Countdown takes place in 1962 and is the story of 11-year-old Franny Chapman. Franny is a middle child living near Andrews Air Force base, and she oftCountdown takes place in 1962 and is the story of 11-year-old Franny Chapman. Franny is a middle child living near Andrews Air Force base, and she often feels overlooked. She loves to read aloud, but her teacher never seems to pick her to read for the class. She’s fighting with her friend Margie, her uncle is losing his grip on reality, and her sister is mysteriously absent for long periods of time. And as if it’s not hard enough being 11 already, the Cuban Missile Crisis has everyone in a panic, and Franny fears for her life.
The book Countdown is a documentary novel, and the printed book is scrapbook-like and includes important visual references from 1962 to enhance the reading experience. The audiobook experience is just as rich, however, and includes snippets of speeches, “duck and cover” instructions, presidential biographies, the sound of a typewriter, radio dial, bomb explosions and more. It really feels like you are there in 1962, with all the cultural references of the time. It is one of the more unique and entertaining audiobook experiences I’ve had.
It’s easy to identify with Franny and understand her worries about the world. Even though the book takes place 50 years ago and times have changed a lot, some things are still the same. Friendship conflicts still exist, and fears about the future. Franny is a sweet, sensitive girl who loves Nancy Drew mysteries, and playing her sister Jo Ellen’s 45’s, and is excited to attend her first boy-girl party. The author captures the feeling of that age very well, and made me remember my own time in fifth grade, and I was a worrier like Franny so could definitely relate to that.
One of my favorite YA audiobook narrators, Emma Galvin, reads the audiobook. Her voice works well for a variety of different stories, and again she shines with her performance here. She is believable as the voice of Franny, and gets to the heart of the character. Galvin conveys Franny’s kind and earnest nature and her voice is suited for the time frame. The character differentiations are subtle yet distinct, from Franny’s mother to her Uncle Otts, to her crush Chris. Even without the added bells and whistles found in the audiobook, her performance stands out.
Countdown is the first book in the Sixties trilogy, but it is a complete and satisfying story on it’s own. This book is a lot of fun, educational, and entertaining for both kids and adults. Though it’s meant for a middle grade audience, I think anyone who enjoys historical fiction or contemporary YA would enjoy this book. I recommend listening to the audio format to hear the sound effects and bonus historical material to get a feel for the era....more
I received this audiobook for review, and even though I was unfamiliar with the title, I was eager to try out a new historical fiction. Of course nowI received this audiobook for review, and even though I was unfamiliar with the title, I was eager to try out a new historical fiction. Of course now I’m seeing this book advertised everywhere. A Good American is an entertaining read about the Meisenheimer family and their ups and downs across generations. The book takes on the idea of what it means to be an American through the immigrant family’s example. It didn’t take long for me to be hooked on the story and I finished the audio in no time.
The saga begins in 1904 when Frederick and Jette Meisenheimer fall in love in Hanover, Germany. When Jette becomes pregnant it shames her mother, and the couple hastily leaves for America. They finally settle in Beatrice, Missouri, home to other German immigrants, with their new son Joseph. There’s a language, cultural and financial barrier to overcome, as well as the stress of being new parents. Frederick and Jette are challenged to build a new life in America from scratch for their family. The couple’s grandson, James, narrates their tale.
Though times change throughout the book, one thing that is consistent is that food and music are always present in the Meisenheimer’s lives. The tradition starts with gifted singer Frederick, and the talent is passed down all the way to their grandsons. The family also appreciates all kinds of music and at the different incarnations of their family-run dining establishment you can see the styles of music as well as menu options change with the times.
Each generation of the family has an interesting story to tell. And even though I would get attached to the story I was listening to, I was quickly caught up in the next generation’s journey. In addition to the Meisenheimer family, there are an entertaining cast of side characters woven into the story. Humor also keeps the book from ever becoming too heavy. Though the book loses a little steam for me towards the end, there’s an interesting twist that pulled me back in.
Gibson Frazier narrates the audio, and his storytelling abilities complement the book well. His reading drew me into the story, and he conveys the appropriate emotion and energy throughout. He uses different dialects for the characters but it is not overdone. I’m sure the book is great too, but I’m glad that I got the chance to listen to the audio. I started in on a new audio right after but found myself missing listening to A Good American.
I think this book will appeal to those that enjoy historical fiction, or books like Water for Elephants or The Help. It’s a really interesting look at American history as well as a wonderful family drama, and it would make an excellent book club choice....more
What an enjoyable book! I wasn’t sure this book would be for me because of the circus setting, and I’ve never been a circus fan. However, I kept heariWhat an enjoyable book! I wasn’t sure this book would be for me because of the circus setting, and I’ve never been a circus fan. However, I kept hearing how great it is and I made a promise to myself to read it this year. I ended up liking it quite a bit. The characters are well rounded and believable. The story flows nicely with descriptive details that set the tone of the era. It’s obvious the author did her homework with the historical facts and the behind the scenes info on the circus.
Water for Elephants tells the life recollections of “93 or 95″ year old Jacob Jankowski. He is in a nursing home and reflecting on his life spent with his wife and children, and the memorable time he spent working as a vet for the Benzini Brothers circus. The story is told in present day at the nursing home and flashbacks to 1931 to the circus.
This book was fascinating and held my interest with all of the details of life at the circus. The story has drama, romance, friendships and suspense. All of the main and side characters are intriguing and help to paint a vivid picture of the circus life. The animals also play a big part in the book, especially lovable Rosie the elephant. Regarding the animals, I was expecting the scenes of animal cruelty, but it was still hard for me to read. The book was educational and helped me to look at the time period and at circuses in general in a new way.
My goal was to finish this book before I saw the movie, but I didn’t quite make it. I read about 80% of it before the movie. I’m glad it turned out that way though, since it made the movie ending a surprise.
I recommend this book to any fiction readers or anyone who liked the movie. This one is a good crossover book for YA fans- it is a fast read, and a good historical, with interesting characters and relationships. I’m curious to read more from Sara Gruen....more
This Dark Mirror bonus short story shares the character Allarde's story as told through diary entries. It was interesting to learn more about him andThis Dark Mirror bonus short story shares the character Allarde's story as told through diary entries. It was interesting to learn more about him and get some insight into his character. This story can be read by anyone - you don't need to read Dark Mirror first. Following the story are the first two chapters of Dark Mirror. ...more
This is a sweet story that is a historical fiction mixed in with magical and humorous elements. It reads like a fairy tale. The heroine Eleonora is faThis is a sweet story that is a historical fiction mixed in with magical and humorous elements. It reads like a fairy tale. The heroine Eleonora is fascinating as the child prodigy and her character is what drew me in to the book.
The writing flows smoothly and I was quickly caught up in the story. The descriptively beautiful writing transports you to another place and time with a mysterious air. Although this is a historical fiction, the plot still feels current and relevant. I read the book without knowledge of the history of the Ottoman Empire, and that did not hinder my enjoyment.
Eleonora appealed to me with her love of books, inquisitive nature and talent of communicating with animals. She is such an intelligent and poised main character that it is easy to forget she is just a child. I would love to follow her adventures in further books; she is such an interesting character. I was happy for her when she got away from her stifling surroundings and her stepmother and into a new home where her talents were appreciated.
In addition to Eleonora, we are introduced to her father, Yakob, a carpet salesman, and the evil stepmother Ruxandra. Eleonora stays in Stamboul with Moncef Bay, a kind and wealthy bachelor with a secret past. Through Eleonora’s tutor she is brought to the attention of the Sultan. Eleonora’s travels take her from the Turkish markets to the Sultan’s palace. The sights, sounds, smells and foods are vividly described and make you feel as if you are there.
This book should appeal to those interested in history or that appreciate historical fiction, and those that read literature. Readers of young adult fiction may also enjoy this story and relate to Eleonora and the questions and tragedies she faces in her life. The Oracle of Stamboul is a charming debut and I would be interested in reading more from this author....more