The Inimitable Jeeves ??? Woodhouse
Audio version performed by Jonathan Cecil
This is the second Jeeves book in the series. Each chapter is like a short story organized around recurring characters and returning several times to the romances of Bingo Little. Bertie takes a brief trip to New York City which allows Woodhouse to direct some wonderful word play and satire at Americans. Jonathan Cecil provides six hours of entertaining ear candy.
The Garden of Evening Mists- Tan Eng
“Memories I had locked away have begun to break free, like shards of ice fracturing off an arctic shelf. In sleep, these broken floes drift toward the morning light of remembrance.”
When Yun Ling first comes to Yugiri in the decade following World War Two she remembers her sister’s death and their three years in a Japanese death camp. When she returns to Yugiri 40 years later, she remembers Aritomo. Aritomo, once the Japanese emperor’s gardener, created Yugiri, the Garden of Evening Mists. The garden was designed and built before the war in the Camaron Highlands of Malaya. Yun Ling has spent most of her life trying to forget, but as her aging brain threatens to erase her memories forever, she begins to record her story.
This is an intricate, layered story that worked beautifully on every level. The prose is poetic and suited to the exotic location. As the story develops, it is filled with details about Japanese gardens, woodblock printing, and surprisingly, tattoos. The characters are flawed, complex, and very real. They are people who grapple with devastating loss, survivor guilt, divided loyalties, and dangerous secrets. In the end some of the secrets are revealed. Some of the truth will never be completely revealed. Despite the lack of definitive answers, the ending of the book felt entirely correct.
Anna Bentinck’s performance of this book was outstanding. She handled all of the character voices and accents perfectly. I was especially impressed that she was able to maintain a consistent voice for Yun Ling while perceptibly aging the voice for the different time periods of the narrative.
Vaclav & Lena ??? H. Tanner
Audio version performed by Heybourne/R. Lowman
Vaclav and Lena are 20th century Russian immigrant children growing up in New York City. The story is about friendship, family, secrets, and truth. It???s a picture of the immigrant experience within a coming of age story. Vaclav is a bright, imaginative boy who is loved and protected by his devoted mother. Lena is a neglected orphan left in the care of a disinterested Aunt. These children come together through their shared Russian background. They develop the kind of intense friendship that is a survival skill of lonely, isolated children. Vaclav draws Lena into his obsessive plan to become a great magician. Much time and imagination go into planning the first performance of ???the act???.
I expected to like this story more than I did. The characters are well drawn. Vaclav???s mother, Raisa, is the quintessential mother; always striving to do the best thing for her son and never knowing if her decisions are correct. Her parenting decisions are complicated by her alcoholic husband and her uncertainty about American culture. She tries to be like the American mothers she sees on T.V. Vaclav is a hyper-imaginative, self-centered little boy. Even as the 17 year-old at the end of book, he is amazingly unconscious of anyone else???s needs. Lena is a wounded, lost child. The happy ending of her new life as an adopted child is too simplistic given the damage that must be repaired.
I listened to this book. The audio production was well done with two performers. Kirby Heybourne read most of the story that was devoted to Vaclav???s perspective and Rebecca Lowman read the portion of the book that was told from Lena???s viewpoint. They did a good job with accents and character voices and they did as much as could be expected with a stilted prose style. I???m guessing that the author deliberately chose to write in the manner of an English Language Learner (ESL). It was a good ploy at the beginning. Short, repetitive, sentences; this is the way that I introduce language to my second language students. The problem for me as I listened to this book, is that I think Tanner continued her ESL voice for too much of the narrative. It was tedious to listen to paragraph after paragraph of sentences in which a character???s name is repeated over and over without the use of pronouns. I was left with the feeling that 17-year-old Vaclav had become fluent in English, but the author had not.
Right Ho, Jeeves ??? Wodehouse
Audio version performed by Jonathan Cecil
Bertie Wooster and his man Jeeves travel to Brinkley Court to sort out the romantic travails of Madeline and Gussie, Angela and Tuppy.
They attend an historic prize giving at Market Snodsbury Grammar School and assist Aunt Dahlia in retaining the services of the culinary genius, Anatole. It???s absurd, hilarious and full of wonderful word play. The audio performance by Jonathan Cecil is absolutely ???spot on.???
Wooster and Jeeves make me laugh out loud. This was the perfect light-hearted read to place between more serious subjects.
This audio version is performed by Craig Wasson. I enjoyed his reading very much. King creates so many completely human, likable characters and every one of them is voiced believably. Wasson handled regional accents from Maine to Texas realistically without being overly exaggerated. I loved that he added a bit of Burt Lancaster to his pawn broker voice. I liked his Walter Cronkite better than his Chet Huntley impersonation, but both of them added flavor to the story.
The Winter Sea ??? Susanna Kearsley
Audio version performed by Rosalyn Landor
Two love stories for the price of one. What could be better for an engrossing summertime book? There is even the cooling benefit of the harsh coastal weather of Scotland in Susanna Kearsley???s The Winter Sea.
Carrie McClelland is a successful writer of historical fiction. She has begun work on a novel about the 1708 Jacobite uprising. On a trip to Scotland to visit her agent she begins to ???hear??? the voices of characters insisting to have a place in her novel. As Carrie???s novel is written with the help of her writer???s trance and the voices of her characters, she is also drawn into her own fulfilling new relationship.
That synopsis makes this book sound simplistic and trite. I did not find it to be so. The historical setting is rich and accurate. The characters are well developed. The ease of Carrie McClelland???s ???writer???s trance??? connection to the memories of her ancestor must be every novelist???s dream, but I did not find this one fantasy element to distract from either of the stories. The dual love stories are of the bitter sweet, but mostly happily ever after variety. Romantic, but not graphic, I would have no trouble sharing this book with a young person.
Rosalyn Landor performanced this book. She did a wonderful job with the varied accents and with creating distinct male and female characters. Overall, she might have been a bit over-dramatic, bordering on maudlin. However, the book does have a sweeping theatrical atmosphere, so some melodrama may have been unavoidable.
Northanger Abbey ??? Jane Austen
This was the first book that Austen wrote. She sold it; it was never published; so she bought it back when her other books became successful. Possibly she intended a rewrite. Her brother had it published after her death.
The story concerns the teen-aged Catherine Moreland who has little experience of the world, but much experience with gothic romance novels. Austen manages to make Catherine comic in her awkwardness and excessive imagination, but lovable in her direct honesty. This book has all the satire and social commentary of Austen???s later books, but other than Catherine, I felt the characters lacked depth. Although Catherine???s brother has a failed love affair with one of her new friends, Austen only deals with the effect this has on Catherine???s relationship with Isabella. Little is said about the brother. Nothing at all is known about Eleanor???s relationship to her Viscount. That marriage is only mentioned because it allows Catherine and Henry to marry. I missed the more complex interplay of multiple characters and plot line that occur in Austen???s later books, but I enjoyed Catherine???s runaway imagination.
Juliet Stevenson gives a wonderful performance of this book. Each character is captured distinctly while she adds to the atmosphere and the comedy with her animated reading.
The Saturday Night Big Tent Wedding ???A. McCall Smith
Audio version performed by Lissette Lecat
Back to Botswana! This was my twelfth visit to The NO.1 ladies Detective Agency. A few things have changed. As the title indicates Mma Makutsi finally marries Phuti Radiphuti; there is even a kiss before they get to the altar. Mma Ramotswe helps to settle a cattle dispute, but does she really solve the crime? Does it really matter? No. McCall Smith uses the mild detective work of the agency to showcase his rosy view of a beautiful place filled with loveable characters. It makes for a nice vacation.
his famous nineteenth century novel is the perfect choice for a multi-cast reading, and this is a wonderful production. Almost 26 hours long, Roger Rees, Rosalyn Lander, John Lee and Judy Geeson create every character distinctly as the author intended. Originally published as a serial, each character tells their own part of the mystery as if they are giving testimony in a court of law. The sense of mystery, tension and horror increases with every change of perspective until the final d??nouement.
The structure of this novel seemed amazingly modern. Had it not been for the jarring racial and social stereotypes sprinkled throughout the book, I could have believed that it was historical fiction written by a contemporary author. After many suspenseful twists and turns of the plot, Collins wraps up all of the loose ends and comes to a mostly satisfying happily ever after. It only left this twenty-first century reader with one unanswered question; how could Walter Hartright possibly prefer the vapid Laura to the courageous Marian?
Deeds of the Disturber??? Elizabeth Peters
audio version performed by Barbara Rosenblat
Deeds of the Disturber is the fifth book in Peter???s Amelia Peobody series. In this book, Amelia, her husband Radcliff Emerson and their precocious son Ramses have returned to England after a season of excavation and detection in Egypt. While Emerson sets about organizing his excavation notes and preparing for publication by the Oxford University Press, Amelia is burdened with the care of her obnoxious niece and nephew. The plot immediately thickens with the death of a night watchman and the desecration of a mummy at the British Museum. Investigating the crime takes Amelia, Emerson and the intrepid Ramses from the brothels and opium dens of Victorian London to Scotland Yard. The exciting climax occurs in the dark confines of the decaying, gothic Mauldy Manner.
This book is a pastiche of detective fiction and a spoof of Victorian society dramas. I adore Amelia Peobody. More than that, I adore Barbara Rosenblat???s talented interpretation of this entertaining series. Every voice, every inflection and especially every accent she employs is perfect. Rosenblat???s rendition of the young Ramses is one of the funniest things I???ve ever heard. It is worth listening to for this line alone, ???Fortunately, I???ve brought along a little nitroglycerin.???
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