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Classics Retold Review – Emma – Jane Austen

classics retold

EmmaEmma
Author: Jane Austen

Description:
‘I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.’

Beautiful, clever, rich – and single – Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen’s most flawless work.

Review:
I have to say that this is probably one of my favorite Jane Austen (only slightly behind Pride and Prejudice). Of all the characters in the various Jane Austen books, I found the ones in Emma to be the most relatable. While all of them were bound by the various society dictates, there was a quirky-ness that shone through with Ms Austen’s descriptions and the development of the story.

It’s hard to say exactly what I really enjoyed about the book, there wasn’t one specific thing that I can say, yes, it was this scene, this person…but rather it was the amalgamation of everyone together. It was like seeing a stained glass mirror…while each part is individually created when its built and is pretty on its own, it is the final product that make people ohhhh and ahhh.

But I always find it hard to write reviews of these classics, because they are classics for a reason…so I’ll leave my review of Emma at that, but since I did listen to the audiobook, I need to address the narration a little bit. I have to admit when I saw that the only version of the audiobook that my library had had a male narrator (Michael Page), I was a tad skeptical, since Emma is told from a female POV and I can’t remember a classic that i’ve listened to, off the top of my head, that has had a male narrator. So it was a completely new experience for me. But I was pleasantly surprised. There was something smooth and flowing about his narration. I know that i’ll be checking out more books narrated by him in the future (and taking a peek, it looks like he had a pretty decent backlist).

 

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2013 Armchair Audies – Multi-voiced Performance

Armchair Audies

Since I finished up my first category of nominations for the 2013 Armchair Audies (romance) and there was still a month and a bit before winners are to be annouced (sometime in May, I finished my category up in mid-April). I decided to take a look through the other categories and find one that no one was writing on and see if I could fit those books in prior to the announcement of the winners. I was surprised to see that there were several categories not being represented, and so I opted to do the Multi-Voice Performance Category. This is something totally new to me, I have listened to books with multiple narrators before (normally 2 or 3 – or in the case of The Help, 4). But never to the extend of the books that are being recognized in this category.

The nominations for this category are:
Dracula by Bram Stoker
Narrated by Alan Cumming, Tim Curry, Simon Vance, Katherine Kellgren, Susan Duerden, John Lee, Graeme Malcolm, Steven Crossley, Simon Prebble, and James Adams

My Awesome-Awful Popularity Plan by Seth Rudetsky
Narrated by Seth Rudetsky, Andrea Burns, Paul Castree, Jesse Tyler Ferguson, Josh Gad, Ana Gasteyer, Megan Hilty, Marc Kudisch, Will Swenson, and James Wesley

October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard by Lesléa Newman
Narrated by Emily Beresford, Luke Daniels, Tom Parks, Nick Podehl, Kate Rudd, and Christina Traister

The Privilege of the Sword by Ellen Kushner
Narrated by Ellen Kushner, Barbara Rosenblat, Felicia Day, Joe Hurley, Katherine Kellgren, Nick Sullivan, and Neil Gaiman

Suddenly, a Knock on the Door: Stories by Etgar Keret
Translated by Nathan Englander (translator), Miriam Shlesinger (translator), and Sondra Silverston (translator)
Narrated by Ira Glass, Willem Dafoe, Ben Marcus, Gary Shteyngart, Michael Chabon, Neal Stephenson, Nicole Krauss, and Josh Radnor

That Is All written by John Hodgman
Narrated by Dick Cavett, Patton Oswalt, Jon Hamm, Paul Rudd, Sarah Vowell, Brooke Shields, Scott Adsit, Robin Goldwasser, Jonathan Coulton, John Roderick, Rachel Maddow, Wyatt Cenac, Stephen Fry, Paul F. Tompkins, and Prominent Ragnarok Denier Dr. Elliott Kalan

Initial Thoughts:
It was interesting to see the wide variety of genres presented here, from the classic Dracula to a book of poetry (October Mourning). I was also interested to see that for two of the books, the authors played a role in the narration. I’m looking forward to broadening my reading boundaries and listening to these books.

multivoice narration nominees

 
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Posted by on May 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Classics Challenge – A Tree Grows in Brooklyn – Betty Smith

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
Author: Betty Smith
Classics Challenge Sub-topic: Coming of Age

Book Description:
The story of young, sensitive, and idealistic Francie Nolan and her bittersweet formative years in the slums of Williamsburg has enchanted and inspired millions of readers for more than sixty years. By turns overwhelming, sublime, heartbreaking, and uplifting, the daily experiences of the unforgettable Nolans are raw with honesty and tenderly threaded with family connectedness — in a work of literary art that brilliantly captures a unique time and place as well as incredibly rich moments of universal experience.

Review:
I probably never would have put this book on my challenge to read list if it hadn’t shown up as a group read in one of my various goodreads groups. But now that I have read it, I can’t believe that I hadn’t before. And come to think of it, I don’t recall even really hearing about it – although apparently it is still used on school reading lists. (My library has all the reading list books separated from the standard YA, so they are easy to find).

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn is such a simple tale – the story of Francie growing up in Williamsburg, a part of New York (although every time I see that town name, I think of Williamsburg, VA). She goes through the same trials that most kids do – going to school, dealing with boys, first love, but on top of all that, an alcoholic father and being exceptionally poor. I loved seeing her mother (who some reviews describe as being cruel, although I don’t agree) teaching Francie and her brother about the value of money and saving towards a goal (with the tin cup that they nailed in the cupboard at each house they moved to). Or the love of learning that she inspired in them, through Shakespeare and the bible.

Even now, over 60 years since it was originally written, I can see how kids can relate to the going-ons. Not necessarily the time period specific, but the general themes of growing up and finding your place in the world. Being the sucker that I am for happy endings, I wonder what would happen if a sequel was ever written – What did Francie end up doing with her life – Did she finish going to college? Did she get over her first love and subsequent first heartbreak? But at the same time, I don’t want to know because I can imagine various different endings all I want and a sequel would change that.

This is a book that I would recommend to pretty much anyone, but I do think that teenage girls would enjoy it the most because of the themes and the characters.

 
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Posted by on November 8, 2012 in Classics Challenge

 

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Audiobook Review – Anne of Green Gables – L.M. Montgomery

Anne of Green Gables
Author: L.M. Montgomery
Series: #1 in the Anne of Green Gables series

Narrator: Susan O’Malley
Run Time: 10 hours, 41 minutes
Producer: Blackstone Audio

Book Description
As soon as Anne Shirley arrived at the snug, white farmhouse called Green Gables, she knew she wanted to stay forever… but would the Cuthberts send her back to the orphanage? Anne knows she’s not what they expected — a skinny girl with decidedly red hair and a temper to match. If only she could convince them to let her stay, she’d try very hard not to keep rushing headlong into scrapes or blurt out the very first thing she had to say. Anne was not like anybody else, everyone at Green Gables agreed; she was special — a girl with an enormous imagination. This orphan girl dreamed of the day when she could call herself Anne of Green Gables.

Review
I think most girls growing up probably read the story of the red-haired orphan adopted by Matthew and Matilda Cuthbert, set in Canada. For me, it had been nearly two decades since i had read it, but I still had fond memories, so after listening to my previous audiobook that had me bawling, I decided that I wanted a feel-good book to listen to. (Unfortunately, I forgot how moving and cry worthy AoGG was). But this is definitely a book that to me has stood the test of time – I laughed and I cried along with Anne as she struggled to find her place in life and society.

I do have to admit that I was surprised by how much my memories of the book were jaded by the movie version that I had seen. While I have planned on writing a book to movie post, a few thoughts. Anne and her dress with the puffed sleeves – this was probably one of the parts of the book I thought that I remembered the most, but I was surprised to find that what i thought occurred in the book, was primarily in the movie. The same with how the book ended and the death of a main character (I mean, I could spoil it by saying who it was, but there are still people out there who haven’t read this classic, so I won’t).

It has been a while now since I listened to the audiobook, so I really don’t have much to say about the narrator – it wasn’t bad enough to stick out in my mind, but at the same time wasn’t one the best narrators I have listened to in the past. It was only good – I wish I had more to say about it, but I don’t. The production of the audiobook was a bit funky in that you could hear where it had been re-mastered and the quality of the book changed through-out – there were parts where it was super quiet, and others where it got really loud – I’m personally not a fan of having to adjust the volume on my ipod in the car like I was having to with this verison.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2012 in Audiobook Review, Review

 

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Review – Agnes Grey – Anne Bronte

I’ll be the first to admit that I avoided classics like the plague in high school and college.  I just  had no interest in reading them.  Normally opting instead to read a more contemporary romance novel of some shape and size.  It hasn’t been until the last few years that I have actually opted to start reading these classics.  Having previously read/listened to Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (loved it) and Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte (hated it with every fiber of my being), I decided it was time to give Anne Bronte a try.

I had previously listened to Tenant of Wildfell Hall also by her and this time opted to listen to Agnes Grey.  It is written very much like a autobiography of someones life and there is some evidence that suggests that AG is actually the story of Anne’s experiences as a governess.  If that is the case, I have to admit that I pity her for her experiences.  Having previously worked as a nanny, I can say that I would have been driven nuts by some of the antics of her charges, and I likely wouldn’t have been able to deal with them.

I do have to admit that when it comes to these classics, that my mind just does not do well when I try to read them, so I will normally listen to them if at all possible.  When it comes to narrators, if I was picking any other kind of book, Nadia May probably would not have been a choice, because there is just something about her voice that doesn’t fit a contemporary type of story – yet, her voice is perfect for a classic such as Agnes Grey.  I have previously also listened to her narrator several Jane Austen books, as well as Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell.  She has the ability to make me feel like, in this instance, I was in the school-room with Agnes as she was dealing with the spoiled children for whom she was responsible.  I will likely continue to seek her out as a narrator for classics in the future and maybe see how she does on other stuff, but I’m not sure

 
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Posted by on May 25, 2012 in Book Review

 

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