Audiobook Giveaway & Review: Looking for Betty MacDonald by Paula Becker

Scroll to the bottom to check out the giveaway!

Narrator: Paula Becker

Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press Inc. (2016)

Length: 8 hours 10 minutes

Author’s Page

This biography of one of America’s iconic women captures Betty MacDonald from top to bottom, from her grandparents to the relatives that survived her death. Her books shined a humorous, if sometimes critical, eye on certain aspects of living in the Pacific Northwest as one the last frontier lands in the country from the 1920s-1940s. Now Paula Becker draws the curtain back and shows us some of the things that Betty herself was reluctant to put in her semi-autobiographical novels.

After having listened to Betty MacDonald’s four novels, and having read her Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle books as a kid, I felt like I knew her somewhat. This biography filled in some of the blanks and had a few surprises for me as well. Getting to know more about Betty’s ancestors and her first husband was an interesting place to start. I loved that her mom was a no-nonsense kind of person and happily traveled with her husband (who worked for a mining company – if I recall correctly). This job took the family to some of the most rugged areas of the US.

Later, when Betty starts publishing novels, Becker gives a somewhat detailed account of what each one is about. While these books aren’t described one after another all in a row (but are sprinkled in among the biography along the timeline of when they were published), I did find the descriptions a little tedious. However, I have recently finished listening to them and they are still fresh in my mind. I think that if you haven’t read the books in some time (or perhaps you haven’t read all 4 of them) then this would be a good refresher for you.

For me, the most interesting parts were in the last quarter of the book – all that stuff that happens after Betty’s fourth novel, Onions in the Stew, was published. While Betty’s second marriage was evidently much happier than her first, it wasn’t untroubled. There were money problems which surprised me. Betty’s books were very well received in their day, complete with radio and TV series along with a movie. Yet success doesn’t always prepare one to manage money well, especially if one turns that responsibility over to a spouse. Betty was in the unusual position of being the breadwinner for the family and yet also feeling socially obligated to play the merry housemaker. Becker gives us details on this without falling into gossip. I really appreciate that she stuck with known facts and extracts from MacDonald letters to paint this picture of Betty’s and Don’s marriage.

While I had read on Wikipedia about Betty’s legal troubles (several people were not happy with how they were supposedly portrayed in her books), Becker gives us many details. Plenty of those complaining received a bit of fame. Some of them really seemed to enjoy it so it was hard to say that the portrayals in Betty’s books did them any harm.

I was saddened to learn of Betty’s death and this probably sounds quite odd as I’ve known since I picked up The Egg and I so many months ago that she was deceased. However, I’ve really come to enjoy her company through these books. As Becker’s biography walks us through her last months, I really felt for Betty. She died young by today’s standards but I doubt there was much more medicine could have done then. After reading her book about her lengthy stay in a tuberculosis sanatorium (The Plague and I), I can guess that she faced her final illness with the same pointed wit.

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

The Narration: Paula Becker narrated her own book and since this is nonfiction, it worked pretty well. She tried her hand at doing a few voices when necessary and those performances were passable. For the bulk of the book, she does a great job of maintaining an even speed and giving slight inflections here and there, letting us know that she’s just as engaged in the book as us listeners are.

What I Liked: Lots of good info on a deceased author I’ve come to enjoy; most of those claiming defamation by Betty’s books didn’t seem to be suffering from said defamation; some details about Betty’s and Don’s marriage and their financial difficulties; Becker sticks to the facts and doesn’t fall back on gossip.

What I Disliked: This isn’t much of a dislike, but I don’t think the image of Betty used for this cover really suits her. She kind of looks like an evil stepsister witch.

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

About Author & Narrator Paula Becker:

Paula Becker is a writer and historian living in Seattle, Washington. She is the author of the book Looking For Betty MacDonald: The Egg, The Plague, Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle and I (University of Washington Press), and co-author (with Alan J. Stein) of the books The Future Remembered: The 1962 Seattle World’s Fair And Its Legacy (Seattle Center Foundation, 2011) and Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition: Washington’s First World’s Fair (History Ink/HistoryLink in association with University of Washington Press, 2009). More than 300 of Paula’s essays documenting all aspects of Washington’s history appear on HistoryLink.org, the online encyclopedia of Washington state history, where she is a staff historian.

Connect with Paula: Website

Synopsis of Looking for Betty MacDonald:

Betty 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, and The 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 biography of this endearing Northwest storyteller, reveals the story behind the memoirs and the difference between the real Betty MacDonald and her literary persona.

Audible        Amazon

About 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

GIVEAWAY!!!

Post Hypnotic Press is doing yet another one of their awesome giveaways! Enter one or all of the giveaways below. Each ends April 30, 2017.

$100 Credit to Post Hypnotic Press

Looking For Betty MacDonald Giveaway #1

$80 Credit to Post Hypnotic Press

Looking For Betty MacDonald Giveaway #2

$20 Amazon Gift Card

Looking For Betty MacDonald 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

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

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 Cottage at Bantry Bay by Hilda van Stockum

VanStockumTheCottageAtBantryBayWhere I Got It: Review copy from the narrator (thanks!)

Narrator: Valerie Gilbert

Publisher: Bethlehem Books (2014)

Length: 4 hours 44 minutes

Author’s Page

The O’Sullivan family is an Irish family doing their best to get by in the first half of the 1900s (1930s, I think). The four kids (Michael, Brigid, Liam, and Francis) star prominently in this book. First published in 1938, the book is a fun and quaint look at Irish country living of the same time period.

The story starts off with the eldest two kids on a small adventure. Their father has sprained his ankle and can’t take the donkey to market. So off the kids go with packed lunches to sell the beast. Along the way, they come across some gypsies and end up walking away with a dog, who they name Bran. The book continues with many other adventures (or difficulties) the kids get into. Bran himself causes a certain amount of grief with his outdoor manners, but the family strives hard to turn him into a suitable house pet.

There’s storms and stories, lost kids and secret caves, irascible cows and picnics. One of the twins, Francis (aka Francie), has a bad foot that occasionally slows him down. But he doesn’t let that keep him from trying all sorts of questionable feats. Brigid (aka Bridie) seems to have gotten the common sense for the lot of them. It was quite fun seeing the kids get into and out of trouble.

My one criticism is the string of racism towards Gypsies in this book. Now I have no doubt that it was historically accurate for racism to be a part of the O’Sullivans’ lives, but we never get to see things from the Gypsies’ point of view to off set that. So, if you plan to read this to your kids, or have them read it, be prepped to chat about the racism.

Narration:  Valerie Gilbert did a great job with this book. Her Irish accent, carried over all the characters, was great. There were a number of Gaelic words as well as the colloquial Irish terms (like for potato) tossed into the mix and Ms. Gilbert did a good job on them all. Her kid voices, and the variety, were totally believable and had the right mix of impishness, fun, and child-like wonder. She also had a variety of voices for the adults, including uncle Patty. There was even singing! Great narration!

What I Liked: Fun adventures for the kids; irascible cow; uncle Patty and his tales; the dog Bran; great narration.

What I Disliked:  Racism towards Gypsies.

What Others Think:

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