Audible Giveaway & Review: The Book of Dragons by E. Nesbit

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway!

Narrator: Karen Krause

Publisher: Listen2aBook.com (2017)

Length: 4 hours 53 minutes

Series: Books 1-8 The Book of Dragons

Author’s Page

This charming collection of children’s tales all center around dragons of one ilk or another. Each story can be read as a stand alone. I’ve had the pleasure of listening to and reviewing two of these stories previously and when I saw that he narrator had 8 stories in one collection, I couldn’t resist. I know it would be good stuff and I wasn’t disappointed. These stories are great for kids and fun for adults too.

The Book of Beasts – This is one of the stories I have previously listened to and reviewed. It was just as good the second time around. The child king Lionel finds a book once owned by one of his distant grandsires. Like all good kids, he plays with it and sets a giant butterfly free. He’s warned not to do so again, but he releases yet another fantastical critter (a bird of paradise), and then another (the dragon!), which threatens his kingdom and he must make it right again. A hippogriff and manticore come into play too! 5/5

Uncle James – This story was so cute and it was mostly because there are cute little dog-sized elephants! Who doesn’t want a pet elephant that can snuggle on your lap and eat popcorn while you watch Flight of the Dragons? This tale takes place in Rotundia where all the sizes are backwards and a dragon has shown up that wants a princess as a present. Now this isn’t your typical ‘save the princess from the dragon’ story, as young Tom found out. By the way, keep your eye on Uncle James. He may not be trustworthy! 5/5

The Deliverers of Their Country – This was my favorite out of all the stories. It starts with young Effie getting something in her eye and that something is a teensy tiny dragon! Go ahead, squeal in love and excitement. I know I did. Who doesn’t want to adopt such a little dragon? However, these small dragons keep popping up throughout the land and they are starting to wreak havoc. Now Effie and her friend Harry have to find a way to reduce the number of dragons. It’s a clever solution to an over-population problem. 6/5

The Ice Dragon – Imagine North Pole dwarves dressed in seal skin. Now toss in an ice dragon. Lastly, make room for two adventurous kids, George and Jane, who just wanted to see the Northern Lights. things go ever so wrong. This story was actually a little gruesome because it has a bit of a body count. It’s not gory but I was a little surprised at little bit of darkness that crept into this story. Still, it was clever and the kids survive, so all’s well. 5/5

The Island of the Nine Whirlpools – This was an interesting one. A childless Queen goes to an old witch begging for a child and the witch takes her jewels and uses them to whip up a baby girl. The Queen is totally satisfied but the King wanted a boy. So obviously, that makes a wedge between the couple. When the daughter reaches a certain age, he banishes her to an island that is protected by big beasties, like a dragon. Her mother, the Queen, and the witch both make sacrifices to make it possible for her to one day be rescued. I liked that the story hinged upon the love for an old crone. However, the princess to be rescued seemed rather daft to me, which I didn’t really care for. 4/5

The Fiery Dragon – This is the second story in this collection that gives a nod to St. George, a famous dragon slayer. Granddaughter Sabrinetta has got some skills on her which is a good thing because her unscrupulous cousin, Prince Tiresome, tosses her out of the dragon-proof tower to deal with the fiery dragon. Luckily she has a great friend, Elfin the pigkeeper, who can help her. That’s another thing I really like about these stories – so often there’s a ‘commoner’ that is essential to solving whatever dragon issue there is. 5/5

The Dragon Tamers – This had a little steampunky feel to it. John is a blacksmith and he and his wife have a new baby that cries often and loudly. Yet even with that intermittent noise, John has noticed an odd sound coming from the basement. He finally has to go down there for coal and he meets this dragon that needs rivets to repair his wing. The dragon isn’t shy about telling John what he plans to do once his wing is repaired: eat all the people including John and his family. Now John has to outsmart this dragon and that loud baby gets to play a key role in the subterfuge. It was clever and fun. 5/5

Kind Little Edmond – This is the second story I had the privilege to enjoy previously. This is the tale of young Edmond, who was filled to the brim with curiosity, so much so that he often irritated his elders. But not his loving and doting grandmother. Edmond decides to explore the nearby mountains and hears some very odd sounds. He meets and helps a mythical beast, a manticore, who rewards him by telling him magnificent tales. This was a great little tale and I really enjoyed it. I especially enjoyed this one as the tale has this underlying current about the value of learning things for oneself. 5/5

The Last of the Dragons – This great little story turns the typical princess + dragon + prince story on it’s head. Tradition requires the princess to be rescued from the dragon by a prince. However, this princess would much rather rely on her own fencing skills. The dragon isn’t too thrilled about the idea of coming out, threatening a nice young lady, and then being slain for the sake of tradition. This prince is up for doing something different. Why should he have to do all the hard work? It’s a great story to finish out the book. 5/5

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobook Worm.

The Narration: Karen Krause does such a lovely job with this classic. Her little kid voices are so believable yet she is also great at doing grumpy elderly characters as well. Her voices for the various beasts are also fun. You can tell that she enjoyed narrating these tales as much as I enjoyed listening to them. Great performance all around!

What I Liked: Lovely cover art; it’s great to see these classics come to audiobook; a charming collection of dragon tales; the author is great at switching things up; kids and adults, boys and girls, rich and poor, clever and kind – just a great representation with these characters; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – such a great little book. 

Check out more reviews on the blog tour.

About Author E. Nesbit:

Edith (E.) Nesbit was a master at weaving imagination and real life into timeless fairy tales, with fantastic mythical creatures, princes and princesses, magic, and just the right touch of silliness.

In “A Woman of Passion: The Life of E. Nesbit, 1858-1924”, Julia Briggs labeled Edith Nesbit Bland as the “first modern writer for children” and credits Nesbit with having invented the children’s adventure story.  Some of her best known stories are The Railway Children, Five Children and It and her Bastable family stories, The Story of the Treasure Seekers and The Wouldbegoods.  Her stories combined realistic children in real-world settings with magical objects and adventure, including travel to fantastical lands.  She has influenced such writers as P.L. Travers (Mary Poppins), Edward Eager (Tales of Magic) and J.K. Rowling and several of her stories have been adapted for film and television.  

Nesbit was a free thinker, a political activist, and co-founder of the Fabian Society.  A young Noel Coward, who was a great admirer of hers, once said she was “the most genuine Bohemian I had ever seen”.

Wikipedia

Synopsis of The Book of Dragons 1-8:

Edith (E.) Nesbit was a master at weaving imagination and real life into timeless fairy tales, with fantastic mythical creatures, princes and princesses, magic, and just the right touch of silliness. This is a collection of nine of her fairy tales with a common theme – Dragons! For children from five to 95, these stories are not to be taken seriously. Let your imagination run wild!

The Book of Beasts – A young king finds a magical book once owned by his great-great-great-great-great-grandfather and unwittingly sets a wicked beast loose in his kingdom. Now he must find a way to best the beast and win back the love of his subjects.

Uncle James – The island kingdom of Rotundia is normal in every way but one – all the animals are the wrong sizes. And when a purple dragon finds its way to the island and desires the princess as a birthday present, young Tom the garderner’s son, along with his lap dog sized elephant Fido, must find a way to save her.

The Deliverers of Their Country – “It all started when Effie got something in her eye…” and before the week was out, the country was overrun with dragons of all sizes. Effie and Harry decide something must be done, so they set out to wake St. George.

The Ice Dragon – Have you ever wanted to travel to the North Pole? See the Aurora Borealis up close and personal? Well, make sure you catch up to George and Jane, two disobedient children, who on December 11th, set out to do just that, finding adventure and a dragon on the way.

The Island of the Nine Whirlpools – When the King and Queen were ready to have a child, the Queen did what all good queens do; she visited the local witch. But she forgot to specify the King wanted a boy child.

The Fiery Dragon – Poor Sabrinetta, granddaughter to brave St. George the dragonslayer, has been banished to her dragon-proof tower while her evil cousin rules her kingdom. But when the dragon wakes, Prince Tiresome runs to the safety of her tower, throwing her out to fend off the dragon by herself. Can she and Elfin the pigkeeper save her people before the dragon has his way with them?

The Dragon Tamers – John the Blacksmith doesn’t know what is at the bottom of the stairs leading down from the dungeon. With any luck, he’ll never find out. But one day when he goes into the dungeon to fetch more coal, he comes face to face with the dragon that has risen from the depths. It looks like today John’s luck may have run out. Or is it just beginning?

Kind Little Edmond – Edmund is not fond of learning but he loves to find out. One day he finds out about the creatures living in the mountain near his village and thinks maybe he doesn’t like finding out about things so much after all. But once the creatures have been found, there is nothing to do but find a way to save the village before it’s too late.

The Last of the Dragons – As tradition holds, on her 16th birthday, the Princess must be tied to a post and left for the dragon. Of course, the Prince has always slain the dragon and saved the Princess. But this Princess is none too confident in the Prince’s ability to save her. She’s much better at her fencing lessons than he. So why can’t the Prince be tied up and saved by the Princess? And, why must the last dragon in England be slain at all?

Audible ~ Amazon

About Narrator Karen Krause:

Karen grew up in a musical family and started singing with her daddy’s band when she was knee-high to a grasshopper, as they say in her native Ozark Mountains.  She’s been performing ever since, playing to anyone who would sit still long enough. When she wasn’t demanding to be the center of attention, she was high in her backyard tree reading just about anything she could get her hands on.  Her love of theatre and the stage grew from school plays and backyard shows to a college degree and regional theatre.  And her love of literature grew as well.  She discovered the world of audiobooks when they really were books on tape and has been an avid fan ever since.  About five years ago, she had an epiphany (why it took her so long is a mystery).  She could combine her love of performing with her love of the spoken word.  She recorded her first audiobook in 2012 and hasn’t looked back.  She just finished her 39th book and it will be released on Audible in June.

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook

GIVEAWAY!!!

The giveaway is for a 3-month Audible subscription. Open internationally! Ends July 8th, 2017.
The Book of Dragons Giveaway

There and Back Again: An Actor’s Tale by Sean Astin & Joe Layden

Narrator: Sean Astin

Publisher: Macmillan Audio (2004)

Length: 4 hours 33 minutes

Astin’s Page ~ Layden’s Page

Here we have Sean Astin’s adventures as Samwise Gamgee during filming of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He recounts how he first heard about the audition, how he prepped for the role, the delights and difficulties of doing such a long shoot in New Zealand, and how the role changed his life going forward. Told with candor, humor, and sometimes gentle criticism, I found this book quite engaging.

This was an educational delight all around. First, I love that Sean Astin was unfamiliar with Tolkien’s work prior to scheduling an audition for the role of Samwise. I found it amusing and endearing that Astin showed us his initial ignorance of The Lord of the Rings. I hope Tolkien’s works opened a door to other great fantasy and science fiction works.

Prior to listening to this book, I was unaware of Astin’s parentage and it’s a rather convoluted one that involves his birth father’s true identity, step dads, and DNA tests. Even though I have been an Astin fan since seeing Goonies when I was 12, I had not delved into Astin’s personal life. This book lifts that curtain a bit and we get to know this actor for more than just his famous movies.

There’s plenty of behind-the-scenes bits about filming in New Zealand, Astin’s fellow actors, Peter Jackson and his wife Fran Walsh, and his own doubts and personal victories. I was pleasantly surprised at how Astin chatted about the peculiarities and ticks of his fellow actors. Any criticism he offered was done in a gentle fashion and yet still had that center of truth to it.

I first read The Lord of the Rings when I was 13 or 14. So long before the movies came about, I knew just how important Samwise was to story. Therefore, I was a bit surprised at how Samwise, and Astin, were not considered that important to the storyline of the filming until the last movie. Logistically, it makes sense but I could sympathize with Astin’s periodic frustrations with this aspect of filming.

This book also covers the lengthy daily makeup sessions, accidents and near accidents that happened on set, the vagaries of weather, and the toll such a lengthy filming can take on not just the actors, but also their families. All around, this was an eye opener. Quite an enjoyable read!

The Narration: Sean Astin did a great job with narrating his own book. I loved how he would slip into Samwise’s voice at the appropriate moments. He also does a great job expressing his emotions without going over the top.

What I Liked: Behind the scenes look by a favorite author of a favorite movie trilogy; the humor; honesty about Astin’s unfamiliarity with Tolkien’s work; candor about other actors and the filming conditions; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – a great little read!

What Others Think:

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The Singing in the Wood

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott

Narrator: Andrea Emmes

Publisher: Listen2aBook.com (2016)

Length: 17 hours 36 minutes

Series: Book 1 Little Women

Author’s Page

This American classic, set in the 19th century during the Civil War, follows the lives of the March sisters as they grow up and become young ladies. Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy are often joined by their neighbor Laurie, who is living with his grandfather.

Some how I missed reading this book as a kid but as an adult, I have had the pleasure to read it twice, this being the second time. Jo is still my favorite character. I love how she often flies in the face of what society might expect from a proper young lady. At one point she cuts off a good chunk of her hair. She learns to writes short stories that sell to newspapers, so she has a source of independent income. She’s not caught up in the latest dance or the stylish lace. Yep. She’s much how I would imagine myself if I was trapped in the 1800s.

The other sisters all have their own personalities as well. Meg is the oldest and seems be a little mother in waiting. Once she falls in love, that’s exactly what she becomes – a dotting mom. Then sweet Beth embodies the tender heart of the family. She is so kind to everyone and everyone in turn is so gentle and kind with her. Amy has a flash of independence as well but she’s also rather caught up in appearances. While the Marches don’t have much money, Amy makes up for it in grace and practical kindness.

Laurie is a good addition to the mix. I really like his grandfather as well. Laurie starts off as a rather shy and lonely lad but the girls draw him out pretty quickly and adopt him into their little circle of confidences and games. Marmee (Mrs. March) does her best to be a confidant to her daughters while also allowing them the privacy they need. Robert March, the dad, is seen quite a bit less in the book though he’s totally doted on by the family when he is home.

The entire book is riddled with little life lessons. For the first 3/4 of the book, these are well portrayed in story form. The author shows us rather than tells us. For instance, I like how Marmee often gives her girls enough rope to hang themselves. She lets them make mistakes so that they will recall the lesson better in the future. The solitary thing I don’t care for is that the last bit of this book gets a bit preachy. I feel the author was either rushed or got a little tired of the book herself and started telling us the lessons instead of showing us. Plus, perhaps since a main character dies, religion is brought into the mix. Despite this minor let down for the ending of the book, I still really enjoy this classic.

Let’s talk limes. Yes, limes. There’s a great little bit of the book that goes on about these pickled limes that were all the rage at school. In fact, the teacher banned them from his classroom since they were a distraction. One of the sisters had to borrow money from another sister just so she could buy some limes. After reading that section, I really want to try a pickled lime.

One of the reasons I so like this book is that most of the characters are women and it’s not a big romance. There is romance here and there, but that isn’t the main driving force of the plot. Women have so many more freedoms and rights now than they did during the Civil War and yet here we have a well written and enjoyable book that has women actually doing things, instead of being these flowery, vague love interests. So, when someone gives me the excuse, ‘Oh, things were different back then,’ to explain why a book is lacking in relevant female characters, I can always point to Alcott and quirk an eyebrow. Yes, things were different back then, but women were still relevant. Thank you Ms. Alcott!

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Andrea Emmes did such a lovely job with this book. She made each sister sound unique and she also managed to make them sound young when they are little girls and like young ladies by the end of the book. She also had a variety of male voices which were quite believable. 

What I Liked: Great narration; a worthy classic; ladies doing stuff but still working within the confines of the times; a family that does have arguments but still love each other; Laurie being brought into the fold; the pickled limes!

What I Disliked: It does get a tad preachy towards the end.

Check out more reviews, interviews, spotlights, and more on the blog tour.

About Andrea Emmes:

Andrea Emmes started her career performing in musical theater while growing up on the East Coast. This lead to a successful career as a stage performer working for Walt Disney World, Universal Studios, Renaissance Cruises and eventually head lining on the Las Vegas Strip.  Having worked in tv, film and video games, Andrea, a total bibliophile, now enjoys narrating audiobooks at her home studio in San Jose, California.  Known as “The Girl with a Thousand Voices”, her wide range of character voices and dynamic/emotionally invested performances has reviewers and listeners alike commenting on how she effortlessly pulls listeners in, and has versatility and charisma. Not only does she have a Bachelor of Science in Game Art and Design, but Andrea gets her inner gamer geek on playing games of all kinds with her husband and their cat, Lucy.

 Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ Instagram

Synopsis of Little Women:

 

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, set in the 19th century follows the lives of four sisters, Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March as they live, learn, love, and grow as young pilgrims and blossom into fine little women.
Based on the author’s childhood, Little Women is one of the most beloved stories in American literature. It continues to touch listeners both young and old. Alcott takes you on a prolific journey which will make your heart swell, your soul laugh, and your heart ache as we experience the lives of the March sisters as they endure their lessons, scrapes, castles in the air, their romances, and more.

Audible        Amazon

About the Author Louisa May Alcott:

Louisa May Alcott (November 29, 1832 – March 6, 1888) was an American novelist and poet best known as the author of the novel Little Women (1868) and its sequels Little Men (1871) and Jo’s Boys (1886). Raised by her transcendentalist parents, Abigail May and Amos Bronson Alcott in New England, she also grew up among many of the well-known intellectuals of the day such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Henry David Thoreau.

Read more about her on Wikipedia!

Audiobook Giveaway & Review: Onions in the Stew by Betty MacDonald

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Narrator: Heather Henderson

Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press Inc. (2016)

Length: 9 hours 40 minutes

Author’s Page

Betty and her family had quite the time on Vashon Island, Washington State. With her second husband (Don MacDonald) and her two young girls (Joan and Anne), Betty experienced the joys and disappointments of living on an island. Set during WWII, this mostly autobiographical book recounts Betty’s life with wry humor and insight.

Once again, Betty has amused me. By now, after reading 4 books by her, I feel like Betty is somewhat of a friend. I really enjoyed this book from clamming to peaches to teen years to housecleaners. Living on Vashon Island, which was only connected to the mainland via ferries and personal boats, was quite a bit rougher than she and her family expected. There’s also the beauty of having an island house which is also captured well in this book.

The MacDonalds took over the house during an idyllic summer. There were plenty of clams on their personal beach, including geoduck clams. The downstairs practically-outdoor shower was perfect for rinsing off after time in the sea. The great big hearth would be quite wonderful in winter. Then the cold season sets in. The family comes to find out that having a nearly-outdoor shower is onerous to heat up in winter. The great big hearth is truly magnificent but you have to haul in the wood for it, usually driftwood from the beach. The reality settles in and yet the MacDonalds still find much to love about the island.

Betty does such a great job with the humor. She gently pokes fun at everyone and is a little more jabby when focusing the eye on herself. She praises her daughters abilities while also realistically portraying their teen-aged arguments and volatile mood swings. There are plenty of characters that appear through the several years this book covers. Some are helpful handymen, some good cooks, some terrible at child rearing, some are drunk and merry.

Onions in the Stew does a good job of showing the hardships or inconveniences (depending on your point of view) of island living. Betty doesn’t paint the entire experience as a ‘wonderful’ way of life. Nope. Using humor she gives us a slice of reality. That is the root of why I enjoy her books so much. While The Plague and I is still my favorite book by her, this one was quite good as well.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Heather Henderson is great as the voice of Betty MacDonald. She also did a great job with the voices of Joan and Anne even as they age throughout the book. I also enjoyed her male voices, including Don’s. Her Japanese accent was also good.

What I Liked: Plenty of humor; island living in all it’s glory and inconveniences; the clamming stories; other islanders are characters; the girls growing up on the island; the peach-picking summer; everyone makes it through the teen years.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a great, fun read.

Check out more reviews, interviews, spotlights, and more on the blog tour.

About Heather Henderson:

NarratorHeatherHendersonHeather Henderson is a voice actress and audiobook narrator with a 20-year career in literary and performing arts.  Her narrations include the NYT bestseller (now also a feature film) Brain on Fire;  and Sharon Creech’s The Boy on the Porch, which won her an Earphones award and was named one of the Best Children’s Audiobooks for 2013 by Audiofile Magazine.   She earned her Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the Yale School of Drama, and is co-curator of AudioEloquence.com, a pronunciation research site for the audiobook industry.  In 2015, Heather was a finalist for a Voice Arts Award (Outstanding Narration, Audiobook Classics), for her narration of Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I.

Connect with the narrator: Website ~ YouTube ~LinkedIn

Synopsis of Onions in the Stew:

The bestselling author of the American humor classic The Egg and I continues the adventure with this collection of tales about life on the fringe of the Western wilderness. Writing in the 1950s, Betty MacDonald, sophisticated and urbane, captivated readers with her observations about raising a family on an island in Puget Sound. As usual, humorist MacDonald is her own favorite target. She manages to get herself into scrapes with washing machines set adrift in rowboats, used cars, and a $25 Turkey Squasher. And then there’s the scariest aspect of island life — teenaged children.

Audible        Amazon

About the Author Betty MacDonald:

AuthorBettyMacDonaldBetty Bard MacDonald (1907–1958), the best-selling author of The Egg and I and the classic Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children’s books, burst onto the literary scene shortly after the end of World War II. Readers embraced her memoir of her years as a young bride operating a chicken ranch on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, andThe Egg and I sold its first million copies in less than a year. The public was drawn to MacDonald’s vivacity, her offbeat humor, and her irreverent take on life. In 1947, the book was made into a movie starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert, and spawned a series of films featuring MacDonald’s Ma and Pa Kettle characters. 

MacDonald followed up the success of The Egg and I with the creation of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a magical woman who cures children of their bad habits, and with three additional memoirs: The Plague and I (chronicling her time in a tuberculosis sanitarium just outside Seattle), Anybody Can Do Anything (recounting her madcap attempts to find work during the Great Depression), and Onions in the Stew (about her life raising two teenage daughters on Vashon Island). 

Author Paula Becker was granted full access to Betty MacDonald’s archives, including materials never before seen by any researcher. Looking for Betty MacDonald, the first official biography of this endearing Northwest storyteller, reveals the story behind the memoirs and the difference between the real Betty MacDonald and her literary persona.

Find out more on Wikipedia

Connect with the Publisher Post Hypnotic Press

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ YouTube ~ LinkedIn ~ SoundCloud ~ Pinterest

GIVEWAYS!!!

Onions In the Stew Giveaway #1

Onions In the Stew Giveaway #2

Onions In the Stew Giveaway #3

Anybody Can Do Anything by Betty MacDonald

MacDonaldAnybodyCanDoAnythingNarrator: Heather Henderson

Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press Inc. (2016)

Length: 8 hours 30 minutes

Author’s Page

Betty MacDonald returns us to her humorous world, this time during the Great Depression in Seattle. This book is set after her tales of the chicken farm (captured in The Egg and I) and covers her various job fiascoes before and after her stint in a tuberculosis sanatorium (as told in The Plague and I).

Betty is the second oldest child in a family of 4 daughters and 1 son. Her older sister Mary was always getting the younger kids to do what she wanted, either by trickery or by simply assuming they would do so and telling them all the reasons it’s in their best interest as well. This book starts off with Betty’s earliest years and all those school-year pranks and hi-jinks her sister Mary organized. For me, these were cute, quaint stories but didn’t interest me nearly as much as her other two books.

The book then skips ahead several years to directly after Betty’s failed marriage and her coming home from the chicken farm to live with her mom and siblings, bringing her two toddling daughters. I found these little stories more to my liking. Basically, it’s all about Betty and Mary, and occasionally one of the other siblings, finding and keeping work during the Depression int eh 1930s in Seattle. Mary was somewhat of a genius at getting her siblings jobs. Basically, she would claim that she or one of her siblings had the skills that whatever employer was looking for. She often stretched the truth and in those cases where she lied, she did make an effort to get either herself or her sibling acquainted with the skill before reporting to work.

Betty rarely had steady work; either the position was temporary from the beginning or the business closed. Her bosses could be a terror as well, acting like temperamental children with the power to fire people. Sometimes the men hiring secretaries were looking for ladies with special skills, skills that Mary and Betty weren’t willing to take on in a hired position. The there are her funny stories of going into debt and how she managed to get out of it. Yet through it all, Betty tells these tales with such humor. I’ve really enjoyed that about these books. She doesn’t paint a rosy picture, instead telling it how it is yet she maintains the ability to laugh at the situation (and sometimes herself).

My favorite story in this one is about a mysterious young lady that joined Betty in the task of folding flyers and sealing them in envelopes for mailing out later. This young lady seemed lonely but was almost assuredly disturbed. She stalked Betty and made both friendly little gestures and mean, even threatening, gestures and comments. It was a very strange encounter that went on for a few weeks. It became one of those unsolved mysteries turned family joke that her family like to pick over on boring evening.

This was a fun book but I prefer both The Egg and I and The Plague and I. With both of those books, there was a clear story arc. This book was a series of anecdotal tales tied together by Betty’s or Mary’s presence. While an enjoyable book, it didn’t carry the weight of the other two.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Heather Henderson seemed to have some fun with this book. She’s still a great Betty MacDonald, but she’s also a great Mary Bard. I loved the play between these two sisters and Hendersen does a great job of bringing that to life in the narration.

What I Liked: Amusing; 1930s Depression; the variety of jobs; the bosses; the mystery envelope stuffing lady; Betty’s family.

What I Disliked: Not really a dislike, but this book didn’t carry the same punch for me as her other two books.

Check out more reviews, interviews, spotlights, and more on the blog tour.

About Heather Henderson:

NarratorHeatherHendersonHeather Henderson is a voice actress and audiobook narrator with a 20-year career in literary and performing arts.  Her narrations include the NYT bestseller (now also a feature film) Brain on Fire;  and Sharon Creech’s The Boy on the Porch, which won her an Earphones award and was named one of the Best Children’s Audiobooks for 2013 by Audiofile Magazine.   She earned her Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the Yale School of Drama, and is co-curator of AudioEloquence.com, a pronunciation research site for the audiobook industry.  In 2015, Heather was a finalist for a Voice Arts Award (Outstanding Narration, Audiobook Classics), for her narration of Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I.

Connect with the narrator: Website ~ YouTube ~LinkedIn

MacDonaldAnybodyCanDoAnythingSynopsis of Anybody Can Do Anything:

“The best thing about the Depression was the way it reunited our family and gave my sister Mary a real opportunity to prove that anybody can do anything, especially Betty.”

After surviving both the failed chicken farm – and marriage – immortalized in The Egg and I, Betty MacDonald returns to live with her mother and desperately searches to find a job to support her two young daughters. With the help of her older sister Mary, Anybody Can Do Anything recounts her failed, and often hilarious, attempts to find work during the Great Depression.

Audible        Amazon

About the Author Betty MacDonald:

AuthorBettyMacDonaldBetty Bard MacDonald (1907–1958), the best-selling author of The Egg and I and the classic Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children’s books, burst onto the literary scene shortly after the end of World War II. Readers embraced her memoir of her years as a young bride operating a chicken ranch on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, andThe Egg and I sold its first million copies in less than a year. The public was drawn to MacDonald’s vivacity, her offbeat humor, and her irreverent take on life. In 1947, the book was made into a movie starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert, and spawned a series of films featuring MacDonald’s Ma and Pa Kettle characters. 

MacDonald followed up the success of The Egg and I with the creation of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a magical woman who cures children of their bad habits, and with three additional memoirs: The Plague and I (chronicling her time in a tuberculosis sanitarium just outside Seattle), Anybody Can Do Anything (recounting her madcap attempts to find work during the Great Depression), and Onions in the Stew (about her life raising two teenage daughters on Vashon Island). 

Author Paula Becker was granted full access to Betty MacDonald’s archives, including materials never before seen by any researcher. Looking for Betty MacDonald, the first official biography of this endearing Northwest storyteller, reveals the story behind the memoirs and the difference between the real Betty MacDonald and her literary persona.

Find out more on Wikipedia

Connect with the Publisher Post Hypnotic Press

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Vintage SciFi Month 2017

WoodruffeTheSecondEarthClementineOnce again, my yearly foray into vintage science fiction will be lean. I do so love this yearly reading activity but I’m rather scattered this month with our planned trip to California for my big surgery.

Once again, I will be giving this beautiful book, The Second Earth, by Patrick Woodroffe a try. It is magnificently illustrated. My mom found it at a thrift store or perhaps a garage sale in Taos a little over a year ago. I actually started reading it last year for Vintage SF 2016 but a hospital stay waylaid my reading schedule. One of the things I really like about this book is that the author is also the illustrator.

Heldig getting a tongue bath from Tofu
Heldig getting a tongue bath from Tofu

Then I also plan to reread The Book of Frank Herbert, a little DAW edition. I read this oh so many years ago and really enjoyed this collection of his short stories. While I was stuck in doctor’s waiting room last week, I started this book and even got the first story read.

Vintage SF Month is going on all January and anyone is welcome to join. The rules are simple – it has to be in the science fiction or fantasy genres and must be originally published 1979 or earlier. Check out The Little Red Reviewer who came up with the brilliant idea and has been hosting the event for years.

VintageScifiBadge

 

Audiobook Giveaway & Review: The Plague and I by Betty MacDonald

MacDonaldThePlagueAndIScroll to the bottom for the giveaways!

Narrator: Heather Henderson

Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press Inc. (2016)

Length: 8 hours 48 minutes

Author’s Page

Betty MacDonald’s humorous accounts of life continue! This time, she takes us through the year she spent in a tuberculosis sanitorium in Washington in 1938. She pokes fun at everyone, including herself.

This was such a fun book! I know, I’m saying that about a woman’s story of a year away from her life (kids, family, work, fun, friends, etc.), and I may have to spend a little time in purgatory for having laughed so much at such a serious subject. Betty MacDonald does a great job of telling how truthfully horrible being sick is, but also laughing at the situation herself.

I really enjoyed her previous book, The Egg and I, andI found this book even more enjoyable. Tuberculosis isn’t fun for anyone, but in the late 1930s, treatment was something that put your life on hold. Betty was lucky to have spent only a year in the sanitorium. She was also lucky to have close family nearby to take care of her young girls while she was away. Also, she found a sanitorium that offered her free treatment, based on her need. Of course, since she was there are charity, the staff often reminded her that if she didn’t adhere to the strict rules (many of which made little to no sense), she would be asked to leave, still sick.

While there is humor throughout this book, I was also fascinated by life in a sanitorium in the 1930s. It seems the staff were perpetually afraid of the patients commingling and hitting up quickie romances; I think Betty had never received so much warnings against lust in her life! Then there were other rules, like how often a patient was allowed to pee in a day, women patients not being allowed the papers (because it would excite them too much and tax their brains!), and how tatting was allowed but not composing a book.

Patients weren’t allowed to bathe often – once a week for a bath and once a month for hair washing! If family and friends brought special food on their limited visits, all food had to be eaten before the end of the day and whatever wasn’t had to be tossed! Can you imagine receiving a favorite batch of cookies and having to give up any uneaten ones to the trash?

I also had a morbid fascination with the medical practices of the time as well. Betty does a great job describing them from the patient’s view point. In The Egg and I, there were some disparaging racial remarks made. For this book, I am happy to say that Betty points out the silliness of such attitudes of other patients (which were directed at Japanese and African-Americans). All around it’s a very entertaining book and a fascinating look into medical care in the late 1930s.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Heather Henderson has done another great job portraying Betty MacDonald with her narration of this book. I really enjoyed her warm voice for all the humor. During the occasional serious or emotional moment, she did a wonderful job of imbuing the characters with emotion.

What I Liked: Very funny; fascinating look at medical care in the 1930s; tackling a tough situation with humor; Betty pokes fun at everyone, including herself; great narration.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a great, fun read.

Check out more reviews, interviews, spotlights, and more on the blog tour.

About Heather Henderson:

NarratorHeatherHendersonHeather Henderson is a voice actress and audiobook narrator with a 20-year career in literary and performing arts.  Her narrations include the NYT bestseller (now also a feature film) Brain on Fire;  and Sharon Creech’s The Boy on the Porch, which won her an Earphones award and was named one of the Best Children’s Audiobooks for 2013 by Audiofile Magazine.   She earned her Doctor of Fine Arts degree at the Yale School of Drama, and is co-curator of AudioEloquence.com, a pronunciation research site for the audiobook industry.  In 2015, Heather was a finalist for a Voice Arts Award (Outstanding Narration, Audiobook Classics), for her narration of Betty MacDonald’s The Egg and I.

Connect with the narrator: Website ~ YouTube ~LinkedIn

Synopsis of The Plague and I:

MacDonaldThePlagueAndIThe Plague and I recounts MacDonald’s experiences in a Seattle sanitarium, where the author spent almost a year (1938-39) battling tuberculosis. The White Plague was no laughing matter, but MacDonald nonetheless makes a sprightly tale of her brush with something deadly.

Tuberculosis. A terrifying word, as terrifying then as cancer is now. It meant entering a sanatorium for treatment, leaving her family, her children. And what if she did not recover? Hardly the basis for comedy, one would suppose. And one would be wrong. Betty MacDonald always had the ability to face up to adversity — and heaven knows she had enough in her life — so after the initial shock had passed, she proceeded to laugh at her illness, the other patients, the nurses, the doctors, and — chiefly — herself. Humor was her greatest medicine, right up to the day she left the sanatorium, cured. Of course she had her bad moments when despair and tragedy underlying what she saw and heard refused to be pushed into the background, but she had the grit and wit to rise above it. The result is a lively, cheerful and most funny book. In fact, it’s a tonic.

Audible        Amazon

About the Author Betty MacDonald:

AuthorBettyMacDonaldBetty Bard MacDonald (1907–1958), the best-selling author of The Egg and I and the classic Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle children’s books, burst onto the literary scene shortly after the end of World War II. Readers embraced her memoir of her years as a young bride operating a chicken ranch on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, andThe Egg and I sold its first million copies in less than a year. The public was drawn to MacDonald’s vivacity, her offbeat humor, and her irreverent take on life. In 1947, the book was made into a movie starring Fred MacMurray and Claudette Colbert, and spawned a series of films featuring MacDonald’s Ma and Pa Kettle characters. 

MacDonald followed up the success of The Egg and I with the creation of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle, a magical woman who cures children of their bad habits, and with three additional memoirs: The Plague and I (chronicling her time in a tuberculosis sanitarium just outside Seattle), Anybody Can Do Anything (recounting her madcap attempts to find work during the Great Depression), and Onions in the Stew (about her life raising two teenage daughters on Vashon Island). 

Author Paula Becker was granted full access to Betty MacDonald’s archives, including materials never before seen by any researcher. Looking for Betty MacDonald, the first official biography of this endearing Northwest storyteller, reveals the story behind the memoirs and the difference between the real Betty MacDonald and her literary persona.

Find out more on Wikipedia

Connect with the Publisher Post Hypnotic Press

Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~ YouTube ~ LinkedIn ~ SoundCloud ~ Pinterest

GIVEWAYS!!!

GRAND PRIZE: $100 credit for the Post Hypnotic Press Website

The Plague and I Runner Up

$60 credit for the Post Hypnotic Press Website

The Plague and I 3rd Runner Up

The Egg and I by Betty MacDonald

MacDonaldTheEggAndINarrator: Heather Henderson

Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press Inc. (2015)

Length: 9 hours

Author’s Page

The Egg and I is a mostly autobiographical account about Betty MacDonald’s time on a chicken farm in the late 1920s in Washington state. Filled with humor, there’s plenty of odd characters, hardships to over come, new foods to be explored, and eggs to be gathered, cleaned, and packaged for sale.

The story starts off with a brief, but laughter-inducing, account of Betty’s school years leading up to her whirlwind romance with Bob, their marriage, and then moving to the Pacific Northwest in search of heaven – a chicken farm of their own! Betty isn’t your typical heroine with perfect hair and stylish figure. Nope, she’s like all the rest of us. She was considered rather too tall for the times, being 5 ft 9 in. I like that she had a belly and rough hands and messy hair. In many ways she’s a very practical person, but she’s still a city girl moving to the country, so there’s plenty for her to learn.

There is one big negative to this book, which was typical of the time period (this book was originally published in 1945): racist remarks towards Native Americans. At the time, such remarks were common and considered accurate. Thankfully, our society as a whole has grown and such remarks today would not sit well with me at all. In truth, even in a historical perspective, these remarks make me a bit angry. However, I am glad that the publisher decided to keep the book as it was originally written instead of washing out these remarks, maintaining the historical accuracy of views at that time, and showing that people of every ethnicity, including the author, are flawed.

OK, so now that that is out of the way, there’s plenty I enjoyed about this book. First, this story spoke to me in many ways. My husband and I some years ago left city life for rural living and had a little farm. We had to go through many of the same learning curves as Betty – starting a fire every day in winter to heat the house, irrigation, gardening, chickens, plowing with equines, stray dogs getting into our property, etc. While we have indoor plumbing, it’s not too hard to picture Betty briskly walking out to the outhouse on a crisp autumn morning.

The Pacific Northwest, and several places named in this book, hold a special place in my heart. Having family in Port Angeles and Seattle, we have visited the area many times. So it was a real treat to see these places through Betty’s eyes in the late 1920s when things were really rugged. She talks of all the edible local foods including the Dungeness crabs and the geoduck clams. Having a chicken farm, they were never short of eggs, so she learned to add an extra egg or two to any recipe that called for eggs, and to a few recipes that did not.

Ma and Pa Kettle feature prominently in the story, being some of the closest neighbors to the isolated chicken farm. There’s also the Hicks, who are eccentric in other ways. I think anyone who moves to the country will find a bevvy of interesting characters in the area and Betty doesn’t skimp on telling how odd her neighbors are. Also, Betty told amusing tales about the animals on the farm, her husband Bob, and inanimate objects, like the wood-burning kitchen stove. She doesn’t leave herself out of this well-meaning, laughter-inducing critique either. There’s plenty of chuckles to go around.

It being a chicken farm, we have to talk about the chickens. Since Bob was often working away from the farm during the day, Betty was the main care-taker of all the beasties. I love her descriptions of all the loving labor she, and sometimes Bob, put into caring for these birds. There’s the daily cleaning of their houses, maintaining the fences around their yards, putting together their feed, tending to the chicks (which far too easily succumb to death), gathering the eggs, and regularly culling the flock. She very accurately describes how with any other beast, such care would be returned with affection. Not so with the chicken! So true, and I say that from a place of love for chickens.

While Betty often jokes, she also usually tells it like it is. I hope others enjoy this classic as much as I do.

I received a free copy of this book via The Audiobookworm.

The Narration: Heather Henderson did a great job with this book. I love how she carries the humor, telling it with a sense of irony where needed. She has a unique voice for each character and her male voices are quite believable.

What I Liked: Plenty of humor; city folk moving to the country; the hardships of country living; the realities of chicken farming; the sheer amount of work that goes into living without indoor plumbing; more humor; great narration. 

What I Disliked: There are broad-stroke negative remarks about Native Americans.

What Others Think:

Mother Daughter Book Club

Cat's Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

VonnegutCatsCradleTofuNarrator: Tony Roberts

Publisher: HarperAudio (2007)

Length: 7 hours 11 minutes

Author’s Page

John, who starts off researching what family members of the makers of the atomic bomb were doing on the day when Hiroshima was bombed, but soon gets caught up in a minor mystery that involves the children of physicist Felix Hoenikker. Add in a calypso singer’s personal theology, the odd substance called Ice-Nine, and a large helping of satirical humor and you have quite the book!

This was my first Vonnegut book (yep, I know, where have I been?) and I wasn’t quite sure what to make of it. Sometimes I don’t care for satire because so often it is tied to certain political events or a political climate, and if you aren’t versed in those happenings, lots of it flies over your head. Not so with this book! Sure, there is some satire that refers to people and events that I’m not familiar with, but much of it was easy to pin down. Plus there’s plenty of other humor and the whole plot going on to keep me entertained. I was especially interested in the Ice-Nine. I figured it was tied into the dystopian theme the book’s description mentions, but it took forever to get around to it. Indeed, Ice-Nine and the ending of the world don’t play a part until the very end of the novel. So if you’re going into this novel hoping for a dystopian story, you will be a bit disappointed.

The calypso singer, Bokonon, has this theology (called Bokononism by the practitioners) that kicks off the book as John relates his story to us as if it’s all over, said, and done. John, in his own tale, doesn’t come upon Bokononism until he travels to the island of San Lorenzo, where he meets two of the Hoenikker children. The theology is filled with little truths that gave me a chuckle here and there. One of the little rituals Bokononists partake in is touching the soles of their feet to one another, making them feel closer to each other. Oddly enough, Bokononism has been banned on San Lorenzo even as everyone is secretly a Bokononist.

Each of the three Hoenikker children are rather different, but it was Newton Hoenikker, the youngest child, who caught my attention. He’s a dwarf and also a medical student. I liked his recollections of his dad and older siblings, his sister being the care-taker of the family once their mother passed away. Indeed, his descriptions of his father, the physicist, reminds me of so many scientists I knew when I worked in Los Alamos.

It took me a while to figure out why this book is called Cat’s Cradle and if you’re wondering the same thing, the answer does eventually come. It seems much of the book is that way: there’s this set up at the front end but it takes time to eventually arrive at those same things once again so that we fully understand them. For instance, the book starts off with some Bokononism stuff but it’s only later that we learn the origins of Bokononism. John hints that the world has ended, but we only find out how and why towards the very end of the novel. In this regard, I think this is one of those novels that is best read all in one sitting rather than broken up over a week.

In the end, I liked it. Yes, I did spend the entire book eagerly awaiting the dystopian bit the book’s description promises, but when it comes it is indeed a bleak world and I’m not sure how humanity will survive it. I didn’t get all the Bokononism stuff but it did provide quite a bit of entertainment. Hoenikker and his kids are the backbone that made this book interesting to me. I really enjoyed hearing what the now-grown kids had to say about their now-dead dad and growing up in the shadow of the atomic bomb project.

The Narration: Tony Roberts was a good pick for narrating this book. He had distinct voices for all the characters and carried off the humor quite well. I liked his Indiana accent for Ma Hoosier and his Caribbean accent for the native San Lorenzoans. Also, this edition of the audiobook contained an older interview with Kurt Vonnegut that I found informative and amusing. In the interview, it’s rather informal as the interviewer is one of his good friends and it sounds like they are simply having a chat about his book and other things, like Vonnegut’s military experience. 

What I Liked: This book is odd and fun at the same time; the mystery of Ice-Nine; Felix Hoenikker and his kids; Newton and his stories about his older siblings and dad; Bokononism; how things end; the bonus interview with Vonnegut.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it was an interesting book.

What Others Think:

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The Past Due Book Review

Sleeping Beauty by Jenni James

JamesSleepingBeautyWhere I Got It: Review copy

Narrator: Karen Dotrice, Punch Audio

Publisher: StoneHouse Ink (2016)

Length: 4 hours 18 minutes

Series: Book 2 Faerie Tale Collection

Author’s Page

Note: While this is Book 2 in the collection it works just fine as a stand a lone.

Aleyna has been asleep for decades. The evil enchantress Valeria destroyed her kingdom. The good unicorn wizard Ezralon put Aleyna under a sleep spell to protect her. Now her ghost haunts her ruined castle, though she sees it only as it was when she was awake and living there. Ghost servants assist her in her daily needs and do their best to keep her company. In a nearby kingdom, Darien, brother to King Michael, has taken a bet to explore the ruins and confront the ghost. Darien has an unusual fear of the supernatural, so this dare will not be an easy one to see through to the end.

Ezralon was my favorite character. He’s a gruff old wizard, and also a unicorn. The inherent opposites of those two things tickled me to no end! I also love that he’s protective of Aleyna but also willing to help the right person bring her out of her sleep.

Aleyna was pretty so-so for me. She’s not had much real world experience but she’s still got a little too much fluff between the ears for my taste. She needs assistance with nearly everything for much of the book, though she does have one or two moments when she rises above and accomplishes something. She has these PTSD moments when her memories of the past come back to her and I felt these scenes were given the most weight, defining the character, and making her rather dependent on others. I didn’t feel that she was the hero of the story at all. Darien has a little more meat to him than Aleyna. He falls in love easily and is very chivalrous, etc. That was to be expected and came off as vanilla bland.

Darien’s crew (young noblemen who came with him on this dare) agree to protect Aleyna and her crumbling castle from the hoards of bad things Valeria has brought with her. MILD SPOILER Aleyna has a power of her own that she isn’t fully aware of, but Ezralon and Valeria are. So Ezralon advises Aleyna to use that power to surprise Valeria while Darien and crew make ready for a stronger defense of the castle. This super power is looking extremely fantastic, like radiant, in a nice dress. Yep. END SPOILER. I was pretty disappointed on that one. Really? That’s her special ability? Argh!

Over all, the story was a little too happy and Disney-esque for me. It does have a full story arc and there’s no gaping holes. Yet I wanted more out of the main character Aleyna, a lot more really. In the end, I felt that Valeria had a very bad day and was totally off her game and that had she taken the time to have a cup of coffee, she could have easily defeated Alyena and crew. I do really like Ezralon and hope that he gets his own story one day.

I received a review copy at no cost from the audiobook publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Narration: Karen Dotrice’s performance was pretty good. She had several different character voices with accents and she was great on getting emotions across to the listener. However, whenever Darien was shushing Helena in comfort, it was just a bit too much sssshhhhhh, to the point where I had to turn down the volume. Also, the name pronunciation wasn’t always clear to me – Helena? Alena? Ezrilond? Ezrimond?

What I Liked: Haunted crumbling castle; Aleyna’s time in the kitchens; Ezralon and his gruff affection; Valeria and her minions.

What I Disliked: Aleyna isn’t one to take life by the reigns; Darien is pretty bland; Aleyna’s super power is silly; a little too Disney-esque for me.

What Others Think:

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