Wednesday, August 3, 2016

The Ballroom by Anna Hope


The Ballroom by Anna Hope
Release date- Sept.6, 2016

This was a really interesting look at Asylum care and the Eugenics program in 1911 England. This book is heartbreaking but beautifully written. I felt the characters were fleshed out nicely and even the peripheral character’s felt real and not cardboard cutouts. We learn about some of the reasons people were put in an asylum and believe you me I’d be in big trouble for all the reading I do.

As Dr. Fuller wrote,
” Unlike Music, excessive reading has been shown to be dangerous to the female mind.”


Ella is who we meet first and she has been admitted for breaking a window where she works but she doesn’t quite understand how she ended up in Sharston Asylum because she isn’t mad or is she? Once she is settled she meets Clem, Clem is always reading and says she is here just to figure things out and can leave any time but can we believe her she does seem pretty sane compared to some of the ladies here.

Then we meet John he is an Irishman who has melancholy such a pretty word for depression, something in Johns past has deeply affected him and he barely talks and when he first got there he didn’t speak at all. But John is a really good soul and the crazy chance meeting between him and Ella seems to change them both.

Dr. Fuller thinks that music will help calm patients so he plays piano in the day room but what is going on while those patients are distracted by the music is disturbing. He also puts together a band and they have dances on Friday night in the grand Ballroom, this is the only time there is interaction between the male and female patients but it does seem to be having to effect he was looking for. Dr. Fuller is also against eugenics which is in its infancy and I was shocked to find out that Churchill was a huge proponent of Eugenics which was mighty disappointing. But our Dr.Fuller  showed so much promise in the beginning but alas ended up with not so much. (no spoilers)

I really liked this book and wanted to get back to it whenever I had to put it down, yes it is sad but it is beautifully written and I would highly recommend it!

4 Stars

I received this book from Netgalley & the publisher for a fair and honest review.


And of course after reading the authors note that she changed the name but this Asylum with the ballroom did exist I had to do some research and found this site with pictures of the ballroom.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

The Woman in the Photo by Mary Hogan narrated by, Tavia Gilbert & Cassandra Campbell


The Woman in the Photo by Mary Hogan narrated by, Tavia Gilbert & Cassandra Campbell

I enjoyed this book, the dual storyline was well done. I never knew about the Johnstown Flood before reading this book, what an awful event and I couldn’t help but sympathize with Elizabeth and her feelings that this tragedy was her family’s (and the other rich people at the South Fork Hunting Club) fault.  And what her reaction compared to rest of the members of the Club were heroic especially compared to the cowardly reaction from most of them. I also (of course) did some research and the pictures are just heartbreaking. **See the end of this review for some links**

In the present day storyline we have Lee searching for her bio mother and all that is in her file is finding out she is a different religion than she knew and an old picture of 2 women one woman looks so much like her they must be related and the other woman is familiar too and turns out to be Clara Barton founder of the American Red Cross. This begins her journey to discover her biological family and how is Clara Barton involved.

The dual narration by Tavia Gilbert & Cassandra Campbell is so well done they really draw you in to these two women.

I did as always like the historical story better than the present but I still liked this book as a whole. The historical story just held so much that I hadn’t heard about before so I was fascinated and horrified by what happened in Johnstown. But to find out how you were related to this event was interesting too.

I would recommend this book especially in audio.

4 Stars



And those that follow me know how much I love to research after reading a good historical fiction



Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Armchair Audies Best Female Narration ~~~And the Winner Is….



Armchair Audies Best Female Narration ~~~And the Winner Is….

The Armchair Audies is a group of listeners who get together every year, pick a category, listen to all the nominated titles and predict who they think will be the winner. I have been involved for a couple years and have really enjoyed listening to all these books. Female Narration is always a favorite category because the narrations are always great this one was a tough choice this year but I did decide on a winner. (see the end of the post.)

All the Stars in Heaven by, Adriana Trigiani narrated by, Blair Brown
I enjoyed this book; however I couldn’t help comparing this story to the book A Touch of Stardust which I also enjoyed. I am a fan of classic movies so to hear these stories was fun and I fell in love with David Niven all over again.
The Narration—Blair Brown did a nice job at the narration of this one, I was glad she didn’t try to imitate the way some of these real people talked, I thought she did well at characterizations and male and female voices.


The Boston Girl by, Anita Diamant narrated by, Linda Lavin
I’m so sorry but this book was boring, I kept waiting for something exciting to happen and it never did.
The Narration— Linda Lavin of Alice fame narrates this book and I’m just not sure if I liked it or not it almost sounded like a caricature of a Jewish woman from Boston, maybe they really sound like that I could be totally wrong here but for me it was over the top.  




Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray, read by January LaVoy
I went back and listened to the 1st book and went right into this one and really wish book 3 was out. I really enjoyed this book and the narration just added to that.
The Narration—January LaVoy’s narration is spot on her characters are great, everyone has their own voice and you knew who was talking all the time, I also thought her male voices were really well done.





The Lost Landscape: A Writer's Coming of Age by, Joyce Carol Oates narrated by, Cassandra Campbell
I was confused is this a memoir about a person or a chicken? I will admit that I only listened to 3 hours of this book it just wasn’t for me I haven’t read anything from this author so I wasn’t invested in knowing about her life.
The Narration— Cassandra Campbell is a favorite and always does a superb job and this book was no exception, however this was kind of a straight read because it is a memoir.



The Nightingale By, Kristin Hannah narrated by, Polly Stone
This was a very powerful book and well written and I am left thinking of these sisters days after I have finished this book. I highly recommend it.
The Narration— Polly Stone’s narration took a little getting used to but I ended up really liking her, the accents and male and female voices were well done and I would listen to this narrator again.




Wild Rover No More: Being the Last Recorded Account of the Life & Times of Jacky Faber by L.A. Meyer narrated by, Katherine Kellgren
I don’t want to spoil this book for those of you that have read the entire series, so I will just say I enjoyed this book more than Boston Jacky and it was an excellent end to a fabulous series that will forever be a go-to book for me and I know I will listen to this series again and again. Well Played Mr. Meyer you made me laugh, you made me cry and gave Jacky the sendoff she deserved!
The Narration— Great narration by Katherine Kellgren, as always, but this time she had to do a Russian accent and sing in that accent, you are an amazing talent Ms. Kellgren!


This one was a harder choice than the YA category, the ladies are always hard to judge because they are all so great but I have to go with my gut.



So the winner is ….
January LaVoy’s narration of Lair of Dreams I loved everything about this narration every character had their own voice, all the voices were so well done and enjoyed the book.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Armchair Audies Young Adult Category~ And the winner is.....


Armchair Audies~~ Young Adult Category….And The Winner Is…..


The Armchair Audies is a group of listeners who get together every year, pick a category, listen to all the nominated titles and predict who they think will be the winner. I have been involved for a couple years and have really enjoyed stepping out of my comfort zone this year to try this new category this year. Although I didn’t love all the books I did enjoy all the narrations but there was a clear winner as you will see at the end of this post.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, read by Kirby Heyborne and Ariadne Meyers
I am in the minority here but I did not like this book at all. I will just leave it at that.
The Narration--- Kirby does his usual wonderful job and Ariadne did well too. However, I think the good narration couldn’t get me past how much I disliked this story.






Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray, read by January LaVoy
I went back and listened to the 1st book and went right into this one and really wish book 3 was out. I really enjoyed this book and the narration just added to that.
The Narration—January LaVoy’s narration is spot on her characters are great, everyone has their own voice and you knew who was talking all the time, I also thought her male voices were really well done.





The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman , read by Julian Rhind-Tutt, Lara Pulver, Niamh Walsh, Adjoa Andoh, Peter Forbes, John Sessions, Michael Maloney, Sean Baker, Jane Collingwood, Clare Corbett, Allan Corduner, Katherine Kingsley, and Daniel Weyman
This was an interesting fairytale retelling and really does Neil Gaiman ever write anything subpar? I enjoyed the story.
The Narration— I must start with saying I think I would have enjoyed this better if Neil himself would have narrated this. The full cast production was good but honestly don’t think this should be in this category.


Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand, read by Edward Herrmann
I think unless you’ve been living under a rock you know this is a great story.
The Narration—It is Edward Herrmann, he was wonderful and fabulous but should we vote for him just to honor his cherished memory? I’m sorry I can’t do that. Though I do love him!






 The Winter Horses by Philip Kerr, read by James Langton
 This was a very different story, I knew nothing about these horses and there were times you had to suspend disbelief.  But an interesting story .
The Narration— James Langton’s narration was good he had good characters even though a few times they were almost caricatures but I did enjoy his narration and thought this one came in a close second.





X by Ilyasah Shabazz and Kekla Magoon, read by Dion Graham
This book sure didn't make me like the man this book is his teenage/young adult years and he was just a selfish hoodlum and the book ended as soon as he converted to Islam and was still in prison, I would rather read about how he became the man he was not this unlikable teenager.  I would rather see a YA story of the man not the hoodlum he was before he became the man and the ending seemed an odd time to end the story. Just my humble opinion.
The Narration— Dion Graham's narration was like poetry and I wish he had read the authors notes too. But it was pretty much a straight read.






              For me there is a clear winner and that is January LaVoy’s narration of Lair of Dreams I loved everything about this narration every character had their own voice, all the voices were so well done and enjoyed the book.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly Narrated By Cassandra Campbell, Kathleen Gati, Kathrin Kana


Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly Narrated By Cassandra Campbell, Kathleen Gati, Kathrin Kana


This book is fabulous and I highly recommend the audio version to truly bring these women to life!

I have read a lot of books on concentration camps and have even visited a few but this was a learning experience for me I had never heard of the Ravensbruck Rabbits, you hear so much about Mengele’s experiments on twins but I never knew about the experiments these women went through in Ravenbruck.

As with any book on concentration camps this one is heartbreaking; however there is so much hope in this book because a large part of the book is about the survivors and the after effects that there is hope and hope’s name is Caroline Ferriday.  She truly saved these women years of pain by getting them to the US and getting them surgery to fix the atrocious things that were done to them.

 I enjoyed the different storylines told by Caroline, Kasia one of the survivors and Herta one of the doctors at the camp which was an interesting storyline because you just couldn’t like her no matter if she felt bad for what she was doing or not. I also enjoyed the addition of Kasia’s sister Suzanna (sp audio) who is a doctor and also a survivor of Ravenbruck.

CAROLINE, read by Cassandra Campbell…KASIA, read by Kathleen Gati….HERTA, read by Kathrin Kana the narration on this book was so fantastic I can’t even come up with enough words to tell you to listen to the audio version of this book. These 3 narrators brought these women to life for me and I believe enhanced my enjoyment of this book.

I could go on and on about this book and I think this will be in my top books of the year this year. So I’ll just say if you enjoy historical fiction or WWII fiction you need to read this book!

5 Stars




Thursday, March 17, 2016

America's First Daughter: A Novel by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie narrated by, Cassandra Campbell


America's First Daughter: A Novel by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie narrated by, Cassandra Campbell

I learned so much about this family and the time period from this book, I enjoyed the excerpts from actual letters it added such an authenticity to this fiction novel. As to the time period first and foremost there are slaves, and secondly the women are such second hand citizens, even though Thomas Jefferson did treat his daughters better than some. The abuse towards women was horrifying, that it was just commonplace made it worse to me. You could be hanged for stealing a horse but beating up your wife or mother in law or daughter was fine.

 Of course we all know about Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemmings relationship and I do feel like that’s what it was, I think Sally truly helped the Jefferson out of his deepest despair and I believe he was grateful for that. It did make me mad that he didn’t free her and their children upon his death. I think that is the least he could have done for all she went through.

I really like Martha’s husband Tom at first but boy oh boy as this book went on he became just like his own father. This woman had 11 children in an age where a lot of women died in childbirth including her own mother and her sister. But the alternative to not doing your wifely duties was to have your husband bed a slave so I guess if you wanted to keep your husband you just kept popping out babies.

The hardships and losses she went through were tough but they made her a very tough woman and I was very impressed with her.

I was also fascinated with the fact that the women were much more “political” than their husbands they were the ones that got the right people to the right dinners and parties and advanced their men’s careers, but of course got no credit for it


Cassandra's narration was fabulous will be surprised if this doesn't get an earphones award and possibly a Audie nomination next year so very well done! I enjoyed that Patsy’s (Martha) voice aged with her and became stronger as she became sure of herself. So well done! This book was 23 hours and I was never bored or distracted and was sad when it ended.

We read this for book club and there were some that felt the Paris section in the beginning was a little romancey but don’t let that put you of, she’s a young girl at the start and this section sets up events later in the book and also shows the lengths she will go for her father.

I see these two authors are writing another book together and I look forward to reading it! I highly recommend this book and even higher recommend it on audio!


4 ½ Stars

Interview/podcast with the authors

Thomas Jefferson’s letters here

A lot of good info on the family and Monticello

Crossposted on http://www.nrpl.blogspot.com/ 

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold


A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold

 Crown Publishing- click to see a clip from one of Sue’s interviews

This book is an absolute must read; especially if you are a person who thinks it must be the parents fault when a child does this kind of horrible act. She makes no excuses and lays bare her grief and guilt for all to see but in laying it all out there is healing and at least some understanding of what was happening in her child, the signs she missed the things she would have done different but hindsight is 20/20 and can any of us say we would have done anything differently.

This book is so powerful I could not put it down, I couldn't help but feel her pain in every word, Sue & Tom were good parents but Dylan was adept at hiding from them what he didn't want them to see. Think for a minute what you hid from your parents when you were a teen…..
It also wasn't just from his parents that he hid this other side of himself , his friends were just as shocked and he had been let out early of a diversion program because they thought he had learned his lesson and probably wouldn't commit another crime and they are professionals there is also his school counselor who read a violent story he had written and didn't see anything to be alarmed about, and as Sue says but she was his mother and she should have seen the signs but he was very good at hiding his inner turmoil there is no guarantees that if she had gotten him help if it would have changed anything. Also from everything I've seen and read including this book I believe Dylan would have committed suicide by himself and not gone on the rampage he did without Eric Harris, no I am not putting all the blame on Eric I am just saying they fed off of each other Eric was more murderous while Dylan was suicidal.

My heart breaks for the grief and hatred she has endured, as she says yes her son was a murderer but he was still the baby she bore and the sweet boy she raised, that is who she mourns, not the stranger who walked into Columbine school that April morning.


As she wrote in her journal on the day she saw the horrible “basement tapes”

Page 125

Page 133

I learned so much about how a suicidal mind works and how so many times the signs are so subtle that it is hard to distinguish between something to be worried about and just normal teenage angst. Not every troubled person acts out some suffer in silence.

I think every High School Counselor, Suicide Prevention Groups, Teachers, and Parents, well really just anyone who deals with young people should read this book, Sue Klebold searched for answers and what she found is truly frightening her child hid so much pain from her and that is heartbreaking. She never stops apologizing to the victims and their families and no matter how much they blame her I honestly don’t think anyone could blame her as much as she blames herself.

So the next time there is a school shooting, please be kinder to the parent of that child.

5 Stars