He Knew He Was Right
Written by: Anthony Trollope
Narrated by: Nigel Patterson
Length: 30 hrs and 32 mins
The first time I encountered Anthony Trollope’s most popular work, He Knew He Was Right, was in a BBC production. My teen aged children and I enjoyed it. I had not read the book that the mini-series was based on. When I was offered the opportunity to review the book narrated by Nigel Patterson, I was happy to finally get a chance at the source.
He Knew He Was Right was written in 1869. It is very important that the listener keep that in mind. It was a very different world, especially for women. The book follows Louis Trevelyan, a wealthy gentleman, who while traveling in one of the Empire’s colonies (it is a fictitious colony)
meets the girl of his dreams, Emily Rowley. Although Emily has been raised outside of England, she does come from a good family as her father is the governor of the colony. Emily and her family travel back to England for the wedding. The first two years of marriage are wonderful complete with a baby boy. Then Louis begins to take exception to an old family friend, a man her father’s age, visiting Emily. He demands she no longer see the man because he suspects infidelity. Emily digs her heels in and refuses to end her harmless friendship. Louis takes it as proof that he wife is not faithful.
There are several subplots to this book, which is over 300 pages in print and 30 hours in audio. The subplots involve other couples including Emily’s sister, Nora. Each couple has their own challenges to overcome, several involving social standing or economic position. While the subplots are interesting, it is Louis and Emily’s story that is the main attraction.
I did have to keep reminding myself of the 1869 publication date because I had a persistent and overwhelming need to slap Louis. Emily never, in deed or word, gives him cause to doubt her but he is so insecure he cannot trust her. It is a combination of Emily’s stubbornness and Louis’s insecurity that cause this to blow up into a major disaster involving both families and dividing friends. That being said, it really is a great book and worth the impulse to slap Louis.
Mr. Patterson does a great job narrating this book. He captures the characters and their emotions. He also handles the language well. Sometimes narrators can allow the more formal language of the 19th century to sound stilted but Mr. Patterson does not. He makes the language flow naturally. I have not had a disappointing listen from Mr. Patterson yet. If you are going to invest in He Knew He Was Right as an audiobook, get the right one with Nigel Patterson as the narrator.
Shadows in the Ward is the latest novel by Katherine Anderson, author of Hospital Hill. This particular book combines elements of suspense, mystery and thriller in unique measures to create an unusual reading experience. The book follows Anna Gillman, who having finished her Masters program, begins her internship at Westborough State Hospital as a psychiatric nurse.
The normal challenges of internships and beginning a career are soon overshadowed by larger problems. A patient with a fixation on Anna. Anna sleepwalking and ending up in the same room in an unused part of the hospital. Anna’s discover that her mother may have been a patient at Westborough. Her family history is complicated and convoluted. The events occurring around her at Westborough are not making anything clearer. Anna’s mother has been missing from her life since she was a child. So when these events begin happening Anna is clueless about her own history. “Of course children never imagine there will come a day when their parents won’t be around to answer those questions.” This is a very powerful statement. I lost my mom at 26 and my dad at 39. There were so many things I never thought to ask my mom about until later in my life after she was gone.
Ms. Anderson creates characters who seem real and seem to inhabit the same reality the reader does. Case in point, “Harper told Anna about a disastrous blind date she had gone on a couple days before and Anna laughed heartily as Harper recounted the end of the night indecision of kiss, handshake, or hug; she described it as an embarrassing adult version of rock, paper, scissors.” That sounds exactly like a conversation my friends and I could have. Especially the rock, paper, scissors part. Harper and Anna have a very real friendship. It resonated with me as a reader.
The mood is set so well. “An asylum ward at night was a strange thing. You knew it was night because it was dark outside, but still there was a glow of light that never went away no matter how late it was. There was the pool of fluorescence given off by the nurses’ station, the soft flickering of the safety lights high up where the wall met the ceiling.” Another passage I loved was , “The floorboards were beginning to warp from moisture that was slowly seeping in through the holes in the roof that were growing and spreading like a disease, leaving the wards exposed to the elements.” There are just so many nice images and atmospheric touches that I have come to expect from Ms. Anderson.
There is also a touch on a very real issue in our world. “Anna had a hard time agreeing with the concept of deinstitutionalization. From everything she had read in the library she had learned that communities hadn’t been ready to receive hundreds of mentally ill patients being released from the asylums.” This is an excellent point. There was no plan for how to deal with patients once deinstitutionalized. We are still reaping the seeds of that today.
The book has a wonderful set of plot twists that keeps the reader on edge and unsure until the very end. I really enjoy Ms. Anderson’s writing. Her characters are relatable. Her mysteries are not predictable and much more enjoyable because of that. My major enjoyment is just the rich atmosphere she creates through her use of language and phrasing. I recommend Shadows in the Ward for a read that is sure to raise goosebumps.
Good in Bed
by Jennifer Weiner
I picked up Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner from Netgalley because it is been recommended to me as a modern classic. It was originally published in 2001. I was 39 years old in 2001. I wish it would have crossed my radar then instead of discovering it at age 54. While only 5' 2 1/2", I am considered a larger woman, a plus size woman, rubenesque, or according to health standards obese. That is how I had thought of myself and like Cannie, the main character in Good in Bed, that was the first and sometimes only attribute I saw in myself: fat.
Cannie, the heroine of Good in Bed, learns that her weight is not who she is or what she is. She learns through hard experiences and the love of her family and her friends. There is a huge wall she has to break down to believe in herself. The wall was built by her son of a bitch father who told her at age 12 she was fat and no one would ever love her. In the novel, as in life, karma does not always show up when it should so we do not get to see Cannie's father suffer as he made her suffer or ever acknowledge that he has caused any pain to her or her siblings. If karma was a character, the man would have lost everything he held dear, twice.
Cannie is single and dealing with an ex-boyfriend who wrote an article about loving the larger woman. It humiliates Cannie because although she is not named in the article, only referred to by her first initial, everyone who knows her or the ex know the article is about her. She reminds me a lot of me at that age, late twenties. Although I was already married by then, I still had no confidence in how I looked. My self worth was very much tied to how I perceived others saw me.
The book is excellent. The characters are fully formed, not two dimensional, even the side characters. The dialogue flows like a normal conversation. Cannie does not need a man or a diet to rescue her and make her complete. I wish I had discovered this book when I was younger. It really opened my eyes about how I still see myself.
This series keeps getting better and better. It was excellent to start. I need more stars for rating! Book 6, Heaven's Door starts immediately after the end of Book 5 Heaven Sent. Quincy is up against his most dangerous adversary yet. Book 5 tells of the first fight between Quincy and this super Demon which is what brought Glory, his guardian angel, into his life. Book 6 jumps right into the action.
As usual, there are some fantastic lines in the book. For example, "throw spells around like a Dr. Strange comic." Another favorite, "why let my mouth write checks my ass can't cash?" Maybe it is my age or my unusual upbringing but I never heard that line before. Just because the action is faster than ever does not slow down the verbal attitude that Quincy unleashes.
Several questions I have had about "what" certain characters are were answered in this book. Quite honestly I did not see several of them coming until they were revealed. There is also a special guest appearance by a NFL franchise player. Mr. Hartness missed two points in describing this character: 1) skin so smooth you can't help but reach out and caress his cheek and 2) a smile that puts out more wattage than all of GE. Ok, that ends the creepy menopausal beauty appreciation thing.
Really if you have not started this series yet, you have to. The books are novellas. They are bite size chunks. You can read them in an afternoon, if you lock everyone out of the house and turn off the phone. They give just enough action, just enough plot movement without making the reader look for how many chapters they have left. They also have logical cliff hangers. Since I finished Book 6, I have been thinking about where Book 7 would go. The way that Mr. Hartness does cliff hangers keeps the readers interested not frustrated.
I believe in writing book reviews, not book reports. I am very careful not to include spoilers. So when I say you really need to read this series, you have to trust me on this because I am not going to reveal any plot points. One question was left unanswered that I hope will be addressed soon - when is Book 7 being released?
The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million
By: Daniel Mendelsohn
Read by: Bronson Pinchot
Runtime: 22.3 Hours
Release date: 8.16.2016
Publisher: Blackstone Audio
I read The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million by Daniel Mendelsohn a few years after it was first published in 2006. It was a very powerful book. I learned quite a bit. It was the kind of book that stayed with you. When Audiobook Jukebox offered a copy of the audiobook narrated by Bronson Pinchot, i requested it. It had been years since I read the book so I would refamiliarize myself with the story while enjoying the narration of Bronson Pinchot. It did not quite work out as planned.
Daniel Mendelsohn grew up surrounded by older relatives who survived the Holocaust either because they got out of Europe in time or by luck or divine intervention they survived the Nazi’s. Daniel knew this. He knew about the events of World War II. What he did not know if why elderly relatives would begin to cry when they saw him and mention he looked like a person Daniel did not know. Shmiel Jäger was Daniel’s great uncle. Shmiel, his wife, and four daughters did not survive the Holocaust. When they died, how they died and why they died were not know. The only know was “they were killed by the Nazis.”
The Lost is the story of Daniel learning of his lost family and as adult his quest to find them. They were not “killed by the Nazis” of meticulous records. They were not all killed at the same time or the same place. In his quest to find their fates, Daniel and his family learned an incredible amount. They learned about Ukrainians who turned in neighbors. They learned about Poles who hid Jews. They learned about the non-Jews who lost their lives trying to save lives. They learned about the unending cruelty that accompanied the last moments of so many people. The hardback edition contains photographs from the author’s family. There is a certain level of heartbreak, which thank whatever Gods you believe in we do not experience often, on seeing two smiling teen girls and knowing their death will come before they experience love, marriage, and motherhood.
When I read the book, it was powerful. I expected the audiobook to be the same. It was not. Bronson Pinchot’s narration is masterful and devastating. Pinchot is fantastic at the accents. Whether it is Daniel’s mother’s New York accent or his grandfather’s Yiddish, they are clear and believable. The voices, whether male or female, old or young, are very well done. He creates Daniel’s voice but he also creates so much more. He infuses every word with emotion. But there is a power within Pinchot’s narration that the listener must be prepared for. I was driving and thankfully could pull over for a moment. When Pinchot describes what they believe happened to his one relative, a teenage girl, who was rounded up by the Ukrainians at the direction of the Nazi authorities, held with a thousand other people, naked, without food or water or access to facilities, made to watch their rabbi have his eyes cut out and a cross carved on his chest, then taken to the forest where group by group they walked onto a plank over a pit, to be shot and if God was merciful, they died immediately; if not they lay wounded under covered by other bodies and eventually earth. That was difficult to read. Pinchot’s narration contains so much rage, sadness, and horror that it is devastating to hear. Bronson Pinchot should have the 2016 Audie just for that passage alone. If you have to chose between reading The Lost or listening to Pinchot’s narration, take the narration. The power of his performance will stay with you
A Novel of a Young Queen
by Daisy Goodwin
St. Martin's Press
Pub Date 22 Nov 2016
PBS has been publicizing a new Masterpiece Theater mini-series entitled Victoria about Britain's Queen Victoria. The previews have looked fantastic. When I saw Netgalley was offering the book, Victoria A Novel of a Young Queen by Daisy Goodwin, the miniseries is based on, I jumped on it.
Victoria begins when she is still a young teenager and heir to the British throne. Her grandfather King George III had many children but one by one they died without heirs. Finally the line of succession reaches Victoria. Should she die before having children, her uncle one of the last of King George III’s sons, the Duke of Cumberland would be the heir. Cumberland is greatly disliked at all levels of British society, from his peers to the common man. Cumberland sits and waits and nurtures his ambition. Meanwhile Victoria is keep in isolation under strict the strict supervision of her mother and Sir John Conroy who has plans to be the power behind the throne when Victoria inherits.
The book uses some flashbacks to demonstrate Victoria’s lack of power in her own life. The main part of the book does a great job illustrating how this young girl nourishes hope that he uncle the King will survive until Victoria is eighteen to avoid having her mother as Regent. When the King finally dies shortly after her eighteenth birthday, Victoria finds being Queen does not automatically mean independence. She must fight for it.
I enjoyed Victoria. The sense of place and time is well established through vivid descriptions of the clothing, the palaces and the outdoor settings. The characters speak and act as one would expect for the time period. I was left though with a hunger for more. How did Victoria’s mother become such a vapid character that she becomes totally controlled by Sir John Conroy? Was Albert, Prince of Coburg, the only possible match for her? I know the author could only cover so much in one book. I would encourage her to write more books covering successive eras of her reign. All in all, it is a good historical fiction that I think any fan would enjoy.
by Margaret Atwood
Pub Date 11 Oct 2016
ARC provided by Netgalley
I have enjoyed watching several performances of Shakespeare’s The Tempest on film. My favorite is the one where Helen Mirren takes on the role of Prospero, originally written for a male. That is one of the great things about Shakespeare, the adaptability. Now the fantastic author Margaret Atwood has put her spin on The Tempest.
Atwood’s Tempest takes place in our time. The main character, Felix, is an actor and director who has fallen from grace. His avant garde productions have lost their charm for the audiences. As the head of a theater group, he never sees the betrayal coming until his right hand man,Tony, holds the figurative dagger in the form of a executive board coup. Felix’s downfall comes shortly after the death of his only child, Miranda, at age three from meningitis. His wife of just over a year had died shortly after childbirth. In four years Felix lost it all, except his work. Now thanks to Tony, that is gone too.
Felix begins to plot his revenge. He withdraws from the world, uses a different name to assure his anonymity and starts the long game he plans to destroy Tony with. He is accompanied by the spirit of his daughter. Like Prospero used magic in the play, Felix creates his own vision of his daughter who ages as time passes, who speaks to him and keeps his company.
Needing a job to support himself, Felix begins teaching Shakespeare at a prison. It is not full time, in fact is only a few months of the year. The students, inmates, are hardened criminals. What happens in this collaboration between Felix and the inmates is just as magical as that which Prospero creates on his island.
If you are not familiar with The Tempest, Atwood includes a prose synopsis of the play at the end of the book. I would suggest reading it first if you have no familiarity with the play. For those who have read or seen the play, they can just jump into the book.
I enjoyed Hag-Seed. Having read and seen performances of The Tempest, the book’s plot and its parallels to the play, were interesting. I have also read Shakespeare Saved My Life: Ten Years in Solitary with the Bard by Laura Bates so was also familiar with the use of Shakespeare within prison settings. While not an intense page turner, the book still delivers complex characters and a very satisfying plot line.
Heaven Sent: Quincy Harker Demon Hunter, Book 5 UNABRIDGED by John G. Hartness Narrated by James Foster
Thank you, Mr. Hartness, thank you! I have been waiting for the story of how Glory and Q met. And what a story you delivered, just breathtaking in pace and character. I have loved the Harker novellas since the first one. Now here at number 5, the writing continues to be excellent, the plot exciting and the characters true to themselves. The Harker universe is so heavy wiith potential that there should be no end to the series.
For those that are not familiar with Quincy Harker, get thee to a copy! Quincy Harker, the son of Jonathon and Mina Harker of Dracula fame, is trying to live a normal life. It is pretty much a pipe dream since his mother's affair with Dracula combined with his father's night of passion with Dracula's wives gave him some very unusual DNA. He is half human and half still trying to figure that part out. On her deathbed, Quincy's mother entrusted his care and guardianship to his "Uncle" Luke. The novellas follow Quincy and his guardian angel Glory as they fight hell spawn in Charlotte, NC. Uncle Luke helps when he can but is know to have a severe allergy to the sun.
As always James Foster does an excellent job of narrating. The books are fun to read but the audios narrated by Mr. Foster are a joy to listen to. He really brings the characters alive for me. All of them, the humans, the demons, the angels and the what the hell is that thing. The best part of the the Harker series for me is getting to hear it narrated by Mr. Foster.
I give Heaven Sent another 5 of 5 stars plus a bonus supernova for fulfilling my wish. Keep writing this fantastic series. And thank you for the first of many, I hope, back stories to come.
The Graveyard Apartment
by Mariko Koike
Pub Date 11 Oct 2016
I received a copy of The Graveyard Apartment by Mariko Koike from Netgallery in exchange for an honest review. It was a totally different ghost, horror, haunted house (building) story than I have ever read. It takes place in Japan in the Tokyo area. I know that I probably missed some clues because I am not familiar with Japanese culture. Never the less, it scared the crap out of me. Elevators and basements are out for the foreseeable future.
The novel revolves around a family that buys an apartment. It is a new building, close to mass transit, across the street from a good school, large rooms and a very reasonable price. It is almost too good to be true. The building i surrounded on three sides by a cemetery, a temple (I am assuming it has some type of mortuary purpose) and a crematorium. So a quiet neighborhood! Within a short period of time everyone has moved from the building including the building managers, leaving the family all alone in the eight story, sixteen apartment building.
The words to Hotel California definitely ran a loop as I read this book. The sense of foreboding was tactile. The evil slowly envelopes the plot and the characters to the point that it is truly menacing. I really, really liked this novel. If you are familiar with Japanese culture it is probably even more horrifying. There are probably things that I did not realize represented something really bad because of my own ignorance.
If you are looking for a good horror novel but not the norm, The Graveyard Apartment is perfect. Except I would not live there. I probably will not go in my own basement for a week.