Thursday, February 23, 2017

Pride and Prejudice with Songs from Regency England by Jane Austen, Read by Alison Larkin



Title: Pride and Prejudice with Songs from Regency England
Author: Jane Austen
Read by:  Alison Larkin
Publisher: British Classic Audio
Length: Approximately 13 hours and 29 minutes
Source: Review Copy from author Alison Larkin - Thank-you!

A perfect book for the Valentine’s Day holiday this month, Pride and Prejudice is one of the most romantic novels that have ever been written.  What a delight it has been to listen to the audiobook version of Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen wonderfully narrated by Alison Larkin.  It made my daily commute much more enjoyable.  Alison Larkin has a perfect voice for narration and had unique “voices” for the individual characters.  As I’ve said in other reviews of audiobooks of Austen’s novels, I feel they translate particularly well to the audiobook format as Austen would read them herself to her family and I feel they were written to be read aloud.  I enjoyed the piano music between each chapter. 

My favorite part of this audiobook version was actually the regency songs at the end.  Alison Larkin sang four regency era songs and had them in a scene where Mr. Darcy and others are listening to the singing. It was magnificent and humorous at the same time.  I could listen to an entire CD of Alison Larkin singing regency era songs.  They were beautiful.

Why is Pride and Prejudice such a romantic novel?  I think it is because of the unique relationship between Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth.  They don’t both meet, fall in love, and ride off into the sunset together.  Mr. Darcy insults Elizabeth’s looks and his snobby behavior infuriates her.  She is afterwards willing and able to believe the worst of him including any and all malicious rumors. As Darcy gets to know Elizabeth better, her sense of humor, and no nonsense observations on life attract him.  She is unlike any other woman he has known, she is not afraid to tell him exactly what she thinks.  Which is what she does when he proposes and she refuses.  Things seem at an end until Elizabeth visits Pemberley with her Aunt and Uncle.  She meets Darcy again and he has changed the way he treats everyone.  Elizabeth also sees how he treats the staff and his sister and is impressed by his goodness.  I believe it is because Elizabeth and Darcy have to work through their first misunderstandings to find true love that makes this such a romantic novel?  What do you think?  I also think watching Colin Firth as Darcy in a wet shirt in the 1995 mini-series helps to make this a romantic classic.

I was struck again while listening to this audiobook on how financial stability is one of the driving forces of the novel.  Who has what living or money is the talk of everyone in the novel  With Longbourn entailed away to Mr. Collins, Mrs. Bennet has a real concern that if Mr. Bennet dies, she and her daughters will have no way to support themselves.  I like when in the novel, Mr. Bennet reflects on how the only money they will have is what Mrs. Bennet brought to the marriage and that he probably should have been saving money all along.  He then shrugs it off and thinks it’s too late now.  That is why my British novel instructor in college said that Mr. Bennet is the real villain and Mrs. Bennet is the real heroine when you look beyond the comedy of the novel.  Elizabeth Bennet holds out for love, but her friend Charlotte is more practical and marries Mr. Collins knowing that their marriage will provide a secure future for herself.

Pride and Prejudice is full of some of my favorite quotes of all time.  Listening to this audiobook was like listening to an old friend tell my favorite story.  Here are just a random sampling of some of my favorite quotes:

“For what do we live, but to make sport for our neighbors, and laugh at them in our turn?”

“You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.”

“She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me, and I am in no humor at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.”

“They walked on, without knowing in what direction. There was too much to be thought, and felt, and said, for attention to any other objects.”

“How little of permanent happiness could belong to a couple who were only brought together because their passions were stronger than their virtue.”

Overall, Pride and Prejudice with Songs from Regency England by Jane Austen and read by Alison Larkin is a beautiful version of one of my favorite books.  Alison Larkin is a wonderful narrator and I love the unique rendition of the regency songs at the end of this audiobook.  It’s a perfect audiobook to listen to, especially when you want to relax and escape from the daily grind or daily news.

Why do YOU think Pride and Prejudice is a romantic classic? Do you have a favorite audiobook version?



Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir by Jennifer Ryan (TLC Book Tours)





The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is the type of good book I like to curl up to at night after a busy day or take a break and read over my hurried lunch at work.  It helps me to escape to another world while telling a compelling story full of fascinating characters.  The worst part of this book was that it had to end.  I hold out hope that there will be a part two in the future.

In the beginning days of WWII in England, the start of the war has meant the disappearance of the sons of the village as well as the dismantling of the church choir. Taking matters into their own hands, the women band together to make the first Chilbury Ladies’ Choir.  Told through letters, diaries, and snippets from newspaper articles, the intersecting stories of the village ladies unfold through the growing horrors of war.  Venetia Winthrop is the spoiled older daughter of a landed gentry Brigadier General who has fallen in love with a handsome new stranger, who may also be a spy.  The Brigadier’s only son has died in the war, causing chaos as the estate will be entailed away without a male heir.  Not wanting that to happen on his watch, the Brigadier hires a near do well midwife to help ensure that he will have a son.  The only woman who can stand in her way is Mrs. Tilling who is a nurse and has been trained as a midwife.  Alone after her son has left for war, she has a Colonel stationed with her that drives her batty.  And so on as more lives of the village intersect within these stories.  Will the Brigadier get his son?  Will Mrs. Tilling find happiness and uncover the great baby intrigue?   Will Venetia find true love?

I loved the intersecting stories that fell along the life of a small village.  I thought all of the story lines were strong and I was equally intrigued by all of the characters, which is a great feat in itself.  Usually in stories with more than one narrator, I tend to like one best.  I thought the way the story was told through the letters, diaries, and headlines was unique and carried the storyline through tremendously.  I liked the everyday lives and how they were affected by the war.  There is a real and present danger as the Nazis get closer. This book reminded me of another one I loved, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Annie Barrows and Mary Ann Shaffer.  It also helped with my Downton Abbey blues.  It was a different time period, but the story of all in the village from the high and mighty to the maid and the midwife was fascinating.  I loved the romance of the novel, but it was the intrigue in the story with spies and the great baby mystery that really kept me going.  I loved the spirits of the women and their can do attitudes.
 
A few of my favorite quotes:

“My mother told me that women do better when they smile and agree.  Yet sometimes I feel so frustrated by everything.  I just want to shout it out.”

“Maybe we’ve been old that women can’t do things so many times that we’ve actually started to believe it In any case, the natural order of things has been temporarily changed because there are no men around.”

“Another life just begun and already over. A faraway star glows brighter and disappears into the void.  What an insignificant, unprepared army of souls we are.”

“There is a way of life here that I don’t believe any war can crush, that will endure long after we’re gone.”

“That realizing you’re going to die actually makes life better as it’s only then that you decide to live the life you really want to live, not the one everyone else wants you to live.  And to thoroughly enjoy every minute.”

“And I realized that this is what it’s like to be an adult, learning to pick from a lot of bad choices and do the best you can with that dreadful compromise.”

Overall, The Chilbury Ladies’ Choir is an immensely enjoyable WWII novel about a group of plucky women, their lives in their village, and the great strength they had to get through the war’s many changes to their lives.  I highly recommend it.  It would also make a great book club selection.

Book Source:  A review copy as part of the TLC Book Tour.  Thank-you!  To find the full tour schedule check out this link: 
http://tlcbooktours.com/2016/12/jennifer-ryan-author-of-the-chilbury-ladies-choir-on-tour-februarymarch-2017/

Also for a great video from author Jennifer Ryan on research and writing the novel during distractions (such as an earthquake!) check out this video:

Monday, February 13, 2017

Priceless Movie Review and GIVEAWAY



Human Trafficking.

It’s a heavy topic that gets mentioned in the news, but is something that most people don’t really spend too much time thinking about.  In Priceless, we get a view into the underworld of human trafficking and what impact it has on the lives of those involved.

One man decides to not step away and go the easy path, but to go on the path of the greater good.  James is in a downward spiral.  He has lost his wife and custody of his young daughter.  Unable to hold down a job, he takes a quick cash job to drive a cargo truck cross country with no questions asked.  Crashing off the road in the dead of night, James hears noises in the back of truck, breaks it open and discovers two young women inside.  After he drops off his “cargo,” he decides he can’t just leave and take the easy road home, he wants to correct his mistake and help out the girls he dropped off.  As he tries to find them, he discovers the dark world of human trafficking of young ladies and realizes now more than ever he needs to make a stand.  Will James be able to find Antonia and Maria?  Why is motel owner Dale helping him?  Will James be able to get custody back of his daughter?

This movie really got to me.  I have been thinking about it all weekend and today.  I thought it really dealt well with the human trafficking storyline.  It definitely showed scenes of violence and it implied on what was happening to the girls so this is not a movie for young children.  It did show this in what I thought was a classy way so that you knew what was happening, but didn’t need to see the violence or rape happening.  It was a unique storyline that I have not seen anywhere else.  The primary focus was that every woman is “priceless” and a human being that should not be taken hostage and used for sex slavery.  It is an important message.

The storyline was excellent, a drama based on true events.  I thought the acting and characters were fantastic.  I really liked the journey of James and also finding out more about Dale.  I thought the young ladies were great as well showing life in a very difficult situation.  The villains were not mustaches twirling stereotypes, but were had good nuanced portrayals.  I loved the cinematography and beautiful scenery.  I also really enjoyed the music.  

The DVD has nice bonus features with a concert from Christian pop duo For King & Country.  One of the duo, Joel Smallborne stars as James in Priceless.  I had never heard this duo before and enjoyed their music.  I also liked the making of the movie featurettes.

Overall, Priceless is a movie I won’t soon forget and one that I highly recommend.  It’s an important subject that we should all be discussing.

Movie Source:  Review copy from the Icon Media Group.


 Giveaway

One lucky winner will receive a DVD/Blue Ray/Digital copy of Priceless courtesy of Icon Media Group. If you would like to win this movie, please leave a comment on what interests you about this movie.

As part of your comment, you must include an email address. If I can't find a way to contact you I will draw another winner.

For an additional entry, blog about this giveaway or post it on your sidebar. Provide a link to this post in your comment.

I will be using random.org (or a Monte Carlo simulation in excel) to pick the winners from the comments.

This contest is only open to addresses in the United States and Canada.

The deadline for entry is midnight on Friday February 24th!

Please make sure to check the week of February 27th to see if you are a winner. I send emails to the winner, but lately I've been put in their "junk mail" folder instead of their inbox.

Good luck!