Sometimes I like to daydream about who I would invite to my ideal dinner party, and Stephen Fry is always at the top of my list. He's funny, erudite,Sometimes I like to daydream about who I would invite to my ideal dinner party, and Stephen Fry is always at the top of my list. He's funny, erudite, active, and kind. Basically he's my idea of a perfect man, and of course, he's gay as a Christmas tree. Ah well, you can't get everything in life, and I would settle for a conversation with him.
After hearing Fry read this book, his own autobiography covering the first 20 years or so of his life, I feel like I've had that conversation. I feel like I know him, like he's a favorite uncle whose stories I love to hear over and over again.
And what stories! To hear Fry tell it, he was a hellion of the highest order when he was a boy; stealing, lying, and falling in love with beautiful boys. You get the sense that he was always aware of his extremely high intellect and was able to use it on other people from an early age. I couldn't help but smile at his telling of his antics, and gasping incredulously at how daring he could be.
Fry has always been so willing to communicate with the world. He puts out a revealing and entertaining twitter feed, makes excellent documentaries on his own struggles with manic-depressive disorder among many other topics, and is a prolific writer. I'm a great admirer of his, and greatly look forward to reading the next installment in his life story, The Fry Chronicles....more
I started this novel by listening to it on audiobook, but soon decided to switch to reading it as an ebook. This was because I just couldn’t get intoI started this novel by listening to it on audiobook, but soon decided to switch to reading it as an ebook. This was because I just couldn’t get into the story as read by Heather Corrigan and Zach Appelman, especially as I found Corrigan’s voice to be rather annoying and difficult to listen to. The action was also hard to follow, as I was unable to “flip back” to previous pages, as it were, and reread confusing passages. For a while, I even contemplated giving up on the book, something which I rarely do.
But, as soon as I switched to reading a physical version, the book grabbed my attention and held it, until I was racing through it, desperate to get to the end. I was thrilled by the way two seemingly disconnected threads of story finally came together. Flashbacks to different points in the story did a great job of connecting the dots, and the end result was gripping.
The sci-fi element of this novel was not based around new technology, but old, possibly the oldest: the spoken word. Instead of high-tech equipment, the Poets (agents named after famous poets like T. S. Eliot and Charlotte Brontë) of the Organization use carefully crafted words to get behind people’s defenses and persuade them to do their bidding. I have had an amateur interest in linguistics in high school and I found some of the subjects the book touched on to be fascinating. I was especially interested in neurolinguistics, and found myself wanting more discussion of the subject.
The greatest surprise in this novel was how well Barry ended up crafting believable characters and a love story out of the chaos of the action. I started out disliking Emily, one of the protagonists, and eventually found that I was really rooting for her. Wil, the other protagonist, was an enigma at the beginning, and I found it difficult to understand him and his motivations, but towards the end, it became clear that Barry made him so deliberately.
I thought this was a strong sci-fi novel, and could not put it down towards the end. I will definitely look to reading more Max Barry in the future. ...more
One advantage to "reading" books as audiobooks is that I always remember where I was and what I was doing as I was listening. Every book gets that extOne advantage to "reading" books as audiobooks is that I always remember where I was and what I was doing as I was listening. Every book gets that extra flavor added to it. For some books, it's a calm nighttime feeling, as I'm listening to it to get to sleep. For some, I remember knitting a particular garment along with it, or jogging on a treadmill with its steady pace flooding my ears. This book took me an incredibly long time to read, nearly six months for some reason, so it is associated with a lot of things. Most of all though, it is associated with Australia. I took a vacation to the southeast coast of Oz earlier, and that's where I listened to most of the book. I finished it on a rainy day in Brisbane while I wandered around the botanical gardens, taking pictures of rain-drenched flora, and surrounded by the damp, clean smell of a passing storm. If I close my eyes and think about the book, I feel myself transplanted back there.
The book itself was a captivating and enthralling journey through the darker sides of Victorian England. The main character, Sugar, is a young prostitute bred and born in the brothels. She is no ordinary "hooker with a heart of gold" though; she spends her free time writing a novel of revenge and hate, condemning the men who have used her to inventive and torturous deaths. She is able to unflinchingly give all men the pleasure they pay for, but she is always looking for an escape from her dreary existence.
That escape comes in the form of William Rackham, a rather inept purveyor of scented soaps and lotions. He himself is looking for an escape from his troubles: an overbearing father, a sanctimonious brother, and a mad wife. He falls for Sugar and sets her up in a house of her own, eventually bringing her to his own home as a governess to his child, whom his wife cannot acknowledge as her own.
While I found Sugar's story of social climb and ambition captivating, I also loved the story of Agnes, William's wife, a naive and pious girl who is entirely uninformed about sexual matters. Her ignorance of even her own menstruation leads her to believe that her monthly bleeds are a result of a demon living in her body. It was fascinating to read about her descent into madness, and I though Faber captured her fevered fragility with excellent skill.
I loved the narration device in this novel. At times, it seems as though the book itself is talking to you, drawing you in, and leading you along to discover its characters. Jilly Bond was an excellent narrator, and I very much enjoyed my experience reading this book. ...more
When I was in high school, I read a great deal of fan fiction, mostly in the Harry Potter fandom (quite simply because I couldn't get enough of that wWhen I was in high school, I read a great deal of fan fiction, mostly in the Harry Potter fandom (quite simply because I couldn't get enough of that world). One of my favorite authors was Maya, who was the penname of Sarah Rees Brennan. Unlike another fanfic writer to published author (*cough*Cassandra Clare*cough), her published works do not resemble her fanfics in the way of plot or characterizations. Brennan keeps her lovely writing style and ability to build a world, but invents wholly new characters to inhabit that world.
This novel, the first in a trilogy, tells the story of the Ryves brothers, Nick and Alan, who are on the run from magicians along with their mentally disturbed mother. Their father was killed by said magicians when the boys were young, and they have been running to try and protect their mother, who is in possession of a talisman that a magician named Black Arthur (who was her ex-lover) desperately wants. At least that is what Nick thinks, until two strangers enter their lives asking for help, and his entire world is turned around based on the revelations that occur.
I strongly respected Brennan's decision to tell the story through Nick's eyes. He is not the typical narrator one sees in these kinds of books. Yes, he is magically gifted (for a reason) and handsome and confident. But he can also be cruel, selfish, and unable to understand other people's emotions, even those closest to him. Readers of fantasy are used to protagonists that are obviously good, but Nick struggles throughout the whole book with his dark side. In the end, we understand why he is the way he is, and Brennan's reveal is well foreshadowed yet still shocking.
I listened to this book as read by James Langdon, and I thought he did a good job. I'm looking forward to reading the second in this series. ...more
This is the book that started the longest pop culture obsession of my life so far. I grew up with Harry Potter, literally, as I was 11 years old whenThis is the book that started the longest pop culture obsession of my life so far. I grew up with Harry Potter, literally, as I was 11 years old when the series became popular. Waiting for the later books in the series defined my teenage years. I went to midnight screenings of all the movies, snagged the books as soon as they were released, and spent hours upon hours on Potter websites.
I recently decided to listen to the wonderful Stephen Fry version of the audiobook because I needed something comforting and utterly familiar. Having read this book at least 10 times previous, it was an obvious choice. Stephen Fry does a fantastic job and gives a different voice and spirit to every character.
As to the story itself, I'd forgotten certain plot elements that weren't in the movie, such as Harry and Draco's midnight duel, and Harry and Hermione sending Norbert off with Charlie's friends. Those scenes were such lovely surprises. I also really appreciated Rowling's skill at writing adventure, action, and funny but realistic dialogue. I was not surprised that I enjoyed listening to this book just as much as I loved reading it the first time around. Pure magic. ...more
After her first rollicking, wild adventure in the land of the elves, Tiffany Aching is finally getting the training she needs. As a young witch, thatAfter her first rollicking, wild adventure in the land of the elves, Tiffany Aching is finally getting the training she needs. As a young witch, that mostly involves taking care of an older witch named Miss Level, who turns out to have one mind in two bodies. In addition to Miss Level, we are also introduced to a gaggle of young witches in training. There's Petulia, who has an affinity with pigs, and Annagramma, a snobby witch obsessed with the flashier side of witchery. Annagramma humiliates Tiffany constantly, making fun of her imaginary witch's hat and leaving her open to the attack of a malevolent ball of evil.
Soon enough, Miss Level and the Nac Mac Feegle start noticing strange behaviors in Tiffany. She steals from an elderly man she's supposed to be caring for, frightens the other apprentices, and causes all manner of chaos.
The Nac Mac Feegle, led by Rob Anybody, decide to help Tiffany in the only way they know how, with violence and lots of swearing. In the end though, the fight is in Tiffany's mind, and she has to confront the evil presence in it, and teach it her own brand of humanity.
I thought this was an great sequel which continued to build the excellent and unique character of Tiffany Aching. ...more
The Goose Girl is a retelling of a lesser-known fairy tale of the same name. The original Brothers Grimm story is quite, well, grim. The heroine of thThe Goose Girl is a retelling of a lesser-known fairy tale of the same name. The original Brothers Grimm story is quite, well, grim. The heroine of the story is sent by her mother to wed another kingdom's prince. She sets off with her maid, a talking horse named Falada, and a handkerchief with three drops of her mother's blood for protection. During the journey, she loses the handkerchief and her maid betrays her, forcing her to switch places. When they get to the palace, the maid marries the prince and the princess is given the job of goose girl.
I won't spoil the ending, but you can read the original story here.
The adaptation is very faithful to the fairy tale, and adds in the bonus of giving names to the main characters. Some of the more improbable elements of the story are explained away, and Hale creates a very convincing world. The main character, Princess Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee of Kildenree is very easy to relate to, and you end up really rooting for her.
I listed to an audio version of this book, with the characters acted out by a full cast. I must say this really added to the experience of the novel, and helped me to connect to the characters even more. ...more
One of my favorite books as a kid was an illustrated version of the Grimm's Fairy Tales. "Maid Maleen" was one of my favorite stories from the selectiOne of my favorite books as a kid was an illustrated version of the Grimm's Fairy Tales. "Maid Maleen" was one of my favorite stories from the selection and I've always thought it was an extremely underrated tale. It tells the story of a princess who gets shut into a tower by her father for seven years when she refuses to marry a man she doesn't love. When she comes out of the tower she makes her way in poverty and distress to her beloved's country, where he is about to marry someone else.
Shannon Hale once reinvented another relatively unknown tale, "The Goose Girl" to great effect by inventing an entire world around it, filled with interesting peoples and countries. She is likewise successful with this book, inventing a Mongolian-like civilization and grounding her characters in fantastic sounding kingdoms like Titor's Garden, Thoughts of Under, and Song for Evela (all named for gods in a completely believable religion).
Hale made a conscious decision to tell the story through the eyes of Dashti, the princess' maid. It's a good choice. In the original fairy tale, we learn barely anything about the maid, why does she agree to stay with the poor princess, where does she disappear to halfway through the story? Hale also convincingly writes about the impossibility of the story (the food that is supposed to last Dashti and the princess for seven years is gone in less than four), and the toll it takes on both of them. Dashti is blessed with the healing power of singing, so she emerges from the tower with her sanity intact. The princess is not so fortunate. Throughout the novel we get glimpses of the princess' fear and slipping mind, and it makes Dashti's fortitude and strength that much more impressive.
I listened to this book as a full-cast audio production, and I must say it was wonderfully produced. The voices were spot on, and the musical elements definitely added to the experience. One sick day I listened to the bulk of the novel and absolutely fell in love with it. I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys smart and well-told fairy tale adaptations. ...more