Thursday, February 22, 2018

Going Solo

Going Solo
By Roald Dahl

Read by Dan Stevens

If you read my review about Roald Dahl's autobiography Boy, which covers his Childhood, then it should come as no surprise that I thoroughly enjoyed his sequel to that book, Going Solo. In this book he covers his time working in Africa and his time as a fighter pilot in the RAF during WWII.

This one was once again read by Dan Stevens and it was truly a delight to listen to him tell about Roald Dahl's many adventures. He adds a lot of personality to the story as he reads the words Roald Dahl wrote.

Roald Dahl lived quite an exciting life and it is crazy how many times he survived things that should have killed him. It was so fascinating to read what it was like to be a Pilot during World War II and I can't believe he survived it. The chances were not in his favor but somehow he did and now we get the privilege of hearing just what that was like. I am convinced that he was being watched over because he was meant to become the amazing writer that he was. If he had not survived those harrowing moments, we would not have Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, or James and the Giant Peach or Matilda, and the list goes on and on. I am sure God knew how influential his books would be and the important role they would play in so many childhoods (including mine!) and his life was spared so that he could bring those stories to life.

If you are a fan of Roald Dahl or want to see what life was like for a young man during that time period, I would highly recommend this book. It was great!

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

As You Wish

As Yo Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride
By Cary Elwes

First of all, let me start by saying that I love The Princess Bride, both the Movie and the book. It is such a fun story and it combines so many different elements into an unforgettable tale. William Goldman is a brilliant story teller and it shows in both his book and screen play. There are so many memorable moments in the movie and I'm sure many of you would recognize and maybe even be able to quote most of the famous lines in the movie. It is a true classic! (As I write this I realize I have never shown it to my children... I must remedy that right away!)

So that being said it should come as no surprise that I loved this book. I listened to it every morning during my morning walks and when ever I could find time during the day. I just couldn't get enough of his stories. It made me grin from ear to ear, as I listened to Cary Elwes describe what it was like to be a part of the making of this film.

I am learning that I really love autobiographies in audio-book format, especially when they are read by an actor with a lovely English accent. Really, this book was such a delight to listen to and it made it that much more fascinating to hear Cary tell about his experiences in his own words. Another really fun element of this Audio-book was that many of the other key actors, director and producer also shared their memories of the moments Cary talks about. It was so cool to hear their experiences too. You can tell that they all loved being part of this movie and that was amazing to listen to.

This is definitely the film that Cary Elwes is most well known for and it was so cool to hear how blessed and grateful he still feels to this day to have been a part of it all. It was also neat to find out how it all came together so perfectly. From the perfect cast, to the right timing, to a director who was passionate about turning one of his favorite books into an amazing movie. It was just so fascinating!

There were very funny parts and very touching moments and they all made me love the movie even more. I really enjoyed finding out what it is like to make a film. All the behind the scenes hi-jinks that happen and all the incredible amount of hard work and dedication that went into making it. I don't want to give too much away, you really should read it for yourself, but I will just give you one example of the incredible behind the scenes glimpses you get in this book. Billy Crystal, who plays Miracle Max and is so hilarious in that role, ad-libbed different lines every single take, for 3 days. Both Cary and Rob Riener were laughing so hard that they had to leave the area so that their laughter wouldn't ruin the shot. It is clear that that scene works so well in the movie because the director allowed Billy Crystal to run with it and I love that about the movie. So brilliant.

I would highly recommend this one! Whether you read it in book format or listen to the audiobook, it is such a heat warming story you won't regret it. If you are even a tiny bit of a fan of the movie you will love hearing about how it came to be.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

The Romantics

The Romantics
By Leah Konen

This book is about a 17 year old boy who learns a few lessons about love and life. From first loves, to rebounds, to friendships and changing family dynamics. It is told from the perspective of love and I thought it was a really cute way to tell a story.

The main character is obsessed with movies but doesn't love romantic comedies. One of the main reasons is how predictable Rom coms are. Which is kind of hilarious because this book is exactly that, a Rom com, that although very predictable, still fun to read.

I enjoyed all of loves little insights and it was a cool way to introduce different points a view of how people see love. It was also refreshing to have a book about teenage love that wasn't full of sex, drugs and underage drinking.

So if you are in the mood for a book about romance, that isn't heart-wrenching or super complicated, this is a good one. You know somethings that makes you smile and has a happy ending. I know there are times when I want my movies to be light and funny and entertaining and sometimes I need that in my books too!

Monday, January 29, 2018

Before I Fall

Before I fall
by Lauren Oliver

This is the second book I've listened to in audio book form. A couple things I learned this time around. One, I have a very limited time to listen to books because it is too difficult to concentrate when my kids are around so I need audio books that are fast moving and not very long. Two, for that reason I think that books like this I would prefer to just read myself. I would get through it faster and enjoy it a little bit more.

This book is read by Sarah Drew ( of Grey's Anatomy) and I'll be honest, at first I found her voice to be a little annoying. But I think that mostly has to do with the character she was reading. She really was quite good at doing different voices for the different characters which helped bring the book to life. Eventually I got used to her and I did end up enjoying this story.

This book covers the  subject of mean girls, bullying,and teen suicide. I actually thought this book did a really good job with how it covered this and I hope that some teens out there might learn something from reading this book and just maybe become a better person in the process.

This book is like groundhogs day but with a mean girl, who has to relive the day of her death for a week. Can she find a way to change her fate, by changing the things she does?

I will admit though, that I had a hard time getting into this book at first because the characters were just so awful. Popular girls, who were just down right mean and didn't see anything wrong with the way they treated others. Sam thinks that it is just the way things are meant to be. Some people get laughed at and some people do the laughing. Now I was never picked on in High School but I was definitely nowhere near popular either, so their mindset really bothered me. I'm not sure if it is because of my age or the fact that I have kids approaching their teenage years (What? When did that happen? My Son will be 10 this year so it doesn't feel that far away!), but I had a hard time at first caring about Sam because of her attitude about popularity. I did eventually start feeling for her and hoped that she could change the course of events in the book, it just took me a while to see past her mean girl exterior.

My only other issue with this book was the amount of sex, underage drink and drugs in this book. I'm just not entirely comfortable with a book geared towards teens that almost glorifies these behaviors. I know that this is common in many high schools and I 'm sure the author was trying to keep this novel as real as possible but it still bothers me some. That being said I still really enjoyed this book and would recommend it. I especially like how it shows that the littlest actions can lead to big consequences.

I'm looking forward to seeing the movie now!

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

The Valley of Amazement

The Valley of Amazement
by Amy Tan

I was introduced to Amy Tan's storytelling in High School when I read the Kitchen God's Wife for an English assignment. It is still to this day one of my favorite required reading books I read in School. She has a gift for transporting you to the time and place that her books take place. You feel for the characters and are drawn into their lives and I was fascinated by what life was like in China all those years ago. When I saw this book on display at the Library I immediately picked it up and was excited to see where this new book of hers took me.

This story follows a young girl as she grows up in the Courtesan house (basically an upper class prostitute house) in the early 1900's. It follows her as she grows up and faces the many challenges of that world.

I am having a hard time rating this book. I had so many issues with the way the story was told but I also couldn't stop reading it. I read page after page, wishing, hoping that somehow Violets life would get better. It was so depressing. Every time something good seemed to happen in her life, something else came along to destroy that happiness. I was convinced that at least the ending would have at least a bit of happiness for her. And it did, sort of. I was a little unsatisfied by the ending. I wanted more and I was frustrated that she didn't do more to obtain that happiness, that she just accepted her life the way it was.

I will say that Amy Tan definitely wrote a book with characters that I cared about and that I wanted to follow until the end. It even made me cry, which shows just how attached I became to the characters. That part was really well written but the story moved a little slowly and I found my self skimming ahead to get to the better parts. Even though some of the chapters were a little slow moving I would still have giving this book a good rating except there was just too much sex.

Now I realize that this book is about prostitutes and I expected it to have some sex scenes. It kind of goes with the subject matter but the way it was done was so over the top. The chapter where Violet at the age of 14, is taught how to be a Courtesan, was particularly graphic and I felt like it added nothing to the story. Even if she was trying to shock her readers with what a Courtesan's life was like, I think I would have gotten the point with out all the gory details.

If that had been the only chapter I would probably have said read the book, just skip chapter 4, you won't miss anything important, but it wasn't the only chapter. Time after time the story would pick up, and then I would be bombarded with page after page of sexual exploits, even long after she had left the Courtesan House. It was just too much for me and ruined the entire book.

 It felt like every time the story would get back to the meat of the story it would get side tracked by detailed descriptions of their sex lives. I think you can show how promiscuous someone is with out all  the explicit details. It was missing the point. The despair and hope, the tragedies and the successes, that made these women who they were. I was much happier when she was focusing on those parts of the story and those emotions are what made me want to keep reading.

 So read this book at your own risk. You may not be as bothered by me by all the graphic details, but for me this book was not what I had hoped it would be.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

The One and Only Ivan

The One and Only Ivan
by Katherine Applegate

You guys I loved this book. It is a children's book but it was such a great story. It is told from the perspective of Ivan the Gorilla so there aren't a lot of words but that didn't bother me at all. I liked hearing the story from his point of view.

I usually don't like the the anthropomorphism of animals because it can be misguided and often inaccurate but in this case it made for a great read.I thought hearing what he thought and how he felt brought a lot of heart to this story. It definitely made me tear up a few times.

I was also a little worried that this would be an anti-zoo type of book but it didn't end up being that at all. If anything it showed just how wonderful zoos can be for creating safe, loving places for these animals.It showed how much our knowledge of Animal care has improved over the years and I really loved that about this story. There was a time when people didn't understand how important companionship was for many of these animals and it's sad to think of those animals who were left on their own back in the day. Thankfully, I know personally, from my experiences working at a zoo, just how much emphasis is put on their welfare and happiness today.

This story is fictional but is based on a real life Gorilla who now lives at Zoo Atlanta. It kind of makes me want to go visit him. To see this magnificent creature who inspired such a touching story of hope.

Friday, January 19, 2018


Boy: Tales of Childhood
by Roald Dahl

Read by Dan Stevens

I few weeks ago I discovered the OverDrive app that allows you to download audio-books for from through your library account. I have never tried an audio-book before and if I'm honest I was a little hesitant because I was afraid that I would be able to concentrate on a book if it was being read to me. I kind of figured my mind would wonder. Plus I read so fast, I knew that listening would take me much longer to get through a book. But I wanted something different to listen to while I'm walking, Something besides music. I saw this book listed and decided it would be the perfect one to give a try.

I love Roald Dahl. When I was a kid I read every one of his books I could get my hands on. I still love reading his books as an adult. He is such a fantastic story teller. He knows just how to write to really engage his audience (in most cases being children). I was excited to hear about his childhood and I was not disappointed. So fascinating to hear what life was like back in the early 1900's. It really is amazing how much has changed since then. He tells some really fun stories about his childhood and I could see how many of his experiences influenced the stories he would later write. It was pretty cool to see the connection.

But the best thing about this book was that it was read by Dan Stevens. If you don't know who Dan Stevens is then go watch some Downton Abby or the new Beauty and the Beast (he plays the Beast and he is amazing!). His singing was so beautiful in Beauty and the Beast so it should really come as no surprise that he would be great at reading out loud. It really was a pleasure to listen to him read. He kept me engaged and I loved the different voices he used for the adults through out the book. He did a fantastic job bring this book to life and I loved every minute of it. My walks went by so fast because I was so focused on the story.

I would highly recommend listening to this book if you get the chance. It was great!