Sunday, October 16, 2011

Book Thoughts - Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi

Agent to the Stars by John Scalzi
audiobook - narrated by Will Wheaton
published 2005
audiobook release date 12-7-10

Synopsis from publisher:

The space-faring Yherajk have come to Earth to meet us and to begin humanity's first interstellar friendship. There's just one problem: They're hideously ugly and they smell like rotting fish. So getting humanity's trust is a challenge. The Yherajk need someone who can help them close the deal. Enter Thomas Stein, who knows something about closing deals. He's one of Hollywood's hottest young agents. But although Stein may have just concluded the biggest deal of his career, it's quite another thing to negotiate for an entire alien race. To earn his percentage this time, he's going to need all the smarts, skills, and wits he can muster.
My thoughts:

1. I can listen to audiobooks on my Kindle?? Life just got a little bit better.

2. Apparently John Scalzi wrote this novel for "practice". I would imagine that makes struggling writers want to punch him, just a little.

3. How can a novel that is one part Jerry Maguire, one part Close Encounters of the Third Kind, and narrated by Wesley Crusher go wrong? It can't.

Agent to the Stars was just plain fun. I listened to most of it on my commutes to and from work, and often didn't want to go inside because I was having too much fun. In true Scalzi form, there are moments of serious emotion, and moments of philosophical introspection, but this more than any of his novels was complete entertainment. As the story reached its inevitable conclusion - and, truly, how else could it end? - I really didn't want it to be over. I would love to see this story portrayed in a visual medium of some kind - perhaps as an HBO or AMC series, since we have seen how well they do book-to-tv translations. These characters found a spot in my heart, and I'd love to walk another chapter with them.

Since I'm not terribly seasoned as an audiobook listener or reviewer, I don't yet know how Will Wheaton compares to other narrators, but I thought he was absolutely perfect for this novel. He was able to give each character his or her own voice, while still maintaining the tone of the overall story. He had me laughing out loud as he delivered Scalzi's sarcastic, pure-hearted Joshua. His timing and phrasing felt exactly right for the story he had to tell.

I cannot tell you how excited I am that I am able to read audiobooks on my Kindle! We have a subscription to, and my library also allows me to check out audiobooks, so I am very excited about this new adventure in my reading life. If you have recommendations, I would love to hear them! I know a couple of bloggers who regularly read and review audiobooks, so you can bet I will be scouring their blogs for good stuff.

Finished: 10-13-11
MPAA rating: R for language and adult situations
My rating: 8/10

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Book Thoughts - Carry Yourself Back To Me by Deborah Reed

Carry Yourself Back To Me by Deborah Reed
published 9/20/11
316 pages

Synopsis from publisher:

Famed alt-country artist Annie Walsh has more than enough reason to sing her version of the blues, including a broken heart, a stalled career, and a troubled family. Annie seeks refuge from an upended love affair with her producer, Owen Pettybone, by sequestering herself at home with her old dog Detour, surrounded by a lush Florida tangelo grove. Soon, however, this quiet, small town existence comes crashing down around her. A violent murder connected to her brother Calder threatens to tear her family apart, and forces Annie to shore up her loyalties and uproot profound disappointments from her distant past. The evidence stacks against Calder, compounded by his lifelong affliction with Tourette Syndrome that causes some in the community to unjustly cast aspersions on the soundness of his mind. As the circumstances converge to challenge lifetime ties and forge unexpected new bonds, this soulful, stirring novel shifts its narrative from an imperiled and ever-changing present, where each hour brings an unforeseen and unwelcome piece of news, to the poignant childhood days of first allegiances and life-altering loss.

My thoughts:

September 30 - I've just finished the first section of this novel, and it has been a thoughtful read. There is a blurb on the front of my copy that calls it "...suspenseful, entertaining, and psychologically complex..", and so far I agree with two out of three. I am definitely intrigued by the situation the author has created, and the characters and their motivations are certainly complex. I don't know that I would yet describe it as entertaining, however - it has been rather bleak, with nobody happy in their lives or decisions. I very much like the writing, and Reed does an excellent job of evoking a sense of emotion as she describes a scene. I am very much drawn up into the story of Calder and Annie.

"She's never seen such silvery white clouds. Driftwood in the sky. Her eyes water from the bitter wind, and now the lake, the whole pastoral scene is distorted, as if looking through a fisheye lens. She blinks away tears. The frosty air hums like an E flat. Maybe this is how it feels before a snowfall." (p. 81)

October 2 - Just finished section 2, and my heart is aching. This novel of people caught in the consequences of bad choices, devastated by the results of loving too much, is quietly insinuating itself into my thoughts. The first chapter of section two, where the author foreshadows the falling apart of Annie's family, is incredibly poignant. Meeting this family when it was happy only makes their eventual distance from each other more painful. The author captured me with her story in that chapter, and turned what could have been just an okay read into something that is truly memorable.

October 6 - So, there was just the slightest bit of intensity lost after that remarkable second section, but I still feel like the novel ended well, with just the right amount of loss and redemption. The young Annie anvovd Calder continued to have more draw for me, perhaps because I could imagine what their lives might have been. Perhaps that's the reason this novel had the impact it did for me - the author was able to show exactly what kinds of people her characters could have been, the very slight distance by which happiness eluded them. It is a melancholy story, and the author certainly succeeded in evoking that mood.

I found her style of writing to be lovely - she used words in ways that surprised me, but fit perfectly to create her scene. Nothing in the novel felt like a cliche', and when I had the sense that I knew what was about to happen, it was only because it seemed like that was the only possible choice.

"Something has died in the center of her, hallowed out and blown away like powdery chalk. She starts to say his name but can't. It's no longer in the place she keeps it." (p. 240)

This novel felt like a good fall read - a curl-up-in-a-blanket type book. It was a satisfying read for me - well crafted, with strong characters and a complex set of circumstances. If you are looking for a novel with some substance for your next read, I would give this one a try.

Finished: 10/6/11
Source: review copy from publisher - thank you!
MPAA rating: R for violence, language, and sexual situations
My rating: 8/10