Hunkering Down: Book Series For The Long Haul

So, given that a good majority of people may be staying at home and away from crowds for awhile (or even in quarantine), we here at Library Ladies thought that we’d recommend some books that could help pass the time. Because the thing about these recommendations is that they are multi-book series! Here are some of our favorites that will keep you busy and engaged for a long while. See if your local bookstore will deliver an order to you, or if you can find them as downloadable content from your local library! But please don’t physically go to your library if it’s open. And remember everyone: be mindful, practice social distancing (or just stay home), check in on your loved ones, and wash wash wash your hands!

27861730._sx318_

Series: “The Temperance Brennan” Series by Kathy Reichs

For fans of the TV show “Bones”, did you know that it started as a book series? Well, kind of. Temperance from the TV show is very different from Temperance from the novels, but if you are in it for the forensic anthropology based mystery of it all, this series is for you! Temperance is a forensic anthropologist who works in both North Carolina and Quebec, hoping to help identify the remains of people who may not be identifiable otherwise. And she also gets into some pretty hot water, and finds herself solving dark and engaging mysteries. I love Tempe and the crimes she tackles, and while sometimes her personal life can be exhausting, she is incredibly charming as a character. Plus, given that Reichs herself is a forensic anthropologist, there are a lot of great science-y tidbits within these books!

244ehli-600x461-1

Series: “The Dark Tower” by Stephen King

We all know that Stephen King is the king of horror, but he’s also dabbled in fantasy. His best known fantasy series is “The Dark Tower”, a dark fantasy about a gunslinger, a man in black, and multiple universes that are all potentially in danger. Roland Deschain is a member of an important order of knight like beings called Gunslingers, and his world seems to be falling apart. He hopes that if he can find a place called “The Dark Tower”, as it may be the key to saving not only his world, but also all the worlds in all dimensions. But, of course, there is a man who thrives on the chaos and violence of these universes, and a showdown between Roland and The Man in Black (aka RANDALL FLAGG!!) seems almost inevitable. This is what I like to call a ‘commitment’, as many of the books in this series are looooooong. Therefore, they will take up a lot of that time we will all need to kill while we wait out our social distancing measures.

75235137f3e426515a6671606e309610

Series: “The Sandman” by Neil Gaiman

If you haven’t read anything by Neil Gaiman, a wonderful place to start would be with his epic comic fantasy opus “Sandman”. This epic fantasy series deals with Dream, or Morpheus, the being that controls sleep and dreaming and stories. This series is about him and his siblings, The Endless, and how they control and represent many powers of the universe. Part fantasy, part horror, part mythology, “Sandman” is one of the greatest comic series of all time, being  one of Vertigo’s first titles and beloved by many fantasy and comics fans to this day. It’s hard to really describe this series, in it’s eerie, ephemeral and philosophical leanings. But it’s captivating and lovely, and will no doubt take you to a world you never expected, and may not want to leave.

wheel-of-time-1025739

Series: “Wheel of Time” by Robert Jordan

Any epic fantasy fan is at least passingly familiar with Robert Jordan’s mammoth “Wheel of Time” series. In fact, Jordan was the OG Geore RR Martin when it came to complaining about an author not finishing their series. And in Jordan’s case, fans’ worst fears were realized when he passed away before finishing the 14 book series. Luckily, Brandon Sanderson, another beloved fantasy author, was able to pick up the notes that remained and bring a conclusion to this sprawling story. Not only are there 14 books, however, each book is also hundreds and hundreds of pages long. So if you like fantasy (especially of the high fantasy variety with swords, staffs, and unique world-building), this series should have you set for quite some time. Amazon is also currently working on developing a TV series for these books, so now is a good time to get a head start before it is released!

octoberdaye-series-sweeps

Series: “October Daye” by Seanan McQuire

If epic fantasy isn’t your jam, there are a bunch of long-running urban fantasy series to check out. I’ve reviewed the “Mercy Thompson” and “Kate Daniels” series on this blog, so if you haven’t read those, they are also good options. But I wanted to shine light on another great series that I’ve been making my way through (though haven’t reviewed yet.) Like the two others, this series focuses on a young woman with connections to a secretive supernatural world. October Daye has one foot in the realm of fae and one in the human world. With her experience in both worlds, and as a knight with a liege in a fairy court, October solves mysteries and goes on adventures throughout this 13+ book series. However, while the story does eventually build towards a romance, it is much less heavily featured (at least right off the bat) than the central romances in the “Thompson” or “Daniels” series.

91-amo6abjl

Series: “Amelia Peabody” by Elizabeth Peters

Of course, no list featuring long book series could be complete without a nod to my beloved “Amelia Peabody” series. Fantasy lends itself well to long-running stories, so it’s a bit more challenging to find long series that don’t feature magical elements. But for those who enjoy mysteries and historical fiction, Amelia Peabody is the best of the best. Taking place largely in Egypt, Amelia and her family solve a range of mysteries and murders. But what makes this series really stand out is the hilarious narration of our leading lading herself! I’ve listened to a bunch of these on audiobook as well, so I recommend that option as well. Bonus, if your library has digital audiobooks available, you can listen to a bunch of these without ever leaving your house!

What are you planning on reading while spending time at home? Let us know in the comments!

May The Books Be With You: A “Star Wars” Book List

Few forms of media have garnered the pop culture following that is the “Star Wars” fandom. Having spanned almost fifty years of tales from a galaxy far far away, it has been the obsession of fan boys and girls alike. Now that the last three movies of the so called ‘Skywalker Saga’ have wrapped up in the “Star Wars” universe, we thought that it could be fun to wax nostalgic and speculate about what kinds of books some of the characters from the saga would like to read. 

Luke Skywalker: “Dune” by Frank Herbert

“Dune” seems to have a lot that might appeal to former farm boy turned Jedi Knight Luke Skywalker. The first is obvious: it’s about a chosen one who, against all odds, seemed to fulfill a role that wasn’t meant for him. Paul Atreides is a boy who trains as a Bene Gesserit, a social force within the “Dune” world that gives its followers superhuman abilities. Along with that, as the “Dune” books go on, Paul has to ultimately face the consequences of his rise to power thanks in part to these superhuman abilities, which leads to heartache, sacrifice, and guilt on his part. And the final point is perhaps one that Luke would have the hardest time with: so much sand! While Luke doesn’t hate sand as much as his father, Tatooine was a desert planet that had harsh conditions and harsh creatures, just like Dune itself.

Leia Organa: “Code Name Verity” by Elizabeth E. Wein

Leia may have been raised as a princess, but she was also a military leader, politician, and spy for the Rebel Alliance, not to mention attuned to the ways of the Jedi. Her devotion to the Rebel Alliance at such a young age is why I think that she would absolutely love the book “Code Name Verity”. Taking place during WWII, spy “Verity” is taken by Nazis after her plane crashes in enemy territory, with her best friend and compatriot Maddie having to find a way to save her. The espionage and harrowing spy stuff is sure to be something Leia would see herself in, and unfortunately so are the torture scenes that “Verity” has to endure at the hands of her captors. But like Leia, “Verity” is dedicated and strong, and won’t break that easily. Both “Verity” and Leia have the guts and the strength to help take down Empires.

Han Solo: “The Gunslinger” by Stephen King

It was surprisingly difficult to come up with a perfect book for Han Solo. How do you find a book with enough layers to incorporate all that makes up this great character? There’s the sense of adventure, the loner tendencies, the buddy drama, the gruffness to cover a heart of gold, the “yes, he definitely did shoot first.” But I finally settled on “The Gunslinger,” leaning rather heavily into the cowboy/loner side of Han’s character. Roland, too, starts out on his own mission, tracking down the mysterious Man in Black. But as he goes, he finds himself gathering others around him, that begin to worm their way into his small sphere of things he cares about. Like Han, he begins to learn that perhaps being out only for yourself and your own mission isn’t always the best route.

Rey: “Mistborn” by Brandon Sanderson

On the other hand, there are a bunch of stories, especially in YA now, of young women following their own “Chosen One” paths. But after going through many lists, “Mistborn” seemed to be the best fit. It’s main character, Vin, is a young woman who has grown up on the streets, surviving through sheer will and scrap. That’s until she gets caught up with a rebel crew who are looking to take down an evil empire. And, of course, Vin too discovers that she has great power within her and, over the course of the book trilogy, she grows to be the strongest fighter in the group and a de facto leader. They each start off taking care of only themselves and soon find the fate of entire worlds resting on their shoulders.

Kylo Ren: “And I Darken” by Kiersten White

Kylo Ren was another toughy as his redemption comes only after sinking all the way to the bottom and can only end in tragedy. He’s not an anti-hero, even; he’s just a villain for much of it, even if there are bits you can sympathize with. So, finding a book with a character who is similarly torn between loyalty and love to family and their own ambitions was hard. But “And I Darken” fits the bill. It’s a fictionalized story of Vlad the Impaler, the thought-to-be origin of the Dracula legend, but re-imagined as a young woman, Lada, who early in life recognizes brutality as her only way forward in a world that will only put obstacles before her.

Rose Tico: “Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter

Rose Tico was definitely done dirty in “The Rise of Skywalker”, as she was basically erased from the narrative altogether. But what people love about Rose is that she is optimistic and filled with hope, even in the darkest times. This is why I think she would enjoy “Pollyanna”. Pollyanna is an orphan girl who has to go live with her uptight aunt, and while those around her are somewhat cold and dour, Pollyanna is filled with joy and optimism. She has a knack for spreading this joy wherever she goes, and instills it in those around her. And when tragedy strikes, it becomes a question as to whether she can persevere and continue to find that optimistic sense of the world. Given that Rose grew up in poverty and lost her sister during the fight against the First Order, one would think she would give up. But she never does.

There are so many other characters that we haven’t touched upon. What books would you recommend to those characters, or the ones that we covered? Tell us in the comments!!

Fa La La La Films: Our Favorite Christmas Movies!

We’re in December now, and both of us are looking forward to cozying up on the couch with some yummy cookies, some holiday beverages of various kinds, and some great books. But it wouldn’t be the Christmas season without some Christmas movies! So we thought we’d take a break from books and share with you our favorite Christmas films.

Serena’s Picks

mv5bnjrkogewytuty2e5yy00odg4ltk2zwity2iymzuxogvhmtm1xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyndk0mdg4ndk40._v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_“Miracle on 34th St.”

I think I’ve highlighted this movie before around Christmas, probably in our “Not Just Books” posts. But it’s impossible to list three of my top Christmas films without including it. It’s so perfectly imperfect with almost all of the characters being believably flawed, but still Kris Kringle is the only true Santa Claus ever, as far as I’m concerned. It’s a yearly tradition for me to watch this movie while I wrap presents. This often results in the present wrapping itself taking way longer than necessary as I’m so often distracted. But what do I care! Anyone who isn’t moved by the part where Santa sings with the Dutch girl is hard-hearted. There, I said. it.

mv5bmty4njq5ndc0nl5bml5banbnxkftztywnjk5ndm3._v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_“Love Actually”

Yes, yes, sappy, overly sentimental “Love Actually” makes the list. But sometimes, you just want to have a good cry around Christmas when all the stress (normal stress, but also now somehow extra stress to STOP BEING STRESSED AND BE MERRY!) really starts to build up. And this movie is the perfect, saccharine flick to hit the spot. Plus, there’s no arguing with the stellar cast. Colin Firth is, obviously, always a favorite even though his story here is arguably one of the less compelling. And watching Alan Rickman be a sleaze who cheats on the wonderful Emma Thompson (who does that!?!) is delightfully hateful. And Liam Neeson is again the most wonderful father ever. So yeah, yeah, cheesy it may be, but I love it.

mv5bztcxnzgzzjmtyzzizc00mme1ltg3mzqtzdaxmtyyzwe4mdnhl2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymtqxnzmzndi40._v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_“You’ve Got Mail”

This is a seasonal film, obviously, taking place over an entire year and feeling appropriately festive for each and every one of those seasons. But some of the major changes happen during the winter months, and Meg Ryan has some lovely monologues about Christmas and how hard the holiday season can be when we’re also missing those we love who can’t celebrate with us. For me, this makes it a great Christmas movie. Plus, to counteract all of the crying from “Love Actually,” this film has a lot of laughs and is my favorite Ryan/Hanks film. Yes, more than “Sleepless in Seattle” due to the simple fact that the two have much more screen time together in this movie.

Kate’s Picks

mv5bm2nlmdqzmdktntmyzs00mjbjlwi0mmetmzgzzdm2ztvknze1xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvyntuymze4mzg40._v1_ux182_cr00182268_al_“Scrooged”

I’ve talked about this movie before on this blog, but it remains my be all end all Christmas movie. This is the one Christmas movie I watch at least twice during the season, and the one that on Christmas Day my husband and I watch with mimosas and Christmas cookies. It’s an update of the “Christmas Carol” story, starring Bill Murray as Frank Cross, a cynical and bitter TV executive who has no love for Christmas and all the love for power. As you can imagine, he is visited by a number of ghosts to teach him the true meaning of Christmas. And let me tell you, everything about this movie is delightful. Murray is fantastic (naturally), but the supporting cast is also awesome, including Alfre Woodward as his assistant Grace (Bob Cratchit), Karen Allen as Claire (Belle), and Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present. It’s witty and dark and weird, and it still has one of the most emotional and touching endings of any Christmas movie, bar none.

mv5bnwe4otnim2itmjy4ni00ztvilwfizmetzgeyngy2zmnlmziyxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvymdu5ndcxnw4040._v1_“The Nightmare Before Christmas”

I’m solidly on the ‘this is a Christmas movie’ side of the argument. I mean, sure, it stars a skeleton and has other ghosts, ghouls, and creepy things, but they are CELEBRATING CHRISTMAS. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” has had a special place in my heart since my childhood, with catch songs, spooky imagery, and a sweet romance weaved into a heartfelt Christmas tale. For the unfamiliar, Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King and King of Halloween, has been feeling ennui about his role in the October holiday. So when he stumbles upon Christmas Town and finds out about Christmas, he decides that he wants to be in charge of the Yuletide Cheer. As one can imagine, his interpretations are a little, shall we say, off, and Christmas may be wrecked thanks to his good, misguided intentions. The music is catchy, the claymation is still stunning, and the real hero of the story Sally Ragdoll (played by goddess Catherine O’Hara) really solidifies the story for me. A true must watch in our household.

mv5bowmynje0mzetmzvjny00njixltg0zjmtmwjhngi1ymvjytczl2ltywdlxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynzc5mja3oa4040._v1_“A Christmas Story”

Obvious? I prefer ‘classic’. Before the cable channels started showing “A Christmas Story” on a loop every Christmas, it was a cult hit and one that my childhood home was quite familiar with. We had the VHS when I was a child, and it was a movie that my parents always enjoyed because their childhoods (though a couple decades past the time period of the film) had a lot of similarities to Ralphie’s. Ralphie is a kid growing up in pre-WW2 Indiana, and all he wants for Christmas is a Red Rider BB Gun. That particular Christmas season for him involves tongues stuck to lamp posts, bullies, foul mouthed fathers, and a saucy lamp, and the anecdotes all come together to tell a very funny, and also very charming, story of youth. While there are many scenes that stand out as fantastic, my favorite (perhaps bolstered by my Mom’s love for it) involves a crabby department store Santa who literally kicks a child down a slide. Mean? Maybe. But hilarious. And the fact that generations of people can relate to Ralphie’s stories shows just how timeless some of the themes are.

What are some of your favorite Christmas movies? Let us know in the comments!

Scary Reads from Silver Screams: Book Picks from Spooky Movies

We are deep into the Halloween Season, and while scary stories and creepy books are all well and good, a huge part of the season, at least for Kate, is consuming all the horror and spooky movies that she can. For those of you who also enjoy a good festive movie for this time of the year, here is a list of book recommendations that could be a good pairing with your favorite spooky film!

Movie: “Suspiria” (1977) / Book: “The Walls Around Us”

The original “Suspiria”, directed by Dario Argento, is a surrealistic and completely bananas horror film with vibrant colors, a kick ass soundtrack, and an unnerving setting in a ballet academy where strange, supernatural things are afoot. The reasons that it would pair well with Nova Ren Suma’s “The Walls Around Us” are numerous. “The Walls Around Us” involves a ballet school, death, and a dancers who find themselves behind bars in a juvenile detention center for murders they may or may not have committed. But, like “Suspiria”, there are strange and surreal supernatural elements that come into play, and make the reader feel like they don’t know which way is up when all is said and done. Both “Suspiria” and “The Walls Around Us” are creepy and unsettling, and fans of the movie would definitely find a lot to like in this book.

Movie: “The Blair Witch Project” / Book: “Hex”

“The Blair Witch Project” is still one of Kate’s all time favorite horror movies, as any movie involving scary witches is going to be a must watch in her book. Three grad students go into the woods to film a documentary about a folktale involving a woman who was killed as a witch, and disappear. The movie is the found footage of their disappearance, and the slow realization that someone, or something is in the woods with them. This movie is going to be perfectly with Thomas Olde Heuvelt’s “Hex”. Like “Blair Witch”, it involves a town that is haunted by it’s history, and literally haunted by the ghost of a witch that was killed in puritan times. Not only are the themes of witches from olden times at play, so are the themes of technology, as the filmmakers in “Blair Witch” are filming the whole time, and the townspeople in “Hex” use cameras and tech to keep an eye on the witch as she moves about. Both are disturbing as all get out.

Movie: “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre” (1974) / Book: “Off Season”

For those who aren’t afraid of a little brutality in their horror media and literature, this pairing could be for you. In “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, a group of young adults run afoul a family that has started killing people for sport and profit after they lost their livelihood at the local slaughterhouse. It was a notorious sensation at the time of it’s release, and yes, it’s one that Kate watches every Halloween Day. And Jack Ketchum is the go to author for visceral horror with lots of depravity and violence. Like “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, a group of friends are traveling together, those in this case to a coastal retreat deep in the wilderness, while a group of inbred cannibals starts to hunt them down. This book is NOT for the faint of heart, especially if you get the most recent edition that restored all the violence the initial publication did away with.

 Movie: “The Ring” (2002) / Book: “The Girl from the Well”

The movie that turned all dark, long-haired girls into immediate Halloween hits simply by creating a wet, comb-forward look and pairing it with a nightdress. This pairing is also pretty obvious. The book description of a murdered girl who died in a well hunting down humans even references the same Japanese horror ghost story that inspired “The Ring.” Serena is particularly terrified of this movie having, for some unknown reason, been conned into watching it several times in highschool and never having recovered. So much so that she hasn’t read the book, even being a fan of Chupeco’s other work. But for those who were not scarred permanently about girls drowned in well and then climbing out of TVs, this book is the perfect pairing!

Movie: “A Quiet Place” (2018) / “In the After”

For those who like their scares to blur the lines between sci-fi and horror, creature flicks are often a go-to pick. “A Quiet Place” seemed to come out of nowhere but soon struck a chord with fans of many genres with its spooks but also its heart-wrenching deep dive into the love of a family trying to survive in the most difficult of circumstances. All told with very few words as any sound at all will attract the deadly creatures who now roam earth. “In the After” follows a very similar concept, that creatures have shown up on Earth who hunt by sound thus making silence the only source of safety. The main character, a teenage girl, has survived for years not speaking while also raising a young little girl who has mysterious origins. Fans who enjoyed the basic concept at the heart of “A Quiet Place” are sure to be pleased to see the same idea play out on the page.

Movie: “28 Days Later” (2002) / “The Walking Dead”

And, of course, no Halloween list isn’t completely with some nod to the zombie genre. “28 Days Later” is a favorite zombie movie of Serena’s largely based on the fact that the story explores the horror at the heart of humanity. “The Walking Dead,” mostly known for the hit TV show, has been the be all, end all for zombie stories for quite a while. But for those who haven’t read the original graphic novel, it’s a perfect pairing for fans of “28 Days Later.” It, too, tells a zombie story, but readers soon learn that the zombies are largely only a natural disaster phenomenon to be dealt with; the true horror lies in how humanity responds to this sudden loss of society and civilization. Some rise to the top, while others sink into the worst of the cruelty and inhumanity that can exist in some.

Those are our picks! What other movies and books are your favorites during the Halloween season?

Cuddle Up With A Book: Cozy Fall Reads

Fall is on its way, at least here in Minnesota (in spite of the seasonably warm weather). And while neither of us are excited for the snow to come (a particularly cold and snowy one, if the Farmer’s Almanac is to be believed!), we are definitely ready to cuddle up under some blankets with a warm drink and a good book. So here are a few titles that we think would do the trick!

13929Book: “Wildwood Dancing” by Juliet Marillier

Publishing Info: Alfred A. Knopf, January 2007

Shocker, Serena is recommending a Juliet Marillier book. But this one I think perfectly meets the order of a cozy, fall read. There are no fall themes, per se, but it’s a lovely standalone novel that you can sink right into. The story is a retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princess,” staying close enough to the original tale to be familiar as such, but also offering a completely new take on the tale. I love the emphasis on sisterhood at the heart of the story. And, of course, Marillier doesn’t let readers down with the swoon-worthy romance. Her depictions of the fairy revels and wild, strange woods are lovely and captivating, and any reader who enjoys fairytale fantasies are sure to love this!

231821Book: “The Incredible Journey” by Sheila Burnford

Publishing Info: Laurel Leaf, December 1960

This classic children’s tale is a perfect read for the coming fall. The story itself takes place during an Indian Summer (sure wish we had one of those now and again!), and it a lovely story of two dogs and cat making their way home, travelling alone through the wilderness and facing all the dangers therein. If you’re familiar with the movie “Homeward Bound,” this is the book that was based upon. Animal enthusiasts are sure to enjoy it, though there will definitely be tears for the sentimentalists out there. Though, in my view, that doesn’t take away from the “cozy” nature of this read. If anything, reading about the hardships of surviving the outdoors for weeks straight will only lead one to appreciate their warm blanket and cozy sweaters all the more!

281954._sy475_Book: “Redwall” by Brian Jacques

Publishing Info: Ace Books, September 1986

“Redwall” is the first in Brian Jacques forever-long “Redwall” series featuring talking animals going on adventures. The first story is that of a young mouse, Mattias, and it’s essentially a treasure hunt for an ancient artifact all while trying to hold off the attack of a horrid rat king bent on taking over Redwall Abbey where Mattias and his friends all live. The talking animals are all delightful, each with their distinctive way of speaking. But what made me think of this book for this list was Jacques attention to describing the many sumptuous dishes that the animal friends eat at their many feasts. It’s the kind of thing that will get anyone’s mouth watering and leave you craving another pumpkin spice…something, I’m sure!

15329Book: “The Hobbit” by J.R.R. Tolkien

Publishing Info: George Allen & Unwin, September 1937

This classic fantasy story that serves as the introduction to Tolkien’s epic stories in Middle Earth isn’t as vast and battle heavy as “The Lord of the Rings”, nor is it as detailed and world building as “The Silmarillion”. But “The Hobbit” is an endearing, exciting fantasy story nonetheless, with classic characters, a wonderful and enduring story, and a fantastical world people keep going back to. The reason this book has a place on this list is not only is it a comforting and joyful story, but the very description of Bilbo Baggins’s home in The Shire and the opening scenes set the stage for a lovely home setting. Bilbo is a Hobbit who lives in Bag End, a house in a hill, and it is filled with many delicious foods, a warm fireplace, and is literally described as ‘… it was a hobbit-hole, and that means comfort.’ Bilbo may go on an epic adventure, but he eventually comes back to his cozy and familiar home, and the comforts of Bag End.

23734628Book: “Carry On” by Rainbow Rowell

Publishing Info: St. Martin’s Griffin, October 2015

Sometimes, comfort books are books that you want to revisit again and again because of the calming story, the promise of a happy ending, and the sweetness of the characters and the plot line. “Carry On” by Rainbow Rowell is one of those books, written as an offshoot to her book “Fangirl”. “Carry On” has origins in “Fangirl” as a popular “Harry Potter”-esque novel that the main character writes fan fiction for. But Rowell decided to give those fan fiction characters a completely new story of their own, where Simon Snow, the ‘chosen one’, starts to realize that his ‘enemy’ Baz may not be as bad as Simon thought. And as they grow closer, sparks start to fly. “Carry On” is a lovely romance and a bit of fluff that will make the reader swoon and smile, and while there are definitely some darkish elements in it, the relationship between Simon and Baz lifts the story up. Cuddle up with this book to get a jolt of happiness as you read. And keep an eye out for the sequel this fall, “Wayward Son”!

23398869Book: “Ana of California” by Andi Teran

Publishing Info: Penguin Books, June 2015

Finding comfort is sometimes all about finding the place that you belong, and many stories about people finding their place can be seen as good comfort reads because of this. A classic ‘finding your home’ story is “Anne of Green Gables”, and in 2015 Andi Teran decided to update that classic tale and set it in modern day California. Ana is a teenage girl who has found herself bouncing around the foster system, and she is at the end of the line. She has a choice: either go to a farm trainee program in Northern California, or go to a group home. When she arrives at Emmett Garber’s farm he isn’t sure that she will be the asset that his business needs, but Ana soon finds herself in a community that she has always wanted to be a part of. This fun update to a classic story makes the reader feel at home in the community, and no doubt they will fall in love with the familiar, but still unique, story and characters. It will give you the warm and fuzzy feelings of reading about someone who finally finds their home.

What comfort reads are some of your favorites? Let us know in the comments?

Give It a Listen: Our Favorite Audiobook Narrators

Both of us like to listen to some of our books as audiobooks. And as any fan of this format of reading knows, the narrator really makes or breaks the story. There have been ok-ish books that have been greatly aided by the clever performance of a great reader. And then other quality books that have felt bogged down by a narrator who just doesn’t seem to quite fit with the story they’re trying to tell. Throughout the years, we’ve each identified some clear favorites, and so that’s what we’re bring you today!

Serena’s Picks:

Barbara Rosenblat

Barbara Rosenblat has been a long time favorite of mine. She’s pretty much a long time favorite of most audiobook readers and is one of the more sought after narrators out there, especially due to her wide range of accents that the can seemingly effortlessly apply to any work. I first came across in a read of one of Kathy Reichs “Temperance Brennan” series. I’ve read those on and off, but have always enjoyed them more in audiobook format as Rosenblat’s superb narration can add some flare to some criminal mystery elements that could be a bit dry for my usual mystery reading preferences. The other obvious favorite read by Rosenblat is the “Amelia Peabody” series. I read the first several as print books before, due to lack of availability at the library of the next one in print, I looked up the audiobook version on a whim and discovered Rosenblat narrated these, too! That sealed the deal. Even if I had to go back to reading a print version of this series, I don’t think I could do it without hearing Rosenblat’s pitch perfect rendition of Amelia Peabody’s voice. This series, character, and narrator is the perfect blend that comes from many great things coming together to make something that is,together, beyond reproach.

Tim Gerard Reynolds

Tim Gerard Reynolds is also a well-known, much-awarded audiobook narrator. And as he narrates a bunch of fantasy and sci-fi titles, I’ve run across him a number of times. There is an added challenge when narrating fantasy/sci-fi titles in that many of these works include completely fictionalized words, names, peoples, and worlds. This leaves a lot of creative interpretation at the hands of the narrator. Obviously, the author knows how certain words should be pronounced, but many readers are left to their own devices to succeed, or not succeed, in matching these expectations when reading from a print book. As an audiobook, readers fully experience the world and these words as they’re meant to be presented. On top of that, there is a lot of room for creativity in the voice work of characters who are from worlds and cultures that don’t exist. Reynolds is an expert at all of these things, making the most extreme fantasy setting and people jump off the page, seemingly fully formed and as common place in their idioms and voices as anyone on our good, ole, normal Earth. Each character has a distinct voice, and I’m particularly pleased with the way he interprets women’s voices. The “Age of Myth” and its fellow books have a huge cast of female characters, and Reynolds provides an excellent voice for them all, never falling into any of the pitfalls that can occur when trying to narrate for the opposite gender. He’s also excellent with action, and I particularly enjoy his work in the “Red Rising” series, a group of books full of intense, sci-fi actions scenes.

Simon Vance

Simon Vance is an audiobook narrator whom I had actually forgotten I enjoyed so much until I ran across him again in my read of Naomi Novik’s “Temeraire” series. I’ve read a lot of Guy Gavriel Kay in my day, many of them audiobooks. And while I remember particularly enjoying them as audiobooks, it’s been years since I’ve listened to one, so couldn’t remember who narrated them specifically. But when I started listening to the first “Temeraire” book, “His Majesty’s Dragon,” it all came back with the first sound of Vance, clear, melodious British voice. While many of Gavriel Kay’s books are fantasy, they also have a feeling of a historical fiction work. And obviously, so too with the “Temeraire” series. Vance voice perfectly bridges these two genres, in a sense grounding the more fantastical elements of a story into a world that feels believable as set in our own world. Novik’s sotry is one of dragons fighting during the Napoleonic Wars. Nothing could sound more far-fetched. But with her own brilliant world-building, paired with Vance’s smooth, proper voice, it suddenly feels completely believable that a gentleman would go to war on the back of a massive dragon. Now that I’ve rediscovered his voice work, I’m eager to dive back into several of Gavriel Kay’s books that I’ve been meaning to get to, all, of course, narrated by Vance.

Kate’s Picks:

Santino Fontana

Some people will always see Santino Fontana as his various Broadway characters. Others will always see him as Prince Hans in the Disney movie “Frozen”. For me, Fontana is always, ALWAYS going to be the voice of Joe Goldberg in Caroline Kepnes’s “You” books. Fontana brings the creepy and yet hilarious Joe to life through his dark and yet endearing performance, capturing all angles of one of my favorite literary villains, and characters, of all time. His delivery is versatile for the characters in the books, and his timing is spot on, finding the proper beats to build suspense and find the humor. “You” and “Hidden Bodies” are my go to audiobooks when I need something familiar and comforting(?) to listen to, and while part of that is the narrative, the other part is Fontana. Fontana is not only an avid voiceover artist, he’s recently won a Tony for his leading performance in Broadway’s “Tootsie”, and he is going to be the audiobook narrator for Stephen King’s upcoming “The Institute”! So, that may have to be an audiobook read for me as well!

Will Patton

I first heard Will Patton perform an audiobook when I checked out “Doctor Sleep”. My main points of reference for him were movies like “Remember the Titans” and “The Mothman Prophecies” (and many, many more), but didn’t know what to expect from him doing an audiobook. But my goodness, he completely blew my mind. Patton’s strengths are that he knows how to completely transform his tone, cadence, and vocalizations for each and every character, and not only does he modify his voice when they are talking, he also does so for the entire section that is focusing on said character. Whenever I find out that he is going to be doing the voice work on an audiobook I’ve checked out, I get that much more excited for it. He emotes perfectly, and I have to say that his interpretation of Rose the Hat in “Doctor Sleep” is still one of my favorite performances from an audiobook, bar none. His versatility is on display when he’s an audiobook narrator, and if you find yourself with something read by him, get hyped.

Anika Noni Rose

This is an example of how a not so positive reading experience can be transformed by the person who is reading it. I tried to read a print copy of “Shadowshaper” by Daniel José Older, but just couldn’t get into it. My pickiness about fantasy strikes again. But one day I was looking at the books that were available for audio download, and saw that “Shadowshaper” was narrated by Anika Noni Rose. Given that I really like Rose, thanks to her turns in “Dreamgirls”, “The Princess and the Frog”, and “Everything, Everything”, I was intrigued to see how that would go. I was so happy with her performance, I listened to the entirety of “Shadowshaper” and am planning on going into “Shadowhouse Fall” as well. Rose has always been an expressive actress, and not only do we get her personality on the page, in “Shadowshaper” we get to hear her stellar singing voice. I truly believe that I wouldn’t have enjoyed “Shadowshaper” had it not been for her, and it just goes to show that sometimes what you need to enjoy a novel is a different reading medium.

Do you guys have any favorite audiobook narrators? Let us know who they are in the comments!

You’ve Got a Friend in Books: A “Toy Story” Book List

It’s been a while since we’ve done a book list based on a cast of characters (we’ve done “Game of Thrones” and “Avengers” in the past). And while the  “Avengers” has added a whole new lists’ worth of new character in the year since our last post and we’re still mad at “Game of Thrones” #neverforget #neverforgive, there is also another beloved ensemble-based movie in theaters currently: “Toy Story 4.”  So, here are a few books that we’ve paired up with some of our favorite characters from “Toy Story!”

Woody: “The Alloy of Law” by Brandon Sanderson

This book is a fantasy western, but there are many points about it that align well with Woody’s character. For one thing, the main character, Wax, isn’t a cowboy in the “lone ranger” sense, and neither is Woody. Each of them serves as the central core of a larger group of loyal friends who help in their adventures. But both Woody and Wax are still the heart of it all. They also each serve the law, and Wax is often tasked with tracking down criminals and is a stridently honorable person, much like Woody. They are also both of a more serious bent and rely on their companions to bring a bit of levity to their lives, which Wax finds in his fast-talking companion, Wayne.

 Buzz: “An Astronaut’s Guide to Life on Earth” by Col. Chris Hadfield

The title kind of says it all. While Buzz has come to embrace his life as a toy, there was a time when he believed himself to be a real astronaut who had faced the numerous challenges of life in space. From this mindset, he has had to learn how to be a toy who lives her eon earth. This semi-autobiographical book is a collection of insights that Col. Chris Hadfield gathered from his time working as an astronaut. Like Buzz, he often offers insights into regular life as seen through the lens of some one who has traveled through the stars.

Bo Peep: “Emily of New Moon” by L. M. Montgomery

It looks like Bo Peep plays an important role in the new movie, but as neither of us has seen it yet, we’re basing this pick on what we know of Bo Peep from the first two movies. “Anne of Green Gables” is by far the more famous of these two series, but Emily has a lot of similarities with Bo Peep. They are both clever, but often in a more quiet way. And they are quick to win over the hearts of those around them. They are both quiet characters who through perseverance and faith in themselves and their friends make their way steadily through life.

 

Jessie: “Rapunzel’s Revenge” by Shannon Hale

Jessie is the spunky and emotional cowgirl in the group, and she doesn’t let a bad situation get her down (too much). And because of this, I think that she would really like the Shannon Hale graphic novel “Rapunzel’s Revenge”! Not only does it have a brave and tenacious heroine, it takes place in the wild west! This Rapunzel story involves a red haired cowgirl version of Rapunzel, who escapes her tower on her own and decides to run around the wild west, helping the helpless and doing good deeds. She even has a trusty partner in Jack, and who could be seen as just as good a partner as Woody is to her in their adventure stories!

Rex: “Dinosaur Planet” by Anne McCaffrey

Rex is the kindhearted (and somewhat neurotic) T-Rex toy who is always nervous about the situations he and his fellow toys get into. We also know, thanks to “Toy Story 2”, that he has a soft spot for Science Fiction lore and games, as he loved playing the Buzz Lightyear Video Game in his down time! So we think that he would LOVE “Dinosaur Planet” by Anne McCaffrey. Not only does it have dinosaurs, it takes place IN SPACE! When a crew of technicians to take data of living things on a distant planet, they find themselves stranded amongst dinosaurs on an unfamiliar world. And not all of them are as nice as Rex. While this book might stress him out a bit, it would probably capture Rex’s imagination as well!

The Pizza Planet Aliens: “Zealot: A Book About Cults” by Jo Thornely

So perhaps this is less a book that would be a good fit, and more a book that should be read for the readers’ own good. The Pizza Planet Aliens are very sweet and agreeable characters, but let’s be frank: when Woody and Buzz met them they were worshiping a giant Claw that would ‘choose’ them for a new existence. They are rather susceptible to suggestion! “Zealot” is a book by the podcaster Jo Thornely, who is able to tell you all you need to know about infamous cults and their leaders/followers. While this book only covers a few of the craziest (and a lot of times saddest) cults, it is sure to give the reader a lot of insight into cult behavior…. And our green friends need a wake up call.

There are so many other characters that we haven’t touched upon. What books would you recommend to those characters, or the ones that we covered? Tell us in the comments!!