The Map of the Sky by Felix J. Palma – Audiobook Review

The Map of the Sky by Felix J Palma, narrated by James Langton
Published in audio by Simon and Schuster Audio, published in print by Atria, both imprints of Simon and Schuster

This is the second book in the Map of Time series. I previously reviewed the first book, The Map of Time. This review may contain some spoilers for previous books in this series.

Synopsis:

There is a Whole Lot going on in this story. I mean, it is over 600 pages in hardcover and over 2o hours in audio. This being the case, I’m going to give you the publisher’s synopsis so I don’t inadvertently include spoilers:

A love story serves as backdrop for The Map of the Sky when New York socialite Emma Harlow agrees to marry millionaire Montgomery Gilmore, but only if he accepts her audacious challenge: to reproduce the extraterrestrial invasion featured in Wells’s War of the Worlds. What follows are three brilliantly interconnected plots to create a breathtaking tale of time travel and mystery, replete with cameos by a young Edgar Allan Poe, and Captain Shackleton and Charles Winslow from The Map of Time.

Thoughts on the story:

Palma integrates disparate pieces of his story much better in The Map of the Sky than he did in The Map of Time. Perhaps it was partly that I knew more of what to expect, but this time around he seemed to avoid the rambling exposition which occasionally plagued the first book in this series. Not only that, Palma seems to be the absolute master of his narrative in The Map of the Sky. Threads are introduced and seemingly abandoned, only to be picked up later in ways that are nothing short of brilliant.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Oh, James Langton, the only problem with this series is I’m not sure I can ever listen to you in anything else, you so perfectly encapsulate Palma’s cheeky third person omniscient narrator. Occasionally when Palma goes a bit too much into exposition, you keep things light, fun, and moving forward. I can’t imagine anyone else narrating these books and you make 20-odd hours fly by in the blink of an eye.

Really, though, the production is wonderfully smooth, and Langton’s narration even more so.

Overall:

I listened to The Map of the Sky in fewer days than most audiobooks half its length because it is just So. Good. Although I enjoyed The Map of Time, The Map of the Sky is definitely the better of the two and it is even better in audio. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Print*
Indiebound: Print*
Audible.com

Sound Bytes is a meme that occurs every Friday! I encourage you to review your audiobooks on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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The Map of Time by Felix J Palma – Audiobook Review

The Map of Time by Felix J Palma, translated by Nick Caistor, narrated by James Langton
Published in audio by Simon & Schuster Audio, published in print by Atria Books, both imprints of Simon & Schuster

Synopsis:

After H.G. Wells publishes The Time Machine, the idea of time travel becomes all the rage in Victorian London, giving rise to, among other things, hopes of a better world and time tourism. Unsurprisingly, H.G. Wells finds himself in the middle of all of these plots and dreams, even if not always willingly. In The Map of Time, Palma weaves together three highly interrelated plots of time travel and the way it affects the lives of those involved, beginning with a man whose lover was murdered by Jack the Ripper, and who simply can’t bear to continue living in a world without her.

Thoughts on the story:

In the first section of the book in particular, the characters involved tend to go on expository flights of fancy. Far more of this section is exposition than any actual movement of plot. However, I begrudgingly admit that the information was more or less pertinent and interesting, and in such a long book, conveying it in a manner less resembling an info dump would have been space prohibitive. What is more important is that Palma created three novel-length stories that intertwine beautifully, all with Wells and time travel in the middle.

At times I wondered if all should really have been put together into a single book, but all depended on one another to such an extent that I was unable to decide whether they were even separate stories at all and can’t help but agree with the decision to keep them in a single volume. The most remarkable thing, is how quickly Palma was able to re-engage me each time we transitioned to a new section of the story. Part of this was the continuity with Wells, but part is also simply his gift for creating characters who are instantly interesting.

Thoughts on the audio production:

One potential downfall of audiobooks is that when things get boring, you cannot simply skim. With the tendencies that Palma’s characters had towards excessive exposition, I was afraid that this might be a serious problem. Instead, Langton’s extremely able narration kept things going. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t space out a bit during some of the extra-long histories of time travel, but Langton always kept me wanting to come back. For more complete thoughts on the audio production, please see my Audiofile Magazine review.

Overall:

An incredibly entertaining and engaging read or listen.

Buy this book from: Powells: Print* Indiebound: Print* Audible.com

I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: .
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Q: A (Timeless) Love Story by Evan Mandery – Book Review

Q: A (Timeless) Love Story by Evan Mandery
Published by Harper Paperbacks, in imprint of HarperCollins

Q (Quentina Elizabeth Deveril) is wonderful, the very best thing that has ever happened to our unnamed protagonist (let us call him I). It is not long at all before he knows he wants to marry her, and it seems that she loves him deeply as well. And really, aside from the fact that her father is a bit of an ass, it seems that their relationship is perfect, that their life together will be a happy one. So it comes as a bit of a surprise when I’s future self, who he gives the designation I-60, comes back to tell him that, for her sake as much as his own, he must not, under any circumstances, marry Q. As I strives to follow the advice of his future selves, his world begins to make less and less sense, and the future becomes more and more difficult.

In many ways, Q: A (Timeless) Love Story is a fascinating exploration of what it means to be happy, and whether true happiness can ever result from actions taken solely to avoid pain, as well as of the unexpected ways in which our actions change our futures.

At the same time, however, I, our unnamed protagonist, is a supremely annoying main character. He is quite fully human with foibles enough that he doesn’t become entirely unsympathetic, but he is the height of ridiculousness, going on for pages about his hatred of coat checks and bathroom attendants and the correlation between toffee and the winter solstice. He’s just odd and obnoxious, as can be seen in his internal monologue when he is in the green room of the Stephen Colbert show – with which he is utterly unfamiliar – to promote his strange and unpopular book:

In the green room, they have put out fruit. The spread consists of cantaloupe and honeydew and watermelon. I do not care for honeydew, but I respect it as a melon. -p. 22

It goes on from there, denigrating the watermelon, but it is so eye roll-inducing that typing any more of it is simply beyond the pale.

These passages are supremely successful in showing the reader exactly what kind of person I is, but they do raise the question of why, if Q is really so wonderful, she ever wanted anything to do with him. She is delightful and personable, it seems unlikely that she would care to commit her life to such an awkward man. Unlike I, though, Q is not well-fleshed at all, the reader can get very little feel for who she truly is, beyond I’s perception of her.

Somehow, though, regardless of I’s annoying traits and the lack of characterization of Q and the other characters, Q: A (Timeless) Love Story is an incredibly engaging book. Not even I’s overuse of the word ‘sanguine’ served as disincentive to continue reading.

Engaging with a fascinating concept and message, but an incredibly obnoxious main character, Q is in the odd position of neither being recommended nor warned against. This is a decision that each reader must make for his or herself.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon – Book Review

Dragonfly in Amber by Diana Gabaldon
Published by Delta, an imprint of Random House
This is the 2nd book in the series, review may contain spoilers for earlier books

Claire and Jaime are back again, trying now to prevent the battle at Culloden Field, in which Claire knows thousands of highland men will die. In an attempt to change history, they travel together to France to try to subvert the cause of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

“Dragonfly in Amber” has perhaps the most confusing opening of any book I have ever read. When we last left Claire at the end of “Outlander,” she had decided not to go back to her own time, but to stay with Jaime. At the beginning of “Dragonfly in Amber,” she is back in the present with a grown daughter, trying to find out who of all of the men she had known made it alive through the battle at Culloden Field. I wondered if I had skipped a page in “Dragonfly in Amber,” or whether I had misinterpreted or misremembered the end of “Outlander.” Before too long, though, it all made sense again, and I was happy to be back, drawn into the lives of Claire and Jamie once more.

As with “Outlander,” I felt that “Dragonfly in Amber” was just a bit too long. And really, it is a testament to Gabaldon’s writing and storytelling that her 800+ page books are only a little too long, and not painfully too long. Still, though, it makes me hesitate a bit to get to the later books, which are even longer. Even so, I am loving these books and have no plans to stop the series any tiem soon.

Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

Source: Personal copy.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon – Book Review

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
Published by Delta, an imprint of Random House

Life has been in upheaval for Claire and Frank for some time. The majority of their married life was spent apart during World War II, where Claire acted as a nurse. Now is their time to reconnect on a romantic retreat in the Scottish highlands. One morning on their vacation, Claire heads up to an old stone circle (a la Stonehenge). As she nears the structure she begins to hear odd sounds and suddenly is whisked 200 years back in time where she is rescued/kidnapped by a group of Scottish clansmen. One of them, a young man in his early 20s named Jaime, has been badly injured and Claire immediately uses her nursing skills to help heal him. The longer Claire spends in the 18th century, the more time she and Jaime spend around one another, until something happens that will force them together.

When I first joined LibraryThing, one of my first stops was the historical fiction group, where it seemed like everyone was talking about one series. It was universal love, nary a dissenting opinion to be found. That series was, of course, Diana Gabaldon’s “Outlander” series. After that initial introduction, I began hearing praises for “Outlander” all over the place; it seemed that everyone but me had read it. And yet, I resisted. I resisted for a good three years. I was scared by the fact it was a long series of hefty books (the mass market edition of Outlander I read has about 850 pages, and it appears that many of the sequels are longer). I also wasn’t sure how I felt about the time travel aspect or the whole description of the series as historical romance, since I generally feel like romance aspects add very little to historical fiction.

What I want to know now is this:

WHY did none of you sit me down and make me read “Outlander” before this?

Seriously? Because I L-O-V-E LOVE it.

And what of my objections? Okay, first, the time travel thing. It really isn’t time travel. Yes, Claire goes back in time, but it more about the magical qualities of the Scottish highlands, finding that there is truth to the basis of the old myths, not that there is some science fiction-type thing stuck in the middle of what is primarily historical fiction, just a touch of fantasy. Of course, I was also put off by everyone’s description of this book as romance, because historical romance usually makes me roll my eyes or skip pages. However, I was talking to Michelle from That’s What She Read trying to sum up my thoughts on the romance angle and I think that she put it very well: most sex scenes in historical fiction are either gratuitous or insignificant. She’s absolutely right, but the romantic encounters in “Outlander” and neither of those things. By and large they really do advance the plot and the character development. Plus, Gabaldon perfectly walks the line between too vague and too graphic and writes love scenes that don’t make me want to throw the book against the wall, miracle of miracles!

If you are like me and have heard of these books but failed to read them, please stop what you’re doing and go and find the first one. They’re long, but they’re fast reads and they’re terrific. And now I’m out of here, because I’m on my way to buy the next two books in the series!

Buy this book from:
Powells.*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound.*
Amazon.*

I read this book as part of a TLC Book Tour.  Check out some of the other tour hosts for more reviews.  Links go to the host’s site, not to their specific review.

Monday, August 2nd:  Jenn’s Bookshelves (An Echo in the Bone)

Wednesday, August 4th:  The Literate Housewife Review (Voyager)

Monday, August 9th:  Musings of an All Purpose Monkey (Outlander)

Thursday, August 12th:  Under the Boardwalk (An Echo in the Bone)

Friday, August 13th:  Starting Fresh (An Echo in the Bone)

Monday, August 16th:  Planet Books (Outlander)

Wednesday, August 25th:  MoonCat Farms Meanderings (An Echo in the Bone)

Tuesday, August 31st:  The Brain Lair (Outlander)

Wednesday, September 1st:  My Two Blessings (Outlander)

Thursday, September 2nd:  Life in the Thumb (An Echo in the Bone)

Tuesday, September 7th:  That’s What She Read (Dragonfly in Amber)

Monday, September 13th:  Suko’s Notebook (Outlander)

Tuesday, September 14th:  Luxury Reading (Outlander)

Wednesday, September 15th:  The Adventures of an Intrepid Reader (An Echo in the Bone)

Friday, September 17th:  Devourer of Books (Outlander)

Tuesday, September 21st:  Rundpinne (An Echo in the Bone)

Monday, September 27th:  Hey, Lady!  Whatcha Readin’? (Outlander)

Thursday, September 30th:  Pop Culture Junkie (Outlander)

* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.