Thursday, July 31, 2014

Review: "Life As We Knew It" by Susan Beth Pfeffer

When the asteroid collision shifted the moon's orbit, Miranda thought it was no big deal. But the very next day, her mother pulls her out of school to hoard all the food they can carry out of the supermarket. Miranda thinks she is overreacting. Things can't be that bad--can they?

Instead of cute boys and test scores, she begins to worry about what they will do when the fuel runs out, or what has happened to her father, out of touch with satellites down and electrical power unavailable. Day by day, her world becomes emptier, hungrier, and smaller. The world she knew is gone forever.

The end of the world is not a single moment, but a lifetime... one which may be very short after all.

  3.5 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Review: "Cinder" by Marissa Meyer

Linh Cinder may be the best mechanic in New Beijing, but that fact brings her no happiness. First, all of her wages--and everything else she owns--belong to her stepmother. Secondly, if the reason for Cinder's technological genius got out, she would be taken away with all the other cyborgs.

Cinder's cyborg nature becomes a hidden blessing. She is immune to the plague which ravages the rest of New Beijing, from the slums and junkyards all the way to the royal palace where the Emperor lies dying. In his stead, Prince Kai tries to find a cure for the plague while keeping the devious Lunar Queen at bay. He finds an unlikely ally in Cinder. But can his trust in her be returned?

2 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Monday, July 14, 2014

Review: "The Goblin Emperor" by Katherine Addison

When the emperor and his chosen heirs are killed in a fatal airship accident, the elven crown falls to the last person anyone considered: his youngest, least-favored son, raised in exile and all but forgotten by the court.

In the blink of an eye, half-goblin Maia becomes the Emperor Edrehasivar VII. He would be the first to agree that he has no allies, no proper training, and a rather short life expectancy.

But when there are only two paths open to him--to be emperor, or to be dead--Maia chooses to repair the devastation of his father's legacy, and to leave his own.

And for all his lack of polish, Maia is no fool--and no stranger to living in a den of vipers. Those who expect Maia to be a simple puppet to be manipulated and replaced have a nasty surprise in store.

  4.9 out of 5 stars
(grump + breakdown below the cut)

Monday, July 7, 2014

DIY Audiobooks By Yours Truly!

In a few posts now, I've mentioned that I enjoy reading aloud to my roommate, who has great taste in stories, but reads at the pace of an actual snail. We've kicked around the idea of recording these readalouds for other people to listen to while they're going about their day. Now it's happening!

In time, I'd like to work up to reading whole books, but I've started small...ish. (Who knew that a simple 10-page story could turn into a 30-minute recording? Not me, that's for sure.)

These recordings were meant to be heard, rather than watched; there's not much to look at, just your resident book grump turning pages. I hope they're fun to listen to, though. I'd love to hear your comments (and suggestions on how to improve the recording quality.)


The first recording I did was "Stronger Than Time," a short story by Patricia C. Wrede from her collection Book of Enchantments. I don't like this recording as much now that I've done the others--the "voice" of the story is rather flat and dry, where the other two have a much more lively narration that's fun to read (and act out a bit)--but it's still a lovely, eerie story that plays off the fairy tale of Sleeping Beauty.

I'm more proud of this next one: "Barrens Dance" by Peter S. Beagle, from the anthology Wizards (which I highly recommend, by the by.) This is an original tale about a fantasy frontier's troubles with the local wizard, and his attempts to woo a monster trainer away from her husband. If you must watch a video, rather than listen, I recommend this one.

And if neither of these stories sound like your taste, try Patricia McKillip's "Lady of the Skulls" from the anthology The Secret History of Fantasy. This is another original short story with a heavy Arthurian feel, about an enchanted tower and its guardian. The legends say that the one who chooses the most precious treasure in the tower will win it all, but those who choose wrongly will die on the spot.

Happy listening!