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Silver Girl by Leslie Pietrzyk (audio)

Source: Instagram giveaway win
Audiobook; 10+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

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.

Mailbox Monday #495

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has it’s own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Leslie, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what we received:

Musing of a Netflix Binge Viewer by Kateema Lee, which I purchased after hearing the poet read from the collection pre-publication.

Kateema Lee‘s Musings of a Netflix Binge Viewer is full of surprises: sonic playfulness, encounters between pop culture icons and figures from childhood, insights spoken with a sharp tongue. These poems disarm you with familiar references and then take unexpected turns inward with the guidance of an introspective speaker. Lee tricks you into feeling wistful and then hits you with “something to cut the bullshit.” These poems are skillfully dark. From page one, this collection orients you within the disorienting experience of having too many choices, but Lee’s wild imagination knows exactly what to do with them. –Jonterri Gadson, author of Pepper Girl and Blues Triumphant

In “Musings of a Netflix Binge Viewer”, Kateema Lee streams poems, image by image, where pop-culture meets the reality of daily life. She explores “the imported sparkling water in a long-stemmed glass”. Lee is a poet juggling contemporary Netflix culture with humor and charm.
–Naoko Fujimoto, The winner of Oro Fino Chapbook Competition, “Home, No Home”

Even in moments as mundane as binge-watching prime-time dramas, we find ourselves interrogating the current states of our lives. In Musings of a Netflix Binge Viewer, Kateema Lee’s poems speak through the ambient sounds of the late-night television screen, offering deceptively quiet musings on love, loneliness, and grief. And, in the breaks, creatures of nature and myth appear, serving as apt metaphors for a mind flipping through the myriad channels of its existence. Although Musings couches the bulk of its activities in the passive—watching television, observing women in public, or petting a dead father’s cats—it is a complex work that begs of us to look beyond the veneer of the ordinary and into the many frequencies of ourselves, the myriad ways in which we remain unknown and unseen to everyone around us. –Destiny Birdsong, Poet, MFA, PhD

The Frame-Up by Meghan Scott Molin, which came as a surprise in the mail.

MG Martin lives and breathes geek culture. She even works as a writer for the comic book company she idolized as a kid. But despite her love of hooded vigilantes, MG prefers her comics stay on the page.

But when someone in LA starts recreating crime scenes from her favorite comic book, MG is the LAPD’s best—and only—lead. She recognizes the golden arrow left at the scene as the calling card of her favorite comic book hero. The thing is…superheroes aren’t real. Are they?

When too-handsome-for-his-own-good Detective Kildaire asks for her comic book expertise, MG is more than up for the adventure. Unfortunately, MG has a teeny little tendency to not follow rules. And her off-the-books sleuthing may land her in a world of trouble.

Because for every superhero, there is a supervillain. And the villain of her story may be closer than she thinks…

Nevertheless We Persisted essays with a foreword from Amy Klobuchar for review from the publisher.

“Aren’t you a terrorist?” “There are no roles for people who look like you.” “That’s a sin.” “No girls allowed.” They’ve heard it all. Actress Alia Shawkat reflects on all the parts she was told she was too “ethnic” to play. Former NFL player Wade Davis recalls his bullying of gay classmates in an attempt to hide his own sexuality. Teen Gavin Grimm shares the story that led to the infamous “bathroom bill,” and how he’s fighting it. Holocaust survivor Fanny Starr tells of her harrowing time in Aushwitz, where she watched her family disappear, one by one.

What made them rise up through the hate? What made them overcome the obstacles of their childhood to achieve extraordinary success? How did they break out of society’s limited view of who they are and find their way to the beautiful and hard-won lives they live today? With a foreword by Minnesota senator and up-and-coming Democratic party leader Amy Klobuchar, these essays share deeply personal stories of resilience, faith, love, and, yes, persistence.

Walk to Run One Mile by Jaime McFaden free from Audible until Sept. 5.

Brand new to running? Tackle that first mile with the help of expert Aaptiv trainer and fitness industry veteran Jaime McFaden.

Achieving a new goal is all about taking the first step and with the help of certified personal trainer Jaime McFaden those first steps will lead to a successful first mile. In this four-week program you’ll complete 20 total classes in outdoor running, treadmill, strength, and stretching. These workouts are designed to increase your physical stamina and mental toughness. Each class is 25 minutes or less so you can train even on your busiest days.

Jaime’s encouraging and inspiring training style will have you feeling strong and confident.

The Secrets of Darcy and Elizabeth by Victoria Kincaid purchased from Audible.

What if Darcy and Elizabeth were plunged into the war between England and France?

It is 1803, and a treaty has allowed England and France to enjoy a brief moment of peace in the midst of the Napoleonic wars.

Darcy is despondent over Elizabeth’s refusal of his proposal at Hunsford, so Colonel Fitzwilliam proposes a trip to Paris as a distraction. At a ball, Darcy unexpectedly encounters Elizabeth, who is visiting Paris with the Gardiners. He sees this as his opportunity to court Elizabeth properly and rectify past mistakes.

Before he can make much progress, however, England declares war again, and Darcy must help Elizabeth flee France. As they make their way to the coast, Elizabeth and Darcy must battle brigands, French soldiers, illness, and their own mutual attraction – all without a chaperone.

When they return to England, Elizabeth and Darcy have their own secrets to conceal – even from those closest to them.

The Keeper: Mary Bennet’s Extraordinary Journey by Don Jacobson purchased from Audible.

Lizzy gripped Mary’s hands and began her speech.

“Now is the time for you. Heal now. Future only, my dearest sister.”

Mary Bennet has spent her entire life fighting to be herself. If only she knew just what that was. For years she buried her nose in the musty musing of Fordyce’s Sermons to Young Women, trying to be exceptional. She hid her light brown eyes – and herself – behind useless spectacles.

With both Jane and Lizzy married, it is time for Miss Bennet to emerge from her cocoon. Learn how a young woman of deep faith and inquisitive mind emerges. Yet, even as Mary Bennet overcomes her troubled teenage years, she is challenged by her sudden and total love for a man who mysteriously appears on the night of a great calamity. And his secret grows out of a remarkable device – the Bennet Wardrobe!

The Keeper follows the life of Mary Bennet as she matures from the prosy, moralizing caricature found in Jane Austen’s classic Pride and Prejudice into a confident young woman looking to make her mark in the rapidly changing world of the Industrial Revolution. And discover how the amazing Bennet Wardrobe makes life interesting for all Bennets.

What did you receive?

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

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

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
I am an Amazon Affiliate

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.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 10+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls, narrated by the author, was our April book club selection. This memoir will have you wondering where child services was for most of Jeannette’s life. Her parents, Rex and Rose Mary Walls, had three other children and were often negligent in their parenting, and even dangerous — placing their kids directly in dangerous situations or failing to prevent them from being in such places. The family moved a lot in the early days until her mother inherited some money that would have allowed them to live comfortably if budgeted well, but as her parents were very bohemian, practicality was outside their comfort zone.

Each child in this family was forced to find their own way to cope and survive, and some did so better than others. In many cases, the children went their separate ways, but there were times when they defended on another from their parents and from those willing to abuse them. Clinging to one another was an option, but eventually, West Virginia’s harsh landscape and judgment on outsiders forced the older children to seek their fortunes in New York City.

Walls has some tales to tell and many of them sound like they couldn’t possibly be true — did she really cook hotdogs by herself at age 3? While I wonder about the recollection of some events, I see that her point is not the chronology but the need for her to survive on her own most of the time, even though she had both parents at home. The kids acted more like adults on some occasions and when the kids called them out for it, they were punished because they were expected to respect their elders no matter what.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls at is core is a story of hope and survival. Walls should be commended for her bravery in speaking about her childhood, especially after hiding it for so long as she climbed the ladder in the world of journalism. Well written and engaging, this is a memoir that will have you regretting anytime you fought with your less bohemian parents.

RATING: Quatrain

What the Book Club Thought:

Everyone finished the book and thought the writing was very fluid. They were appalled by how the Walls’ children were treated by their parents and how the mother and father neglected their responsibilities on so many levels. There were moments in the book where some members wanted more information, particularly about the youngest child, but agreed that maybe Jeannette did not have memories of her youngest sister’s plight beyond what she wrote. This book was well discussed and raised a lot of issue as to whether the parents had an over-arching philosophy for how they lived their lives or whether it was merely selfishness. Very good discussion book.

About the Author:

Jeannette Walls is a writer and journalist. Born in Phoenix, Arizona, she graduated with honors from Barnard College, the women’s college affiliated with Columbia University. She published a bestselling memoir, The Glass Castle, in 2005.

And Only to Deceive by Tasha Alexander (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 10+ hours
I am an Amazon Affiliate

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***

Mailbox Monday #464

Mailbox Monday, created by Marcia at To Be Continued, formerly The Printed Page, has a permanent home at its own blog. To check out what everyone has received over the last week, visit the blog and check out the links. Leave yours too.

Also, each week, Leslie, Martha, and I will share the Books that Caught Our Eye from everyone’s weekly links.

Here’s what we received:

We Are Legion [We Are Bob] by Dennis E. Taylor, which I ordered with Audible credits for our January book club pick.

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.

What did you receive?

Jane & Me: My Austen Heritage by Caroline Jane Knight (Audio)

Source: publicist
Audible; 8+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Jane & Me: My Austen Heritage by Caroline Jane Knight, narrated by Alison Larkin, is a memoir of one of the last people to live in Chawton House — the home of Jane Austen — as part of a family.  Knight peppers her family stories with historical notes from the ancestors, the letters, and the stories she heard as a child, but she also incorporates the words of Jane Austen from her novels at the most opportune moments.  Readers will be delighted to learn how elements from her books were taken straight from her family’s experiences.

From the beginning readers know that Knight was forced from her home at age 17 due to financial distress.  You can imagine how being forced from an ancestral home would be disconcerting and lead her to distance herself from Jane Austen. But readers will want to learn how her life comes full circle and leads to the creation of the Jane Austen Literacy Foundation.

Jane & Me: My Austen Heritage by Caroline Jane Knight, narrated by Alison Larkin, provides a unique look at Jane Austen’s ancestors and explores how family members many years removed can carry some of the same traits and interests.  Knight is a curious woman who loves to weave stories about her family members with those of Austen’s novels and real life.  She mirrors Jane’s streak of independence, which readers have found so compelling about Elizabeth Bennet.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Caroline Jane Knight shares more than Jane Austen’s name and DNA. As a direct descendant of Jane’s brother, Edward Knight, Caroline is the last of the Austen Knight family to grow up at Chawton House on the estate where her fifth great-aunt Jane Austen lived and enjoyed the most productive period of her writing career. Caroline explored the same places around Chawton House and its grounds as Jane did, dined at the same table in the same dining room, read in the same library and shared the same dream of independence.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 8+ hrs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah is narrated by the author and is a look back at his childhood in South Africa while it was under apartheid and after.  He is the child of a black mother and a white father, and under apartheid he was classified as colored alongside the Indians, Chinese, and others that were neither black nor white.  Being born colored was a crime because white and black people were not supposed to procreate.  But beyond only the complex and illogical thinking that is apartheid and racism, in general, Noah’s life was anything but plush.  His mother loved him and he loved his mother, but tough love was the order of the day given the fact that his parents had broken the law to have him in the first place. I knew little about this nation other than Nelson Mandela was there in jail for a long time and that whites somehow controlled an entire country of black people (I really couldn’t wrap my head around it as a child or even now).

Noah’s religious mother believed that Jesus could cure any ill and help her through any challenge, but he did not.  Many stories involve them arguing about the role of Jesus and God like lawyers.  At one point, they were arguing in a series of letters.  Despite the tough love and the arguments about religion, Noah seems to have reconciled those actions with her good intentions.  Many of these stories help to establish a line he has drawn between the tough love she showed him and the beatings he received from his step-father later in life.  Readers looking for information on South Africa and apartheid will find some of that here, but this is a memoir about how that regime and its consequences not only shaped the lives of others, but also that of Noah (as well as how he was treated by others).  His adaptability to certain situations and cultures is a credit to his own ability to puzzle out how best to survive in this barbed world.

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah is funny, heart-warming, sad, and infuriating.  Like many young men, he chooses the wrong path to make money and get ahead, but he also learns a great deal from his own mistakes. One tragedy clearly shaped the narrative of this letter; it is like a love letter to his mother and how they grew together as a family despite the external challenges they faced.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Trevor Noah is a South African comedian, television and radio host and actor. He currently hosts The Daily Show, a late-night television talk show on Comedy Central.