The {Booker} Award – My Five Favorite (Audio)Books

Last week, before I left on vacation, the fabulous Sabrina Garie tagged me in a meme called The {Booker} Award. Nice graphic and all!:


Here’s the best part, I have to post my top five books of all time.

Or maybe that’s the worst part.

Ugh.

Thing is, I *already* have a bunch of posts on my favorite books. I could rehash those, but I’d rather come up with something new.

I could do favorite authors. But they’re already pretty much covered in my posts on favorite books. I could do the next five since I only have ten books so far and there are a lot more out there.

Hmm… I could do five favorite books so far this year, but I haven’t read a ton because I’ve be trying to be diligent and use my free time to write. I have, however, been listening to more audible books. Long drives to and from sleep away camp plus visits to family mean lots of time across corn fields with little radio reception. The kids get very tired of my limited playlists and, thank-you-very-much-no I don’t want to listen to theirs.

Now, I can’t say I’ve listened to a lot of audiobooks, and the ones I remember strongly are not all available now, but here are my top five books/stories to listen to ‘on tape’ in the car. The only order these are in is how they popped in my head. :-)

1. Three Musketeers / Robin Hood narrated by Jim Weiss

I admit I haven’t listened to this in a while, but for a couple of years this was an absolute staple in our house, I mean car. Yes, it is a clean ‘kids’ version of the tales, but Mr. Weiss has a good voice, easy to listen to and that makes the miles fly by.

2. Mrs. Frisby and the Rats of Nimh

Just enough suspense to keep you interested but not so much you concentrate too much on the story and not your driving.

3. How to Train Your Dragon

Hmm, guessing you’re starting to see a trend. You see, a good middle grade book is about four hours, give or take, when read out loud, the perfect length for most of our car trips given we never quite start immediately when we hit the road and we want to be done before we ‘get there’. How to Train Your Dragon, I listened to the unabridged version but I’ve heard the abridged one is excellent, is fun, funny and so very, very different from the movie. There are a couple of blips -in the book there are apparently pages between a couple of the chapters where each dragon type is given ratings and statistics, those don’t translate very well to being read out loud.

4. A Cricket in Time Square – Tony Shaloub version

When Mr. Shaloub is on in this version, he’s really on. Unfortunately there are times he forgets and drops the characters’ voice but overall this is a really fun listen.

Oh phooey, that’s only four! Hmm, nothing which I’ve heard comes to mind, although my sister said the audio of Austenland was really good, I’ve never listened.  While there are a number of books which I like well enough, none of them stand out as ones I’d happily recommend. Of course there are also those I’d heartily recommend you avoid (Eragon!) but that’s not going to help me finish this list. Well shoot, I think I’m just going to have to leave the fifth space open. Once I have a recommendation, I’ll be sure to post about it.

Oh! Now the next fun part. I can nominate three bloggers and ask them to list their top five books. Ooh, probably should ask first! Dang. What the heck, I’m going to jump in and hope they play. Let’s see. Thinking Karen Robiscoe, over at Charron’s Chatter might jump in the pool with me. Maybe Bobbi Romans too, although after her pool disaster she may want nothing to do with one. Oh, and if I could get Gina Ardito to join in, that’d a blast. She’d bring the ‘razzaritas’ and we’d definitely be having a party! Of course since I haven’t warned, um, asked them first it’s pretty much a shot in the dark but I’m keeping my fingers crossed!

 

 

My Favorite Books, #8 – Faking It by Jennifer Crusie

Love me some Jennifer Crusie!
Faking It Cover

While it is, on paper, a ‘sequel’ to Welcome to Temptation, this book is very much a stand alone. Funny, witty and with the heroine simply ‘putting up’ with the sex at the start , it’s a classic early Crusie turn-romance-conventions-on-their-heads story line.

The publisher’s weekly blurb:

Bestseller Crusie (Fast Women, etc.) takes readers on another smooth ride in her latest romantic caper. At the wheel this time is fab art forger Matilda Goodnight, whose chance encounter in a closet with cute con man/thief Davy Dempsey leads to madcap mayhem and breathless romance. He’s trying to steal back the money he filched from Clea Lewis, ex-girlfriend (and possible husband killer), who had taken it right back. Tilda just wants her last “Scarlet” painting, which Clea has bought to impress Mason Phipps, her rich art-obsessed beau. It’s the last of six forgeries Tilda did for Tony, her now deceased gallery-owner dad, and Tilda is determined to preserve her newly squeaky-clean reputation. Confused yet? It gets wackier, because the whole Goodnight clan and supporting cast are as enormously engaging as the loopy plot. There’s Tilda’s mother, Gwen; her sister, Eve/Louise, a split-personality teacher/diva; her gay ex-brother-in-law, Andrew; and her precocious teenage niece, Nadine. Add a host of shady characters and would-be hitmen, and the breezy plot thickens and puffs up like the light airy doughnuts all Goodnight women are attracted to but eventually forsake for muffins: “Muffins are for the long haul and they always taste good. They don’t have that oh-my-God-I-have-to-have-that thing that the doughnuts have going for them, but you still want them the next morning.” Finally, defying all odds, Crusie answers the burning questions she poses can liars and thieves fall in love, live happily ever after and stay out of jail? while confirming the dangers of dating doughnuts.

So many things are right with this book it’s hard to pinpoint a favorite. I think, if I had to give someone one reason to read it, aside from the aforementioned starting off with low-quality sex between the hero and heroine, I’d say, as a writer, it’s the depth and quality of the supporting characters.

Of course, now that I’m back in Ohio, picking a book set in Columbus isn’t a bad start either.

Favorite Books #7 – The Blue Sword

Another YA book which I have re-read many times, The Blue Sword is a wonderful story of a girl who never quite fit in while growing up who finds herself loving a place so far away and very different from home. Soon she’s embroiled in local life far more than she or anyone one around her ever anticipated. The echo of British Empire in this novel appeals to me, as does McKinley’s character’s range of reaction to the land they find themselves in. And there’s a romance, too!

From the blurb at Amazon:

Harry Crewe is an orphan girl who comes to live in Damar, the desert country shared by the Homelanders and the secretive, magical Hillfolk. Her life is quiet and ordinary-until the night she is kidnapped by Corlath, the Hillfolk King, who takes her deep into the desert. She does not know the Hillfolk language; she does not know why she has been chosen. But Corlath does.

Hope you give it a try!

My Favorite Books #6 – Summers at Castle Auburn

Funny how that worked out. Reblogging #6 on the 6th! ;-)
Summers at Castle Auburn Cover

While I love many Sharon Shin books – her Twelve Houses series floats frequently to the top of my re-read pile, I think in terms of craft and world building as well as character development this is my favorite book of hers.  The heroine’s journey from a naive, accepting youth to a thoughtful, discerning woman is wonderful. And the subtle build up of the romance is great.

Part of the blurb from Amazon:

As the illegitimate daughter of a royal lord, young Corie has the best of two worlds. She spends idyllic summers at Castle Auburn, home of her father’s family, and the rest of the year with her maternal grandmother, learning the healer’s craft. At the castle, Corie is groomed by her uncle for an eventual political alliance through marriage, though she is too dazzled by her handsome cousin Bryan, heir to the throne, to notice. As the summers pass, however, Bryan shows his true colors. The brash, arrogant youth matures into a cruel and self-centered man; a man unfit to be king, some say. At the same time, Corie’s eyes open to the misery of the magical aliora, whom she loves, but who are hunted for sport and enslaved by the nobility.

Yep, this one is a keeper!

My Favorite Books #5- Tamora Pierce

Since I can’t possibly pick just one book , this’ll have to be a favorite author day instead!

Tamora Pierce. Love her world building, love her strong women, love her girls growing up into strong women. Fickle gods, magic, mayhem. Yeah, they’re pretty good reads.

If I had to choose my favorite…probably Trickster’s Choice. Love the storyline. But then… for story crafting I really like Terrier. The subtle change and growth in the actual ‘journal’ as the story progresses is wonderful.

My *only* complaint is sometimes the story arc seem to rush towards the end, as if she already has her mind on other things and is ‘done’ with the story so she wraps it up. The Immortals Quartet was the one I found to be the most rushed. But maybe that was just me, wanting the story to last that much longer.

Be sure to check out her website. Lost of good stuff there, including an extensive list of ‘future’ books in the left side bar. Very excited to see some of the future stories she’s already mapping out!

If you like Tamora Pierce, you may also like Sherwood Smith’s Once A Princess (and it’s follow up), Elizabeth Moon’s Paksenarrion series,  Mercedes Lackey’s By The Sword and Kristen Britain’s Green Rider (although I don’t recommend much past the second book in that series).

My Favorite Books #4- The Corset Diaries

The Corset Diaries Cover

Back in the spring of 2004, before the first of her Aisling Grey books hit the stands that fall, Katie MacAlister released The Corset Diaries.

This is one of the funniest contemporary romances I have ever read, Susan Elizabeth Phillips notwithstanding.

The blurb:

He was so handsome she could barely breathe. Or maybe it was just the corset…

“I HAVE TO WEAR WHAT???”

No woman in her right mind would consent to wearing a corset for a month. Especially a “skinny-challenged” woman like myself. But dreams of being debt-free danced in my head at the offer of appearing in a reality TV show.

A Month in the Life of a Victorian Duke is about real people—like me—pretending to live on an English estate, circa 1879. Sounds fun, no? Well, it ain’t all it’s cracked up to be. We’re talking no televisions, no cell phones, no PMS medication. And did I mention the corsets? No breathing for a full month. Luckily, when I met the real-life duke who was to be my pretend husband, he took my breath away…

In a manor in which everyone must strictly follow the Victorian lifestyle, things are bound to go wrong. Like when some harmless lust turns into that other thing…

Love was definitely not in the contract.

My sister turned me onto this book and to this day there are times she says ‘barking spiders’ and I *totally* crack up.

Favorite Books, #3 – A Summer to Remember

A titled rogue courts a prim and proper lady in this spirited Regency romance by the deservedly popular Balogh.

One of my all time favorite Regency Romances, A Summer to Remember by Mary Balogh, is atypical of the genre at this time in that the heroine, for the most part, lives within the conventions and constrictions of the times. She’s also atypical of most current Regency heroines in that she is a gentle soul, and not a forthright, sassy woman, one chaffing and determined to break the constrictions of convention. Balogh does an amazing job not only making her likeable, but showing her growth as well as her growing determination to make her own happiness and not depend on others for it.  A lovely, lovely book.

If you like this, you might also like The Secret Diaries of Miss Amanda Cheever by Julia Quinn.

Favorite Books, #2 – Beauty

Here is the second of this series,

For years the only version of Beauty and the Beast I would read was Robin McKinley’s. Upon discovering it as a teen her retelling instantly became my favorite book. As several of my friends (as well as nieces and nephews!) would tell you *this* was the book I recommended more than any other for many years.

For me this book introduced me to the idea of alternate realities. Reading a story in the early industrial revolution was so *different* than anything else I had come across. It opened the whole new world of what is now called paranormal literature to me.  Because if this story, with it’s clear elements of fantasy and magic, could be set then, in a time which seemed far more real and recent than traditional fairy tales, certainly there could be stories set in the now with these elements  (as opposed to the more science fiction bent of, say, A Wrinkle in Time). These days with Harry Potter and Twilight the idea doesn’t seem radical at all, but to me, in the late seventies the idea was breathtakingly new.

I still haven’t picked up her revised version, I cherish the original one so much I’m not sure how I’d handle any changes! One day soon, perhaps, I’ll take a chance. But until then I think I’ll dig out my old battered copy, the one with the woman in a yellow dress on the cover, giving the book a slightly free spirited/psychedelic  tone and utterly perfect.

Since Beauty came out several other authors have tackled the rewritten fair tale, from Mercedes Lackey with her 500 Kingdoms, to Jessica Day George stories, including Princess of the Midnight Ball.

 

My Favorite Books, #1 Julie Czerneda, Survival

This Monday I am re-rolling out my blog Feature: My Favorite Books, starting back at number 1.

Of course, with so many to choose from, it is difficult to pick where to start. However, something tried and true, which I’ve read many times seems to be an excellent place, so I’ll begin my list with Julie Czerneda’s Species Imperative series, specifically the first one, Survival.

A blurb, from Amazon:

Must one species’ evolution ensure another’s extinction? Canadian author Czerneda (To Trade the Stars) attempts to answer that loaded question by focusing on the unique but dangerous relationship that biologist Mackenzie “Mac” Connor forges with Brymn, a Dhryn archeologist and the first of his race to visit Earth, in this imaginative, if somewhat slow-moving not-so-distant-future novel set in the Pacific Northwest and the far reaches of space. The story comes alive whenever the workaholic, emotionally withdrawn Mac interacts with the seven-armed Brymn, “a giant bearlike being,” who at one point applies makeup to go diving with salmon. Trouble arrives in the form of the alien Ro, who kidnap Dr. Emily Mamani Sarmiento, a colleague of Mac’s at Norcoast Salmon Research Facility. Blamed for creating the Chasm, a zone of space littered with worlds that have been sucked dry of all life forms, the Ro also want Brymn and Mac. The Interspecies Union’s representative, Nikolai “Nik” Trojanowski, whose mysterious attraction to the straight-laced Mac adds romantic heat to the proceedings, helps the two escape to Haven, the Dhryn homeworld. Unfortunately, Brymn and Mac soon find no place is safe from one species’ imperative to survive at any cost. A planned sequel may try to answer the next vital question-can friendship evolve to forgive the ultimate betrayal?
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Okay, so why do I like this book/series so much? I think part of it is the world building, specifically the alien building. Mrs. Czerneda is a biologist and it shows – in a good way! No long winded explanations, but a detail to things like xenobiology which is often lacking in SF “space epic” books (which this does turn into, but do NOT be put off by that!).

Add in a stubborn and smart protagonist, a ‘life as we know it’ scenario and, of course,  a hint of romance and you have a book which I have recommended more times than any other book, particularly to people who are burned out on paranormal romances but want smart, tough, thinking heroines.

I hope you give it a try!

Favorite Books #10, Shakespeare’s Landlord by Charlaine Harris

IMO this book is one of Charlaine Harris’ finest works. A very dark heroine who is trying to find her way after life shattering events, this book is about surviving and moving forward.

The write up on Amazon:

Harris, author of the Aurora Teagarden series, now introduces Lily Bard, resident of Shakespeare, Arkansas, a woman fiercely protective of her privacy, determined to succeed as a one-woman cleaning agency, and just as fiercely determined to excel in karate. When the unpopular and very nosy owner of the apartment building next door is murdered and the body dumped in the local park, Lily reports the body to the police–anonymously. The local police chief, however, is nobody’s fool and quickly discovers Lily’s involvement and her own past, which makes her a possible suspect. Given the situation and, since she cleans for many of the other possible suspects, some opportunities, Lily decides that the only way to clear her name is to find the real killer. Harris has created an intriguing new character in this solidly plotted story. Expect more from crime fiction’s first cleaning-lady series.

I love flawed heroines who are doing their damnedest to make their way in the ‘normal’ world and it doesn’t get much better than this book.