Jul 26, 2012

Audio Review: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier

This book, published in 1938 is a classic and as an avid reader, I am ashamed to say that, up until this point, I had never read it. This novel by Daphne du Maurier has been loved by so many and I knew it would be a real treat.  Although I've had the book on my shelf for several years, I decided to listen to the audio version when the chance arose.

Publishers's Summary

Rebecca, a dark psychological tale of secrets and betrayal, is Daphne du Maurier's best-loved work and was named Best Novel of the 20th Century at the Bouchercon World Mystery Convention.
After a whirlwind romance and a honeymoon in Italy, the innocent young heroine and the dashing Maxim de Winter return to his country estate, Manderley. But the unsettling memory of Rebecca, the first Mrs. de Winter, still lingers within. The timid bride must overcome her husband's oppressive silences and the sullen history of the sinister housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers, to confront the emotional horrors of the past.

My Thoughts:

Admittedly, there are many classics that I have not read and REBECCA was always at the top of my To Read list. I chose the audio version because I knew it would go faster as I was already reading two paper books at the time.  First, let me say the narrator, Anna Massey, did an outstanding job with all of the characters in the book. Her subtle voice of Mrs. de Winter and her commanding voice of many of the other players show her versatility for this audio. Her voice is perfectly suited for this type of book and the locale of England. I really enjoyed her interpretations.

I love these Gothic-type stories centered around ancient homes and estates and the people who inhabit them and so the story did live up to my expectations. That said, I did expect a little more danger than was in the book. I loved the interaction between the sinister Mrs. Danvers and Mrs. de Winter, creepy as it sometimes was. I found it interesting that the reader is never made privy to the name of the current Mrs. de Winter. She is never called by her first name. The ending was a surprise and I was satisfied with it and left feeling that I wanted more. So, for me, that is what a good book does.

I had built this book up in my mind so much that I was afraid I would be disappointed but I am happy to say I am not. One day, I may go back and read the book because I think maybe I would have really enjoyed that a little better. Don't get me wrong, I did enjoy the audio but sometimes there is nothing better than reading it page by page, especially a classic like REBECCA.

Author: Daphne du Maurier
Published: (Audio) January 2009
Publisher: (Audio) AudioGO
Length: 14hrs 52mn
Source: Purchased from Audible.com
Rating: 4.5 Stars out of 5

Jul 22, 2012

[TSS] Review: Dead Reckoning (Sookie Stackhouse #11) by Charlaine Harris

If you are familiar with my blog at all, you will know that I have a soft spot for Sookie Stackhouse.  That couldn't have come as a bigger surprise to myself. Vampires and supernaturals aren't exactly my thing. But a few years ago when I took the plunge and said, 'Why not?', I found I enjoyed the quirky characters and adventures.. So, here I am at book 11, DEAD RECKONING and things are really heating up.

Since Sookie now knows about her fairy heritage, her fairy uncle and cousin are knee deep in her life and she's not sure if that's such a good thing or not. She's got a lot of question, if only she could talk to her Great, great, great grandfather Niall, but he is not in the human world and she really doesn't know if she can trust him even if we were. Sookie also discovers a very important heirloom left to her from her grandmother that leaves her with even more questions about her past and, ultimately the future. She's not sure what this heirloom really is, but there is no one she can ask for fear that it could put her in danger if the wrong people find out she has it. To add to her problematic life, Eric is under pressure from Victor, the regent, working under the king of Nevada, who has taken over Louisiana, making life dangerous for Eric Northman, the Sheriff of Area 5 and Sookie's lover/husband.

There's a lot of stuff that goes down in this book concerning a lot of the different supes living in Bon Temps and Shreveport. And as always, Sookie is in the middle of it. As with all of the books in this series, questions get answered from characters that we may not have seen much of lately. And also, some characters that are constant are always evolving and changing along with the story. I think that's why the series doesn't get stale for me. With every book, there are new things about old characters that tie in with the story perfectly. To me, that's what a good storyteller does. I really liked the ending of this book and it made me ready to jump right into the next one. Each new book begins only a few weeks from when the previous book left off, so there's not alot of time in between. It's like one long continuous story.

At this point, Sookie feels like an old friend and I'm anxious to get to DEADLOCKED, the 12th book which was released this past May. It will be interesting to see how it sets the stage for the final book of the series.

Author: Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Ace Hardcover
Pages: 336
Source: Borrowed
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

Jul 20, 2012

Review: Unbroken: A WWII Story of Survival, Resiliance, and Redemption by Laura Hillenbrand (Audio)

Like many people, I saw this book making it's rounds in the blogging world and I saw the high praise it was garnering but I didn't think it would be a book I would enjoy reading. I kind of put it on the back burner of my mind until one weekend I was watching CBS Sunday Morning ( One of my favorite shows). They were interviewing a WWII POW by the name of Louis Zamperini and as it went on, things were becoming familiar to me. Finally, I said, 'Wait a minute! I know who that is!' I realized then that Louis Zamperini was the man from UNBROKEN. After watching that amazing interview with both he and the author, Laura Hillenbrand, I got right up, went to Audible.com and downloaded the audio right then. There was no way I was going to miss his story.

In UNBROKEN: A WWII Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, Hillenbrand chronicles the incredible life of US Air Force Lieutenant Louis Zamperini. In 1943, as a bombardier aboard a B24 on a rescue mission, Zamperini and the rest of the men on board, were shot down over the Pacific Ocean.  Only three would initially survive the initial crash and were left adrift, clinging to a life raft. For over 40 days they drifted with no food except for the fish and birds they could catch and only occasional rain water to drink. Ultimately, just two would make it off that raft alive, only to be captured by the Japanese and held prisoner for nearly four years.

Hillenbrand also tells about the family members of these POW's and how they coped with the news that their loved ones were 'lost at sea' and presumed dead. Some accepted the news, others refused to believe until absolute proof was shown. The title is perfect. It most definitely is a story of survival, resilience and redemption.

My Thoughts:

Typically, this isn't the type of book that I would read, but it is a book that I'm so glad I did. We've all learned about WWII in school, but after reading, or in my case, listening to this book, I feel like what I learned in the classroom was simply insufficient. Regarding this audiobook, the first thing I recognized was the commanding, authoritative voice of Alex Jennings, the narrator. I recognised his voice immediately.  Jennings is an accomplished actor with a voice that is tailor-made for this type of audio. It makes you want to sit up straight and listen intently.

Although there were a few parts that were simply too painful to listen to, I thoroughly enjoyed the trip back in history that is this book. I learned things that I probably did learn while in class, but didn't retain for whatever reason. I suppose that as an adult, history comes across a lot different than when you are a teenager in high school. Even more now, I can appreciate the sacrifices of all of the POW's and their family's in a way that I don't believe I did before this book. It is an extroridinary book.The statistics given in the book alone are staggering and eye-opening to say the least.

An interesting side note is that since Laura Hillenbrand suffers from Agoraphobia, the fear of leaving your house, she wrote this book without meeting Louis in person once - their only conversations taking place over the phone. Only after the book was published did they actually meet. In fact, Zamperini presented her with his medal from the war saying, he was only held prisoner for a few years, while Hillenbrand has suffered her entire life with this disorder. What an incredible gesture form an incredible American.

I would definitely recommend this book, especially to readers who enjoy history. For me, the audio was the way to go. I think I enjoyed the audio version more than I would have the printed version, but either way, I'm really glad I read it.

UNBROKEN: A WORLD WAR II Story of Survival, Resiliance, and Redemption
Author:  Laura Hillenbrand
Publisher: Random House Audio
Published: November 2010
Length: 14 Hours
Source: Purchased from Audible.com
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars
Recommend? Yes, especially the audio version

Jul 18, 2012

Winner of The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingield Announcedsta

I'd like to thank those of you who stopped by and shared your thoughts on this fabulous book! Many of you had already read it and loved it as much as I did! Jenny Wingfield so deserves the accolades she is getting from this stunning debut and I am so happy that I could be a small part in it. Many thanksto TLC Book Tours for including me in this tour. OK, enough gushing about the book - now its time for someone else to read it and share their thoughts! 



Congratulations Stacy and I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did!! 


Jul 16, 2012

Review & Giveaway! The Homecoming of Samuel Lake by Jenny Wingfield (A TLC Book Tour Event)

There are no spoilers in this review

THE HOMECOMING OF SAMUEL LAKE is the story of a preacher looking for a church  to call his own.  It's the story of a young girl, full of equal parts spunk and goodness who wants nothing more in the world than to have a true friend - someone she can share all her deepest thoughts with. It's the story of a little boy who is deathly afraid of his daddy and has every reason to be, and it's the story of a man who fought for his country, gave a big part of himself to it yet his biggest battle took place after he returned home from the war.

THE HOMECOMING OF SAMUEL LAKE isn't just about Sam Lake, the preacher, though.  It's more about his family and how their life changes the summer of 1956 when they move back to rural Arkansas to live on his in-law's farm while he figures out his next move. But the real gem of this wonderful story is Sam's daughter, Swan, who desperately wants to be like other kids (not a preacher's kid) and to have a true friend.

At the core, this is a story of one family, raised on love, respect and goodness and another family, the Ballenger's, raised on fear, violence and hatred.  Ultimately becoming a story of good versus evil.  The Lake/Moses family have nothing in common with the Ballenger family, other then there are two kids, Swan Lake (gotta love that name!) and Blade Ballenger, who meet under unusual circumstances and strike up an unlikely friendship. A friendship that undoubtedly brings danger to Swan and her family.

My Thoughts:

There's no other way to say it - I LOVED THIS BOOK! It is the kind of Southern Literature that I enjoy most. The story definitely has dark undertones that have been compared to TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I feel like if it's being compared to that book, Jenny Wingfield has done something right! Once I read that she also wrote the screenplay for THE MAN IN THE MOON,  (Reese Witherspoon's debut movie from 1991), I wasn't at all surprised by how much I loved this book. Though a good Christian family is at the forefront of this story, early on I became acutely aware that a darkness was looming. You know its going to come, you just don't know when or how. I even found myself wanting to call out 'Watch out!' or 'Oh no!' 

The driving forces behind this amazing story are the characters, especially Swan, Blade and my favorite character, Toy Moses, Swan's quiet but strong uncle. Jenny Wingfield does a superb job taking us through the lives of Samuel and Willadee and their three children, Willadee's mother and Toy Moses and his wife, Bernice. She gives us a glimpse of each one's persona without bogging the story down with too much information, all the while not taking away from the intense story that unfolds seamlessly. .

The beautiful writing is perfectly paced and made the pages slip quickly by.  I experienced so many emotions while reading this book: happiness, love, sorrow, fear, horror, outrage.. More than once I had a lump in my throat and tears streaming down my face. In fact, the last hour of reading I used up all my tissues. The poignancy in this novel is so prevalent and is what helped to made it a favorite of mine. I didn't find anything cliche about this novel at all. I found it relative to the time in which it was based and the character were genuine and original.

Without a doubt THE HOMECOMING OF SAMUEL LAKE is the best book I've read this year. Once I started, I didn't want to stop. This book is much more than Southern Literature, its GREAT Literature! As for Jenny Wingfield, I am on the lookout for whatever she does next.

I am thrilled to be able to give away a copy of this book, thanks to Random House and TLC Book Tours. Simply leave a comment with your email address link so that I can contact you. The contest will end Tuesday, July 17th at midnight and the winner will be posted here on Wednesday, July 18th. Entrants are limited to the US only.

Be sure to check out these other blog stops on the tour to see what other bloggers are saying about this book!

Author: Jenny Wingfield
Publisher: Random House
Published: July 10, 2012
Pages: 352
Source: TLC Book Tours & Publisher
Rating: 5 Stars out of 5

Jul 8, 2012

[TSS] Review: The Sins of the Father by Jeffrey Archer (Clifton Chronicles #2) Audio Version

One of the great benefits of the book blogging community that I am so blessed to be a part of is that I am constantly introduced to new-to-me authors that I may not have otherwise come into contact with. This is especially true of Jeffrey Archer and his series, The Clifton Chronicles. I was lucky enough last year to have won the audio of the first book in the series, ONLY TIME WILL TELL, from Anna over at Diary of an Eccentric. I was unfamiliar with Jeffrey Archer, not having read anything by him, but as soon as I started listening, I was completely drawn in.

The series centers around Harry Clifton, a young man from the town of Bristol, England. The first book, having been about Harry's childhood and his questionable parentage had a startling ending with what I consider to be a terrific cliff-hanger. In this follow-up, THE SINS of the FATHER, the story picks up right where the first left off. While the first book takes place entirely in England, this book takes us to America as well.

Harry, now a grown man, finds himself not only in a land he is totally unfamiliar with but also ensnared in a situation that could prove to end his life as he knows it. When Harry left England, he also left behind Emma, the woman he loves. With all the questions surrounding his paternity, that love is seemingly condemned but Harry vows to prove that Emma's father is not his own, so that they can at last have a life together. But the obstacles that Harry encounters along the way may well get him killed in the process. Unbeknownst to Harry, Emma has set out on her own to find him, even if it means going to America herself to bring him home. Being that it is the beginning of World War II and America has now entered the war, Harry finds himself fighting not only for his own personal freedom but for the freedoms of many country's.

My Thoughts:

In my opinion, the performance of this audio is stellar. The narrators, Alex Jennings and Emilia Fox are perfectly suited, putting this audio series at the top of my list. Add to that the story of Harry's questionable paternity, Emma's unwavering efforts to prove he did not die at sea as reported and following the lives of his loved ones, makes this a great story.

All of the characters are likable and very believable.  Even Hugo Barrington, Emma's scoundrel of a father, is the perfect villain who is always on the verge of getting away with all of his misdeeds. Each of the characters takes their turn in telling their stories and in doing so, Jeffrey Archer unfolds the story in layers that left me with many Aha! moments. When one character is speaking, it often sheds light on facts that a previous character was unaware of, therefore layering the plot perfectly. I just loved it!

The only downside to this series that I can see is that now I have to wait until the next book to find out what happens, because as with the first book, I was left with another great cliff-hanger! Jeffrey Archer is a master storyteller so it is easy to figure that I highly recommend this series. I'm sure the printed version would be equally as entertaining but if you enjoy audios I encourage you to give this one a try. I promise you won't be disappointed.

THE SINS OF THE FATHER (Clifton Chronicles #2)
Author: Jeffrey Archer
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Published: May 2012
Length: 10h 9m
Source: Audible.com
Rating: 4.5 Stars out of 5