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!

Highlights: August 2019

It feels like summer just got here, and yet now it’s already August?! We only get a precious few consistently summer months here in Minnesota, and with autumn on the way so too comes change and transition. But hey, until then we have BBQs, outdoor sports time, and, of course, the Minnesota State Fair! So while we celebrate the last month of full summer, let’s highlight some books we are looking forward to that come out this month!

Serena’s Picks

41555968Book: “Turning Darkness Into Light” by Marie Brennan

Publication Date: August 20, 2019

Why I’m Interested: I haven’t read the “Lady Trent” series that is the original in this Victorian-fantasy series. But I’ve had luck before with reading series out of order, so I’m not letting that stop me! We’ll see how it goes. Really, what it comes down to is this awesome cover. I’m pretty sure I was placing a request for it before I even understood that it was by this author and had a connection to the other series. It is described as being the story of Lady Trent’s granddaughter and is told through a collection of diary entries, lists, and other media formats. I’m really intrigued to find out how this type of story telling pans out! But in the mean time, I have adorable baby dragons to look forward to!

43260625Book: “Tidelands” by Philippa Gregory

Publication Date: August 20, 2019

Why I’m Interested: I read “The Other Boleyn Girl” way back when and then a handful of Gregory’s books since then. Other than the first one, I found most of them to be a bit too tragic for my taste as history was often none to kind to many of these women. But I enjoyed her writing throughout. So when I saw she had the first in a new series coming out, I thought it was well enough time to dive back in to her books. This one even has hints of the mystical with the main character, Alinor, trying to survive the difficult reality for unmarried women who might know too much in a time when women who were different were easily labeled as witches.

42281646._sy475_Book: “Tiger Queen” by Annie Sullivan

Publication Date: August 21, 2019

Why I’m Interested: This book is marketed as an adaptation of the short story “The Lady, or the Tiger?” So, yeah. That sounds interesting! Of course, this is YA, so the lady in question is at the heart of all the action and not just hanging out behind a door as a prize. Instead, Princess Kateri must literally fight to prove her worth as a queen. But this quickly becomes the least of her concerns as desert raiders make inroads on her city and shortly she finds herself on the outside of its study wall as well. What she discovers turns everything upside down. I’m not quite sure how the tiger fits into this all, but there better damn well be an actual tiger at some point. If they team up, Jasmine-and-Rajah style, I’m even more on board!

Kate’s Picks

40489648._sy475_Book: “The Turn of the Key” by Ruth Ware

Publication Date: August 6, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Ruth Ware is one of my go to authors, as her books have mostly left me feeling fully satisfied. It was a guarantee that I was going to want to read “The Turn of the Key”, but that turned into an all out need when I read the description. Rowan is a nanny who is hired to take care of three children on a private, isolated estate. While the job seems to be the perfect opportunity, once she is at the house, things start to get strange and difficult. Not only are two of her charges badly behaved, the ‘smart house’ set up is hard to handle. And then the noises at night begin. Ware is shedding her usual Agatha Christie vibe and going for “The Turn of the Screw”, and I for one am here for it!!

36472241._sy475_Book: “Ziggy, Stardust and Me” by James Brandon

Publication Date: August 6, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Well, for one, I’m a fan of David Bowie, so anything that is going to reference it within it’s pages is probably going to be a good fit. But on top of that, seldom do I find myself intrigued by the premise of a romance… unless it’s historical fiction, has a healthy dose of angst, and has LGBTQIA+ themes. In 1973, Jonathan is a teenager who is living a lonely life and is grappling with his sexual identity. He likes to retreat into a fantasy world that has such characters as his dead mother and Ziggy Stardust help him cope. When he meets Web, a moody and out boy, Jonathan sees the possibilities of being honest with himself, and finding potential acceptance and love with someone like him. I’m ready for an enthralling love story, guys!

40864790Book: “Pumpkinheads” by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hicks (Ill.)

Publication Date: August 27, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Rainbow Rowell’s stories have always sucked me in, and I was happy to see that she decided to write an original graphic novel after taking on “Runaways”. And oh look, it’s another potential romance, though perhaps not between the two main characters (but we shall see I suppose)! Deja and Josiah work together at a pumpkin patch in their hometown of Omaha, Nebraska, and only see each other during the fall and up until Halloween. They are both graduating in the Spring, and this will be their last season together as best friends and partners in crime. Deja wants them to have the best last season ever, and that might include getting Josiah to talk to the girl he’s been crushing on all these years. I was lucky enough to read a sample from Edelweiss+, and let me tell you, I am ready to read the rest of it. I’m hoping that it’s going to be a perfect and sweet feel good story just in time for Fall!

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know 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!!

On The Lakeshore: Books To Read By The Lake

20190629_152630So a couple weekends ago we took a trip up to Duluth, Minnesota, a lakeshore city on the banks of Lake Superior. Summer on the North Shore is a lovely getaway, and we did some shopping, looked at the lake, visited a museum about the boats on the lake, and, big surprise, took a look at the local book selections that the town had to offer. So we thought that it would be fun to make a list of books that have to do with lakes. And if you ever have the chance to go to Duluth or the North Shore of Minnesota, we can’t recommend it enough.

175828Book: “Iron Lake” by William Kent Krueger

Publishing Info: Pocket Star, May 1999

Heck, let’s just start this list off with a book that takes place in Northern Minnesota! This is the first book in the Cork O’Connor series, stories that follow a small town sheriff who lives in the North Woods. When a local judge is found murdered in a particularly violent way, it happens to coincide with a boy who goes missing. When Cork investigates, he stumbles upon a conspiracy and a secret that his small town of Iron Lake appears to be desperate to keep under wraps. On top of that, there are still issues between him and his ex wife that are starting to bubble over. “Iron Lake” is the start to a long running and suspenseful series, and the setting is almost a character on its own!

105742._sy475_Book: “The Loch” by Steve Alten

Publishing Info: Tsunami Books, April 2006

A bit of a tonal shift here, but yes, we are going into fantasy horror territory with “The Loch”. Steve Alten wrote the notorious “Meg” series, which pits researchers against a megalodon that swims out of the Mariana Trench, and this time he tackles The Loch Ness Monster. When disgraced marine biologist Zachary Wallace gets word that his father is on trial for murder back in Scotland, he returns home to support him in spite of their estranged relationship. His father claims that he is innocent, and that it was the Loch Ness Monster that killed the victim. When the British tabloids eat this claim up, Zachary has to consider the fact that not only is it true, but that perhaps he too has a history with a similar monster… Campy, over the top, and fun, “The Loch” leans in to the story of Nessie, and brings in larger themes like courtroom drama and familial strife.

35463752Book: “Lake Silence” by Anne Bishop

Publishing Info: Ace, March 2018

Set in the same world as Bishop’s “Others” series (all of which Serena has read), comes a new entry feature a new cast of characters at its heart. In this fantasy world, powerful magical beings rule much of the land and all of the water, with humans only their tolerated guests. Trying to escape her mess of a life, Vicki finds herself in one of the towns that is completely run by the Others. But instead of peace and quiet, she finds herself caught up in a murder mystery where she is the prime suspect. Now she and her new friends must work to uncover the real killer, one whom she suspects must not be human themselves.

39678996._sy475_Book: “Cursed” by Thomas Wheeler and illustrated by Frank Miller

Publishing Info: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers, October 2019

Given the publishing date is still in the future, neither of us have read this book. But it definitely sounds intriguing (and good enough that Netflix is already producing a series to come out next spring.) The story is marketed as a retelling of the story of King Arthur but from the perspective of Nimue, the Lady of the Lake, who has been tasked with bringing together a famous sword and a would-be-king. The novel also features illustrations by Frank Miller, so that’s one more mark in its favor.

39973246Book: “The Woman in the Lake” by Nicola Cornick

Publishing Info: Graydon House, February 2019

Serena very much enjoyed Cornick’s “The Phantom Tree,” and this story seems to be dipping into the same formula: part historical novel, part time-travel fantasy story. In 1765, a beautiful golden dress, tossed away to help erase the traumatic events of one night, re-appears on the body of a young woman floating in a lake. Two-hundred and fifty years in the future, another woman becomes enamored by a beautiful dress with a mysterious past. As the two stories slowly unwind, each woman’s past and future become more and more clear, connected in unexpected ways.

13590708Book: “The Lighthouse Road” by Peter Geye

Publishing Info: Unbridled Books, October 2012

For our final selection we’re going back to Northern Minnesota, and picking a historical fiction family epic. In the 1890s an immigrant woman finds herself alone in a new country when she settles outside of Duluth, Minnesota, and then in the 1920s her now adult son finds love with an emotionally closed off woman. As mother and son learn about home and identity in two different times, the past continues to haunt the both of them. “The Lighthouse Road” is an emotional and bittersweet read about how we are shaped by our circumstances and questions if we can break away from our expectations we have for ourselves.

Do you guys have any recommended reads about lakes? Let us know in the comments!! 

Highlights: July 2019

Oh, July. The month where summer comes into its own and everything becomes super patriotic. It’s a fun game to find the most bizarre, July-4-themed things you can (similar to the game you play in the fall where you try and spot the pumpkin spice all over the place). Last year, Serena found a T-shirt at Target that said “My favorite color is freedom” and with a few adjustments, like cutting off the sleeves, it now makes regular appearances at silly things like volleyball games and such. Anywho. Here are some more books we’re looking forward to reading this month!

Serena’s Picks

22819354Book: “Age of Legend” by Michael Sullivan

Publication Date: July 9, 2019

Why I’m Interested: I’ve been devouring Sullivan’s “The Legends of the First Empire” series, and this was the first book I had to wait for. Luckily not long, though I was still too impatient to wait for the audiobook, even though I was really enjoying that version of the story. This epic fantasy series has been incredibly solid with the first three entries of the story, and with this, happening several years after the events of the first books, I’m excited to see where Sullivan takes things. There were some major changes and events at the end of the last book, so it should be interesting. You’ll be hearing more from me about this book this week…

36510722Book: “Gods of Jade and Shadow” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Publication Date: July 23, 2019

Why I’m Interested: I’ve really enjoyed the books I’ve read by Silvia Moreno-Garcia in the past, so I’m always game when I see a new title from her. This one is particularly interesting on concept alone, however! A Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a question to resolve a war between himself and his god-brother. It’s billed as a dark fairytale that pulls from Mexican folklore. I’m really excited about this one. It’s always great to find new fairytales and folk legends, especially ones that come from cultures that aren’t the “go-to” for many books of this type. I can’t wait to read this! Plus, that cover is awesome.

29226553Book: “Dark Age” by Pierce Brown

Publication Date: July 30, 2019

This book has seen several delays in publication date. I think it was originally supposed to come out last January? Needless to say, I’ve been anxiously awaiting its arrival and regularly checking to make sure that it is still on schedule. While I didn’t love the previous book and first in this new trilogy as much as the original “Red Rising” story, I’m still invested in Darrow’s ongoing struggles to right the wrongs in the galaxy. The last book also introduced a host of other characters, some of whom I enjoyed more than others. Many of their stories were left on cliffhangers, essentially, so the publishing delays for this book have been killer! Soon though, very soon!

Kate’s Picks

43261389Book: “Season of the Witch” by Sarah Rees Brennan

Publication Date: July 9, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Any additional Sabrina content while I wait impatiently for the next season of the show to come back is good. And on top of that, this is a prequel to the series, so it’s going to build upon the mythology of the show. “Season of the Witch” takes place during the summer before Sabrina’s 16th birthday, and focuses on the relationship she has with her mortal friends, specifically her boyfriend Harvey. When she thinks about casting a spell to see how deeply he feels about her, a spirit with not so good intentions decides to interfere. Since we’re waiting forever for the next comic collection in print form (SERIOUSLY, THREE YEARS AND COUNTING), I am going to take any kind of print media that I can get, and I hope that “Season of the Witch” will make the show’s mythology all the richer.

41212413Book: “Growing Things and Other Stories” by Paul Tremblay

Publication Date: July 2, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Paul Tremblay is one of those authors that I am always going to read no matter what. I’ve enjoyed everything of his that I’ve read, and I am always excited for something new to come out. And even though I am usually a bit wary when it comes to short stories collections, I am looking forward to “Growing Things and Other Stories”. This collection takes a number of stories stories that Tremblay has written over the years and puts them together into one book, with ranges from cosmic horror, t0 ghost stories, to throw backs to some characters that may seem familiar to those who know is previous works (hello again, Merry and Marjorie from “A Head Full of Ghosts”). Tremblay is not only good at bringing scares, but also ambiguity and pathos, so this collection will no doubt be filled with ALL the emotions.

32603079Book: “Wanderers” by Chuck Wendig

Publication Date: July 9, 2019

Why I’m Interested: Given that I love me some post-apocalyptic fiction and this book is getting early buzz comparisons to “The Stand” in theme and depth, I am incredibly excited to read “Wanders” by Chuck Wendig. When a mysterious malady starts to affect people, and they begin walking with a purpose but do not respond to their surroundings, thus begins a global disaster that will reflect the perils of fear and hysteria rather than the actual threat, and it might be up to a teenage girl named Shana and a now disgraced scientist named Benji to help bring the sleepwalkers to safety, and to help rebuilt society. Clocking in at 800some pages, this is going to be a whopper of a book, but I am very excited by the prospect of it.

What books are you looking forward to this month? Let us know in the comments! 

Not Just Books: June 2019

The weather has still been somewhat mercurial, with days of super hot sun and then returns to the 60s with rain. But we’ll take what we can get. If only the bugs would disappear. (We can find something to whine about during every season, just you watch.) And yes, we both should probably get outside more to appreciate the long days, but…oh well! Here are some things other than books that we’ve enjoyed this last month!

Serena’s Picks

mv5boti5y2m3nmqtndg5zc00otq0lwezogytmjm4zjg0yzy0m2i0xkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjkwnzewmzu40._v1_sy1000_sx675_al_Amazon Prime Show: “Good Omens”

Confession: I haven’t read the book this was based on. But I’ve read a good number of other works by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett, so I feel like it should count. In all honesty, however, my all-abiding love for David Tennant was the real draw behind my immediate interest in this show. While the subject matter (an angel and a demon team up to try to prevent the end of the world) would always be a pretty big appeal for me, Tennant is just one of those actors whose work I will always check out. There were a few moments where the complete absurdity was a bit too much for me, but overall, I loved heart of this story that is built up in the lovely relationship between said angel and demon. Overall, I really enjoyed it.

mv5bmdeyn2u1ytitndy1zi00yjljlwi5yzitnwu3ywviyjhiztgxxkeyxkfqcgdeqxvynjg4nzayota40._v1_sy1000_cr006661000_al_TV Show: “Elementary”

I actually fell a bit behind on this series and ended up binging season six earlier this fall. As usual, I quite enjoyed it. And, with doing no further research, I assumed the show was over. The ending of that season certainly implies as much with Sherlock and Watson both relocated to 221B Baker St, London and waxing poetic about how it feels as if they are where they’re meant to me. But, much to my surprise, while dinking around on the Internet I discover that there is in fact a season seven! And it started up only a few weeks ago! This is only a short, half season but it seems like it is confirmed to be the last, so I’m super excited to see what they’re going to do with it. Fingers crossed for a return of Moriarty! And let’s hope that they don’t ruin what could have been a perfectly satisfying end with the final episode of the previous season.

maxresdefaultYouTube Series: “The 100 Baby Sims Challenge”

This is super weird and I know it. But hey, a girl’s got to do something with all of those hours spent feeding a fussy baby. And what’s better to do when you baby boy is being a little idiot than watch someone play the Sims and have a character deal with raising 100 of these little monsters. There’s something bizarrely cathartic about it, I’ve got to tell you. Maybe it’s of particular interest to frustrated new mothers, but I do think it’s pretty hilarious to watch all on its own, too. Especially if you’re just looking for a good 20-30 minute distraction here and there.

Kate’s Picks

2b8401198-77d6-4651-b1951c330d84a8b1TV Show: “Pose”

When “Pose” first aired last year I had every intention of watching it, but never got around to it. I mean, my goodness, it covers themes and settings that I absolutely love: the New York City Ball Culture, the 80s, glamour, self actualization. When I saw that Season One was on Netflix, I decided to finally start it… and then proceeded to binge all of it in the course of two days. “Pose” takes place in 1987, and follows the rising House of Evangelista, led by Blanca, a trans woman who left her previous house and mentor to start a house of her own. Not only does “Pose” have great music, great characters, and a strong grasp of what was going on in the Ball and LGBTQ communities in the 1980s (with a very real and upsetting look at how the AIDS virus was affecting said communities), it also has a cast that is mostly trans actresses of color, reflecting the people whose stories they are telling. And Billy Porter is AMAZING as the snarky emcee Pray Tell. On top of all that, Season 2 has started, and there’s no way I’m missing it in real time this time around.

rocketman_28film29Movie: “Rocketman”

This will undoubtedly surprise no one, but I love Sir Elton John for his flamboyance, passion, and catchy/heartfelt tunes. When I first saw a trailer for “Rocketman” I turned to my husband and said ‘YOU NEED TO TAKE ME TO THIS’. And, good sport that he is, he did so once it came out. This movie is part musical fantasy, part biopic about John and his rise to fame and the hardships he had to overcome, from lonely childhood, to mental health issues, to addiction. Taron Egerton is remarkable as John, not only nailing his look and mannerisms, but performing his songs with zeal and gusto. He did so well that there were moments where I had to blink and squint because I could have SWORN John himself had slipped into the scene. But one of my favorite depictions on the screen was the friendship John has with his longtime writing partner, Bernie Taupin. Taupin is played by Jamie Bell and he and Egerton have such magical chemistry, really bringing their partnership and friendship to the screen. If you do go see this movie, bring tissues. Well all know things worked out for John, but man, the road was rough, and this movie has the emotional punches that come with it.

mv5bmtgwnja4mdkwnl5bml5banbnxkftztgwmje3ntgwodm40._v1_TV Show: “NOS4A2”

Even though I have an unabated love for just about anything that Joe Hill writes, as of now my favorite of his novels is “NOS4A2”. It’s about Charlie Manx, a vampire-like being that kidnaps children. He takes their essences to keep himself forever young, and traps them in an ‘inscape’ (a supernatural alternative plane he can manipulate) he calls Christmasland. But he meets his match when he runs into Vic McQueen, a teenage girl who can create her own inscapes, and may have the power to stop him. I was very interested to see what AMC was going to do with it when I heard that they were going to make it into a TV show. And let me tell you, thus far I am VERY happy with what they are doing with it. I knew that I was going to be one hundred percent satisfied with Zachary Quinto as Manx, but was worried about any portrayal of Vic, as she is one of my favorite literary characters. But Ashleigh Cummings is FABULOUS, bringing the spunk and vulnerability that the character needs. And, most importantly, the show really achieves the creepy and unsettling tone that this story requires. It’s suspenseful and eerie, and I’m eager to watch as it unfolds.

 

Beach Reads: Summer 2019

Back for 2019, here is a list of some more favorite beach reads! “Beach read” is a very fast and loose term for books people read over the beautiful summer months when we really should be outside “doing things” but are instead reading…maybe outside. Some people see these months as an opportunity to slog through long classics (we’re looking at you “Moby Dick”) before the busy-ness of of the fall starts up, but for the sake of this list, we’re limiting our choices to stand alone, mostly feel good books (though there’s some obvious leeway here for Kate’s horror tastes!) that could be easily brought along on vacations. So, still a very loose definition, but hey, we had to start somewhere! We will select one title for each of the genres we most read.

Serena’s Picks

68427Fantasy Title: “Elantris” by Brandon Sanderson

As well as right lengthy fantasy epics, Brandon Sanderson also has a few excellent standalone works. This is one of his earlier writings, and the book that really solidified him as a favorite author for me. Off the back of the “Mistborn” trilogy, I wasn’t sure whether Sanderson was the real deal, or whether that series had been lightening in a bottle. But “Elantris” is marvelous all on its own. It proves that you can still include detailed world-building, complicated magical systems, and fully fleshed out characters all in one, stand alone fantasy series. It tells the tale of the magical city of “Elantris,” once a wonder of the world, now a ruin, haunted by those infected by an incurable disease that comes on suddenly and dooms its carriers to a short life of exile. Princess Sarene and Prince Raoden are both fun characters to follow, but the slowly-revealed mystery behind the doom of Elantris is the real draw of this story.

15743440Science Fiction Title: “The Best of All Possible Worlds” by Karen Lord

Honestly, I had forgotten all about this title until I was researching options for this list. But once I rediscovered it on my Goodreads “read” shelf, I immediately remember how much I enjoyed it and now want to nab a copy to re-read. The story is a bizarre mix of an anthropologic travelogue and the answer to the oft-asked fanficttion question “What would a romance really look like between a Vulcan and a human?” Of course, they aren’t actual Vulcans in this book, but with the same cerebral, cool demeanor, they are as close as you can get. Pair one of them with a fiery, human scientist and have them travel around discovery the answers to mysteries and slowly falling in love, and you’ve got a story!

28588390Mystery Title: “A Study in Scarlet Women” by Sherry Thomas

It’s pretty hard to find stand-alone mysteries. But like many mystery series, the individual books in the “Lady Sherlock” series can be read on their own, as well. As the series name implies, this is another re-telling of Sherlock Holmes where the titular character is recast as a woman. But what stands out about this version of the story is how little changed the character is other than her gender. Charlotte Holmes has all of the original character’s brilliance, but also many of his same flaws, like a lack of concern for social decorum and a tendency to put her case before others. But she also has unique aspects as well that take readers who know the original character well by surprise. Supporting characters are also a delightful mix of familiar and new traits and the mystery is complicated and intriguing.

399395Historical Fiction Title: “Enemy Women” by Paulette Jiles

I read this book a few years ago, and it’s really stuck with me ever since. Looking through my reading lists, I find that I typically read about a very narrow period of time and place, Regency and Victorian England. Many historical mysteries or fantasy historical fiction will be set in these times. But this book explored a completely unfamiliar time period and place for me: the South during the Civil War. It tells the story of Adair Colley, a young woman from a family that has tried to protect itself in Missouri by keeping a neutral stance. When this falls through and Adair finds herself in a prison for enemy women, she must call on her own strength to make it back home. The writing in this book is truly unique, and while it took a bit to get used to, the lyrical prose eventually won me completely over. This well-researched historical fiction title is definitely worth checking out.

Kate’s Picks

28111713Horror Title: “The Long Walk” by Richard Bachman

It isn’t that much of a secret now, but Richard Bachman is the pseudonym for Stephen King when he wanted to write darker(!), less horror oriented works. Eventually he was outed as one and the same, but not before he wrote one of his great masterpieces, “The Long Walk”. Which is still VERY much a horror novel in spite of the pen name. In the near future in a dystopic United States, every year teenage boys can sign up for a walking and endurance test called The Walk. The last person standing at the end is promised fame and fortune, and security in an economically unstable world. You get three times to break the rules. After the third, well… there can only be one standing at the end. This is one of my all time favorite Stephen King stories, as the suspense is relentless, the consequences devastating, and the pacing completely addicting. Think “The Hunger Games” but even darker and with less hope. King/Bachman also continues to capture the spirit of youth, friendship, and adolescent angst, even in the hellscape that is The Walk. You won’t be able to put it down, even if it makes you feel sick by the end.

23492630Thriller Title: “You” by Caroline Kepnes

I reviewed “You” way back around the time this blog was first created, and as time has gone on it has become one of my favorite novels thanks to rumination and multiple re-reads. And given that the Netflix show exploded in popularity, I feel the need to promote it again as the perfect read to take to the beach, pool, park, or wherever during the summer months. Joe is a quiet bookseller in New York City, and his life is changed the day that Guinevere Beck walks into his shop. Joe immediately becomes obsessed with her, and starts to plot ways to insert himself into her life. Through any means necessary. Both a creepy stalker tale and an exploration of dark humor in regards to Millennial ennui (as a Millennial I can say this!), “You” is hard to read and yet hard to put down. Joe Goldberg is a narrator you love to hate, but then the same can be said for Beck and just about everyone in this story. If you liked the show on Netflix, you definitely need to read the book!

24727094Graphic Novel Title: “Honor Girl: A Memoir” by Maggie Thrash

While this takes place at a summer camp, that isn’t the only reason that I put it on the list of Beach Reads! I remember devouring “Honor Girl” when I first read it. When Maggie Thrash was a teenager she attended an all girls summer camp in the Appalachian mountains. Thrash was living a fairly typical life, enjoying pop music, feeling awkward at times, and growing up in Atlanta. But during the summer that she was fifteen Thrash realized that she had a deep attraction to one of the counselors named Erin, and thus began a summer of exploration of identity, sexuality, and what love is and can be, even if those around you don’t understand. “Honor Girl” is a relatable and at times bittersweet story about first love, fitting in, and the heartbreak that can come with both. Plus, so many references to The Backstreet Boys!!

16213Non-Fiction Title: “The Hot Zone: The Terrifying True Story of the Origins of the Ebola Virus” by Richard Preston

So I don’t put this on the list to scare you guys, even if it IS a pretty scary novel. I put “The Hot Zone” on the list because even though it is a non-fiction book, it reads like a thriller novel that will not let you go until you have read every last page. While Ebola is usually associated with far off countries in Africa, in 1989 a research lab in Virginia has to contend with the possibility that it has shown up in their research monkeys. Suddenly it becomes a race against time and potentially nature as military personnel and scientists alike try to get a hand on what is going on, and if they do, indeed, have a potential outbreak of a ‘hot’ case of Ebola on American soil. Along with the deeply upsetting scenario playing out in the lab, this book also looks at the history and the viruology of Ebola and other hemorrhagic viruses, which gives a context that is not only fascinating but all the more scary. True, it may make you incredibly paranoid about the preparedness our government and scientists have when faced with a deadly outbreak, but it will also keep you interested.

What books are you going to take to the beach, pool, or wherever this summer? Let us know in the comments!