Friday, September 10, 2010

Blogger Doubles Its Inherent Awesomeness

Holy hopping monkeys, have you seen the new stats page? 8D

I love Blogger so much now. BLOGGER IS MY NEW BEST FRIEND.

SQUEEEE. My days of indecision, between the ease of Blogger and the statistics feature on Wordpress, are OVER. OVER, HEAR ME?

I must be excited or something. And I should post an audiobook review now that the weekend has arrived. (Again. Where does the week go? Not that I'm really complaining, just... a little less speed and little more substance, week, please? I feel as though I've just woken up from a rather deep and disorienting nap.)

Friday, September 3, 2010

Book Hop Extravaganza

Book Blogger Hop Them thar books be hopping like mad today.

Welcome to the weekly Book Hop Extravaganza, as hosted by Jennifer at Crazy-for-Books.com. Pull up a chair, explore the blog - here at Audible Candy, we review audiobooks and short story podcasts from wherever we can get them (libraries, bookstores, for free on Librivox) - and leave a comment. I like saying hello to people and visiting blogs! :] And when you're done, be sure to visit Crazy-for-Books and register your blog with the Mr. Linky for a weekend of publicity and book blog discovery!

Today's Book Hop question is as follows, "Do you judge a book by its cover?"

When it comes to genre fiction? Yes, yes, and yes. It's a horrible habit, I know. But the covers of YA, and fiction of a chick-lity persuasion, so often sends me fleeing in the opposite direction - driven by fear of 1) over-sentimentality, 2) lack of imagination, and 3) awkwardly done romance - that I wonder why I still wander over to those shelves to begin with. But I've found interesting books there before, despite the proliferation of faceless teenagers in high school or psuedo-historical regalia, and cartoony shopping scenes with too many cats. I'm compelled by a conviction that there are others treasures I've missed.

The mother of all judgment occurs when I wander into the fantasy and science fiction part of the bookstore. I'm in a rather painful love-hate relationship with speculative fiction at the moment: I adore it (sometimes), but my goodness, the covers? Perfectly hit and miss. There's "dreadfully done enclosing a bad novel", "dreadfully done enclosing a good novel", "well done enclosing a bad novel" (oh, the agony), and "well done enclosing a good novel". I find too few of those.

I'm making an effort to change my bad habits by avoiding them all together and either 1) soliciting book recommendations or 2) sticking with the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die challenge.

In other news, college is exhausting and I need to write like a thousand book reviews so that I can have something to post when I need a break from cultural geography and its unending waterfall of key words. I have been listening to interesting books since my last review. The Hunger Games, Sarah Dessen's Just Listen, The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak. Yarr.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Reviewing “Duty and Desire”

Title: Duty and Desire: A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman
Author: Pamela Aidan
Length: 280 pages
Publisher: Touchstone
ISBN: 978-0743291361
Final Verdict: 3 out of 5

Duty and Desire caught my eye one day in July, while I was browsing the New Books shelf at the local library. It’s cover had a flavour that I could appreciate: Romantic (with a capital “r”) and regency (without the bodice-ripping and/or cloying sentiment). Being “A Novel of Fitzwilliam Darcy, Gentleman”, it’s connection to Pride and Prejudice intrigued me. I make a practice of reading the (frankly, and awesomely) fan-penned sequels and prequels of the Jane Austen canon. I like continuations and transformations. It’s one of those things that will make me automatically consider a book, even if I don’t end up reading it.

Duty and Desire was one such continuation that I ended up reading. It’s Book Two in a trilogy that is, essentially, Pride and Prejudice from Mr. Darcy’s point of view. Duty and Desire takes place during Darcy’s extensive holiday from the pages of P&P, and concerns his attempt to drive Elizabeth Bennet from his mind and find a more suitable wife. I wish I didn’t have to start with the second book—the first book sets the tone for Aidan’s work, and introduces readers to the world of P&P as seen by Darcy. But the libraries in my area are notorious for rarely carrying Book One of anything.

I liked the novel. The prose is solidly readable—if a little purple, in the spirit of the Regency—with that touch of courtly gentleness that suits the time period and evokes Austen’s prose more strongly than other sequels that I have read. Later in the novel, I was a little distracted by Aidan’s colourful use of speech tags: there were a few adverbs running rampant and "verbed" nouns.

The novel is a bit slow. The back cover promises more than is ever delivered in any kind of timely fashion. Case in point: "curious Lady Sylvanie", who, according to the back cover, is of some significance (Darcy considers her as a possible wife, and she has no objection), does not show up until long after I had had any hope of seeing her. And when she does appear, her role feels rushed, as if she were a last-minute decision.

None of the characters really captured my interest, or were especially memorable (if one, of course, does not count Darcy’s valet, Fletcher, whose habit of quoting Shakespeare I remember very well: it began to wear on me a little. I suspect that I’ve run into the “resourceful manservant” trope a few times too many—I found it difficult to appreciate Fletcher as a character).

Darcy himself is enough in character to be acceptable, though he doesn’t strike me as powerfully as he did in Pride and Prejudice. There really seemed to be… less of him, as if his POV waters down the impact of his character. Of the beloved cast of P&P, a few appear: Elizabeth Bennet, in thought and to Darcy’s aggravation; Georgiana Darcy, turning to religion for relief from her depression. But for all these familiar faces, Aidan’s world sometimes feels a little too bizarre to be credible: the book takes a gothic twist for the supernatural, and the result is disorienting.

While I appreciated the clarity of the rising action and its climax, the end of Duty and Desire was disappointing. The concluding twist(s) were expected twists; true, I didn't figure out the primary one until I was a page away from its revelation, but when it came, I experienced no thrill of astonishment, no jaw drop. The fate of the antagonist felt strangely random.

If I ever stumble across Book One and Two of the Fitzwilliam Darcy trilogy, I’ll read them. I like Aidan’s idea of exploring Darcy, and I’m curious to see how she handles him on territory more familiar to me: on the grounds of P&P itself.

Friday, August 20, 2010

I See Hopping Books

Book Blogger Hop I dunno... but it really seems as though the weeks are passing rather quickly. I mean, wasn't Friday just here?

Oh! Hello and welcome to Audible Candy, your source (at least, one of them) for audiobook and fiction podcast reviews! I'm Entish (named for the language of J. R. R. Tolkein's Ents - for some odd reason, talking trees were totally my highlight of the Lord of the Rings trilogy - books and movies both). Pull up a chair, read a few reviews, and leave a comment and a link to your own blog - reading and commenting on blogs is a favourite hobby of mine!

If that charming image of hopping books above this sentence is new to you, allow me to introduce you to the Book Blogger Hop, hosted by Crazy-for-Books.com. It's a weekly event for book bloggers, where you can register your blog with the Mr. Linky (and see a traffic increase of over 9000!) and browse the list for new and interesting blogs. Meet fellow book bloggers! Find fascinating blogs! Let the following and commenting extravaganza begin!

I have officially used up my allowance for exclamation marks.

Today's Hop question: "How many blogs do you follow?"

Currently, I'm following thirteen blogs - five in the sidebar, and the rest by the grace of my Google reading list. As I'm rather new to the book blogdom, my numbers are rather low: I want to keep pace with the blogs that I follow, and not feel so overwhelmed by the length of my reading list that I can't leave a comment or two. My reading preferences are as eclectic as the books I purport to review, though they do seem to tend toward the more literary and classic fiction side of the scale. But I enjoy reading YA and genre specific (well, more speculative fiction kind of genre specific) book blogs as well.

Thanks for reading. Leave a comment, and I will return to the favour [exclamation_mark_goes_here]

Love! Vengeance! Murder! : Reviewing "Zastrozzi, A Romance"

Title: Zastrozzi, A Romance
Author: Percy Bysshe Shelley
Reader: Martin Geeson
Genre: Gothic Horror
Length: 5 hours and 16 minutes
Location: Recording hosted by Librivox. It is in the public domain.
Final Verdict: 1 out of 5

I have been listening to the Librivox recording of Percy Bysshe Shelley's gothic story, Zastrozzi, on and off for about four months. It isn't War and Peace and it isn't Les Miserables - it's a five hour novella that is neither as dense nor as intellectually demanding as the aforementioned pair. As a consequence, I never felt quite right about taking so long to finally set the novella aside. But there it is. The performance is excellent... but the story is painful. I came to dread seeing the title of Zastrozzi on my iPod screen, and from there arrived at my decision: I couldn't finish it, no matter how many reasons I had for doing so.

I wavered over finally putting aside this novella for four reasons:

1) It was written by Percy Bysshe Shelley. I loved his poetry when I was younger, and though I've fallen out of the habit of reading it (or any kind of poem - I regret the absence of that old, deliciously romantic (as in Romantic!) poetry in my life), his name on a work of literature will still make me pick it up.

2) It was Percy Bysshe Shelley juvenilia. I love the idea of an author's juvenilia; I'm in the process of reading all of Charlotte Bronte's adolescent fiction, written before her first published novel, The Professor. 

3) It's Gothic literature. Though my relationship with that genre is of a bafflingly love-hate kind, I still count it as my favourite genre, in that I WILL read it, even if I end up hating the book and ranting about my hatred into the silence of the Internet.

And 4) the performance of the reader, Martin Geeson, riveted me. Geeson reads with such hearty enthusiasm, as if he were performing Shakespeare on some Elizabethan stage, and gives the recording a sense of irony that made Zastrozzi feel like the parody of gothic novel (might I venture, in the vein of Thomas Love Peacock? Who is one of the hundreds of authors on the top of my TBR list, x3). I really enjoyed Geeson's voice, and how it transformed Zastrozzi from straight Gothic in a satirical drama - as though the novella took itself with good humour, and mocked its excesses with clear sighted vision.

But in the end - alas! - I could not finish the story itself. It's excessive - such weeping and moaning and clashing of teeth! - and irredeemably solemn about its excess. For all its thrilling going-ons (kidnap! murder! death beds!), Zastrozzi is dull, full of repetitions, and silly (each character revolves around a single trait: vengeance, unrequited love, or grief ). I've read that readers can gain a sense of the brilliant poet Shelley was to become; however, I found that the bathos of Shelley's characters and situations, and the melodrama of his style, drowned any sense of Shelley's developed (or developing) brilliance. I sometimes felt as if I had missed a "Part One" somewhere - Zastrozzi leaps into his vengeance without explanation, and the scene is already so developed - enemies made and rivalries unfolding - that I felt lost and strange.

All in all, Martin Geeson's performance is deletable, and I anticipate finding any other recordings that he has done. But as for Shelley... I don't mean to read another word of his gothic Juvenilia.

:: eyes the sequel of Zastrozzi, as found at the Australian Gutenberg Project ::

Or at least, not at the moment.

My First Blog Award!

Look! Look! A blog award! :: garbled excitement and flailing :: Chrizette, from All the days of... gave me the "One Lovely Blog Award" yesterday. Thank you, Chrizette! It came as a surprise and an utter delight; thank you so much for thinking of me, ^_^ It is now my honour to pass it on, per the instructions of this award:

  1. Accept the award, post it on your blog together with the name of the person who has granted the award and his or her blog link.
  2. Pass the award to a max of 15 other blogs that you’ve newly discovered.
  3. Remember to contact the bloggers to let them know they have been chosen for this award.

Cheers!

Monday, August 16, 2010

Pillow Book Post: FIRSTIES

The second part of that title is no doubt irrelevant.

But whatever. I've decided to broaden the scope of this blog, and indulge in a few off-topic/non-review posts now and then (because I've proved to myself that simply posting reviews grows a little dull in both thought and action after a while). Audible Candy is still - wait for it - Audible Candy (one of your (eventual) sources for audiobook and fiction podcast reviews!) but it's also the repository of my (narcissistic?) thoughts on literature and movies and college and other such miscellany. Yikes. This sounds like some kind of public service announcement.

So welcome to the first Pillow Book post! (Which, according to 1) Wikipedia's article on the pillow book of Sei Sh┼Źnagon, is a collection of "lists of all kinds, personal thoughts, interesting events in court, poetry and some opinions on... contemporaries" and 2) according to yet another page on Sei Sh┼Źnagon, is: "reminiscences; opinions and imaginative sketches; and lists, some with comments, others merely lists of words." Both sound like modifiable, and eventually workable, outlines. LET IT BE SO). So without further ado, allow me to introduce...

Personal Thoughts
Studying for my driver's exam and preparing for the fall semester are turning me several shades of insane. As a consequence: the sad state of this blog, which has not seen a post since the Friday before last. I am currently in a state of catch up: I have nine, going on ten, reviews that I need to post (having defenestrated my goal of a review per day in a fit of procrastination: I have a few reviews written, but they're still first drafts and hearty exercises in grammatical ineptitude).

But the number of audiobooks that I've finished has increased: I've lately completed Haruki Murakami's After Dark (beautifully written, excellent narrator, but... hours of audio dedicated to a sleeping woman and the unexplained, supernatural phenomena that fills her television screen? Eh), Sarah Dessen's Just Listen (a story that was so engrossing that I cheerfully endured ten hours of a... less than satisfactory Playaway production to listen to it), and Suzanne Collins's The Hunger Games (v. exciting!)

I've nearly finished the Librivox recording of Charlotte Lennox's The Female Quixote, Volume I, and am delighted to report that it fits my expectations exactly - it pokes fun at itself and its heroine with an irony exquisitely like that of Cervantes. It's like listening to a novelization of my all-time favourite site, TV Tropes. Happily, I bought volume II at a book sale last winter, and so when the recording runs out, I can read the rest of Arabella's adventures!

I also began listening to Cory Doctrow's Little Brother. I'm enjoying it, though it requires that I backtrack, now and then, to re-listen to bits that I zoned out on. The crash course in the Internet that I've received - more detailed than simply checking e-mail and surfing sites and opening tabs - is fascinating. But it sometimes results in an information overload that only repetition can process. The world is intriguing - Doctrow combines futuristic (... though as googling "gate detection" has brought up some rather interesting results, I'm beginning to doubt my evaluation of "the futuristic", xD) with our contemporary reality, and the terror of it strikes close to home: the violation of personal privacy through computers and Internet, the mediums into which people now pour their secrets. Little Brother is a bit frightening.

And wow, the main character does not get off easily. He's losing friends, privacy, control - he cries and gets messed up and lives a grittier, more down-to-earth life than heroes usually do. There is a delicious absence of square-jawed stoicism. I love this.

My TBR list has grown by almost 1300 books. I've taken up the 1001 Books To Read Before You Die challenge, and have been spending an embarrassing amount of time compiling a list of all the books that have ever been on the 1001 list (which, according to the 1% Well-Read Challenge, boasts a total of 1294 titles). Below, a few lists because LISTS ARE FUN:

1001 Books: Currently Reading
The Female Quixote by Charlotte Lennox
The World According to Garp by John Irving
American Pastoral by Philip Roth

I'm half in love with The Female Quixote, as I've mentioned before. The World According to Garp is interesting - I love Irving's humour, his prose, and the absurdity of the situations into which he flings his characters with the most awesome abandon - but I don't like any of those characters, and I like Garp the least. American Pastoral is all about memories of childhood and is the least interesting, so far, of the books I am now reading and listening to. The main character (or... the character in whose POV Roth begins his tale) is  a writer, but I like him somewhat more than Garp: he sits across the table from his childhood hero and tries to dissect him, in an effort to expose him as a flawed and failing mortal. His attempts to second guess his hero, to divine his motivations and his agonies before they can be admitted, wilt without bearing fruit. His frustration is a living thing. Garp, interestingly, is just as flawed - and oftentimes as frustrated - as the writer in Pastoral... but... GAH. I can't find it in me to sympathize with him.

1001 Books: TBR (Borrowed from the library) and TBR (Owned):

Borrowed
Martel, Yann - Life of Pi
Forster, E. M. - Howard's End
Foer, Jonathan Safran - Everything if Illuminated
Puzo, Mario - The Godfather
Garcia Marquez, Gabriel - No One Writes to the Colonel and Other Stories
Paton, Alan - Cry, the Beloved Country
Vonnegut, Kurt - Cat's Cradle
Voltaire - Candide
Hesse, Hermann - Siddhartha
Roy, Arundhati - The God of Small Things
Proulx, E. Annie - The Shipping News

Owned
Bronte, Charlotte - Shirley
Seth, Vikram - A Suitable Boy
Hardy, Thomas - Far from the Madding Crowd
Hardy, Thomas - Tess of the d'Ubervilles
Collins, Wilkie - The Moonstone
Twain, Mark - The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn
Fielding, Henry - Joseph Andrews
Ovid - The Metamorphoses
Rhys, Jean - Wide Saragossa Sea
Stendhal - The Red and the Black
Steinbeck - The Grapes of Wrath
Smith, Zadie - On Beauty
Sinclair, Upton - The Jungle