Vampires in the Lemon Grove
By Karen Russell; Read by Multiple (see list below)
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: 12 February 2013
[UNABRIDGED] 9 hours, 15 minutes
Themes: / short stories / vampires / veterans / farmers / children / reincarnation / silkworms /
Sample of title story: | MP3 |
In the collection’s marvelous title story, two aging vampires in a sun-drenched Italian lemon grove find their hundred-year marriage tested when one of them develops a fear of flying. In “The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979,” a dejected teenager discovers that the universe is communicating with him through talismanic objects left in a seagull’s nest. “Proving Up” and “The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis”–stories of children left to fend for themselves in dire predicaments–find Russell veering into more sinister territory, and ultimately crossing the line into full-scale horror. In “The New Veterans,” a massage therapist working with a tattooed war veteran discovers she has the power to heal by manipulating the images on his body. In all, these wondrous new pieces display a young writer of superlative originality and invention coming into the full range and scale of her powers.
I had been looking forward to this book coming out, because I loved Karen Russell’s first book of short stories, St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves. She is also the author of the much-acclaimed Swamplandia! which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. These stories did not disappoint! I was curious to see if there would be more set in Florida, but these span from Italy to New Jersey, from the plains to Antarctica. And just as I would have expected, the stories are at times startling, amusing, and sad. I will just say a few words about each, but this is a must-read.
Vampires in the Lemon Grove – two ancient vampires try to satiate their desires by eating lemons
Reeling for the Empire – human silkworms, vivid and terrifying.
The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979 – maybe the seagulls are the only ones really paying attention
Proving Up – starts as a struggling farm family story, ends in a … i can’t even…. *shiver*
The Barn at the End of Our Term – dead presidents alive in horses’ bodies
(actual presidents, not the band)… this one made me laugh more than any of the others.
Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules of Antarctic Tailgating – Sometimes you’re the whale, but you’re probably usually the krill.
The New Veterans – PTSD, massage, tattoos, and what is healing, exactly?
The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis – I couldn’t decide what I thought of this one. It is either about bullying or children who can turn into other things. Maybe both. Maybe neither.
The audio version is great, because each story has its own reader, really allowing for the differences in voice and feeling.
List of readers:
Vampires in the Lemon Grove read by Arthur Morey
Reeling for the Empire read by Joy Osmanski
The Seagull Army Descends on Strong Beach, 1979 read by Kaleo Griffith
Proving Up read by Jesse Bernstein (his accent is perfect for this story!)
The Barn at the End of Our Term read by Mark Bramhall
Dougbert Shackleton’s Rules of Antarctic Tailgating read by Michael Bybee
The New Veterans read by Romy Rosemont
The Graveless Doll of Eric Mutis read by Robbie Daymond
Posted by Jenny Colvin
After Jon Meacham’s terrific mini-interview on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart I was very pleased that Random House Audio sent us Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power. Read by Edward Herrmann, who is an excellent narrator, this audiobook runs almost 19 hours.
I look forward to it.
Posted by Jesse Willis
By Justin Cronin; Read by Scott Brick
CD or MP3 -[UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: October 16, 2012
Themes: / Vampires / Post-apocalypse / Virus /
The end of the world was only the beginning.
In his internationally bestselling and critically acclaimed novel The Passage, Justin Cronin constructed an unforgettable world transformed by a government experiment gone horribly wrong. Now the scope widens and the intensity deepens as the epic story surges forward with . . .
In the present day, as the man-made apocalypse unfolds, three strangers navigate the chaos. Lila, a doctor and an expectant mother, is so shattered by the spread of violence and infection that she continues to plan for her child’s arrival even as society dissolves around her. Kittridge, known to the world as “Last Stand in Denver,” has been forced to flee his stronghold and is now on the road, dodging the infected, armed but alone and well aware that a tank of gas will get him only so far. April is a teenager fighting to guide her little brother safely through a landscape of death and ruin. These three will learn that they have not been fully abandoned—and that in connection lies hope, even on the darkest of nights.
One hundred years in the future, Amy and the others fight on for humankind’s salvation . . . unaware that the rules have changed. The enemy has evolved, and a dark new order has arisen with a vision of the future infinitely more horrifying than man’s extinction. If the Twelve are to fall, one of those united to vanquish them will have to pay the ultimate price.
I wasn’t going to read this book. I wasn’t! I felt like The Passage was a well-contained story and I didn’t understand where else it could go. I will let the author explain what he focuses on in The Twelve, because I find it too difficult to summarize. (This is from an older post from 2010 on io9.com.)
The next two books each go back to Year Zero at the outset, to reset the story, and to deal with something you didn’t see and didn’t know was as important as it was. It’s not a linear quest story, which I would find dull and plodding. With each book, you need to have the narrative terms reestablished with fresh elements. Also, if you didn’t see [a character] die, they’re not necessarily dead. There’s a big cast in the first book, and plenty of unresolved stuff. I will resolve it by the end. [Early vampire character] Anthony Carter? No, not abandoning him.
In [The Twelve], you go back to what happened in Denver after the outbreak took place. The story will resume in that location a few days after breakout. So you can see another angle on what occurred and certain elements will affect our band of heroes 100 years in the future. It will be called The Twelve – and it’s not who you think.
This means that the story starts with where Amy is, and follows up with an assortment of other characters. Just like in The Passage, storylines are dropped completely as others are followed. Since I was listening to the audio, it was a bit more difficult to keep track of, just because it was harder to flip back and get a refresher on names, etc.
The author provides a lot more information about what happened to various people at the very beginning, explaining how some of the communities were formed, the horrific actions of the USA government (including events like “The Field”), and other parts of the novel jump around up to 97 years from when the virus originally took hold. This kind of information is usually my favorite part of post-apocalyptic stories – the rebuilding. What kind of societies form? How do they work? Who has control? I think Justin Cronin shows a lot of creativity and variety in these situations, since it isn’t just one story, but multiple. Many of the characters, locations, and situations overlap throughout the story, and I had this sense of the author as a puppeteer, drawing strings of stories around each other. Kudos to him that they never seem to tangle in disaster.
Scott Brick is the narrator for the audiobook of The Twelve, and does a fantastic job. He doesn’t bother doing a lot of voices, but his inflection is perfect. He has this ability to get out of the way of the story that I really appreciate when I’m listening. It just comes to life and I’m not constantly thinking of HIM, but of the story.
And The Twelve requires a lot of thinking and paying attention. The multiple story lines, the jumping around in time and history, and the sprinkling of quotations that Cronin throws in kept my attention. He started with a Mark Strand poem, almost as if I needed something to clinch whether or not I’d read this book.
I won’t have that dilemma for the final book. While this story has a satisfying climax, I was left with far more questions this time around. I’m not sure I know which side everyone is on. I’m not sure I even know what sides there are, anymore. What I am sure about is that this book is hard to put down.
Posted by Jenny Colvin
The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From The Living Dead
By Max Brooks; Read by Marc Cashman
Approx. 8 Hours 38 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: September 12, 2006
Themes: / Zombies / Humor / Horror / Apocalypse /
The next time a Class 2 zombie outbreak occurs in my neighborhood, I’ll be well-prepared to deal with the shambling corpses of hungry undead now that I’ve read Max Brooks’ The Zombie Survival Guide: Complete Protection From The Living Dead.
The Zombie Survival Guide dispels exaggerated myths and legends of the undead and instead presents the reader with unvarnished “truths” about zombies. You’ll find information on zombies’ physical strength, sight, hearing, and rate of decay, and the pros and cons of various weaponry for battling the undead (everything from medieval maces and claymores, to M-16s and flamethrowers). It describes various scenarios for identifying early signs of localized (Class 1) outbreaks, to full-blown widespread undead infestation (Class 3). You’ll find best practices for battling zombies in urban settings, in harsh desert and swamp environments, even under the sea. The Zombie Survival Guide tells you how to defend your home by stocking up with key food and supplies and moving to your second floor and destroying all staircases (recommend for Class 2), or how to survive on the run as you move to the most remote and therefore safest parts of the planet in a world-wide zombie apocalypse in which mankind is overrun (Class 4). The best vehicle should an outbreak occur? You might not guess it, but it’s a bicycle. On a bike you can easily outrun the slow, slouching pace of zombies, it will never run out of gas, you can carry a bicycle over rough terrain, and you can maneuver a bike through the inevitable traffic jams that accompany a full-on panic. Motorcycles are very good too, though their noise attracts the undead. Boats are also a secure means of travel, says Brooks, but watch your anchor line—zombies walking on the ocean floor can use it to climb up to your boat. “Hundreds” of hapless victims have died this way, Brooks tells us.
The Zombie Survival Guide serves as a perfect gateway to Brooks’ highly recommended World War Z |READ OUR REVIEW|. If for nothing else, and you find Brooks’ post-apocalyptic strategems and survival tactics tedious, I’d recommend this book simply for the highly entertaining “Recorded Outbreaks” section. Here Brooks describes various zombie outbreaks throughout history, from ancient tales recorded in chilling primitive artwork, all the way up through living eyewitness accounts from the early 21st century. These are written in the economical journalism style that Brooks’ employs so effectively in World War Z, lending these “outbreaks” a documentary-style feel, which makes them seem more realistic and terrifying. According to Brooks there have been many zombie outbreaks throughout history—perhaps even in my neighborhood, hence my need to be ready—but these have been largely laughed off by skeptical media, ascribed to outbreaks of disease, localized madness, or industrial pollution, or covered up by governments or the CDC, fearful that public knowledge would result in full-scale panic.
For all its earnestness you have to take The Zombie Survival Guide with a heavy dose of salt. While it’s written in a deadpan style and never descends into farce, and purports to be a “real” guide for complete protection against the walking dead, when you read passages like “If you want to know the true danger of an airborne (parachute) attack against zombies, try dropping a square centimeter of meat on a swarming anthill. Chances are, that meat will never touch the ground. In short, air support is just that—support. People who believe it to be a war-winner have no business planning, orchestrating, or participating in any conflict with the living dead,” you can’t help but laugh (I did laugh out loud, several times). While not as well-written or as compelling as World War Z, for zombie aficionados The Zombie Survival Guide is nevertheless a must-read.
Marc Cashman narrates with a dry, clipped voice that perfectly suits the how-to nature of The Zombie Survival Guide. There’s a touch of William Shatner in his delivery, with dramatic pauses in odd places, but that only adds to the fun.
Posted by Brian Murphy
I reviewed it back in 2008 but in listening to it again it seems even more relevant today than it was then.
And while we’re on the subject this stage play adaptation, it opened last week in San Fransisco, looks really terrific!
Posted by Jesse Willis
The Night Circus
By Erin Morgenstern; Read by Jim Dale
13 Hours 39 Minutes [UNABRIDGED]
Publisher: Random House
Themes: / Fantasy / Fairy Tale / Magic /
“The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.
But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway—a duel between two young magicians….” (from the publisher summary)
It isn’t often that I download a book as soon as it is released, but I’ve been hearing about The Night Circus for months. A co-worker tracked down an ARC before it even came out, and declared that she loved it and so would I. I believed her, but still thought I’d wait. The tipping point was hearing that Jim Dale was the reader.
I first encountered Jim Dale when I listened to the audiobooks for Harry Potter. Besides bringing the stories I already loved to life, I had the distinct impression that Jim Dale is the voice I’ve always heard in my head when I read a book that immerses me into another world. His nuance in character voicing and compelling emotion increases the reading experience one hundred fold. It was a no-brainer; I had to read this book.
The story bounces between different people who relate to the circus in some way, and moves at will between cities and years, just as the circus does. Eventually the relationship between the characters starts to be revealed, starting with the midnight banquets, one of my favorite moments in the book. Details weave together to describe the mysterious, magical place of the night circus that kept me so absorbed that I would make up reasons to keep listening… taking the long way home, going through the coffee drive-through, and taking on cleaning projects.
I have seen comparisons with Ray Bradbury and J.K. Rowling, but I keep thinking of Catherynne Valente, particularly the world she created for Palimpsest. This is a time to believe the hype. The Night Circus is magical.
Posted by Jenny Colvin