As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

November 30, 2011

GEEK: FANTASY NOVEL, by E. Archer, 2011


What happens when a science geek and magic collide? Be careful what you wish for. Really. Because wishes are bad. Very bad. They can get you trapped in fantasy worlds full of killer bunny rabbits, evil aunts, and bothersome bacteria, for example. Or at least that's Ralph's experience. He's been asked to spend the summer with his strange British relatives at their old manor house in order to set up their Wi-Fi network. But there's much more to it than that, of course. It's just that nobody told Ralph. (Goodreads)

Review by Laura Madsen, veterinarian, mom, writer, and geek


I confess: I am a geek by any common definition of the word.

Science major in college? Check
Played D&D? Check
Been to a Star Trek convention? Check
Own a color-coordinated set of 4-, 6-, 8-, 10-, 12- and 20-sided dice? Check
Able to quote entire scenes of Star Wars? Check
Have a home wi-fi network with five or more devices connected to it? Check

So when I saw the cover of GEEK: FANTASY NOVEL at the library, illustrated with a glasses-wearing geek in a battle helm, I picked up the book and flipped the pages. When I saw the list of possessions the protagonist packs for a trip (including 1 Petri Dish, 1 set of High Elf Figurines, 2 Laptops and 1 Novelization of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan), I had to get the book.

Ralph is an American teenage geek who dreams of designing video games. His parents love him, but for his entire life they have adamantly prohibited him from making wishes, even a simple wish while blowing out a birthday candle. They explain to him that many people on his family tree have died from making wishes, for example one who “wished for money and wound up with a coin-shaped tunnel through her body after a gold piece was shot at her from a cannon.”

Ralph is invited by the eccentric British branch of his family to spend the summer installing a computer network in their castle. He has fun with his cousins, Beatrice, Cecil and Daphne, and comes to understand that his parents’ prohibition on wishes is because of his Aunt Chessie, the Duchess of Cheshire, and her magic wish-granting ability.

Soon he is launched into the fantasy land of Cecil’s wish, a creepy place reminiscent of Niel Gaiman’s Faerie in STARDUST, where Chessie and her minions try to kill him in various flamboyant ways. Ralph is infected by Shambling Mound Distemper, attacked by fairies, afflicted by pyrotechnically hyperallergenic cold-fused nuclear ragweed, and nearly stabbed by a unicorn-horn stiletto—all in his first two hours. Things deteriorate after that.

The writing is very entertaining, and the narrator is intriguingly unreliable.



Market: Young adult (fantasy)
Language: mild
Sensuality: mild
Violence: moderate, but in a funny way
Adult themes: murder, betrayal, fairy slavery

Book formats:

November 21, 2011

WANT TO WIN A BOOK OF YOUR CHOICE?!


We want to hear about your favorite books!

Between now and November 30th, if you submit a review of a book you liked (no matter how long ago it was published), you will be entered into a drawing to win ANY BOOK OF YOUR CHOICE that has been reviewed on Bookshop Talk, or written by an author that we’ve interviewed. You can even win more than one! (And yes, the books will - if readily available on Amazon - arrive before the holidays, so you could give one as a gift!)

We will give away one book for every ten reviews we receive. And your name will be entered into the drawing for every review that you submit.

If you are choosing between books to review, we REALLY need some non-fantasy reviews this time around. We still have quite a stockpile of those to post in the future, and we want to provide as much variety as possible on Bookshop Talk (but don't hold back if your favorite recent read is fantasy. We'll still take it!).

So raid your Goodreads & Amazon reviews, blog, or whatever, and send Bookshop Talk reviews of the books that you would like to recommend to others!

For instructions on how to format and submit an acceptable review (you only have to write 3-5 paragraphs) visit our Contact page here.

Below is an alphabetized list of the books that have already been reviewed, or will be posted before the end of the drawing. Please look over this list before you submit a new review:


ALANNA: SONG OF THE LIONESS, by Tamora Pierce
ALL-OF-A-KIND FAMILY, by Sydney Taylor
AUSTENLAND, by Shannon Hale
BALLET SHOES, by Noel Streatfeild

BEAUTY, by Robin McKinley
BEFORE I FALL, by Lauren Oliver
THE BELGARIAD SERIES, by David Eddings
BENEATH A MARBLE SKY, by John Shors
BIG PUMPKIN, by Erica Silverman
THE BLUE CASTLE, by L.M. Montgomery
THE BOOK OF LOST TALES, by J.R.R. Tolkien
THE BOOK THIEF, by Markus Zusak
BROWN BEAR, BROWN BEAR, WHAT DO YOU SEE, by Eric Carle
THE CATER STREET HANGMAN, by Anne Perry
CHICKEN CHEEKS, by Michael Ian Black
CHIME, by Franny Billingsley
THE CHOICE, by Og Mandino
THE CHRONICLES OF PRYDAIN (you could choose any book in the series), by Lloyd Alexander
CLEOPATRA: A LIFE, by Stacy Schiff
CLICK, CLACK, MOO: COWS THAT TYPE, by Doreen Cronin
CLOCKWORK ANGEL by Cassandra Clare
CROCODILE ON THE SANDBANK, by Elizabeth Peters
CROWN DUEL, by Sherwood Smith
THE DARK CITY, by Catherine Fisher
THE DARK LORD OF DERKHOLM, by Diana Wynne Jones
DEALING WITH DRAGONS, by Patricia C. Wrede
THE DEATH-DEFYING PEPPER ROUX, by Geraldine McCaughrean
THE DESERT OF SOULS, by Howard Andrew Jones
DINOSAUR ROAR, by Henrietta Stickland, illustrated by Paul Stickland
DINOSAURS LOVE UNDERPANTS, by Claire Freedman
DISMISSED WITH PREJUDICE, by Christopher Meyerhoeffer
THE DISTANT HOURS, by Kate Morton
DOOBY, DOOBY, MOO, by Doreen Cronin
DON'T WAKE UP THE BEAR, by Marjorie Dennis Murray
DRAGON AND THIEF, by Timothy Zahn
DRAGON SLIPPERS, by Jessica Day George
EAST, by Edith Pattou
EMMA, by Jane Austen
FAERIES OF DREAMDARK: BLACKBRINGER, by Laini Taylor
THE FAIRY’S MISTAKE, by Gail Carson Levine
FEVER 1793, by Laurie Halse Anderson
FLY BY NIGHT by Frances Harding
FREDDY THE DETECTIVE by Walter R. Brooks
THE FROG PRINCESS, by E.D. Baker
FORTUNE'S FOLLY, by Deva Fagan
THE GAMMAGE CUP, by Carol Kendall
GIGGLE, GIGGLE, QUACK, by by Doreen Cronin
THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING, by Catherynne M. Valente
THE GIVER, by Lois Lowry
THE GLASS CASTLE, by Jeannette Walls
THE GODDESS TEST, by Aimee Carter
THE GOLDEN AGE By John C. Wright
GOODNIGHT GOON, by Michael Rex
GOODNIGHT MOON, by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Clement Hurd
GOOD OMENS, by Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett
THE GOOSE GIRL, by Shannon Hale
GRACE, by Elizabeth Scott
THE GRAVEYARD BOOK, by Neil Gaiman
THE GRIMM LEGACY, by Polly Shulman
GREGOR THE OVERLANDER, by Suzanne Collins
THE GUERNSEY LITERARY AND POTATO PEEL PIE SOCIETY, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
HARMONIC FEEDBACK, by Tara Kelly
THE HALLO-WIENER, by Dav Pilkey
HARRY POTTER (you could choose any book in the series), by J.K. Rowling
HARRY POTTER FILM WIZARDY, by Brian Sibley
THE HELP, by Kathryn Stockett
THE HIDING PLACE, by Corrie Ten Boom
THE HOBBIT, by J.R.R. Tolkien
HOMER’S ODDYSEY: A FEARLESS FELINE TALE, OR HOW I LEARNED ABOUT LIFE AND LOVE WITH A BLIND WONDER CAT, by Gwen Cooper
HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, by Dr. Seuss
THE HUNGER GAMES, by Suzanne Collins
I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER, by Dan Wells
I CAPTURE THE CASTLE, by Dodie Smith
I LOVE YOU THE PURPLEST, by Barbara M. Joosse
INSIDE OUT, by Maria V. Synder
THE INSIDE OUT/OUTSIDE IN SERIES, by Maria V. Snyder 
THE IMMORTAL LIFE OF HENRIETTA LACKS, by Rebecca Skloot
JEMIMA J: A NOVEL ABOUT UGLY DUCKLINGS AND SWANS, by Jane Green
JONATHAN STRANGE AND MR NORRELL, by Susanna Clarke
JUST ELLA, by Margaret Peterson Haddix
KETURAH AND LORD DEATH, by Martine Leavitt
A KISS IN TIME, by Alex Flinn 
THE LAST WALTZ, by G.G. Vandagriff
LEVIATHAN, by Scott Westerfeld
LIMBO, by A. Manette Ansay
THE LION AND THE MOUSE, by Jerry Pinkney
LOVE AMONG THE WALNUTS, by Jean Ferris MAGYK, by Angie Sage
LOVE THAT DOG, by Sharon Creech
MAGYK, by Angie Sage
A MANGO-SHAPED SPACE, by Wendy Mass
THE MAP OF TIME, by Felix J. Palma
MARTINA THE BEAUTIFUL COCKROACH, by Carmen Agra Deedy
MATCHED, by Ally Condie
MEMENTO NORA, by Angie Smibert
MIDNIGHT PEARLS, by Debbie Viguie
MISTBORN, by Brandon Sanderson
MOLOKA’I, by Alan Brennert
MOON OVER MANIFEST, by Clare Vanderpool
MOSTLY GOOD GIRLS, by Leila Sales
MR. WILMER, by Robert Lawson
MY FAIR GODMOTHER, by Janette Rallison
NATION, by Terry Pratchett
NEVER SNIFF A GIFT FISH, by Patrick McManus
NOT A PENNY MORE, NOT A PENNY LESS, by Jeffrey Archer
OUTSIDE IN, by Maria V. Snyder
THE OUTSPOKEN PRINCESS AND THE GENTLE KNIGHT, edited by Jack Zipes
PAJAMA TIME, by Sandra Boynton
THE PARADISE PROPHECY, by Robert Browne
The PARASOL PROTECTORATE SERIES, by Gail Carriger
PEGASUS, by Robin McKinley
PICTURES OF HOLLIS WOODS, by Patricia Reilly Giff
THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH, by Ken Follett
THE PIPER’S SON, by Melina Marchetta
POSSESSION: A ROMANCE, by A.S. Byatt
PRINCESS OF GLASS, by Jessica Day George
THE RANGER'S APPRENTICE SERIES by John Flanagan
THE REDEMPTION OF ALTHALUS, by David and Leigh Eddings
RESTORING HARMONY, by Joëlle Anthony
ROMANCING MISS BRONTË, by Juliet Gael
SAILOR MOO: COW AT SEA, by Lisa Wheeler
THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL, by Baroness Orczy
THE SECRET GARDEN, by Frances Hodgson Burnett
THE SECRET OF THE SIRENS, by Julia Golding
THE SHADOWS, by Jacqueline West
SHADOW SPINNER, by Susan Fletcher
SHANGHAI GIRLS, by Lisa See
THE SHEEN ON THE SILK, by Anne Perry
THE SHIFTER, by Janice Hardy
THE SIXTY-EIGHT ROOMS, by Marianne Malone
SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE, by Kurt Vonnegut
SO BRAVE, YOUNG, AND HANDSOME, by Leif Enger
THE SQUIRE’S TALES SERIES (you could choose any book in the series), by Gerald Morris
STARDUST, by Neil Gaiman
SUN AND MOON, ICE AND SNOW, by Jessica Day George
THE SWEETEST FIG, by Chris Van Allsburg
T. REX TRICK-OR-TREATS, by Lois G. Grambling
THE TATTOOED POTATO AND OTHER CLUES, by Ellen Raskin
THE THIEF, by Megan Whalen Turner
THREE CUPS OF TEA, by Greg Mortensen and Oliver Renin
THUMP, QUACK, MOO, by Doreen Cronin
TIMECAT, by Lloyd Alexander
THE TIME-TRAVELING FASHIONISTA, by Bianca Turetsky
TOOTH AND CLAW, by Jo Walton
THE TWO PRINCESSES OF BAMARRE, by Gail Carson Levine
TUESDAYS AT THE CASTLE, by Jessica Day George
THE UNDERNEATH, by Kathi Appelt
THE WAR OF ART, by Steven Pressfield
WHAT I SAW AND HOW I LIED, by Judy Blundell
WHEN A MONSTER IS BORN, by Sean Taylor
WINTERGIRLS, by Laurie Halse Anderson
WITCH WEEK, by Diana Wynne Jones

IN ADDITION, THESE REVIEWS HAVE ALREADY BEEN ACCEPTED AND WILL BE POSTED IN THE UPCOMING WEEKS:

The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, by Sherman Alexie
ODYSSEY, by Homer
WORLD WAR Z, by Max Brooks
A DISCOVERY OF WITCHES, by Deborah Harkness
THE NEAR WITCH, by Victoria Schwab
THE NIGHT CIRCUS, Erin Morgenstern
The Aldous Lexicon Trilogy, by Michael Lawrence
THE CHOSEN, by Chaim Potok
THE MAGICIANS, by Lev Grossman
The Prophecy of the Stones, by Flavia Bujor, 2002
Shades of Milk and Honey, by Mary Robinette Kowal
PLAIN KATE, by Erin Bow
THE WATER SEEKER, by Kimberly Willis Holt
FAVORITE NURSERY RHYMES FROM MOTHER GOOSE
PERCY JACKSON & THE OLYMPIANS: THE LIGHTNING THIEF, by Rick Riordan
Izzy, Willy-nilly, by Cynthia Voigt
GEEK: FANTASY NOVEL, by E. Archer
THE QUEST OF THE WARRIOR SHEEP, by Christine & Christopher Russell
WHEN DINOSAURS CAME WITH EVERYTHING, by Elise Broach and David Small
PRINCESS OF THE MIDNIGHT BALL, by Jessica Day George


AUTHORS WE’VE INTERVIEWED:
Carol Lynch Williams
Claudia Gabel
Eileen Cook
Gail Carriger
Gail Carson Levine
Guy Gavriel Kay
James Dashner
Jessica Day George
Joëlle Anthony
Leila Sales
Sarah Beth Durst
Sara Zarr
Shannon Hale
Wendy Mass

Remember, the deadline to submit is 11:59 pm on Nov 30th. If your name is picked in the drawing, you can choose any of these books, and your chances go up with every review you submit.

Winners will be announced December 1st!

Good Luck!!

*If your name is drawn and you live outside the Continental U.S., we will send you an Amazon Gift Card for $15.

November 17, 2011

Awesome Audio Books!


By Amy Finnegan - writer, reader, Bookshop Talk host

I have a problem: I’m addicted to reading.

No WAIT, that isn’t exactly true. Reading itself isn’t the thing I’m addicted to—it’s good storytelling that I can’t tear myself away from.

But as much as I’d like to, I can’t read a book while I’m running errands, or on a long drive. Or cleaning. Or working out. So several years ago, I discovered audio books, and I’ve been madly in love ever since.

The first audio book I remember listening to was John Grisham’s THE FIRM, way back in the day when my library had . . . oh, just 50 or so “Books on Tape” to borrow. And I was blown away! 

Over the past decade or so, I’ve listened to—literally—hundreds of audio books, and many of them have been fantastic. But today, I’m only going to tell you about the audio books that I find myself recommending over and over and over again, because both the story and the narration are simply AMAZING.

In my opinion, the far-and-away king of all audio books is HARRY POTTER (any or all of them). This also happens to be the best novel series ever, so adding the most entertaining narration in history quadruples the magic of these stories!

Jim Dale’s narration is so excellent that if you’re already a fan of HP, trust me when I say that you’ll enjoy HARRY POTTER even more if you listen to the audio books. And if you’ve never read the series, “kid’s books” or not, you are missing out on a literary adventure that you can’t begin to imagine. And I must also add that, yes, the movies are GREAT, but they hardly touch the full scope of the stories, or the lovability of these very real characters. One way or another, READ/LISTEN to these books (again, and again)! 

My next favorite narration is THE HELP, written by Kathryn Stockett, and narrated by four excellent readers. The story itself is too wonderful for a quick plug here, so if you need convincing, you can read Jessica Day George’s review of it here on Bookshop Talk. The audio version brings the story ALIVE, and again, adds a 3-D dimension to the novel (I also loved the recently released movie, although it didn’t quite do the book justice). 

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society . . . Wow, and wow again. The audio version of this novel is performed by several different narrators, giving each character a life of its own. You can find a glowing review of this very unique novel on Bookshop Talk.  

The Book Thief will make you smile, break your heart, and leave you in awe. And the audio narration is miraculously worthy of the story. Read a review of the novel here

THE GRAVEYARD BOOK is read by the author himself, the incomparable Neil Gaiman, and what a treat!! (Read review here). Author narrations can sometimes be a disaster, but Gaiman is spectacular, throwing a whimsical spin on his characters that only he can do. Other excellent author-narrators include Sara Zarr & Libba Bray.

As far as Classics go, there are audio books aplenty. But in my experience, it’s difficult to find a narration that isn’t either too dry or overdramatized. Here are a handful of audio versions with just the right tone:





I CAPTURE THE CASTLE (Abridged - ugh! – but still amazing)

For rough and tough guys, both my dad and my husband LOVE Louis L’Amour audio books. 

Nonfiction books can be profoundly easier to get through if you’re listening to an audio version. The best example I can think of is Churchill’s massive volumes of documenting his own history: CHURCHILL. Over 37 hours of listening. No kidding.

I also think that educational/motivational books are usually much more helpful when the author is talking right to you (“Yes, you CAN do it! I know you can! Get off that couch and . . . ”). Want both entertainment and education? Listen to FREAKONOMICS by Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner, which is filled to the brim with some completely engrossing, crazy stuff.

Are there some crappy narrations out there? For sure. Some narrations totally kill the book for me, and I can’t even finish them (The audio version of THE HUNGER GAMES is awful!! But the book itself is one of my all-time favorites).

Excellent narrations have often made a normally labor intensive read for me much easier to get through (Kate Morton’s THE FORGOTTEN GARDEN, for example, or ROMANCING MISS BRONTE by Juliet Gael). Both have great stories, but I'll admit that I often develop "literary ADHD" after a book passes 400 pages.

Despite my love for audio books, I DO still read books. I’d never want to give up the awesome satisfaction in that. But when I really can’t wait to sit down again and finish up a book, I get the audio book version as well, so I don’t HAVE to wait for that next bit of quiet time.

So where do I get all my audio books? Usually Audible.com (and fyi,  no one associated with Bookshop Talk, including myself, benefits from me promoting this site. So this is all 100% honest praise). I freaking LOVE Audible! It is generally way less expensive than other sources such as iTunes (especially if you buy several credits at a time), and you can now buy Audible audio books through Amazon.

Also, your local library likely has a nice stockpile of audio books, so give them a try!


Anyone else out there listening to audio books on a regular basis? If so, please share a few of your favorites! Or does anyone out there not like audio books? Why not?