Top Ten Tuesday: Top ten books on my TBR list for fall 2016

TTT autumn 2_bsf

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is the top ten books on our fall to-be-read lists. Only ten? I’ll give it a try. Some of these are recent and upcoming releases, and some are books that may have been around for a little while.

My top ten books to read this fall:

1) Small Great Things by Jodi Picoult

small great things

2) Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

Truly Madly Guilty

3) Cross Talk by Connie Willis

crosstalk

4) Paris For One and Other Stories by Jojo Moyes

paris-for-one

5) Heartless by Marissa Meyer

heartless

6) Yesternight by Cat Winters

yesternight

7) Ghost Talkers by Mary Robinette Kowal

Ghost Talkers

8) Miss Jane by Brad Watson

miss-jane

9) Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld

Eligible

10) The Wonder by Emma Donoghue

The Wonder

What books are on your fall TBR list? Share your link, please, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider following Bookshelf Fantasies! And don’t forget to check out my regular weekly features, Shelf Control and Thursday Quotables. Happy reading!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I host a Book Blog Meme Directory, and I’m always looking for new additions! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 9/26/2016

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read last week?

family-plotamy-schumer

The Family Plot by Cherie Priest: Done! My review is here.

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer: Absolutely amazing audiobook! I’ll write up a review later this week. Meanwhile, just know that Amy Schumer’s narration of her own book is perfect, and the book itself is just as funny and vulgar as you’d expect — but also surprisingly powerful and moving. More to come…

Fresh Catch:

I went to the Big Book Sale benefiting San Francisco’s public libraries, and came home with (for me) a very modest haul… because I still haven’t found room on my shelves for all the books I picked up at the last library sale.

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What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 Magician's Land

The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman: Finishing up the trilogy!

Now playing via audiobook:

hp5

Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J. K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale. Onward I go with my HP audio adventure.

Ongoing reads:

MOBYFarewell to Arms 2Moby Dick

With my book group (2 chapters per week of each):

  • Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
  • A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Via the Serial Reader app (read about it here):

  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville:  — as of this week, I’m at 48%! I hate to say it, but the initial enjoyment is wearing off. I’ve been pretty bored with Moby Dick this past week… but I’m soldiering on. I’ve come this far — I’m going to see it through!

So many books, so little time…

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TV Time: Adam Ruins Everything

Think you know all there is to know about such topics as true love, the weekend, purebred dogs, and airport security? Think again… or maybe check out Adam Ruins Everything.

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Adam Ruins Everything is a half-hour show on the TruTV channel (new to you? it was to me), hosted by and starring “investigative comedian” Adam Conover. The show first aired in 2015, and is now 17 episodes (and counting) into its first season.

Each episode, Adam… well, he ruins things. As in, he — okay, this graphic explains it better than I ever could:

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Adam takes a topic, and then subjects his “friends” (i.e., the other actors in the show) to a series of explanations and vignettes showing the truth behind the misconceptions and misdirections.

Adam is a goofy fast-talker with unusual hair, and the other actors pose as so-called normal people who just want to enjoy their restaurant dining, trips to the mall, or weddings without Adam screwing it all up by pointing out what’s wrong with each scenario.

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Did I mention it’s funny? It’s hilarious.

And even better, it’s fact-based. As Adam rattles off his intricate explanations, sources pop up on the screen, naming the articles and research from which he pull his facts. Likewise, the show’s website includes a list of sources for each episode, with links to the original material — so skeptics can go right to the source and fact-check Adam’s fact-checking.

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Also, adorably, he features real-life authorities throughout, sometimes appearing as themselves, sometimes in cartoon form, to explain the various truths behind the lies and misdirections and set the record straight.

Here’s a little clip from a recent episode (Adam Ruins Shopping Malls):

Full episodes are available on the TruTV website, here.

My 14-year-old son was the first in our household to discover Adam Ruins Everything, and insisted that I watch it with him. It’s now among our top must-see viewing each week. I’m having a blast sharing it with the kiddo. It’s smart as well as funny, so even when we giggle incessantly, we also come away from each episode with something new to think and talk about. And if we cast a skeptical eye at the world based on Adam’s ruining of what we thought we knew… well, so much the better.

Take A Peek Book Review: The Family Plot

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

family-plot

 

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

Chuck Dutton built Music City Salvage with patience and expertise, stripping historic properties and reselling their bones. Inventory is running low, so he’s thrilled when Augusta Withrow appears in his office offering salvage rights to her entire property. This could be a gold mine, so he assigns his daughter Dahlia to personally oversee the project.

The crew finds a handful of surprises right away. Firstly, the place is in unexpectedly good shape. And then there’s the cemetery, about thirty fallen and overgrown graves dating to the early 1900s, Augusta insists that the cemetery is just a fake, a Halloween prank, so the city gives the go-ahead, the bulldozer revs up, and it turns up human remains. Augusta says she doesn’t know whose body it is or how many others might be present and refuses to answer any more questions. Then she stops answering the phone.

But Dahlia’s concerns about the corpse and Augusta’s disappearance are overshadowed when she begins to realize that she and her crew are not alone, and they’re not welcome at the Withrow estate. They have no idea how much danger they’re in, but they’re starting to get an idea. On the crew’s third night in the house, a storm shuts down the only road to the property. The power goes out. Cell signals are iffy. There’s nowhere to go and no one Dahlia can call for help, even if anyone would believe that she and her crew are being stalked by a murderous phantom. Something at the Withrow mansion is angry and lost, and this is its last chance to raise hell before the house is gone forever. And it seems to be seeking permanent company.

The Family Plot is a haunted house story for the ages-atmospheric, scary, and strange, with a modern gothic sensibility to keep it fresh and interesting-from Cherie Priest, a modern master of supernatural fiction.

 

My Thoughts:

Meh.

Not scary.

That about sums it up for me. The Family Plot is more or less a classic ghost story. A woman and her crew sleep in the house they’re working to strip for salvage. The owner of the house seems to only want to be rid of it, and is intentionally cryptic about the house’s history. The house is completely isolated, up a hard-to-get through country road. It seems to be full of treasures, but weird things start happening almost right away.

(And by the way, that Goodreads synopsis is fairly awful, emphasizing the wrong things and giving away way too much.)

The key problem for me is that the surprises and secrets weren’t terribly surprising. The ghostly presence and its history seem pretty typical for this kind of story. Even when the drama comes to a peak toward the end of the book (cue the stormy night, blocked roads, and lack of emergency vehicles), I did not for a single second feel frightened or chilled or spooked out.

The story is fine, but I can’t say much more positive than that. If you’ve ever read a haunted house book before, then you’ll see pretty much the entire plot coming. It’s not boring, but at the same time, it just didn’t move me in the slightest.

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The details:

Title: The Family Plot
Author: Cherie Priest
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication date: September 20, 2016
Length: 368 pages
Genre: Ghost story
Source: Review copy courtesy of the publisher via NetGalley

 

Thursday Quotables: The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo

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Welcome back to Thursday Quotables! This weekly feature is the place to highlight a great quote, line, or passage discovered during your reading each week.  Whether it’s something funny, startling, gut-wrenching, or just really beautifully written, Thursday Quotables is where my favorite lines of the week will be, and you’re invited to join in!

NEW! Thursday Quotables is now using a Linky tool! Be sure to add your link if you have a Thursday Quotables post to share.

amy-schumer

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer
(published 2016)

I never really thought of myself as a fan of Amy Schumer. I mean, I enjoy her show when I happen to catch it, and yeah, she does make me laugh — but now that I’m reading her new book, I think I can honestly say that I LOVE her. I wish I could quote pretty much the entire book… but that would not be a good use of space (and there’s a little issue of copyrights), so I’ll just share a random bit that I absolutely relate to:

Being an introvert doesn’t mean you’re shy. It means you enjoy being alone. Not just enjoy it — you need it. If you’re a true introvert, other people are basically energy vampires. You don’t hate them; you just have to be strategic about when you expose yourself to them — like the sun. They give you life, sure, but they can also burn you and you will get that wrinkly Long Island cleavage I’ve always been afraid of getting and that I know I now have. For me, meditation and headphones on the subway have been my sunscreen, protecting me from the hell that is other people.

What lines made you laugh, cry, or gasp this week? Do tell!

If you’d like to participate in Thursday Quotables, it’s really simple:

  • Write a Thursday Quotables post on your blog. Try to pick something from whatever you’re reading now. And please be sure to include a link back to Bookshelf Fantasies in your post (http://www.bookshelffantasies.com), if you’d be so kind!
  • Click on the linky button (look for the cute froggie face) below to add your link.
  • After you link up, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment about my quote for this week.
  • Be sure to visit other linked blogs to view their Thursday Quotables, and have fun!

Shelf Control #52: The Monstrumologist

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Welcome to the newest weekly feature here at Bookshelf Fantasies… Shelf Control!

Shelf Control is all about the books we want to read — and already own! Consider this a variation of a Wishing & Waiting post… but looking at books already available, and in most cases, sitting right there on our shelves and e-readers.

Want to join in? See the guidelines and linky at the bottom of the post, and jump on board! Let’s take control of our shelves!

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My Shelf Control pick this week is:

monstrTitle: The Monstrumologist
Author: Rick Yancey
Published: 2009
Length: 434 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed. But he is dead now and has been for more than forty years, the one who gave me his trust, the one for whom I kept these secrets. The one who saved me . . . and the one who cursed me.

So starts the diary of Will Henry, orphaned assistant to Dr. Pellinore Warthorpe, a man with a most unusual specialty: monstrumology, the study of monsters. In his time with the doctor, Will has met many a mysterious late-night visitor, and seen things he never imagined were real. But when a grave robber comes calling in the middle of the night with a gruesome find, he brings with him their most deadly case yet.

A gothic tour de force that explores the darkest heart of man and monster and asks the question: When does man become the very thing he hunts?

How I got it:

I bought it.

When I got it:

Absolutely no idea… but it was a while ago!

Why I want to read it:

A good friend (and trusted book source) describes this book as “a wonderful, terrible, hilarious, disgusting, compelling adventure yarn“. Sold! Seriously, it sounds gross and original and engaging, and despite the fact that this cover creeps me out (I have a copy with a different cover), I’m interested enough to want to read it. I think I’ve postponed starting it because The Monstrumologist is the first in a 4-book series, and I’m really trying to avoid getting involved in any more series… but I know from The 5th Wave that I like Rick Yancey’s writing, so that’s probably reason enough to at least give the first Monstrumologist book a try.

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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link below!
  • And if you’d be so kind, I’d appreciate a link back from your own post.
  • Check out other posts, and have fun!

For more on why I’ve started Shelf Control, check out my introductory post here, or read all about my out-of-control book inventory, here.

And if you’d like to post a Shelf Control button on your own blog, here’s an image to download (with my gratitude, of course!):

Shelf Control

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Top Ten Tuesday: Top ten reasons to listen to audiobooks

TTT autumn 2_bsf

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish, featuring a different top 10 theme each week. This week’s topic is an audio freebie – any topic at all, so long as it relates in some way to audiobooks, podcasts, playlists… you get the idea.

Rather than listing some of my favorite audiobooks, I thought I’d list a bunch of the great things about audiobooks. Let’s see if I can get to 10!

  1. They’re great for driving — either short trips across town or hours-long road trips. The miles fly by while listening to a good story!
  2. They keep me from getting bored while doing mindless chores — especially folding laundry.
  3. Audiobooks are a great way to re-read a book without feeling like I’m neglecting newer books that I’ve been meaning to read.
  4. Listening to a book can give a new perspective on a story, just by hearing how the dialogue sounds out loud or how certain parts get emphasized.
  5. Sometimes, the author is also the narrator, and in the best of these, it’s wonderful to hear how the author chooses to portray his/her own characters.
  6. Great narration brings characters to life. For example, I liked Lord John (in Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series and in the Lord John stand-alone books), but I didn’t LOVE him until I heard Jeff Woodman’s awesome narration. Somehow, he captures John’s aristocratic upbringing, his dry sense of humor, and his innate goodness so just perfectly.
  7. Funny books are even funnier read out loud. Wil Wheaton brought me to tears — laughing — with his narration of two of John Scalzi’s super funny sci-fi books. Something about the way he pronounced the aliens’ names… call me a child, but I cracked up every time.
  8. Creepy books are even creepier read out loud. Case in point: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson may be a good book, but the audiobook is creeeeepy. The narrator puts in these odd inflections and does a sing-songy thing with some of the repeated lines, and man, it is so good.
  9. Audiobooks make great exercise motivators! I like to go for long walks, but when I want to go for really long walks, an addictive audiobook really helps. I have a hard time listening to audiobooks if I’m sitting still — so if I’m listening to something really intense or suspenseful, maybe I’ll walk the extra several blocks just so I can see what happens next!
  10. Somehow, I find myself willing to listen to books that I wouldn’t ever get around to reading. Again, this is probably because I listen to audiobooks at times when I just physically can’t read a hard copy book, so I don’t feel like I’m “wasting” my reading time. Through audiobooks, I’ve read some great non-fiction stories, and have even enjoyed a couple of collections of short stories, which I usually cannot stand to read.

There you have it — the 10 things I love most about audiobooks. Do you listen to audiobooks? What do you love most about them?

Please share your TTT link, and I’ll come check out your top 10!

If you enjoyed this post, please consider following Bookshelf Fantasies! And don’t forget to check out my regular weekly features, Shelf Control and Thursday Quotables. Happy reading!

♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Do you host a book blog meme? Do you participate in a meme that you really, really love? I host a Book Blog Meme Directory, and I’m always looking for new additions! If you know of a great meme to include — or if you host one yourself — please drop me a note on my Contact page and I’ll be sure to add your info!

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The Monday Check-In ~ 9/19/2016

cooltext1850356879 My Monday tradition, including a look back and a look ahead — what I read last week, what new books came my way, and what books are keeping me busy right now. Plus a smattering of other stuff too.

What did I read last week?

MAgician King 2Android's Dreamtkh

The Magician King by Lev Grossman: Loved book 2 of The Magicians trilogy, and I’m ready for #3!

The Android’s Dream by John Scalzi: Absolutely had a blast listening to this audiobook! Check out my review here.

The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom: Finally, I finished a book group book before the discussion! My review is here.

Fresh Catch:

I treated myself to a pop-culturish new release this week:

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What will I be reading during the coming week?

Currently in my hands:
 family-plot

The Family Plot by Cherie Priest: It just feels like the right time for a good ghost story.

Now playing via audiobook:

amy-schumer

The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo by Amy Schumer, narrated by Amy Schumer: Ye gods, this is a great audiobook! Very funny, of course, but also surprisingly touching and even inspirational. I’ve listened to about half, and I’m loving it.

Ongoing reads:

MOBYFarewell to Arms 2Moby Dick

With my book group (2 chapters per week of each):

  • Written in My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
  • A Farewell To Arms by Ernest Hemingway

Via the Serial Reader app (read about it here):

  • Moby Dick by Herman Melville:  — as of this week, I’m at 34%!

So many books, so little time…

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Take A Peek Book Review: The Kitchen House

“Take a Peek” book reviews are short and (possibly) sweet, keeping the commentary brief and providing a little peek at what the book’s about and what I thought.

tkh

 

Synopsis:

(via Goodreads)

In this gripping New York Times bestseller, Kathleen Grissom brings to life a thriving plantation in Virginia in the decades before the Civil War, where a dark secret threatens to expose the best and worst in everyone tied to the estate.

Orphaned during her passage from Ireland, young, white Lavinia arrives on the steps of the kitchen house and is placed, as an indentured servant, under the care of Belle, the master’s illegitimate slave daughter. Lavinia learns to cook, clean, and serve food, while guided by the quiet strength and love of her new family.

In time, Lavinia is accepted into the world of the big house, caring for the master’s opium-addicted wife and befriending his dangerous yet protective son. She attempts to straddle the worlds of the kitchen and big house, but her skin color will forever set her apart from Belle and the other slaves.

Through the unique eyes of Lavinia and Belle, Grissom’s debut novel unfolds in a heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful story of class, race, dignity, deep-buried secrets, and familial bonds.

 

My Thoughts:

The Kitchen House has been on my radar for a while now, and I finally settled in and read it over the weekend in preparation for my book group discussion this coming week. Sometimes you need a little nudge to get to the good stuff, ya know?

Wow. This book has it all — terrific historical setting, a broad and varied cast of characters, and pains and sorrows that are instantly relatable.

Lavinia’s story is unique, as most pre-Civil War novels I’ve read with Southern settings focus strictly on the master/slave divide, broken along race lines. In The Kitchen House, Lavinia straddles the color line. As an orphaned indentured Irish girl, she’s settled — happily — with the black slaves on the plantation, where she finds love, comfort, and family. Yet based on the color of her skin, she’s easily accepted into the world of the big house as well, first as a companion for her master’s mentally ill wife, and eventually as a full-fledged member of the family.

Meanwhile, among the kitchen house slaves, the illegitimate children of the plantation owners are relegated to yet another generation of slavery, subject to the whims and demons of the twisted mind of their current owner.

Lavinia is the main narrator of the story, although we do get briefer chapters from Belle’s perspective, which help round out what Lavinia sees of plantation life and offer a sort of behind-the-scenes viewpoint that we’d otherwise miss.

The heartache and tragedy that plague Lavinia and her loved ones feel almost too much sometimes. It seems like every time there’s a chance for something terrible to happen, it does. The pain that all of the characters must endure makes the book tough to take, even while it’s impossible to look away.

The author seems to be drawing a parallel between the slaves’ captivity and Lavinia’s own powerlessness and lack of rights in a loveless marriage to a cruel, domineering, dangerous man. I can accept this up to a point: Despite her fine clothes and house, Lavinia is her husband’s property and is basically a prisoner, with no access to the outside world or to anyone who might provide help. Still, her situation isn’t nearly as helpless as that of the slaves, and her skin color and status offer her a protection that her beloved family does not have.

The Kitchen House is powerful and well-written, and I recommend it strongly for anyone with an interest in American history during that time period. The characters are unforgettable.

As far as I understand, The Kitchen House (published in 2010) was originally written as a stand-alone, but I was excited to learn that a follow-up novel (Glory Over Everything) has just been published. I can’t wait to spend more time with these characters… and just hope that at least some of them get the happy ending they so clearly deserve.

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The details:

Title: The Kitchen House
Author: Kathleen Grissom
Publisher: Touchstone
Publication date: January 1, 2010
Length: 385 pages
Genre: Historical fiction
Source: Library

 

Audiobook Review: The Android’s Dream

Android's Dream

A human diplomat kills his alien counterpart. Earth is on the verge of war with a vastly superior alien race. A lone man races against time and a host of enemies to find the one object that can save our planet and our people from alien enslavement…

A sheep.

That’s right, a sheep. And if you think that’s the most surprising thing about this book, wait until you read Chapter One. Welcome to The Android’s Dream.

For Harry Creek, it’s quickly becoming a nightmare. All he wants is to do his uncomplicated mid-level diplomatic job with Earth’s State Department. But his past training and skills get him tapped to save the planet–and to protect pet store owner Robin Baker, whose own past holds the key to the whereabouts of that lost sheep. Doing both will take him from lava-strewn battlefields to alien halls of power. All in a day’s work. Maybe it’s time for a raise.

Throw in two-timing freelance mercenaries, political lobbyists with megalomaniac tendencies, aliens on a religious quest, and an artificial intelligence with unusual backstory, and you’ve got more than just your usual science fiction adventure story. You’ve got The Android’s Dream.

The Android’s Dream absolutely lives up to expectations… except for the teeny little fact that there’s a sleeping robot on the cover, and this is assuredly not a book about robots.

Instead, it’s about intergalactic politics and brinksmanship, artificial intelligence, governmental hijinks, a man-made religion… and yes, sheep. Look, it’s silly and doesn’t necessarily make sense 100% of the time, but it’s always entertaining, even when it makes your head hurt.

The cast of characters is large, and features diplomats, hired thugs, alien warriors, war vets, pet store owners, and an overgrown young alien on his culture’s version of an Amish Rumspringa. In terms of setting, the book takes place in the halls of power on Earth, onboard an intergalactic cruiser, on an alien planet, and in one particularly action-packed scene, at a mall.

Robin Baker and Harry Creek are awesome good guys. They’re both genuinely good people sucked into a completely f*cked up and weird situation, and maintain a surprising amount of good cheer and plain old resourcefulness when it all hits the fan. The politicos aren’t entirely corrupt, and there’s even one at the State Department who has his head on straight, outthinks everyone around him, and is hell on wheels in the courtroom.

In terms of the audiobook, there are pros and cons.

On the negative side, the twists and turns of the plot and the complicated interconnections between the rather huge number of characters make the plot a bit hard to figure out and keep straight via audio. After listening to the first 2 or 3 chapters, I had to stop by the library to get a hard copy so I could go back and make sure I understood who the various characters were and what they wanted. There’s a lot of plotting and scheming in The Android’s Dream, and keeping the players sorted is essential

That’s really the only downside of the audiobook — other than than, I’d say that audio is definitely the way to go!

Narrator Wil Wheaton is superb at bringing characters to life, from the full-of-themselves ambassadors and high muckety-mucks to the secret church officials to the clueless cruiseliner passengers. His accents and inflections are spot-on, and man, it’s just all so darn funny.

Call me immature, but I found something immensely hilarious about hearing Wheaton pronounce names like Narf-win-Getag and Hubu-auf-Getag, or describe the Nagch people’s rite of Ftruu, or even analyze the landmark legal case Agnach Agnach-u v. Ar-Thaneg. This stuff might look funny on the page, but listen to it repeated over and over again, in scenes of blustering negotiations or high-octane action, and it’s… I don’t know… just laugh out loud riotous.

Once I got past my initial confusion, I really loved The Android’s Dream, and was especially glad that I stuck it out long enough to really get into the groove of the audiobook. John Scalzi’s writing plus Wil Wheaton’s narration is a dream combination. I wish this book had a sequel (as I understand, at one point, there was maybe-sorta a plan for one, but it never happened) — but barring that, I’ll be happy to listen to more Scalzi/Wheaton audiobooks any time one lands in my hands (or in my Audible app).

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The details:

Title: The Android’s Dream
Author: John Scalzi
Narrator: Wil Wheaton
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication date: 2006
Audiobook length: 10 hours, 34 minutes
Printed book length: 396 pages
Genre: Science fiction
Source: Purchased

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