Top Ten Tuesday: Summer Freebie

Today for our Top Ten Tuesday, the Broke and Bookish Blog gave us a Summer Freebie. I actually just did a small form of this blog for my Friday Five post last week, so I’m going to try to name books other than the ones on that list.

For my summer freebie, I’m going to do Audiobooks for Your Summer Road Trip. This summer I’m traveling like crazy. I have weddings/bachelorette parties, birthdays, and vacations filling up my calendar, and so I really rely on audiobooks to get me through the long drives. Not all audiobooks are created equal, so I’m going to let you know which ones I think you pass on and which ones you should press play.

*Disclaimer: I have not listened to all of these, but the one’s I haven’t, come highly recommended to me

  1. Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee, narrated by Reese Witherspoon 24817626.jpg
  2. Anything by Neil Gaiman (read earlier post here)9e63081d-a68a-4163-a44d-d20327cb4191
  3. The Millennium Trilogy by Stieg Larrson, narrated by Simon VanceMillennium-Trilogy-by-Stieg-Larsson-on-BookDragon.jpg
  4. The Nightingale by Kristen Hannah, narrated by Polly Stone21853621
  5. Sherlock Holmes’ Rediscovered Railway Stories by John Taylor, narrated by Benedict Cumberbatch*24737122.jpg
  6. Life of Pi by Yaan Martel, narrated by Jeff Woodman51xufiFRCtL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_
  7. Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari, narrated by author*23453112.jpg
  8. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins, narrated by Claire Corbette, Louise Brealey, and India Fisher22557272.jpg
  9. The Martian by Andy Weir, narrated by R.C. Bray 18007564.jpg
  10. The Selfish Giant by Oscar Wilde, narrated by Martin Jarvis, musical adaptation by Dan Goeller.

51XLA8y2isL._SX385_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThis one is for the kids (and really the adults, too). This beautiful rendition of The Selfish Giant is one everyone should hear.  Not only is the narration amazing, it is set to a symphony that elevates the story. I bought it for my nephews and they always ask for it when they are in the car.

*Indicates I have not listened to this particular audiobook, but that it come highly recommended to me.

So there you have it, the 10 Audiobooks I recommend for your summer road trips! Happy reading (or listening), and I can’t wait to read all the other TTT lists for today!

 

The Boys in the Boat

16158542.jpgThe Boys in the Boat: Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for Gold at the 1939 Berlin Olympics by Daniel James Brown

Rating: ★★★★★ // History lesson that reads like fiction

Favorite Line: “All were merged into one smoothly working machine; they were, in fact, a poem of motion, a symphony of swinging blades.”

Review:

During the years which stood on the eve of WWII, a group of young men thought not of going off to war, or even of making their everlasting mark on history, instead their thoughts were on a narrow long boat in the cold waters at Washington University. This boat became an extension of their bodies,  their most treasured possession, and before they knew it, their ticket to the 1939 Olympic Games to represent their country in Berlin.

GoodReads Summary 

Daniel James Brown’s robust book tells the story of the University of Washington’s 1936 eight-oar crew and their epic quest for an Olympic gold medal, a team that transformed the sport and grabbed the attention of millions of Americans. The sons of loggers, shipyard workers, and farmers, the boys defeated elite rivals first from eastern and British universities and finally the German crew rowing for Adolf Hitler in the Olympic games in Berlin, 1936.

The emotional heart of the story lies with one rower, Joe Rantz, a teenager without family or prospects, who rows not for glory, but to regain his shattered self-regard and to find a place he can call home. The crew is assembled  by an enigmatic coach and mentored by a visionary, eccentric British boat builder, but it is their trust in each other that makes them a victorious team. They remind the country of what can be done when everyone quite literally pulls together—a perfect melding of commitment, determination, and optimism.

Drawing on the boys’ own diaries and journals, their photos and memories of a once-in-a-lifetime shared dream, The Boys in the Boat is an irresistible story about beating the odds and finding hope in the most desperate of times—the improbable, intimate story of nine working-class boys from the American west who, in the depths of the Great Depression, showed the world what true grit really meant. It will appeal to readers of Erik Larson, Timothy Egan, James Bradley, and David Halberstam’s The Amateurs.

I would have never thought a book about a rowing team could be so amazing. While the story is very different, this book feels like Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken. This story is non-fiction, yet it reads like a historical fiction novel…a very detailed and well written historical fiction. By the middle I was soaking up all the information about the rowing team, and by the end I felt like the biggest rowing team in the world, and felt very invested in the collegiate rowing rivalries.

The best parts of the story follow Joe Rantz, a hard-working boy who had fallen on the wrong side of luck many times. He was an unlikely hero of the rowing team, but the amazing thing is that his crew mates were all untraditional rowers. They were all blue collar kids, barely making it into college, barely staying in college, but yet somehow made it on the country’s best rowing team.

“Harmony, balance, and rhythm. They’re the three things that stay with you your whole life. Without them civilization is out of whack. And that’s why an oarsman, when he goes out in life, he can fight it, he can handle life. That’s what he gets from rowing.”

This story is very detailed and precise, which makes it seem like you are watching it as a movie and not reading it. The narrative is beautiful and it fills you with pride for these boys. The characters are so real and alive, you feel as if you were one of the fans watching their races in live time, or the ones all over the country listening to their races on the radio. You feel pain with them, you struggle with their doubts and their anxieties, and you feel elevated with their triumphs and joys.

It’s hard to pinpoint who is really the most important character of the story, because, like rowing, the book relies on so many different characters to make the story work. Any one character could not impact the end as they did without any of the others. They boys work off each other, and they thrive from their mentors, coaches, loved ones, and countrymen.

“Rowing is perhaps the toughest of sports. Once the race starts, there are no time-outs, no substitutions. It calls upon the limits of human endurance. The coach must therefore impart the secrets of the special kind of endurance that comes from mind, heart, and body.

—George Yeoman Pocock”

This is not like many WWII books, because it really does not speak much of the upcoming war. It addresses it, and of course the Olympic games take place at the beginning of the Nazi era, but the lack of the war was so important to the message of the book. These boys were normal, everyday kids. They had pains and troubles, joys and amazements. They had dreams like any other, and like many boys of that age, they had the small bit of dread in their stomach that all their hopes and dreams could be crushed with the impending war.

“The wood…taught us about survival, about overcoming difficulty, about prevailing over adversity, but it also taught us something about the underlying reason for surviving in the first place. Something about infinite beauty, about undying grace, about things larger and greater than ourselves. About the reasons we were all here.”

This reality was worldwide. Millions of people were impacted by the war, but first, before it all began, 9 boys in a boat, backed by their entire country, were able to grasp their dreams and ensure their spot in history.

“Standing there, watching them, it occurred to me that when Hitler watched Joe and the boys fight their way back from the rear of the field to sweep ahead of Italy and Germany seventy-five years ago, he saw, but did not recognize, heralds of his doom. He could not have known that one day hundreds of thousands of boys just like them, boys who shared their essential natures—decent and unassuming, not privileged or favored by anything in particular, just loyal, committed, and perseverant—would return to Germany dressed in olive drab, hunting him down.”

Poem of the Week: The Tyger

The Tyger

-William Blake 
Tyger Tyger, burning bright,
In the forests of the night;
What immortal hand or eye,
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?
In what distant deeps or skies.
Burnt the fire of thine eyes?
On what wings dare he aspire?
What the hand, dare seize the fire?
And what shoulder, & what art,
Could twist the sinews of thy heart?
And when thy heart began to beat,
What dread hand? & what dread feet?
What the hammer? what the chain,
In what furnace was thy brain?
What the anvil? what dread grasp,
Dare its deadly terrors clasp!
When the stars threw down their spears
And water’d heaven with their tears:
Did he smile his work to see?
Did he who made the Lamb make thee?
Tyger Tyger burning bright,
In the forests of the night:
What immortal hand or eye,
Dare frame thy fearful symmetry?

Friday Five: Short Summer Reads

Summer is almost here!! Now is the time to get those summer reading lists going! I personally like conquering long books in the summer but sometimes you find yourself in a hammock all day and just need something short to read and fully escape into, and so for today’s Friday Five, in going to tell you some of my favorite short summer reads!

1. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

While this book is so popular, it really is my ultimate summer read. I love to sit on a porch with a drink and read this book on a hot summer day. I don’t know what it is about the story that brings out the summer in me, maybe it’s the drama, maybe it’s the heat, but I can’t resist reading it at some point during the summer.

2. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

This one would be a great hammock read. It brings you on an adventure, and it does it quickly. Plus, it has the “summer night” feel to it.

3. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

I first read this book in the middle of the summer on a hot train from Spain to Belgium, so I can personally confirm that it does well in heat. It’s a short, very funny book, that will make you want to travel in space.

4. The Alchamist by Paulo Coelho

This is for those who like to think while they relax. This book deals with life questions, and dives into philosophy and theology from time to time. However, it doesn’t dive to far, so it is still an enjoyable quick read for your summer day.

5. The Giver by Lois Lowry

For most of you this would be a re-read (if you went through the U.S. public school system), but it is a good one to re-visit. I remember the first time I reread this book and it was a completely different book then the one I remembered. While it’s not exactly a pleasant book, it is thought provoking and fascinating.

 

What short summer reads do you recommend? I love adding to this list!

The Tempest

5e9f81972e2873f12c2288ff880a5c13.jpgThe Tempest by William Shakespeare

Rating: ★★★★★ // The Bard at his finest 

Favorite Line: “Your tale, sir, would cure deafness.”

Review: 

Reviewing Shakespeare feels a little absurd. I sadly have not studied his plays enough to really grasp all that he is saying, but I hope one day to say that I have. All I can really say is if I liked they play or if I didn’t like the play. When it comes to The Tempest, one of Shakespeare’s last plays (many believe to be his absolute last), I really enjoyed it.

Summary (via GoodReads)

In The Tempest, long considered one of Shakespeare’s most lyrical plays, Prospero—a magician on an enchanted island—punishes his enemies, brings happiness to his daughter, and comes to terms with human use of supernatural power. The Tempest embodies both seemingly timeless romance and the historically specific moment in which Europe begins to explore and conquer the New World.

Its complexity of thought, its range of characters—from the spirit Ariel and the monster Caliban to the beautiful Miranda and her prince Ferdinand -its poetic beauty, and its exploration of difficult questions that still haunt us today make this play wonderfully compelling.

The Tempest is a play by William Shakespeare, believed to have been written in 1610–11. It is set on a remote island, where Prospero, the exiled Duke of Milan, plots to restore his daughter Miranda to her rightful place, using illusion and skilful manipulation. The eponymous tempest brings to the island Prospero’s usurping brother Antonio and the complicit Alonso, King of Naples. There, his machinations bring about the revelation of Antonio’s low nature, the redemption of Alonso, and the marriage of Miranda to Alonso’s son, Ferdinand.

I sometimes struggle when reading plays, so I almost always read and listen at the same time. This helps bring the verse to life, while putting the words more firmly into my mind. This version had a little more of a positive impact on me because the lead role of Prospero was performed by Ian McKellen, who is a tremendous actor and he really only needs to voice to perfectly portray the emotion of the character.

The play brings a serious situation into play, but has fun characters to offset the seriousness. It has a bright romance, which blooms a little too quickly for my liking, but after all, it is Shakespeare. Despite the quickness of the romance, I thought the romance was sweet, and it added a nice aspect to the story.

Overall the story is of revenge which ultimately turns into forgiveness after redemption, but like many of Shakespeare’s plays, it explores the supernatural and the physiological aspects of humanity.

What is really unique and beautiful about this play is the epilogue. There, breaking character, Shakespeare has Prospero address the audience. Through Prospero’s voice, Shakespeares talks of his own retirement and of setting his gift of verse free.

I’m going to have to read this play a few more times before I really understand all the different dynamics it has, and maybe then I can write a more intelligent review about it, but as for now, I will just leave you with Shakespeare’s fantastic end:

Now my charms are all o’erthrown,
And what strength I have’s mine own,
Which is most faint. Now, ’tis true,
I must be here confined by you,
Or sent to Naples. Let me not,
Since I have my dukedom got
And pardoned the deceiver, dwell
In this bare island by your spell,
But release me from my bands
With the help of your good hands.
Gentle breath of yours my sails
Must fill, or else my project fails,
Which was to please. Now I want
Spirits to enforce, art to enchant,
And my ending is despair,
Unless I be relieved by prayer,
Which pierces so that it assaults
Mercy itself and frees all faults.
As you from crimes would pardoned be,
Let your indulgence set me free.

*I read this book for my Classics Club challenge. To see my entire list of my challenge Click Here, to learn more about the Classics Club challenge, Click Here

Top Ten Tuesday: Moms in Classic Literature, the best and the worst.

Another Tuesday, another Top Ten list brought to us by The Broke and Bookish blog. This week we have a freebie on “Mother’s Day.” I already wrote a couple of posts about mother’s day, but I didn’t want to skip this week, so I did a mix of my favorite and least favorite mom’s in literature. I stuck with classic lit. for this list, because, well, I like classic lit.

I found this list was a little tougher than I expected, as parents are much more rare in classic lit. than they are in modern stories. If they are portrayed, they usually take a minor role. However, there are some prominent mother’s in literature and some really stuck out to me.

motherchild.jpg

The Best.
  1. Marmee March (The Little Women, Louisa May Alcott)
    • She’s kind to her children, loving to her husband, firm in her beliefs and morals, understanding toward failure, yet persistant that all try their best. I think it would be hard to arguee that she is the best image of a great mother in literature.
  2. Katie Nolan (A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Betty Smith)
    • Hardworking and determined, Katie Nolan gives her children the opportunities she never got to have. Katie spends most of the book trying to scrape together just enough food to keep her children alive, and yet the kids grew up thinking they were rich as kings.
  3. Marilla Cuthbert (Anne of Green Gables, L.M. Montgomery)
    • Strict and harsh at first (and at times later), Marilla grows into a loving and wise mother to the orphan Anne. It takes her time to adjust to the spirit of Anne, but when she does, she becomes her biggest fan and confidant.
  4. Ma Ingalls (The Little House on the Prairie, Laura Ingalls Wilder)
    • Tough to the core and hardworking, Ma shows us what it meant to be a mother in the tough times on the prairie. She is kind, but stern, encourages individuality in her children but demands obedience. To her husband she is supportive and a clear advisor. She set the standards for her children and her husband to live by, and by golly they followed them.
  5. Fantine (Les Miserables, Victor Hugo)
    • Perhaps the most tragic mother in literature is poor Fantine. This is a case where intention shows the heart of the woman. Fantine does all she can to give her child a good home, even if that meant giving her up. Leaving her child behind broke her heart, but she truly believed her daughter would be better without her. Then, due to the cruelty of others, she worked herself to death to provide for her child. She embodies the selflessness that mother’s have when caring for their children.
The Worst.
  1. Mrs. Bennet (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen)
    • Many people have a soft spot for Mrs. Bennet, and I guess I can understand that, but overall, I really dislike her. She’s ridiculous.
  2. The Stepmother (Hansel and Gretel, The Brother’s Grimm)
    • So all stepmothers in Grimm’s fairy tales are pretty bad, but this one is the worst. She convinces their father to leave his children in the woods because she wants more food. She’s terrible.
  3. Daisy Buchanan (The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald)
    • Did you forget that Daisy had a daughter? Don’t feel bad because apparently she did to.
  4.  Jocasta (Oedipus Rex, Sophocles)
    • She’s bad in the sense that she ends up marrying her son after killing her husband. It was all a big misunderstanding, but still.
  5. Mrs. Wormwood (Matilda, Roald Dahl)
    • Encourages her brilliant daughter not to be brilliant…yeah, she’s pretty awful.

Speak to Me, Neil Gaiman


I just discovered Neil Gaiman this year, and I have become obsessed, and yet, I haven’t read a word ;).  I’m sure others have done this already, but I am officially declaring Gaiman the king of Audiobooks.

I first listened to Stardust, published in 1999, while I was waiting for another book to become available. I didn’t expect much, but I thought it sounded amusing…I became entranced. Gaiman’s voice and style of reading demands attention, and you can’t help but become fully emerged in the story.

Next I listened to The Ocean at the End of the Lane, published in 2013, and I was a little more weary of this one, just because the description didn’t appeal to me as much. Turns out, it’s an amazing book and Gaiman’s narration is as good as ever. I really can’t describe his reading style, but it almost feels like he writes his books to be read aloud, rather than silently. 

I just finished listening to Norse Mythology last week, and I think it’s my favorite of his to listen thus far.  These stories, being short retelling of myths, are really meant to be listened to. Even with the few myths that weren’t my favorite, he makes them interesting in his captivating storytelling.

“The one thing that you have that nobody else has is you. Your voice, your mind, your story, your vision. So write and draw and build and play and dance and live as only you can.”

I’ve said before that the narrator of the audiobook either makes or breaks the book. I’ve listened to a few books that I really disliked because the narrator was so awful and then I went back and physically read found they were actually good books. For all I know, Gaiman’s books may not be as good on paper as they are read aloud, but I don’t know if I want to risk it ruining them ;). 

I keep adding his books to my TBR list, and unless the audiobook doesn’t exist, I can almost guarantee that’s the medium I will use. So here’s to you, Neil Gaiman, keep writing and please please please keep speaking.

Poem of the Week: Sonnets are full of love

Sonnets are full of love 

-Christina Rossetti

Sonnets are full of love, and this my tome
Has many sonnets: so here now shall be
One sonnet more, a love sonnet, from me
To her whose heart is my heart’s quiet home,
To my first Love, my Mother, on whose knee
I learnt love-lore that is not troublesome;
Whose service is my special dignity,
And she my loadstar while I go and come
And so because you love me, and because
I love you, Mother, I have woven a wreath
Of rhymes wherewith to crown your honored name:
In you not fourscore years can dim the flame
Of love, whose blessed glow transcends the laws
Of time and change and mortal life and death.

Around the World in 80 posts: Paris

I’ve started this series to highlight my favorite real world settings for books and what makes them so good! Feel free to join in on the fun and explore the world through your books! 

Paris

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*note: I’m only including books where the primarily location is Paris; many books travel to Paris but will be included in a different country/city post.

Ahh Paris, you wonderful city. I’ve been to Paris several times and my heart yearns for it when I’m not there. It’s has a stereotype of being unwelcoming or rude to travelers, but honestly, I’ve never felt that to be the case. I’m terribly in love with this city and I could spend forever walking down the Siene and gazing at the Eiffel Tower. Since I cannot, however, I have to settle for reading books about Paris…it’s not the same, but it’s dang near to the real thing.

1. The Paris Wife by Paula McLain: Everyone knows Ernest Hemingway for his literary genus, but not many remember his first wife Hadley–this book remembers her. Hadley meets Ernest in Chicago and they fall in love. She follows him to Paris and lives the 1920’s, penniless lifestyle we always hear about.

“Though I often looked for one, I finally had to admit that there could be no cure for Paris.”

2. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas: I went a very long time thinking I had read this book because I knew the story so well, only to discover that I had only read abridged versions of the story. When I finally read this massive book, I fell pretty hard for it. Athos, Pothos, Aramis, and d’Artagnan are fantastic characters, and their adventurous spirit brings Paris to life.

“Never fear quarrels, but seek hazardous adventures.”

3. The Little Paris Bookshop by Nina George: Paris + Books = Perfection. This charming novel is about a man who owns a book barge and calls himself a book apothecary–when someone comes into his store he does not sell them book, he prescribes them books. This book is darling and I had to resist buying a plane ticket while reading it.

“Books keep stupidity at bay. And vain hopes. And vain men. They undress you with love, strength and knowledge. It’s love from within.”

4.  A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens: This one could also go on my future London list but for some reason Paris sticks out to me as the primary city in this book. Set during the French Revolution, this book highlights the strength of the city and of it’s people in the best of times and the worst of time (see what I did there…) ;).

“What an immense impression Paris made upon me. It is the most extraordinary place in the world!

-Charles Dickens

5. Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee: Lilliet Berne has made herself the talk of the city, but there is much more to her than people see as she performs in the Opera House. This exciting novel has a “Phantom of the Opera” feel and it hold the magic of Paris in it’s pages. Read my review here!

“When the earth opens up under your feet, be like a seed. Fall down; wait for the rain.”

6. Les Miserables by Victor Hugo: This is maybe the most famous “Paris” story, and even the most famous French novel, thanks to the musical and the multiple movies, and because of the popularity of Hugo himself. This book follows many different plots, but the most prominant plot is that of Jean Valjean, an ex-convict, who escapes parole to turn his life around and make up for his sins. Yes, that was the most abridged summary of Les Mis ever, but it’ll do for now :).

“He who contemplates the depth of Paris is seized with vertigo. Nothing is more fantastic. Nothing is more tragic. Nothing is more sublime.”

-Victor Hugo

 

What is your favorite Paris book? I love adding to this list, so please let me know what Paris book I absolutely have to read!

 

Friday Five: Lit. Moms

Mothers in literature are more rare than one would expect, yet, when a good one comes along, man is she good. Here are a few quotes in literature about the mother’s who are out of this world. Happy Mother’s day to all those stellar moms out there!

little_women_.jpg

“The clocks were striking midnight and the rooms were very still as a figure glided quietly from bed to bed, smoothing a coverlid here, settling a pillow there, and pausing to look long and tenderly at each unconscious face, to kiss each with lips that mutely blessed, and to pray the fervent prayers which only mothers utter.”

Louisa May Alcott, Little Women

 “She was of the stuff of which great men’s mothers are made. She was indispensable to high generation, hated at tea parties, feared in shops, and loved at crises.”

Thomas Hardy, Far From the Madding Crowd

“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.”

 —Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

“What must I do, Mother, what must I do to make a different world for her? How do I start?”

“The secret lies in the reading and the writing. You are able to read. Every day you must read one page from some good book to your child. Every day this must be until the child learns to read. Then she must read every day, I know this is the secret.”

“I will read,” promised Katie. “What is a good book?”

 — Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

“A mother’s love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity. It dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path.”

 — Agatha Christie, The Hound of Death