Gather Round the Sound: Holiday Stories from Beloved Authors and Great Performers Across the Globe
Reviewed By: Jessica
Date Listened to: December 5, 2018
Length: 1 hour 12 minutes
Jessica’s Rating: 2 stars
Audible’s 2017 holiday collection includes:
Zip Code 12345
This mini-documentary centers around a peculiar holiday tradition at General Electric’s headquarters in Schenectady, NY. For two decades, GE has been receiving thousands of letters from kids – children who think they’re reaching Santa Claus. And every year, a handful of GE employees give up their December lunchbreaks to respond to each and every letter.
An Aussie Night Before Christmas, by Yvonne Morrison, performed by Magda Szubanksi
This rollicking rewrite of the famous old poem ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas gives the original version a hilarious Aussie twist. Magda Szubanski, Australia’s most trusted personality, caries this incredibly fun romp. Kangaroos pulling the sleigh, a beer for Santa, and all the over-the-top Australian lingo, it’s everything you’d expect.
The Music Coming from the House, by Paulo Coehlo, performed by Daniel Frances-Berenson
In this magical story from the author of The Alchemist – the master of the modern parable – a disguised king visits a poor village, and what he sees through the window of a house changes his life, and those of the occupants.
The Signal-man, by Charles Dickens, performed by Simon Callow, Dan Starkey, and John Banks
For literature lovers, the holiday season needs a little Dickens. We dug up a story of his that you may not be familiar with, originally published in the Christmas edition of a Victorian short story periodical. Of course, ghosts are involved in this 19th century work told by Simon Callow (Outlander) and Dan Starkey (Dr. Who).
A Very Improvised Holiday Musical
What would the holidays be without some carols? Vern, a New York City-based improv troupe, performs a few improvised holiday songs
Gather Round the Sound was free on Audible and there was a good reason for that: It really did not need to be made into a compilation of short stories/performances. This one was a big miss for me. The best short was Zip Code 12345: I really enjoyed it and wish it had been expanded. If this had been the whole ‘book’ that would have been fine with me!
Apparently I am not a Dickens fan as The Signal-man wasn’t for me. When it was over I had no idea what had happened. Maybe it was the narrators with their accents that ruined it for me. The ‘musical chapters’ were also subpar. They were meant to be funny and entertaining, but were far from that.
I cannot recommend this compilation: I say listen to the first chapter Zip Code 12345 and skip the rest. I hate saying this, but it just did not deliver.
Author: Gail Honeyman
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: November 12-23, 2018
Jessica’s Rating: 2 stars
No one’s ever told Eleanor that life should be better than fine.
Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she’s thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy.
But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office. When she and Raymond together save Sammy, an elderly gentleman who has fallen on the sidewalk, the three become the kinds of friends who rescue one another from the lives of isolation they have each been living. And it is Raymond’s big heart that will ultimately help Eleanor find the way to repair her own profoundly damaged one.
Soon to be a major motion picture produced by Reese Witherspoon, Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine is the smart, warm, and uplifting story of an out-of-the-ordinary heroine whose deadpan weirdness and unconscious wit make for an irresistible journey as she realizes. . .
The only way to survive is to open your heart.
Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine or is she? For me she was not. I have heard many rave about this one and wanted to see what it was about. It appears that I am in the minority when I say that Eleanor Oliphant was not for me. Despite her rough childhood, I did not connect with the character. It was a very difficult childhood that no one should go through. I was just curious enough to want to know what was going to happen and then we have that unexpected ending. I can’t discuss it as it would involve spoilers. I don’t really know what I think of this one other than it was a big miss for me.[Top]
This week’s Sunday post is different. I’m not sure how often it will occur, but it is a Sunday Series Review. This will be where a book series is reviewed. This time Kim has read The Red Queen Series by Victoria Aveyard and given her thoughts on it. FYI, this series was not for her and she gives her honest and at times frustrated opinion. But here at Jessica’s Reading Room, we give our honest opinions on the books we read, whether we like the books or not.
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Books in the Series:
Reviewed By: Kim
Kim’s rating of the series: 2 Stars
Description from Amazon:
Red Queen: Mare Barrow’s world is divided by blood—those with common, Red blood serve the Silver-blooded elite, who are gifted with superhuman abilities. Mare is a Red, scraping by as a thief in a poor, rural village, until a twist of fate throws her in front of the Silver court. There, before the king, princes, and all the nobles, she discovers she has an ability of her own. To cover up this impossibility, the king forces her to play the role of a lost Silver princess, and betroths her to one of his own sons. As Mare is drawn further into the Silver world, she risks everything and uses her new position to help the Scarlet Guard—a growing Red rebellion—even as her heart tugs her in an impossible direction. One wrong move can lead to her death, but in the dangerous game she plays the only certainty is betrayal. This sweeping story of palace intrigue, class hierarchy, and deception will keep readers hurtling along, desperate to find out Mare’s fate. Her honesty and determination, quick wit, and no-holds-barred attitude will surely make readers fall in love with her.
Glass Sword: Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control. The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from Maven, the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind. Pursued by Maven, now a vindictive king, Mare sets out to find and recruit other Red-and-Silver fighters to join in the struggle against her oppressors. But Mare finds herself on a deadly path, at risk of becoming exactly the kind of monster she is trying to defeat.Will she shatter under the weight of the lives that are the cost of rebellion? Or have treachery and betrayal hardened her forever?
King’s Cage: Mare Barrow is a prisoner, powerless without her lightning, tormented by her lethal mistakes. She lives at the mercy of a boy she once loved, a boy made of lies and betrayal. Now a king, Maven Calore continues weaving his dead mother’s web in an attempt to maintain control over his country—and his prisoner. As Mare bears the weight of Silent Stone in the palace, her once-ragtag band of newbloods and Reds continue organizing, training, and expanding. They prepare for war, no longer able to linger in the shadows. And Cal, the exiled prince with his own claim on Mare’s heart, will stop at nothing to bring her back. When blood turns on blood, and ability on ability, there may be no one left to put out the fire—leaving Norta as Mare knows it to burn all the way down.
Cruel Crown: Queen Song
Queen Coriane, first wife of King Tiberias, keeps a secret diary—how else can she ensure that no one at the palace will use her thoughts against her? Coriane recounts her heady courtship with the crown prince, the birth of a new prince, Cal, and the potentially deadly challenges that lay ahead for her in royal life.
Captain Farley exchanges coded transmissions with the resistance as she travels the land recruiting black market traders, smugglers, and extremists for her first attempt at an attack on the capital. She was raised to be strong, but planting the seeds of rebellion in Norta is a tougher job than expected—until she stumbles upon a connection that may prove to be the key to the entire operation: Mare Barrow.
Now as I’ve said in other reviews, I hate politicizing fiction. I don’t care about the race, gender, or orientation of characters, if I like a character, then I like them. I don’t want to be preached at by an author, even when they try to do it subtly. When I read Red Queen, I had just started in YA and I enjoyed it. But when I read it again to get back into the series and read all the way through it when King’s Cage came out, I realized just how common it actually is. It’s the exact same story as every other stereotypical YA book on the market. I loved Hunger Games, I mostly enjoyed The Selection . . . Red Queen is a combination of both and has basically the exact same story. Aveyard couldn’t even find an original name for her main character! Mare . . . like America, nicknamed Mare, in The Selection. She even threw in a love triangle, like every other YA story. I then moved on to Glass Sword and got bored. It was just an average book. It faded into the background and I honestly barely remember what was in it. But then I read King’s Cage. There were only 2 things that I felt while reading it: boredom and annoyance. I was bored during the hundreds of pages of Mare sitting in a literal cage bemoaning her life and her circumstances and whether she loved Cal or the evil Maven. “Cuz yeah, Maven is evil, but I can’t seem to get him out of my head, even though he’s really, really evil, I think I may still love him! But he’s using his armies to fight against us, but I think I may still love him!”
Then, Aveyard started in with the politicizing. She started out with a Hillary Clinton quote, which hey, you’re allowed to have your opinion and I would have just breezed over it with a slight eye roll, except for one thing. She didn’t even credit Hillary Clinton, she credited HRC . . . how cowardly! If you can’t confidently credit a quote, then what does that say about you, being too cowardly, or about the person you’re quoting? Then throughout the whole book, the characters whined about having to fight, about having to place nice with others, about trying to identify with the enemy, about how fighting makes them just as evil as the enemy! I got so mad, Ivan(my husband) looked at me and asked what was wrong! And I gave him an earful!
Aveyard’s pathetic “philosophizing” combined with her obvious loathing of anyone in uniform killed any sense of plot that book could have had! She at least had the whining balanced out with action in Glass Sword, but not in Kings Cage!! This book was nothing but whining and bellyaching instead of understanding what true sacrifice really is. I will not read another book by Victoria Aveyard because of her pandering politicizing of fiction! And the end?? ****Ok spoiler alert, asterisks mark the end where it’s safe to start reading again. My gosh, Mare!! Why don’t you quit being so dang self-centered and see what Cal could do for Reds, Silvers, and Newbloods alike, on the throne!! This isn’t all about you! Cal is in love with a Red so you don’t think just maybe he’d be open to changing the world for the better? But no, all you can think about is yourself! Give me a break!****
I won’t talk all about my annoyance with the acknowledgement section because I didn’t have to read it, but there’s lots of obvious and self-righteous politicizing. Basically, starting in Glass Sword, all I thought was, “when is this series going to end? I can’t take any more boredom. I can’t take any more annoyance. Gosh! Be over already!” When I finally finished, I handed the books to Ivan and said, “Here, you can go ahead and throw these out.” I have NEVER thrown out a book. I am absolutely opposed to burning or disposing of books. But I, the ultimate book nerd and preservationist, wanted to throw this series straight into the dumpster. I ended up leaving them on my “Read” shelf and will keep them there until December 31 at midnight, then I will through them in the donation pile because I will never pick them up again. I know not everyone agrees with me politically, and I completely understand and respect that. So, I want to make sure to convey that these books are boring with a capital B. Even the novellas weren’t that great! Queen’s Song was the only one that I appreciated because it gave a little historical context on Cal’s mother. I would not recommend this series to anyone.[Top]