Showing posts with label 2013 audiobook challenge. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 2013 audiobook challenge. Show all posts

Friday, December 13, 2013

2013 Challenges Wrap-Up

Oh, my 2013 reading challenges.  I knew from the start that I was taking on too much, but did I let that stop me?  No, of course not!

As a reminder, I took on five different challenges this year.  Some were completed...and some were epic fails.  Let's review!

1. Around The World in 12 Books Challenge: 58-67% completed
This book challenged me to read 1 book/month from a different country around the world.  This is COMPLETELY up my alley, and I was super excited for the push to read more internationally-set literature.  I did great with this challenge until we moved in August.  At that point, I got so busy that I was pretty much just reading what I had on hand, most of which was not set in the countries posed in this challenge.

Thus, sadly, I only completed 7 out of the 12 countries on the list.  HOWEVER, I did just pick up John Updike's Brazil, in hopes of being able to check off one more (plus I noticed on my 2013 Reading Map (see below) that South America was severely lacking--so I figured if I was going to add in one more country, it should be from there).  Hopefully I can finish it before the end of the month, bringing me up to 8 out of 12!
My 2013 reading map...shows all of the locations/settings of the novels I've read this year!  Sorry to Australia and South America.  lol.
2. Monthly Keyword Challenge: 100% completed!

This challenge was a lot of fun, and pretty easy to complete, given the flexibility of the rules.  Each month had a list of several words you could choose from, and you had to read a book that contained one of those keywords in the title.  Part of what made this easier for me is that the rules said it was OK to read the books in a different month than when the word was for example, the book I used for the June keyword was actually read in May.  As a result, I was able to wrap this one up in November.  Woohoo!

3. Mount TBR Challenge: 12.5% completed (ugh)

Oy vey, I did poorly here.  My goal was to read at least 24 books from my at-home TBR pile, and I was trying to only count paper books (not Kindle books), in an effort to clear my shelves a little bit.  I only managed THREE.  I blame this on two things: tons of ARCs (which are so hard for me to resist!) and the rest of these challenges (which often required me to use the library in order to find a book that fit a specific challenge).  Next year I am definitely cutting back on ARCs (and challenges!), so I'm hoping to try this one again.

4. Foodies Read Challenge: 100% completed!

I have no problem reading food books 'til the cows come home.  I finished this one mid-year and still read more of them before the end of the year...easy peasy!

5. Audiobook Challenge: 100% completed!

I am thankful that I finished this one just before we moved.  I used my commutes to/from work to listen to audiobooks all the time, so this was easy to finish by mid-year...but nowadays, I am hardly ever in the car, so I would have found it impossible to complete after I quit my job!  Definitely not one I will be able to do in 2014.

So there you have it: 3 challenges completed, 1 about halfway completed, and 1 miserable fail.  Not so bad, I suppose!  I'm pretty sure that my only challenge for next year will be Mount TBR, but we shall see.

How did your 2013 reading challenges go?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Two Challenges DOWN!

I am pretty proud of myself, reader friends.  Remember all those crazy challenges I signed up for this year?  Of the five, I've already finished TWO!  And it's not even the halfway point of the year.  PATS ON THE BACK, YO.

The two that I finished are:

Audiobook Challenge (hosted by Teresa's Reading Corner)

I signed up to listen to at least 6 audiobooks and finished it when I completed The Round House last week.  I considered upping it to the next level (12 audiobooks), but I am going to lose my work commute in August when we move, so chances are I wouldn't make it.  However, I do hope to squeeze in another 1-2 before then.

Foodies Read Challenge (hosted by Foodies Read)

This wasn't tough, since I love food books so much!  I signed up for Pastry Chef level (4-8 food books) and hit #4 when I finished Pollan's Cooked last week.  I may throw in a few more throughout the year, but probably not enough to get above 8, so I'd say I'm done at this point.

As for my other three challenges...two are going great.  They are both monthly challenges (with a different category to fill each month) so I can't finish them until December, but so far I am right on track with both.  That's the Keyword Challenge and the Around The World in 12 Books Challenge.  As for the fifth one...let's just say the TBR Challenge is going to be a total wash.  I signed up to read 24 books from my TBR pile at home and so far I've read...1.  LAAAAAAAAAAAAME.  But there are just too many good library books and ARCs right now!!  Maybe next year...

Did you sign up for any 2013 challenges?  How are they going so far?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Title:   The Round House
Author: Louise Erdrich
Publisher: Harper Audio
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

In the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe sets out to get some answers of his own. The quest takes him first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning. Louise Erdrich's novel embraces tragedy, the comic, a spirit world very much present in the lives of her all-too human characters, and a tale of injustice that is, unfortunately, an authentic reflection of what happens in our own world today.

My Review:

If you pay attention to the world of "very important book awards", you know that The Round House was the winner of the 2012 National Book Award for Fiction.  That's a big deal, y'all.  As soon as I heard that Erdrich's novel had won, I knew I had to read it.  I adored one of the other finalists (This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz) so if a novel was beating that in competition?  My interest was piqued.

The beginning of the book definitely drew me in.  Joe's peaceful life on the reservation is rocked very suddenly when his mother arrives home late one Sunday, severely beaten and bloodied.  She is mute as to what happened, and Joe and his father are immediately compelled to find out who did this to her.  If that's not enough to throw you into a good mystery, I don't know what is.  Erdrich unveils this tragic occurrence while also carefully detailing the ways of life on the Ojibwe reservation, something that I knew very little about.  This combination of gruesome, mysterious attack and compelling detail makes for a great intro.

However, I can't say I loved the rest of the novel.  The pace slows down (a lot), and the identity of Geraldine's attacker becomes clear very early on.  This isn't a case of an author mishandling a mystery--no, it becomes obvious that the identity of the attacker is not the point of this story.  Instead, the novel attempts to expound more upon the struggles of Native American life on a reservation, their historical and familial roots, different laws and struggles they face vs. non-reservation residents, etc.  I'm not saying that's a bad thing.  If you go into the novel expecting and wanting this, you'll probably love it.  However, based on the description (and the hype), I was expecting a plot that moved faster and had more elements that would surprise me along the way.  That?  I didn't get.  But I did get an artistically written picture of injustice and Native American life, which wasn't a totally unwelcome alternative.

It's so hard to review a National Book Award winner.  How can you say anything bad about a book that the Literary Elite has deemed Amazing?  But I wouldn't call this bad--that's kind of a strong word.  I think I went into it with the wrong expectations.  This isn't a book that focuses on one particular character or event.  It's much larger in scope, and written with the words "cultural epic" in mind.  I think it just wasn't totally for me, given the direction and tone that it eventually took.

As for the audio version--I was at first unsure of the narrator, Gary Farmer, who has a very measured (and occasionally monotone) voice.  However, I quickly grew to enjoy his narration, because it's entirely fitting of the tone of the novel.  The only downside to the audio is that some parts of the novel don't seem to lend themselves well to that format.  There are long sections of Native American folklore that felt rather boring and tangential when listened to.  I probably would have gotten more from them if I was reading in print.  But otherwise, a very good narrator, fitting for the story at hand.

Have you ever felt lukewarm about a critically acclaimed novel?

Monday, May 13, 2013

GIVEAWAY and Audiobook Review: Don't Go by Lisa Scottoline

Title: Don't Go
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Publisher: St. Martin's Press/Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: April 9, 2013
Source: CD copy received from the publisher for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Lisa Scottoline's  Don't Go  introduces us to Dr. Mike Scanlon, an army doctor called to serve in Afghanistan, who is acutely aware of the dangers he’ll face and the hardships it will bring his wife Chloe and newborn baby. And deep inside, he doesn’t think of himself as a hero, but a healer.

However, in an ironic turn of events, as Mike operates on a wounded soldier in a war-torn country, Chloe dies at home in the suburbs, in an apparently freak household accident. Devastated, he returns home to bury her, only to discover that the life he left behind has fallen apart. He’s a stranger to his baby girl, and his medical practice has downsized in his absence. Worse, he learns a shocking secret that sends him into a downward spiral.

Grief-stricken, Mike makes decisions upon returning to Afghanistan which will change his life forever.  It’s not until he comes home for good that he grasps the gravity of his actions, and realizes he must fight the most important battle of his life, to reclaim his life and his daughter. Along the way, he discovers that everything is not as it seems, and he learns ugly truths about those he loves the most, as well as the true meaning of heroism.

My Review:

One of the first reviews I ever did on this blog was for Lisa Scottoline's Look Again .  While I didn't give it a roaring endorsement, I was left feeling like I needed to give her work another shot.  Read the plot summary of any one of her books (this one included), and I think you'd be hard-pressed not to want to pick it up like NOW.  She comes up with some truly unique and twisty plot ideas, and since most of them fall into a "women's fiction" category, my interest is always piqued.

Her latest release is Don't Go, and I decided it was high time for me to give her novels another shot.  Overall, I'm glad I did, though this book had its high and low points for me as well.

The best thing about this novel is the sense of mystery surrounding it, right from the first chapter.  It's told from Chloe's perspective as she dies, and there's a cliffhanger ending to the chapter that left me saying, "Okay, I'm committed to reading this entire book now, WELL PLAYED."  As with Look Again, I often thought I knew exactly who was involved in each part of the mystery--in fact, at one point I was not looking forward to writing this review, because I was going to have to call the book out for being so predictable.  However, SMUGNESS IS NOT YOUR FRIEND.  Learn from me.  My predictions were totally wrong, and the ending took a turn that I truly did not see coming.  I love it when a book can completely unravel my super-sleuthing skills, so this was certainly a big advantage for the novel.

The flip side to this is that, at times, the details of the plot seemed carelessly handled--and in one place, they were downright wrong.  I never do this, but I have to throw in a SPOILER ALERT right now so that I can illustrate my point.  Did you see it?   I SAID SPOILER ALERT!  SPOILERS ALL UP IN THE PARAGRAPH BELOW!  You have been warned.

Okay, so when Mike returns from Afghanistan, he finds out from Chloe's autopsy report that she was 4 weeks pregnant.  OH MAN, major downer, because in the words of Maury Povich, he is NOT the father since he was in Afghanistan at that time.  Mike then finds some emails between Chloe and a mystery suitor proving that they had sex while Mike was away.  Here's the detail that (really REALLY) bothered me: Chloe died December 15.  The emails show that she had sex with Mystery Guy around November 11.  THAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU 4 WEEKS PREGNANT ON DECEMBER 15.  It makes you roughly 6-7 weeks pregnant.  This is biology, people, so get ready for some knowledge.  The first two weeks of pregnancy, you're not really pregnant.  You conceive at around the 2 week mark.  If she was 4 weeks preggo on December 15, she conceived around the end of November.  This was an absolutely GLARING mistake, and since it plays a significant role in the mystery around Chloe's death, it bothered the heck out of me.


There was also a point in the novel where Mike got in a fight, the cops were called, and the cops showed up and immediately arrested him without interviewing him OR the person he fought first.  This is another example of a head-scratching detail that detracted from the reading/listening experience for me.  I just wish a little bit more care had been given to finer points such as these.

Okay, enough of my overzealous attention to detail.  Let's talk about the narration on the audiobook.  Jeremy Davidson did a really excellent job voicing this novel.  He's a perfect pick as the main character (Mike)--especially because many of you may recognize him from the TV show Army Wives.  However, he also had an impressive array of other voices that he had to portray, and he did a great job making each character distinct for the listener.  I'd say the only one I was iffy on was Mike's friend Jim--he was supposed to have a Philadelphia accent that came out more like a southern California surfer dude.  But that aside, Davidson does excellent work here, and lends an appropriate air of drama to the entire story.

Overall?  Don't Go is a fantastic pick if you want a family drama with lots of unpredictable twists.  Scottoline definitely excels in making readers second-guess their ideas about a plot, and I think that's a huge plus in her novels.  However, the details weren't always handled well, which led to a clunky reading experience for me.  Readers who are less hung up on nitty-gritty plot points may, admittedly, have a smoother ride than I did!

Other reviews of Don't Go:
An Unconventional Librarian
Ramblings of a Marine Wife
Robin Reads and Writes


I have one audiobook CD copy of Don't Go to give away to a lucky reader.  It's been used (once, by me!) and is in great condition.  Just enter using the Rafflecopter below (US entrants only please).  Giveaway closes May 20!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

So how are those challenges going? *squirm*

Remember all those awesome reading challenges that I was posting about late last year?  Just to refresh your memory, psycho-me signed up for 5 challenges for 2013.  Now that we're 25% into the year, I figured I would keep myself honest by reporting my progress (or lack thereof) to my reading audience.

Without further ado!

Challenge #1: Around The World in 12 Books Challenge
Read 1 book a month, each from a different specified country.
I'm not doing too bad here.  I kept up with the January and February countries, but fell a little behind with March (I have just a few pages left in my Wales novel now, so only a few days behind!).  I am hoping to read my Fiji book on time this month, and get back on track.

Current Grade: B+

Challenge #2: Monthly Keyword Challenge
Read 1 book a month, each with a different keyword in the title.
Pretty much the same as Challenge #1.  Did great with January/February, but my Wales book is doubling as my March keyword book, so I will be a few days late getting this one finished up.  Looking to get back on track in April!

Current Grade: B+

Challenge #3: Foodies Read Challenge
Read 4 food-related books.
I've completed 1 out of the 4 books that I signed up to read here, so I guess I'm right on track.  I have eleventy billion food books checked out from the library right now (as you can see here), so hopefully I will tuck another one under my belt soon.

Current Grade: A

Challenge #4: Audiobook Challenge
Listen to at least 6 audiobooks.
Doing awesome on this one!!  I only signed up to finish 6 audiobooks this year, but I've already done 4.  It helps that I listen to them so much during my commutes.  I may actually raise the bar here and go for the next level up (12).

Current Grade: A++

Challenge #5: Mount TBR Challenge
Read at least 24 books from my at-home TBR pile.
This one is going to be a total wash.  I have only read ONE out of the 24 books I was hoping to take off my TBR pile this year.  There is no way I'm going to finish this one, especially given all the review copies that I have coming up in May/June.  I'll honestly be surprised if I make it to 10 by the end of the year.  And this is all not to mention the TONS of new books I've added to my possession the last few months.  FAIL!

Current Grade: F-

Readers, did you sign up for any reading challenges this year?  How are they going so far?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

Title: The Tiger's Wife
Author: Tea Obreht
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: March 8, 2011
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

In a Balkan country mending from years of conflict, Natalia, a young doctor, arrives on a mission of mercy at an orphanage by the sea. By the time she and her lifelong friend Zóra begin to inoculate the children there, she feels age-old superstitions and secrets gathering everywhere around her. Secrets her outwardly cheerful hosts have chosen not to tell her. Secrets involving the strange family digging for something in the surrounding vineyards. Secrets hidden in the landscape itself.

But Natalia is also confronting a private, hurtful mystery of her own: the inexplicable circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. After telling her grandmother that he was on his way to meet Natalia, he instead set off for a ramshackle settlement none of their family had ever heard of and died there alone. A famed physician, her grandfather must have known that he was too ill to travel. Why he left home becomes a riddle Natalia is compelled to unravel.

Grief struck and searching for clues to her grandfather’s final state of mind, she turns to the stories he told her when she was a child. On their weekly trips to the zoo he would read to her from a worn copy of Rudyard Kipling’s  The Jungle Book,  which he carried with him everywhere; later, he told her stories of his own encounters over many years with “the deathless man,” a vagabond who claimed to be immortal and appeared never to age. But the most extraordinary story of all is the one her grandfather never told her, the one Natalia must discover for herself. One winter during the Second World War, his childhood village was snowbound, cut off even from the encroaching German invaders but haunted by another, fierce presence: a tiger who comes ever closer under cover of darkness. “These stories,” Natalia comes to understand, “run like secret rivers through all the other stories” of her grandfather’s life. And it is ultimately within these rich, luminous narratives that she will find the answer she is looking for.

My Review:

Where to begin with this audiobook?  It's beautiful, and metaphorical, and confusing, and illusory, all at once.  Leaves me in quite a pickle when trying to write a concise review, eh?

I should start by telling you that when I picked up this audiobook, I only read the first two paragraphs of the above description.  (As we know, I often don't read them at this was quite the big step for me.)  As such, I was thrown off guard when the novel took a bit of a fantastical turn--specifically, when Natalia's grandfather started telling her the story of the "deathless man".  The beginning of the book is steeped in the gritty reality of the Balkan War and its aftermath, so this change in atmosphere was unexpected.  

However, I found myself intrigued and kept on with the book.  It helped that the narrators have such wonderful voices.  Susan Duerden, the voice of Natalia, has a soft and lyrical way of speaking that gives real life to the magical realism of the story.  And Robin Sachs (the voice of Natalia's grandfather) has a gruff manner that is extremely fitting for his role.  Probably one of the best narrator choices for an audiobook that I've heard, ever.

The ending rather confused me, and I think a big part of this was because I was listening to, rather than reading, the novel.  The ending takes an unexpected turn as Natalia reaches conclusions about her grandfather's death, and with all the fairy-tale-like aspects that are included, it made it very hard for me to keep track of what was going on.  It was only after the book ended, when I Googled some analyses of it, that I had a better understanding of what had occurred.  One of those analyses (over at Biblio Quill) stated that this is a book best read a second time, once you understand the themes involved--and I think that is spot on.  I didn't have a full understanding of the meaning of "the tiger's wife" and "the deathless man" until after the story had reached its end, and I had time to process/research it.  If I had had a print copy of the novel, I may have been able to go back and reference things more easily, thus making the reading experience more satisfying as a whole.

Overall, I was impressed by the storytelling abilities of Tea Obreht (and this was her debut novel--even more noteworthy!).  She weaves together a captivating tale that will draw you in quickly. I would just suggest that you have a heads-up about the "magical" aspects of the story before you begin, so that you have a smoother reading experience than I did.  I would also suggest reading this one, rather than listening to it (especially if you listen to your audiobooks as you commute, like I do).  The narrators are truly fantastic, but the structure of the story just did not lend itself to the disjointed way that I listen to audiobooks.  You really need to concentrate on this one to do it justice.

Other reviews of The Tiger's Wife:
Bibliophile's Corner
Caroline Bookbinder
Melissa' Eclectic Bookshelf

What are your favorite picks in the "magical realism" genre?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Four Ms. Bradwells by Meg Waite Clayton

Title:  The Four Ms. Bradwells
Author: Meg Waite Clayton
Publisher: Ballantine Books/Dreamscape Media
Publication Date: March 22, 2011
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Mia, Laney, Betts, and Ginger, best friends since law school, have reunited for a long weekend as Betts awaits Senate confirmation of her appointment to the Supreme Court. Nicknamed “the Ms. Bradwells” during their first class at the University of Michigan Law School in 1979—when only three women had ever served full Senate terms and none had been appointed to the Court—the four have supported one another through life’s challenges: marriages and divorces, births and deaths, career setbacks and triumphs large and small. Betts was, and still is, the Funny One. Ginger, the Rebel. Laney, the Good Girl. And Mia, the Savant. 

But when the Senate hearings uncover a deeply buried skeleton in the friends’ collective closet, the Ms. Bradwells retreat to a summer house on the Chesapeake Bay, where they find themselves reliving a much darker period in their past—one that stirs up secrets they’ve kept for, and from, one another, and could change their lives forever. 

My Review:

The general concept of this book intrigued me.  Based on the summary above, my interest was piqued by the meshing of chick-litty women's friendships, plus high-level political appointment: definitely spelled "smart women's fiction" to me.  I liked the idea of "humanizing" a situation that you usually would only see the CNN-proofed version of (ie. a Supreme Court appointment confirmation hearing).  All of this seemed to point to an awesome reading choice for moi.

At the beginning, the book lived up to my expectations.  We see Betts at her Senate confirmation as her three friends gather and look on.  We start to get background on their friendship, which is complex and funny, based on a bit of a joke that occurred in their first semester of law school.  Then the "deeply buried skeleton" comes out at the hearing, and Betts (along with her friends) take off out of Washington DC to hide from the press.

At this point, things started to go a bit sour for me.

Why, oh why, if you were possibly involved in a scandal that happened on a tiny little island in the Chesapeake...would you hide out ON THAT EXACT TINY LITTLE ISLAND?  This was the first point of confusion for me.  The first of many.  And I think I know why the author did it...a lot of the novel focused on revisiting the past, reconsidering past mistakes, facing your demons, etc.  So returning to the scene of the "crime" was symbolic.  But I refuse to believe that these four well-educated women, one of which was a Supreme Court nominee, would immediately flee to such an incriminating locale.  That's like someone accusing OJ of murdering Nicole and Ron, and he goes straight to their house to camp out.  MAKES NO SENSE.  And I do expect my book characters to have more sense than OJ.  That's a minimum expectation.

That particular detail highlights my main issue with this book: I feel like the author had all these MESSAGES she wanted to get across.  Things about women's rights, tests of friendship, girl power, etc.  And in her effort to make those messages crystal-clear to the reader, she sacrificed believability in the plot details, forcing her characters to do absolutely inane things that no real-life person would do in such a situation.  Example: skinny dipping.  No woman skinny dips nearly as much as the ladies in this novel do, but obviously their naked swims were meant to symbolize a release of inhibitions, feeling free from other's scrutiny, etc. so they were mentioned incessantly.  And, THE ENDING.  I nearly crashed my car with all the eyerolling I was doing while listening to the last CD.

Adding fuel to the fire, the characters themselves are not likeable--especially Mia, who is fairly central to the story.  Some sympathy is drummed up for her at the end, but I couldn't get behind it.  Plus, as an audiobook, it didn't do a good job keeping my attention.  The same narrator (Karen White) is used for all four women, and there were many points where I would lose track of who was speaking--made for a lot of rewinding and confusion at times.  I imagine this is not as difficult in print.

I am sad about this book, you guys.  I wanted so badly to like it, but I just couldn't.  I think the basic structure and subject of the novel had a lot of promise, but the actions of the characters started to lose me pretty early on.  I wish Clayton had focused less on getting her messages across, and more on creating a well-crafted storyline.

I need to get back on the audiobook horse--what's your favorite audiobook?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Audiobook Review and GIVEAWAY!: Political Suicide by Michael Palmer

Title: Political Suicide
Author: Michael Palmer
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: December 11, 2012
Source: copy received from the publisher for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads

In  Political Suicide ,   Michael Palmer delivers another gripping thriller at the crossroads of politics and medicine.  Dr. Lou Welcome, from Palmer's  New York Times  bestselling  Oath of Office,  is back in this heart stopping medical thriller. A desperate phone call embroils Lou in scandal and murder involving Dr. Gary McHugh, known around the Capital as the “society doc.” Lou has been supervising McHugh, formerly a black-out drinker, through his work with the Physician Wellness Office.  McHugh has been very cavalier about his recovery, barely attending AA and refusing a sponsor. But Lou sees progress, and the two men are becoming friends. Now, McHugh has been found unconscious in his wrecked car after visiting a patient of his, the powerful Congressman Elias Colston, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Soon after McHugh awakens in the hospital ER, Colston's wife returns home to find her husband shot dead in their garage. She then admits to the police that she had just broken off a long-standing affair with McHugh.

Something about McHugh's story has Lou believing he is telling the truth, that the Congressman was dead when he arrived and before he blacked out. Lou agrees to look into matters, but when he encounters motive, method and opportunity he is hard pressed to believe in his friend—that is until a deadly high-level conspiracy begins to unravel, and Lou acquires information that makes him the next target.

My Review:

I feel split about this audiobook; there were some elements that I really enjoyed, and others that left me feeling a bit "meh".  As with most thrillers, the best part was just trying to untangle the mystery that was at the heart of the novel.  If McHugh didn't kill Colston, then who did?  What was their motive?  And what does the ambiguous prologue (set in the Middle East) have to do with the seemingly-unrelated events happening in Washington?

Palmer does a great job unfolding this maze bit by bit, and I found the final answers to be both intriguing and highly relevant (given modern-day relations between the US and Afghanistan).  The suspense was excellent (especially for an audiobook--made my commutes go by quickly!), and I liked the last twist that was tacked on regarding Colston's true murderer.  Definitely didn't see that coming.  Plus, the ending leaves the door open for future adventures with Dr. Welcome and company.

However, as I said before, there were a few things about this book that left me a tad unsatisfied.  First is the method of Dr. Welcome's involvement.  I found myself highly skeptical of the way that he, as a person completely unaffiliated with the law or the military, was able to jump into the investigation just because he was McHugh's friend.  Related to that, he was oddly able to get himself out of an awful lot of dangerous mishaps, without any real combat training (days at the local gym notwithstanding).  The first few incidents like this got a pass, but after a while, it became a bit much.  I am unfamiliar with Welcome's appearance in Palmer's previous novel (Oath of Office), so maybe readers of that book could give him more credence, but...I just had a hard time with the plausibility of many of his escapades.

The other issue I had was the relationship between Lou and Sarah.  Their budding romance felt unnecessary to the plot, perhaps a bit forced.  Not to mention that their dialogue was incredibly high in the cheese-factor.  Was this connection a detail meant to bring in the female readers?  Tough to say, but as a female reader, I know I could have done without it.

Overall though, I'd say if you're a fan of thrillers, this one is worth a shot.  It's more political/conspiracy thriller than medical thriller, but there are some interesting scientific elements to it as well.  And the audiobook narrator (Robert Petkoff) is fantastic--the perfect voice for a suspenseful tale!  His tone heightens the excitement with every new twist that's unveiled.

Want to see for yourself?  I have 2 audiobook CD copies of Political Suicide to give away!  (Consider this your Happy Valentine's Day, my lovely readers!)

One copy is very lightly used (by me, for this reading), and the other is brand new (still in the wrapper).  Much thanks to Macmillan Audio for providing them!

To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below.  Giveaway ends February 20, US entrants only please.  Good luck!!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Audiobook Review: Dreamcatcher by Stephen King

Title: Dreamcatcher
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: March 1, 2003 (book first published March 20, 2001)
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads

Once upon a time, in the haunted city of Derry, four boys stood together and did a brave thing. It was something that changed them in ways they could never begin to understand.Twenty-five years after saving a Down's-syndrome kid from bullies, Beav, Henry, Pete, and Jonesy -- now men with separate lives and separate problems -- reunite in the woods of Maine for their annual hunting trip. But when a stranger stumbles into their camp, disoriented and mumbling something about lights in the sky, chaos erupts. Soon, the four friends are plunged into a horrifying struggle with a creature from another world where their only chance of survival is locked in their shared past -- and in the Dreamcatcher.

My Review:

I just...I think...I can't...


You guys, I just finished a Stephen King book, and I really, really didn't like it.  That happens almost never.  In fact, the only other time it's happened, so far, is when I read Insomnia.  As a Stephen King fan, I was hoping it would never happen again, but alas, here I sit.

At its start, I was diggin' this book.  These four friends in their mid-thirties are all at a hunting cabin together, as they do every November.  They have some weird, unexplained telepathy going on, which is intriguing.  And then this guy (Rick) comes out of the woods near their cabin.  He's been lost for a day (or more...), and is hungry and not feeling particularly well.  The friends let Rick into the cabin to recuperate and...CUE STEPHEN KING GORE FEST!  I was sufficiently grossed out and ready for more.

Unfortunately, that's where the awesomeness ended.  Basically the other 18 discs of this audiobook consist of completely non-fear-inducing aliens, a crabby old army general who holds a grudge that I don't even understand, and the world's longest, most bore-you-to-tears car chase.  Also, bacon...something about bacon.  By the end, when the narrator said "Epilogue", I nearly cried knowing that I had more story to sit through.

The real problem is that King just didn't get me to CARE enough.  A lot of the story centers around this army general chasing one of his old lieutenants, but the reason he's chasing him is so underdeveloped that I didn't understand its importance at all.  And even the telepathy shared by the four friends (which is pretty central to the story) did not have a backstory interesting enough for me to want to figure it out.  Usually Stephen King is amazing at getting you hooked into his characters, and his long-windedness has a purpose behind it.  But neither of those two things were true for me in Dreamcatcher.

All of this mediocrity was made worse by the fact that I did not enjoy the voice of the audiobook's narrator (Jeffrey DeMunn).  This is probably more personal preference than anything, but to me, he sounds a lot like David Sedaris (if you've ever listened to one of his audios) and Sedaris's voice rather annoys me.  I don't know how to describe it...he's too heavy on some consonants (every time he said "jacket pocket" I cringed) and his voice sounds...thick, for lack of a better word.  I will say that he did a nice job with the wide variety of tones/voices that the book required (I never had trouble telling characters apart).  But as an overall listening experience, I didn't love it.

Other than the very beginning, I'd say the ONE shining light in this novel is the references to It.  Any mention of Pennywise is a win in my book.

If this was written by any other author, I would have DNF'ed it, but because it was Stephen King, I stuck through it to the very last word.  Unfortunately, that's two months-worth of commute time that I'll never get back.  Le sigh.

I need help readers--name your favorite King novel, so I can get back in the saddle with his books!  And if you loved Dreamcatcher...why?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

More Challenges!

OK y'all, I signed up for 4 more 2013 reading challenges.  Everybody, STOP POSTING AWESOME CHALLENGES.  I can't stop signing up for them.

I'm really done now though.  I already told you about the Monthly Keyword Challenge, and now I also am declaring:

Around The World in 12 Books Challenge, hosted by Giraffe Days
This is going to be SO FUN.  I love to travel, and doing it through books is fun too!

Mount TBR Challenge, hosted by My Reader's Block

I've signed up to read Mont Blanc (at least 24 books from my TBR pile).

Foodies Read Challenge, hosted by Foodies Read
I've signed up for Pastry Chef level (4-8 food-related books).

Audiobook Challenge, hosted by Teresa's Reading Corner

I've signed up for Flirting (listening to at least 6 audiobooks).

No more challenges, Kelly.  NO MORE.

(But look at them all...aren't they pretty...)

You can keep track of my progress next year on my 2013 Challenges page.
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