To Die but Once: A Maisie Dobbs Novel by Jacqueline Winspear – #Audiobook Review

To Die but Once by Jacqueline Winspear
(Amazon) Editors Pick Best Mystery, Thriller & Suspense 

Book Blurb:

Spring 1940. With Britons facing what has become known as “the Bore War” – nothing much seems to have happened yet – Maisie Dobbs is asked to investigate the disappearance of a local lad, a young apprentice craftsman working on a “hush-hush” government contract. As Maisie’s inquiry reveals a possible link to the London underworld, another mother is worried about a missing son – but this time the boy in question is one beloved by Maisie.

My Review:

Book fourteen in this series and my first, so I came in listening to the audiobook as a standalone and had no problem keeping up. There are sufficient backstory tidbits along the way to provide fleshing and an appreciation for her character.

To Die but Once by Jacqueline WinspearMaisie Dobbs was a nurse in WWI and subsequently trained to be a psychologist and investigator following that war. This story takes place in 1940 with Great Britain once again at war with Germany and several subplots tied to and underlying the main focus.

First, Maisie is hired to investigate the disappearance of a young boy, Joseph Combes, who succeeded in finding work for a company with a government contract. Set in the background are Dunkirk and the pending possible invasion.

Also in the background is a family drama (her own possible adoption of a young girl) and the spy hiding in plain sight.

A low-key start to the audiobook gradually begins pulling plot threads together until they weave interchangeably throughout the narrative. While the beginning is rather slow moving, the well-plotted novel hooks the reader into the discovery of the dark side of war, those who would reap huge monetary rewards from the military conflict. So sad, but so true of every war, unfortunately, that impacts many more lives over those in the actual conflict.

The personal losses stemming from the battles do not go unnoticed either and there are emotional scenes regarding the population and their individual handling of grave circumstances. The author movingly incorporates her own experiences as she describes the desolation and sacrifices.

A great historical novel along with the mystery was well drawn and satisfying in the conclusion. I was engaged and entertained and can recommend to any who enjoys detective stories (even with a slow build-up) authentically mixed with history.

Book Details:

Genre: Traditional Detective Mysteries, Historical Mysteries, Women Sleuth Mysteries
Publisher:  HarperAudio
ASIN: B077NHKTP6
Listening Length: 10 hrs 29 mins
Narrator: Orlagh Cassidy
Publication Date: March 27, 2018
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: To Die but Once [Amazon] 

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

 

Jacqueline Winspear - authorThe Author: Jacqueline Winspear is the creator of the New York Times and National Bestselling series featuring psychologist and investigator, Maisie Dobbs. Her first novel – Maisie Dobbs – received numerous awards nominations, including the Edgar Award for Best Novel and the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. It was a New York Times Notable Book and a Publisher’s Weekly Top Ten Pick.“ Jacqueline’s “standalone” novel set in WW1, The Care and Management of Lies, was a finalist for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize in 2015. In 2019 The American Agent, her 16th novel, was published, along with a non-fiction book based upon the Maisie Dobbs’ series, What Would Maisie Do? Originally from the UK, Jacqueline now lives in northern California.

 

Orlagh Cassidy - narratorThe Narrator: Orlagh is an American actress, both parents from Dublin, Ireland. She works in Theatre, Television and Film and has recorded numerous award winning audiobooks and commercials. She can be seen in ‘St. Vincent’ with Bill Murray as well many guest starring roles on ‘Homeland’, ‘Billions’, ‘Good Wife’, ‘Elementary’ and ‘The Mysteries Of Laura’. She has worked in New York theatre at MTC, The Public Theatre, MCC, Origin Theatre Company and The Irish Rep where she received a Drama Desk nomination for the role of ‘Mamie’ in the ‘The Field’ in 2007. She is a recipient of The Princess Grace Foundation Award and has a BFA from SUNY Purchase.

©2022 V Williams V Williams

#throwbackthursday

Big Lies in a Small Town: A Novel by Diane Chamberlain – #Audiobook Review – #TBT

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane Chamberlain

Rosepoint Publishing:  Five Stars 5 stars

Book Blurb:

North Carolina, 2018:

Morgan Christopher’s life has been derailed. Taking the fall for a crime she did not commit, her dream of a career in art is put on hold – until a mysterious visitor makes her an offer that will get her released from prison immediately. Her assignment: restore an old post office mural in a sleepy Southern town. Morgan knows nothing about art restoration, but desperate to be free, she accepts. What she finds under the layers of grime is a painting that tells the story of madness, violence, and a conspiracy of small town secrets.

North Carolina, 1940:

Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey, wins a national contest to paint a mural for the post office in Edenton, North Carolina. Alone in the world and in great need of work, she accepts. But what she doesn’t expect is to find herself immersed in a town where prejudices run deep, where people are hiding secrets behind closed doors, and where the price of being different might just end in murder.

What happened to Anna Dale? Are the clues hidden in the decrepit mural? Can Morgan overcome her own demons to discover what exists beneath the layers of lies?

A Macmillan Audio production from St. Martin’s Press.

My Review:

WOW!

Just… WOW!

I listened to approximately 45 audiobooks in 2021 (four per month) and if I’d finished this one in time, it would definitely have been included in my favorites list for the year—audiobook or print.

Big Lies in a Small Town by Diane ChamberlainTold from two POVs, in 2018, Morgan Christopher and 1940 Anna Dale. Morgan is sprung from the North Carolina Correctional Facility on a conditional release—the promise to restore a mural that was to have been installed in the Edenton Post Office in 1940. Anna Dale, an artist from New Jersey won a national contest out from under the town artist—considered the shoo-in. From New Jersey! An abomination! What did she know about the south or the town that the mural was to represent? The south is an alien world to Anna and Edenton not exactly thrilled to welcome a northerner.

Morgan’s benefactor, however, is a famous artist, Jesse Jameson, who dedicated himself to young artists with a history. Morgan knew his work and seriously loved it. She dabbled—loved painting—but restoring a mural was something she knew NOTHING about.

Jesse was within months of completing and opening an art gallery at the time of his passing and Morgan’s time frame was two months but when she initially saw the mural, very old, flaking, dusty; she thought impossible.

Completing the mural will keep her out of prison AND she’ll be paid for her work. It’s seriously important. She finds an ally in the project manager and though he’s not an artist can provide some basic start-up instruction in art restoration.

We begin to get filtered narration by Anna, an enormously engaging and sympathetic character, young and naïve, definitely out of her element but very serious about providing the town with the best representation of the area she can. Then as the mural is gradually restored, painstakingly inch by inch, Morgan begins to uncover some disturbing and bizarre inclusions into an otherwise masterful mural. What happened to Anna? Did she go mad?

Anna’s story is mesmerizing, one you can’t tear yourself away from. I loved her philosophy, her openness, and the two boys she took in to help with the work on the mural; especially Jesse. He’s an enigma, a brilliant natural artist, obviously enormously talented. Coming from a “colored” family, however, holds no hope of an artistic career. His family needs his help on the farm and only his aunt encourages and supports his work with Anna. It’s 1940; in the south. And Anna is a white northerner.

What happens next is shocking. A quick intake of breath, a sharp refusal that this is how Anna’s story will end. What happens to Jesse? The mural?

Undeniably the greatest hold is Anna’s story. But Morgan keeps digging and now her heart and soul are in uncovering Anna’s story along with restoration of the mural.

The characters are extremely well developed, the heart goes out to Anna and Jesse, truly the force in this amazing narrative. Storytelling at its finest! From heart-thudding moments to anger, revulsion, and back again to tearful hope. Totally invested in Anna, Jesse, and to a lesser extent Morgan.

Themes of poverty, racism, violence, and rape. Easy to switch back and forth between the POVs, each advancing the tension, the questions swirling maddingly around the mind. How can this be resolved? Or CAN it?

And the conclusion: beautiful.

I read five final nominees in the Goodreads Choice Awards for 2020 and this was not even listed. If I have a problem with a book, I check to see if or why I’m off base in my assessment, pursuing both low and high reviews. It looks as if I’m in agreement with most reviews this time. So, what happened?

This is a truly immersive read from beginning to amazing end. Strong, individual and believable characters. The mural, during the restoration process, took shape and color in my mind becoming both awesomely jaw-dropping and then bewildering, confusing.

Brilliant! Did you read or listen to the audiobook? What was your reaction?

Book Details:

Genre: Family Life Fiction, Psychological Thrillers, Historical Thrillers
Publisher:  Macmillan Audio
ASIN: B07T8C3RT3
Listening Length: 13 hrs 19 mins
Narrator: Susan Bennett
Publication Date: January 14, 2020
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Big Lies in a Small Town [Amazon]

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Diane Chamberlain - authorThe Author: Diane Chamberlain is the New York Times, USA Today and (London) Sunday Times best-selling author of 27 novels. The daughter of a school principal who supplied her with a new book almost daily, Diane quickly learned the emotional power of story. Although she wrote many small “books” as a child, she didn’t seriously turn to writing fiction until her early thirties when she was waiting for a delayed doctor’s appointment with nothing more than a pad, a pen, and an idea. She was instantly hooked.

Diane was born and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey and lived for many years in both San Diego and northern Virginia. She received her master’s degree in clinical social work from San Diego State University. Prior to her writing career, she was a hospital social worker in both San Diego and Washington, D.C, and a psychotherapist in private practice in Alexandria, Virginia, working primarily with adolescents.

More than two decades ago, Diane was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, which changed the way she works: She wrote two novels using voice recognition software before new medication allowed her to get back to typing. She feels fortunate that her arthritis is not more severe and that she’s able to enjoy everyday activities as well as keep up with a busy travel schedule.

Diane lives in North Carolina with her significant other, photographer John Pagliuca, and their odd but lovable Shetland Sheepdog, Cole.

Please visit Diane’s website at http://www.dianechamberlain.com for her event schedule and for more information on her newest novel, Big Lies in a Small Town, as well as a complete list of her books.

Susan Bennett- narratorThe Narrator:  [NOTE: I think this is the correct Susan Bennett. If it is not, please let me know and I’ll correct immediately.] Susan Alice Bennett is an American voice actress and a former backup singer for Roy Orbison and Burt Bacharach. She is best known as the female American voice of Apple’s Siri personal assistant, since the service was introduced on the iPhone 4S on October 4, 2011. Wikipedia

©2021 V Williams

happy thursday!

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty – #Audiobook Review – Domestic Thriller

Apples Never Fall by Liane Moriarty
Amazon Charts #7 this week
2021 AudioFile Best Audiobooks
2021 Washington Post Best Books of the Year 

Book Blurb:

The Delaney family love one another dearly – it’s just that sometimes they want to murder each other….

If your mother was missing, would you tell the police? Even if the most obvious suspect was your father?

This is the dilemma facing the four grown Delaney siblings.

The Delaneys are fixtures in their community. The parents, Stan and Joy, are the envy of all of their friends. They’re killers on the tennis court, and off it their chemistry is palpable. But after 50 years of marriage, they’ve finally sold their famed tennis academy and are ready to start what should be the golden years of their lives. So why are Stan and Joy so miserable?

The four Delaney children – Amy, Logan, Troy, and Brooke – were tennis stars in their own right, yet as their father will tell you, none of them had what it took to go all the way. But that’s okay, now that they’re all successful grown-ups and there is the wonderful possibility of grandchildren on the horizon.

One night a stranger named Savannah knocks on Stan and Joy’s door, bleeding after a fight with her boyfriend. The Delaneys are more than happy to give her the small kindness she sorely needs. If only that was all she wanted.

Later, when Joy goes missing, and Savannah is nowhere to be found, the police question the one person who remains: Stan. But for someone who claims to be innocent, he, like many spouses, seems to have a lot to hide. Two of the Delaney children think their father is innocent, two are not so sure – but as the two sides square off against each other in perhaps their biggest match ever, all of the Delaneys will start to reexamine their shared family history in a very new light.

My Review:

No, No, NO! My first Moriarty book and looking at the reviews I can’t understand for the life of me how Amazon proclaims this a best seller with several number one genres. The reviewers loved it? Or no, the reviewers hated it! I think I can see why.

Apples Never Fall by Liane MoriartyAs you’ve no doubt heard (because, gee, who hasn’t?), the plot revolves heavily around an Aussie family totally tennis obsessed. It’s the Delaney family, all six of them; parents and two daughters, two sons. Dad is a tennis coach, had his coaching business for years while both he and his wife Joy could equally have “been a contender.”

But Joy sacrificed all that adoration to raise her brood and now that they are gone, have lives of their own, she wants grandchildren.

But wait, isn’t she festering over all the hard work, the time, attention, and the lack of acknowledgement she should have received for her being best tennis mommy and business director?

Some called it boring. Well, maybe it is. It is definitely a slow burn. But my goodness, this is an intense study in the family with low-lying suspense underneath the strongly character-driven plot. As is typical, each child is 180 degrees from the other and they are rather selfishly driven with their individual paths. Truth be told, how many of the four embraced that tennis fever? Was it Logan? Any of them?

So Joy goes missing and the storyline jumps from immediate backstory to present that includes a mysterious stranger (Savannah) taking advantage of the retired couple—heaven knows they have the room—but why did they take her in, who is she, and why is she there? Wait—is something fishy going on?

Complicated plot, complex relationships, the simmering resentment apparently on Stan’s (the father’s) side as well. He handled explosive situations by removing himself. Just leaving. Well, nothing like being left to handle all the conflict…….argh!

My first experience with this author. The novel is very long and there are so many underlying issues to resolve. Yes, this reader was driven to find out what happened to Joy because at this point, I’m clueless (although there had been a short hint early on). The daughters fell on one side of the defense of dad, the sons the other.

Well, hang’m high! (If only they could find the body.)

But, then the conclusion.

Yeah, you’ll have to slough through the book or catch the audiobook and I must say, narrator Caroline Lee did a very credible job of helping to build the tension. Not really one character to fully invest in—I didn’t much care for the lot. And tennis is not my game.

That extra little zinger at the end? Nope. Unnecessary. I agree with many of the others who hated it. I wasn’t a fan either and it just kind of ruined the redemption gained in conclusion for me. (I had softened somewhat regarding the relationship between Joy and Stan at the end.)

Book Details:

Genre: #1 Suspense (Audible Books), #1 Family Life Fiction (Audible Books), #1 Domestic Thrillers (Books)
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
ASIN: B08V8939WY
Listening Length: 18 hrs 3 mins
Narrator: Caroline Lee
Publication Date: September 14, 2021
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Apples Never Fall [Amazon]
 Add to Goodreads

Rosepoint Publishing:  Four Stars 4 stars

Liane Moriarty - authorThe Author: Liane Moriarty is the Australian author of eight internationally best-selling novels: Three Wishes, The Last Anniversary, What Alice Forgot, The Hypnotist’s Love Story, Nine Perfect Strangers and the number one New York Times bestsellers: The Husband’s Secret, Big Little Lies and Truly Madly Guilty. Her books have been translated into over forty languages and sold more than 20 million copies.

Big Little Lies and Truly Madly Guilty both debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list – the first time this was ever achieved by an Australian author. Big Little Lies was adapted into a multiple award-winning HBO series with a star-studded cast including Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. Hulu is adapting Nine Perfect Strangers into a limited series starring Nicole Kidman and Melissa McCarthy for release in 2021.

Her new novel, Apples Never Fall, will be released in September 2021.

Liane lives in Sydney, Australia, together with her husband, son and daughter. You can find out more at http://www.lianemoriarty.com and http://www.facebook.com/LianeMoriartyAuthor

Caroline Lee - narratorThe Narrator: Caroline is based in Melbourne, Australia, and has worked professionally as a theatre, television, film and voice actress for over thirty years. She has worked with many companies around Australia including the Malthouse, Sydney Theatre Company, Melbourne Theatre Company, Bell Shakespeare, Back to Back Theatre, Red Stitch Actors Theatre, Chamber Made Opera, MKA, Finucane and Smith, HeLD Productions, Hildegard, Playbox and La Mama. She is a proud ensemble member of the Red Stitch Actors Theatre. [Hasty Book List]

©2021 V Williams V Williams-Christmas hat

happy thursday!

TV Netflix Series Maid vs #Audiobook Maid by Stephanie Land – #TBT

TV Netflix Series Maid vs Audiobook

 

Another Netflix original that I noticed had been adapted from a popular book by a debut author. As you know, I am loving the challenge of listening to the audiobook to see how much (or little) Netflix changed and made it their own. Did they make it better? Worse? And as also mentioned before, I noticed a radical departure from some of the original books (although not quite so much with Longmire, but thankfully for the Virgin River series).

The storyline by Stephanie Land chronicles her experiences of taking on approximately 25 hrs work a week as a maid (I would call her a housekeeper—not really a maid)—who is trying to care for her toddler daughter and take classes toward a degree. She writes in detail of her struggles with a broken welfare system (Washington state), assistance, that sometimes takes days of time to complete applications, numerous trips to the separate agencies, and then suffer through wait times of months, even years for relief.

Netflix Series

Sarah Qualley - actress
Alex–played by Sarah Qualley – Attribute Wikipedia

Alex is a single mother with daughter Maddy who has escaped the child’s abusive father and homelessness to perform housecleaning duties for clients of a cleaning service where she is paid minimum wage. The series began on October 1, 2021 and was written by both Stephanie Land and Molly Smith Metzler. At 5/8”, the 27 year old Sarah Margaret Qualley  (who plays Alex in the title role) was born in Kalispell, MT to parents Andie MacDowell (who also appears as her mother) and Paul Qualley.

Rylea Nevaeh Whittet - child actress
Maddy–played by Rylea Nevaeh Whittet – Attribute-imdb.com

Billed as a limited series, Season 1 of Maid has ten episodes. I say Season 1 as it has been holding the Top 10 spot since the premiere. Since the season ended with a solid (happy) conclusion, there is debate regarding a continuing story. Maddy, the sweet cherub-faced toddler is adorable and steals any of her scenes (I think anyway).

There are additional support characters (but the POV is all Alex)—the father—not the most supportive of dads, and the storyline zooms in on the various houses where she is assigned to clean, their stories, houses, and the relationship (or lack thereof) to their housecleaner.

My Thoughts

This one starts out fairly slow building (after the initial fleeing in the night scene) the whos, whys, whats, whens, and wheres. Episode 1. Episode 2 begins building on the stories of the homes—who they are. Some are fleshed more than others depending on their involvement with Alex, many of whom have none at all. She names each of the houses—“the sad house,” “the porn house,” etc.

The story continues to build conflict with her ex—Sean—who is getting progressively violent. Conflict escalates with each new financial burden—carefully calculated on screen showing deductions into deficit. Her mother’s character is an aging hippie, alternately a helpful grandmother or not. I really like the fictional additions—the stories of some of the housecleaning homes, but there are holes in the series. I believe she is getting child support, but it doesn’t appear in the financials—only that of her earnings(?).

She is over the moon with her daughter and seldom (maybe once in ten episodes) gets tired or cross with her. I understand the overwhelming exhaustion—and times when she needed a break. And she does, from time to time get those. She has a pessimistic attitude, facing one crisis after another, not always making the wise decision. She tends to snoop when opportunity presents itself, trying on clothes while decrying the small pilfering by a co-worker.

I was the daughter of a mother left with two children, no education or working experience. I can remember the struggles, the panic, and the admonition that we could “NOT get sick this winter” (we wouldn’t dare!), wherever that was going to be. She never had a break, nor did we have any kind of child support. There were days she simply ironed—for eight hours (and any income is deducted from welfare).

Sometimes Alex just doesn’t feel authentic.

Audiobook (Blurb)

At 28, Stephanie Land’s plans of breaking free from the roots of her hometown in the Pacific Northwest to chase her dreams of attending a university and becoming a writer, were cut short when a summer fling turned into an unexpected pregnancy. She turned to housekeeping to make ends meet, and with a tenacious grip on her dream to provide her daughter the very best life possible, Stephanie worked days and took classes online to earn a college degree, and began to write relentlessly.

Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to be in service to them. “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Stephanie writes about her relationship with her clients, many of whom do not know her from any other cleaner, but who she learns plenty about. As she begins to discover more about her clients’ lives-their sadness and love, too-she begins to find hope in her own path.

Her writing as a journalist gives voice to the “servant” worker, and those pursuing the American Dream from below the poverty line. Maid is Stephanie’s story, but it’s not her alone.

My Thoughts

Maid by Stephanie LandMs. Land wasn’t a teenager when she split from her ex. Nor at 28 (29?) did she seem to have an education she could apply to any available job, falling back on housekeeping as a way to spend time with her daughter. But at 25 hrs a week housekeeping, she was below the poverty line which left her with mounds of applications for aid, the embarrassment of food stamps, the doctors who only see the “Medicaid” patient, the WIC quandary. The failure of the system, heaven knows, is rather massive in any state, but Stephanie is detailing the failures, one at a time, over and over.

The more griping and negativity I heard, the greater my exhaustion of hearing about her victimization. She seems openly envious of anyone with more than she, perhaps not considering what it took to get them there. She may have tried on their shoes, but she didn’t walk in them.

Overall Impression

Okay, I’m scratching my head over this one. Clearly, I did not care for the audiobook, read by the author or not. I could not engage, work up the sympathy. SOOO many thousands of women going through the same and they may, as my mother did, cry in their pillows at night, but they carried on without pointing fingers at everyone else.

Netflix, as they usually do, found a strong middle ground, showing both the failures and the successes, building empathy where due, focusing on the child, lifelines for abused women, groups, and helplines. Conflicts and resolution. Light at the end of the tunnel only to have the light smashed and the tunnel black again. The storyline moves, however gradually, in an upwardly mobile direction.

I don’t think Netflix softened or frosted over the critical situation of the women. But they did provide just that sliver of hope that the tide will turn. And indeed it does. I’d recommended the Netflix version, but certainly cannot the audiobook and by that extension the book as well.

Book Details

Full Title: Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive
Genre: Poverty & Homelessness Studies, Government Social Policy, Social Public Policy
Publisher: Hachette Audio
ASIN: B07MNHMYCP
Listening Length: 8 hrs 34 mins
Narrator: Stephanie Land
Audible Release: January 22, 2019
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link(s): Maid [Amazon] 
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Kobo

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Stephanie Land - authorThe Author: Stephanie Land is the instant bestselling author of “MAID: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive.” Her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, and many other outlets. Her writing focuses on social and economic justice. Follow everywhere @stepville or stepville.com  [Goodreads]

 

 

©2021 V Williams V Williams

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell – #Audiobook Review – American Revolution Biographies – #TBT

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell

(Amazon) Editors Pick Best History 

Book Blurb:

From the best-selling author of Assassination Vacation and Unfamiliar Fishes, a humorous account of the Revolutionary War hero Marquis de Lafayette – the one Frenchman we could all agree on – and an insightful portrait of a nation’s idealism and its reality.

On August 16, 1824, an elderly French gentlemen sailed into New York Harbor, and giddy Americans were there to welcome him. Or, rather, to welcome him back. It had been 30 years since he had last set foot in the United States, and he was so beloved that 80,000 people showed up to cheer for him. The entire population of New York at the time was 120,000.

Lafayette‘s arrival in 1824 coincided with one of the most contentious presidential elections in American history. Congress had just fought its first epic battle over slavery, and the threat of a Civil War loomed. But Lafayette, belonging to neither North nor South, to no political party or faction, was a walking, talking reminder of the sacrifices and bravery of the revolutionary generation and what they wanted this country to be. His return was not just a reunion with his beloved Americans; it was a reunion for Americans with their own astonishing, singular past.

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States is a humorous and insightful portrait of the famed Frenchman, the impact he had on our young country, and his ongoing relationship with instrumental Americans of the time, including George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Thomas Jefferson, and many more.

John Slattery as the Marquis de Lafayette
Nick Offerman as George Washington
Fred Armisen as Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben
Bobby Cannavale as Benjamin Franklin
John Hodgman as John Adams
Stephanie March as Evelyn Wotherspoon Wainwight and Linda Williams
Alexis Denisof as The British Leadership
Patton Oswalt as Thomas Jefferson and Sherm
 

My Review:

Add me to the list of those who thought I knew something about the Revolutionary war—particularly owing both myself and the CE had ancestors who fought—and must have obviously survived.

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah VowellMy question after listening to this audiobook is how in the world did we EVER win our independence? Only, in no small part, to those countries who also either had no affinity for dear ole England themselves, or the English after eight years (which I also didn’t realize) was being bankrupted. Certainly a resulting factor for the massive help from the French king Louis XVI, who himself was guillotined in 1793.

We were certainly an ungrateful bunch. Tired of the monarchy, the Red Coats, the taxes, and lack of freedom. King George III absolutely refused to surrender the colonies. The fledgling Americans decided he would. Period.

The author is a surprise. When the audiobook started with that unusual voice narrating, I thought “you gotta be kidding” expecting the narrator to change. It did, frequently, but only to inject many of the other voices listed to portray another of the main characters of the war. Her delivery is beyond droll and it’s necessary to pay close attention because much of her zingers, sarcastic wit, often comparing or contrasting present day history comes through in contemplative conversation.

I had no idea that the Marquis de Lafayette, who came over strictly as a volunteer at the age of eighteen, rose in the ranks to establish himself so completely in the successful strategy of our battles. As has been noted previously, American troops were starving, lacking boots or proper winter clothing, materiel, or training.

For awhile, the narrative seemed to follow no one pattern, chronological or otherwise, until it settled down somewhat while she followed a specific tour of well-known battlegrounds and skirmishes and describing despicable conditions, noting at one point, “who needs to pay for gun powder when heat stroke kills for free.” Or at well known Valley Forge where more than 2,000 died owing to catastrophic winter conditions alone.

That cynical sense of humor comes through when she notes the horrific Battle of Brandywine (September 11, 1777) resulted in “random rattled fleeing…struggling to put the toothpaste back into the tube.”

I enjoyed learning about Lafayette, given the writing style, not wholly a dry history lesson and more certainly the contemporary observation and connections made, one referring to Lafayette Square across from the capitol in DC.

The author’s writing style might not appeal to everyone, nor her often sense of irony dispensed in conversational fashion. However, it is entertaining, educational, and enlightening. I learned a lot and will be looking for more of her history audiobooks.

Book Details:

Genre: American Revolution Biographies, French History, United States Colonial History
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
ASIN: B013RODKRA
Listening Length: 8 hrs 7 mins
Narrators: Sarah VowellJohn SlatteryNick OffermanFred ArmisenBobby CannavaleJohn HodgmanStephanie MarchAlexis Denisof
Publication Date: October 20, 2015
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: Lafayette in the Somewhat United States  [Amazon]

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Rosepoint Publishing:  Four of Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

Sarah Vowell - authorThe Author: Sarah Jane Vowell is an American author, journalist, humorist, and commentator. Often referred to as a “social observer,” Vowell has authored several books and is a regular contributor to the radio program This American Life on Public Radio International. She was also the voice of Violet in the animated film The Incredibles and a short documentary, VOWELLET – An Essay by SARAH VOWELL in the “Behind the Scenes” extras of The Incredibles DVD Release.

She earned a B.A. from Montana State University in 1993 in Modern Languages and Literatures and an M.A. in Art History at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in 1996. Vowell received the Music Journalism Award in 1996.

Vowell is a New York Times’ bestselling author of five nonfiction books on American history and culture. Her most recent book is Unfamiliar Fishes (2011), which reviews the takeover of Hawaii’s property and politics first by white missionaries from the United States and later joined by American plantation growers, ultimately resulting in a Coup d’état, restricted voting rights for nonwhites, and forced statehood for the small chain of islands. Her earlier book, The Wordy Shipmates (2008), examines the New England Puritans and their journey to and impact on America. She studies John Winthrop’s 1630 sermon “A Model of Christian Charity” – and the bloody story that resulted from American exceptionalism. And she also traces the relationship of Winthrop, Massachusetts’ first governor, and Roger Williams, the Calvinist minister who founded Rhode Island – an unlikely friendship that was emblematic of the polar extremes of the American foundation. Throughout, she reveals how American history can show up in the most unexpected places in our modern culture, often in unexpected ways.

Her book Assassination Vacation (2005) describes a road trip to tourist sites devoted to the murders of presidents Lincoln, Garfield and McKinley. Vowell examines what these acts of political violence reveal about our national character and our contemporary society.

She is also the author of two essay collections, The Partly Cloudy Patriot (2002) and Take the Cannoli (2000). Her first book Radio On: A Listener’s Diary (1997), is her year-long diary of listening to the radio in 1995.

Her writing has been published in The Village VoiceEsquireGQSpinThe New York TimesLos Angeles Times, and the SF Weekly, and she has been a regular contributor to the online magazine Salon. She was one of the original contributors to McSweeney’s, also participating in many of the quarterly’s readings and shows.

In 2005, Vowell served as a guest columnist for The New York Times during several weeks in July, briefly filling in for Maureen Dowd. Vowell also served as a guest columnist in February 2006, and again in April 2006.

In 2008, Vowell contributed an essay about Montana to the book State by State: A Panoramic Portrait of America.

©2021 V Williams V Williams

happy thursday!

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher – #Audiobook Review – #TBT

(Amazon) Editors Pick Best Biographies & Memoirs 

Book Blurb:

2018 GRAMMY Award for Best Spoken Word Album

The Princess Diarist is Carrie Fisher’s intimate, hilarious and revealing recollection of what happened behind the scenes on one of the most famous film sets of all time, the first Star Wars movie.

PEOPLE magazine Best Book of Fall 2016

New York Times Best-seller 

Star Wars VIII: The Last Jedi, featuring Carrie Fisher, is scheduled for release on December 15, 2017. Bright Lights: Starring Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds debuted on HBO in January 2017.

When Carrie Fisher recently discovered the journals she kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie, she was astonished to see what they had preserved – plaintive love poems, unbridled musings with youthful naiveté, and a vulnerability that she barely recognized. Today, her fame as an author, actress, and pop-culture icon is indisputable, but in 1977, Carrie Fisher was just a teenager with an all-consuming crush on her costar, Harrison Ford. 

With these excerpts from her handwritten notebooks, The Princess Diarist is Fisher’s intimate and revealing recollection of what happened on one of the most famous film sets of all time – and what developed behind the scenes. Fisher also ponders the joys and insanity of celebrity, and the absurdity of a life spawned by Hollywood royalty, only to be surpassed by her own outer-space royalty. Laugh-out-loud hilarious and endlessly quotable, The Princess Diarist brims with the candor and introspection of a diary while offering shrewd insight into the type of stardom that few will ever experience. 

My Review:

If ever a book is best read by the author, this one is it. I must admit that I wasn’t an overly enthusiastic fan of Ms. Fisher, feeling she rode her parents’ coat tails (Debbie Reynolds and [gasp] Eddie Fisher) to stardom.

Carrie, born October 21, 1956, discovered an old diary she’d kept during the filming of the first Star Wars movie. She was struck by co-star Harrison Ford. Carrie at the time being nineteen years of age admitted all those years later that she was still gaga over him. But this is not a tell-all about her very brief (three months) affair with the fastly rising-to-stardom co-star.

If that’s what you are here to read, or listen to, then you’ll be disappointed. What Fisher relates in her own witty, sarcastic, and often humorous recollections of those years regarding pre and post 1977 Star Wars is the immense impact it would have on the rest of her life. Not just a successful starring part, but the beginning of a sci-fi phenomenon of globe capacity with unforgettable characters whose names are still familiar. Forget Luke, we were all over Han Solo.

The ugly and the beautiful.

Carrie can wax poetic and, indeed, a sizeable portion of this book is her daughter’s (Billie Lourd) reading of the poems she penned in the diary, along with all her observations.

“After all is said and done, I was playing for keeps and he was playing for fun.”

“A woman without a man is like a fish without a bicycle.”

 

Carrie was bi-polar, angst ridden, and prone to abuse both drugs and alcohol. The audiobook gives the listener the impression of having a private conversation with her, extremely animated, totally open and honest, a one-on-one veritable hoot for most of the narrative. No matter the memory she related, the audiobook voice is audacious and often self-deprecating. And of course, she does discuss that iconic hairdo. (Link to sound clip on image below.)

Excerpt of The Princess Diarist read by Carrie Fisher
April 14, 1977 – Princess Leia Organa (CARRIE FISHER) – (Credit Image: © Imago via ZUMA Press)

This wasn’t her first book, however. She wrote voraciously and produced a number of other books, including two additional memoirs. Actually, her death at age 60 in December 2016 reflected the loss of a serious talent. No one can forget either the death of her mother the following day.

A thoroughly enjoyable audiobook that you must listen to for the full flavor in which it was written. Enthusiastically recommended. Then why not five stars, you wonder? (Glad you asked) The poems read by Lourd may have, in my opinion, extended for just a tad too long (for me at least, anxious to get back to Carrie’s chronicle).

Book Details:

Genre: Bipolar Disorder, Humor Essays, Biographies of Celebrities & Entertainment Professionals
Publisher:  Penguin Audio
ASIN: B01AAXYD54
Listening Length: 5 hrs 10 mins
Narrator: Carrie FisherBillie Lourd
Publication Date: November 22, 2016
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Princess Diarist [Amazon]

Add to Goodreads

Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

Carrie Fisher - author, actress, playwrightThe Author: Carrie Fisher was an American actress, screenwriter and author, most famous for her portrayal of Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy. Fisher was the daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds. She had one daughter, Billie Lourd (b. 1992). [Goodreads]

Her final film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, was released on December 15, 2017 and is dedicated to her.

The Narrator: Billie Lourd was born July 17, 1992, in Los Angeles, California, the only child of actress Carrie Fisher and talent agent Bryan Lourd. Lourd is also the only grandchild of actress Debbie Reynolds and singer Eddie Fisher. [Wikipedia]

©2021 V Williams V Williams

Sound clip attribute: Sound Cloud-Penguin Audio

Have a Happy Thanksgiving

The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz and Kirsten Kairos (Narrator) – #Audiobook Review – #TBT

The Darkest Evening of the Year by Dean Koontz

Book Blurb:

With each of his number-one New York Times best-sellers, Dean Koontz has displayed an unparalleled ability to entertain and enlighten listeners with novels that capture the essence of our times, even as they bring us to the edge of our seats. Now he delivers a heart-gripping tour de force he’s been waiting years to write – at once a love story, a thrilling adventure, and a masterwork of suspense that redefines the boundaries of primal fear and of enduring devotion.

Amy Redwing has dedicated her life to the Southern California organization she founded to rescue abandoned and endangered golden retrievers. Among dog lovers, she’s a legend for the risks she’ll take to save an animal from abuse. Among her friends, Amy’s heedless devotion is often cause for concern. To widower Brian McCarthy, whose commitment she can’t allow herself to return, Amy’s behavior is far more puzzling and hides a shattering secret.

No one is surprised when Amy risks her life to save Nickie, nor when she takes the female golden into her home. The bond between Amy and Nickie is immediate and uncanny. Even her two other goldens, Fred and Ethel, recognize Nickie as special, a natural alpha. But the instant joy Nickie brings is shadowed by a series of eerie incidents: An ominous stranger. A mysterious home invasion. And the unmistakable sense that someone is watching Amy’s every move, and that, whoever it is, he’s not alone.

Someone has come back to turn Amy into the desperate, hunted creature she’s always been there to save. But now there’s no one to save Amy and those she loves.

From its breathtaking opening scene to its shocking climax, The Darkest Evening of the Year is Dean Koontz at his finest. 

My Review:

When I first told my son I was reading a book by Dean Koontz, he said, “but Koontz is a horror writer, mom.” I explained to him that I was reading his new Jane Hawk series (including The Night Window, the fifth and final in the series) and that it was more action thriller, techno thriller. Indeed, I read the whole series, and another suspense standalone, The Good Guy. To be honest, I hadn’t read a horror book by him as I don’t read horror books.

The Darkest Evening of the YearThe one filament common to most of his books is that little edge of the supernatural and this one is no exception. That said, this one is a surprise for me but of course I was drawn to the dog on the cover with promise that it might include a canine in the storyline. It does.

Amy is apparently wealthy. She spends her time in the rescue of golden retrievers and she’s developed quite the rep—and certainly the mastery in rescue of the animals in some of the most dire situations. This time Amy rescues Nickie. Her boyfriend is horrified by the circumstances, but she successfully manages the retrieval of the dog. She has no idea she is part of a dark plan, but she does share some of her feelings regarding Nickie to her boyfriend, Brian. (Is it possible Nickie has been here before?)

What starts as eerie incidents escalate into a darker and darker chain of events that introduces Hope. POV’s switch to the head of Hope as she coyly manages her mother, something the ten year old Down’s syndrome daughter has learned to deal with. 

The antagonist charges head long into some of the cruelest, most despicable scenes of a mother imagined. The worst kind of depraved person a human can be posed against the most innocent, decent. Good versus evil personified.

While Amy separately deals with demons, they plan their perverse scheme, and it’s revealed there is more to Hope than conceived of. Indeed, if at first your heart broke for her, it just as quickly rose in pride for her astute management of the situation.

Nickie, the golden, did indeed prove herself a stout-hearted canine, more than just a beautiful companion.

Scratching my head. This is one devil of a narrative. Stomach-churning scenes at odds with triumph. My problem is the conclusion. Both the main characters as well as support barrel into the climax in one swooping, crashing plot crunch. And then it ends just as quickly. You can turn another page if you want, but the story ended. Just like that.

I’m a Koontz fan. Not a horror story fan. Most of my positive experience with this writer is the subtle, descriptive way he delivers the prose, so beautiful you can almost (almost!) forget the horrific circumstances. It’s hypnotic. And I’m compelled to look for the next Dean Koontz book.

Book Details:

Genre: Suspense, Suspense Thrillers
Publisher:  Random House Audio
ASIN: B0010BA81O
Listening Length: 9 hrs 9 mins
Narrator: Kirsten Kairos
Publication Date: November 27, 2007
Source: Local Library (Audiobook Selections)
Title Link: The Darkest Evening of the Year [Amazon]

Add to Goodreads

Rosepoint Publishing:  Four point Five Stars 4 1/2 stars

Dean Koontz - authorThe Author: Dean Koontz, the author of many #1 New York Times bestsellers, lives in Southern California with his wife, Gerda, their golden retriever, Elsa, and the enduring spirits of their goldens, Trixie and Anna.

The Narrator: Kristen Kairos is a New York/LA-based voice-over technician, singer, songwriter, and percussionist who has toured worldwide and recorded with a variety of artists including Julio Iglesias, INXS, and David Lee Roth. While her speaking voice can be heard on numerous radio and television commercials, as well as character voices for animation and narration for audio books, she is currently singing, writing, arranging, and playing percussion with individual musicians and bands in the New York area.

©2021 V Williams V Williams

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