Saturday, July 3, 2010

Happy Independence Day, America!

It's been a long time ~ six months ~ since I've posted anything here, and I've really missed it, but I've had some personal issues to deal with and little time for personal pleasures.  All that is now in the past and will I hope stay in the past, so, in to paraphrase Russel Casse: "Hello, boys and girls! I'm back!" (from the film Independence Day which is pretty fitting considering that tomorrow is the Fourth of July). 

I also had a long dry spell where almost nothing I picked up to read seemed to interest me, but I've recently read some amazing books which I'd like to briefly share with you.  Two were on audiobook, which I listen to on my trusty and well-used iPod.
First, you probably already know that Neil Gaiman is a wonderfully amazing writer, but but did you also know that he is also an amazingly wonderful reader, at least of the two works of his to which I've listened?  Last year, I was fortunate enough to listen to The Graveyard Book, my first Gaiman ever and coincidentally the winner of not only the Newbery Award for best novel of 2009 but also the Audie for best audiobook of 2009.  Then last week I picked up Neverwhere on audio and listened to it.  What a magical audiobook, and so masterfully read by its author.

Neverwhere tells the story of Richard Mayhew, an unassuming young businessman living in London.  Richard has a dull job and a pretty but demanding fiancee, but he's relatively happy, or believes he is. Then one night, on the way to dinner with his fiancee where he is to meet her wealthy employer, he stumbles across a homeless girl who lies bleeding on the sidewalk. He stops to help her, against the strong objections of his fiancee, and the life he has known vanishes like smoke.  Literally.  It vanishes.  His bank account is gone.  His apartment is being rented out as if it is vacant.  People can't even seem to see him when he's standing in a puddle in front of them, naked but for a small handtowel draped across a strategic area of his anatomy, dripping from the bath that was interrupted by a leasing agent and a pair of prospective new tenants.  And he's being stalked by two of the worst, creepiest and evil assassins who ever existed.  He has, in fact, fallen through the cracks.  Thus begins his sojourn in the city below the city, where magic is as natural as traffic lights and smog in the upper world.  It was so good, I wanted to start listening to it again as soon as I finished it.  And now I've got Fragile Things, another audiobook of his that he reads, on hold at the library for pickup soon. 

The second book I've listened to recently that I want to share with you is A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray.  Now, I follow Libba Bray on Twitter, but didn't think I'd like her work as I'm not usually enamoured of angst-ridden YA romances.  Wow, was I ever wrong.  A Great and Terrible Beauty, set in the late 1800s, begins the trilogy that tells the story of 16-year-old Gemma Doyle who, after the suicide of her mother, is shipped away from the life she has known in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England.  While there, she discovers a magical realm beyond the mundane world through a door that only she can open.  While there was some angst and a small bit of romance, there was so much more: guilt, Victorian absurdities, danger, death, suspense, murder, and redemption.  As a friend on said, "Why oh why couldn't young girls have become enamoured with this series instead of with the stupid Twilight series..."

Some other excellent audiobooks I've enjoyed lately are Jasper Fforde's Something Rotten and First Among Sequels, the last two (so far) of the Tuesday Next series, and The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, a reread for me.  Black Hills by Dan Simmons, the story of Paha Sapa who touched General Custer just as he died and became infected with Custer's ghost, is also good, though the parts where Custer was talking were a bit offputting.

Later this weekend, I'll post some of the paper books I've read and enjoyed in the past few months.  Now it's time to clean the kitchen, which I allowed to fall into terrible disarray over the past few days.  It will be good to be able to use the sink and see the counters again.


Tina said...

Welcome back, happy 4th!

And thanks for the great audio book mentions. I'm an audio fanatic, and I have a granddaughter who's gone from One Fish Two Fish to Stephanie Myers in about 18 months. She's going into 4th grade and devouring books, so I'm always looking for YA's that I can vet for her to read. I've had Neil Gaiman on my list for months, and you've given me a push to try them out.

But I was especially intrigued by "A Great and Terrible Beauty" - sounds like one I'd like, even if it might be a bit advanced yet for g-babe. Just checked and my local library has it- I put a hold on it to pick up after the holiday weekend.

Enjoy the food, fireworks and freedom. Tina

Mary K. from L.A. said...

Hi, Tina ~ Thanks for the welcome back. I have a lot of catching up to do, not only with my own blog but with everyone else's I follow. Yes, Neil Gaiman is "da bomb," as my daughter used to say, especially his audio versions. If your g-daughter reads Stephanie Myers, I don't think Libba Bray would be too old for her. And A Great & Terrible Beauty is so much more intelligent than Twilight (I only read the first in the series.) Anyway, hope you enjoy it and, after you've listened to it, you can decide for yourself. Happy 4th to you too!


Karen Funk Blocher said...

Sooner or later I'll get around to reading Neverwhere. Thanks for the introduction/review of it!

Luanne said...

Welcome back and Happy 4th of July!