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review 2018-06-13 05:45
The Dark Maidens (book) story by Rikako Akiyoshi, art by Booota, translated by Kristi Fernandez
The Dark Maidens - Rikako Akiyoshi,Booota,Kristi Fernandez

The Dark Maidens is structured like a meeting of the Literature Club at St. Mary's Academy for Girls, a mission school in Japan. It begins with the current club president, Sayuri Sumikawa, opening the meeting by explaining its rules and purpose. This is both one of the club's infamous "mystery stew" meetings and also the first meeting since the club's previous president, Itsumi Shiraishi, either jumped to her death on school grounds or was pushed.

"Mystery stew" meetings are one of the club's traditions. Each member brings an ingredient to add to the stew. At some meetings only edible things are allowed, but at others, such as this one, inedible things may be added, as long as they aren't unsanitary, like bugs or shoes. Each member must eat the stew in darkness until the pot has been completely emptied. While everyone is eating the stew, members take turns telling stories. The theme, this time around, is Itsumi and her death.

I bought this knowing only that it was a mystery and that its author is a woman - my brief check for English-language reviews prior to hitting the "buy" button didn't turn up much. Happily, it turned out to be a quick and interesting read, despite its flaws.

I disliked the format, at first. Sayuri's introductory section was odd and a little awkward, as she described a room the club members she was speaking to should already know and discussed the death of her best and closest friend in what seemed to be a remarkably calm way. Readers were given no sense of what was going on in the room or how Sayuri or the other members were behaving unless Sayuri put those things into words. Fortunately, the stories the club members told were more traditionally written, and I eventually adjusted to Sayuri's parts.

The first character to tell her story was Mirei, one of the school's few scholarship students. After that came Akane, the club member who preferred baking Western-style sweets over reading, then Diana, an international student from a small village in Bulgaria, then Sonoko, a student aiming for medical school who was also Itsumi's academic rival, and then Shiyo, one of the club's first members and the author of an award-winning light novel. The book wrapped up with a story and closing remarks by Sayuri.

The first story, Mirei's, made it crystal clear that this was not going to be a book about female friendship and support. No, these girls were going to verbally tear each other to shreds - apparently in a very neat and orderly manner, since there was never any mention of outbursts and denials in the breaks between stories (I assume there were and it just wasn't included in Sayuri's text, because I cannot imagine a bunch of girls keeping silent as they're each accused of murder).

The second story added an interesting, if not terribly surprising element, as it directly contradicted the first story. From that point on, I started keeping track of details that came up in more than one story, trying to sort the truth from lies. Literally everyone in the room was lying, but what they were lying about and why wasn't always easy to figure out. Also, some stories had more truth to them than I originally assumed.

I can't say whether the translation was very accurate, but it was pretty smooth and readable. I flew through this book like it was nothing, and I appreciated the way the differing styles of some of the stories reflected the characters. For example, Shiyo's story had a very bubbly and conversational style, while Sonoko's was more detached and stiff (at least at the beginning).

As much as I enjoyed attempting to sort out the truth and lies in the girls' stories, this book definitely had a few glaring flaws. The biggest one was the mystery stew. It wasn't believable in the slightest that the club members would willingly eat the stew when they all thought that one of them was a murderer. Heck, one of them even suspected that

another club member had been poisoning Itsumi's snacks! Since the meeting was supposed to be happening in the dark, it would have been easy for the poisoner to refrain from eating, or fake eating, and wait until the soup had done its job.

(spoiler show)

 
I also had trouble believing that the girls would have been as open about some things as they were. For example, one girl shared that she'd been in love with Itsumi, while another girl admitted that she'd lied to Shiyo about having read her book. Several girls said things they had to have known that others in the group would recognize as lies. Why didn't they worry about being called out for it?

Another problem was that Akiyoshi seemed to have trouble keeping certain details straight, or perhaps hadn't thought them through very well. For example, Sayuri said that the usual rule for "mystery stew" meetings was that club members could only bring edible ingredients and that the rule had been changed for this particular meeting, and yet only a few paragraphs later it was clear that inedible items had been allowed in the past. Also, club members were supposed to eat the soup "in total darkness," and yet the room had 1-2 lit candles in it (one by Sayuri, to allow her to put ingredients in the pot, and one by the spot where members were supposed to read their stories). There was enough light for Sayuri to notice that one girl's face had paled, even after she'd left the storytelling spot - hardly "total darkness."

Despite the book's problems, I had a lot of fun with it and could see myself rereading it in the future. Next time, I think I'll start with the final two chapters and then go back to the beginning, just to see if everything really does fit together.

Extras:

Several black-and-white illustrations. One of them shows all the girls at once. When I tried to attach names to faces, I realized that there wasn't enough descriptive information in the text to do that. I know what Sayuri and Itsumi looked like, because they were both introduced with illustrations, but, as far as I can tell, most of the others were never described.

 

Rating Note:

 

I feel like I'm probably giving this too high of a rating, because, oof, some of those flaws. But I really did have a lot of fun, especially during the last couple chapters, and I decided to reflect that in my rating.

 

(Original review posted on A Library Girl's Familiar Diversions.)

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text 2017-12-14 12:45
Char's Horror Corner: Top Ten Audiobooks of 2017!
Blackwater: The Complete Saga - Michael McDowell,Matt Godfrey
The Lesser Dead - Christopher Buehlman
Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen
Between Two Fires - Christopher Buehlman
The Memory of Running - Recorded Books LLC,Ron McLarty,Ron McLarty
Nightmares and Geezenstacks - Matt Godfrey,Valancourt Books,Fredric Brown
You Will Know Me: A Novel - Megan Abbott,Lauren Fortgang
Behind Her Eyes: A Novel - Sarah Pinborough
The Silver Linings Playbook: A Novel - Matthew Quick,Inc. Blackstone Audio, Inc.,Darwin Porter
Empire Falls - Richard Russo

 

This has been the year of the audiobook for me. I believe I've listened to more of them this year than ever before. And boy, this year brought two of my favorite authors to life through the power of voice. Let's get on with it, shall we? (Oh, and click the cover to see my original review!)

 

 Blackwater by Michael McDowell, narrated by Matt Godfrey

1. My number one audio of the year, (and indeed, of ALL time) is Blackwater. Written by the fabulous Michael McDowell and performed by Matt Godfrey, this epic tale spans generations of the Caskey family and their matriarch, who may or may not be altogether human. The star of this show is McDowell's writing-he brings his sharp wit and his knowledge of family dynamics to the table and then Matt Godfrey brings it all home. Blackwater clocks out at just over 30 hours of listening, and I was never, ever bored. 

 

Blackwater: The Complete Saga - Michael McDowell,Matt Godfrey 

 

 The Lesser Dead written and performed by Christopher Buehlman

2. Christopher Buehlman was unknown to me at the beginning of 2017. Now, in December, I count him among my favorite authors. I've read or listened to ALL of his novels since April, starting with Those Across the River and ending with The Lesser Dead. Mr. Buehlman narrates The Lesser Dead himself and in most cases, I don't think that's wise. In this case, he knocked it out of the park. I later learned that he performs at Renaissance Fairs, sometimes as a storyteller and sometimes as a professional insultor. Perhaps his experiences with performing has honed his voicing skills because this book was KILLER. After I finished listening, I "rewound" it, so to speak, and listened to the last chapter again. Oh my goodness, oh so killer!

 

The Lesser Dead - Christopher Buehlman 

 

Born to Run written and narrated by The Boss

3. I'm not a big fan of Bruce Springsteen, but I'm a bigger fan since I listened to his memoir. I have always been a fan of his songwriting abilities and it seems that that skill transferred well to writing this book. I'm sure a true Springsteen fan would get even more out of this book than I did, but I sure did love listening to that husky voice relate how he got started, learned to dance, (to pick up women), and how he struggled to get and keep a band, not to mention a marriage, together.

 

Born to Run - Bruce Springsteen 

 

Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman, narrated by Steve West

4. Between Two Fires by Christopher Buehlman, narrated by Steve West was totally and completely INSANE! Some truly scary scenes were depicted in this story and thanks to the vivid writing and expressive voicing, I can still picture them clearly in my head. 

 

Between Two Fires - Christopher Buehlman

 

 The Memory of Running, written and performed by Ron McClarty

5. The Memory of Running, written and narrated by Ron McClarty. I got turned on to Ron McClarty because he narrated Empire Falls by Richard Russo. Then, when I looked for additional performances by him I discovered The Memory of Running. From what I gather, it was originally available only as an audio book which Stephen King highly recommended. Eventually it became available in paper form as well. Anyway, Mr. McClarty used to play a recurring judge on Law & Order, but writing and narrating is most definitely his forte. I loved this weird tale of memories, acceptance and bicycling across the United States.

 

 The Memory of Running - Recorded Books LLC,Ron McLarty,Ron McLarty

 

 Nightmares and Geezenstacks by Fredric Brown, narrated by Matt Godfrey

6. A thoroughly entertaining collection of short stories, some of them super short, but all of them a lot of fun. For the most part, I prefer reading short stories rather than listening to them, but Matt Godfrey's talent made me change my mind about that. 

 

Nightmares and Geezenstacks - Matt Godfrey,Valancourt Books,Fredric Brown

 

 

You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott, narrated by Lauren Fortgang

7. Competitive teenage girls are just about the scariest monsters out there, and I know scary!

 

You Will Know Me: A Novel - Megan Abbott,Lauren Fortgang

 

 

Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough, narrated by cast

8. The book everyone was talking about at the beginning of the year! Usually, I avoid those like the plague. However, the audio was available at the library, so I decided to give it a go. I vividly remember listening to this while I was cleaning and then, for the last half hour or so, I just sat on the sofa, stunned. 

 

Behind Her Eyes: A Novel - Sarah Pinborough

 

 

The Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick, narrated by Ray Porter

9. Audible was giving this one away for free, so what did I have to lose? I loved the movie, but as usual, the book was a little different. That said, I loved the book too! 

 

The Silver Linings Playbook: A Novel - Matthew Quick,Inc. Blackstone Audio, Inc.,Darwin Porter

 

 

Empire Falls by Richard Russo, performed by Ron McClarty

10. This book came to me highly recommended by a fellow reader. Even though a book about small town life with no evil children or haunted houses is really not my thing, Empire Falls MADE IT my thing. I've since listened to two more audiobooks of Richard Russo's work, (Everybody's Fool and Nobody's Fool), and I tracked down McClarty's Memory of Running, (see above.) Now, I just need to track down the HBO series of this FANTASTIC novel. 

 

Empire Falls - Richard Russo 

 

This year I've learned the following:

 

Ron McClarty and Matt Godfrey can both narrate the hell out of any story, and I will happily listen to them perform their grocery lists.

Authors sometimes CAN perform their own stories and do it better than anyone else.

 

I've finally accepted that audiobooks are an acceptable form of reading and I look forward to finding new narrators and discovering new worlds to listen to in 2018.

 

Thanks for reading if you've stayed this far! I hope you'll join me in enjoying audiobooks in 2018! 

 

 

 

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review 2017-11-07 21:27
Classics of Childhood, Volume 3: A Christmas Collection ★☆☆☆☆
Classics of Childhood, Volume 3: A Christmas Collection - Various,Celebrity Narrators

Terrible collection, terribly produced. The only worthwhile story was The Gift of the Magi, but the stilted performance could only just barely be distinguished from the thunderingly loud background music – a problem that affected every story except Miracle on 34th Street, which featured the only good reading performance (Carl Reiner). Unfortunately, it couldn’t overcome the terrible writing, because this is *not* the 1947 Valentine Davies story.

 

I could go on enumerating the flaws, but will direct you instead to this much better review.

 

Audiobook, borrowed from my public library via Overdrive.

 

I read this for The 16 Tasks of the Festive Season, Square 16: December 26th-31st - Hogmanay / New year’s eve / Watch night / St. Sylvester’s Day: a book where miracles of any sort are performed (the unexplainable - but good - kind).

 

 

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text 2016-09-26 02:16
Narrators who anime fans might recognize (Part 1?)

This post is inspired by a purchase I just made. Let's see how many of these folks I can track down. It's too bad that several of them have only narrated stuff I'm not interested in listening to, but I guess that keeps my Audible library from ballooning too much.

 

I've made an effort to list only those people who I was reasonably sure were really the audiobook narrators. For example, I found an audiobook narrated by a guy named Kirk Thornton, but he didn't sound like the Kirk Thornton I know from anime and I couldn't find any evidence they were the same person. Same with Liam O'Brien - I couldn't confirm that the audiobook narrator and the anime voice actor were the same person. If there are mistakes on this list, feel free to let me know.

 

Anyway, on to the list. Who knows, maybe there will be a part 2.

 

1. Alessandro Juliani

 

Anime fans may know Juliani as: L (Death Note)

 

A few audiobooks:

 

Nine Princes in Amber: The Chronicles of Amber, Book 1 - Roger Zelazny,Alessandro Juliani  Solaris: The Definitive Edition - Stanislaw Lem,Bill Johnston (translator),Alessandro Juliani,Audible Studios  

 

2. Chris Patton

 

Anime fans may know Patton as: Greed (Fullmetal Alchemist), Soushi Miketsukami (Inu X Boku Secret Service), Creed Diskenth (Black Cat)

 

A few audiobooks:

 

Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy - Chris Wyatt, Marvel Press,Chris Patton,Disney  Fatal Shadows - Josh Lanyon,Chris Patton  

 

3. Vic Mignogna

 

Anime fans may know Mignogna as: Edward Elric (Fullmetal Alchemist), Death Scythe (Soul Eater), Zero (Vampire Knight)

 

Audiobook:

 

A Howl at the Moon - Nathan Squiers,Vic Mignogna,Tiger Dynasty Publishing 

 

4. Eric Vale

 

Anime fans may know Vale as: Yuki Sohma (Fruits Basket), Trunks (Dragon Ball Z), both America and Canada (Hetalia: Axis Powers)

 

A few audiobooks:

 

Beast: Blood, Struggle, and Dreams at the Heart of Mixed Martial Arts - Doug Merlino,Eric Vale,Audible Studios for Bloomsbury  The Crippler: Cage Fighting and My Life on the Edge - Chris Leben,Daniel J. Patinkin,Eric Vale,Audible Studios  

 

5. Stephanie Sheh

 

Anime fans may know Sheh as: Orihime (Bleach), Micchon (Eden of the East), Hinata (Naruto)

 

Audiobook:

 

Til Morning's Light: The Private Blog of Erica Page - Ross Berger,Stephanie Sheh,Audible Studios 

 

That's it for now. Hopefully I'll come across some more later.

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review 2016-04-02 02:11
Looking Glass Tour

Through the Looking GlassThrough the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I enjoyed the audiobook version for Alice's Adventures in Wonderland & Through the Looking-Glass (My Review) so much that I was happy to get the Playaway for this. The narrator is the same, and she's great. She is awesome with the varied voices. She made this more enjoyable than it would have been had I read this book.

I enjoyed this slightly less than the first book. I think this had too many poems and songs for my taste. While I enjoy poetry, I'm not a big fan of it taking over a prose narrative. A number of the scenes were quite funny, and I found myself laughing as I listened to this working on my Design project today (I laughed more with the first book though). The interactions between the three queens (including Alice) went a little too long for my tastes, but I did enjoy some of her other adventures, including the soldier who kept falling off his horse.

After the clever storytelling in the first book, this one feels like more of an afterthought. I think I would have enjoyed it more if I hadn't found the recitations tedious. I do love Alice though.




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