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But Seriously by John McEnroe (audio)

Source: Purchased from Audible
Audiobook, 8+ hours
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But Seriously by John McEnroe, narrated by the former tennis star, is a look at his life as a tennis commentator and in television, among other things. This is his second memoir, and I caution that I have not read the first one, You Cannot Be Serious. The introduction to this memoir from his current wife, Patty Smyth, is delightful, and I almost wanted more of her.

I thoroughly enjoyed his recaps of his rivalry with Bjorn Borg and his perspective on some of tennis’ current greats, Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer, as well as Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Pete Sampras. He does talk about the Williams sisters but not as in depth. The tennis aspects of the story are melded (sometimes not well) with his adventures in television and outside the tennis world — including his own talk show. It was also fascinating to learn about his stint as an art dealer and buyer.

Because the narrative jumps around quite a bit, McEnroe’s memoir feels like it could have used some editing, particularly when he repeats things previously said in other chapters. It is clear from this memoir that he clearly still loves the game of tennis, and even though he’s no longer playing competitively, he still gets out on the court from time to time for charity or to just play around. His love of the game is apparent, especially when he comments on major tournaments.

But Seriously by John McEnroe still loves being the center of attention and commands that attention when he’s on the sidelines, in the commentator’s box, or even in charity events. His temper may have mellowed, but he’s still passionate about the sport and a number of other things. The memoir just suffered a bit from his inability to stay on one track or at least connect his train of thought better.

RATING: Tercet

Giveaway & Review: Pride & Proposals by Victoria Kincaid (audio)

Source: the author
Audible, 9+ hours
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**There will be an Audible giveaway**

Pride and Proposals by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Erin Evans-Walker, places Mr. Darcy in an untenable situation, his Elizabeth engaged to Colonel Fitzwilliam. How can he reconcile the loss of the woman he loves to his beloved cousin and his need to see her happy? Could he endure it in silence? Would he run away? Would he fight to win her?

Elizabeth is unaware of Darcy’s feelings and seems to love Colonel Fitzwilliam and their like manners and easy way with one another makes their pairing endearing, even as Darcy is thrown into despair. Erin Evans-Walker does a commendable job of narrating the story, though there are moments where she makes Darcy seem very angry where the author may not have intended. There are moments where the action stalls and Darcy drinks overly much and scenes seem to repeat sentiments already expressed — Darcy’s despair at his loss of Elizabeth or Elizabeth commenting on how puzzling Darcy’s behavior is. While I love an independent Lizzy, I do wish she was a bit softer in this one, at least toward Darcy.

The entrance of Wickham kicked up the plot and made it much more engaging. Wickham is even more evil in this variation, and that makes the results of his machinations all the more satisfying. Pride and Proposals by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Erin Evans-Walker, is a bumpy ride of loss for both Darcy and Elizabeth. An early death, a life as a wealthier single lady targeted by Wickham, and Darcy still unable to articulate his feelings, make this version a roller-coaster ride of emotion.  Darcy in this version is a bit tough to take and Elizabeth is a bit obtuse, though her struggle with her feelings for Darcy and Colonel Fitzwilliam are genuine.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

The author of numerous best-selling Pride and Prejudice variations, historical romance writer Victoria Kincaid has a Ph.D. in English literature and runs a small business, er, household with two children, a hyperactive dog, an overly affectionate cat, and a husband who is not threatened by Mr. Darcy. They live near Washington DC, where the inhabitants occasionally stop talking about politics long enough to complain about the traffic.

On weekdays she is a freelance writer/editor who specializes in IT marketing (it’s more interesting than it sounds) and teaches business writing. A lifelong Austen fan, Victoria has read more Jane Austen variations and sequels than she can count – and confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. Visit her website. View her blog, visit her on Facebook, GoodReads, and on Amazon.

GIVEAWAY:

For those who wish to enter the giveaway, there will be 2 winners. One will receive an Audible of  Pride and Proposals and the other will receive The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth

Leave a comment and email below and a winner will be selected on Oct. 25, 2018, at 11:59 PM EST.

Good Luck!

The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth by Victoria Kincaid (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 10+ hours
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The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is a variation in which Darcy and Elizabeth find they have a second chance to get to know one another in France after a disastrous proposal at Hunsford. There’s a brief lapse in the tensions between England and France, allowing the English to take holidays in France.

Here, Darcy is trying to escape his embarrassment and the loss of the woman he loves, as Colonel Fitzwilliam tempts him with parties and outings in France. Unexpectedly, he runs into Elizabeth at a ball as the Gardiners take her on holiday in France, while her uncle conducts business. Will this be a moment for Darcy to redeem himself in her eyes, or will he have to accept that she is still angry and not interested in him?

Kincaid places her characters in untenable situations, especially when Darcy and Elizabeth have to pretend they are barely acquainted when back in England thanks to Lydia and other scandalous activities of family members on both sides. Darcy is hard-pressed to keep Elizabeth happy, even as his jealousy almost reveals every secret they hold from their weeks in France before they were forced to flee when England declares war.

Zimmerman is an excellent narrator for both male and female characters. She embodies their different stations in society and their personalities well. The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Stevie Zimmerman, is a delightful story, even if it presses the bounds of society’s rules. There are moments where purists will shake their heads, but others will thoroughly enjoy these improprieties.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

The author of numerous best-selling Pride and Prejudice variations, historical romance writer Victoria Kincaid has a Ph.D. in English literature and runs a small business, er, household with two children, a hyperactive dog, an overly affectionate cat, and a husband who is not threatened by Mr. Darcy. They live near Washington DC, where the inhabitants occasionally stop talking about politics long enough to complain about the traffic.

On weekdays she is a freelance writer/editor who specializes in IT marketing (it’s more interesting than it sounds) and teaches business writing. A lifelong Austen fan, Victoria has read more Jane Austen variations and sequels than she can count – and confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. Visit her website. View her blog, visit her on Facebook, GoodReads, and on Amazon.

The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 17+ hours
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The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery, narrated by Barbara Caruso, was our September book club selection (unfortunately, I missed the meeting). Aurelia is a young girl who lives with her housekeeper mother in a Catholic school until her mother falls ill before they are set to embark with her uncle to Japan. Without her mother, she becomes despondent and longs for a home, but her uncle, a priest, is less equipped to provide that for her, even in Japan. When a fire rips through the area, Aurelia is alone and hiding in the grounds of the Shin family when the daughter, Yakako, finds her. She’s soon adopted into the family, less as a daughter and more as a servant.

Tea ceremonies are the life blood of the Shin family, but in the late-nineteenth century, the nation faces a number of political changes. Even though she is young and eventually reaches puberty in the Shin family, she becomes integral to the household and feels more at home with them than those from the West. There are still moments where she stumbles, unsure of the customs and eager to indulge Yakako’s need for freedom, until they paint themselves into a corner with her father.

Caruso’s voice is a perfect fit for a novel about tea ceremonies in Japan, a ritual only executed by men. Like many women in Japanese society, their actions are based on ceremony and deference to the men in their lives — a father and a husband — but even then, they can find small comforts among themselves. Aurelia is no different. There is much hard work, conflict with the father, and anxiety due to the changes in Japan — a westernization that could brush aside the importance of tea ceremonies.

There are moments when readers will have to suspend disbelief — how can Aurelia (Urako) learn about Japan from books in 1866? Or learn the language to make it passable just from those books and a cook on the ship over — but the interactions of Aurelia with her protector Yakako are delightful as they navigate the differences in their cultures and misunderstandings. But the narrative gets bogged down in the historical detail, leaving readers wondering what the point of it all is and why they didn’t just pick up a history book instead.

The Teahouse Fire by Ellis Avery, narrated by Barbara Caruso, spans about 40 years and much of the Shin family’s time is spent decrying the modernization and westernization of Japan, which is reasonable given the dedication the family has to tea ceremonies. However, Aurelia seems to merely be an observer in her life most of the time, doing little to grow other than what her benefactors tell her. A well-researched and written novel, but the plot and characters plod along in what seems to be merely a history lesson from the eyes of a westerner thrust into a the role of imposter as the Shin family adopts her as their own servant. Her return home is less than climatic.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

The only writer ever to have received the American Library Association Stonewall Award for Fiction twice, Ellis Avery is the author of two novels, a memoir, and a book of poetry. Her novels, The Last Nude (Riverhead 2012) and The Teahouse Fire (Riverhead 2006) have also received Lambda, Ohioana, and Golden Crown awards, and her work has been translated into six languages. She teaches fiction writing at Columbia University and out of her home in the West Village.

Silver Girl by Leslie Pietrzyk (audio)

Source: Instagram giveaway win
Audiobook; 10+ hours
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Silver Girl by Leslie Pietrzyk, narrated by Cassandra Morris, is a startling and uncomfortable novel about female friendship between an unnamed narrator from a small Iowa town and a poor family and a rich girl, Jess, in college in Chicago.What would it be like to escape a suffocating small town where nothing happens and where the only things that happen are dark and unsatisfying? Can you escape the past?

The narrative is disjointed and jumps in time – back-and-forth – as she strives to make sense of what happened. There is so much desire here — a need to belong, a need to be more, get more, and see more — and in many ways that desire takes over all rational thought and leads the narrator astray on more than one occasion. She’s a hard character to like, and in some ways you won’t. She’s striving to fill deep holes within herself, and her holes go deeper than any canyon the shallow, rich girl she rooms with could imagine.

Set during the 80s and the Tylenol poisonings in Chicago, the narrator shifts from the uncertainty in her own life to the investigations, mirroring her paranoia about someone finding out that she does not belong at this upper crust college. For all her talk about herself and her family, she fails to realize that even her roommate’s family is as screwed up as hers. As she strives to hide her true self and her home life from her roommate, she spends a lot of time judging Jess and those she encounters at school.

Silver Girl by Leslie Pietrzyk is a complex story about social class, female friendship, and feels like Plath’s Bell Jar with a main character spiraling out of control emotionally.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Leslie Pietrzyk is the author of the novel Silver Girl, released in February 2018 by Unnamed Press, and called “profound, mesmerizing, and disturbing” in a Publishers Weekly starred review. Her collection of unconventionally linked short stories, This Angel on My Chest, won the 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Kirkus Reviews named it one of the 16 best story collections of the year, Her previous novels are Pears on a Willow Tree and A Year and a Day. Short fiction and essays have appeared/are forthcoming in Southern Review, Ploughshares, Gettysburg Review, Hudson Review, The Sun, Shenandoah, Arts & Letters, River Styx, Iowa Review, Washingtonian, The Collagist, Cincinnati Review, TriQuarterly, New England Review, Salon, Washingtonian, and the Washington Post Magazine. She has received fellowships from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference and the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. Pietrzyk is a member of the core fiction faculty at the Converse low-residency MFA program and often teaches in the MA Program in Writing at Johns Hopkins University. Raised in Iowa, she now lives in Alexandria, Virginia. Visit her website.

How the Elephant Got Its Trunk and Other Wild Animal Stories by Rudyard Kipling (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 4+ hours
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How the Elephant Got Its Trunk and Other Wild Animal Stories by Rudyard Kipling, narrated by Virginia McKenna, is a delightful rendition of Kipling’s Just So Stories, which provide imaginative answers to simple questions, like how did the elephant get its long trunk?

In the first story in the collection, a curious elephant drives his parents crazy with his incessant questions and curiosities, until they and his other relatives send him away on his own to find out the answer to a question he’s asked. Kipling’s stories have a dark lining too them, but they also have a fantastical and humorous way of looking at the world.

McKenna narrates as a mother would to her child, engaging them with the vivid animal kingdom’s cast of characters — good and bad, king and ferocious. Her voice undulates as the stories unwind.

How the Elephant Got Its Trunk and Other Wild Animal Stories by Rudyard Kipling, narrated by Virginia McKenna, would be even more delightful to listen to with a full-color book to share with your children. Vivid imagery like the sunset cover of this Audible version attests to how well these stories could be rendered in color and illustration. Thoroughly enjoyable world of animals and the simple questions asked by children.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English journalist, short-story writer, poet, and novelist. He was born in India, which inspired much of his work.

Mr. Darcy to the Rescue by Victoria Kincaid (audio)

Source: the author
Audiobook, 5+ hours
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Mr. Darcy to the Rescue by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Emma Lysy, is the audio version on Kincaid’s delightful re-imagining. I’ve reviewed the paperback version previously and found it delightful. Unlike traditional tropes in which women need to be captured from dire circumstances, Kincaid creates a scenario in which Darcy does ride to Elizabeth’s rescue, but soon finds that he is the one in need of rescuing.

Lysy is a wonderful narrator; she pulls her listeners into the story as she takes on the roles of Lady Catherine, Mr. Darcy, Mr. Collins, and Elizabeth. Her inflections and intonations, effectively capture the mood of each scene and the emotions of Kincaid’s characters.

I loved revisiting Kincaid’s version of an in-love Darcy and an Elizabeth caught up in the horrifying reality of her decision to marry Mr. Collins. Mr. Darcy to the Rescue by Victoria Kincaid, narrated by Emma Lysy, is just delightful on audio.

***Please do check out the guest post from Victoria on the rescue trope found in many romance novels.***

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

The author of numerous best-selling Pride and Prejudice variations, historical romance writer Victoria Kincaid has a Ph.D. in English literature and runs a small business, er, household with two children, a hyperactive dog, an overly affectionate cat, and a husband who is not threatened by Mr. Darcy. They live near Washington DC, where the inhabitants occasionally stop talking about politics long enough to complain about the traffic.

On weekdays she is a freelance writer/editor who specializes in IT marketing (it’s more interesting than it sounds) and teaches business writing. A lifelong Austen fan, Victoria has read more Jane Austen variations and sequels than she can count – and confesses to an extreme partiality for the Colin Firth version of Pride and Prejudice. Visit her website. View her blog, visit her on Facebook, GoodReads, and on Amazon.

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russel Hochschild (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 11+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russel Hochschild, narrated by Suzanne Toren, was our book club selection for February, but I missed this meeting as well. Hochschild focuses on communities in rural Louisiana to learn more about the Right and how they come to hold somewhat contrary beliefs about the government and what it should do and how it is not helping them. Her main focus was on environmental pollution, which helped her keep the study narrower, though I’m sure more issues affect the decisions of voters identifying with the Tea Party and the conservative Right.

Many of these conservative right leaning citizens of the United States seem to be motivated by taxes, faith, and honor, she says, as well as their own personal wishes. Part of the paradox is that while some see the need for regulations to say protect the environment and themselves from toxic pollutants, they also distrust the government. Additionally, these locally rooted people view Washington, D.C., as too far away, and many believe the federal government has taken away their local identities.

Hochschild also postulates that much of the issue stems from the loss of the Confederate South’s honor and the imposition of the North’s values on the South after the Civil War and during the Civil Rights Movement. Now the Tea Party has tapped into the need for honor with those who, even though poor and struggling, identify with the rich “plantation” owners and want an end to government handouts for those they see as “cutting in line.” Many of those line cutters are strangers and the government helps them but not you, and then you are viewed as “backward,” many of these Louisianans say. In many ways, her study suggests that the Rich are seceding from the Poor, even though many of the people she talked to are not wealthy at all.

In the election process, President Donald Trump become a totem that unifies the Right and provides them with a focus on their own improvement and lifting them up from their own emotional quagmire. The hats, signs, and branding push them together in an uplifting way, while pushing out the “other,” who the groups see as “line cutters.” The rallies also freed the Right from “feeling rules” that these people saw as imposed on them by the liberal North.

Rather than consider themselves as victims, they often take pride in their struggles, no matter how emotional draining it is. They tend to view their world optimistically — they look forward — and often trust the free market to do the right thing, even though research shows companies tend not to protect workers, the environment, or other aspects of society. Telling in the book is how Blue states benefit from the lax regulations of Red states, enabling them to reap the benefits of products produced without having the waste/pollution in their own backyard.

Strangers in Their Own Land: Anger and Mourning on the American Right by Arlie Russel Hochschild, narrated by Suzanne Toren, may offer a depressing view of the Right and their own paradoxes, but the book offers a sense of hope that the “empathy” wall can be overcome through conversation and practical cooperation. Although there were some repetitive pieces in this book and judgment peppered throughout, readers will find it informative as to why President Trump spoke to these people who felt like strangers in America, even though they were born here. As the media and political pundits and speakers push for division, the best medicine for democracy is cooperation and compromise — the middle ground.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Arlie Russell Hochschild is one of the most influential sociologists of her generation. She is the author of nine books, including The Second Shift, The Time Bind, The Managed Heart, The Outsourced Self, and Strangers in Their Own Land (The New Press). Three of her books have been named as New York Times Notable Books of the Year and her work appears in sixteen languages. The winner of the Ulysses Medal as well as Guggenheim and Mellon grants, she lives in Berkeley, California.

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 10+ hours
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And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander, which was our book club selection for March, is narrated by Kate Reading and is the first in a series of Lady Emily mystery novels set in Victorian England. Lady Emily is a woman ahead of her time, interested in being free to do as she pleases without the constraints placed on her by society. Her marriage to Philip, the Viscount Ashton, comes quickly as she locks horns with her mother, who like Mrs. Bennet in Pride & Prejudice is eager to marry of her daughter to a man of great fortune.

Following her husbands fatal trip to Africa on safari, Lady Emily finds herself engrossed in his journals, learning more about her husband than she did during their short courtship and marriage. She’s fallen in love with him, as she never expected she would, but what she discovers could render his reputation and hers asunder. She embarks on an unconventional journey to uncover the truth, even if it means her husband is less honorable than she believed.

Alexander’s historical fiction is delightful with its colorful characters, red herrings, and societal constraints. Lady Emily has more wealth than other women would at this time, and her antics are a little less shocking in Victorian society than they otherwise would be, though her mother would disagree with me. The allusions to Mrs. Bennet are strong, but not quite as funny as the Mrs. Bennet in Austen’s novel. Lady Emily’s mother is a bit more grating on the nerves, but probably because she is only seen from Lady Emily’s point of view.

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander is engaging, and I’d be interested to see what happens to Lady Emily in the second book and whether she warms up to marriage again later in her life. Living a life of independence, however, is something she’s not likely to let go of without some serious incentive.

Book Club:

Unfortunately, I missed the meeting for this book, as I had not finished it in time and have found myself extraordinarily busy with work, moving, and adjusting to home life changes.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

The daughter of two philosophy professors, Tasha Alexander grew up surrounded by books. She was convinced from an early age that she was born in the wrong century and spent much of her childhood under the dining room table pretending it was a covered wagon. Even there, she was never without a book in hand and loved reading and history more than anything. Alexander studied English Literature and Medieval History at the University of Notre Dame. Writing is a natural offshoot of reading, and my first novel, And Only to Deceive, was published in 2005. She’s the author of the long-running Lady Emily Series as well as the novel Elizabeth: The Golden Age.

Dead Men Can’t Complain and Other Stories by Peter Clines (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 4+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Dead Men Can’t Complain and Other Stories by Peter Clines, narrated by Ralph Lister and Ray Porter, thrusts listeners into a surreal world in which lizard men are interrogated by police and travel through time and in which zombies seek full human rights even though they are dead and could possibly begin eating living human beings.

Clines’ stories are highly imaginative and often rely on tropes from science fiction, but he twists them into his own inventions that leave readers considering ethical issues and more. Science fiction fans will enjoy this set of stories, but so too will those who can suspend their disbelief and have never read a “space” novel. He twists the tales of Jacob Marley and Superman to make them his own, and these stories are highly entertaining and clever.

Generally, short story collections are books that readers dip in and out of, but in the case of Clines’ book, readers will be hooked and keep reading until they’ve finished. Each story is unique and the characters are dynamic and fleshed out, but the stories are complete and do not leave readers hanging or wanting a resolution that doesn’t come. These stories encapsulate these worlds neatly and completely.

Dead Men Can’t Complain and Other Stories by Peter Clines, narrated by Ralph Lister and Ray Porter, is delightful, disturbing, and fun. Readers will be hooked and may even explore other “sci-fi” or apocalyptic books about zombies or aliens or superheroes.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Peter Clines grew up in the Stephen King fallout zone of Maine and–inspired by comic books, Star Wars, and Saturday morning cartoons–started writing at the age of eight with his first epic novel, LIZARD MEN FROM THE CENTER OF THE EARTH.

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor

Source: Audible
Audio; 9+ hours
I am an Amazon affiliate

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor, narrated by Ray Porter, which was our January book club selection, is a science fiction novel with humor.  I’m not even going to attempt to recap the plot of this hot mess. Think Star Trek with a bunch of star date logs that jump from one Bob to another version of Bob, who has had to rename himself to reduce confusion. This confusion comes not from the fact that Bob replicates himself to complete this inane mission, but from the constant back and forth in time and between characters.

There were moments of humor, but most of it was forced with the narrator believing his jokes were funny and trying to convince the reader that the jokes are funny. The most interesting parts of the novel that raised moral and ethical questions were quick to pass and more time was spent on stupid missions or arguing between Bobs and other characters or even between themselves.

The beginning in which Bob originally finds his brain had been sold to a company 100+ years before and then was used to turn him into an AI was intriguing.  He had to learn to navigate his new environment, its restrictions, its politics, and the fact that his past would be that — in the past. Once launched into space, the only other part of the novel worth exploring is when a planet with inhabitants is reached and the AI must decide whether to play god or allow a species to certainly perish.

We Are Legion (We Are Bob) by Dennis E. Taylor was too disjointed and lacked a purpose — with the only plot line carrying the story being the search for a new planet for a human race that may be no more. In all honestly, I had 2 hours left of the audio and I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it.

RATING: Epitaph

GoodReads Synopsis:

Bob Johansson has just sold his software company and is looking forward to a life of leisure. There are places to go, books to read, and movies to watch. So it’s a little unfair when he gets himself killed crossing the street.

Bob wakes up a century later to find that corpsicles have been declared to be without rights, and he is now the property of the state. He has been uploaded into computer hardware and is slated to be the controlling AI in an interstellar probe looking for habitable planets. The stakes are high: no less than the first claim to entire worlds. If he declines the honor, he’ll be switched off, and they’ll try again with someone else. If he accepts, he becomes a prime target. There are at least three other countries trying to get their own probes launched first, and they play dirty.

The safest place for Bob is in space, heading away from Earth at top speed. Or so he thinks. Because the universe is full of nasties, and trespassers make them mad – very mad

About the Author:

Dennis Taylor is a computer programmer by day, a writer by night, and a snowboarder when in season. He’s read science fiction for many years, and has written his own.

***Book club seemed to enjoy this***

Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir by Amy Tan

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 12 CDs
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Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir by Amy Tan, read by the author and Daniel Halpern, includes not only past experiences with her siblings, her mother, and her father, but also editorial notes and emails between herself and her editor as she struggles to write a book about writing — a book the ends up being a memoir of a writer.

Readers take a journey with Tan through memorabilia and letters between herself and her mother. It is an emotionally read memoir, with deeply sad losses from her childhood and her own internalized memories of slights she received from her parents.  Imagine how children view our comments and reactions to their behaviors; Tan makes a study of those things in her memoir as she strives to assess her own writing and her own quirks as a writer.

Through her creative reflections on her past and her own writing process for The Valley of Amazement and other books, readers are given a glimpse into her life, her emotional baggage, her forward thinking perspective on women and their accomplishments, and her devastation over the recent election. Do not think she’s overly political here, because it is more about her emotional reflections on those events and how she perceived her parents would have voted.

Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir by Amy Tan, read by the author and Daniel Halpern, is a valley of amazement all its own, and readers of her novels will enjoy learning about her struggles with her parental relationships, the secrets she uncovers and speculates about, and her emotional confessions about it all.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Amy Tan is an American writer whose works explore mother-daughter relationships and what it means to grow up as a first generation Asian American. In 1993, Tan’s adaptation of her most popular fiction work, The Joy Luck Club, became a commercially successful film.

She has written several other books, including The Kitchen God’s Wife, The Hundred Secret Senses, and The Bonesetter’s Daughter, and a collection of non-fiction essays entitled The Opposite of Fate: A Book of Musings. Her most recent book, Saving Fish From Drowning, explores the tribulations experienced by a group of people who disappear while on an art expedition into the jungles of Burma. In addition, Tan has written two children’s books: The Moon Lady (1992) and Sagwa, The Chinese Siamese Cat (1994), which was turned into an animated series airing on PBS. She has also appeared on PBS in a short spot on encouraging children to write.

Currently, she is the literary editor for West, Los Angeles Times’ Sunday magazine.