Monday, August 25, 2014

All Fall Down by Jennifer Weiner

Title: All Fall Down
Author: Jennifer Weiner
Read by: Tracee Chimo
Publisher: Simon & Shuster Audio
Length: 11 CDs, approximately 12 hours
Source: Review Copy from Simon and Shuster Audio.  Thank-you!

Allison Weiss is a wife and mother under a great deal of pressure.  Her daughter Ellie has sensitivity issues and needs a great deal of special care.  Her husband Dave has seemed distant since his job at the newspaper seems to involve more work and less pay.  With a giant house in the suburbs and Ellie enrolled in an expensive private school, Allison becomes the primary breadwinner by co-writing a successful blog.  It soon becomes apparent that Allison’s father has early Alzheimer’s and her distant mother will need help.  Allison starts taking prescription drugs to handle the stress.  Only one pill is soon not enough and she starts playing the game of who to call for prescription refills and how to get illegal drugs online.  Allison is sure that she can handle the drugs, until the day she can’t.

All Fall Down felt like a return to form for Jennifer Weiner to me.  Allison Weiss felt very real to me as a working mother with many similar thoughts and experiences (well except for the using of narcotics to cope).  I could really see how she could go down the road of using narcotics to deal with the stress, which is a little frightening in a way.  I also loved Allison’s back story of her childhood, and how that all tied in with her present situation.   The only part I questioned what Allison’s listing of how much she had to spend on expensive extra classes for Ellie, the private school, and the McMansion in the burbs.  It seemed very much beyond the income that they would realistically be bringing in, and seemed like some of the problem could have been easily solved by better financial and expectation management.  But that would have involved communication and Dave and Ellie were not so good at that at this point in their lives.

I listened to this audiobook relatively quickly as I finished out my summer days at home working in the kitchen.  Tracee Chimo seemed like she was Allison Weiss to me; her narration gave the story a great personality.

Overall, All Fall Down was a great audiobook about the stresses of being a modern day working mom, and how those stresses can take you down an unexpected road in life.  I’ve read all of Jennifer Weiner’s novels, and I felt like this was one of her best.

Nick and Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage by Science Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith

Title: Nick and Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage
Author: Science Bob Pflugfelder and Steve Hockensmith
Read by: Macleod Andrews
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Length: 4 CDs, approximately 3 hours, 47 minutes
Source: Kewaunee Public Library.  Thank-you!

We traveled to Michigan to visit my family recently and I brought this along to entertain the kids.  Kile had checked it out from the library during summer story time on robot theme day.  We didn’t realize this was the second novel in a series, but it worked out well as a standalone.  We’ve since checked out the audiobook for the first book in the series and are now enjoying it!

Nick and Tesla’s Robot Army Rampage is the story of two kids, Nick and Tesla Holt, that are staying with their Uncle Newt while their parents are away on a mysterious trip.  They unravel mysteries using everyday household objects to build robots and other contraptions.  In this particular mystery, mysterious thefts had started to occur around their town including a rare comic book that a friend needs to help his Dad save his business.  Nick and Tesla work to solve the crime, although they take a couple of wrong turns along the way.  Uncle Newt also has a love interest, a scientist who has bought the Wonder Hut and has placed robots in all of the shops in town to advertise her store.

The kids loved this audiobook and the story and wanted more when it ended.  They loved the mystery, but having robots and science inserted was also very exciting for them. It also captured their imaginations.  We listened to disc 3 while in the car with my Dad and he got into the story as well.  It contained a lot of humor which also caught both the kids and my Dad’s attention.  It was fun to hear laughter coming from the back seat as we drove around.

The narration was great, my only complaint is that the narration often directed how to build the robots and other contraptions.  The instruction booklet was not included in the CD at the library.  I’m not sure if a booklet comes with the CD or not if you purchase it.  It was missed though as the kids really wanted to look at what the narrator was referring to.

Overall, a great science, humor, and mystery series for the kids. My kids are currently two boys 8 and 6 and one 3 year old girl.  They all enjoyed it and I did as well.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Jane Austen’s First Love Review and Giveaway Winner!

I am happy to announce that Christy from Hokiecoyote Blog is the winner of a copy of Jane Austen’s First Love by Syrie James.  Christy was chosen using and was sent an email to inform her of her win.  She now has seven days to email me her mailing address or another winner will be chosen.  Congrats to Christy!

Thank-you to Penguin Books for allowing me to host the giveaway and for providing the giveaway book.  Thank-you to author Syrie James for her fascinating Guest Blog and for writing such a wonderful book.   Thank-you to all who entered the giveaway!

Jane Austen’s First Love covers a fascinating period of Jane Austen’s life.  Jane is a young girl of fifteen and her older brother Edward Austen is about to marry Miss Elizabeth Bridges.  Edward Austen had been adopted by the wealthy related Knight family when a teenage boy and made their heir.  Jane, her sister Cassandra, her brother Charles, and her mother travel to Kent to celebrate the engagement with the Knight family and also with the Bridges family at their estate Goodnestone.  While at Goodnestone, Jane meets the fascinating Edward Taylor.  Edward Taylor is a well-traveled gentleman of property that not only enjoys reading, but also a good adventure.  He seems destined for his beautiful and accomplished cousin Charlotte and Jane fears that her love is unrequited.

Jane also busies herself with trying to match the various members of the house party a la Emma Woodhouse.  She is particularly determined that bookish Mr. Lewis Cage and snob Fanny Bridges engagement be broken and Mr. Cage rematched with fellow book worm Sophia Bridges and Fanny with Mr. Cage’s friend Mr. William Deedes.  To this end, Jane convinces the house party to participate in a theatrical production of A Midsummer’s Night Dream.  This part of the novel was very reminiscent of the theatrical production in Mansfield Park.  Will everyone find their happily ever after?

I loved this novel.  It perfectly captured the time period, and the wit of Jane Austen.  I also loved how author Syrie James took a line from a letter Austen had written to her sister Cassandra, “We went by Bifrons and I contemplated with a melancholy pleasure the abode of Him, on whom I once fondly doated” and turned it into a fresh novel of Austen’s life.  This is one love of Austen’s that I have never heard of and I thought the novel was fascinating as well as a fun pleasure read.  To me it seemed as good as discovering another Austen novel that I had somehow missed.

I also enjoyed the great “Afterword” by Syrie James where she discusses her inspiration and what was true and not true about the novel.  There are also fun discussion questions if you read this novel with a book club or if like me you just like to go through the questions when you finish the book.

Overall, Jane Austen’s First Love is a fresh, fascinating look into the life of Jane Austen and a mysterious new love.  This book is for lovers of Jane Austen, historical fiction, or just a good book.

Book Source:  Review Copy from Penguin Books – Thanks!