15 October 2018

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Reading across the Genres

4 short book reviews from Beth Fish ReadsFirst, for my friends in Florida and the South -- I'm hoping you are safe and that you have electricity and that you spared the worst of the hurricane.

For the rest of you north of the Equator, I hope you are enjoying the fall weather. I'm thrilled I can pull out my sweaters and long-sleeved shirts. I'm so ready for cooler temperatures and afternoon tea. I still have a window or two cracked during the day, but it's definitely cold out there!

With October comes a seasonal busy time for my work, and my personal reading time is crawling. I've gotten through only 4 books in two weeks. Oh well, the books will still be there waiting after I meet my deadlines.

Audiobook review of The Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz ZafonThe Labyrinth of the Spirits by Carlos Ruiz Zafon (Harper; September 18). This is the final installment in Zafon's Cemetery of Forgotten Books quartet. I listened to the first book (The Shadow of the Wind) when it first came out, before I was blogging, and that audiobook has remained one of my all-time favorites. I don't know why I didn't listen to the next two books, but I'm glad I gave Labyrinth of the Spirits a try. The plot follows Spanish secret police agent Alicia Gris as she attempts to complete her last mission before she returns to civilian life. The book is part thriller and part mystery and is set mostly in Barcelona. I barely remember the first book, but I didn't feel lost and I actually ended up recognizing the names of some of the characters. I liked the book, although I wasn't as blown away as I hoped. The tension was definitely there--as Alicia and her partner begin to uncover corruption stemming from the Franco regime, the danger increases--and I was invested in the outcome. I probably would have appreciated the book more if I had read the entire quartet; still I like the way Zafon conducted a kind of meta analysis as he tied up lose ends to the series. Narrator Daniel Weyman did a fine job reading the unabridged audiobook (HarperAudio; 27 hr, 55 min), which was a good thing, because this is a long audio. My only complaint was his British accent, which meant I had to keep reminding myself the book took place in Spain, not the UK. But all in all, his performance kept me invested. (For more on the audiobook; see AudioFile magazine.)

Audiobook review of Swing by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand HessSwing by Kwame Alexander with Mary Rand Hess (Blink, October 2). I've become fond of novels in verse and so was looking forward to reading Alexander's newest. This coming-of-age story is about two high school friends who share a love a baseball, though neither of them made the team; who are good students, though they can still have fun; and who are different enough to push each other and teach each other. Noah is currently obsessing over his other best friend, Sam (a girl), and wondering how he can cross the line from buddy to boyfriend. The only problem is that Sam has a boyfriend, and she likes the other guy a lot, even if he is a jock and a bit of a jerk. Walt, on the other hand, is determined to make the baseball team and practices almost every day. He's also a trivia buff and and jazz lover. This short novel, though, is no high school romp; it covers themes of friendship, young love, diversity and race (Noah is white; Walt is black), responsibility, and larger societal issues. Alexander himself reads the audiobook (Blink Audio; 4 hr, 8 min), and I think this was a brilliant choice. His characterizations were spot-on and his diction is clear. He infused his performance with measured emotion. Swing may break your heart, but you won't want to miss this in print or in audio. You'll be thinking about Noah and Walt long after you close the book. (For more on the audiobook; see AudioFile magazine.)

Audiobook review of On Sunset by Kathryn HarrisonOn Sunset by Kathryn Harrison (Doubleday, October 2). I didn't know what to expect when I started this memoir of growing up in the sixties in Los Angeles. Instead of a straightforward chronology, Harrison's approach is more of a love song to her eccentric grandparents, who provided her with a unique upbringing. Her grandmother came from a wealthy family of multicultural Jews in Singapore, and her grandfather was raised poor in London. Each became world travelers and had fairly full lives when they met late in life. Their one irresponsible daughter went the other direction, getting pregnant while still a teenager. Though her mother didn't live in the big house on Sunset Boulevard, Harrison saw her often and wasn't abandoned in the usual sense. Her memoir is mostly a collection of her grandparents' stories: eight-day train trips from the Orient to Paris, fur trapping in the wilds of Alaska, meeting a Russian prince, fighting in World War I, immigration, and learning to accept one's fate without losing one's past. I loved Harrison's voice and her grandparents' stories. Don't miss this one. I listened the unabridged audiobook (Random House Audio; 6 hr, 39 min) read by Rebecca Lowman, who beautifully blurred the line between author and performer. My only regret is that by listening I missed out on the photographs included in the book. I'll have to see if my library has a copy. (For more on the audiobook; see AudioFile magazine.)

Review of Jar City by Arnaldur IndridasonJar City by Arnaldur Indridason (Picador, 2006): When I was doing my big book culling the other week, I made a vow to myself to start reading from own shelves. We're all drawn to the new and shiny and sometimes forget those books we always meant to read. I learned about Indridason's Reykjavik police procedural series starring Inspector Erlendur when I was lucky enough to attend a BEA book blogger reception in Picador's offices; I left the party with the first couple of books in the series. Since then, I've collected all the Erlendur books to date. I thought it was about time I actually read them.

Oh boy have I missed out. I really like the setting, the mystery, and getting to know Erlendur and his family. Jar City starts with a murder that leads the inspector to revisit a cold case involving rape. Meanwhile, a bride disappears from her wedding reception and no one has heard from her and two elderly sisters were assaulted. Besides juggling multiple police cases, Erlendur (divorced) is dealing with a troubled daughter. Family issues, police department relationships, and the way rape victims are treated, all come into play. Indridason builds the tension and writes a tight story, and I really enjoyed getting a peek at life in Iceland. If you like mysteries set outside the United States or the UK, give this series a try. I'm already looking forward to the second book.


Mae Travels 10/15/18, 8:12 AM  

A mystery set in Iceland sounds like a welcome change from small towns and cities in England or from NYC! I've added it to my amazon wish list (which has hundreds of books on it, but nevermind!)

best... mae at maefood.blogspot.com

Susie | Novel Visits 10/15/18, 9:05 AM  

The inability to see pictures, maps and diagrams in audiobooks is the one thing that holds some of them back for me. It's better when they come with a PDF, but even that isn't ideal. I lived in the LA area for a few years in college, so On Sunset sounds like something I'd like.

Daryl 10/15/18, 10:35 AM  

oooh .. i could use another series w/good characters/plotting and a mystery or two to solve .. thanks!

Aymee 10/15/18, 11:02 AM  

I hope Jar City is good, I've been wanting to get into that series as well. And I'm also trying to read more from my own shelves as well. Good luck with that!

My Roundup

sherry fundin 10/15/18, 11:34 AM  

I live in florida and was lucky that the storm stayed east of us. Got some wind and big waves. Looks like you have some good books. Hope you enjoy them.
sherry @ fundinmental Sunday Memes

Laurel-Rain Snow 10/15/18, 11:35 AM  

On Sunset caught my eye, especially the setting and the era (60s in LA).

The family makeup sounds interesting, too.

I am also curious about Jar City.

Enjoy your week, and thanks for visiting my blog.

Kathy Martin 10/15/18, 11:36 AM  

I'm glad I'm not the only one who collects a series before even starting to read it. I'm still dealing with lots of review books but my TBR mountain is calling. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

JoAnn 10/15/18, 11:47 AM  

These are all new to me! On Sunset looks especially good and I always enjoy Rebecca Lowman's narrations. Hope you can take a look at the photos in a library or book store... maybe they're even posted on line somewhere.

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours 10/15/18, 11:57 AM  

I'm probably one of the rare bloggers who DNFed Ruiz Zafón. I almost read all of the first book of the series, and then decided not to finish it, I can't remember exactly why, must have been something I felt over the top.
My post is here: https://wordsandpeace.com/2018/10/15/its-monday-what-are-you-reading-october-15/
I have not tried Indridason yet, I'm afraid it might be too dark

JLS Hall 10/15/18, 5:27 PM  

I'm definitely a summer person, so I'm not really looking forward to cooler weather, but glad you're enjoying it. I loved The Shadow of the Wind, but wasn't as impressed with the later books. Haven't read Labyrinth yet, but it does sound intriguing. Hope you enjoy your reading this week!

pussreboots 10/15/18, 6:26 PM  

Enjoy your week and your books. My weekly updates

Sue Jackson 10/15/18, 7:16 PM  

oooh...I've read (and enjoyed) The Shadow of the Wind but haven't read any of the others in the series - in fact, I knew there was a sequel but not that there were 4 all together!

On Sunset sounds wonderful, as does the Icelandic mystery series. I hadn't heard of either of those yet, so thanks for the heads up.

Enjoy your books this week -


Book By Book

Aj @ Read All The Things! 10/15/18, 8:57 PM  

All of these books sound excellent. I still have The Shadow of the Wind on my TBR shelf. I also have a Kwame Alexander book on there. Have a great week.

Aj @ Read All The Things!

Claudia 10/16/18, 8:45 PM  

I've read several of Yrsa Sigurdardottir's novels, but give up on her finally, too depressing (is it the cold bleak country?) but will give this Icelandic author a go. Have reserved Jar.

thecuecard 10/19/18, 9:54 AM  

You have a nice round-up of reviews here. I've always wanted to get to the first one in the series by Carlos Ruiz Zafon. Perhaps as an audiobook would be the way to go. I've heard many say it's a favorite novel of theirs. I will look for it. thanks!

(Diane) bookchickdi 10/23/18, 12:43 PM  

My daughter-in-law is from Barcelona and her favorite book is The Shadow of the Wind. I was so happy to be able to give her the newest book in the series.

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