Hilarie
Rating:
Genre: Crime Fiction, Washington DC, Mystery
Reading Challenges: 29 for 100+ in 2009

I can't call this book a thriller. It is so much more. It is, simply, the best crime novel I've read in several years. This book was my first introduction to George Pelecanos, and already I've added several more of his books to my TBR pile.

The Night Gardener begins in 1985, at the scene of a homicide committed by a serial killer known as "the night gardener"who has been targeting teenage victims. It is here that we are first introduced to three police officers: patrolmen Gus Ramone and Dan Holiday, and detective T.C. Cook. We are offered only a brief glimpse before the novel jumps to 2005. Gus Ramone, now a detective, divides his time between work and family. Dan Holiday is a cop no longer, but provides chauffeur services with security to the wealthy. T.C. Cook, now retired, is haunted by the faces of the serial killers victims, and longs to bring the killer to justice. The discovery of another homicide that bears remarkable similarities to the unsolved cases of twenty years ago brings these three men together.

Let me start my review with a warning. The dialogue in this book is extremely raw, including almost constant profanity and vulgar references. That being said, Pelecanos writes some of the best dialogue I've ever read. Personally, I wish the language could have been cleaner, but it might not have felt so authentic if that had been the case.

The Night Gardener really surprised me, in a good way. I was expecting a page-turning murder mystery which would resolve itself in a tidy black and white ending by the last page. Instead, I found a book which was almost a constant shade of gray, and which compelled me to keep reading because of the powerful questions it made me ask myself. I was especially impressed with the ending of the novel. I don't want to give anything away, so I'll simply say that for me I don't feel that it could have ended any other way.

I also appreciated that Pelecanos avoided so many of the typical plot devices that are present in so many crime novels. For once, I appreciated reading about a police officer who was a devoted husband and father, as opposed to a self-destructive hero. I was also fascinated by Pelecanos presentation of the racial tensions that are present in Washington D.C., and I appreciated that he was able to present more than one viewpoint. Pelecanos has made a fan of me with this one.

If you are looking for a crime novel with true substance, you can't do better than this. Just don't say I didn't warn you about the potty talk.

If you've read this, I'd love to hear what you think! Feel free to post links to your reviews in the comments.
Labels: , , Comments | edit post
Reactions: 
Hilarie
Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:
  • Grab your current read
  • Open to a random page
  • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
  • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
  • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

  • Here is mine for the day:

    Beneath a Marble Sky by John Shors, page 112

    "I understood the taste, the insanity of love. Because as sure as the sun would rise tomorrow I loved him so."



    Labels: Comments | edit post
    Reactions: 
    Hilarie
    Rating:
    Genre: Classics, Coming of Age, Indiana
    Reading Challenges: 28 for 100+ in 2009

    What a delightful read this is! I first read this novel when I was a youngster, close to ten years old (that makes me sound like a really old lady, which I hope I am not at only 32 years old). I had forgotten much of the story, but after reading Freckles earlier this year I thought I would pick it up again. I was happy to find it even better than I had remembered.

    The book is the story of Elnora Comstock; a young girl living in rural Indiana, on the brink of the now largely vanished Limberlost swamp. Elnora is an only child, and lives with her mother who was widowed when Elnora's father was sucked down by a bog near the time of Elnora's birth. Mrs. Comstock has nursed her bitterness over the death of her husband for many years, and treats her daughter with contempt and cruelty. Elnora, who is truly a creature of the Limberlost herself, desires to find her way in the world. When her mother refuses to pay for her to attend high school, Elnora turns to the swamp she loves to help fund her education. Her passion for self-improvement, and kind-hearted nature win over those around her, and ultimately lead to a change of heart for those closest to her.

    This is a great story of triumph over struggle, and the will to succeed in the face of adversity. Sometimes, especially in our cynical world, it is refreshing to read about people who really care about each other. I especially love the idea that people can change, especially when they learn the lessons that life has to teach them. The book also has a lovely little romance, which while not the major plot line, contributes to a perfect ending. If you haven't ever read this, give it a try. It is a fast read, and one that will lift your spirits.

    Also, if you would rather read than listen, there is a great version of this book on Librivox. Unfortunately, the recording is not read by only one reader, but most of the volunteers did a pretty good job. While it is not a perfect recording, at least it is free.
    Labels: , , , Comments | edit post
    Reactions: 
    Hilarie
    Do you love Jane Austen? If so, I have the perfect challenge for you. Join in the fun of the Everything Austen Challenge hosted by Stephanie at Stepanie's Written Word. In addition to the enjoyment you will find in immersing yourself in Austen themed goodness, there is the chance to win a copy of the Lost in Austen dvd.

    The challenge begins July 1, 2009 and runs until January 1, 2010. All you need to do is watch or read 6 Austen themed movies or books in the next 6 months. My choices are as follows:

    Books
    Persuasion by Jane Austen
    Mr. Darcy, Vampyre by Amanda Grange
    Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
    Confessions of a Jane Austen Addict by Laurie Veira Rigler

    Movies
    Persuasion (1995 version)
    Pride and Prejudice (A&E Miniseries version)

    This is one challenge I am sure I will meet!

    Comments | edit post
    Reactions: 
    Hilarie
    A great cover can grab your attention and stir your imagination. Each Wednesday, Marcia at the Printed Page hosts Cover Attraction. Head over there and enjoy Marcia's cover. Post your own while you're at it!

    This week I was charmed by the cover for The Story Sisters by Alice Hoffman. I love how in the image the face of the girl is partially obscured, giving the cover a dreamlike quality. I also love the orange butterfly wings, which give the image the perfect amount of color. I have enjoyed many of Hoffman's previous works and am very intrigued by this one.

    I couldn't find the back cover blurb, so I'm posting the Barnes and Noble review.

    The Barnes & Noble Review

    Alice Hoffman's prose is nearly gorgeous enough to console us for the tragedies The Story Sisters. It is a book about demons and family bonds; it is very much a work about sisterhood. Jealousy figures in, as do loyalty, protection, friendship, and shifting alliances. The novel begins with the three sisters as young girls, troubling and fascinating daughters to their loving divorcée mother, Annie. We meet them at the Plaza Hotel, dressed in blues that both set them apart and link them: "Teal and azure and sapphire. They liked to wear similar clothes and confuse people as to who was who." Elv, the eldest, is "the most beautiful"; Meg is "a great reader" and Claire, the youngest, is "diligent, kindhearted, never one to shirk chores." When they speak a private language to each other -- "lovely to hear, musical" -- most people are "charmed." But the charm cannot protect the girls themselves -- if anything their virtues seem to call down disaster.

    The novel follows this family -- whose punning surname really is "Story" -- through the tumultuous course of their lives, and takes place in nearly magical realms: seaside Long Island, New York City, Paris. If there is grief enough to spare, blow after blow of unbearable loss, moments of grace also abound, and Hoffman keeps pulling characters out of her sleeve till the final pages of book -- a sure sign of a master of fiction. (Doestoevsky always has one 11th-hour heroine or villain in his toolbox; so, too, does Dickens.) Even the most minor characters leave an indelible impression, like these two ominous counselors at a private school for wayward youth: "They seemed like prizefighters or bouncers in a nightclub. They wore black rain jackets and work boots. They were standing in the rain, waiting. If Annie could have felt anything, she might have been flooded with second thoughts. She might have made Alan turn the car around. But she was paralyzed."

    Hoffman brilliantly delineates the face of bereavement in the aftermath of a family disaster: mother and sister "stayed home all winter. They didn't shovel the snow on the walkway….They wandered into the kitchen and grabbed a bite of cheese or a cracker. They didn't trouble to use dishes anymore, only ate standing up, crouched over the sink or using paper napkins. They reminded Natalia of the dogs one sometimes saw in certain neighborhoods of Paris, wild and uncared for, dangerous to the touch." Hoffman's spare, terse method of constructing sentences adds to the haunting quality of the book and underscores its poetry. ("She wasn't the least bit spooked when the leaves on the trees rattled, always a sign of rain. The rain in Paris was beautiful, anyway, cold and clean and green.")

    Elv, the ravaged, angry heroine of the book, is especially memorable, both in her disintegration and in her efforts to redeem herself. Her name suggests her connection to a magical, alternative world, and her personality seems even to her mother a thorny mystery: "Her oldest girl sat up in the hawthorn tree late at night; she said she was looking at stars, but she was there even on cloudy nights, her black hair even blacker against the sky. Annie was certain that people who said daughters were easy had never had girls of their own." Elv's difficulties evolve from childhood eccentricity to self-mutilation to drug addiction. Even as a young girl she is wary, for good reason. Her exceptional beauty proves both a blessing and a curse.

    Elv put her sweater on, even though the room was quite warm. The waiter had been skulking around, trying to get close to her, breathing on her hair, looking at her as if he knew something.

    "Did you want something?" Mary Fox asked him.

    "Don't talk to him," Elv said.


    The sisters escape from the brutality of the real world around them to a made-up world they call Arnelle, with its own language, characters, and customs.

    Arnelle was everything the human world was not. Speech was unnecessary. Treachery was out of the question. It was a world where no one could take you by surprise or tell you a mouthful of lies. You could see someone's heart through his chest and know if he was a goblin, a mortal, or a true hero. You could divine a word's essence by a halo of color -- red was false, white was true, yellow was the foulest of lies. There were no ropes to tie you, no stale bread, no one to shut and lock the door.


    True heroes are rare in The Story Sisters, out-and-out villains even rarer, but not a single character fails to come to life under Hoffman's capable hand. As with any good story, one encounters birth and death, surprise twists of fate. Lovable characters sometimes come to terrible ends, and terrible characters turn themselves toward good. The justice one encounters in this world is more like the justice of the Grimm Brothers than the justice of a contemporary court of law. Speech and speechlessness, love and lovelessness do battle, as do primal forces of good and of evil. The book does flounder at times in the second half, pulled down by the weight of its own cumulative disasters. One or two plot twists ring false. But ultimately, Hoffman earns all of her dark moments.

    Like sisters in a fairy tale, these three have their impossible tasks to accomplish: "one to find love, one to find peace, one to find herself." If one can bear the darkness of the journey, Alice Hoffman offers a remarkable new telling of an old, enduring story. -- Liz Rosenberg

    Liz Rosenberg is the author of the novel Home Repair, published in May 2009 by HarperAvon, and of two recent books of poems, Demon Love (Mammoth Books) andThe Lily Poems (Bright Hills). A book columnist for The Boston Globe, she also teaches English and Creative Writing at the State University of New York at Binghamton.

    Labels: Comments | edit post
    Reactions: 
    Hilarie
    I love free books! I'm guessing that you love free books too. Let's share the fun of all the great giveaways that are going on out there in the blogsphere. I will post contests as I stumble across them. Please feel free to leave additional contest links in the comments, and I'll update this post. The best part of giveaways? Often it gives you the chance to visit new blogs and read more reviews.
    • Melissa at Melissa's Bookshelf is hosting an amazing giveaway for the 1st seven books in the Sookie Stackhouse Series! The contest ends July 5.
    • Dar at Peeking Between the Pages is hosting an amazing number of giveaways.
      • 1 copy the Painter of Shanghai by Jennifer Cody Epstein - ends July 5
      • 5 copies of Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons - ends July 17
      • 5 copies of The Walking People by Mary Beth Keane - ends July 17
    • Bookin' with Bingo is hosting lots of great giveaways at her site:
      • 5 copies of Stand the Storm by Breena Clark - ends July 15
      • 5 winners of 10 Fabulous Beach Reads (Includes: Julie and Julia, When You are Engulfed in Flames, A Summer Affair, and many more) - ends July 17
      • 5 copies of The Host and 1 lucky person will win a copy of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer - ends July 15
    Comments | edit post
    Reactions: 
    Hilarie
    Are you a fan of the bard? Don't miss this giveaway! Valerie, at Hachette Book Group, has kindly given me five copies of this book to giveaway to five lucky readers! This book sounds like a great read. I will be posting a review in the near future, so stay posted.

    More about: My Name is Will by Jess Winfield (Information provided by Hachette Book Group)

    A Tale of two Shakespeares...

    Struggling UC Santa Cruz grad student Willie Shakespeare Greenberg is trying to write his thesis about the Bard. Kind of...

    Cut off by his father for laziness, and desperate for dough, Willie agrees to deliver a single giant, psychedelic mushroom to a mysterious collector, making himself an unwitting target in Ronald Reagan's War on Drugs.

    Meanwhile, would-be playwright (and oppressed Catholic) William Shakespeare is eighteen years old and stuck teaching Latin in the boondocks of Stratford-upon-Avon. The future Bard's life is turned upside down when a stranger entrusts him with a sacred relic from Rome... This, at a time when adherents of the "Old Faith" are being hanged, drawn, and quartered as traitors.

    Seemingly separated in time and place, the lives of Willie and William begin to intersect in curious ways, from harrowing encounters with the law (and a few ex-girlfriends) to dubious experiments with mind-altering substances. Their misadventures could be dismissed as youthful folly. But wise or foolish, the bold choices they make will shape not only the 'Shakespeare' each is destined to come... but the very course of history itself.

    Contest Information and Guidelines:
    The Facts
    The giveaway starts today, June 23rd and will run through Tuesday, July 21st. We will use a random number generator to determine the winners at that time and notify them via email. Please provide us with your email as it is the only way we have to get in touch with you! We will also post the winners in the comments after the contest is over. The contest is only open to residents of the United States and Canada. Unfortunately, we are unable to ship to P.O. Boxes.

    Entries
    To enter, simply leave a comment to this post. You can get an additional entries by:
    1. Post this giveaway on your blog. Please provide me with a link to the URL.
    2. Become a follower or subscriber, or just let us know if you already are.

    Good luck!
    Labels: Comments | edit post
    Reactions: 
    Hilarie
    Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:
    • Grab your current read
    • Open to a random page
    • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
    • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
    • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

    • Here is mine for the day:

      The Night Gardener by George Pelecanos

      "His fathers Tahoe was not in the street. Diego felt that he was nearly a man, but he was still young enough to like the security of knowing his dad was home."
      Labels: Comments | edit post
      Reactions: 
      Hilarie
      Valerie, at Hachette Book Group, has kindly given me five copies of this book to giveaway to five lucky readers! This book sounds like a great read. I will be posting a review in the near future, so stay posted.

      More about: Off Season by Anne Rivers Siddons (Information provided by Hachette Book Group)

      Acclaimed novelist Anne Rivers Siddons's new novel is a stunning tale of love and loss.

      For as long as she can remember, they were Cam and Lilly--happily married, totally in love with each other, parents of a beautiful family, and partners in life. Then, after decades of marriage, it ended as every great love story does...in loss. After Cam's death, Lilly takes a lone road trip to her and Cam's favorite spot on the remote coast of Maine, the place where they fell in love over and over again, where their ghosts still dance. There, she looks hard to her past--to a first love that ended in tragedy; to falling in love with Cam; to a marriage filled with exuberance, sheer life, and safety-- to try to figure out her future.

      It is a journey begun with tender memories and culminating in a revelation that will make Lilly re-evaluate everything she thought was true about her husband and her marriage.


      Contest Information and Guidelines:
      The Facts
      The giveaway starts today, June 22nd and will run through Monday, July 20th. We will use a random number generator to determine the winners at that time and notify them via email. Please provide us with your email as it is the only way we have to get in touch with you! We will also post the winners here on the site. The contest is only open to residents of the United States and Canada. Unfortunately, we are unable to ship to P.O. Boxes.

      Entries
      To enter, simply leave a comment to this post. You can get an additional entries by:
      1. Post this giveaway on your blog. Please provide me with a link to the URL.
      2. Become a follower or subscriber, or just let us know if you already are.

      Good luck!
      55 comments | edit post
      Reactions: 
      Hilarie
      Rating:
      Genre: Fantasy
      Reading Challenges: 27 for 100+ in 2009

      When I first picked up Chasing Demons, I was looking for a fun fantasy read; something with plenty of action, a little romance (not too steamy please), and certainly nothing too serious. After finishing the book, I am pleased to report that it was just what I was hoping for.

      Chasing Demons is the second in the Mistress of Beasts series by R. L. Geerdes. I haven't had a chance to read the first book yet, so I can say it isn't absolutely necessary to read the first book before picking this up, but it might save you some frustration in the end. Reading this book certainly did make me wish that I had read the first book in the series, Wizard's Secrets, as there were plenty of references to the action that took place in that book.

      Chasing Demons is the story of Katrina, a modern Earth woman, who escaped a deadly car crash by taking a portal into a fantasy world called Arconia. It has now been two years since the accident, and Katrina is living in a remote forest cabin with Castin, the half-elven druid she loves. Katrina is kidnapped by a mysterious sorceress, and taken back to Earth, where she awakens to the news that she has been in a coma following her car accident. Supposedly, only six months have passed, and Russell, the fiancee she believed to have perished in the accident, appears alive and well. Katrina finds herself wondering if she imagined Arconia, and questioning her own sanity. Meanwhile, back in Arconia, those who love Katrina are working to get her back. Castin, in the company of Katrina's father Drestin, follows Katrina through the portal to Earth, determined to find the woman he loves. Cypris, a close friend of Castin and Katrina, uses his bounty hunting skills in an attempt to locate the unknown sorceress.

      I enjoyed reading Chasing Demons, and found it to be a satisfying fantasy read. The author did a great job of pacing the novel as the action really never let up, although I did feel that the ending was a bit rushed. I was impressed by the author's explanations of the magic that Drestin and Castin used, as well as some of her more exotic characters. It was nice to read a fantasy novel that wasn't limited only to humans, elves, and dwarfs. At times I was a little put off by the dialogue, especially that of the characters in Arconia who seemed to use a lot of cliches. Still, it didn't take me long to get past this feeling of annoyance and get sucked into the story. I am anxious to read Wizard's Secrets. If I were deciding again, I think I would wait and read the books in order. There were plenty of times as I was reading this novel that I found myself wishing I knew more of the back story, especially that of Castin and Katrina.

      In conclusion, Chasing Demons feels like the continuation of a series, not a stand alone novel. There aren't a lot of questions answered in this book, but I'm hopeful that the next book will wrap things up nicely. This is the solid second offering in what feels like a trilogy.


      Labels: Comments | edit post
      Reactions: 
      Hilarie
      Character MattersWhat makes a great read? Here at Never Not Reading, we think it ultimately depends on great characters. Whether you find yourself loving them, laughing with them (or at them), or even loathing them, a great character can draw you into the story and keep you reading. To celebrate our love of great characters, we are starting a new weekly feature called Character Matters. Each week we will highlight a character that has literally jumped out at us from the pages! If you would like, please join in the fun. Feel free to link to your own character matters in the comments below if there is a character that you simply have to share with us!

      A few ground rules:

      1. Who: List the name of the character
      2. Where: List the book(s), and the author
      3. Description: Please keep your descriptions as spoiler free as possible. Ruining the ending of the book might not be the best way to inspire potential readers.
      4. Why: How does this character inspire you?

      Who: Dr. Stephen Maturin

      Where: Jack Aubrey Series by Patrick O'Brian, beginning with Master and Commander

      Description: Short, and slight, with dark skin and close cropped hair, he is the product of a liaison between an Irish military officer and a Spanish lady. He is usually rather shabbily dressed, despite ever increasing wealth, as he has little interest in fashion. He is a brilliant physician, passionate naturalist, and a competent spy when the need arises. He can speak more than a few languages, and can comprehend even more. He
      is the close and devoted friend of Jack Aubrey.

      Why: In my view, Stephen Maturin is the scene stealer in O'Brian's novels. His deft handling of all things medical, while at the same time working behind the scenes as a master spy, make him a character to watch. I really like Jack Aubrey, but it is Dr. Maturin who keeps me coming back for more.

      Additional appearances: Dr. Maturin was portrayed by Paul Bettany in the film version of Master and Commander. Although I think Bettany is a fabulous actor, I was a little disappointed that he did not more closely resemble O'Brian's physical description.


      Labels: Comments | edit post
      Reactions: 
      Hilarie
      Jane Eyre has long been one of my favorite reads. I first read the novel when I was ten years old, but of course at that time much of the richness of the novel was beyond my understanding. Still, something about the story grabbed me, and has never let go. Since that time, I have found myself eagerly devouring its pages at least once each year, if not more frequently. As I write this, I have at least three editions of this masterpiece tucked away on my shelf, ready to grab should the urge overcome me.

      I have also viewed with pleasure every film adaptation I could get my hands on. The picture at left is from my favorite, the 2006 Masterpiece Theatre production starring Toby Stephens as the enigmatic Mr. Rochester, and Ruth Wilson as the passionate and steadfast heroine. If you haven't watched this version, rent it! I have also listened to several audio book productions of the novel, some of which were quite good, but none which really stood out in my memory. That is, until recently.

      Librivox asks volunteers to record books that are in the public domain in an audio format, and then provides those books for the listening pleasure of the general public. Each and every audio book offered on Librivox is offered free of charge, and can be downloaded without restriction or restraint. Recently, anxious to return to the story of Jane Eyre yet again, I downloaded one of Librivox's versions of Jane Eyre, recorded by Elizabeth Klett. Imagine my surprise when I found myself listening to what I had always imagined Jane's voice to be. This recording, in my opinion, exceeds any of the professionally produced versions of the novel that I have listened to in the past. Klett perfectly captures each nuance of the story, and the characters came alive for me in a way that they never had before. If you love Jane Eyre, as I do, let me encourage you to give this version a listen and see if you aren't impressed!

      You can download the audio book here. Librivox offers lots of options. You can download the entire file, jump to a chapter at will, or subscribe to a chapter a day. You can also find Elizabeth Klett's other recordings for Librivox here. Since finishing Elizabeth's version of Jane Eyre, I have listened to her recordings of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey and Persuasion, both of which I have thoroughly enjoyed.

      I was so impressed with Elizabeth's recording, that I wanted to know more about her, and her recording process. Elizabeth was kind enough to respond to an email filled with all sorts of impertinent questions.

      Q: How long have you been a Librivox volunteer? How many recordings have you done? How many solo recordings?

      A: I've been a LibriVox volunteer for two years. I've done 16 solo projects - 8 long novels, 4 long poem sequences, and 4 novellas. I've also played some fun roles in group dramatic recordings: Lady Macbeth in "Macbeth," Nora in "A Doll's House," and Jaques in "As You Like It." Forthcoming are Gertrude in "Hamlet," Miranda in "The Tempest" and Jessica in "The Merchant of Venice."

      Q: What has been your favorite project to date?

      A: Favorite project... hmmm, that's a hard one. It's probably a tie between "Howards End," "The House of Mirth," and "Jane Eyre." Although I love doing the Austen novels, too. In fact, I'm probably going to do another Austen next - probably "Emma."

      Q: Why were you interested in completing a solo reading of "Jane Eyre"? Is there anything particular which interests you about this book?

      A: "Jane Eyre" was a special project. It's long been one of my favorite novels, as well as one of my mom's favorite novels. I wanted to do the project partially for her, since the book means so much to her. We visited Haworth, in north Yorkshire (the Brontes' birthplace) while I was living in England in 1997. We walked on the moors together and had a great time. I'll also be teaching "Jane Eyre" for the first time this fall, which I'm very excited about.

      Q: You seem very comfortable giving each character a different voice. Do you have any training in theater? Do you ever find yourself getting confused when you are recording?

      A: I did theatre for a long time: in high school, college, and grad school. I did a double major in Theatre Arts and English, and for a long time wanted to be an actor. LibriVox provides an outlet for my desire to perform, since at this point in my life doing theatre isn't really practical (mostly because it takes up way too much time). I love doing the different voices for the characters, and for the most part I can keep everyone straight. The only project where I started to get mixed up was Fanny Burney's "Evelina," where there were just too many male fop characters to give them all truly distinct voices.

      Q: The French passages in Jane Eyre are beautifully read in your recording. Do you speak French?

      A: Thanks! I studied French for eight years in high school and college. But that was a while ago, so my French is pretty poor now. If I had more time I'd love to study it again; it's a beautiful language.

      Q: How long does it typically take you to complete a solo project?

      A: It depends on the length of the project. I just did "The Return of the Soldier" in about a month, but that's because it only had 6 chapters. Longer novels can take anywhere from 3-6 months, depending on how many different projects I've got going at the same

      Q: What do you enjoy most about recording audio books?

      A: Recording audio books allows me to engage with a text in a different way. Most of the books I've read are favorites of mine, and I've also taught a few of them in my classes (I'm an English professor). But reading them aloud makes me emotionally connected to a text in a new way. For example, when I was recording "The House of Mirth," I felt far more sympathetic to Lily Bart than I did while reading the novel initially, because I was playing her and not just reading about her. So that's really wonderful. But I also love getting feedback from listeners who tell me that they enjoy my recordings; that's very rewarding. I love the idea of bringing these books to people and enlivening their commutes, travels, hospital stays, and leisure time.

      Q: Do you have any favorite audio books, from Librivox or elsewhere, that you would recommend?

      A: I'm a big fan of Karen Savage's LibriVox recordings, such as "Pride and Prejudice," "A Little Princess," and "The Railway Children." I also really enjoy listening to David Sedaris read his own work. My husband and I also love listening to P.G. Wodehouse's "Jeeves and Wooster" stories, preferably read by Jonathan Cecil.

      Q: I read on your blog that you have small children. When and how do you find the time to read and record?

      A: I have a 7-month-old baby, and I'll admit, finding the time to record since her birth has been challenging. She heard all of "Jane Eyre" and some of "Sense and Sensibility" in utero! Right now I don't have any lengthy projects going. I'm coordinating my first group dramatic recording (John Webster's "The Duchess of Malfi") and just finished "The Return of the Soldier," which was short. I used to have many different projects going at once, but that's no longer practical. Basically I fit it in during nap times and after she's in bed for the night. If I do start "Emma" soon, it'll likely take me quite a while - maybe even the rest of this year - to complete.

      Q: Do you rehearse the passages prior to recording?

      A: Not really. I probably should; they'd be better! I sometimes do a few takes of a particular passage, though, and then edit out the bad ones.

      Q: Do you have any suggestions for someone interested in volunteering for Librivox?

      A: I'd suggest starting small, with a few poems for one of the poetry collections, and/or a few chapters for one of the group recordings. But I also suggest diving right in and getting involved as soon as you feel comfortable with how things work. Everyone on LibriVox, especially the admins, are very nice, friendly, and helpful. It's a truly collegial community.

      I'd like to thank Elizabeth for her willingness to answer the questions of a stranger. If you are interested in learning more about Elizabeth Klett, you can also visit her website A Mingled Yarn.
      Hilarie
      Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:
      • Grab your current read
      • Open to a random page
      • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
      • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
      • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

      • Here is mine for the day:

        Chasing Demons by R.L. Geerdes, page 62

        "A second later, his eyes flew open at the feel of cold steel pressed to his throat. Cynthia, wrapped in a towel, leaned over him, pressing a knife against his throat."
        Labels: 8 comments | edit post
        Reactions: 
        Hilarie
        Rating:
        Genre: Adult Fiction, Thriller, Mystery
        Reading Challenges: 26 for 100+ in 2009

        I am a big fan of the Lincoln/Child Penderast novels. They are always fun, full of action, and of course, they feature Agent Pendergast, who happens to be a favorite character of mine. You can learn more about Agent Pendergast here. All that being said, I did enjoy this novel, but not as much as previous offerings from the authors.

        Cemetary Dance begins with an attack on a pair of familiar characters (one of my favorite things about these guys, they are never afraid to do away with someone for the sake of the story), William Smithback and Nora Kelly, which leaves Smithback dead. This isn't much of a spoiler as it happens in the first ten pages of the novel. D'Agosta and Pendergast quickly find themselves investigating the case in an effort to protect the bereaved Nora, and to find justice for their murdered friend. Their investigation will lead them to a mysterious religious community located in the forgotten and isolated wilderness of a New York city park; a community which seems to have ties to the mystic beliefs of Obeah. They also find themselves forced to confront the notion of modern day zombiis as the body count mounts.

        Personally, I didn't find the mystery as compelling in this novel, as compared to previous story lines. Still, the authors did do a great job of keeping me turning pages. Pendergast was certainly in fine form, and there were plenty of his trademark antics to keep me smiling and anxious for more. The book ended with the promise of more to come, and it is safe to say I'll be running to the bookstore for their next Pendergast novel when it arrives.

        If you haven't read a Lincoln/Child novel previously, I'd recommend The Cabinet of Curiosities, which in my opinion is their best.
        Labels: , , 3 comments | edit post
        Reactions: 
        RunningUtes
        Thanks to all who stopped by to visit on our day hosting The Host! The winner of our giveaway was sharon54220. There are going to be plenty of other chances to win if you continue to follow the tour, so don't give up hope just yet. Congratulations Sharon!
        Comments | edit post
        Reactions: 
        Hilarie
        Are you looking for that perfect summer read? If you are a fan of Sex and the City, this might be the perfect book for you. Give Sarah Dunn's beautifully written New York novel a whirl!

        You can read an excerpt here

        Visit the author, Sarah Dunn's official website here

        Go in depth on Secrets to Happiness by reading a Q&A with Sarah Dunn here

        Get Sarah Dunn's bed rest and rainy day reading recommendations here

        Enter my giveaway and read my review here

        Other stops on the Secrets to Happiness blog tour:

        1 comments | edit post
        Reactions: 
        Hilarie
        Stephanie Meyer is a phenomenon. Whether you like her books or not, she has generated a devoted following, particularly for the Twilight series. Stephanie released her first adult novel, The Host, last year, and it is a complete departure from the series that first made her famous.

        If you have been following the tour, then you already know the premise, but maybe you haven't heard it from the alien point of view. In The Host, Earth has already been conquered by an alien force, and only a few isolated groups of human resistance remain. The aliens are parasites who are implanted surgically into the brains of the lifeforms they choose as hosts. Already, they have colonized multiple planets; Earth is simply another colony for them. Wanderer, as she is known among her species, if anything but an inexperienced traveler. She has lived many lives on many planets, but has never found a permanent home.

        After her arrival to Earth, Wanderer is implanted into the body of a "wild" human, Melanie Stryder who was caught in an attempt to save another human rebel. Wanderer is expecting to simply assume control of her new host, including assimilation of all of Melanie's memories. However, Melanie refuses to relinquish control, and Wanderer finds herself fighting for control of the body she now inhabits. She also finds herself overwhelmed by the strength of Melanie's emotions, especially the love the Melanie feels for those she left behind; her little brother Jamie and the man she loved, Jared Howe. Soon, Wanderer finds herself falling in love with Jamie and Jared herself as she is overcome by the force of Melanie's emotions. Wanderer and Melanie become unwilling allies in a quest to save those they both love.

        I love science fiction. The Host is a science fiction novel, but it is character driven, and the science aspects of the book are simply part of the background. I especially enjoyed the audio version of this book. Some books are better suited than others for listening, and this is a great one. If you enjoy audio books, let me encourage you to give this one a try. The book is read by Kate Reading, a popular voice in the audio book world, perhaps best known as the voice of Kay Scarpetta in many of the audio book versions of Patricia Cornwell's popular Scarpetta series. You can listen to some samples of The Host audio book here: Prologue

        I also found some great trailers and videos devoted to The Host on youtube. I'm embedding two of my favorites:

        First, a fan-made trailer for the book. This video won first place in a contest that was held on livejournal.


        As always happens with a great book, there is speculation and hope that eventually a movie will be made. Below is one fans casting ideas for the movie. Take a gander, and see if you agree.


        I also thought it would be fun to do a poll for those of you who are familiar with Stephanie Meyers works. I enjoyed both Twilight and The Host, but overall I preferred The Host because I found Wanderer to be a stronger character than that of Bella. I'm curious to see what all of you think.

        Which character did you like better?
        Bella Swan from Twilight
        Wanderer (or Wanda) from The Host
          
        pollcode.com free polls

        Finally, I have one copy of The Host to giveaway! I thought it would be fun to have a one day giveaway. This giveaway is like the book itself: fast, fun, and with almost instant gratification. To enter, please leave a comment to this post, with a specific comment about the post. If you only write, "please enter me," I won't be counting the entry. The giveaway starts now and ends today at midnight. We will use a random number generator to determine the winner, and notify them via email. Please provide us with your email as it is the only way we have to get in touch with you! We will also post the winner tomorrow. The contest is only open to residents of the US and Canada, and unfortunately, we are unable to ship to P.O. Boxes. You can earn additional entries by posting about this contest of your blog, or becoming a follower or subscriber.

        I'd also like to give a shout for my fellow blog tour participants. The tour has been great so far, and there are already some great contests going. If you are just joining the tour, check out what you've missed, and the complete schedule here.


        8 comments | edit post
        Reactions: 
        Hilarie
        Rating:
        Genre: Adult Fiction, New York City
        Reading Challenges: 25 for 100+ in 2009

        Sarah Dunn is a truly talented writer. Her writing is witty, lively, and flows beautifully. However, for me, Secrets to Happiness wasn't the book to showcase that talent. In fairness, let me start off by saying that I am probably outside of the target demographic of this book. I am a fairly conservative, career woman turned stay-at-home mother, who is totally devoted to my husband and children. The characters in this novel would likely describe me as a naive optimist.

        The central character of the novel is Holly Frick, a recently divorced writer on the downward slope of her career, who has been anything but lucky in love. Holly lives, works, and plays in New York city. In general, Holly is a bit at a loss as to how to find happiness in her life. It turns out that most of her close friends, including her best friend Amanda, haven't figured that out either; despite appearances to the contrary. Secrets to Happiness presents us with a host of characters, and their search to find fulfillment.

        Initially, I really enjoyed this book for the first few chapters in which the author introduced Holly, and some of her history. However, a few pages more had me wondering why Holly would choose to spend time with many of the other characters, especially her best friend Amanda. I found the majority of the characters in this book to be self-centered egoists who treated Holly as a quaint little country girl because she sometimes voiced a moral qualm with regards to the consequences of destructive behavior, like adultery. The character of Amanda particularly had me wanting to hurl the book out of the window. I think it was partly because I was still enjoying the post-reading high from Everyone is Beautiful, and suddenly, here was a character who drugged her infant with Benadryl so that she could enjoy uninterrupted sexual fantasies about a man she met at a park.

        I am giving this book two stars because I really mean it when I say that Dunn impressed me with her ability to turn a phrase. As much as I disliked this novel, I still found myself wishing I could write like she does.

        I would like to thank Hachette book group for my review copy. It is always a pleasure to be introduced to a talented new writer, and I am hopeful that Dunn will write something in the future that I will find more appealing. However, I am sure that this book will find a grateful audience in many readers out there! That is why I am giving my copy away to one lucky reader.

        The giveaway starts now, May 26th and will run through next Wednesday, June 17th. We will use a random number generator to determine the winners at that time and notify them via email. Please provide us with your email as it is the only way we have to get in touch with you! We will also post the winners here on the site. The contest is only open to residents of the United States and Canada. Unfortunately, we are unable to ship to P.O. Boxes.

        Entries
        To enter, simply leave a comment to this post. You can get an additional entries by:
        1. Post this giveaway on your blog. Please provide me with a link to the URL.
        2. Become a follower or subscriber, or just let us know if you already are.

        Good luck!
        Hilarie
        Teaser Tuesdays are hosted by Should Be Reading. The rules are as follows:
        • Grab your current read
        • Open to a random page
        • Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
        • BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
        • Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

        • Here is mine for the day (Brace yourselves, it is a good one!):

          Cemetary Dance by Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, page 211

          "Her eyes flew open. A figure was crouching on the fire escape just outside her window- a grotesque figure, a monster: hair matted, pale skin crudely stitched up, its crabbed form covered by a bloody hospital gown sticky with bodily fluids and clotted blood."
          Labels: 17 comments | edit post
          Reactions: 
          Hilarie
          Rating:
          Genre: Adult Fiction, Motherhood
          Reading Challenges: 24 for 100+ in 2009

          I really wasn't expecting very much from this novel. I began my read with an expectation that this would be a book much like the cupcake pictured on the cover; light and fluffy, and easily forgettable. Instead, I was pleased to discover a great read which made me reflect on my own thoughts and feelings of life as a stay-at-home mother to young children.

          The heroine is Lanie, the mother of three energetic (to say the least) little boys, the youngest of whom is only eight months old. At the beginning of the book, Lanie explains that she has recently relocated because of a great career opportunity for Peter, her husband. Lanie has left behind her childhood home in Houston, her family, and her friends. A chance remark by a stranger at a park also convinces Lanie that somewhere along the way she has also left behind the girl she used to be, back when she and Peter first fell in love. Lanie becomes determined to reclaim her old self, but she finds this quest more difficult than she would have imagined as she tries to continue to meet her responsibilities as a wife and a mother.

          I found this book to be refreshing because Lanie's life as a wife and mother, while not depicted as glamorous in any way (at one point, in an emergency, she helps her oldest boy poop into a Ziploc bag at a park), was not written as though it was one of constant drudgery. There were plenty of moments that had me smiling as Lanie's little boys tried to "help" her, and her husband Peter was portrayed as a loving, supportive, and faithful husband. I do feel that the author did a great job of capturing the exhaustion, frustration, joy, and adventure of parenthood. I also enjoyed reading about Lanie and Peter, and their relationship.

          I am so glad I gave this book a chance. Ultimately, it reminded me that although I'm not necessarily the girl I used to be, it doesn't follow that this new person is any less valuable. It also reminded me to live in the moment, and be grateful for the present; stinky diapers, runny noses, and all.
          Hilarie
          What makes a great read? Here at Never Not Reading, we think it ultimately depends on great characters. Whether you find yourself loving them, laughing with them (or at them), or even loathing them, a great character can draw you into the story and keep you reading. To celebrate our love of great characters, we are starting a new weekly feature called Character Matters. Each week we will highlight a character that has literally jumped out at us from the pages! If you would like, please join in the fun. Feel free to link to your own character matters in the comments below if there is a character that you simply have to share with us!

          A few ground rules:
          1. Who: List the name of the character
          2. Where: List the book(s), and the author
          3. Description: Please keep your descriptions as spoiler free as possible. Ruining the ending of the book might not be the best way to inspire potential readers.
          4. Why: How does this character inspire you?

          This week, let me introduce:

          Who: Jim Corbett (Edward James "Jim" Corbett), 25 July 1875 – 19 April 1955
          Where:
          Books - Man-eaters of Kumaon, The Man-eating Leopard of Rudraprayag, My India, Jungle Lore, The Temple Tiger and more man-eaters of Kumaon, Tree Tops
          Author - Jim Corbett

          Description: Jim Corbett was a true real life hero. He was born in India, to Irish parents, during the British occupation. Jim, a colonel in the British Indian Army, worked for the railway. However, his other occupations were frequently interrupted as he was requested by the provincial government to hunt the dangerous man-eaters which terrorized the local populations from time to time. Jim was fascinated by animals and nature all of his life. He was a very skilled hunter, but eventually his love for the big game animals themselves, specifically tigers and leopards, outweighed his desire to bag a trophy. Corbett determined no longer to hunt leopards or tigers unless the animals had threatened cattle herds (a source of livelihood in those days), or had become man-eaters. Corbett was beloved by many of the villagers he helped; some even considered him a saint.

          Why: Imagine stalking a man-eating leopard, that has already killed over 100 people, through a misty jungle on a foggy night, alone and with only your trusty rifle and tracking skills for protection. This is precisely why Corbett is so amazing. There are plenty of moments of terror in his stories of tracking dangerous man-eaters; made even more horrifying when you consider that the stories are all true. Corbett's memoirs are intriguing without ever seeming over-exaggerated. His love of India, and the animals shine through on every page, and the man himself comes across as anything but conceited. My husband and I read this book aloud on our honeymoon, and the stories were so vivid and unforgettable that we still find ourselves talking about them now and again over five years later.
          Labels: Comments | edit post
          Reactions: