Audiobook reviews, Favorites List, Non-Fiction Reviews, Reviews

Review: Road to Little Dribbling by Bill Bryson (AudioBook)

The Road to Little Dribbling: Adventures of an American in Britain4 Stars of 5

I have started listening to audio books again, and began with a follow up to one of my favorite tomes. The Road to Little Dribbling is a revisit to Notes from a Small Island, written over 20 years ago. In Notes, Bill Bryson traversed across his adopted nation in search of what it meant to be British. Twenty years on in Road, Bryson revisits his adopted country from the view point of a fellow British Citizen.

Goodreads summarizes The Road to Little Dribbling as,

In 1995 Bill Bryson got into his car and took a weeks-long farewell motoring trip about England before moving his family back to the United States. The book about that trip, Notes from a Small Island, is uproarious and endlessly endearing, one of the most acute and affectionate portrayals of England in all its glorious eccentricity ever written. Two decades later, he set out again to rediscover that country, and the result is The Road to Little Dribbling. Nothing is funnier than Bill Bryson on the road—prepare for the total joy and multiple episodes of unseemly laughter.

I’ve read a lot of Bill Bryson’s work and this is the first of his work of which I have listened, mainly because it is narrated by someone other than the author himself. Bryson doesn’t generally have a reader friendly voice. His voice is nothing like what you would expect for a man of Bryson’s demeanor-but enough on that.

This books is typical of Bryson’s work, if not a little more academic than usual. It was an interesting and entertaining, and I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys British life, Expat stories (although Bryson hates that word), and hilarious takes on what it is like to travel by oneself across a country, from bottom to top.

Other similar books

Notes from a Small Island In Search Of EnglandThe English: A Portrait of a People

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Author Spotlight, Book Lists, Favorites List, Fiction Reviews, Series Reviews

Author Spotlight on One of My Favorites: Dodie Smith

Back a few years ago, I was looking at J.K. Rowling’s influences, adding her favorite novels to my To-Read list, when I came across the name Dodie Smith.

Rowling said a fan told her to read Dodie Smith’s I Capture the Castle, and she did and she loved it. In fact, Rowling went on to add a byline review (or whatever you call them) on the most recent version of the novel, stating that “[t]his book has one of the most charismatic narrators I’ve ever met” which is a perfect way of characterizing Cassandra Mortimer. It was the first Dodie Smith novel I read and I immediately fell in love with this author.

Smith’s autobiographies are just as interesting and colorful as her novels and plays. There are four: Look Back with Love, Look Back with Mixed Feelings, Look Back with Astonishment, and Look Back with Gratitude.  They are hard to find(and expensive when you do find them). They only when through a few printings but they are fascinating and well worth the read if you can get your hands on them.

Here are a few of her novels, the more well-known ones:

 “Dodie Smith’s first novel transcends the oft-stodgy definition of “a classic” by being as brightly witty and adventuresome as it was when published nearly fifty years ago.” -Goodreads

An eccentric family in a crumbling castle, set against the beautiful English countryside, the Mortimers are the weirdest bunch of folks around, but they’re kind, smart, and willing to do anything to get the dad to write another novel. I LOVE THIS BOOK.

 

 

 

 

 “Pongo and Missis had a lovely life. With their human owners, the Dearlys, to look after them, they lived in a comfortable home in London with their 15 adorable Dalmatian puppies, loved and admired by all. Especially the Dearlys’ neighbor Cruella de Vil, a fur-fancying fashion plate with designs on the Dalmatians’ spotted coats! So, when the puppies are stolen from the Dearly home, and even Scotland Yard is unable to find them, Pongo and Missis know they must take matters into their own paws!” -Goodreads

Yep, you read that right. She wrote The 101 Dalmatians and its sequel, Starlight Barking. Don’t get me started on how she was screwed over by a certain movie magic-making company, but she was the person who created Cruella de Vil and co.  The sequel is weird, but it’s a great story. Not her best, to be honest, but it’s good.

 

 

         “When Jane Minton arrives at Dome House as a secretary-housekeeper, she finds herself sharing the comfortable country home of four attractive young people. Their handsome widower father, Rupert Carrington, too occupied with his London business to see very much of them, merely provides for them generously and leaves them to cultivate their talents — which they energetically do. Richard, the eldest, is a composer; Clare, whose true talent (if it can be called that) has never disclosed itself, attempts to paint; Drew is collecting material for a novel to be set in the Edwardian era; and Merry, still at school, already works hard towards a stage career. Jane Minton, warmly welcomed into this happy household, feels her luck is too good to be true. And it is certainly too good to last. The delightful private world of Dome House is fated to break up.
It is Jane who learns from Rupert Carrington that he is in danger of prosectuion for fraud and must leave England. He asks her to break the news to his children — who must now fend completely for themselves — and do what she can to help. She is very willing to, for his sake as well as theirs, as she is greatly attracted by him. What happens then makes an engrossing and unpredicable story, for the Carringtons are not usual young people, and it is, perhaps, their own basic originality which draws to them unusual adventures, in which humor and more than a touch of strangeness are often inextricably blended.” -Goodreads

I LOVE THIS STORY TOO.

        “During a summer festival in an English spa town Miles Quentin, a distinguished actor, and his devoted wife Jill, become friendly with the local member of Parliament, Geoffrey Thornton, and his young daughters, Robin and Kit. All these attractive, intelligent and fully occupied people are seemingly untroubled. But the surface of their lives is deceptive.
All, even the lively teenagers, have unusual problems which are only brought fully to light after the Quentins return to the London theatre world and the Thorntons to their Westminster house. Then the story becomes a far from conventional love story in which loyalty may prove more important than love; or it could be described as a story of different kinds of love. Few readers of its early sunny chapters will foresee its dramatic development, the outcome of which is uncertain until the very end.”

-Goodreads

 

      “London’s theatre world of the 1920’s provides a glittering backdrop for Mouse, an eighteen-year-old Lancashire girl intent on a stage career. She tells the story herself with the utmost frankness and with an authenticity which derives from Dodie Smith’s own wide experience as both actress and playwright.
Mouse never felt that her nickname fully suited her; tiny she might be, but timid never. Within a day of her arrival in town she had bluffed her way into an audition at a famous theatre, infuriated its forceful young stage director, amused its kind if quite amoral actor-manager, Rex Crossway, and finally landed not a part but a toehold as a junior secretary. From then on she was involved in the engrossing affairs of the Crossway Theatre.
She was also involved with her friends at the club where she lived — Molly, a baby-faced six-footer, and elegant, ambitious LIlian who was fated to clash disastrously with Mouse, though even then they could find something to laugh at together. And later there was Zelle, rich, generous, enigmatic, and responsible for an outing to a Suffolk village pageant which proved a turning point for them all.”-Goodreads

These are just a few of the wonderful works of Dodie Smith. She was a woman who was not afraid to include important topics (like adultery, homosexuality, shortcomings of the aristocracy, shortcomings of the literary world, politics, and so much more) in books that were considered “light reading”. She was also a woman who knew her mind. She was a suffragette, a war entertainer, and actress and some one who deserves more credit. She was a really great writer, maybe not one of the greats, but a great writer, nonetheless.

Book Lists, Favorites List, Reviews, Series Reviews, Young Adult books, Young Adult Reveiws

My 5 Star Books: Young Adult Books

If you say you don’t like YA, you’re wrong (and I don’t like you, nana-nana-boo-boo). Young Adult literature is the most rapidly evolving genre of our time, and due to its ever changing nature, we now have Middle Grade and New Adult genres, which were once subsets of YA.

The Young Adult genre is not all Babysitters Club, Sweet Valley High, Teen Harlequin anymore. Adventure types, historical fiction, fantasy, romance, all these genres exist inside the Young Adult World.

So with that said, here’s some of my favorite Young Adult Books, the ones I rated 5 stars.

I Capture the Castle by Dodie Smith: “Dodie Smith’s first novel transcends the oft-stodgy definition of “a classic” by being as brightly witty and adventuresome as it was when published nearly fifty years ago.”

This is one of my favorite books ever by one of my favorite authors ever, so yeah it gets 5 stars. Crumbling castles, once rich-now poor families, interesting family dynamics, some weirdos, and a reclusive writer-dad that is suffering from some serious writer’s block, all told by a narrator who’s so relatable, you’ll fell like you’ve know her since preschool, this book is amazing. Dodie Smith’s adult work is glorious too, but that’s another list. Oh, and Smith wrote 101 Dalmatians so yeah, go ahead and buy this one. You’re welcome.

Angus, Thongs. and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison: “In this wildly funny journal of a year in the life of Georgia Nicolson, British author Louise Rennison has perfectly captured the soaring joys and bottomless angst of being a teenager. In the spirit of Bridget Jones’s Diary, this fresh, irreverent, and simply hilarious book will leave you laughing out loud. As Georgia would say, it’s ‘Fabbity fab fab!'”

Withering Tights by Louise Rennison: “Picture the scene: Dother Hall performing arts college somewhere Up North, surrounded by rolling dales, bearded cheesemaking villagers (male and female) and wildlife of the squirrely-type. On the whole, it’s not quite the showbiz experience Tallulah was expecting… but once her mates turn up and they start their ‘FAME! I’m gonna liiiiive foreeeeeever, I’m gonna fill my tiiiiights’ summer course things are bound to perk up. Especially when the boys arrive. (When DO the boys arrive?) Six weeks of parent-free freedom. BOY freedom. Freedom of expression… cos it’s the THEATRE dahling, the theatre!!”

Both The Confessions of Georgia Nicholson and The Misadventures of Tallulah Casey series are hilarious, cute, and well worth the read.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman: “Here lives an orphaned ward named Lyra Belacqua, whose carefree life among the scholars at Oxford’s Jordan College is shattered by the arrival of two powerful visitors. First, her fearsome uncle, Lord Asriel, appears with evidence of mystery and danger in the far North, including photographs of a mysterious celestial phenomenon called Dust and the dim outline of a city suspended in the Aurora Borealis that he suspects is part of an alternate universe. He leaves Lyra in the care of Mrs. Coulter, an enigmatic scholar and explorer who offers to give Lyra the attention her uncle has long refused her. In this multilayered narrative, however,nothing is as it seems. Lyra sets out for the top of the world in search of her kidnapped playmate, Roger, bearing a rare truth-telling instrument, the compass of the title. All around her children are disappearing—victims of so-called “Gobblers”—and being used as subjects in terrible experiments that separate humans from their daemons, creatures that reflect each person’s inner being. And somehow, both Lord Asriel and Mrs. Coulter are involved.”

His Dark Material series is a classic tome of YA fantasy and is a must read for any fantasy enthusiast.

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein: “Oct. 11th, 1943-A British spy plane crashes in Nazi-occupied France. Its pilot and passenger are best friends. One of the girls has a chance at survival. The other has lost the game before it’s barely begun.
When “Verity” is arrested by the Gestapo, she’s sure she doesn’t stand a chance. As a secret agent captured in enemy territory, she’s living a spy’s worst nightmare. Her Nazi interrogators give her a simple choice: reveal her mission or face a grisly execution.
As she intricately weaves her confession, Verity uncovers her past, how she became friends with the pilot Maddie, and why she left Maddie in the wrecked fuselage of their plane. On each new scrap of paper, Verity battles for her life, confronting her views on courage, failure and her desperate hope to make it home. But will trading her secrets be enough to save her from the enemy?
A Michael L. Printz Award Honor book that was called “a fiendishly-plotted mind game of a novel” in The New York Times, Code Name Verity is a visceral read of danger, resolve, and survival that shows just how far true friends will go to save each other”

I loved this tale of friendship, love, and war. I also really enjoyed Rose Under Fire which is kind of a sequel to CNV.

A Brief History of Montmaray by Michelle Cooper: “Sophie FitzOsborne lives in a crumbling castle in the tiny island kingdom of Montmaray with her eccentric and impoverished royal family. When she receives a journal for her sixteenth birthday, Sophie decides to chronicle day-to-day life on the island. But this is 1936, and the news that trickles in from the mainland reveals a world on the brink of war. The politics of Europe seem far away from their remote island—until two German officers land a boat on Montmaray. And then suddenly politics become very personal indeed.

A Brief History of Montmaray is a heart-stopping tale of loyalty, love, and loss, and of fighting to hold on to home when the world is exploding all around you.”

This is a really great series with a little of all the things I love. The series just gets increasingly better, and the last book is mind-blowingly good. I’m still hung up about it and it made me love the name Rupert even more.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz: “Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.”

This was really cute and thought provoking and is just an A+ book all around.

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak: “It is 1939. Nazi Germany. The country is holding its breath. Death has never been busier, and will be busier still.
By her brother’s graveside, Liesel’s life is changed when she picks up a single object, partially hidden in the snow. It is The Gravedigger’s Handbook, left behind there by accident, and it is her first act of book thievery.
So begins a love affair with books and words, as Liesel, with the help of her accordian-playing foster father, learns to read. Soon she is stealing books from Nazi book-burnings, the mayor’s wife’s library, wherever there are books to be found.
But these are dangerous times. When Liesel’s foster family hides a Jewish fist-fighter in their basement, Liesel’s world is both opened up, and closed down.
In superbly crafted writing that burns with intensity, award-winning author Markus Zusak has given us one of the most enduring stories of our time.”

You’ve heard of this one. You’ve probably even read this one. It’s magnificent and one of the few books that made me cry like a baby (Fun Fact: I’ve only cried over one other book Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows).

How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff: “Fifteen-year-old Daisy is sent from Manhattan to England to visit her aunt and cousins she’s never met: three boys near her age, and their little sister. Her aunt goes away on business soon after Daisy arrives. The next day bombs go off as London is attacked and occupied by an unnamed enemy.

As power fails, and systems fail, the farm becomes more isolated. Despite the war, it’s a kind of Eden, with no adults in charge and no rules, a place where Daisy’s uncanny bond with her cousins grows into something rare and extraordinary. But the war is everywhere, and Daisy and her cousins must lead each other into a world that is unknown in the scariest, most elemental way.

A riveting and astonishing story.”

I discovered this one in 2014 and loveeeeed it. The movie, though, sucks. It’s a short read, but it’s so wonderful.

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell: “Cath is a Simon Snow fan.
Okay, the whole world is a Simon Snow fan…
But for Cath, being a fan is her life—and she’s really good at it. She and her twin sister, Wren, ensconced themselves in the Simon Snow series when they were just kids; it’s what got them through their mother leaving.
Reading. Rereading. Hanging out in Simon Snow forums, writing Simon Snow fan fiction, dressing up like the characters for every movie premiere.
Cath’s sister has mostly grown away from fandom, but Cath can’t let go. She doesn’t want to.
Now that they’re going to college, Wren has told Cath she doesn’t want to be roommates. Cath is on her own, completely outside of her comfort zone. She’s got a surly roommate with a charming, always-around boyfriend, a fiction-writing professor who thinks fan fiction is the end of the civilized world, a handsome classmate who only wants to talk about words… And she can’t stop worrying about her dad, who’s loving and fragile and has never really been alone.”

This book is fluff, but marshmallow fluff on ice cream with brownie bit thrown in fluff, a.k.a. the good stuff. It’s adorable, it’s poignant at times, and it just makes you feel better after reading it. Plus, there’s supposedly a Simon Snow spin off in the works, so all you Drarry fans get ready.

These are ten of my top favorite YA books. I love them all in individual ways and smile when I see them in bookstores or other people’s shelves. They’re old friends.