Saturday, June 23, 2012

Come for a visit

Posted by Simcha 4:38 PM, under | 1 comment

Come visit me at Wordsmithonia where I have a guest post recommending books that will help keep you cool in the summer heat. Feel free to let know about any other books that you think make good summer reads.










Thursday, June 21, 2012

Free audiobooks for the summer

Posted by Simcha 4:57 PM, under | 4 comments

Summer is now here and you know what that means. Free audiobooks, of course!

Once again Sync is running their summer audio book program where each week they offer two new audiobooks for free, one of which is a classic novel and the other contemporary.

Here are this week's two free audiobook downloads:



Irises by Francisco X. Stork, Read by Carrington MacDuffie

Two sisters discover what's truly worth living for in the new novel by the author of MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD.

TWO SISTERS: Kate is bound for Stanford and an M.D. -- if her family will let her go. Mary wants only to stay home and paint. When their loving but repressive father dies, they must figure out how to support themselves and their mother, who is in a permanent vegetative state, and how to get along in all their uneasy sisterhood.

THREE YOUNG MEN: Then three men sway their lives: Kate's boyfriend Simon offers to marry her, providing much-needed stability. Mary is drawn to Marcos, though she fears his violent past. And Andy tempts Kate with more than romance, recognizing her ambition because it matches his own.

ONE AGONIZING CHOICE: Kate and Mary each find new possibilities and darknesses in their sudden freedom. But it's Mama's life that might divide them for good -- the question of *if* she lives, and what's worth living for.

IRISES is Francisco X. Stork's most provocative and courageous novel yet.

Download it here

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Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen, Read by Wanda McCaddon

Jane Austen's first published novel, Sense and Sensibility is a wonderfully entertaining tale of flirtation and folly that revolves around two starkly different sisters, Elinor and Marianne Dashwood. While Elinor is thoughtful, considerate, and calm, her younger sister is emotional and wildly romantic. Both are looking for a husband, but neither Elinor's reason nor Marianne's passion can lead them to perfect happiness-as Marianne falls for an unscrupulous rascal and Elinor becomes attached to a man who's already engaged. Startling secrets, unexpected twists, and heartless betrayals interrupt the marriage games that follow. Filled with satiric wit and subtle characterizations, Sense and Sensibility teaches that true love requires a balance of reason and emotion.

Download it here

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These are the titles that will be offered in the following weeks.

June 28 – July 4, 2012

The Amulet of Samarkand by Jonathan Stroud, Read by Simon Jones (Listening Library)

Tales from the Arabian Nights by Andrew Lang, Read by Toby Stephens (Naxos AudioBooks)


July 5 – July 11, 2012

Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake, Read by August Ross (AudioGO)

The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins, Read by Ian Holm (AudioGO)



July 12 – July 18, 2012

Guys Read: Funny Business by Jon Scieszka [Ed.] et al., Read by Michael Boatman, Kate DiCamillo, John Keating, Jon Scieszka, Bronson Pinchot (Harper Audio)

The Notorious Jumping Frog of Calaveras County and Other Stories by Mark Twain, Read by Norman Dietz (Recorded Books)


July 19 – July 25, 2012

Cleopatra’s Moon by Vicky Alvear Shecter, Read by Kirsten Potter (Oasis Audio)

Antony and Cleopatra by William Shakespeare, Read by a Full Cast (AudioGO)




July 26 – August 1, 2012

Pinned by Alfred C. Martino, Read by Mark Shanahan (Listen & Live Audio)

TBA (Brilliance Audio)


August 2 – August 8, 2012

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, Read by Khristine Hvam (Hachette Audio)

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, Read by Simon Prebble (Blackstone Audio)





August 9 – August 15, 2012

Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy, Read by Rupert Degas (Harper Audio)

Dead Men Kill by L. Ron Hubbard, Read by Jennifer Aspen and a Full Cast (Galaxy Press)

August 16 – August 22, 2012

The Whale Rider by Witi Ihimaera, Read by Jay Laga’aia (Bolinda Audio)

The Call of the Wild by Jack London, Read by William Roberts (Naxos AudioBooks)


Unfortunately not all of these titles are available to international readers. Visit this page to see which books are available to non-US listeners.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Wonder by R.J. Palacio

Posted by Simcha 5:36 PM, under | 5 comments

If I were able to choose one book to send back in time to my younger-self that book would be Wonder. Perhaps reading this book as a preteen would have given me the right perspective to help me overcome my discomfort around people who are physically disabled. Perhaps if I had read this book when I was in fifth grade I would have understood that my paralyzed, wheelchair-bound classmate was not that different than myself and perhaps I would have shed my discomfort and gone over to befriend her. At least, I would like to think so.


Wonder puts us in the head of eleven year-old Auggie Pullman who, after years of surgery, is about to attend school for the first time. Auggie is nervous because he knows that the kids will laugh and stare, and maybe even run away. It happens all of the time. Even after all of the surgeries, his deformed features tend to startle, and sometimes frighten, both children and adults. But now Auggie is ready to give school a try and perhaps show the other kids that inside he really is just like them.


After Wonder introduces us to Auggie and allows us get to know him a bit, it then switches to the point of view of Auggie's older sister who struggles with her own adjustments to high school and to creating for herself an identity independent of her younger brother. The narration also switches between several of Auggie's new classmates who describe their experiences interacting with Auggie, before returning back to the point of view of Auggie himself. Normally I don't like it when a story is handed around to so many different narrators but it worked very well in this situation, providing us with a better understanding of the different characters involved and their interactions with Auggie.


With all of the stories circulating about bullying I had expected Wonder to be a bit darker than it was but it turned out to be a sweet and heartwarming story. While there are a few bullies who take pleasure in picking on Auggie there are also those kids who reach out to befriend him and who realize just how funny and fun Auggie really is. Auggie is also surrounded by a warm and loving family who do their best to guide and protect him. By the end Auggie does manage to convince his fellow schoolmates to overlook his differences and to see him as he really is, and as one of them.


I think Wonder conveys a really important message for kids about looking under the surface and not judging others strictly by their looks. It give children a protagonist that they can relate to and sympathize with, especially in the face of adversity. It makes them want to be the kid who stands by Auggie's side, not the one ridiculing him, and hopefully it will make them rethink similar real-life situations. I would like to think that this would have been my reaction if I had read the book when I was a kid though even as an adult the book's message is one that I will be holding on to.



Monday, June 18, 2012

The Thorn and the Blossom by Theodora Goss

Posted by Simcha 4:25 PM, under | 6 comments

I have been wanting to read The Thorn and the Blossom from the moment I first heard about it. Based on a romantic 14th century poem and able to be read in two different ways, this sounded like a fun and unique book.

When I finally did get a hold of The Thorn and the Blossom I was impressed by the lovely box it came in and the obvious consideration that went into the book's design. When a majority of my reading time is spent clutching the hard plastic- cover of my Nook I have come to really appreciate a well-crafted book.

The story itself was sweet, telling of two teenagers, Evelyn and Brandon, who meet and quickly fall-in love but whose budding relationship comes to a halt when Evelyn abruptly runs off. Years later Evelyn and Brandon unexpectedly meet again and the feelings that they had for each other immediately resurface, but a secret from their years apart may prevent them from ever being together.

The text in the book is printed on both sides of the paper and the paper is folded in an accordion style so that it can be read on both sides. If you begin reading on one side of the book you get Evelyn's point of view and if you start on the other you get Brendan's POV. It's up to the reader to decide where to begin. And once both sides are read the full story comes together and it becomes clear what will happen next. I do have to say, though, that the unconventional way that this book was put together made it a bit awkward to handle at times. It had no binding and if not held tightly the pages would sag to the floor. Luckily this only happened to me once.

The book is pretty short, I read in within an hour, and I might have been disappointed by this if I hadn't been in the mood for just this kind of story. I had just finished a 1,000 page novel and was looking for something short and light to enjoy for "dessert." As it was, The Thorn and the Blossom hit the spot.

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Thank you to Quirk Books for providing me with a copy of The Thorn and the Blossom for review

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