Author: Kurt Vonnegut
Narrator: Ethan Hawke
Published: March 31, 1969
Audiobook: 6 hours 2 minutes
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Listened To: August 3-7, 2023
Jessica’s Rating: 2 stars
Slaughterhouse-Five, an American classic, is one of the world’s great antiwar books. Centering on the infamous World War II firebombing of Dresden, the novel is the result of what Kurt Vonnegut described as a twenty-three-year struggle to write a book about what he had witnessed as an American prisoner of war. It combines historical fiction, science fiction, autobiography, and satire in an account of the life of Billy Pilgrim, a barber’s son turned draftee turned optometrist turned alien abductee. As Vonnegut had, Billy experiences the destruction of Dresden as a POW. Unlike Vonnegut, he experiences time travel, or coming “unstuck in time.”
“And so it is”… Slaughterhouse Five was not for me. For me it seems that Vonnegut is an acquired taste. Slaughterhouse is a short book but also a very hard read. I only finished it because it is a book club read, I most likely would have never picked it up otherwise. Maybe my opinion of it will change after we have our meeting on this one and I hear what the other ladies have to say.
Maybe it was that I did not know the history of Dresden or I am not a fan of symbolism, but it just did not work for me. The novel was also non-linear which can make it harder to read if you are not enjoying it. And then there are aliens and time travel…. Slaughterhouse is a classic that most people seem to enjoy but I just really struggled. It is semi- auto biographical for Vonnegut as he served during WWII.
I listened to an older audiobook version which was narrated by Ethan Hawke. His narration was fine, and it actually helped me get through listening. There was also an interview with Vonnegut. The main thing I got from that interview is that Vonnegut is NOT Billy Pilgrim. Billy Pilgrim was based off of a real person: Edward R Crone Jr, who actually died at Dresden. That was interesting to find out.
Though not for me, maybe this classic will be for you. “And so it is”…
Mary Bowser and the Civil War Spy Ring
Series: Spy on History #2
Author: Enigma Alberti
Illustrator: Tony Cliff
Published: April 2, 2019
Reviewed By: Cristina
Your Mission: Find Mary’s secret diary using spycraft stools to uncover hidden codes!
It’s a true story of bravery: Mary Bowser was an African American spy for the Union who worked as a maid in the mansion of Confederate Jefferson Davis. From hair-raising close calls when she almost gets caught to how she uses her photographic memory to “steal” top secret documents. Mary’s story reads like a gripping novel.
It’s a mystery to solve: There are clues embedded in the story’s text and illustrations, and Spycraft materials—including a replica Civil War cipher wheel—come in an envelope at the beginning of the book. Use both to discover what happened to Mary Bowser’s secret diary.
What would you do if you had the opportunity to be a spy where it would really matter? Your skills: a photographic memory, ability to read, and blending into the background. If you succeed, your people have a chance at freedom. If you fail, you’ll be hung. Are you in?
This book is a historical fiction with a fun interactive spy riddle to solve as well. A reader can just enjoy the story, or they can try to solve the case that’s embedded in the real story. Mary Bowser was a real person. She was a free African-American, but went undercover as a maid in Jefferson Davis’s mansion to spy for the Union. Because no person of color was expected to be able to read at that time in the South, Mary was able to read many valuable documents in Davis’s office while she dusted or polished lamps. She had to pretend to be illiterate and a little slow to avoid suspicion. It was a job filled with danger, but Mary proved to be invaluable to the Union. She was able to get critical information to the Union army and it helped save lives and win battles.
This book is written in a very engaging style. Lots of action, a few narrow misses that have you holding your breath, and insights into what the Civil War was like for the non-soldiers who still wanted to help fight for freedom and the Union. The interactive riddle–a search for Mary’s secret diary–is engaging as well. There is help at the back of the book if the reader gets too frustrated, but it’s fun to try and find the diary without any assistance. Spy on History is a series, so if historical fiction sounds appealing, come to the library to choose your spy adventure![Top]
The Four Winds
Author: Kristin Hannah
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Published: February 2, 2021
Audiobook: 15 hours 2 minutes
Reviewed By: Jessica
Dates Read: March 2- 8, 2023
Jessica’s Rating: 5 stars
“My land tells its story if you listen. The story of our family.”
Texas, 1921. A time of abundance. The Great War is over, the bounty of the land is plentiful, and America is on the brink of a new and optimistic era. But for Elsa Wolcott, deemed too old to marry in a time when marriage is a woman’s only option, the future seems bleak. Until the night she meets Rafe Martinelli and decides to change the direction of her life. With her reputation in ruin, there is only one respectable choice: marriage to a man she barely knows.
By 1934, the world has changed; millions are out of work and drought has devastated the Great Plains. Farmers are fighting to keep their land and their livelihoods as crops fail and water dries up and the earth cracks open. Dust storms roll relentlessly across the plains. Everything on the Martinelli farm is dying, including Elsa’s tenuous marriage; each day is a desperate battle against nature and a fight to keep her children alive.
In this uncertain and perilous time, Elsa—like so many of her neighbors—must make an agonizing choice: fight for the land she loves or leave it behind and go west, to California, in search of a better life for her family.
The Four Winds is a rich, sweeping novel that stunningly brings to life the Great Depression and the people who lived through it—the harsh realities that divided us as a nation and the enduring battle between the haves and the have-nots. A testament to hope, resilience, and the strength of the human spirit to survive adversity, The Four Winds is an indelible portrait of America and the American dream, as seen through the eyes of one indomitable woman whose courage and sacrifice will come to define a generation.
This was a book club selection and most likely one I would have never picked up otherwise. It was my first novel by Kristin Hannah and it will not be my last!
I never really learned about The Dust Bowl in school and never had to read The Grapes of Wrath in school, but now I think I need to. Not knowing about The Dust Bowl, when I read the book description I wasn’t interested in this one, and it was quite the surprise for me!
Hannah is so descriptive and fully brings you into the story and you feel like you are there experiencing everything with these characters! I could picture so much of what was going on while listening to it! And Julia Whelan is the narrator and she is one of my ‘will listen to’ narrators so I enjoyed this novel 1000%!
This is not an easy novel to read/listen to because life was extreme during this time. And Hannah didn’t hold anything back either! The reader sees all aspects of life on the farm and what the farmers go through. We also see Elsa’s growth as a woman and her life experiences. She’s a character that you won’t easily forget. I became so attached to Elsa as she matured into the woman she became. And she has a mother-in-law to just fall in love with!
After The Four Winds became such an unexpected ‘enjoyable’ read (it’s hard to say enjoyable with the harshness of life the characters experienced) I will be looking into Hannah’s large backlog of novels to choose from. After listening to this one, you really see how hard it was back then with the depression first and then the dust bowl, we really do have it easy these days! Women were so much tougher back then and underestimated by the men of the time! The Four Winds makes you appreciate what you have.[Top]