for and reuniting her family, how can Kaderin live without either?

These are fun little books.  They're not great moving literature but they're perfect for a lazy Saturday afternoon when I want something easy to read. I love the way Cole blends all different types of paranormal creatures together in the books and can't wait to see one that doesn't feature a vampire. My only gripe with the books is that, so far, they are solely based on the characters falling instantly in love (or at least one of them knowing that the other is his "mate"). There's not a whole lot of surprise as to what's going to happen in the books but they're engrossing.

I will be actively looking for the books at used bookstores but won't pay full price for them. I also won't mind if I'm reading them out of order (especially since there seems to be differing lists as to how the books should be numbered.)

Monday, July 22, 2013

Who I Was Supposed to Be: Short Stories

Author:  Susan Perabo
Year: 2006
Publisher:  Simon & Schuster
Pages: 187

Goodreads Synopsis:
Behind every face in Who I Was Supposed to Be is a singular quirk to explore, a peculiarity to celebrate. In Susan Perabo's world, nothing can be taken for granted: here, a retired grocer takes up jewel theft in his twilight years; a data processor squanders her inheritance on one of Princess Diana's gowns; a mugging victim feigns amnesia to win back his wife.
In the tradition of Lorrie Moore, Susan Perabo's slightly off-center lens looks hard at the banal and the bizarre, and at the human condition, where she finds extraordinary magic within the smallest of gestures. Sharply written and overlaid with a mischievous wit, Who I Was Supposed to Be is an unforgettable homage to laughter, love, and wonder.

I had never heard of Susan Perabo before my friend bought this book (although I do imagine her as looking something like Piper Perabo). My friend bought this book at a bookstore while we were out. Of course, the first thing that happened when we got back to the car was I had to go through all her books and see what she bought. This one jumped out at me.  Maybe it was the cute little dog sitting in the car. I don't know. I started reading the first short story in the collection, "Thick as Thieves" and was hooked. I ended up taking the book home and reading it first. I found this collection of stories to be very moving and relevant to me (even the very odd and slightly off-kilter stories).  Perabo's writing drew me in and kept me reading. I would finish one story and move directly to the next.  I just really enjoyed these stories and found them to be gems every one. I need my own copy of this book!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

The Mysterious Howling

Author: Maryrose Wood
Series:  The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place, Book 1
Year:  2010
Publisher:  Harper Audio
Narrator:  Katherine Kellgren

Goodreads Synopsis:
Found running wild in the forest of Ashton Place, the Incorrigibles are no ordinary children: Alexander, age ten or thereabouts, keeps his siblings in line with gentle nips; Cassiopeia, perhaps four or five, has a bark that is (usually) worse than her bite; and Beowulf, age somewhere-in-the-middle, is alarmingly adept at chasing squirrels.
Luckily, Miss Penelope Lumley is no ordinary governess. Only fifteen years old and a recent graduate of the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females, Penelope embraces the challenge of her new position. Though she is eager to instruct the children in Latin verbs and the proper use of globes, first she must help them overcome their canine tendencies.
But mysteries abound at Ashton Place: Who are these three wild creatures, and how did they come to live in the vast forests of the estate? Why does Old Timothy, the coachman, lurk around every corner? Will Penelope be able to teach the Incorrigibles table manners and socially useful phrases in time for Lady Constance's holiday ball? And what on earth is a schottische?

This is just a lovely book. It has all that British flair that I just adore in books and Katherine Kellgren is an amazing narrator (one of the best in my opinion). It was just funny and it doesn't talk down to the reader. I loved the hidden sarcasm. I wanted to be Penelope Lumley. (She kinda reminded me of Anne Shirley) I'd never heard of these books before the YA Syn literature but I am interested in checking out the rest of the audiobooks.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Bless Me, Ultima

Author:  Rudolfo Anaya
Year: 1999
Publisher: Recorded Books
Narrator:  Robert Rameriz

Goodreads Description:

Antonio Marez is six years old when Ultima enters his life. She is a curandera, one who heals with herbs and magic. 'We cannot let her live her last days in loneliness,' says Antonio's mother. 'It is not the way of our people,' agrees his father. And so Ultima comes to live with Antonio's family in New Mexico. Soon Tony will journey to the threshold of manhood. Always, Ultima watches over him. She graces him with the courage to face childhood bigotry, diabolical possession, the moral collapse of his brother, and too many violent deaths. Under her wise guidance, Tony will probe the family ties that bind him, and he will find in himself the magical secrets of the pagan past—a mythic legacy equally as palpable as the Catholicism of Latin America in which he has been schooled. At each turn in his life there is Ultima who will nurture the birth of his soul.
So this is one of those free audiobooks I got from Sync YA Literature. I really don't know that it's a book that I would have otherwise picked up but I'm glad I did. I found it to be a very interesting coming of age story. I thoroughly appreciate the way that Anaya blended myth and legend with reality and also the Spanish and English languages. It was a very interesting and well written book.

On a related note, during a recent road trip through New Mexico, my friend and I came across this statue to Rudolfo Anaya in Santa Rosa, New Mexico. I thought it was perfect timing because I had never heard of Anaya before and then right after reading the book, I "found" the statue.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The End of Your Life Book Club

Author:  Will Schwalbe
Year: 2012
Publisher:  Knopf
Pages: 336

Goodreads Summary:

“What are you reading?”
That’s the question Will Schwalbe asks his mother, Mary Anne, as they sit in the waiting room of the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. In 2007, Mary Anne returned from a humanitarian trip to Pakistan and Afghanistan suffering from what her doctors believed was a rare type of hepatitis. Months later she was diagnosed with a form of advanced pancreatic cancer, which is almost always fatal, often in six months or less. 
This is the inspiring true story of a son and his mother, who start a “book club” that brings them together as her life comes to a close. Over the next two years, Will and Mary Anne carry on conversations that are both wide-ranging and deeply personal, prompted by an eclectic array of books and a shared passion for reading. Their list jumps from classic to popular, from poetry to mysteries, from fantastic to spiritual. The issues they discuss include questions of faith and courage as well as everyday topics such as expressing gratitude and learning to listen. Throughout, they are constantly reminded of the power of books to comfort us, astonish us, teach us, and tell us what we need to do with our lives and in the world. Reading isn’t the opposite of doing; it’s the opposite of dying. 
Will and Mary Anne share their hopes and concerns with each other—and rediscover their lives—through their favorite books. When they read, they aren’t a sick person and a well person, but a mother and a son taking a journey together. The result is a profoundly moving tale of loss that is also a joyful, and often humorous, celebration of life: Will’s love letter to his mother, and theirs to the printed page. 

I haven't cried this much during a book in ages. I started reading this book out in public and was full out crying so I had to put it away and finish it in the comfort of my home. I loved the stories and the relationship with the books that the author and his mother had and how the books brought them closer together. But, honestly, my favorite part of the book was the relationship between the mother and son and the way they dealt with the cancer. It was a beautiful story.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals

Author:  Michael Pollan
Year:  2006
Publisher: The Penguin Press
Pages:  451

Goodreads Summary:

What should we have for dinner?" To one degree or another this simple question assails any creature faced with a wide choice of things to eat. Anthropologists call it the omnivore's dilemma. Choosing from among the countless potential foods nature offers, humans have had to learn what is safe, and what isn't—which mushrooms should be avoided, for example, and which berries we can enjoy. Today, as America confronts what can only be described as a national eating disorder, the omnivore's dilemma has returned with an atavistic vengeance. The cornucopia of the modern American supermarket and fast-food outlet has thrown us back on a bewildering landscape where we once again have to worry about which of those tasty-looking morsels might kill us. At the same time we're realizing that our food choices also have profound implications for the health of our environment. The Omnivore's Dilemma is bestselling author Michael Pollan's brilliant and eye-opening exploration of these little-known but vitally important dimensions of eating in America.

This book was long and at times difficult to read. I found myself rereading passages because I didn't quite understand what was just said but in the end, the book was eye-opening more than anything. I had never put much thought into exactly where my food comes from. After reading The Omnivore's Dilemma, I think about it every time I drive past a corn field or cow pasture. I'm definitely going to be reading more Pollan in my future.