Category: Classics

Dec 13

Anne of Green Gables, Audible, and Holiday Cheer

Audio Books, Classics 9

Greetings Bookworms,

It’s the holiday season again. Whew, how DID that happen? Every year it seems like the holidays show up faster and faster and that they get busier and busier. Trips to the post office, writing out cards, shopping, travelling, wrapping gifts. I’m as jolly as the next gal, but it does seem a bit unfair that so much has to go on during prime snuggle and read weather. Especially when there are so many delightful cozy favorites to revisit!

You can start calling me Santa right now, y’all because I have a brilliant solution to the “too busy to read during the holidays” conundrum. It is… (drum roll please) AUDIOBOOKS! I know, I know, I crow about them all the time, but I simply cannot get enough of them. (I think 40% of my reading this year was done through my ears.) Wrapping, baking, card assembling, and tooling around town are all made infinitely more enjoyable when I’ve got some earbuds and good storyteller.

annegift

And really, is there a timeless favorite any cozier than Anne of Green Gables? I recently purchased the new Rachel McAdams narration of Anne of Green Gables through Audible (using my own monthly Audible credit, mind you) and oh, my heart. It was so stinking charming. McAdams’s breathless renditions of Anne’s dreamy soliloquies are perfection. Revisiting Avonlea and its wholesome yet colorful cast of characters was just what I needed to get the Grinch out. I mean, how can anyone be sour or stressed when listening to Anne break her chalkboard over Gilbert’s head or dye her hair green?! Even Marilla Cuthbert’s stern demeanor is no match for Anne (with an E!) And Matthew? Don’t pretend your heart doesn’t grow three sizes when he asks that Anne’s dress be made with puffed sleeves. (NO, YOU’RE CRYING!)

If you’re about to intentionally pull a Diana Barry with your own “raspberry cordial” this holiday season, take my advice and chill out with some sweet sweet Audible stories. If you haven’t already, try Audible out for 30 days with a FREE download. (Might I humbly recommend Anne of Green Gables?) 

*This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible. The opinions and text are all mine.*

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Apr 11

Emma Thompson Reads Me Ghost Stories: The Turn of the Screw

Audio Books, Classics 15

Greetings Bookworms!

How often do you get to say that a celebrity read you a bedtime story? You’d be able to say that a lot more often if you were down with audio books, believe you me. Of course, if you’d rather stay up all night being confused and creeped out than actually sleep, I’ve got the bedtime story for you. Or Emma Thompson does. Audible hooked up with Emma Thompson to produce an audio version of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, which is only the quintessential gothic ghost story. *Please note that I did not actually listen to this before bed because nightmares. I only listened in broad daylight.*

turnofthescrewI decided to give the book a listen because I love Emma Thompson and The Turn of the Screw has been on my TBR list since the beginning of time. The narrator of an audio book can have a profound effect on the awesomeness of the experience, which is why it was smart-smart-smart of the powers that be to tap an Oscar winning actress to tackle Henry James. The Turn of the Screw isn’t long and it doesn’t do the blood and guts thing, so it relies heavily on atmosphere, foreboding, and playing into the reader’s fear of potentially evil children (which is a fear instilled into this reader by a few babysitting jobs… And Children of the Corn.) Emma Thompson’s narration hit all the right creepy notes, and she did a good enough job of differentiating between the different characters’ voices that I was never in doubt as to who was talking. A neat trick considering the characters consisted of a governess, a heavily accented housekeeper, and two small children.

We’ve discussed before on this blog that I’ve got a serious weakness for audio books. We’ve also discussed some of the channels by which I access my audio books. Audible has long been one of my favorites. You can buy books without a subscription if you want, but at $14.95 a month, the subscription offers big savings, particularly if you’re into giant chunksters. One of Diana Gabaldon’s novels could run you nearly $50 if you were to buy a la carte (still not a bad deal if you’re considering the 55 hours of listening enjoyment AND the endless Jamie Fraser daydreams), but if you had a subscription? Giant savings. Another one of the things I love about Audible? Even if you suspend your subscription for any reason, you get to KEEP all those books you bought at a ridiculous savings and listen to them whenever you want. If there are series you want to revisit again and again? I highly recommend you purchase them through Audible. I personally have the entire Outlander and Harry Potter series hanging out in my library.

Still unsure if you want to try out Audible? They’ll give you a one month subscription for FREE. That’s right. You could listen to Emma Thompson read you The Turn of the Screw (or any other book you fancy) for zero dollars. Give it a whirl! You’ve got nothing to lose. Well. Except maybe sleep. Curse you, Henry James!

*This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible. The opinions and text are all mine.*

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Mar 24

Watership Down by Richard Adams

Audio Books, Classics 9

Salutations, Bookworms!

I’m going to tell you a story about a rabbit. When I was in high school, my friend Kim (Hi, Kim! I don’t think you read my blog, but hi anyway! Your baby is cute!) had a pet rabbit named Benjamin. He was an awfully cute rabbit, but I’ll tell you something. Rabbit fur is JUST LIKE cat fur. As far as my personal histamines are concerned, anyway. Much as I wanted to snuggle that bunny, he made my eyes itchy and I got all sneezy. That right there is what happens when I tell a story about a rabbit. This is one of the reasons I do not write books. Luckily, other people write books. Other people like Richard Adams. That’s right guys! I finally read Watership Down!

watershipdownIn case it wasn’t already clear, Watership Down is a story about rabbits. A rabbit adventure tale, if you will. The whole story apparently came about as Richard Adams told stories to his daughters whenever they were in the car. In this book’s introduction, Adams makes no bones about the fact that he did not intend this novel to be any sort of allegory. It made me laugh because I can’t help but think that this happens a lot. Once a book is out there and in the hands of critics and academics it takes on a life of its own. But I digress. Back to the bunnies! This book follows a band of rabbits on a journey from their human threatened warren across the English countryside in search of a safe new home.

I started this book knowing it was about rabbits, but that was about it. I was a pretty blank slate as far as plots went. I actually sort of thought that it was going to involve rabbits on a submarine. Sadly, there were no teeny tiny sailor suits involved in this book, though despite my love of cuteness, it’s probably for the best. I was not expecting to be so flipping STRESSED by the plight of these rabbits, though. Being a rabbit is rough! They’re terrified of all the things all the time because there are dogs and cats and foxes and weasels and humans. This band of rabbits just keeps getting into scrape after scrape and the suspense killed me. How does one make a book about fluffy bunnies suspenseful?! Frith only knows!

Be honest with me here, Bookworms. How freaking CUTE would a rabbit look wearing a sailor suit? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, a sailor suit will be donated to a rabbit in need. That’s a lie. The money will go straight into my greedy greedy pockets.*

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Mar 21

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Audio Books, Classics 14

Greetings Bookworms,

I’ve got a seemingly endless list of well known classics that I’ve been planning to read forever and I finally got around to tackling one. Yaaaaay Katie! I like to congratulate myself sometimes. High five, me! Yeah, so, A Clockwork Orange happened. It doesn’t seem like the sort of book that I can say I “read.” It’s more the sort of book that happened to me. Via my earholes. This was probably a wise decision, given the adventurous language. I might have gotten frustrated with the slang had I not the appropriate inflections to guide me. Audio books, FTW!

aclockworkorangeYou know how everyone is always lamenting teens these days? It’s the favorite past time of everyone over the age of 25. They’re either too soft or turning vicious. But, uh, the fifteen year old protagonist of A Clockwork OrangeIt’s a whole new nightmarish level of horrifying. Little Alex and his gang of “droogs” go around beating the crap out of people, thieving, raping, and pillaging. It’s… Intense. When Alex inevitably gets caught, he’s sent to prison learning to do little more than become a more efficient criminal. Toward the end of his sentence, Alex signs up for a rehabilitation program, the methods of which are nearly as horrifying as Alex’s pre-prison activities. I’m not going to sugar coat it. This book is a pretty traumatic read. It’s a creepy parable about good and evil and human freedom… And slang. So much slang.

Before you ask, nope. I never have seen the Stanley Kubrik film. I’m not sure that I will now that I know the source material because there are things I simply don’t need to see on screen. The intro to this audio book ranted about several things, among them the movie adaptation, and the fact that the American version of the novel was published without the last chapter. The British version did have it, as did the version I listened to. I’ve got to say I think the final chapter added a new level of brain food to the book. If you’re going to pick it up, try to get a version with the chapter included. Should you read this book? Probably. I mean, if you want to be well versed in all the things. Still, if you’re going to read it, go in knowing that it’s not for the faint of heart, okay?

Talk to me Bookworms! Who has seen this movie? Read the book? Was anyone else traumatized by it?!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Dec 07

The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge by Charlie Lovett: Review & GIVEAWAY!

Classics, Giveaways 8

Haul Out the Holly, Bookworms!

Nothing gets me in the holiday spirit faster than a viewing of The Muppet Christmas Carol, cinematic gem that it is. Perhaps the only thing I’ve found to rival Gonzo as Dickens is the latest book by Charlie Lovett. I’ve discussed my adoration for the Dickens classic A Christmas Carol (here!) and my enthusiasm never wanes (although my greatest wish is that I could locate photographic evidence of myself in my Ghost of Christmas Present costume from my 4th grade production. SANTA, hook a girl up! Or, you know, anyone from Mrs. Wilson’s 4th grade class.) *I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration. This in no way affects the integrity of my review. The fact that I would prefer not to be visited by three ghosts, however…*

furtheradventuresofebenezerscroogeThe Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scrooge by Charlie Lovett picks up 20 years after our dear Ebenezer has his change of heart. The metamorphosis from vile curmudgeon to lovable eccentric is complete and true to his word, he’s spreading Christmas cheer all year long. Literally. Like, it’s hot and June and he’s talking about figgy pudding. In fact, it’s long since started getting on the nerves of his nearest and dearest. Fred, Bob Crachit, and his solicitor colleagues are kind of over his whole transformation. However, when Scrooge is visited by his old pal Jacob Marley (as he is periodically) he sets off on a mission to help him shed his chains a bit more quickly. He enlists the help of the three spirits who visited him so long ago, and by then end have spread all sorts of seasonally inappropriate Christmas cheer. It is nothing short of adorable and heartwarming, and the perfect holiday read.

Which brings me to the EXCITING part! The good folks at Viking/Penguin are sponsoring a GIVEAWAY. Not only will you receive a copy of The Further Adventures of Ebenezer Scroogeyou’ll also receive a gorgeous Penguin Hardcover Classic edition of A Christmas Carol.  Is there any better way to kick off your holiday season? I think not! Enter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jul 16

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith

Classics, Coming of Age 13

Howdy Bookworms!

You know those lists? The ones that float around on the internet that tell you which books you ought to have read already and how you suck at life for not meeting an arbitrary milestone? Perhaps you just kind of ignore the smug implications of such lists. I wish I could. List bullies. Anyway. I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith is one of the books that often pops up on said lists, and I finally got around to reading it. Finally. It sat on my Kindle unread for like 2 years. Oops.

icapturethecastleI Capture the Castle is written from the perspective of a 17-year-old Cassandra Mortmain. In 1934, she and her family have fallen on hard times. Her father, once a respected novelist, has the world’s worst writer’s block and as a result, the family is destitute. Ironically, they reside in an actual castle in the English countryside. It’s a dilapidated, leaky affair, but it’s got a moat! Broke, but not without eccentricities, the Mortmain clan’s adventures are recorded in Cassandra’s journals.

I fully expected to love this book. I mean, come on. A ruined castle with a moat full of quirky Brits and a dog named Heloise? You can understand where I’d be under that impression. Unfortunately, I had some issues with it. More specifically, I had some issues with the female characters. Just… Hear me out. (This is probably kind of spoilery, so read at your own risk.)

First, Topaz. She’s married to Cassandra’s father and models for artists. She’s a pretty great character, all artsy and glamorous even while half-starving in those crumbling walls. The problem? She has bounced from starving artist to starving artist seeing herself as a muse of sorts… And she FULLY EXPECTS TO BE ABUSED. Physically, emotionally, whatever. She just assumes it’s part of the deal. Because artsy types can’t help it?! Mortmain isn’t a monster or anything, but she’s almost disappointed by his lack of vitriolic mood swings. Unhealthy, yo.

Second on the list is Cassandra’s beautiful sister, Rose. Girl’s a gold digger, hardcore. Unfortunately, she’d expected by society and her family to marry for love and nothing more. Love is all well and good when you’re not literally starving in a moldering castle. It’s not like she had a whole heck of a lot of options. Frivilous and flighty, I didn’t much care for Rose, but I couldn’t fault her for making a cash grab. Homegirl’s gotta eat.

Finally. Cassandra. I know you’re 17. But come on. Let’s talk about poor romantic decisions, shall we? Who should one get hung up on? The fellow who is completely unavailable for very good reasons, OR the extraordinarily handsome fellow whose kind generosity in the face of poverty is equaled only by his adoration of you? WTF, Cassandra? Get a grip girl. And make it a grip on Stephen. Swoon.

Good news and bad news, I guess. I can now check another box off on my next judgmental internet quiz, but I didn’t love it. Ah well. Not every book works for everyone. Talk to me Bookworms. How many of you have read I Capture the CastleDid you love it? Hate it? Or are you with me in Ambivalent-ville?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. I’m considering installing a moat in my yard, so, you could help me live the dream.*

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Jun 16

How The Grapes of Wrath Made Me Crazy Grateful

Classics 14

Salutations Bookworms,

Today’s post is 15 years in the making. When I was a junior in high school, my English teacher allowed everyone in the class to choose between three different books as our final read for the year. The options were The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger (which is obviously what I chose, because teen angst), A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway, or The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck. I remember listening to the class discussions of the two books I didn’t choose and thinking I needed to get my mits on The Grapes of Wrath. I bought myself a copy that summer and I started it but got distracted. At some point after (or during?) college, I decided the time had come. Of course, by then, I couldn’t find my dang book. To this day I can’t locate it, which is a bummer because it was lovely and had deckle edges. Sigh. Fast forward an upsetting number of years and enter Scribd. Guess what book popped up in my audio book queue?! That’s right! The Grapes of Wrath, y’all!

thegrapesofwrathI’ve got to hand it to audio. Heavily accented language is just better this way. Plus there were harmonica breaks. HARMONICA. I always have a hard time reviewing classics because there are so many people who are so much smarter than me who have said all the brilliant things there are to say on the subject. Instead of writing a review, I thought I’d list some of the things I’m going to try harder to be thankful for after reading about the plight of the Joad family.

1. My house is in no danger of being deliberately pushed off its foundation by a tractor.

2. The worst thing that’s ever happened to me on a road trip is bad traffic.

3. Fried dough is a treat at the fair, not my only form of sustenance.

4. I have always had access to indoor plumbing.

5. None of my employers have ever cut my wages in half.

6. I will never have to give birth in an abandoned box car.

7. I’ve never had to go hungry.

8. I’ve never had to go hungry while good food was destroyed in pursuit of profit.

9. I’ve never had someone actively prevent me from growing my own food on unused land in an effort to keep from starving.

10. Seriously,  you guys, if I’m hungry it’s probably because I’m on a diet because I have access to all the food and I don’t want to buy new pants. Pants I can totally afford because I get paid more than 25 cents an hour.

The Grapes of Wrath is a classic for a reason and it hit me like a punch in the gut. If you ever need inspiration to count your blessings, put yourself in the Joad Family’s shoes for a spell. I mean shoes metaphorically, of course, because the Joads probably couldn’t afford shoes.  This book, you guys. I can’t even.

Talk to me, Bookworms! What is the book that has made you the most grateful for what you’ve got?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. If you don’t make a purchase through a link on this site, don’t sweat it. I’m not going to starve to death without your patronage.*

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Dec 02

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

Audio Books, Classics 19

Salutations, Bookworms!

Last month I read Charlie Lovett’s First Impressions (review) and it reminded me that I still had one lonely unread novel to complete the Austen canon. I decided it was TIME. Time to visit Mansfield Park! Since I had such a stellar experience with the audio version of Northanger Abbey (review) I decided to try Mansfield Park on for size aurally. (Spoiler Alert: That was an excellent idea.)

mansfieldparkI don’t typically take a lot of notes while I read, but this time I did and I’m going to give them to you (mostly) unfiltered, because, well, I think my note-writing self is funnier than my right-this-second self. Before we get there though, a synopsis. It’s early 19th Century England, and therein live three sisters. One marries rich, one marries poor, and one marries intermediately. The rich one is completely indolent, but has some kids. Because she’s rich, she doesn’t really have to do anything what with all the servants and governesses and such. The poor one had 8 zillion kids and is extra super poor as a result. She’s probably too busy with her 8 zillion kids to notice she’s broke. The intermediate one is childless and annoyed that she’s not richer, so she spends most of her time being horrible and sticking her face in other people’s business (that’s Mrs. Norris. More about her later.) Intermediate sister decides that rich sister should take in one of poor sister’s kids because she wants to appear charitable without actually having to do anything. Fanny Price is thus fostered to rich sister and her family, wherein she falls totally in love with her cousin (which would be gross, but it was once a totally acceptable thing so I’m trying not to judge.) Anyway. The cousin is rich, older, and a catch, so Fanny’s chances are crap. A lovelorn little Cinderella, our Fanny Price. And now for my reactions…

1. I like Mrs. Norris about as much as I like Filch’s cat. Which is to say, of course, not at all. I wouldn’t mind seeing this shrew petrified. SHE JUST KEEPS GETTING WORSE! Wicked, onerous woman!

2. I’m loving audio books for Austen. I think the aristocratic accents add to the experience.

3. Mr. Rushworth’s obsession with height is cracking me up! “Mr. Crawford is so short. Short shorty short short. Who cares if I’m incredibly dull? At least I’m tall!”

4. Crawford is a SCOUNDREL, what with his flirting with Maria and then trying to bewitch Fanny for sport. Pfft! (He only gets worse, BTW.) Interestingly, his name does not start with a ‘W’ like Wickham and Willoughby. There goes my theory about Jane having her heart broken by a dude with a ‘W’ name.

5. Fanny is rather Cinderella-ish. Not quite, but almost. She’d need some singing forest creatures and fewer actual maids to really make it work.

 Yes. That just happened. I managed to compare a woman to a caretaker’s cat and wish good riddance to them both. I don’t know about you, but that seems like a fine day’s work to me. Tell me something, bookworms. Do you ever take notes while you read? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Oct 20

Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H Winters

Audio Books, Classics, Humor 19

Yo Ho Ho, Bookworms!

If I were to write up a personal ad, I would list some of my “likes” as Jane Austen, pirate lingo, audio books, and penguins. Obviously penguins. Because my library rocks my world, I was able to obtain an audio copy of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters by Jane Austen and Ben H Winters. It’s the Austen story you remember with a steampunk twist… And man-eating sea creatures, naturally.

senseandsensibilityandseamonstersElinor and Marianne Dashwood are, as in the original Sense and Sensibility , lovely girls of extremely modest fortune thanks to their greedy brother and his nasty wife. Of course, in this version of the story, the Dashwood patriarch was taken out by a sea beast. For some reason, all the creatures in the ocean are now PISSED at humanity and seek ways of destroying it at all costs. Because why not? Thanks to their want of fortune, the very worthy Dashwood ladies are not much favored in their search for suitable husbands (despite Elinor’s MAD SKILLS at carving driftwood.) Heartbreak happens. Healing happens. PENGUIN THEMED WEDDINGS happen.

It’s probably only because I listened to Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (review) in fairly rapid succession (as opposed to the gap of several years between when I read the originals), but it occurs to me that perhaps Ms. Austen had her heart broken by a cad whose name began with a “W.” Wickham, Willoughby… That can’t be a coincidence can it?

This book had the funniest descriptions of an evil ocean ever. I mean, “great burbling salt cauldrons of death”?! That is glorious. Truly though, the absolute best thing about this book was Colonel Brandon with a squid face. Sure, there were sexual innuendos, endless creative descriptions of a treacherous sea, an underwater colony, and glorified pirates absconding with native women to keep as wives, but giving Colonel Brandon tentacles was a stroke of pure genius.

If you’re an Austen purist, you’ll probably hate this book every bit as much as you’d hate Pride and Prejudice and ZombiesIf, though, you don’t consider Ms. Austen’s work beyond the realm of satire, you should definitely give these books a try. They are so much fun!

Talk to me Bookworms! What are some of the “likes” you’d put in YOUR personal ad? (You can tell how long it’s been since I’ve been in the dating game, because I’m pretty sure “personal ads” as such no longer exist. Pretend it’s Match-Harmony-Cupid-Face or whatever.)

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Aug 25

Pride and Prejudice and Zombies by Jane Austen and Seth Grahame-Smith

Audio Books, Classics, Zombies 23

Salutations Bookworms,

Some things just go together. Coffee and cream. Peanut butter and chocolate. Spaghetti and meatballs. Jane Austen and undead creatures. Yep, I recently enjoyed the audio book version of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. It’s an odd little mash-up of Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice and Seth Grahame-Smith’s vision of how Austen’s England would have responded to a zombie apocalypse.

ppzThe version I listened to (wahooooo library!) was the second release of the book. It included EXTRA “ultra-violent zombie mayhem.” Alright, alright. You know Pride and Prejudice. Now that zombies are introduced into genteel society, young ladies’ expected accomplishments go beyond the rigors of embroidery and fancy fingerwork on the pianoforteIt’s now fashionable to have your daughters trained in martial arts so that they can easily decapitate a few manky dreadfuls before tea. Nothing mucks up a nice country ball like an attack of the undead.

The five Miss Bennets have been re-imagined as badass ninjas. In addition to negotiating the niceties of society, they now have to make sure they aren’t eaten alive or stricken with the mysterious ailment that will turn them into flesh-eating monstrosities. Oh yes. And Mr. Darcy keeps making dirty jokes about balls. (We clearly share the same sense of humor.)

Now, there are many out there who are probably outraged at the idea of a beloved classic getting such an irreverent treatment. It didn’t diminish my enjoyment of the original. In fact, I found it cheeky and fun. It was especially amusing to listen to gory zombie scenes read by the most proper of English accents. I happen to think that Ms. Austen would find this version of her novel innovative if nothing else. If you like Jane Austen, zombies, and a heavy dose of ridiculousness, Pride and Prejudice and Zombies is the book for you.

Tell me something, Bookworms. How do you feel about this sort of classic re-imagining? Yay or nay?

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