In a collection of short essays, men and women from all walks of life share their defining beliefs.
I listen to NPR in between audiobook downloads butIn a collection of short essays, men and women from all walks of life share their defining beliefs.
I listen to NPR in between audiobook downloads but I seem to only be in the car for the news and Marketplace, so I've never heard any of these essays. I enjoyed them immensely.
Ranging from funny to serious, from heartfelt to tongue-in-cheek, there's a wide range of personal voices and creeds to be found in this collection. I particularly liked that essays from the first run of the series, hosted by Edward R. Murrow in the '50s, were included. They were concerned about the end of the free world due to the Cold War. Now we're concerned about the end of the free world due to terrorism of all kinds. Some things never seem to change. That said, people don't change all that much either, and I mean that in the best possible way. We still have faith in our own humanity. Many of us have religious or spiritual faith. Those who don't have faith in order and reason. Kindness, compassion, humility, personal growth, empathy--all our best traits are on display here, both in the older essays and the more recent ones.
On a side note, I enjoyed hearing the way voices and accents have changed in only about 60 years. The accents in the '50s seemed to be more pronounced. My guess is that we're losing some regional accents due to media influences. That makes me a bit sad since I enjoy hearing them and definitely speak with my own Appalachian twang! I was interested to hear women speak back then too. I find it hard to explain, but their voices sounded more breathy and feminine to me. Was that something girls were subconsciously taught? I've noticed it in old movies but assumed it was just the actress in her role. Now I'm left wondering if it was a cultural thing.
By the end of the collection, I had started tuning out a bit. They were all unique in approach but some of the fundamentals did start to feel a bit repetitive.
I understand this was issued in print and as an audio book. I would definitely recommend listening to it. The pieces were originally written for radio so it makes sense to approach them in the intended medium. However you read them, I do recommend this collection. You'll be left wondering, as I do, "What do I believe?"...more
I seriously did not think I could love an audiobook performance more than I love Katherine Kellgren's narration of the Bloody Jack series by L. A. MeyI seriously did not think I could love an audiobook performance more than I love Katherine Kellgren's narration of the Bloody Jack series by L. A. Meyer. And then she narrated The Mysterious Howling. Holy cow. I am in awe of Ms. Kellgren's talent! Old men, teen girls, simpering married women, wolfish children howling at the moon, she went at all of them with gusto and I loved every minute of it!
Miss Penelope Lumley has just graduated from the Swanburne Academy for Poor Bright Females. She has no family but her headmistress encourages her to apply for a position as governess to three children at Ashton Place. She seems perfect for the job since she is (obviously) a bright student and (not so obviously) an animal lover, a trait specifically requested of job-seekers in the advertisement. Miss Lumley sets off for her interview, finds herself hired on the spot, and soon learns that the three children given to her care were found in the woods within the past week. They have apparently been raised by wolves and don't speak a word of English between them. But a Swanburne girl is more than a match for any task and Penelope sets about teaching them a love for poetry, phrases of polite conversation, and the fine art of ignoring irrepressible squirrels.
I loved these characters. Miss Lumley simply doesn't see that she might have an impossible job before her. She has been hired to teach these children and teach them she will. When Lady Ashton gives her ever more Herculean tasks to accomplish, she simply tackles them the best way that she knows how. She genuinely cares for the children and has their best interests always at heart. The children, Alexander, Beowulf, and Cassiopeia, are little scene-stealers. They are remarkably intelligent, good sports, and always up for a bit of fun and new experiences. They make huge strides and will try anything for Miss Lumley.
But there are sinister doings afoot. Someone is attempting to undermine Miss Lumley and set the children up for failure. Penelope is vaguely aware of it but she has no idea who this mysterious someone might be. The immediate storyline is resolved but the end of the story left me with more questions than answers and hungry to download the next book.
I can't recommend this audiobook highly enough. Young (or young at heart) readers should enjoy this immensely. ...more
Mercy Lynch is a nurse in the Civil War, which has been lingering on for decades. Like many people, she has torn loyalties. She's a nurse for the ConfMercy Lynch is a nurse in the Civil War, which has been lingering on for decades. Like many people, she has torn loyalties. She's a nurse for the Confederacy but her husband is a soldier in the Union. Shortly after she receives word that he died in a POW camp, she receives a telegram notifying her that her long-estranged father is very sick and asking for her to come see him in Tacoma, Washington. That's quite a trek away from Richmond, Virginia, especially given the state of the country. Duty and curiosity win out and she sets out via dirigible and then train to hopscotch her way across the country.
I really enjoyed Boneshaker so I had high hopes for this book. I downloaded it on audio but read the first in print. When I realized that Kate Reading was the narrator, I wasn't quite sure what to think. Don't get me wrong--I've enjoyed Ms. Reading's narration but I've only listened to her reading fiction that is more directly targeted to women. I wasn't sure how she'd handle the steampunk action that I expected. I needn't have worried. The performance was so pitch perfect that I'll continue with the series on audio.
It's been a while since I read Boneshaker but I do think Dreadnought may actually be a little better. It's not a direct sequel but it does take place in the same book world and at the very end a few characters overlap.
I was a little disappointed that the rotters (read: zombies) aren't around very much. But when they are--holy cow!
I didn't like Mercy quite as much as I liked Briar from the first book but she was still a strong character. She's just trying to get across the country as fast as she can and she finds herself caught up in some wartime intrigue/action. She and the other civilian passengers try to stay out of it but they keep getting dragged into things whether they like it or not. Mercy just handles everything that comes along and does what needs to be done, whether that's patching up a soldier who's been shot or breaking into a private car to find out exactly what the train is carrying.
The book is so tightly focused on Mercy that I was left wanting to know more about a few other characters. Of course I don't remember their names now and I don't have a print copy to refer back to. The Texas Ranger, the Mexican inspectors, the awfully warlike young lady sharing Mercy's compartment--I'm curious about them all. I hope they show up in later books.
This was a great audio book and I highly recommend it. I can't wait to get my hands on the next in the series!...more
Will Robie is a sanctioned assassin for the US government. Needless to say, if he screws up he's officially on his own. He gets an odd assignment amidWill Robie is a sanctioned assassin for the US government. Needless to say, if he screws up he's officially on his own. He gets an odd assignment amidst the cartel bosses and terrorists that are his usual hits. He's assigned to take out a woman who works for the Department of Defense. The official story is, she's got terrorist ties. He walks into her apartment and realizes something isn't right. He freezes and re-evaluates as her child wakes up and starts to panic, just in time for a second sniper to kill both him and his mom. Robie goes underground to find out what's going on. He climbs on a bus and watches a teen girl board as well. Shortly behind her is a man who looks like a professional. Robie watches as the man prepares to kill the girl, ready to act if he needs to. It turns out, she's capable of taking care of herself but now she's on the run with Robie.
I wanted something pretty exciting and fun to listen to and I have to say this did fit the bill. It took me by surprise when the sound effects started though. I can't recall having sound effects in many other audio books and I'm not sure if I like them. Mostly they just yank me out of the story as I look around, wondering where the gunshots are coming from. (I live kind of in the country in the South. It's not unusual for neighbors to indulge in some target practice.) I liked David McLarty's narration quite a bit. He has a gruff kind of voice that I thought suited the story perfectly. I also liked that Orlagh Cassidy read the female dialog but I occasionally felt too much like she was actually reading to me. I know, it's an audiobook and she is reading to me but I don't want it to sound that way. Mostly I enjoyed her narration too though.
While the book itself was exciting and I never did figure out exactly what was going on until the end, I saw too much of it coming from way too far away. There were a couple of times where I caught myself thinking, "Heaven help us if this is the best and brightest our country has to offer" and rolling my eyes. I might not have put all the pieces together but I did at least know what the pieces were. I'm pretty sure the whole thing was supposed to be a big surprise.
I don't know that I'll be running out to read or listen to more books by this author but if the mood strikes for another thriller-ish read, I'd give him another try, either in print or audio....more
In this graphic novel memoir, Alison Bechdel explores her relationship with her father, who later admitted to being homosexual; his suicide; her childIn this graphic novel memoir, Alison Bechdel explores her relationship with her father, who later admitted to being homosexual; his suicide; her childhood; and her early years after coming out as a lesbian.
I really kind of hate reviewing these kinds of books. They're so intensely personal. Who am I to judge the work of someone who has effectively bled his or her heart out on the page? Any negative comments feel like personal attacks when I write them. So here's the best I can do.
Let me first get what I didn't care for out of the way. The tone of the book is so very earnest and introspective and intellectual, ultimately drawing parallels between Joyce's Ulysses and her relationship with her father. Holy smokes. I only think that way in lit class. It's appropriate and relevant, I get that. It's just not my way of dealing with crap and so I don't really relate to it.
At the same time, I admire Bechdel for her bravery in putting her story out there. I'm sure it's a form of therapy for her, getting what she feels out on paper and working it out for herself. But it also help others who may be going through something similar.
I liked the artwork a lot. The stark black and whites matched the somber tone of the book perfectly. Some of them will be too graphic for some readers though.
I think that the summary alone will tell you whether this is a book for you or not. If you're interested, I do recommend it. ...more
Linda, an overweight girl in fifth grade, gives a report about whales one day. Someone passes around a note that "Blubber is a good name for her" andLinda, an overweight girl in fifth grade, gives a report about whales one day. Someone passes around a note that "Blubber is a good name for her" and Linda has a new nickname. The other kids start to tease and harass her and just generally make her life miserable. Our narrator, Jill, watches all this and even takes part in it.
Holy cow, what mean little kids these are! This was hard to read, even as an adult. Or maybe it's because I'm an adult and unconsciously prefer to look back at childhood with rose-colored glasses. We definitely had a pecking order in our class and the kids at the bottom of it were picked on but I don't remember it being this bad! The sad thing is that it all feels real though. I tended to keep to myself so there could have been mean girls cornering other girls in the bathroom and stripping them off and making fun of them mercilessly for all I know. And even if my class wasn't that mean, just the act of avoiding someone or always choosing him or her last for teams was damaging enough. There may be degrees but bullying is still bullying.
The beauty of the book is that the reader first has enough distance to see how cruelly the other kids treat Linda and then, when the tables are turned, learn how it feels to be tormented. It definitely teaches a lesson about how destructive bullying is without being too preachy.
I don't know if there are better books about bullying out there but this one has become a classic. Children should have to read it or something like it so that they can learn how hurtful their actions can be. And if a child is being picked on, it lets them know that he or she is not alone....more
Anytime kids gather together in the dark, scary stories are inevitably told. Alvin Schwartz gathered a good selection of the most popular and publisheAnytime kids gather together in the dark, scary stories are inevitably told. Alvin Schwartz gathered a good selection of the most popular and published them in this anthology.
I kind of think this scared me when I was little but I don't actually remember ever checking it out from the library. My theory is that I knew it would scare me so I steered clear. I do remember all my little classmates rushing to check out the one copy we had in our school library though.
Reading this now, the stories aren't particularly scary. The author chose to divide the book into sections, with the first being "Jump" stories, where the teller gets to the climax and gives out a blood-curdling scream to scare the wits out of the listeners. I can see that they would be scary in person but on the page they were actually a little silly. The others were a little more fulfilling if you're looking for a frightening read. There are sections about ghosts and urban legends and even a few songs. (How's this for a coincidence? I read "The Hearse Song" here, "The worms crawl in, The worms crawl out, The worms play pinochle on your snout" and then came across it again in my very next read, Blubber.) It was interesting to me as an older reader to recognize basic elements here that I've come across in other books that were published later. I can't help but wonder if the later books got the idea from this one or if they are all just referencing the same old folktales and legends.
The illustrations by Stephen Gammell are downright creepy and perfect for the book.
Young readers who like a good fright should find what they're looking for in this collection....more
Our young British protagonist and his Norwegian grandmother know something that we don't: Witches are real and they live among us. They look like sweeOur young British protagonist and his Norwegian grandmother know something that we don't: Witches are real and they live among us. They look like sweet neighbor ladies but they're keeping a lot of secrets. Chief among them? They want to wipe out the children of the world.
When Grandmamma and Grandson (do we ever learn his name?) go on vacation to the coast of England, they stumble on the annual witches' meeting, led by The Grand High Witch herself. The witches have a plan to eliminate all the children of England at once! That won't happen if Grandmamma and Grandson have anything to say about it.
Confession: I remember starting to watch this movie when I was little and spending the night at my grandmother's house but it scared me to death. We had to turn it off. I told my husband this and he asked, "How old were you?" I looked up the release date of The Witches. It came out when I was 12. 12! And I was probably 13 by the time it came out on video or on tv or however I happened to catch it! What can I say? I was sheltered. And Anjelica Huston intimidates me to this day. I can just imagine facing her as a tween, on a screen or not. *shudder*
Now that I'm firmly in my 30s, I'm brave enough to read the source. It was so much fun! It was (obviously) scary and suspenseful enough to satisfy most children but it had an element of silliness and impossibility that captures the imagination. There's really no such thing as a bald witch with claws, no toes, blue spit, and a removable face. But what if there were? *shiver*
I enjoyed Grandson's bravery and Grandmamma's willingness to let him take risks for his own well-being and that of others. How often do adults trust children with things like that? Probably not often enough if you're looking through the eyes of a child. I also liked that Grandson turns what could be a disability into a strength. He never lets anything hold him back. In fact, he embraces the changes that come his way.
I absolutely loved the introduction, "A Note About Witches." "In fairy-tales, witches always wear silly black hats and black cloaks, and they ride on broomsticks. But this is not a fairy-tale. This is about REAL WITCHES." And in a suitably alarming tone, the facts about witches are laid out.
I loved the illustrations by Quentin Blake as well. They were silly but scary enough to match the story.
There's a group of sheltered kids, like me, who this won't be appropriate for. But if you and/or your child like a fun little fright, give this one a try. I'm glad I finally gave the book a chance. Now maybe I'll be brave enough to try the movie again for Halloween......more
Chronicling the lives of Japanese brides coming to America, Buddha in the Attic is deceptively slim. Almost every sentence begins a new story that isChronicling the lives of Japanese brides coming to America, Buddha in the Attic is deceptively slim. Almost every sentence begins a new story that is only hinted at, yet I saw at least the broad strokes of an entire life in just those few words. There is no main character and the book is told collectively. (NOT a direct quote) "We came from Japan. We left our remote farms. We left our lives in Tokyo. We left our fishing villages. We cried as we left our families. We left happily, vowing to never look back." Listening to this on audio, the style bothered me a bit at first. It's so freaking repetitive! I do not do well with anything repetitive. Once I did settle into the narrative, I saw the beauty of it. In about four hours, I was a part of the lives of what felt like hundreds of Japanese women, each with her own story.
The book starts with the young women on the boat, uncertain of their futures and their husbands. They've never even met the men they're traveling halfway around the world to marry. Then there's early married life, children, life as an immigrant, and, in the early years of WWII, life as a "traitor." It was sometimes heart-breaking but always thought-provoking.
Samantha Quan narrates beautifully. I've not been a big fan of Carrington MacDuffie's straightforward narration in the past but it worked very well for her small part in this book.
I might have rated this higher in print, despite the excellent narration, simply because I could have skimmed over the seemingly endless, "We came from"s and "We gave birth in"s. In whatever format you choose, this is an excellent little book and I do recommend it....more
Young Mickey hears a noise deep in the night and finds himself falling into the Night Kitchen, where he has to help the cooks get the milk into the baYoung Mickey hears a noise deep in the night and finds himself falling into the Night Kitchen, where he has to help the cooks get the milk into the batter.
What a fun little book! I never read much Sendak when I was little for some reason, so this was completely new to me. The illustrations were tons of fun, of course. The kitchen is set against a "skyline" of boxes of cake mix, tall salt shakers, and an elevated bread train. They're perfectly whimsical for this book. I imagine children would love the story of little Mickey saving the day. I know I did! How much fun is it to imagine that only you can accomplish something important while the world, including your parents, is sleeping? It should also be a great book to read aloud. It's short and to the point and rhymes just enough to roll off the tongue.
I highly recommend this one to parents with young children as a fun little bedtime story. ...more
Now that the immediate danger to Camp Jupiter has been averted, Percy, Jason, and friends must set out to fulfill the Prophecy of Seven. UnfortunatelyNow that the immediate danger to Camp Jupiter has been averted, Percy, Jason, and friends must set out to fulfill the Prophecy of Seven. Unfortunately, there was a...misunderstanding... in the camp and the friends must also dodge the Roman soldiers who are hunting for them. Gaea is coming more fully awake and her sons are posing an even bigger threat. The gods are losing their minds as they morph between their Greek and Roman counterparts. Athena charges Annabeth with following the Mark of Athena and returning something the original Romans stole thousands of years ago. In other words, this is just another adventure for a group of demigods.
I just love this series. It's got a lot of humor, a lot of heart, great characters, a little romance now that they're all older, and nonstop action--anything a reader could ask for. I listen with a huge grin on my face. Joshua Swanson's narration is absolutely perfect. I can't imagine anyone else reading these now. (Although I seem to remember that someone else did narrate The House of Hades.)
My one complaint is that seven demigods is almost too many to follow in one book. Don't get me wrong--I love them all and want to know what's going on with everyone. But as far as quality time? There wasn't much of it with anyone, especially the Romans. This one is told pretty much exclusively from the Greeks' point of view. Maybe it will even out with the Romans in the next one?
I can't wait to see what the next installment brings, especially since this one ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. If you enjoy Rick Riordan's books, you won't be disappointed with this one....more
Kathleen and Joyce are both living on Cape Ann. When they meet, they're both a little lonely and going through some tough times in their lives. KathleKathleen and Joyce are both living on Cape Ann. When they meet, they're both a little lonely and going through some tough times in their lives. Kathleen is facing a breast cancer diagnosis and Joyce has a terrible teenager at home and a mostly-absent husband. They immediately click and become confidantes.
I think it says just about everything you need to know when I write that I really never did get the two names straight in my head. They're not even that similar but I had to have context before I could think, "Right. Kathleen=cancer, Joyce=family trouble." The book just felt a little too generic to me. They could be any two women anywhere at just about anytime.
And that may be exactly what the author was going for. Anyone who's had this kind of deep, soul-baring friendship may immediately recognize it and love the book. I'm too private for that kind of thing. I'm quiet so I don't have many friends but the ones I do have are truly close friends. I would do anything for them and they would do anything for me. Nobody hears everything though. So this kind of tell-all friendship just leaves me in the dark.
Some women will enjoy this book more than others. I didn't really connect with it but if you think you will, give it a try. ...more
Soooooo........yeah. I just rated Walden, one of the great American classics, two stars. That probably says more about me than it does about the book,Soooooo........yeah. I just rated Walden, one of the great American classics, two stars. That probably says more about me than it does about the book, doesn't it? Don't answer that.
But here's the thing--well, a few things.
1. I'm not generally an abstract ideas kind of person. I like narrative and stories and characters that come to life for me. Walden has none of these. Obviously. The section that I liked best? Thoreau described a pretty epic battle between some tiny red ants and some big bullying black ants. There were sides and protagonists and bravery and heroism, the agony of defeat, and the high cost of victory. I flew through those few pages. And then I got back to ideas and it was like I'd stepped in quicksand again.
2. I found Thoreau to be great in small, quotable chunks. Page after page? He wore on me. I don't care how much he spent on potatoes, I don't care about his theories about measuring bodies of water, I don't care exactly what day the pond thawed each year. And yet this book has produced quotes that most people will recognize.
"If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music he hears, however measured or far away."
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. I did not wish to live what was not life, living is so dear; nor did I wish to practise resignation, unless it was quite necessary. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life, to live so sturdily and Spartan-like as to put to rout all that was not life, to cut a broad swath and shave close, to drive life into a corner, and reduce it to its lowest terms.”
“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”
All great stuff, right? I just had a hard time with the in-between parts.
3. I found the Thoreau writing this book to be a bit of an insufferable prick. He had a huge case of the holier-than-thous! His way of living was the only way of living. Everyone else was just a slave to society. He was the only one smart enough to escape the trap. It took me months to read this slim volume, but I do believe at the beginning, he gets the wood for his house by buying a house from a poor Irish family who had nothing else to sell, and then commenting on the dirty state of their children and the house as they drift off through the woods with all their worldly goods on their backs! Say what? And in another incident, he told a poor Irish working man who was working hard to feed his growing family that he needed to stop working for other people and start living off the land. That's all well and good for a single man with no family to feed and a support system to fall back on, but most families can't be fed by just foraging. Hopefully Thoreau in real life was less grating, but I most definitely didn't like the voice this book was written in.
4. I did enjoy studying the Transcendentalists in college. I loved what they had to say. A lot of the specifics have faded with time, but all their ideas about nature and solitude do actually speak to me. I wish more people felt this way in the noisy world we live in. Now Thoreau and Emerson would probably be on medication for some sort of social anxiety disorder. But we all do need time alone to just be, and the best place to do that is outside. I never had to read this entire book for school though. Now I'm disappointed that I feel this way about it.
I am obviously in the minority, but that's my two cents. This is a classic that most people should at least take a crack at. I knew early on that I was going to struggle but I kept pushing through. I should have given up earlier. Some things just aren't meant to be....more
Ursula Todd is born on a cold winter's night in England in 1910...over and over again. Sometimes she is stillborn, other times she makes it through, oUrsula Todd is born on a cold winter's night in England in 1910...over and over again. Sometimes she is stillborn, other times she makes it through, only to die later and start over at the same place. Each time, something is a little different and her life takes drastically diverging paths as a result.
Someone asked me what this is about and it's almost impossible to explain. "Reincarnation but...not. She lives the same life over and over but...not really." What matters is watching how minute differences in Ursula's life change her story completely.
That was what I really enjoyed. I liked the whole concept of playing with a character's life like that just to see what happens. There were lives that I hated and lives that I loved. Some were depressing, some were horrific, some were odd, but they were almost all interesting. Some got a little crazy. The prelude shows us Ursula, a pretty English girl, setting out to assassinate--a Nazi official (I'm pretty sure it's not spelled out at that point). Where the heck did that come from? Once I got to that life, it did make sense but still--wow.
There were a couple of drawbacks though. The book got repetitive. I don't think there was any possible way to avoid that in this kind of story but there you go. I think the author did the best anyone could have but I was still heartily sick of that snowy winter night that Ursula was born. Also, I started having trouble remembering what had happened in each life by the end. "Is this the one where this happened or was it that?" I can't say that I was always entirely sure.
The characters weren't a huge draw for me but this is one instance where the story itself was engaging enough that I was able to overlook that. Ursula varied so much that I can't comment on whether I liked her or not. I guess I liked her well enough. Her mother was just terrible. Her brother Teddy was too good to be true. Her aunt Izzy was a flighty idiot but generally fun. Pretty much everybody could be summed up in one sentence.
Still, the book was so different from anything else I've read that it kept my attention and I would recommend it. ...more