July Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

Photo-realistic colour illustration of Victorian types doing surgeryThe Butchering Art by Lindsey Fitzharris, narrated by Sam Woolf – A I listen to the Noble Blood podcast (recommend!) and recently, host Dana Schwarz interviewed Lindsey Fitzharris about her new book, The Facemaker (also on my TBL). She mentioned her debut (The Butchering Art) and I decided to start there as I’ve long had an interest in non-fiction about the history of science, disease and medicine. The Butchering Art tells the story of Joseph Lister, the Victorian surgeon who introduced antiseptic techniques to surgery and saved countless lives by doing so. At seven and a half hours, it is not an exhaustive biography, nor is it intended to be. Rather, as the author said in her recent interview, she distills the information so the finished product reads like narrative fiction. This book was infinitely interesting to me. I was hooked from the start and stayed that way; I was not bored for a single second. In fact, if anything, I was left wanting more.

The narration is excellent. Mr. Woolf gives character voices to speakers just like in narrative fiction and delivers the story with similar tone and expression. The combination of story and narration was a perfect pairing. It’s all true and it’s all fascinating.

March Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

Drawing of a Post-Regency gentleman - only just below the shoulders and on down is shown, on a white background. He's holding a top hat and under the titles (on the right) is a purple flowerFlowers From the Storm by Laura Kinsale, narrated by Nicholas Boulton – A I was inspired to listen to this one again after reading this post over at Close Reading Romance. I’ve listened before (I reviewed it here for the old Speaking of Audiobooks column when it first came out) and I’ve read it in print as well but it’s a book that reveals something more on each encounter. There is something especially about Boulton’s portrayal of the characters (most especially Maddy) that makes them more complicated and sympathetic and nuanced than even they were on the page.

The things that struck me most about this listen apart from, again that I felt more in sync with Maddy on audio than I did in print, was that the deception Jervaulx practiced on Maddy was not ever addressed. The first part was, kind of but the main one? Not at all. Maddy didn’t confront him about it and therefore Jervaulx never specifically apologised for it.  Ordinarily that would be a thing that would bother me but in this case, by the end it was superfluous. My take was that Maddy never raised it because it didn’t really matter. She understood why Jervaulx did what he did. She loved him for all of his sins and, ultimately she wanted to be with him. It’s not that it didn’t matter exactly – but also it kind of didn’t matter. What the deception did was provide her with a way out and that led to her revelation that she didn’t want one after all. If not for that, she may have felt trapped forever and would never have been able to embrace her HEA. Not that Jervaulx’s actions were justified – just that it’s a neat bit of plotting to bring that silver lining out.

REVIEW: Project Hail Mary by Andy Weir, narrated by Ray Porter

illustrated cover, long view of an astronaut on a long tether floating in space before a yellow planet (or star?) streaked with blackWhy I read it:  I really enjoyed The Martian so I picked this one up when I heard the buzz.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads) Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission – and if he fails, humanity and the Earth itself will perish.

Except that right now, he doesn’t know that. He can’t even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it.

All he knows is that he’s been asleep for a very, very long time. And he’s just been awakened to find himself millions of miles from home, with nothing but two corpses for company.

His crewmates dead, his memories fuzzily returning, he realizes that an impossible task now confronts him. Alone on this tiny ship that’s been cobbled together by every government and space agency on the planet and hurled into the depths of space, it’s up to him to conquer an extinction-level threat to our species.

And thanks to an unexpected ally, he just might have a chance.

Part scientific mystery, part dazzling interstellar journey, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian – while taking us to places it never dreamed of going.

PLEASE NOTE: To accommodate this audio edition, some changes to the original text have been made with the approval of author Andy Weir.

What worked for me (and what didn’t): I so enjoyed this audiobook! The narration is fantastic; Ray Porter nails the humour and pathos in the story and delivers a pacey performance which was *chef’s kiss*. I’m kind of curious what the experience would be like in print – as the note at the end of the blurb indicates, there are changes to the original text made in the audio version to enhance the listen. I think those changes made the book better; particularly when it came to understanding Rocky, the alien life form Grace meets while in the Tau Ceti system. Rocky communicates in chimes and musical chords and that’s exactly what you hear at first. Then later, once they learn to communicate with each other, there’s a vocal overlay of Porter’s voice which gives it a musical sound and serves to make it screamingly obvious when Rocky is talking. There is no need for dialogue tags in the sections where Grace is in space as the only two beings talking are he and Rocky. Clearly Porter had the benefit of the direction of the original text when it came to portraying the emotions called for but, hearing them, it was unnecessary to also listen to them described. The dialogue itself did that.  The entire experience was much more immersive and was also easier to understand. I don’t know of course because I listened and did not read, but I expect I’d have struggled to come up with the same voice for Rocky in my head. I’m sure that the listening experience made it easier to relate to him.

April Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

the cover is kind of a logo/shield emblem made up of lots of little Easter eggs from the story, white rats, a bear, a sword, vials and skulls and toads all in an orange and red and black designPaladin’s Strength by T. Kingfisher – A One of my Twitter friends who gives excellent book recommendations, recently put me onto this author and I’m so grateful (thank you Aarya!). I listened to the first book in the series, Paladin’s Grace which was also fantastic, which I reviewed for AudioGals. And then I bought the ebook of this one because I wanted more.

There is a story arc over the two books about people’s heads getting chopped off but the main characters are different and there’s a romantic HEA for a different couple in each book. Still, I do recommend reading (or listening – the narrator is wonderful) to the first book first to get the most out of this book.

Istvhan is a Paladin for the Saint of Steel (who is a god but something got lost in translation regarding the name use for him) who died some 3-4 years earlier. This obviously sent everyone who served the Saint into a tailspin and left the Paladin’s bereft – those who survived at any rate. Paladins for the Saint of Steel are berserkers and it was only the god’s influence which stopped them from killing innocents. There are only 7 Paladin’s left now and they’ve been taken in by the Temple of the White Rat – a church which is all about serving people and not so much about telling them how to live their lives and making restrictive rules.

Clara is a lay sister in the Order of St. Ursa. All of the Sisters of St. Ursa have a particular ability which leads them to the order (there’s a hint in the name and on the cover too). Her convent has been burned down and her remaining Sisters have been kidnapped. She’s on a mission to find them and rescue them if she can.

December Round Up

Monthly Mini Review

side view of a pretty blonde young white woman in a red regency style dress standing near a green velvet couch and smilingWhen She Was Naughty by Tessa Dare – A Tessa Dare sent a Christmas gift to her newsletter subscribers so I got this one for free but it’s only 99c from etailers. It’s about 50 pages and it’s such fun. It’s a Christmas bon bon of delight, a frothy funny confection which had me laughing out loud. Chloe Garland believes the Earl of Deverell, Justin Montague, does not like her and disapproves of her frivolity and enjoyment of life. She thinks he’s a stuffed shirt but he’s around her family all the time since his only relative, a beloved cousin married into the Garland clan. She convinces him the annual Garland Christmas Eve ball is one where all the men of the family wear “ugly Christmas waistcoats” in a nod to ugly Christmas sweaters.

Only Chloe is wrong about how the earl feels toward her and a frank discussion in the moonlight inspires her to rethink their past acquaintance.

REVIEW: A Heart of Blood and Ashes by Milla Vane

Torso and upper legs of a muscular white bare-chested barbarian wearing leather and furs against a black backgroundWhy I read it:  My friend Brie recommended it to me.

CW: Extreme violence and gore, rape, torture, abuse (mostly – but not all – off page).

What it’s about: (from Goodreads) A generation past, the western realms were embroiled in endless war. Then the Destroyer came. From the blood and ashes he left behind, a tenuous alliance rose between the barbarian riders of Parsathe and the walled kingdoms of the south. That alliance is all that stands against the return of an ancient evil – until the barbarian king and queen are slain in an act of bloody betrayal.

Though forbidden by the alliance council to kill the corrupt king responsible for his parents’ murders, Maddek vows to avenge them, even if it costs him the Parsathean crown. But when he learns it was the king’s daughter who lured his parents to their deaths, the barbarian warrior is determined to make her pay.

Yet the woman Maddek captures is not what he expected. Though the last in a line of legendary warrior-queens, Yvenne is small and weak, and the sharpest weapons she wields are her mind and her tongue. Even more surprising is the marriage she proposes to unite them in their goals and to claim their thrones—because her desire for vengeance against her father burns even hotter than his own…

What worked for me (and what didn’t): When I think of words to describe my reading experience, ones like “epic”, “sweeping”  and “magnificent” come to mind. In ‘old skool’ romance this often means that the main characters spend a lot of time apart however and that’s so not my jam. A Heart of Blood and Ashes has the advantage of being epic and sweeping but Maddek and Yvenne are together for most of the book so it is way better than my experience of most old skool sagas.

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