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Audiobooks Featured Humor Nonfiction

Wanderlust, USA by Flula Borg

Flula Borg’s life is the stuff of myth. A frequent guest of Conan O’Brien, the German-born actor (think Sacha Baron Cohen’s Borat crossed with Billy Eichner) regales audiences with stories from his outlandish travel exploits, and his fascination with America and its “peoples” have warmed hearts nationwide. Flula fell in love with the United States on his first visit as a young boy, and calls this vast country full of exciting, creative, weird, and compassionate people superoberaffengeil – “incredibly top monkey sassy” or, simply, “cool.”

In this zany, eye-opening and delightful six-part audio series, Flula travels the breadth of the United States in search of its coveted and weirdest pastimes to learn more about the country, and better understand what drives people to these cultural events. His adventures include:

Experiencing the famed Iditarod dog-sledding race in Alaska
Partying Up during the World Cup of Surfing in Hawaii
Donning Elvis duds for Elvis Week in Memphis
Portraying a Minuteman at Lexington’s famous Revolutionary War reenactment

In each episode, Flula can be found “shooting the poops” as he calls it with the people he meets, including event organizers, participants, founders, and spectators. His goal is to understand what these quintessentially American event means to the communities involved, how each came to exist, and why they have all persisted – and of course, how he can take part! In addition, each segment is filled with fictional advertisements and mini episodes that explore a region or city’s local haunt, as well as techno tracks created entirely from the sounds he recorded at each event.

Infused with Flula’s infectious enthusiasm, Wanderlust, USA is an immersive and uproarious experience that reveals the heart of America in a unique way. Boom!

Wanderlust, USAWanderlust, USA by Flula Borg
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oh goodness this was hilarious!

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Libro.fm for providing me with a free copy.

I enjoyed this one as an audiobook, narrated by the author himself which was awesome.

This book was such a great mood setter for me, light-hearted and making me laugh the entire time. And it came at the perfect time. Some parts were silly and a little over the top but unremarkably amusing at any rate.

It featured first-hand experiences of a German-born foreigner learning about American pastimes and command of the English language, and I loved it. I liked the production of telephone interviews and music, super clever.

From surf culture and Keanu Reeves to pen pals and germs, the Kentucky Derby post prime unicorns, I felt that every topic mentioned was described with such entertaining enthusiasm and fresh perspective.

The author, well-communicated and with innocence, almost naive wordplay, brought incredible awareness of American culture and historic events from a non native point of view, and it just spoke to the comedic brilliance that the author has in any story he wants to tell.

There were point of references of mainstream societal expectations, out-of-the-box social norms, modern and nostalgic pop culture, and American history that really depicted the uniqueness of both the content of his stories and the talent of the author himself to make such connections and inferences while portraying them as funny in a book type format.

And I’m still laughing as I write this!

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Categories
Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Romance

Beach Read by Emily Henry

Augustus Everett is an acclaimed author of literary fiction. January Andrews writes bestselling romance. When she pens a happily ever after, he kills off his entire cast.

They’re polar opposites.

In fact, the only thing they have in common is that for the next three months, they’re living in neighboring beach houses, broke, and bogged down with writer’s block.

Until, one hazy evening, one thing leads to another and they strike a deal designed to force them out of their creative ruts: Augustus will spend the summer writing something happy, and January will pen the next Great American Novel. She’ll take him on field trips worthy of any rom-com montage, and he’ll take her to interview surviving members of a backwoods death cult (obviously). Everyone will finish a book and no one will fall in love. Really.

Beach ReadBeach Read by Emily Henry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A spectacular read! Perfect for the beach, get out of a reading slump, or an escape type of book.

I listened to this one as an audiobook, narrated by Julia Whelan, which I’d highly recommend. Her answering machine voice was just so spot on.

The story itself was lighthearted at times, also uplifting, and with a deeper sentiment, making it a complete and memorable read for me.

I liked the life perspective the author brought out in the characters who celebrated and struggled with feelings of loss, feeling lost, hope, trust, making amends, finding peace, love, and a slew of wavering emotions ranging from hurt and disappointments, as well as wonder and gratitude.

Since it is a book about authors in and of itself, there were some pretty good bits of irony and satyrical takes on the writing process, publishing, and the authorship community. The literary references and sources of writing inspiration were timeless, some, downright hilarious.

As far as the writing goes, I liked the simplicity brought forth with a single timeline and single POV. It wasn’t complicated which was nice and refreshing, one where I could focus on the actual enjoyment of the story. It read like some people I know.

The voices were distinct and the snarky, playful banter was deeply entertaining. A few bits were a little juvenile for the age group and life stage, but they also made it more amusing in a way. The self-reflection was more of a saving-grace for those parts. Yet it was clearly understood why the characters did what they did which made all the difference in connecting and relating to the story and the characters. And to that, it was also an approachable read for most anyone anyway.

All in all, just loved it!

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Categories
Adventure Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Historical Nonfiction Nonfiction

Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates by Eric Jay Dolin

With surprising tales of vicious mutineers, imperial riches, and high-seas intrigue, Black Flags, Blue Waters vividly reanimates the “Golden Age” of piracy in the Americas.

Set against the backdrop of the Age of Exploration, Black Flags, Blue Waters reveals the dramatic and surprising history of American piracy’s “Golden Age”―spanning the late 1600s through the early 1700s―when lawless pirates plied the coastal waters of North America and beyond. Best-selling author Eric Jay Dolin illustrates how American colonists at first supported these outrageous pirates in an early display of solidarity against the Crown, and then violently opposed them.

Through engrossing episodes of roguish glamour and extreme brutality, Dolin depicts the star pirates of this period, among them towering Blackbeard, ill-fated Captain Kidd, and sadistic Edward Low, who delighted in torturing his prey.

Also brilliantly detailed are the pirates’ manifold enemies, including colonial governor John Winthrop, evangelist Cotton Mather, and young Benjamin Franklin. Upending popular misconceptions and cartoonish stereotypes, Dolin provides this wholly original account of the seafaring outlaws whose raids reflect the precarious nature of American colonial life.

Black Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America's Most Notorious PiratesBlack Flags, Blue Waters: The Epic History of America’s Most Notorious Pirates by Eric Jay Dolin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Loved this book! I listened to it via audiobook, narrated by Paul Brion who was excellent. He was easy to listen to, being well-paced and unstrained, which was perfect for this book. I did miss the illustrations in the physical copy unfortunately, but I felt like the audio version was way to go for informationally dense, topically focused subject matter.

It followed pirate chronicles, mostly those sailing around the Caribbean during the 17th and 18th century, covering a vast amount of interesting material from their goals and accomplishments, the pursuits, intention, tactic and missions, flag identification, penalties, colonization, the weaponry, and even clothing, busting the myths and telling the truths of widely known events and biographical detail.

I liked how it was organized that being both chronological and topical as to not double back over certain points and being easy to follow, keeping the story going in a direction where there was focused story building and climax unique to most nonfiction books.

I also liked the outlook the author brought into the history, taking speculation and known facts into context for the time, even when it came to brutality and forms of entertainment as understood by the people living it whether observer or participant.

I’d highly recommend this well-researched book for anyone interested in a general overview of pirate life as a whole or for anyone wanting to gain insight into a specific pirate, time, or place and build from there.

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Categories
Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Humor Nonfiction Poetry

On Cats by Charles Bukowski

A raw and tenderly funny look at the human-cat relationship, from one of our most treasured and transgressive writers.

“The cat is the beautiful devil.”

Felines touched a vulnerable spot in Charles Bukowski’s crusty soul. For the writer, there was something majestic and elemental about these inscrutable creatures he admired, sentient beings whose searing gaze could penetrate deep into our being. Bukowski considered cats to be unique forces of nature, elusive emissaries of beauty and love.

On Cats offers Bukowski’s musings on these beloved animals and their toughness and resiliency. He honors them as fighters, hunters, survivors who command awe and respect as they grip tightly onto the world around them: “A cat is only ITSELF, representative of the strong forces of life that won’t let go.”

Funny, moving, tough, and caring, On Cats brings together the acclaimed writer’s reflections on these animals he so admired. Bukowski’s cats are fierce and demanding—he captures them stalking their prey; crawling across his typewritten pages; waking him up with claws across the face. But they are also affectionate and giving, sources of inspiration and gentle, insistent care.

Poignant yet free of treacle, On Cats is an illuminating portrait of this one-of-a-kind artist and his unique view of the world, witnessed through his relationship with the animals he considered his most profound teachers.

On CatsOn Cats by Charles Bukowski

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

FTC disclosure: I would like to thank Libro.fm for providing me with a free copy.

A totally unexpected like. I listened to this one as an audiobook, narrated by Roger Wayne, which I’d highly recommend. He brought out a certain sentiment about the characterization of cat traits as well as the human perception and experiences with them using a calm, thoughtful, introspective quality to his voice.

This book was hilarious. It’s not a book I would typically pick out for myself, that being poetry and one about cats. First, poetry is not a genre I choose so often because typically it is so specific to one’s own experience and not usually relatable or entertaining enough for me in most cases. Second, I’m more of a dog lover myself. Specifically chocolate labs. But like any teenage girl, I had several cats growing up, a calendar of furry friends in a basket pinned to the wall, and wore purple sweatshirts with the most adorable kitty cats posing on the front. You can clearly see my love for cats as a little girl in the featured photo. It depicts a painting I made in grade school. Best friends with a cat forever. I also understand the love and dislike for specific behaviors and personalities that cats embody.

So this book was actually a little treasure, a quick, just over an hour long mix of poems and short stories about cats in the most reflective and accurate way. Some parts were a little crude for my taste however, the reality and idealistic silly and weird things that cats do and our human response to them were portrayed with such candor that I found myself being completely amused and intrigued by the allegory and sensibility found in a cat’s life, whether neighborhood annoyance or companion.

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Categories
Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

The Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

Set on the Korean island of Jeju, The Island of Sea Women follows Mi-ja and Young-sook, two girls from very different backgrounds, as they begin working in the sea with their village’s all-female diving collective. Over many decades—through the Japanese colonialism of the 1930s and 1940s, World War II, the Korean War, and the era of cellphones and wet suits for the women divers—Mi-ja and Young-sook develop the closest of bonds. Nevertheless, their differences are impossible to ignore: Mi-ja is the daughter of a Japanese collaborator, forever marking her, and Young-sook was born into a long line of haenyeo and will inherit her mother’s position leading the divers. After hundreds of dives and years of friendship, forces outside their control will push their relationship to the breaking point.

This beautiful, thoughtful novel illuminates a unique and unforgettable culture, one where the women are in charge, engaging in dangerous physical work, and the men take care of the children. A classic Lisa See story—one of women’s friendships and the larger forces that shape them—The Island of Sea Women introduces readers to the fierce female divers of Jeju Island and the dramatic history that shaped their lives.

The Island of Sea WomenThe Island of Sea Women by Lisa See

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Such an insightful, moving look into the life of a haenyeo, the women divers, who plunge into the often frigid waters off the coast of Jeju Island, South Korea, retrieving sea objects, creating a livelihood, a culture that is unlike any other.

I listened to this one as an audiobook, narrated by Jennifer Lim. The sound overall could have benefited from some better mixing. I really enjoyed her narration voice when she wasn’t screaming. Also her Korean pronunciation was the best. She had a lot of clarity in her voice so she could get away with running words together for the most part. My ears however were constantly bracing for the screeching that would unexpectedly come up. So much so that I couldn’t bear the fluctuations with headphones or even in the car. Certain characters were too punchy and abrupt in both volume and as characterization, especially the mother. She was depicted as a strict Korean mama, but came off as horribly terse, like a cackling witch from a fairy tale. Wicked, sinister, and demanding. These exaggerated villainous voices were just ear piercing. I experienced so much tension while listening to the book, almost DNFd it several times.

So for the writing, first, this was very interesting topic to capture. See made certain aspects of the story feel alive. She connected thoughts very well and was able to characterize them in a person. She wrote with a certain fluidity of certainty that I didn’t feel I had to question, I think it was most likely attributed to her research done well.

I also loved the telling of history as it was known and perceived, especially the that which was taken from an experiential standpoint. There was no attempt at trying to make the nonfiction aspect fit into a postmodern, PC fiction tale and I really, really appreciated that.

I thought the first person narrative was very fitting.

However for some reason, it didn’t embody any one person on a deeper level but remained surfacy to a certain extent. So most of this review is me figuring out what was lacking on that front.

The story often stayed as observational status mode. The integrity was there, but maybe the reason I felt that way was because of the approach. I imagined it was a difficult balance of interrupting the story to interject backstory, context, feeling, situations, the often difficult part of writing historical fiction.

The story encompassed a very wide time span, not only through the wars chronologically, but also through the women’s lives. Colonial Japanese occupation, suppression, family dynamics, historically speaking, there was a lot to unpack in this book.

With the coverage of so many differing eras and growth stories into one story, I found it wavering in and out. It was reflective of concrete historical events but I would have liked more emotional reflection. The end was a little more self-reflective but the attempts sounded more like a psychiatric analysis.

Instead, I wanted to grow with the characters in their journey. But maybe it was the characters that were just too polished. The main character, while at age 15, would have benefited from incomplete thoughts, fragments, something to convey either a stage or a phase in life to grow from. Or perhaps some sort of personal or physical development that would have been just as insightful and fascinating as the telling of haenyeo. She was too self aware. The dialogue reflected that, it was too polished, too square, to be as effective as it could have been.

Sometimes the story became too informative, rather than integrated into the plot. Example, there was a reference to an interaction where Mi-ja and Young-sook talked a certain way so that the other character would have the sense she was still a young girl. And that was that. Just a reference. Why not make such an interaction part of the story to gain a sense of experience from their point of view?

Perhaps I would liked to have seen something a little more here. Like an unappreciative or rebellious daughter, questioning of life as a haenyeo, perhaps being mentored by her grandmother, maybe like a coming of age story, some type of connectivity…

Maybe it was because it was too retrospective instead of bringing me into the experience at the moment. Perhaps it was just too insightful all around. I would have liked to have experienced her story first hand. I wanted to feel and discover her roots, tradition, and culture as she discovered them. There was a portrayal of deeply personal, heavy-hearted stories stories, but there was so much needed revelation and it took such a long development of time. I would have just liked to have seen growth in the way that the main character saw herself, even if the time frame was substantially shortened and certain facts had to go without saying.

I almost would have liked to have had it read like a women’s gossip group or something like a bunch of Korean women sitting around chit-chatting about life and such. Actually I honestly think one could make a dynamic cozy mystery series out of such an exhilarating group of women.

I don’t know. Maybe it was difficult not knowing exactly how to hone in on such a story because as a writer you may not really know, who your audience will be when writing a story like this. Do they know anything about the haenyeo women? How about war history? Can I provide them with the introspection to understand why the characters would choose this life knowing what they already know? Should I choose a character either an adult or young woman to better relate to a certain demographic and be happy with that? Or take them through the entire lifespan journey of womanhood and assume they will identify with certain aspects?

I loved the quotes and facts intermingled with the stories from the haenyeo but they were just put into the plot. They didn’t develop or enhance or portray something the character lacked or strived for. They were not as interwoven in the way I wanted them to be.

I think for this book I mostly enjoyed the facts, but at the same time I wanted something more character-driven because this is the tale I thought it set out to tell. The writing talent was there, but I wanted the characters to close it all in for me. I wanted a sharing of all these interesting facts suited for nonfiction but because it was cited as historical fiction, I also wanted to live it. I suppose I wanted the book to read like a fictional, accessible, creative story keeping sight of a personal message, while maintaining a certain capacity of interesting facts all at the same time.

Again, figuring out what more it was that I wanted from this book, it was just a deeper connection.

All in all, it was an amazing book and I’d highly recommend it for those interested in learning more about the haenyeo and certain aspects of Korean history.

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Categories
Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Fantasy Featured Fiction Horror Humor Mystery Thriller

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

Fried Green Tomatoes and Steel Magnolias meet Dracula in this Southern-flavored supernatural thriller set in the ’90s about a women’s book club that must protect its suburban community from a mysterious and handsome stranger who turns out to be a blood-sucking fiend.

Patricia Campbell had always planned for a big life, but after giving up her career as a nurse to marry an ambitious doctor and become a mother, Patricia’s life has never felt smaller. The days are long, her kids are ungrateful, her husband is distant, and her to-do list is never really done. The one thing she has to look forward to is her book club, a group of Charleston mothers united only by their love for true-crime and suspenseful fiction. In these meetings, they’re more likely to discuss the FBI’s recent siege of Waco as much as the ups and downs of marriage and motherhood.

But when an artistic and sensitive stranger moves into the neighborhood, the book club’s meetings turn into speculation about the newcomer. Patricia is initially attracted to him, but when some local children go missing, she starts to suspect the newcomer is involved. She begins her own investigation, assuming that he’s a Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bundy. What she uncovers is far more terrifying, and soon she–and her book club–are the only people standing between the monster they’ve invited into their homes and their unsuspecting community.

The Southern Book Club's Guide to Slaying VampiresThe Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was great. It would make an excellent book club choice.

I listened to this one as an audiobook, narrated by Bahni Turpin, which I’d highly recommend. She brought the story to life. Her voice inflection, the cadence, her cleverness in depicting each character with such distinctness even while keeping all the Southern accents straight, the expressions in tone, and her amazing ability at voice preservation, very well done.

So for the story, I really liked how the author brought me into it, into the womens’ lives, working relationships, within this Southern lifestyle of home and hospitality, and bookclub, just the icing on the cake. It was just hilarious at times, one where I thought, oh, so spot on.

I enjoyed the trajectory of the story as it unfolded, wondering how it would go, then, it was very satisfying. Of course there were times I thought, oh geez, is that just too much? Was it far from the reality of what possibly could happen/how one would react? But it didn’t matter so much because it was consistent in character, setting, circumstances, and the tone of the book, suitable for what it was to build the climactic aspects up and overall fitting and done well anyway from those aspects, if that makes sense.

I loved the writing, the truth, the perception, all of it told in a way without apology which I just love about writing that does this in such a way. Also fun, playful with bits of humor, a spot on reminiscent decade of Redbook magazine, Opium perfume, dial phones.

The accurate quirks in the sayings of the time, not only how a child/teenager would simply act, but appropriate for the age and time on such a consistent basis within each rise and flow of the plot, narrative thought, and dialogue.

I did question a few things, though not terribly distracting. Pupils would constrict in sunlight, not dilate. How a suspected rape victim would have been handled by a medical professional. How they celebrated Halloween with an incident happening that evening, but then later in the story, the continuation of the timeline, the next day was a cloudless, sunny, October day?

A really great story nonetheless. One that definitely kept me engaged the whole way through.

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Categories
Adventure Audiobooks Book Clubs Book Reviews Books Classics Featured Fiction Science Fiction

Journey to the Center of the Earth (Extraordinary Voyages #3) by Jules Verne

The intrepid Professor Liedenbrock embarks upon the strangest expedition of the nineteenth century: a journey down an extinct Icelandic volcano to the Earth’s very core. In his quest to penetrate the planet’s primordial secrets, the geologist–together with his quaking nephew Axel and their devoted guide, Hans–discovers an astonishing subterranean menagerie of prehistoric proportions. Verne’s imaginative tale is at once the ultimate science fiction adventure and a reflection on the perfectibility of human understanding and the psychology of the questor.

Journey to the Center of the Earth (Extraordinary Voyages, #3)Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was great. I read this one for Life’s Library Book Club. I enjoyed it as an audiobook, narrated by Simon Prebble.

I loved the original movie from 1959. In this book, as a new post movie read for me, I also loved how the story unfolded, though I must say it was difficult to put aside the ideas I already knew from the movie and not miss on all the nonstop action that drove the storyline home.

The story was a little slow to start though. I couldn’t wait to get to the actual journey part. The build up was important but slow from this aspect, but when it took off, the story became a little more alive to me.

I don’t think I ever remembered it taking place in Iceland, so I really appreciated all the insight into Icelandic scenery and culture.

The thought put into the science fiction aspects were my favorite part. Thoughts about lighting to view the center of the earth, taking note of how one could possibly do this in the presence of gasses. Discussion about the actual physical space, liquid or solidarity. The discussions that took place among the characters to evaluate this. I just loved all the ideas that were studied and explored.

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Categories
Audiobooks Biography Book Reviews Books Educational Featured Nonfiction

Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty by Muhammad Yunus

Muhammad Yunus is that rare thing: a bona fide visionary. His dream is the total eradication of poverty from the world. In 1983, against the advice of banking and government officials, Yunus established Grameen, a bank devoted to providing the poorest of Bangladesh with minuscule loans. Grameen Bank, based on the belief that credit is a basic human right, not the privilege of a fortunate few, now provides over 2.5 billion dollars of micro-loans to more than two million families in rural Bangladesh. Ninety-four percent of Yunus’s clients are women, and repayment rates are near 100 percent. Around the world, micro-lending programs inspired by Grameen are blossoming, with more than three hundred programs established in the United States alone.

Banker to the Poor is Muhammad Yunus’s memoir of how he decided to change his life in order to help the world’s poor. In it he traces the intellectual and spiritual journey that led him to fundamentally rethink the economic relationship between rich and poor, and the challenges he and his colleagues faced in founding Grameen. He also provides wise, hopeful guidance for anyone who would like to join him in “putting homelessness and destitution in a museum so that one day our children will visit it and ask how we could have allowed such a terrible thing to go on for so long.” The definitive history of micro-credit direct from the man that conceived of it, Banker to the Poor is necessary and inspirational reading for anyone interested in economics, public policy, philanthropy, social history, and business.

Muhammad Yunus was born in Bangladesh and earned his Ph.D. in economics in the United States at Vanderbilt University, where he was deeply influenced by the civil rights movement. He still lives in Bangladesh, and travels widely around the world on behalf of Grameen Bank and the concept of micro-credit.

Banker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World PovertyBanker to the Poor: Micro-Lending and the Battle Against World Poverty by Muhammad Yunus

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I listened to the audiobook version narrated by Ray Porter which I’d highly recommend to anyone.

Super eye-opening!

This book is all about context and I loved that the author shared his life experiences and perspective with us. The entrepreneurial spirit portrayed in this book was amazing as it expanded on the ideas of seeing a need, having vision, satisfying personal curiosity, navigation of a unique academic/career path, all in the historical context of the country of Bangladesh gaining independence, human progress, and solving issues of poverty.

I really sought out to increase my social conscience with this one. It went into detail on topics that the people of Bangladesh have faced including famine, genocide, people-centered problems, misguided development, exploitation, suppressed creativity, human trust, personal relationships, behavioral change, women borrowers, how women and men differ in the socioeconomic realm, women’s issues related to hunger and poverty, the historic insecure social standing of Bengali women, and even their resiliency in natural disasters as a country.

Issues with foreign aid, the balance of economic and social power, and discussions about the quality of life were probably my most information-gaining aspects brought forth in this book.

I found points made on addressing population issues to curtail birth rates with a fear mongering approach incredibly insightful. I liked the display of supportive statistics showing how population rates doubled yet did not reflect twice as poor, but actually much more self-sufficient trends than in past times. Efforts focusing on improving economic status and quality of life became even more interesting concepts to me given that birthrates naturally fall as women gain equality and he goes into the underlying reasons for this.

It was the type of book that puts your own thoughts into words, ones I’ve pondered while serving in the developing world. Just the phrasing made about management and not lack of resources spoke volumes to me. Even if as a reader you don’t agree with some of the political perspectives, the common point problems remain, and he points out how the consequences of poverty are the same whether the poor of Chicago or the poor of Bangladesh.

Of course with the cheering on for the Grameen Bank and concept of micro-lending that it offers, it lacked a deep critical analysis of micro-lending. The personal anecdotes and struggles against opposition were there but I would have liked to have seen an expanded chapter on opposing viewpoints from a more objective point of view. Like a discussion of limitations or integration of a counter discussion just for the sake of it. This would have helped me avoid the sales pitchy vibe I got at times, especially toward the end. There also was a tendency to be narrowly-focused on the structures of society as the reason for poverty, neglecting to mention the role of personal responsibility and accountability, which I thought would have been a great subject to bring up for completion purposes.

And all-in-all, I don’t know if some of the ideas are as black-and-white or polarizing as they seem to be either. As a result it tended to be a tad over-idealistic.

I would have also liked to have had a different approach to the organization of the book. Example, what constitutes as poor criteria was not fully defined until the end. Other parts jumped around a bit, another example, phone/internet communication issues.

This would make an excellent discussion/book club book.

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Audiobooks Biography Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Historical Fiction

No Traveller Returns by Louis L’Amour, Beau L’Amour

Louis L’Amour’s long-lost first novel, faithfully completed by his son, takes readers on a voyage into danger and violence on the high seas.
 
Fate is a ship.
 
As the shadows of World War II gather, the SS Lichenfield is westbound across the Pacific carrying eighty thousand barrels of highly explosive naphtha. The cargo alone makes the journey perilous, with the entire crew aware that one careless moment could lead to disaster.
 
But yet another sort of peril haunts the Lichenfield. Even beyond their day-to-day existence, the lives of the crew are mysteriously intertwined. Though each has his own history, dreams and jealousies, longing and rage, all are connected by a deadly web of chance and circumstance.
 
Some are desperately fleeing the past; others chase an unknown destiny. A few are driven by the desire for adventure, while their shipmates cling to the Lichenfield as their only true home. In their hearts, these men, as well as the women and children they have left behind, carry the seeds of salvation or destruction. And all of them—kind or cruel, strong or broken—are bound to the fate of the vessel that carries them toward an ever-darkening horizon.
 
Inspired by Louis L’Amour’s own experiences as a merchant seaman, No Traveller Returns is a revelatory work by a world-renowned author—and a brilliant illustration of a writer discovering his literary voice.

No Traveller ReturnsNo Traveller Returns by Louis L’Amour

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow am I developing such a deep appreciation for stories written by Louis L’Amour!

Maritime is my most favorite subgenre, so this was completely satiating for me. I listened via audiobook, narrated by Scott Brick, which I’d highly recommend.

This story was Louis L’Amour’s first novel length work which tells about the backstory of a missing ship. His work, starting circa 1938, incorporates a self-projected protagonist in a high crimes situation. His personal life was quite interesting as well, with travels and occupations that enhanced his writing, but were not solely sought out for purposes of writing the experiences which I think is distinctive. The work was carefully pieced together by his son, Beau, who was able to publish the story as a finished copy.

The prologue and epilogue were quite fascinating in themselves, particularly noting that the writing embodies a time brought to life using the referenced jargon of sailors, railway men, cowboys, soldiers, and miners, a version of English not taught in any classroom.

As far as content was concerned, it incorporated observations about the successes of civilization with an almost prophetic, philosophic, Orwellian tone. There was talk about machines and powerful statements about the projection of human behavior. The love interest and daily life of struggles and victories depicted in the story were strengthened by this.

And coming to the point where I no longer feel the need to fact check an author’s claims in a story but looking up things just to increase my knowledge is where I glean the most comfort and joy in reading a book. And I have certainly found that to be so in his writing. I had no idea that the Indy 500 existed during this time.

MY FAVORITE LINES:

“But most of all our mistakes lay in trying to live what at best was no more than a dream. We were two fortunate people. We had an idyllic moment and then proved ourselves all to human by trying to make a lifetime of it.”

“What was it Hamlet said? That undiscovered country, from who’s born no traveler returns. He was speaking of death. But is not every goodbye, every leave taking a little death? Can a man ever return quite the same as he left? We say goodbye. We leave familiar, well-loved people in places, and the days, weeks, and months pass, perhaps years, when we take the road back and finally stand where we stood before, all is strange. Our very bodies have changed, the dust of many roads, the brine of ancient seas, the air we have breathed, the food we have eaten, the wounds we have received. All these things change us. We have come back, groping in the past for something that is no longer there. A gap that nothing can fill. Old places are better left behind. Old loves better keep as memories. And as the ship steams onward into the days and nights, all that I have known and all that I have loved, I am leaving behind me…”

“She was lying there in a faded neglige reading a magazine. A box of crackers stood open on the table close by. And there were two cups, still mottled with the grounds of coffee. She sat up. A large woman with rust-colored and a heavy, sullen face. Collin looked at her a moment, looked at the stuffy, untidy room of which she was the living expression.”

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Featured Fiction Romance

Cottage by the Sea by Debbie Macomber

NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • A seaside town helps one young woman reclaim the light after darkness in an uplifting novel from #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber.

Cottage by the SeaCottage by the Sea by Debbie Macomber

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A nice beach read with a bit of deep mental and emotional exploration. I ended up converting to the audiobook version which I quite enjoyed.

It featured a classic love story with tension surrounding mental and emotional health conditions and how the characters overcame a lack of acceptance and coping. There were bits of explanation about the coping process itself which was both interesting and somewhat distracting at the same time because it took me in and out of the story, yet was also helpful at getting to the rationale of certain behaviors and thought patterns.

I loved the gardening parts of the story and the tranquil atmosphere that was created surrounding the cottage by the sea theme and the human longing for place and belonging in a relationship and peace.

There seemed to be repeats in the text itself, perhaps an oversight in the editing process. I don’t think they were intentional because they didn’t add anything to the story or help me gain better perspective or emphasis. The love story itself seemed a little juvenile for the ages that were portrayed but I did enjoy it nonetheless.

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Childrens Fantasy Featured Fiction

The Biggest Snowman Ever by Steven Kroll

When the mayor of Mouseville announces the town snowman contest, Clayton and Desmond claim that they will each make the biggest snowman ever. But building a huge snowman alone is hard! They work and work, but their snowmen just aren’t big enough.

Soon they have an idea. As the day of the contest approaches, Clayton and Desmond join forces to build the biggest snowman ever.

The Biggest Snowman EverThe Biggest Snowman Ever by Steven Kroll

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A charming, simple little story about group effort and having a good time!

I listened via audiobook which was narrated by Oliver Wyman, very fun and lively.

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Audiobooks Book Reviews Books Childrens Fantasy Featured Fiction

Clark the Shark: Lost and Found by Bruce Hale

Clark the Shark is a great read-aloud picture book, with fun rhythm and rhyme, from the ever-popular Bruce Hale and Guy Francis.

Clark the SharkClark the Shark by Bruce Hale

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The was such a cute story with a wonderful moral lesson. It also contained fascinating facts about sharks. Any child would enjoy!

I listened to the audio version of this one, narrated by Oliver Wyman, who has such a diverse, unique set of character voices, super compelling.

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