Jonathan Swift: The Reluctant Rebel by John Stubbs

Luxor kitty is our local rebel.

Narrator: Derek Perkins

Publisher: HighBridge (2017)

Length: 31 hours 13 minutes

Author’s Page

This is a very comprehensive biography of Jonathan Swift. I was drawn to this book because I was forced to read many of Swift’s work in school and I thought his life would be pretty interesting considering the fantastical elements to Gulliver’s Travels and the rather gruesome take on curing starvation in A Modest Proposal. I was not disappointed. Mr. Swift did indeed lead an interesting life.

This book is pretty heavy with the politics of the time. Swift was born in the 1660s and lived well into the 1700s. His satire and his dabblings in politics meant that I needed to learn the basics of British, Irish, and French politics of the time to understand Swift the better. This biography does a really good job of laying that all out for the reader. While I did find that this bogged things down from time to time, I also appreciated that the details were there if I needed to refer to them.

I was surprised to learn that Swift was born in Dublin, Ireland yet insisted he was an Englishman his entire life. Indeed, Swift seems to enjoy being a breathing, walking contradiction. I get the feeling he was never really happy or content and I think he brought some of that on himself. By the same token, I think he would own that and make a quip about it.

It appears that Swift disliked babies, perhaps even had an aversion. The author has an informed guess that Swift would have been a solid germaphobe in today’s time with our knowledge of bacteria and viruses. I totally agree with the author on this point. By the way, Swift didn’t reproduce.

Swift suffered from recurrent vertigo, which was referred to giddiness during his life. Poor dude. I bet this was a huge irritant to him. Later in life he would suffer other ailments such as losing his voice and possibly suffering from insanity. It must have been so frustrating for him towards the end, being a man of words and not able to use them effectively.

For me, the biggest mystery about Swift was his love life, or lack thereof. He had a close tie with Esther Johnson for much of her life and I found it very interesting the great pains he always took to maintain propriety. In fact, he often addressed his letters to her and her lady companion, Rebecca Dingley. Was it love or just a deep friendship? Did they secretly marry or was that just silliness? The author does a good job of laying out the known facts and then making a few educated guesses from there.

Of course, you can’t explore Jonathan Swift without getting into the details of his writings. There’s plenty of that here in this book and even if you aren’t familiar with all of Swift’s publications, the author makes it clear what’s important about each in regards to the subject at hand. For me, this also sometimes bogged down the story of Swift’s life but I also appreciate the thoroughness.

I received a free copy of this book via LibraryThing.

The Narration: Derek Perkins was a good fit for this book. He sounded interested throughout the entire book. There wasn’t much call for character voices, this being a biography. He did capture some emotions here and there as the story of Swift’s life unfolded.

What I Liked: A detailed look at Jonathan Swift and the times he lived in; his mysterious love life; his long list of contradictions; how me could charm or put people off with his sharp words; the politics of the times; Swift’s ability to capture the grunge.

What I Disliked: There were several times that the story bogged down a bit due to the amount of detail.

What Others Think:

Catherine Brown

Kirkus

Homemade Food: World Flavors by Terrapetti Publishing

Narrator: Denise Kahn

Publisher: Terrapetti Publishing (2016)

Length: 3 hours 51 minutes

Author’s Page 

Connecting traditional recipes with culture and history is what this book is about. This book contains nearly 70 recipes from 13 different regions around the world. This book was written by 3 different people who live in different cities around the world, though the book never names who these three people are.

I’ve listened to other cookbooks as audiobooks but this one was more of a conversation about food that happened to have recipes tossed in. I was amused to see the book starts off with poutine as I find that such a heavy meal suited for cold weather and ice fishing. However this North American section talks about the great melting pot that the continent is and what that means for typical, tasty meals in that location.

The book does a great job of providing this context for all the regions discussed: North America, Central America & the Caribbean, South America, Northern Europe, Eastern Europe, Western Europe, Southern Europe, Northern Africa, Western Africa, Middle East along with South & Central Asia, East Asia & Japan, Southeast Asia, Australia & New Zealand. With the lens of traditional food, the world gets divided up a little differently than in the world of politics.

Each meal starts with an introduction, Meal Presentation, about how that meal came about, what significance it has in the local culture and the very basics of what make it. Then we get the How to Cook This Meal which is a very basic recipe without measurements. It’s more of a conversation about how to make this dish. I really liked this approach because I often view recipes as suggestions of how to make a meal rather than strict guidelines.

There were plenty of meals that I didn’t have a clue how to pronounce and had not heard of before but sound really interesting. Mofongo. Charquican Stew. Kjotsupa. Tochitura. Chorba Frik. MaPo Doufu. Kiwi Hangi. I could go on, but I expect this gives you an idea of the diversity of recipes in this book. All together, it was a delightful and enlightening book on food from around the world.

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Denise Kahn did an OK job. Her recording sounded tinny most of the time. I really don’t know if she pronounced everything correctly but the Spanish and Germanic words sounded correct to my novice ears. For some reason she read out the entire table of contents. Now this might have been a requirement of the publisher. It was really boring and didn’t really give me anything.

What I Liked: It’s a big conversation about food and not a recipe book; the lovely cover; the world divvied up by food culture; plenty of meals I haven’t tried.

What I Disliked: The recording was a bit tinny.

What Others Think:

Aural Addiction

Audiobook Giveaway & Review: Your Holistically Hot Transformation by Marissa Vicario

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaway!

Narrator: Marissa Vicario

Publisher: Falk Audio (2017)

Length: 4 hours 33 minutes

Author’s Page

This book is about finding that food and exercise balance in your own life. It’s not about yet another fad diet or some supposedly awesome exercise plan that will transform you. Rather, it’s about listening to what your body needs and regaining that control over your food and activity choices.

When I first looked at this book, I have to admit, the title turned me off. Just at a glance, I thought this book was more focused on looks than on healthy living. I’m certainly glad I gave it a chance though! It’s got a lot going on inside. So, don’t judge this book by it’s title. There’s some thoughtful and helpful advice in this book.

I especially liked the advice to ditch the scale. Yes! Really, this is only one way to measure your progress and it doesn’t necessarily indicate healthiness. The info on sugars, fat, and fiber and what they do or don’t do for the body was especially useful.

As always, I like the reinforcement of getting away from pre-packaged foods and fast food restaurants. I can totally get behind the idea of plating up even simple meals so they look lovely since presentation does make a difference in the enjoyment of a meal.

The info on the cleanses and juicing was new to me. I found it interesting to learn just how limited their usefulness was to weight loss or maintaining a healthy weight. The other side of the coin was the info, and the author’s own experiences, on becoming a good cook. Now the author does compare cooking to shoe shopping, which I found to be a bit silly. I’m not a shoe person myself (my husband owns more shoes than I do) so this section I felt like breezing through. Plus it reinforced my first impression about the book. Health should be attained (or maintained) for it’s own worthiness, not simply because you want to look hot. It’s fine if that’s a side effect, but shouldn’t be the main goal.

Finally, the book talks about the importance of having personal time and quality sleep. I totally agree. I think most people would benefit plenty from these two things in general, whether they are seeking to lose weight or not. The PDF that comes with the audiobook was easy to access and had some helpful recipes (such as making my own salad dressings – yum!).

I received a free copy of this book.

The Narration: Marissa Vicario narrated her own book and the narration was OK. While I enjoyed hearing the book in the author’s own voice, her production quality wasn’t that good. There were a few repeated sentences, mouth noises, and odd sounds (perhaps the turning of a page?). However, the sound quality itself was good, staying at an even volume all the way through. The author’s passion for this subject comes through clearly in her narration.

What I Liked: Great advice on finding what works for each individual; info on cleanses and juicing; reinforcement of avoiding fast foods; the PDF that accompanies the audiobook; the importance of personal time.

What I Disliked: The book’s title; shoe shopping? really?; the narration production could have used a few touch ups.

What Others Think:

Confessions of a Fitness Instructor

Lunging Through Life

Peace, Love, & Oats

Your Path To Fit

GIVEAWAY!!!!

Marissa is giving away 3 Audible.com copies of Your Holistically Hot Transformation. Do the Rafflecopter thing below or answer these questions in the comments: Do you have an Audible.com account? What is your favorite fitness thing (a certain exercise or some super food you love)? If you follow Marissa in any way, let me know in the comments for an extra entry into the giveaway. Giveaway ends July 9th, 2017, midnight.

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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:

Stainless Steel Droppings

Pop Matters

The Singing in the Wood

Stories from Herodotus by Lorna Oakes

Narrator: Catherine O’Brien

Publisher: Essential Audiobooks LLC (2017)

Length: 1 hour 43 minutes

Author’s Page

If you’ve ever tried to read Herodotus, then you know that most translations have a lot of repetition and ramble on a bit. Now Lorna Oakes gives us some great stories from Herodotus distilled down into thoughtful, sometimes action-packed, stories that will delight adults and entertain kids.

The book starts off with a little bit about Herodotus. He traveled extensively during his lifetime and wrote down historical events as best he could. Many of the events he wrote about happened generations before his time, so there’s bound to be some inaccuracies. Yet there’s a charm to his works as well. He made a grand attempt at recording the known world’s history and that account has survived to this day. All around, that is extraordinary. I, myself, have only read a bit of Herodotus but Oakes’s book makes it easy to absorb the essence of the tales Herodotus was trying to capture.

There’s 4 parts to this book. Part I is all about King Croesus in Lydia, which is in modern-day Turkey. He has a portentous dream and is concerned about his reign. I really like how he tested the various oracles. Very clever! Yet he then relies on the foretelling of the Delphi Oracle, misinterpreting the true meaning. Oakes does a great job here of just telling this tale, showing us how arrogance can color the meaning to any oracle riddle. It provides a great discussion point for adults and kids alike.

Part II is the Story of Cyrus. Part I flowed into Part II as both Cyrus and King Croesus are both influenced by the Delphi Oracle. This tale tells us how Cyrus came into power. It’s significant because Cyrus united two major families and became a significant Persian ruler. Cyrus was slated for death as a babe but he was saved by a cowherder and his wife. Later, of course, this is discovered and a reckoning must come out of it. I love that Oakes doesn’t leave out a rather bit of gruesome in this story. She doesn’t linger over it either and I feel it was essential to show motivation for one of the character’s vengeance.

Part III is about Herodotus’s time in Egypt. Of course, he visits the great pyramids and writes about how they were constructed. Herodotus gives us his version of how Psammeticus became king of the 26th dynasty of Egypt. This sections also includes the tale of King Apries and how he was overthrown by General Amasis and rebel forces. For me, it was the bits about the Great Pyramids that stood out most in this section.

Part IV is all about the Greeks and Persians. There’s some famous stories in this section, including the tale of Leonidas and how he and his small force repelled Xerxes’s army. This is a captivating story and the retelling of it here is well done. This section also includes the esteemed Greek physician Democedes. He was taken captive and bounced around a bit, sometimes as tribute. He ties Polycrates of Samos to the Persian king Darius.

All around, it’s a great collection of ancient tales based on Herodotus’s works. I love that Oakes has made these tales so accessible and I think this is a great way to introduce kids to ancient history.

I received a free copy of this book via Audiobook Boom!

The Narration: Catherine O’Brien did a great job with this book. There are several people and place names I had not heard pronounced before, so I can’t speak to the accuracy, but I can say she was consistent in her pronunciations all the way through. She was also great with portraying the emotions of the various characters. She sounded engaged and interested in the work all the way through.

What I Liked: Herodotus’s tales made easily accessible; great for kids and adults alike; great narration; lovely cover art; the tale of Leonidas; the Great Pyramids; testing the oracles; Cyrus as a cowherder’s son.

What I Disliked: Nothing – this was a great bit of history and entertainment.

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

Interview: Robert Kingett, Author of Off the Grid: Living Blind Without the Internet

Folks, please welcome journalist and book author Robert W. Kingett to the blog today. He was kind enough to give me a bit of his time for an interview. After listening to his book, Off the Grid, I was very excited to pick his mind on several things.

Off the Grid came out in 2015. What lessons from that month of no internet still linger with you?

The lessons that still linger with me are lessons I’d thought I’d lose, honestly, like, don’t take humans for granted. I see a time when human interaction will become even more haphazard in the future. I see the scope of the net changing even now that I am back online in ways I never considered before. It seems like the internet is turning into a place where people go if they want to feel outraged or to feel validated by someone or something. Self-confidence, in my generation anyway, is fading very fast so a lesson that I hold onto very dearly, in my journalism work and personal life, is value your own thoughts and ideas but don’t seek praise or validation or a pat on the back. Nobody is as important or worthy as you are and your closest, offline, friends. Treasure yourself, and this goes for writers and journalists today too. Just write. Don’t try to please an audience because, chances are, half of the comments section won’t understand you anyway. Report on what you believe is right. Write because you enjoy it, not because you are trying to be the most ethical person on the planet.

Ethics will never be fulfilled fully by one journalist or writer. Why should you try so hard to be everybody else’s version of ethical when they will just call you fake anyway? What’s the point? Stick to your own passion and your own ethics and become who you always wanted to be, not someone everybody wants you to be.

The other lesson that lingers with me is the lesson that keeping up research skills and asking questions is more important than people realize. Now that I am back online, I see so many people willing to believe the first Google result they see. Many don’t look for dissenting opinions or even try to ask questions anymore. This is scary. We are becoming a generation that cares about facts but doesn’t understand the motive behind the facts. We don’t care to know why someone else thinks differently. We’re locking ourselves into a subconscious echo chamber and, that too, scares me. I still talk to people I don’t agree with. I still seek out differing opinions. I always will. I hope others continue to do the same.

If you could be an extra on a TV show or movie, what would it be and what would you be doing?

Without a doubt, it would be the Big Bang Theory. That show is my favorite of all time. I think it’s hilarious and the character development is outstanding, among other aspects of the writing, but I’d totally get into a heated argument with Sheldon about Star Wars because I’m sure I’d know something he doesn’t and it would be great just to have an argument with him. He’s a great actor and character, by the way. He has a lot of depth and development.

You are an advocate for greater media access for the disabled. What has been your greatest struggle in that role?

Honestly, the biggest struggle in that role has been getting people to care, on all fronts. Many in the disability community want others to make things happen for them but when this advocate or that person trying to change things reaches out, very few in our community do anything. They want to reap the rewards of hard advocacy without advocating.

On the non-disabled side, even today, people continue to see us as the lowest form of society so they don’t want to do anything for us. We must constantly prove why we need accessibility changes, even in this current year. I don’t understand why companies and things still, in a lot of cases, refuse disability accommodations in buildings and on the web. Many will fight to the death with excuses of cost and liability and other lame excuses. All of you guys, the ones who don’t have a disability, are temporarily abled. There may come a day where you need accessible housing or to use a website or to find a job with an understanding employer. What then? Will it be too late for you to get what you need? Probably. Just think about that.

If you could pick a fictional character to officiate at your wedding, who would it be?

Without a doubt, it would be Albus Dumbledore. I just think he’s a person everybody should meet, at least once in their lifetime.

What now-dead author would you like to interview? What are some of the things you would chat about?

I’d honestly talk to V. C. Andrews about writing to vanquish her own personal daemons through stories. I am a weird cookie so I read all kinds of books, even some where many would feel very uncomfortable, like reading about sexual endeavors with other family members. The problem is I have a very open mind. I ask questions. I want to know about things that others find really off the wall, so I will read things that others won’t even consider trying. For V. C. Andrews, it’s her incest characters. I don’t care about that at all. In fact, I dove deeper to understand their histories and ways of thinking. It just fascinated me. Even if you don’t agree with something, wisdom can be found anywhere.

I’d ask her things about writing, her thoughts about life in general. People who write very unorthodox things have an insight into the world most will refuse to explore or figure out. I’d want to just ask her questions for a day about anything just to see her point of view on things just because I know there will be some wisdom I can take from her views.

What has been your worst or most difficult job? How does it compare to writing Off the Grid?

I’ve been a journalist for many years and I’d cover political issues. I still do, but something hard, and, yeah, I am going to say it, is listening to a Trump supporter blabbering on about destroying a system they barely grasp to begin with. I’m not a Trump supporter. I won’t pretend to understand people who like his word salads of stupidity. I find it hard to listen to people who want to bring hatred and segregation back into this country.

Writing Off the Grid was a different kind of challenge but it was a much easier challenge. It was a challenge within myself. Could I honestly write about my frustrations and humorous thoughts? Could I look inside of myself to see what I am getting out of this month offline? While challenging, I believe I did well. I’m not saying I did stellar work but I did darn good pondering if I do say so myself.

More and more we see fiction being multimedia – a book, a TV show, a PC game, a graphic novel. How do you see the publishing industry evolving to be more inclusive of the disabled?

I see it happening by accident, honestly. I see the publishing industry becoming accessible by accident not by design. With the rise of E-Books and audio books that will only continue to make things better for us. I still also believe podcasts, audio only podcasts, will grow as well.

If you were sent on a magical quest which other 4 fantasy authors would you take with you?

Without a doubt J. K. Rowling because I’d just love her sense of humor to tag along. I’d also take Brandon Sanderson, and, maybe Eoin Colfer because, well, we need a boy genius with us. It would be neat to see how Artemisia Fowl would handle me getting everybody into trouble with my curiosity. I’d take Robert J. Sawyer, even though he isn’t a fantasy author, because he would be just as creatively curious as I am and this could help in puzzles, perhaps.

If everyone came with warning labels, what would yours say?

Mine would probably have commas or colons between the words. Weird, strange. Outrageous, needy, lovable, and, crazy.

In this age of publishing, self-promotion is necessary for the author. What do you enjoy most about advertising yourself and your works? What do you find most challenging?

Obviously the most difficult is getting people to notice me without me doing my part to add to the outrage pool, but it gives me a sense of freedom to set my own work hours and schedule. I have the freedom to say no to a person I can’t stand, interviewing me that is, if I wanted to, although, I’d never do that. It’s hard work letting people know about this project I’ve worked hard on it and it’s even more difficult to tell people why they should care, but it’s liberating all the same because I get to meet other authors with great audio books who I’d never meet otherwise. Some of the best books I read have been from authors I never agreed with on anything.

What is a recurring or the most memorable geeky argument or debate you have taken part in?

The most memorable argument I had with someone was about the horcruxes in the Harry Potter series. A high school buddy of mine agreed with my guesses that Harry was a horcrux. A few other people in the class did not agree with us. The teacher tried to get us to quiet down so she could teach us science but the whole class was fired up. She chucked her whole lesson plan and held a debate class instead. It was a shocker to us to realize that we were right all along!

Are you planning any further experiments? Any future books in the works?

I’d like to start opening doors up for other disabled writers like me. There’s a lot of contests for disabled artists, painters, and the like, but nothing for disabled authors or writers or journalists out there, really. I am working on a few other books, yes, mostly memoirs and politically incorrect humor books, like erotic retellings of classic fairy tales, but I’m trying to do many things, including hosting an essay contest where the blind writers get adaptive technology, or something similar.

I’m also working on ways to give back to organizations I fully support like Planned Parenthood and the like. If someone donates to one of my journalism campaigns or similar, I want to open doors and give back to people. It’s hard but it can be done! With me, it will happen. It may not happen tomorrow or the next day but I will open doors for people, eventually.

As for my next journalism project, I am working on the day in the life of an incest couple. I am gathering interviews, spending time with their family, and the like, so I can create a unique human interest story.
I am also still trying to break into the Modern Love section in the New York Times. That’s my priority right now. I will make it there though! Just watch me.

Places to Stalk Robert W. Kingett

Website ~ Facebook ~ Twitter

Synopsis of Off the Grid: Living Blind Without the Internet

Journalist Robert Kingett accepts a dare, one that at first seems simple: to adapt to his blindness without the Internet. This account is a cozy diary of battling with an FM radio, hooking up a landline phone, and the journey of adapting to a brand new way of living from someone who has never disconnected from the World Wide Web.

Audible ~ Amazon

Off the Grid: Living Blind Without the Internet by Robert Kingett

Narrator: T. David Rutherford

Publisher: Robert Kingett (2015)

Length: 3 hours 26 minutes

Author’s Page

 

In Chicago, legally blind Robert Kingett takes the dare to live without the internet for one month. Has the internet really added to the degradation of society? Kingett shares his experiences, both positive and negative, in this journal-entry like publication.

Initially, due to the main title, I was expecting the author to go off the grid, which means disconnecting from public utilities and trying to live off rainfall and solar power and the like. As I got into the book, I realized this was just a small, but very interesting, experiment of trying to live without the internet in a major city. The author still has his apartment, public utilities, and access to public transport and such. At first, I thought that living without the internet wouldn’t be too big a deal. (Living off the grid is a bit more rigorous.) However, I was wrong. I’m glad the author only had to suffer for a single month as he underwent this experiment.

I really enjoyed the diary-like entries as I felt I was discovering these little nuggets of wisdom at the same time as the author. As he struggled to get movie times for a visually-impaired screening, I struggled with him. Installing a land-line phone was hampered by the fact the manual that came with it is in really tiny print (the author, while legally blind, can read large type… if it’s large enough). Meanwhile, he experienced the rush and joys of meeting people in person and getting to know them through long phone calls or conversations in person, instead of digging up stuff about their hobbies on the internet first. The author uses well-placed humor even when he’s clearly irritated with something, making this a fun read.

There were two scenes that really stood out for me. First, the author was job searching during this month and the lack of internet service definitely affected his chances of getting a job or internship. The other one concerned his gaming system (I think it was Xbox, if I recall correctly). His efforts to play a certain game, which he had the CD for, were cut short when the game required him to be logged into his online account. Customer service was unable to assist him in this.

All together, this humorous account of one man’s adventure made me appreciate the internet more for the services it makes so much easier. I can pay all my bills online. Obtaining information is generally very easy. I have access to news, anything from immediately local to world view. Also, I quite enjoyed all the little references to nerdom – Harry Potter, gaming, etc.

I received a free copy of this book.

Narration: T. David Rutherford was pretty good for this book. He gave a sense of humor or frustration as the story dictated. The production was very good, lacking any external noises or lip smacking. While he only had to do a few voices, he did them well.

What I Liked: Fascinating little experiment; humor tucked in throughout the book; the job searching scenes; he just wants to play his game!; dating while off the internet; finally, returning to the internet a wiser man.

What I Disliked: I probably would have chosen a different title, but that’s a small criticism and didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this book.

What Others Think:

Crippled Gaming

Matt McAvoy’s Website

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

Scroll to the bottom for the giveaways!

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

The River by Bill Stokes

StokesTheRiverNarrator: Johnny Mack

Publisher: Stokes Creative LLC (2017)

Length: 19 minutes

Author’s Page

 

This is a tale of young man’s first deer hunt. The author starts us off with a personal note of how deer hunting has been a part of his life even if he no longer directly participates.

Set in Wisconsin in 1947, a teen boy on the cusp of manhood is invited on his first deer hunt. On the first night of the hunt, there’s stories and manly cooking at the hunting cabin as Uncle Duffy and his friends deal out the cards. Our hero soaks it all up. He desperately wants to be considered one of them. He feels a driving need to prove himself on this week-long deer hunt and he fears he won’t measure up.

First, I was a bit surprised that he was allowed to wander the woods alone on his first hunt as we typically make sure to go by twos on any kind of hike that is over an hour long. It’s a little unclear if the area was well known to our young hunter or not. Anyway, he navigates his way back to the cabin day after day.

There’s a rising urgency as the hunt progresses. The men shares stories of hunts past. I liked how the story built up and up. I could really feel the young man’s need to prove himself worthy. When finally the moment comes, there’s a big snag in his triumph, followed by a triumph of another kind. I was surprised by how things ended but was also well satisfied with it. Years later when this kid is a seasoned hunter, he will look back on this incident with wry humor.

I received a free copy of this book.

Narration: Johnny Mack continues to do justice to this author’s short stories. He does a good job of sounding like a young man and also of sounding like an older Uncle Duffy.

What I Liked: The snowy river setting; the excitement of deer hunting; youth wanting to prove itself worthy; how nature has a tendency to show us just how small we are.

What I Disliked: Nothing – it’s a fun hunting story.