Ambassador of Books ~ Book Club Madam ~ Blogger Gal

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

(Very) Mini Reviews of Two Classics

by Victor Hugo
audiobook: 12.42 hours
narrated by David Case

I love the musical and I love the movie so I finally decided to give the book a chance.  And I have to say that I really enjoyed it.  I found several parts in the original story that had been changed for both the musical and the movie and, surprisingly, I found the biggest changes to be BETTER than the original storyline - go figure!  (I mean really?! How rare is it that the movie/play is better than the book?!)  Still, I thought the book was great and am definitely glad I gave it a shot.

by Mark Twain
audiobook: 6.83
narrated by Grover Gardner

This book was a favorite of mine when I was a kid and I read it many, many times throughout childhood.  Recently I got a review copy of the new audio version of Huck Finn so I decided to revisit Tom's story before moving on to Huck's.  I have to admit ... I was a bit disappointed in TOM SAWYER.  Sad but true. It is still a "good" story but it is much simpler than I remembered, and much more a children's story than I realized at the time.  From what I understand (and vaguely recall, though I'm not trusting my memory on this) Huck's story has more adult themes (and more adventure! That's something that I definitely remember.) so I'm still looking forward to listening to that one.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Meg Waite Clayton in Northern Virginia TONIGHT

For those in the area, don't miss seeing Meg Waite Clayton at Borders in Bailey's Crossroads tonight.  Details can be at this link. Several bloggers and authors are getting together for drinks afterward, so don't miss out!

Robinson Crusoe

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Robinson Crusoe

by Daniel Defoe
audiobook: 11 hours
narrated by John Lee

I think mostly everyone is at least somewhat familiar with the story of Robinson Crusoe: man is shipwrecked on island alone and lives there for many, many years.  I knew there was another guy in the story named Friday, but that was the extent of my knowledge.  I wanted to read (rather, listen to) this book because it is a classic, and one that I want to be really familiar with.

My thoughts on the book are mixed.  For the most part I really enjoyed it.  Following along as Crusoe makes a life for himself on the island was my favorite part of the story (and thankfully that was MOST of the story).  I loved seeing how he used all the resources he had available to him in order to survive, and to survive well.  I can see how other people might find this boring, but I quite enjoyed it.  Of course I was reminded of the Tom Hanks movie Cast Away, but I did not particularly enjoy the movie while I did very much enjoy the book.

Things changed when additional characters entered the storyline.  Friday, a native of South America, is rescued from death by Crusoe.  Rather than rejoice treating Friday as a new partner in his adventurous life on the island Crusoe instead takes Friday on as a servant.  In all fairness, were I Friday and had I just been saved from certain death, I think I'd (at first) be willing to work as a servant merely out of gratitude!  But still, were I Crusoe, my immediate though upon seeing a new person on the island would have been, "Ah, a companion!" and not, "Ah, a servant!"  I know, I know, the book is a product of the time period so of COURSE Crusoe would see Friday as a servant and of COURSE Friday would be willing to serve Crusoe to the point of death, but still, it bugged me.

More characters come in to the story later on, and this is where the book became more unbelievable for me.  Until this point I felt like this was a story that COULD have happened (it was, after all, most likely inspired by real events) but the coming of the pirates and the way in which Crusoe got off the island were less believable to me.

Another thing for those familiar with the story: remember the sailors that he sends one of his new friends to retrieve from the mainland?  The plan was to bring them to the island where they would be safe, then figure out a way to make it back to Europe.  Instead, when a boat comes along Crusoe ditches that plan and sails off without waiting for them.  I realize that he came back for them later, but if I were those sailors and I got to the island to find that my supposed savior had sailed off without me, I'd have been ticked!

ANYway ... I'm really glad I listened to this book.  It was enjoyable for the most part, and the narrator did an excellent job (which always helps). I can now say that I really KNOW the story of Robinson Crusoe, and I'm glad that I do.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Upcoming CityLit Festival in Baltimore

Readers in the Baltimore vicinity, be sure to check out the CityLit Festival on April 16th!  The event features a widely varied group of authors and poets, some of whom have connections to the Maryland area.
The authors who caught my attention on the schedule are Jessica Anya Blau (The Summer of Naked Swim Parties, and Drinking Closer to Home), Angela Balcita (Moonface), and Jaimy Gordon (Lord of Misrule).

Check out the CityLit schedule and see if there are any authors that YOU don't want to miss!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

Mennonite in a Little Black Dress: A Memoir of Going Home

by Rhoda Janzen
272 pages

After reading that Mormon Singles book and loving it so much I was on the lookout for a similar read.  Mennonite was on my shelf and it seemed like just the thing.

In this memoir the author shares how her life changed when her husband left her for "Bob the guy from"  She was about to go on a sabbatical from teaching when this happened.  To make it worse, she was then in a car accident and needed a great deal of medical care.  Since she could no longer pay for her house or care for herself full time, she returned to her Mennonite parents home for the duration of her sabbatical.  The rest of the book details her experiences living again in a Mennonite community and the ways in which that community is different from the rest of modern America.

The blurb on the back of the book led me to believe that this would be a humorous yet thought-provoking read. I wasn't bad, but I really didn't fall in love with it either.  Rhoda is a bit more sarcastic and less introspective than Elna Baker (author of the Mormon Singles book I mentioned above) and I found that I wasn't as invested in her life as I was in Elna's.  Not to say that there weren't some fun and funny parts to this book, but I didn't feel like Rhoda was really learning anything (about herself or others) or changing her life.  And perhaps that wasn't the point of the book, but it IS what I was looking for.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Songs for St. Patrick's Day ... a bit late

I meant to post this yesterday but was a big busy dealing with the newest member of our family - a two-year-old Rottwieler named Bullet.

Anyway, The High Kings are a band Kiddo, Hubby, and I all love.  We saw them in concert a few years ago and will be seeing them again this weekend.  They are simply fantastic!

Here are a few of their newest songs ... hope you enjoy them as much as we do.

The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance

(THE NEW YORK REGIONAL MORMON SINGLES HALLOWEEN DANCE) A MEMOIR BY Baker, Elna ( AUTHOR )paperback{The New York Regional Mormon Singles Halloween Dance: A Memoir} on 28 Sep, 2010

by Elna Baker
276 pages

I first heard of this book a few months ago when I saw the hilarious video below - after watching it I knew I just HAD to read it!

The book is a memoir of a formerly overweight Mormon girl living in New York City and trying to reconcile her beliefs with her life experiences.

Fair warning: this video doesn't include any bad language but the audio isn't exactly save for work or for the kiddos.  Don't miss out though - pop in your earphones and check it out!

Ok, so ... at my last book club meeting one of the ladies said she'd just read it and enjoyed it. I immediately asked to borrow it and started reading that very night.

I cannot tell you how much I truly loved this book - it was wonderful. 

It started off being laugh-out-loud funny - just what I needed at the time.  Then it got to be a bit more introspective but without loosing that sense of humor and fun. I started getting to know Elna and began wanting the best for her.

If you have ever struggled with weight loss and reconciling the old you and the new you, you'll love that portion of Elna's story.  If you have had difficultly living your religious beliefs because the world around you is so different than you, you'll love that part of Elna's story.  If you simply enjoy getting into an author's head and seeing how the world looks through their eyes, definitely pick up this book.

I cannot recommend it enough. I loved it and it will stay with me for a very long time.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Postmistress

by Sarah Blake
audio book: 10.5 hours
narrated by Orlagh Cassidy

The PostmistressFrom

On the eve of the United States' entrance into World War II in 1940, Iris James, the postmistress of Franklin, a small town on Cape Cod, does the unthinkable: She doesn't deliver a letter. In London, American radio gal Frankie Bard is working with Edward R. Murrow, reporting on the blitz. One night in a bomb shelter, she meets a doctor from Cape Cod with a letter in his pocket, a letter Frankie vows to deliver when she returns from Germany and France, where she is to record the stories of war refugees desperately trying to escape. When Frankie arrives in Cape Cod, the two stories collide in a way no one could have foreseen.

My Thoughts:

When I put this on my library wish list I was really excited to listen to it.  By the time it came in though, I was in a reading rut and wasn't in the mood for this kind of book.  I started listening anyway and was really turned off by the introductory chapter that set up the story.


Once I got into the actual story, I was hooked.  I could NOT stop listening to this book.  I didn't love all the characters but they seemed very real to me - I could visualize them as real people living and working during the start of World War II.  I didn't agree with all their decision, but I could understand why they made them.

For me, listening to this on audio rather than reading it was a huge advantage toward the middle of the book.  There is a section where Frankie records interviews with Jewish people who are attempting to flee Europe.  These recording become very important to her and she listens to them repeatedly as the book progresses.  Hearing those recordings aloud (rather than reading them) actually gave me chills. That is a part of the book that will stick with me for a very, VERY long time.

I've been recommending this book left and right (or as Kiddo would say "every left and right") - I'm so glad I gave it a chance even though it wasn't what I thought I wanted at that time.

Your Thoughts?

I'd love to know what the rest of you thought of this book.  Did anyone else listen to the audio?  For those who read it, did the recordings have a big impact on you or were they simply part of the story?

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

I'm back! Well, sort of ...

Hello blogging friends ... have you missed me? I've sure missed you! I've been keeping up with some of your posts, doing the best I could, but I know I've missed a lot.

I'm trying to get back to posting semi-regularly but I think my blog will be quite different than it was before.  More on that in the coming weeks, as I try to work out a new routine.

For now I wanted to give you a few updates on what's been going on around here. I also want some input from you, so check out the very end of this post to see what I'm asking.

On the work situation

My husband and I are currently trying to see if we can live on just his salary since I got laid off.  Things are tight but they are good.  We've got some pretty exciting plans (I'm not ready to post them on the internet just yet) in the works though, and I'm really happy about the way things could be going for us.

On Kiddo's health

Over the past few months Kiddo has been doing a trial of bison meat (the only other meat that is safe so far is shellfish, and of that he only likes crab and scallop).  His last endoscopy showed that the bison caused no ill effects - wahoo!!! That means he can continue eating bison burgers, steaks, roasts, and whatever else we want to make from the very delicious buffalo.  Because of the good test results his doctors now have him doing a trial of beef (which is supposed to be chemically very similar to bison).  Kiddo had shown a skin reaction to beef years ago, and it showed up in his blood allergy test as well, but the doctors are hoping that maybe those were false positives.  Needless to say we are are super excited about adding beef in - it makes shopping for food so much easier and less expensive.  We realize that the next test may show that beef needs to go out of his diet again but we're just going to enjoy the next few months regardless.

(For previous post on Kiddo's health check out these links: article, ulcer, surgery, and allergy testing.)

Books? You mean I'm supposed to be blogging about books?

Since I lost my job I have been in an enormous reading slump.  All the books on my shelves that I've wanted to read just don't appeal to me at all.  For a long while I didn't even listen to audio books - oh the horror!  I'm getting back into things now but I've found that I really need to read some lighthearted, fun, and even funny books (which are SO not my norm). 

Here's a list of what I've read and listened to (but haven't reviewed) since November:

  • Towers of Midnight
  • The Prayers of Agnes Sparrow
  • New York Regional Mormon Singles Dance
  • The Blessings of the Animals
  •  Mennonite in a Little Black Dress

Listened to
  • Twelve Angry Men
  • The Botany of Desire
  • Les Miserables
  • Dancing in the Streets
  • The Postmistress
  • Matched
  • The Tiger
  • Tom Sawyer
  • The Tortilla Curtain
  • Robinson Crusoe

I'd like to do some mini reviews of these books because there's no way I'll go back and do full reviews on all of them. 

My question to you is: Which book(s) are you most interested in hearing about?  Let me know in the comments and I'll start with those reviews first.

I know that I won't be blogging every day like I used to but I do hope to have new posts up several times a week.  We'll see how that pans out, but in the meantime I look forward to hearing from all of you.
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