Friday, September 28, 2012

Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth, narrated by,Nicola Barber

Call the Midwife: A Memoir of Birth, Joy, and Hard Times by Jennifer Worth, narrated by,Nicola Barber

I was a little thrown at first with this book as I was expecting a straight forward story but what I got was short stories/anecdotes, once I realized that it was easier to enjoy. Some stories are much longer than others like the story of young Mary who is 14 and a prostitute which is one of the best stories, really gives you a feel of the tough times. Or the one of the woman giving birth to her 24th child yes even Jenny asked if it was a typo!

I must say though if you get queasy from talk of bodily functions and very graphic details of childbirth and infections you may want to read this one in print so you can skip over these passages. Especially when she talks about the woman’s body odors and I’m not talking just sweat. She also talks a lot about some of the things she hates about her job in a very matter of fact way , she pulls no punches, she also describes the advances being made in midwifery and anti-(pre-for Americans) natal care.

Some of the women you will feel very sorry for, their lives are tough but some of these women will amaze you like the woman I mentioned above Conchita(*sp audio*) with the 24+ kids but she has the best attitude the first time we meet her she is giving birth to her 24th child the second time she is having her 25th and it doesn’t go as planned but she is still an amazing woman. The stories of the mixed race children especially the story of Ted I thought it was great that he accepted this child as his own and loved him anyway. Some of the Nuns were pretty funny too.

Nicola Barber narration is very well done, going from British to Irish to Cockney accents all seamlessly. CD #6 felt like it ended in the middle of a sentence, but the way some of these stories just trail off I could be wrong about that.

I wanted to read this because it is going to be on PBS Masterpiece as I am a Masterpiece geek .It was a good book but not quite the story/plot I expected, will be curious how they make it into more of a storyline than a bunch of shorter stories.  I will order the paper book for our local library also. I also see this is the first in a trilogy and hope the rest will soon be available on audio! Especially since this one kind of just trailed off like the rest of the short stories.

4 Stars

I received this audiobook from the Audiobookjukebox Solid Gold Reviewer Program & Highbridge Audio for a fair and unbiased review.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall narrated by, Kate Forbes

Blue Asylum by Kathy Hepinstall narrated by, Kate Forbes

I want to put the synopsis here today because as you can see it sounds like a great book , then see my Review:
Synopsis from Goodreads:
Amid the mayhem of the Civil War, Virginia plantation wife Iris Dunleavy is put on trial and convicted of madness. It is the only reasonable explanation the court can see for her willful behavior, so she is sent away to Sanibel Asylum to be restored to a good, compliant woman. Iris knows, though, that her husband is the true criminal; she is no lunatic, only guilty of disagreeing with him on notions of justice, cruelty, and property.

On this remote Florida island, cut off by swamps and seas and military blockades, Iris meets a wonderful collection of residents--- some seemingly sane, some wrongly convinced they are crazy, some charmingly odd, some dangerously unstable. Which of these is Ambrose Weller, the war-haunted Confederate soldier whose memories terrorize him into wild fits that can only be calmed by the color blue, but whose gentleness and dark eyes beckon to Iris?

The institution calls itself modern, but Iris is skeptical of its methods, particularly the dreaded "water treatment." She must escape, but she has found new hope and love with Ambrose. Can she take him with her? If they make it out, will the war have left anything for them to make a life from, back home?

Blue Asylum is a vibrant, beautifully-imagined, absorbing story of the lines we all cross between sanity and madness. It is also the tale of a spirited woman, a wounded soldier, their impossible love, and the undeniable call of freedom.

My Review:

I ended up not liking this book as much as I was hoping to; it was good but not great. I wanted to care more for the characters but they were a little one dimensional. The realization of what it was that sent Ambrose over the edge was the best twist in the book, and made me understand him so much better. But we really never got the entire story on Iris I always felt there was something missing, we get hints and events are alluded to but we never really get her entire story and I think had iris been more fleshed out it would have been a much better book.

I liked the premise of this book as it is post Civil War and how just because you stand up to your husband you can be sent away to an asylum, the cast of characters in the asylum were interesting but we never got to know any of them really well. The author showed how the Civil war divided people’s beliefs and how even if you were on the other side you could still understand some things about the other.

However there is something missing in this story I’m not sure if it is the one-dimensional characters, the unsatisfying ending or that she didn’t give us enough information about the asylum and Iris’ husband and the consequences of what happened at the end of the book. There is one part near the end I rewound twice thinking I’d missed something there is a jump in time here that confused me. The ending was very anti-climatic and felt rushed.

Kate Forbes narrated this book or should I say read this book because that’s kind of how it felt to me it was just a straight reading, every once in a while there was an accent but it wasn’t every time that person spoke so there were inconsistencies in the narration.

This is a quick ok read, but really nothing that is going to stick with me for very long.

2 ½ to 3 Stars

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Gone Girl by, Gillian Flynn narrated by, Kirby Heyborne & Julie Whelan

Gone Girl by, Gillian Flynn narrated by, Kirby Heyborne  &  Julie Whelan

Warning this book may cause whiplash from the crazy twists and turns.

This is a very hard book to review without spoilers because you must experience it for yourself. So I am going to try to give you some thoughts without any spoilers…

It took me a little while to get into this book because the two characters are not very likable, it is told in very well done alternating narratives giving you a background on both of them. Another warning these characters don’t get any more likeable, but once this book grabs you, hang on for dear life because you are in for a heck of a ride!

I was very impressed with Gillian Flynn’s writing and have since gone out and bought her other two books however I will warn you there is A LOT of swearing I don’t mind some but there were times this seemed a bit much . This is NOT a happy book and the conclusion may perplex some but I guess I was satisfied with the ending (No Spoilers).

I listened to this on audio narrated by the wonderful Kirby Heyborne & Julia Whelan who both did a great job embodying these characters.

This isn’t an in depth review because I don’t want to spoil your enjoyment of this story as it unfolds. Would highly recommend this book for bookclubs because you will want to discuss this one when you are done!

4 Stars

Monday, September 24, 2012

January First: A Child's Descent into Madness and Her Father's Struggle to Save Her by, Michael Schofield

January First: A Child's Descent into Madness and Her Father's Struggle to Save Her by, Michael Schofield

I received this book from Netgalley; I requested it because I had seen the documentary about Jani “Born Schizophrenic”. So I was able to really see the behavior while reading this book, the story of Jani is so sad and her parents are handling it the best they can. Yes, there were times when this is a tough read but Michael Schofield is brutally honest in how he deals with Jani, other people, his wife and his son; he is also very honest about the toll it’s taken on his own psyche.

Mental illness is tough in any family or situation but to have a child this young with schizophrenia is beyond words, I honestly don’t know how I would handle it. The fact that Jani is incredibly intelligent gives me hope as it does her parents that one day Jani can have a stable as close to normal life as is possible, not an over medicated zombie.

This is a tough look at a very tough subject but I want to know how it turns out I want to follow Jani’s life and see if what her parents have done for her helps her in the long run. I hope that one day Jani can become a productive member of society and that she is able to have a wonderful life.

See, this book made me care so much about Jani because her father wrote with such raw emotion I was enthralled with this heart-wrenching story. I would highly recommend watching the documentary Born Schizophrenic: January’s Story and following Michael Schofield’s blog  .

I think watching the documentary first was helpful to understanding how Michael and Susan deal with Jani’s behaviors, because it helped me better understand  why they make the choices they do. I also think this book is great because of all the parents out there are dealing with a mental illness in a child they know now they are not alone. When you think about how many other children and families out there are dealing with the same sort of situation, who we don’t know about or where would Jani be if it was 20+ years ago.

I wish Michael & Susan and their family luck in life and the strength to make it through.

4 ½ Stars

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick narrated by, Norman Dietz

Heading Out to Wonderful by Robert Goolrick narrated by, Norman Dietz
Produced by: Highbridge Audio
Time: 9 Hrs 30 Min.

Synopsis: An attractive an engimatic stranger -- Charlie Beale, a longer recently home from the war in Europe -- wanders into the town of Brownsburg, a sleepy village of only a few hundred people nestled in the Valley of Virginia. He brings with him two suitcases: one contains all his worldly possessions, including a set of butcher knives; the other is full of money.
Charlie quickly finds a job at the local butcher shop and through his work there meets all the townspeople, most notably Sam Haislett, the five-year-old son of the shop's owner, and Sylvan Glass, the beautiful, eccentric teenage bridge of the town's richest man. What no one anticipates is how the interaction of these three people will alter the town forever, and how the passion that flares between Charlie and Sylvan will mark young Sam for life.
Told through the eyes of Sam, now an older man looking back on that time, this much-anticipated second novel from Robert Goolrick is an exciting, erotically charged, and altogether unforgettable story of love gone terrible wrong in a place where once upon a time such things could happen.

My review:

Robert Goolrick is a great writer he knows how to turn a phrase and his descriptions are always lush. I read the Reliable Wife when it first came out it was an odd story but well written and a book that stuck with me much longer than I expected it to and I actually liked The Reliable Wife the longer I was away from it and I think this one may end up the same way. So, I had high hopes for this book expecting and getting Goolricks fantastic writing but the story was a much slower simmer than I expected it to be,  it made me sit on the edge of my seat not from the story really, but in the waiting for the other shoe to drop, you just know something bad is coming.

I am not sure how I felt about Charlie dragging this little boy along with him on his trysts, I don’t understand why he took him along it’s not like it was his child.  I think what he put the little boy through was worse than anything else Charlie did. Another story from this author that I think will stick with me awhile and probably will end up liking more the farther away I am from it. But I think that is the genius of Goolrick he is an amazing writer but his books are never easy but they will touch you and stay with you even if you didn’t totally love the book.

Norman Dietz is the narrator of this one and I’m just not sure what I thought of him; all of his voices sounded like old men, including the little boy and the women. But he fit the book well, so I am not saying he was awful it was just his variations on voices weren’t that different. I hope that makes sense.

If you haven’t read Goolrick’s biography – “The End of the World as we Know It” you won’t see how biographical Goolrick’s work is. I think to really “get” his fiction you should read his biography.

3 ½ Stars

I received this book from Audiojukebox Solid Gold Reviewer Program for a fair and honest review.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Roots of the Olive Tree by, Courtney Miller Santo narrated by, Karen White

The Roots of the Olive Tree by, Courtney Miller Santo narrated by, Karen White

This is a story of family, resentments, age and secrets. It shows how resentments affect generation after generation and in this family there are 5 generations of first born women with a 6th generation on the way, the oldest being Anna who is 112  and strives to become the oldest living human being, especially since she still has her mind and her body is still pretty spry too. Then there is Dr. Amrit who is on a mission to find out more about super-agers and thinks he has hit pay dirt with the The Keller women but with his research secrets are uncovered that the women would all rather stayed buried.

I really liked this story even though the ending was a bit rushed and not as satisfying as I had hoped.  The Keller women are not always likable but you still can’t help falling in love with them, flaws and all. Every mother and daughter has had their share of troubles some more than others, however they all still live in the same house which has become tense as these women move about their days without ever really connecting with each other. The quote below summed up perfectly what it was like for them all to live together.

"I’d put more distance between us. Having us here, always together hasn’t allowed for any fondness to grow between us."

 But with the youngest coming back home with problems of her own and Dr. Amrit’s research dislodging lost (or best forgotten) memories these women are all doing some soul searching.

Karen White’s narration was fantastic all her different voices and accents were spot on; you always knew exactly who was talking.  Her voice took on so many different characteristics of each of the women as they told their story and her delivery held my interest all the way through.

I thought this was a great first novel it is set in California but has a southern fiction feel to it so I think if you are a fan of Southern Fiction I would suggest giving this one a try.

4 stars

Monday, September 10, 2012

Age of Miracles by, Karen Thompson Walker Narrated by, Emily Janice Card

Age of Miracles by, Karen Thompson Walker Narrated by, Emily Janice Card

This was an intriguing first novel; the authors imagination is pretty amazing, the way she describes the things that were happening to the world were frightening real. This story is beautifully written and is a slow boil with no running around trying to save the world, there is nothing to run from or run to, it is just living in a mixed up world where days and nights have become confused and the earth has slowed and is de-magnetizing/losing gravity. Just to go on trying to live your life when everything has changed but these changes are not seen and only sometimes felt. As she says it’s not that there are explosions or war or rioting in the streets, the world is not on fire it is just quietly changing.

“Later, I would come to think of those first days as the time when we learned as a species that we had worried over the wrong things: the hole in the ozone layer, the melting of the ice caps, West Nile and swine flu and killer bees. But I guess it never is what you worry over that comes to pass in the end. The real catastrophes are always different—unimagined, unprepared for, unknown.”
― Karen Thompson Walker, The Age of Miracles

This is such a different dystopian because it’s well, quiet, is the only word I can come up with, it is a quiet dystopian, yes that describes it. And even as that I was enthralled with this book I didn’t want to stop listening I wanted to know what happened next. It ended just as quietly and it was a satisfying ending.

I don’t know how old Julia was supposed to be (listening on audio must have missed it) but I thought Emily Janice Card did a good job at the narration she made her sound not too young or too old. Her narration was very well done.

4 Stars

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf narrated by, Ali Ahn, Angela Lin ,Angela Goethals

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf narrated by, Ali Ahn, Angela Lin ,Angela Goethals

This was my first book by Heather Gudenkauf and I like the way she writes. This book is told in alternating chapters by Alison who has just been released from prison for a heinous crime she committed as a teenager, her sister Brynn who has had to live with the shame of having Alison for a sister, Charm who is taking care of her dying stepfather and also holds a secret, and Claire owner of a local bookstore and adoptive mother to little Joshua. These 4 women’s lives collide in a way none of them saw coming as the things hidden don’t stay that way for long.

What a great psychological thriller it is slow to build as the story unfolds you get pieces of the story from different perspectives while trying to figure out how they all fit together and what really happened on that horrible night 5 years ago and the ending blew me away not at all what I expected to happen.

If you like good psychological thriller/mysteries and great writing I highly recommend this book!

This book is narrated by, Ali Ahn , Angela Lin, and Angela Goethals each telling the different perspectives I thought their narration was well done, however, their voices were all very similar and if you are going to have multiple narrators of the different women their voices should have been a bit more distinct.

4 stars