Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles… Continues!

Posted 31 August, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Authors, Reading, writers

So there are those of you out there that may remember when I started this delightful little project, of ironically narrating this simply dreadful piece of Harry Potter fanfic that was written by a fanatical mom who wanted her kids to be able to read Harry Potter but didn’t “want them turning into witches”.  How could I not ironically narrate something named Hogwarts School of Prayer and Miracles, complete with snarky remarks? If you’ve missed chapters 1 – 8 you can find them on my YouTube channel here.

I’ve done something a little different with the final chapters of this saga (yes, all the audio is in the can). I’ve drafted the old AnnaSaurus Rex into doing some sound engineering for me and things sound a bit different, though I assure you it’s still all me. If you’re caught up, enjoy chapter nine! If not… GET CAUGHT UP.

 

 

So, Reader, am I going to hell for this? I think it’s worth it.

April

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Sunday Salon: John Oliver Edition

Posted 23 August, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in musings

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Time // 11:12 AM EDT

Reading // Making progress on Mindhunter, I think that it might make a pretty good analytical post. But let’s not count our chickens.

Feeling // Meh. I’ve been feeling ick since Friday. I suspect it’s a combination of a stomach bug and general anxiety. I’m doing a lot of teeth grinding and feeling really edgy.

I dunno guys. I feel with a Sunday Salon I should have more to report. Something interesting and exciting, but the stuff going on isn’t necessarily things I can share in a public forum. We should be closing on a house next month which means minor renovations, finding a new school, and moving. Can you hear my teeth grinding? I’m struggling between a complete shutdown and drinking heavily, (kidding!) neither which are real options.

In the Meantime // John Oliver cracks me up and everyone should donate to Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption. Let’s amend the Constitution today and make him President tomorrow!

 

I’m going to go ahead and post this and see if anything groundbreaking comes to me throughout the day making me want to edit it.

How was your week, Reader?

April

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Woeful Wednesday: The Son

Posted 19 August, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Woeful Wednesday: The SonThe Son by Jo Nesbo
Published by Random House Incorporated on 2014
Genres: Crime, Fiction, Hard-Boiled, International Mystery & Crime, Mystery & Detective, Thrillers
Pages: 401
Format: Audiobook
Goodreads
two-half-stars
Sonny Lofthus is a strangely charismatic and complacent young man. Sonny's been in prison for a dozen years, nearly half his life. The inmates who seek out his uncanny abilities to soothe leave his cell feeling absolved. They don't know or care that Sonny has a serious heroin habit--or where or how he gets his uninterrupted supply of the drug. Or that he's serving time for other peoples' crimes.

Sonny took the first steps toward addiction when his father took his own life rather than face exposure as a corrupt cop. Now Sonny is the seemingly malleable center of a whole infrastructure of corruption: prison staff, police, lawyers, a desperate priest--all of them focused on keeping him high and in jail. And all of them under the thumb of the Twin, Oslo's crime overlord. As long as Sonny gets his dope, he's happy to play the criminal and the prison's in-house savior. But when he learns a stunning, long-hidden secret concerning his father, he makes a brilliantly executed escape from prison--and from the person he'd let himself become--and begins hunting down those responsible for the crimes against him . . . The darkly looming question is: Who will get to him first--the criminals or the cops?

So this book had the Scandinavian type presence that you feel in The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy. Lots of violence, mysterious and deeply flawed main character, a hardboiled cop with serious secrets, etc. etc. It seems like Scandinavian crime drama is becoming a genre unto itself.

Part of my problem with this book definitely can be traced back to the narration. At first I thought that since I was listening to The Son using CDs instead of Audible, which I speed up to at least 1.25x normal speed, that maybe I just wasn’t used to how slowly normal narrators read. But since I’ve finished The Son, I’ve started listening to I Am Pilgrim, also an audio CD – and the narration speed is just fine. I rambled through all that to say that the narrator was reading waaaaayyyy too slowly. Since I listened to this in heavy traffic I found it frustrating.

But even discounting the irritating slowness of the narration, The Son had some additional problems for me as far as storyline went. Some of the so-called twists were visible from a mile away in dense fog. I mean cut me a break Nesbø, if you want to write a thriller – write a thriller.

The other issue with this book that the application of Sonny Lofthus as the Messiah is applied in the most heavy handed manner. I love symbolism and religious undertones, but Nesbø’s attempt to use Christ-like imagery and allegory was way too obvious to be of any interest.

I’m fascinated with Scandinavia and Oslo in particular, but The Son was a failure to launch for me. To be fair, I didn’t particularly care for The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo trilogy, so I’d probably recommend this book to fans of that series.

The old question, Reader, can the performance of an audio book affect your views on the novel and story as a whole? Anyone out there who adores Nesbø or The Son?

April

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Automatic Authors: A Top Ten List

Posted 18 August, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Authors, memes, writers

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It’s been a hot minute since I did a top ten list, y’all. Today we have authors who write books that I pick up without even reading the synopsis. So, in no particular order…

1. Stephen King. To quote my fellow Stephen King fangirl, Rory from Fourth Street Review briefly, “Obviously.”

2. Joe Hill. I mean, he’s a fantastic horror author in his own right and he’s Stephen King’s son. So, ‘obviously’ again.

3. Margaret Atwood. It doesn’t matter what genre or form this feminist Canadian powerhouse is writing in, I want that book.

4. John Irving. I’ve yet to find an author who does cradle to grave character studies as well and effectively as Irving. My love started with A Prayer for Owen Meany, but has since extended to many of his other novels as well.

5. J.K Rowling. Both Harry Potter related and adult novels. She kicks ass in both forms, I don’t care what anyone says about The Casual Vacancy. I own the Galbraith novels, I just haven’t had a chance to read them yet.

6. Anne Rice. With a caveat, only concerning her Vampire Chronicles books. All the Mayfair Witches, werewolves, and Christ just don’t do it for me. Lestat is where it’s at.

7. Roald Dahl. I know he’s dead, that doesn’t mean I don’t yearn for more of his writing.

8. Herman Koch. The deliciously twisty Dutch writer. I only know of two of his books (The Dinner and Summer House With Swimming Pool) that have been translated to English, but you can bet I’m on the lookout for more.

9. Gillian FlynnI will not be judged! Even if Gone Girl wasn’t your bag, she wrote two other delightfully dark novels that I thoroughly enjoyed. I want novel number four.

10. Nadia Bolz-Weber. Yes, I realize she’s Lutheran clergy. Yes. I realize I’m an atheist. But I love her work and I think that she’s doing some fabulous writing (and preaching) that the U.S. and the world desperately needs to hear. Faithful or not.

What about you, Reader? What are your top ten must buy authors?

April

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Sunday Salon: #boutofbooks Edition: On a Monday

Posted 17 August, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in blogging, memes

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Time // 7:14 PM EDT

Motivation // Hahahaha. So. I totally couldn’t rev myself up to write a post yesterday, so here we are now. I totally forgot about #boutofbooks starting. Though I’d like to think that I’m going to read this:

IMG_0010I’ll probably end up reading this:

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A crate full of case files.

I’m not bitching. I’m enjoying the work and it’s good to be doing something useful, but I’m about to start feeling overwhelmed.

Because // We found a house. The inspection didn’t turn up anything too concerning, so we should be closing sometime next month. It’s closer to my work so maybe I’ll have more energy for all sorts of things… like reading, blogging,… family. Who knows.

It’s pretty much taking everything I have not to make a list of things I need to do here for my own edification. How was your week Reader? Plans for #boutofbooks?

April

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If This, Then That: Emma and Clueless

Posted 14 August, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

If This, Then That: Emma and CluelessEmma by Jane Austen
Published by Wild Jot Press on 1815
Genres: Classics, Fiction
Pages: 298
Format: Audiobook
Goodreads
four-stars
Arrogant, self-willed and egotistical, Emma is Jane Austen's most unusual heroine. Her interfering ways and inveterate matchmaking are at once shocking and comic. She is 'handsome, clever and rich' and has 'a disposition to think too well of herself'. When she decides to introduce the humble Harriet Smith to the delights of genteel society and to find her a suitable husband, she precipitates herself and her immediate circle into a web of misunderstanding and intrigue, from which no-one emerges unchanged. Juliet Stevenson, an incomparable reader, is for many the voice of Jane Austen.

I’ve long known that Clueless was based on Jane Austen’s Emma, but since I’m not a huge Austen fan it took me a long time to verify for myself. I listened to Emma on audio and actually found it immensely enjoyable. Naturally, I was trying to figure out who was who in Clueless. According to the Wikipedia page, I was pretty on point except that I thought that Dionne and Murray were Ms. Taylor and Mr. Weston, instead of Isabella and John Knightly.

Clueless poster

Despite being set in ’90s Beverly Hills, Clueless is actually a pretty faithful adaptation of Austen’s classic. I loved Emma, even if she was a little shallow and well, rather… clueless. There were times when I pretty much wanted to shank her dad, Mr. Woodhouse. I wanted him to just let the people eat. I mean really. As if!

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I enjoyed the push and pull of Frank Churchill and Austen’s expert rendering of Emma’s inner dialogue. Her tumultuous feelings about Jane Fairfax that seemed to change at the drop of a hat, the cattiness and youthful irritation she feels towards Miss Bates — I just enjoyed it all.

I love that Emma is both a classic comedy of manners and a cautionary tale to young people who presume to know it all before their time, the dangers of assumptions, and why we should just all be up front and honest.

While when listening to the audio, I didn’t visualize most of the characters from Clueless, George Knightly was the exception I couldn’t envision the character chasing Emma up the hill or socializing in her sitting room without thinking of the adorable Paul Rudd.

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I enjoyed Emma more than I thought I would, based on experiences by similar authors of this time period. It’s definitely worth the read. Clueless is definitely worth the comparison watch.

What about you, Reader? How do you feel about Austen? Clueless? Emma? Let’s chat!

April

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Library Love: Two Mini Reviews

Posted 12 August, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

mt charThe Library at Mount Char by: Scott Hawkins

Mini Synopsis: Carolyn and her adopted siblings are taken in by a seemingly immortal man who has taught them strange, ancient powers. Now Father has gone missing…

Thoughts and Feelings: I thought this book was tons of fun. There was a twist and turn around every corner. Of course being a serious reader anything with the word ‘library’ in the title or about ‘librarians’ is going to appeal to me. This isn’t an overly literary book, not a whole lot of deep themes for discussion or anything, but I have to say it’s an immensely readable book where it’s nearly impossible to figure out what comes next. Highly recommended.

Who’s Going to Like it? Science fiction/fantasy people are going to like it, the apocalyptic crowd might find parts of it appealing as well. People who stick completely with literary fiction… hard to say. 4.5/5

 

 

strange libraryThe Strange Library by: Haruki Murakami

Mini Synopsis: (Goodreads) A lonely boy, a mysterious girl, and a tormented sheep man plot their escape from the nightmarish library of internationally acclaimed, best-selling Haruki Murakami’s wild imagination.

Thoughts and Feelings: Well clearly I couldn’t write a synopsis better than that. This was my second Murakami after the epic 1Q84, it was so different! I loved this little barely novella. It had the feeling of a fairy tale in both style and substance. It was so delightful and charming while at the same time being creepy and weird. Fantastic!

Who’s Going to Like it? Hard core Murakami fans, obviously. Also anyone looking for a little bit of magical, creepy, weirdness. 5/5 stars

Of course our resident Murakami fangirl over at Lovely Bookshelf has a great review of The Strange Library.

 

Has anyone read either of these? Thoughts? Feelings? Read any good library themed books lately, Reader?

April

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Must Read Monday: The Beautiful Bureaucrat

Posted 10 August, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

Must Read Monday: The Beautiful BureaucratThe Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips
Published by Henry Holt and Company on August 11th 2015
Genres: Fiction, General, Literary, Thrillers
Pages: 192
Format: eARC
Goodreads
four-half-stars

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for consideration of an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

In a windowless building in a remote part of town, the newly employed Josephine inputs an endless string of numbers into something known only as The Database. After a long period of joblessness, she's not inclined to question her fortune, but as the days inch by and the files stack up, Josephine feels increasingly anxious in her surroundings-the office's scarred pinkish walls take on a living quality, the drone of keyboards echoes eerily down the long halls. When one evening her husband Joseph disappears and then returns, offering no explanation as to his whereabouts, her creeping unease shifts decidedly to dread.As other strange events build to a crescendo, the haunting truth about Josephine's work begins to take shape in her mind, even as something powerful is gathering its own form within her. She realizes that in order to save those she holds most dear, she must penetrate an institution whose tentacles seem to extend to every corner of the city and beyond.

I just finished this little tome and holy poop on a stick guys – it knocked my socks off. I feel like The Beautiful Bureaucrat has something for everyone. It’s full of intrigue, a dash of magical realism,  and a whole lot of excellent writing.

It felt a little bit like a grown-up Wrinkle in Time, though why exactly it felt that way — I can’t exactly put my finger on it. But I loved the slightly science fiction feel that didn’t necessarily go overboard and take The Beautiful Bureaucrat into the realm of genre fiction. Admittedly, the characters are a bit flat, but because of the slimness and the surreal feeling of the novel, that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

I love the wordplay within the novel, which screams of symbolism – perhaps Josephine’s descent into madness working her job. I love how she eventually started referring to her husband by his social security number. I love the Every Place feeling of The City vs. The Hinterlands.

Some reviewers found The Beautiful Bureaucrat to be somewhat Orwellian, I didn’t necessarily have that feeling — though there was definitely the sense that Josephine was being watched.

Anyway, I don’t want to oversell The Beautiful Bureaucrat, but I think that the length of the novel makes it accessible to everyone and to me it was completely delightful.

What do you think, Reader? Does this sound like something that might be up your alley? 

April

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Sunday Salon: Sainthood Edition

Posted 9 August, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in memes, musings, Reading

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Time // 9:22 AM EDT

Place // The doghouse. I pulled what I like to refer to as ‘a man’, but what is more accurately described in my relationship as ‘an April’ and made a major purchase of a new phone without consulting The Mister. While lying in bed next to him… … I promise it was less sneakiness and more thoughtlessness. When the iPhone6 came out last year I was an idiot and used my upgrade to only get the one with 16 gigs of storage, I had to have more… like 112 gigs more. The man really should be a candidate for sainthood for putting up with me. He doesn’t even read this, so you know I must mean it.

Reading // Finishing up the audio for Jo Nesbø’s The Son, a decent enough Scandinavian thriller I guess. Also about to finish up reading Atwood’s upcoming The Heart Goes Last, as I suspected it is basically the entirety of the published Positron Serials in one book, expanded, and with (I hope!) an ending. I’m not sure what’s next up though, I got a recommendation from a co-worker that looks pretty intriguing. Huzzah for free-range reading!

Happenings // Went to a birthday party with friends on Friday night at a local establishment resembling a Dave and Buster’s with an indoor go-kart track. It’s been a million years since I went go-karting, played skee-ball, or arcade games in general. To end the night a group of us ended up in the parking lot behind a Krispy Kreme at midnight just goofing off and eating doughnuts. (The dining room was closed, okay?!)  Ah, to be sixteen again. Good times. (…and another example of why The Mister is a damned saint, he stayed home with The Girl so I could pretend I was sixteen.)

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We’re terminating machines.

Family // The Girl started her new Montessori school this week. We had some hiccoughs because I pulled an April and never opened the ‘Welcome Letter’ email that the school sent. I mean… seriously, ‘welcome letter’ sounds like there’s nothing at all substantive in it. Well, there was and it was Wednesday before I hunted down the required white cloth napkins we were supposed to be sending with her lunchbox. I thought The Mister was going to have a stroke. But that’s all sorted out now.

Trying to buy // a house. We’re putting in a bid today on house number four (we’ve already bid and lost on three prior houses), this is important because we got an email this morning from our ridiculous landlords saying they’ve sold the rental that we’re living in and would like to close ASAP. (We weren’t even aware it was on the market and if they’ve been showing it we haven’t known.) Fingers crossed.

Confessed // to much of the office that I have a blog. I’m terrible at keeping my own secrets, but great at keeping secrets that belong to others. Hi Office!! *waves*

Edit //  I also wanted to share this post from some dear IRL friends about dealing with scary things during pregnancy. Get your tissues out.

What about you, Reader? Have you had an eventful week? Tell me!

April

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1001 Mini Reviews

Posted 24 July, 2015 by April @ The Steadfast Reader in Reviews

So, as you can see from my tabs above I’m attempting the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2010) challenge. I’m not reviewing every book, but when I get low on other things to talk about they make for some good backlist discussion. I have three recent reads turned mini reviews for you.

1001 mini

Zorba the Greek by: Nikos Kazantzakis – #573

Short Synopsis: Two men travel to Crete together. The narrator opens a lignite mine and Zorba talks a lot.

Itty Bitty Review: This book was definitely not my cuppa. I know it was originally published in 1946 but I found Zorba’s attitudes towards and about women to be nearly offensive. The meandering conversations between the narrator and Zorba feel absolutely dated and dull. Maybe something was lost in translation, but this book didn’t work at all for me. 2/5 stars.

Neuromancer by: William Gibson – #233

Short Synopsis: Gritty sci-fi, dystopian future where data thieves and hackers are major players in the criminal underworld and one hacker has to take on an AI for a mysterious employer.

Itty Bitty Review: This book was almost too gritty for me. I have to disagree with comparisons to 1984 and Brave New World, those are way better than Neuromancer. By no means is this book bad, I read it in a matter of days, but it was kind of ‘meh’ for me. I think that people who really enjoy this genre will really enjoy this book. 3/5 stars.

Underworld by: Don DeLillo – #71

Short Synopsis: … I can’t even. Here’s Goodreads:

While Eisenstein documented the forces of totalitarianism and Stalinism upon the faces of the Russian peoples, DeLillo offers a stunning, at times overwhelming, document of the twin forces of the Cold War and American culture, compelling that “swerve from evenness” in which he finds events and people both wondrous and horrifying.

Itty Bitty Review: I know… what? Which is pretty much my reaction to the whole book. Anyone who cares to explain this book to me I would greatly appreciate it. For real. I missed something deep AND important with this book and I love DeLillo’s White Noise. I can’t even rate it because I don’t know what the hell it’s about.

Read any big classic or modern classic novels lately, Reader?Does anyone understand Underworld?

April

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