Dark & Stormy Summer Reading Challenge: Update #2

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The thing is, with any entree or cocktail with three ingredients, all three ingredients have to be the best available. If you cheap out, the whole dish or glass is sub par at best, ruined and nasty at worst. A D&S only has three ingredients so it’s critical that all three ingredients work well together: the rum, the lime and the ginger beer. When it comes to the rum, that’s a no brainer: It’s got to be Gosling’s Black Seal Rum. As for the lime, if I can get organic, I get organic (It’s a matter of principle.) The wild card in the recipe is the ginger beer. Ideally, I would love to be able to get Gosling’s ginger beer; but unfortunately, I haven’t found any in the are where I live (though I always check.) So far, I’ve tried three different brands: The Ginger People, Bundaberg and, Fentiman’s. The Ginger People ginger Beer was okay, the Bundaberg was a bit too spicy (added to the spiciness of the rum, it was a bit too much); but the Fentiman’s seems to be the best one of the lot so far: Not too spicy and not too mild either. ūüôā

As I’ve been sipping the hot summer hours away, I’ve also been reading, though not nearly as much as I had thought I would. I’ve only read one of the titles in my TBR stacks and, this is only the second update in 30 days! I will really need to pick up the pace a bit if I hope to complete my challenge!

07. The Ruby in the Smoke (Sally Lockhart Mysteries, Book #1; by Philip Pullman; narrated by Anton Lesser) –¬†Sally Lockhart is a sixteen-year old orphan who is out to discover what “The Seven Blessings” are. She’s sharp enough to know that she’s in danger, brave/desperate enough to pursue her quest; and lucky so far to survive the vicissitudes of Victorian Era England. This is a thoroughly British story narrated brilliantly by Anton Lesser. The narrator’s character voices are remarkable, but not less than the straight narrative. The story is engaging and surprising, and the narrator delivers character voices expertly (One of those situations where you might not believe there’s only one narrator performing the entirety of the book!)¬†Fast, funny and clever. YA for all ages. This is also the first book in ages that I’ve added to my Personal Pantheon of All-Time great Audiobooks ¬†ūüôā

08. Love¬†Potion #9 (by Claire Delacroix) –¬†In 1420, a gypsy woman watches her lover hung in accordance with medieval law. At the gallows, he swears that he will return to her. In anticipation, she contrives to take an immortality potion and wait for him. Fast forward 600+ years to modern day Canada where the gypsy woman is telling fortunes in Toronto: Her new neighbor Mitch bears an uncanny resemblance to “her” Sebastian. I think this is supposed to be a romance novel but it’s really kind of a mess: Poor copy-editing, editing, writing… it’s all over the place.

09. Flora & Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures (by Kate DiCamillo) –¬†A squirrel survives a vacuuming and assumes “Superhero” qualities. Named “Ulysses” after the vacuum cleaner brand and, adopted by a little girl named Flora, the two see the world anew. The story is charming and quirky, with some cartoon panels added intermittently as short chapters. For Children Ages 8-12.

10. The Spinning Heart: A Novel (by¬†Donal Ryan; narrated by Wayne Farrell) –¬†Set in Ireland, this is the story of a building contractor who wipes out the pension and benefits (stamps and so on) of his workers to finance a big project that went bust. Each of the 21 sections of the book are told from a different and sometimes unexpected point of view. Wayne Farrell narrated the whole of the book, nuancing each section to differentiate each character. Using one narrator for all the voices is something of an old-school approach to audiobook production; but the narrator is an¬†amazing storyteller: The story took center stage to the effect that you forgot that it was just one narrator. The book itself was Man Booker long list title. I loved both the story and the narration. Lit-Fic.

11. Dancer, Daughter, Traitor, Spy (by Elizabeth Kiem) – The¬†daughter of a famous ballet dancer, Marina is an promising ballet student in her own right in 1980s USSR. One day, however, her mother, Sveta disappears; and teen-aged Marina and her father escape to the West, specifically to that part of Brooklyn that came to be known as Little Odessa. Things get¬†complicated as the secrets of Svetla threaten Marina and her father’s lives 8,000 miles away… The story is intriguing and the plot surprising. Not bad at all… YA Spy Thriller.

12. The Snow Child (by Eowyn Ivey) – A older couple move to the Alaskan Frontier to homestead around 1918. Childless and filed with yearning, they build a snowman in the form of a little girl. The next day, the avatar seems to have become real, much like the Classic fairytale. This is a beautifully written book that captures the love and anxiety of the would-be parents as well as the wonder of the natural landscape. Lit-Fic.

13. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter series, Book #3; by J.K. Rowling; narrated by Jim Dale) – Sirius Black has escaped from Azkaban, the stronghold designed to imprison the worst offenders in the realms of magic; and it looks like Sirius is headed for Hogwarts where Harry is embarking on his third year! More of the story around Harry’s parents’ deaths is revealed. So far the stories are just okay. I wonder how well they hold up against The Chronicles of Narnia (and vice versa?)

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