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Archive for the ‘Audio Book’ Category

I read The Temptation of the Night Jasmine by Lauren Willig shortly after it was released in January 2009 – I am nothing if not prompt in obtaining copies of Willig’s newest novels.  At that time, I enjoyed it but was less than overwhelmed.  My reading notes advise that there was not enough interaction between the romantic leads and, honestly, I was nursing some resentment towards Willig over an early development with one of my favourite characters (all has now been forgiven since Penelope’s situation was righted in The Betrayal of the Blood Lily).  Somehow, taking 15 hours to process the story as an audio book rather than the normal four or five it takes to read the novel gave me a much greater appreciation of the story and of Charlotte, the heroine, in particular.

Other readers may turn their noses up at Willig’s novels but when I am in want of something fun and comforting and a bit edgier than my beloved Heyers, these are my go-to books.  They are very clever, clearly well-researched,  and thankfully don’t take themselves too seriously.  If the mysteries can sometimes be a tad flimsy, the characters are delightfully engaging and the relationships just the kind to ruin young women for reality (see Facebook Group “The Pink Carnation Books Have Given Me Unrealistic Expectations of Love”).  Take for example the synopsis of The Temptation of the Night Jasmine:

Throughout her secluded youth, Robert was Lady Charlotte’s favorite knight in shining armor, the focus of all her adolescent daydreams.  The intervening years have only served to render him more dashing.  But, unbeknownst to Charlotte, Robert has an ulterior motive of his own for returning to England, a motive that has nothing to do with taking up the ducal mantle.  As Charlotte returns to London to take up her post as Maid of Honor to Queen Charlotte, echoes from Robert’s past endanger not only their relationship but the very throne itself.

Dangerous, dangerous stuff my friends.  But so delightful!  Unlike the other books in the series, where the hero and heroine are thrown together and their romance plays out in dialogue, Charlotte is alone much of time.  Always the cerebral type, more at home in a library than a ballroom, Charlotte intellectualizes her emotions.  When I read the book, I skimmed these passages but hearing them aloud, and read with so much feeling, made it much easier to sympathize with Charlotte and to feel caught up in her plight.  This time around, I felt far more emotionally invested in her story.

However, the down-side of an audio book is that it is no longer so easy to skip the Eloise sections of the novel (which I admit to doing when rereading the novels).  Eloise is our modern, American protagonist, an aspiring academic researching aristocratic espionage during the Napoleonic era.  As a plot device, she is incredibly useful.  As a character, I find she grates.  Listening to, rather that reading about, her activities prompted no new outpouring of sympathy and only further frustration (how do you not know what your boyfriend does after several months of dating?  Why do you not just ask?).  Colin, her English boyfriend, remains rather flat and doesn’t seem to get the same attention or respect as his historical counterparts.  Hopefully this will improve as the series continues.

Overall, Justine Eyre does an excellent job of reading.  There were a few strange pronunciations and a mid-Atlantic twang creeps in occasionally, which can be distracting.  That said, it must be difficult to find readers who can balance the accents for the American Eloise with the rest of the British characters (with the occasional Frenchman thrown in for fun).  I did particularly love Eyre’s voice for my favourite character, Lady Henrietta.  The Masque of the Black Tulip, which centers on Henrietta (and the fabulous Miles), remains my favourite of Willig’s novels and I would love to hear it read – so much banter!  Unfortunately, my library doesn’t have a copy.  I have suggested that they purchase a copy (they have audio books for 3 of the 6 books in the series) but none of my other suggestions have yield any results yet, so…I’ll keep my fingers crossed anyways.

Slowly, it seems I am being coverted into a fan of the audiobook.  Yes, they require a very large investment of time but the experience is different and unique and, as was the case here, absolutely fascinating in the way it made me reconsider the story.

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Over the last week or so, I’ve had several encounters with various interpretations of Jane Austen’s EmmaEmma is my favourite Jane Austen novel but it doesn’t seem to have captured the popular imagination as thoroughly as Pride and Prejudice.  There are however many dozen sequels and modern interpretations of P&P, with more coming out every year, but very few for Emma.  As such, I read what is available and not what I would necessarily be naturally drawn to.

I read Amanda by Debra White Smith to satisfy my curiosity about it.  What does a modern-day Emma look like (forgetting, for a moment, the sublime Clueless)?  Even more intriguingly, what does a Christian-interpretation of Emma look like?  It was not as bad as I had feared (though it did introduce to me to the phrase “prayerful consideration” which threw me for a few moments).  The story is quite ably presented, though the Box Hill picnic scene (or its equivalent) is surprisingly omitted.  Honestly, I was most concerned with the fashions presented.  There are a shocking number of suits worn, by both male and female characters.  Apparently, in the Tasmanian Christian circle, fuchsia suits are just the thing for social gatherings (perhaps in 1993…) and ankle-length brown velvet skirts (with matching jackets) are thought alluring.  There are no words.  All of this pales in comparison to dressing our hero in a jogging suit for his romantic, declaration of love.  I had to laugh at that point though I fear I was not supposed to.

Now, onto quite another Amanda.  Amanda Grange has made a nice career out of writing the diaries of Jane Austen’s heroes: to date, Mr. Darcy, Captain Wentworth, Edmund Bertram, Colonel Brandon and, of course, Mr. Knightley.  Mr. Knightley’s Diary is very silly but rather fun all the same.  There is no subtlety whatsoever, which provides some humour in and of itself with Knightley making entries along the lines of “Emma is so beautiful and perfect and wonderful.  I love being with her…I shall never find anyone whose company I enjoy as much as Emma’s, so I shall never marry.”  All said, Mr. Knightley is presented pretty much in character, though there might be a little too much time spent wishing he had children of his own.  Certainly, some men feel very strongly about this, but it did rather feel like a bit of female wish fulfillment, ensuring his role as the perfect man.  Not all of Austen’s speeches are incorporated but, where they are, it is relatively well done. 

Finally, I experienced my first audio book, Emma read by Fiona Shaw.  It was delightful.  I don’t usually like being read to, much preferring to set the pace myself, but there is something about hearing these words aloud that makes you appreciate how truly comedic Emma is.  I would come home from work and put on a disc while making dinner – each of the six discs runs just over one hour, matching perfectly the amount of time it usually takes me to prep and cook dinner.  A lovely way to wind down after a long day and to appreciate an old favourite in a new way.

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