Thursday, July 19, 2012

A Conspiracy of Kings
by Megan Whalen Turner

Published in 2010 by Greenwillow Books.
Audiobook performed by Jeff Woodman.

The young adult novels I enjoy most are the ones that are excellent books that just happen to be written for young people. Some young adult novels - even if enjoyable - scream "YA" to me. But the best ones appear equally at home in my hands as in the hands of one of my teenagers. The four installments of Megan Whalen Turner's fantasy series that began with The Thief are such books. With complex characters, elaborate plots, and meaningful themes, these are just fabulous reads.

A Conspiracy of Kings is the fourth - and to-date the last - book about the thief Eugenides and his associates. This one is focused on and partially told from the viewpoint of Sophos, friend of Eugenides and heir to the throne of Sounis.

I absolutely loved it! This one may be my favorite of the four (although it's certainly difficult to pick just one). Sophos is a terrific character, and there are lots of twists and turns on his path. I also found the political intrigue fascinating. Megan Whalen Turner is a wonderful storyteller - and Jeff Woodman, who narrates the audiobooks, is one of the best narrators I've heard.

If you haven't read this series, be sure to start with The Thief (which I reviewed here) - and be sure to do it soon! (My thoughts about the second and third books, The Queen of Attolia and The King of Attolia, are here and here.)

The publisher has posted the author's discussion guide for the series here.

Monday, July 09, 2012

Bliss, Remembered by Frank DeFord

Published in 2010. 351 pages.

I really enjoyed this historical novel, which I read with my long-time book club a few months ago. I first became aware of the book when it was a Salt Lake County Reader's Choice nominee last year, and although I didn't find the time to read it then, I heard good things about it and was happy that the book club decided to read it together this year.

The novel starts as follows:
The summer after my mother [Sydney Stringfellow] found out that she was dying of cancer, she asked me to come visit and watch the Olympic swimming on television with her. It was 2004, when the Games were in Athens. Mom had been on the United States swimming team in the Berlin Olympics in 1936, when she was eighteen. While she never talked about the experience - she was, in fact, mysteriously silent on the subject - she would say, "That's the only thing of any real consequence I ever did in my life."

The story of Sydney's adventures in Berlin in 1936 and the aftermath of her love affair with the son of a Nazi diplomat is revealed to the reader primarily in her own voice as she shares the story with her son. I know that the narrator constantly calling her son by name ("Teddy ... Teddy ... Teddy") made my friend Chelsea crazy - but I think this story is well worth the read. The older Sydney is a delightful character, and the experiences of her younger self made for a compelling read.

NPR posted a fun story about the book and author Frank Deford here.

This year my book club has also read Erik Larson's In the Garden of Beasts and Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, and I think the three tie together nicely for a look at Hitler's Germany, the 1936 Olympics, and World War II.

As a group, my book club seems to gravitate toward stories set during World War II. Among the other novels we've read are Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet, Sarah's Key, Skeletons at the Feast, The True Story of Hansel and Gretel. What are some other WWII books that you'd recommend to the group?


Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Fatally Flaky by Diane Mott Davidson

Published in 2009 by William Morrow & Company.

I started reading this culinary mystery series many years ago - and I found this fifteenth episode still a fun diversion. As my friend Linda says, Davidson weaves a good story - and I love all the talk of yummy food!

I've recently started borrowing some Kindle books from my local library. The system is not entirely user-friendly - but it is convenient having a book automatically downloaded to my Kindle and then removed on the due date. Fatally Flaky is one of those I borrowed.


Sunday, July 01, 2012

By the Numbers
One-Half of 2012

Total books read year-to-date: 36.
(At this point last year, I had read 44 books. In each year beginning with 2007 - the year I created this blog - I read more books than I did the previous year. If I'm going to repeat that result in 2012, I think I'm just going to have to read faster!)

Fiction: 26.
Non-fiction: 10.

Audiobooks: 13.
(That more than one-third of my "reading" happened during my commuting time is somewhat disconcerting to me.)

On the Kindle: 5.
(I own three of these. I borrowed the other two from the Kindle Lending Library.)

Published in 2012: 0.
(Of all these numbers, this one surprises me most!)
Published prior to 1990: 1.

Books by male authors: 6.
Books by female authors: 30.

Books by new-to-me authors: 22.
(Some of those are debuts but most are just my first experience with the author. In most cases, I will be looking for more of the author's work!)

Books that are the first of a series: 4.
Books that are part of a series I started prior to 2012: 5.

Historical fiction: 5.

Biography, autobiography, or memoir: 6.

Young adult: 15.
Juvenile: 2.

Review copies: 2.

Read for my Teaching Through Literature class: 4.
Read with the "book lunch girls" (aka Natalie's Book Club): 6.
Read with my long-time book club: 5 (counting one that I also read with the "book lunch girls").

5-star rating: 4.
4-star rating: 22.
3-star rating: 9.
2-star rating: 1.

How is your 2012 reading adding up?