52 Books In 52 Weeks Wrap-up

Well, it’s been another year of a book a week. And the reading part was easy… it was the review part that was sometimes difficult. For instance, last week… there was a review ready to go, but it was ALL IN MY HEAD, and hasn’t yet made it to the blog. So this week there will be two reviews, and that will conclude the 52 Weeks. (I went by Fridays, not “full weeks”. So Week 1 of this year’s 52 Weeks was after only three days of 2014.)

Right – here’s the first review of this week’s post. (It’s Week 51, for anyone who’s counting and can’t infer it for themselves.)

The Cricket on the Hearth
by Charles Dickens
narrated by Jim Dale
(classic fiction, Christmas season story?)

This is the first book of the year that I’ve reviewed without finishing the book. (It’s not the first book that I didn’t finish, but it is the first one that I got far enough through to add it here and not consider it cheating.) Why didn’t I finish it? Because I had no interest in it whatever. I didn’t care about the characters, I didn’t care about the plot (to be fair, I couldn’t really distinguish a plot), and so I didn’t see any reason to keep spending time listening to the audio book that I could spend listening to Christmas carols instead. (I love Christmas carols.)

So – what did I like about it? The sound of the text. The phrases Dickens chose was fascinating. We just don’t use language in the same way anymore, and while I’m not meaning this as a complaint about modern language use, it does mean that classic fiction is mesmerizing to me in a way that few modern novels are. Do note, however, that phrasing is not enough to get me to finish a book.

Beyond that, though, I didn’t see anything compelling to me. Granted, I am not a huge Dickens fan, so your mileage may vary. I love Christmas Carol, but really, for me, that’s the only Dickens I need to worry about. So I guess I’m not surprised that this book was just not my kind of book.

And the second review of this week’s post…

The Demon Barker of Wheat Street (Iron Druid novella from CARNIEPUNK)
by Kevin Hearne
(contemporary fantasy)

This was a novella filled with classic Iron Druid humor and quality writing. If you like the full-length stories, I think you will like this short as well. It’s a fun peek into some of the random encounters that Atticus could get up to which are not, strictly speaking, part of the main plotline. It was fun to have completely not-series-arc-related bad guys. It was great to have the whole thing be self-contained. (AKA even if you haven’t read anything else by Mr. Hearne, you could pick this up and not be lost. You might not understand it as well as someone who’s read the main novels, but you would still enjoy it.)

The basic premise is that it’s magical mischief set in a Kansas fair. I forget if it’s a state fair or a county fair, but that doesn’t really matter. It’s a fair, and we all have some kind of experience with fairs. Going into much more detail than that would mean spoilers, so I won’t. Great fun, though.

I will not be doing the 52 Books in 52 Weeks again next year. Maybe sometime further in the future, but not 2015. I will still be posting book reviews, and I still plan to read a lot. But I don’t want the pressure of posting a book review per week. For instance, sometimes I read a really long book, so it took me more than a week to finish it. Some of those weeks, I felt I needed to pause, read something short so I had something to post, and then pick the longer book up again.

If you want to see what books I’ve read in the year, you can go to my book review exclusive site (link in the sidebar) and see the page for any given year since I started tracking.

Happy last (less than full) week of 2014 everyone! I hope it was wonderful, and that 2015 is good to you and yours.


52 Books 2014: Week 50

Amityville Horrible (Otherworld #10.7)
by Kelley Armstrong
(paranormal romance, ghost story)

This is a great novella – Kelley’s stories narrated by Jaime are among my favorites. This one was no exception. The plot was solid, for the short format of a novella. I also like the way Kelley tied this in to Jaime’s full-length novel, while still keeping it as its own story. It was also great for Jaime to have one-liners here and there poking fun at how she’s usually the one in trouble, instead of the one getting people OUT of trouble. Very fun for fans of the series, and I think those who enjoy ghost stories with a twist would enjoy this one even if they aren’t familiar with the Otherworld series.

I don’t want to go into the plot, because I don’t know how (if?) I can do that without spoilers – and for a novella, it’s really too short to give even baby spoilers. However, if you read and enjoyed NO HUMANS INVOLVED, then you should seriously consider getting this one.

One thing I will say about the plot: in my opinion, the creepiest of Kelley’s stories are the ones that involve her ghosts. (So, that would be Jaime’s and Eve’s stories, since the one talks to ghosts, and the other is a ghost.) They are not too creepy for someone with an overactive imagination (read: me) but they capture that fun-creepy-scary-eek! feeling that goes along with ghost stories around a campfire.

52 Books 2014: Week 49

Valor’s Choice (Valor Novel Book 1)
by Tanya Huff
narrated by Marguerite Gavin
(Sci-Fi, audiobook)

This is a book that I’ve been meaning to pick up for a while. So when the audiobook was on sale on Audible a short while ago, I picked it up to try it out. I’m glad I did! It was a lot of fun. There were parts that I liked more than others, of course, especially since this was an audiobook.

Let’s start with the book itself. I believe this was one of Tanya Huff’s earlier books (and I’m feeling too lazy to Google it and confirm) but it still holds up. The plot is solid, the characters are well-developed, and the world seems fully developed. (Even though we don’t get all of the details of it yet, it does feel like a complete world.) My biggest problem with the book, I think, was trying to determine the different character names. The narrator did a good job with the different types of names, but I have a hard time recognizing odd sci-fi/fantasy by the way they sound. I prefer to read them – I think I just have a better memory for the way the names look than the way they sound. (This doesn’t explain my youthful lack of spelling talent. But that’s another story.)

Anyway, since we touched on the narration, we’ll continue there. I did have trouble with some of the different names because it was an audiobook, but I don’t think that was due to the narrator. Marguerite did a good job with the names, they just didn’t all stick in my head very well. The biggest problem I did have with her narration was her treatment of male voices. (I doubt I could do better, but I’m not paid to do so.) Many of her men’s voices sounded very similar to most of her women’s voices. In some cases – like the the bird race – a higher-pitched male voice was okay. But even the human voices weren’t as differentiated as I prefer. On the other hand, all of her military personnel voices sounded wonderfully appropriate for the military, while her civilian voices were distinct and less militant. All told, I did enjoy her reading of the story.

I really enjoyed this first book in the series, and have already started the second book. (This second one is in paper format, and though I now have to re-learn the names in print vs. spoken, I’m enjoying the read so far. I hope the series continues as good.)

52 Books 2014: Week 48

Big Hero 6
by Chris Claremont, David Nakayama

This book review is about a series of comic books: Big Hero 6, published by Marvel. I read this via the Marvel Unlimited app. (It seems that unless you want to spend a fortune buying used copies, the only way to read it is there.)

I picked this up because of the movie of the same name. If you are thinking of doing the same, here are some things to keep in mind:

1. This is not the same Big Hero 6. The movie was based on the comic series, but it has a different origin story, some (all?) of the characters have different motivations, and there is a different setting. HOWEVER, the basics are there, and the changes made in the movie make the movie stronger.

2. Just because the movie changes were good for the movie does not mean that the original comic is less good. I enjoyed them both equally, I was just aware going into the comic that the movie was loosely based on the comic, and not an authentic retelling of the same story.

3. It is a short series. There are (I think) only 5 books. (That’s all I found, at any rate.) I certainly was left wanting more.

So, all that said, I really enjoyed the series. They are fun, the art is fun, and I enjoyed comparing the comic to the movie. I’d highly recommend any comics fan finding and reading these. I’ll be curious to see if Marvel starts the comics up again, but this time with the movie’s storyline (and character arcs) instead of the original comics. If they do, I’ll pick those up, too.

52 Books 2014: Week 45

The Hound of the Baskervilles (and The Adventure of the Dancing Man)
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
narrated by Simon Prebble
(classic fiction, mystery)

I am a fan of Sherlock Holmes stories, to be sure, though not (probably) a rabid one. I have seen the first of the Robert Downey Jr. Holmes movies, and every episode released to date of the BBC show “Sherlock”. I have read many of the classic tales. (I have not seen the older movies, the second of the new movies, or the American show “Elementary,” though I am curious to sample at least the show and the newest movie.) But even so, I still enjoy new ways of enjoying the stories.

My first experience with THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, I think, was a child’s version of the story. I had this set of books, printed in small format (maybe half to two-thirds the height of a traditional paperback?) that had easy-to-access versions of a lot of classic stories. (I remember reading about the Swiss Family Robinson in this series, for one, but my recollections of which other stories there were is now fuzzy.) I’m pretty sure this story was one of those books. In any case, I remember THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES from a very young age, and every time I re-visit it I remember certain things and forget others. Then main thing I remember is the image of the hound itself, and the way Holmes appears part-way through the story. The rest is the part that gets fuzzy. This is not a bad thing, as it means I can be surprised right along with new readers when I re-read it.

I am not going to go into the story itself. Either you know what happens, or you don’t – and if you don’t, I’m not going to spoil the experience for you, because this is a classic book that everyone should read for herself. If you haven’t read THE HOUND OF THE BASKERVILLES, get thee to a library (or bookstore) and find a copy. What I will go into is how refreshing the pacing is. Don’t get me wrong – in general I prefer the faster pace and character-focus of the modern novels I read. But sometimes it’s nice to read a slower-paced story. This is one of those, but in the classic style, and it manages to be slow and thoughtful without being boring.

The narrator (Simon Prebble) took a little getting used to for me. At the start, his character voices didn’t seem distinct enough. However, within the first hour or so, I found I no longer had that problem, and I was able to separate his voices much better. He seemed to have the perfect tone for Watson especially, which is good, since Watson is the narrator of the Sherlock Holmes stories.

And then I got a surprise when I discovered that THE ADVENTURE OF THE DANCING MAN was also included in the audiobook. I don’t know if I have ever read this particular story before, though I may have since I’ve read many Holmes stories over the years. In any case, I didn’t remember anything about this story, and thoroughly enjoyed listening to it. I think this one may have suffered from being in audio format, since there were no illustrations of the dancing figures (I did a quick Google search to confirm the title, and several images of the figures popped up) such as may appear in a print version. However, it was still great fun to listen to, and it seems I can easily find the illustrations online later if I want to.

All told, this was a great audiobook to be listening to right around Halloween and has sparked my interest in picking up more Holmes stories – audio or otherwise. These tales do stand the test of time.

52 Books 2014: Week 44

Reminder: today is the last day to enter my contest for one of the resin necklaces! I posted details on Monday.

The Chapel Perilous (The Iron Druid Chronicles)
by Kevin Hearne
(contemporary fantasy, historical fantasy)

This novella is set in the word of the Iron Druid Chronicles, and is a fun addition to that series. It takes place during Granuaile’s training to become a full druid, but in truth it is set much earlier than that. This novella is Atticus’ re-telling of a story from his (relative) youth, before he became the Iron Druid. And it is pure fun.

Since this novella is told as a story that Atticus is telling the others, you know right away that he will survive. Actually, the fact that it’s set in the past compared to the regular Iron Druid timeline tells you that he will survive, regardless of the fact that he’s telling a story. However, it’s still fun to hear how he manages the whole thing. (If anything, I just wish it was a little longer with more adventures. There’s plenty of room for more in this particular topic. When you hear how the whole thing plays out, you’ll know what I mean if you know anything about the subject at all.)

If you know anything at all about the Chapel Perilous in the title, or you do even the briefest of Google searches, you will know that this is part of the Grail myth. And if you know anything about the Grail myth, you will know that (whether you believe it or not) there are historians who claim that the Grail was borrowed by the Christian religion from the Celtic myths and legends which predated it. I knew all of this before I read the novella, though to be honest my most current knowledge of the chapel itself is the parody version in Monty Python’s Holy Grail. (And now that I have been reacquainted with the original, even distantly, through this novella, I want to read some source and/or reference material on it. I do love these stories.)

Anyway: the source material is no surprise. The main character’s survival is no surprise. So why read this novella? Because IT’S SO MUCH FUN. It includes Oberon being Oberon, a talking horse, and zombies. A perfect read for Halloween. I couldn’t have timed this better, even though it was completely accidental. (I probably shouldn’t have admitted to that last part.)

Happy Halloween!

52 Books 2014: Week 43

Poster Art of the Disney Parks
by Daniel Handke & Vanessa Hunt
(non-fiction, art, Disney)

Most of the text in this book is an explanation of one or more of the posters, or goes into more detail than I personally am interested in with regards to creating the posters, so I will admit that I read some and skimmed some. However, I find that is usually the case for me with an art book (even when I took an Art History class in college). Part of the experience is what you take away from the art itself, and not what the book’s author has to say about it. Also, I read this book a while ago but forgot to review it then, so some of my recollection on the book’s details is a bit fuzzy.

So, with that disclosure out of the way, I will say that I did fully enjoy this book. The posters themselves are the star of the book, of course, and for a fan of Disney parks they really shine. I love seeing the different variations of the posters as the attractions get updated. (The Monorail is probably my favorite of these. More than the rest of the Tomorrowland attraction posters, the Monorail posters really showcase the difference the land has gone through since its early days.)

I also really enjoyed seeing the different posters for the same attractions in different parks. In some cases the only difference was the park logo or the name of the land. (Such as New Orleans Square in Disneyland vs. Liberty Square in Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.) In other cases, though, the posters were completely different, and it was fun to compare them.

The text complements the art. That’s really about all I can say about it. I enjoyed reading it. I remember that much. But I don’t remember reading anything earth shattering. (Like I said, this was a little while ago now.) It’s really more of a reference material than anything else anyway, so it did exactly what I expected it to do.

Now the important part: who should buy this book? I think that fans of Disney art should own this one, that’s a given. Also geeks fans of the parks and their history. But not the casual Disney fan. For the casual fan, this might be something to look at while waiting for your group to finish shopping. (Several of the park stores – the book-oriented ones – carry it at the moment.) This could be something for the casual fan to get out of the library (if your library has it) to get excited about an upcoming Disneyland (or WDW) trip. But the only people who should add it to their library are those who HAVE a Disney books library. It does make a lovely addition to Disney libraries, though. I’m glad it’s in ours.