28 January 2019

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Another Week of Mixed Success

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts from Beth Fish ReadsI don't know about your part of the world, but winter is here with a vengeance. One way I cope is to cheer myself up by buying new winter clothes. Which I did. But I'm not a style blog (I can hear my family and friends laughing), so I'll step away from thoughts of wool blazers and new jeans to what you really care about: what the heck did I read lately?

My surprisingly busy January is winding down to sane levels (at least for the moment), but last week I managed only two audiobooks and one short story. I DNF'd a print book, put one print book on hold (more on that in a different post), and DNF'd an audiobook.

Either I've suddenly gotten really picky or I've had bad luck in my choices. In any case, the week ahead is filled with all great expectations. I'm forever optimistic when it comes to reading.

What I Liked

Reveiw of Dorothy Butler Gilliam's Trailblazer: A Pioneering Journalist's Fight to Make the Media Look More Like AmericaWhen I accepted Dorothy Butler Gilliam's Trailblazer: A Pioneering Journalist's Fight to Make the Media Look More Like America (Center Street, January 8) for an audiobook review assignment from AudioFile magazine, I wasn't quite sure what to expect. I like autobiography / noninspirational memoir and I knew who Gilliam was, but was her book going to be name dropping, a rags to riches story, or a snapshot of an era? Gilliam's story is all that (in a good way) and more. She was born black in a world ruled by Jim Crow restrictions and born female at time when women's choices were extremely limited. Even with two strikes against her, Gilliam remained determined to hit one out of the park. I was caught up in her transformation from preacher's daughter with a narrow future to first black woman reporter and, later, columnist for the Washington Post. Her life and career spans both the feminist and the civil rights movements and allowed her a front-row seat at some of American's most significant turning points. If you're a woman or a person of color (especially if you were born in the mid-20th century), her story will resonate on a personal level, depending on your age and situation. For anyone still facing socially sanctioned restrictions (in other words if you're not white, male, and Christian), you'll find so much of Gilliam's story to relate to. Don't miss Trailblazer, which would also be perfect for those looking for a Black History Month read. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 8 hr, 58 min) read by the fabulous January Le Voy. Her delivery of Gilliam's words hit all the right tones. If you're into autobiography and are an audiobook fan, read this with your ears. You won't be sorry. (audiobook copy provided for a freelance assignment.

Review of Soulbinder by  Sebastien de CastellSob! I'm all caught up with Sebastien de Castell's Spellslinger series, though I can't complain too much because books 5 and 6 will be released this year. Soulbinder, the 4th in the series, continued to both amuse me (I love de Castell's sense of humor) and keep me glued to my (now wireless) earbuds. To recap for those who missed my earlier reviews (find them here) of the series, de Castell has created a unique fantasy world that has a Wild West flavor, a variety of creatures and cultures, lots of action, great bantering dialogue, and a wonderfully flawed hero who's easy to root for. Kellen is now about seventeen and still exiled from his home. Though he's getting better at living the outlaw life, he has a knack for getting himself into trouble and often needs help getting out of it. In this installment, he gains insight into his semi-estranged family and experiences a shift in how he sees himself and the life fate has granted him. Of the many things I love about about these books, I especially appreciate that, while sexual/love relationships could happen, Kellen is awkward, sometimes fickle, and isn't truly sure he's ready to take any friendship to next step. This installment also touches on LBGTQ+ issues in a causal, everyday way, which is how it should be. Soulbinder doesn't end on cliffhanger, but it does set Kellen off on an uncertain path, which makes me all the more impatient for book 5. I listened to the unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 11 hr, 36 min) brilliantly read by Joe Jameson. I've said it before: Jameson has the characters down pat and is great at delivering the quips, keeping the characters straight, adjusting the pacing to the action, and hitting the emotions. He had better be around for the next two books. (audiobook copy provided by the publisher)

This Week's Short Story

REview of "Layla's Nose Job," by Nicoloa Barker, from The Three Button Trick and Other Stories"Layla's Nose Job," by Nicoloa Barker, from The Three Button Trick and Other Stories (Ecco, November 2018): This is a story collection I've had my eye on for a few months because, as I wrote in November, the stories "embrace the strange and stretch reality to get at the truth of the human condition." I picked the first story in the collection, which was about a girl who was born with a truly larger-than-normal nose. Her whole life, Layla had to contend with people staring at her and teasing her and treating her as an outsider. After her best friend makes a blunder that reveals just how much Layla is defined by her nose, Layla tells her parents that she must have a nose job for psychological reasons. Thus, a few days after her sixteenth birthday, Layla undergoes the knife. What does she learn about herself and others once the healing begins? Barker's concept held my attention, and I was curious about Layla's fate, but the ending may have been a little too open for me. I liked the writing enough to give The Three Button Trick another chance, but I'm not sure if I'll read all the stories. (digital copy provided by the publisher)

What I Gave Up On

Thoughts on Talent by Juliet LapidosTalent by Juliet Lapidos (Little, Brown, January 22) had a couple of elements that should have pulled me right in. First it stars a graduate student struggling with her dissertation in literature, which is supposed to focus on what inspires writers to write. Second, the reviews and blurbs of Talent promised a bit of a psychological thriller. As the book opens, Anna (the grad student) helps a stranger in need, who then changes the course of Anna's life. I stuck it out for about 25 percent of the novel, but, frankly, I just didn't really care very much about Anna, her dissertation, or her relationship with the woman stranger to find out what ultimately happens. I read enough to know how the woman Anna helps can, in turn, help Anna with her research, but that still didn't pull me in. You may have better luck. (digital copy provided by the publisher)

Thoughts on The Gilded Wolves by Roshani ChokshiThe Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (Wednesday Books, January 15). I had such high hopes for this book that I actively requested an audiobook copy (Macmillan Audio; 11 hr, 55 min). Thus I feel kind of bad that I just couldn't connect. I loved Chokshi's Aru Shah and the End of Time (my thoughts here), I'm a big fantasy fan, and I particularly like the alternate history subgenre. This book takes place in 1889 Paris and involves powerful families and an underground organization that is out to capture that power for themselves. There's an art thief and hotelier, a landscape artist, a cook/baker, displaced/disinherited people from widely diverse backgrounds, and the hunt for a piece of the Tower of Babel, which will give the owner prestige and power and estates. I wish I could explain the concept better but the plot was confusing and I wasn't really sure what was going on. I started the audiobook three times--that's how much I wanted to love it. I finally made it about a quarter of the way through before giving up for good. It wasn't the fault of narrators Laurie Catherine Winkel and P. J. Ochlan (though I thought Winkel's performance was stronger); their performances were fine. Was it my mood? I have no idea. Whatever the reason I just didn't click with the universe, the magic, or the characters. Kirkus gave it a star and it was Indie Next pick, so you'll probably love it.

13 comments:

rhapsodyinbooks 1/28/19, 7:43 AM  

I don't need to buy new winter clothes because as if I would go out my door in the minus 18 degrees! LOL But actually it's pretty cold on the inside too!

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 1/28/19, 8:37 AM  

I agree about Talent! That grad student drove me crazy!! The Pop Tarts?!

AJ Sterkel 1/28/19, 8:50 AM  

Winter is here, too. It’s so cold! And there’s so much snow! Trailblazer sounds awesome. I might have to look that one up. Have a great week!

Aj @ Read All The Things!

Susie | Novel Visits 1/28/19, 9:19 AM  

Oh! Trailblazer sounds really good. I'm going to add it to my audiobook list.

You made the right call on Talent. I only finished it because much of the time I was trapped on a plane. I'll have a mini-review up on Thursday and I'm struggling to find much good to say about it.

Sherry Fundin 1/28/19, 10:57 AM  

Love that cover for Soulbinder. Has me curious.
sherry @ fundinmental

Kathy Martin 1/28/19, 12:08 PM  

You convinced me! Spellslinger just went on my Kindle. I read The Gilded Wolves but wasn't blown away and doubt I'll carry on with the series. For me, I just didn't like most of the characters. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

JoAnn 1/28/19, 12:33 PM  

I'd listen to anything narrated by January Le Voy - Trailblazers sounds like a good one! It's even been cold down here in Florida, but of course I can't complain to anyone up north ;-)

Yvonne 1/28/19, 12:51 PM  

It's definitely winter here, too, but fortunately no snow for us. It's so cold, though. I had to get a few new clothes too. Trailblazer looks really good. I hope you have a great week!

Kathryn T 1/28/19, 1:43 PM  

Trailblazer sounds good and January Le Voy is indeed a very good narrator. Oh well DNF and move on, all those good books waiting!

pussreboots 1/28/19, 5:53 PM  

Your books are new to me. Have a good week. My weekly updates

Greg 1/28/19, 6:36 PM  

Oh my gosh same here with winter! It's a snowy mess here right now. Hope your area's not to bad...

Interesting about The Gilded Wolves, and good to know. That's one I've thought about but not sure it's my thing either.

Have an awesome week!

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours 1/29/19, 3:52 PM  

Bracing for tomorrow around Chicago, real feel -30, though it's not that much warmer today. This past week, I also DNFed a book: Berlin AlexanderPlatz, supposedly a book required for all German students to read. It reminded me a lot of the style of Ulysses, by Joyce. Tough

Sue Jackson 1/29/19, 6:44 PM  

Ooh - that's a good idea, to treat yourself to some new winter clothes to combat the blues this time of year!

Trailblazer sounds wonderful - I hadn't heard of it before, so thanks for the heads up!

And as soon as I read your description of Soulbinder, I went right to my list of book ideas for my son because it sounds perfect...just to discover I already had the Spellslinger series written down for him - based on your recommendation! I think book 1 is going in his Easter basket!

I forgot to mention when you first talked about your short story goals for this year - definitely read at least one Kelly Link story! I don't read a lot of short stories, but she was at Booktopia a few years ago, so I read her collection of stories, Get in Trouble...and loved it!

Here's my review (no spoilers) to give you an idea of her style and tone:

https://bookbybook.blogspot.com/2015/05/fiction-review-get-in-trouble.html

Enjoy your books this week -

Sue

Book By Book

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