The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R. by Carole DeSanti – Audiobook Review

The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R. by Carole DeSanti, narrated by Kate Reading
Published in audio by Blackstone Audio, published in print by TK

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

Love and war converge in this lush, epic story of a young woman’s struggle with life and love during and after the Second Empire (1852 – 1871), an era that was absinthe-soaked, fueled by railway money and prostitution, and transformed by cataclysmic social upheaval.

Eugénie R., born in foie gras country, follows the man she loves to Paris but soon finds herself marooned. An outcast, she charts the treacherous waters of sexual commerce on a journey through artists’ ateliers and pawnshops, zinc bars and luxurious bordellos.

Giving birth to a daughter she is forced to abandon, Eugénie spends the next 10 years fighting to get her back, falling in love along the way with an artist, a woman, and a revolutionary. Then, as the gates of the city close on the eve of the Siege of Paris, Eugénie comes face to face with her past. Drawn into a net of desire and need, promises and lies, she must make a choice and find her way to a life that she can call her own.

Thoughts on the story:

There is an awful lot going on in The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R. and it is, perhaps, slightly overambitious. However, the fact that it is told from the perspective of not only a single woman, but a woman whose name is in the register of prostitutes, which makes her even less than a second class citizen, brings something to the story that is both fascinating and helps it be cohesive. DeSanti is covering a lot of historical ground here, and the strength of Eugenie’s character helps hold it all together, as it could have easily been a loose mess of historical vignettes.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Narrator Kate Reading seems to fit Eugenie’s character very well, with accurate French pronunciation where necessary. At over 16 hours, a lesser narrator could have made this a very dull listen indeed, but Reading kept me engaged and interested in Eugenie’s life.

For more on the audio production, see my review for Audiofile Magazine.

Overall:

A long but engaging listen. Recommended

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

Source: Audiofile Magazine.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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May the Road Rise Up to Meet You by Peter Troy – Audiobook Review

May the Road Rise Up to Meet You by Peter Troy, narrated by John Keating, Barrie Kreinik, Allyson Johnson, and Adam Lazarre White
Published in audio by AudioGo; published in print by Doubleday, an imprint of Random House

If you reviewed an audiobook today, Monday June 25th please leave your link in the Mr. Linky before midnight Central time (US) and you will be eligible to win a prize.

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

Four unique voices; two parallel love stories; one sweeping novel rich in the history of nineteenth-century America. This remarkable debut draws from the great themes of literature—famine, war, love, and family—as it introduces four unforgettable characters. Ethan McOwen is an Irish immigrant whose endurance is tested in Brooklyn and the Five Points at the height of its urban destitution; he is among the first to join the famed Irish Brigade and becomes a celebrated war photographer. Marcella, a society girl from Spain, defies her father to become a passionate abolitionist. Mary and Micah are slaves of varying circumstances, who form an instant connection and embark on a tumultuous path to freedom.

All four lives unfold in two beautiful love stories, which eventually collide. Written in gorgeous language that subtly captures the diverse backgrounds of the characters, and interspersed with letters, journals, and dreams, this unforgettable story, rendered in cinematic detail, is about having faith in life’s great meaning amidst its various tangles

Thoughts on the story:

I don’t always enjoy American historical fiction, but May the Road Rise Up to Meet You is a phenomenal novel. Each of the four storylines is wonderfully written and plotted in and of itself, but they mesh beautifully and authentically. It is  obvious that the lives of the four characters will have to cross or connect at some point, but it is not always clear exactly how they will do so. The intertwining of the stories could easily have been very forced and contrived, but Troy draws his characters together naturally. In addition to the four strong and compelling characters, each with fascinating backgrounds, Troy’s writing is very good, combining to make May the Road Rise Up to Meet just a wonderful historical novel.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Troy’s novel is wonderful in and of itself, but the cast of narrators put together by AudioGo elevates May the Road Rise Up to Meet You to an even higher level. Each of the four main characters is voiced by a separate, talented narrator. Each of them manages to completely become their character and, perhaps even more impressively, each is able to seamlessly switch accents when one of the other characters engages in dialog during one their character’s sections.

For more on the audio production, please see my review for Audiofile Magazine:.

Overall:

A wonderful historical novel, no matter how you experience it, but if you have the option I strongly encourage you to listen to the audio, which will only enhance the experience. Very highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

Source: Audiofile Magazine.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin – Book Review

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin, an imprint of Macmillan

Cora Cash is just about as close to royalty as an American can get. Her family isn’t old money, but they’re wealthy enough to be the talk of the town – and own a mansion in Newport that makes the Vanderbilt estate look miniscule. Even so, Cora’s mother is always looking for the next step to improve her family’s standing, and she’s fairly sure she has found it in Europe: a title. Rich American girls are all the rage among Europe’s cash-strapped gentry, to the point where there is actually a publication in the States listing those titled men looking hardest for an heiress. After all, who but a duke could be worthy of the Cash family’s only child? Luckily for Mrs. Cash’s plans, the Duke of Wareham happens upon Cora when she is injured in the woods while riding, and before long the two are engaged. It isn’t long, though, until Cora discovers that she is not quite as prepared for this life as she believes herself to be.

Daisy Goodwin’s American Heiress is a fun and engaging read. Nobody is particularly likable – the closest is Cora’s maid Bertha, Cora herself is quite spoiled – but Goodwin still manages to evoke some empathy for those characters who find themselves in situations they don’t entirely understand. The time period was believable, as was the fairly dramatic plot, both of which contributed to the cotton candy can’t-stop-reading aspect. At close to 500 pages, though, it was just too long. Considering it was much more plot-driven than character-driven, not enough happened to justify that length of book. Quite a bit could have been cut down to create a tighter story.

American Heiress is a flawed but interesting novel. Certainly the concept of Gilded Age American heiresses infusing a generation of British nobility with money is a fascinating – and true – one.

The American Heiress is the SheKnows Book Club pick for May.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, for the SheKnows Book Club.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye – Book Review

The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye
Published by Amy Einhorn/Putnam Books, an imprint of Penguin

Police reports are meant to read “X killed by Y by means of Z.” But facts without motives, without the story, are just road signs with all the letters worn off. Meaningless as blank tombstones.
-Page 1

In 1845, New York is already full of Irish immigrants;. the Catholicism of most of the Irish did not sit well with the majority Protestant New Yorkers, so when the Great Potato Famine hits and an influx of immigrants promises to pour into the city, tensions rise to an all time high. On the surface, this would seem to be a good time for the city to add a police force, but such a move is not without controversy itself. New York’s new police force is very much a part of the Democratic machine, which in turn relies on votes from the Irish, making many in the city – not least the powerful thugs and criminals – its natural enemies.

Although Timothy Wilde wants nothing to do with the Democratic party, he finds himself appointed to the police force by his older brother after a terrible fire takes both his home and his place of work. Although being a copper star doesn’t really appeal to Tim, it seems that he is in the right profession when he literally stumbles across a case involving a murdered little Irish boy, a case Tim is determined to solve.

Faye excels at bringing history, mystery, and phenomenal writing together. She did so in her first novel, Dust and Shadow, and she has done so again with The Gods of Gotham. In Gods of Gotham the reader is fully immersed in mid-19th century New York, with racial, cultural, and political conflicts. Particularly good at setting the scene is Faye’s masterful use of flash in the vocabulary of her characters. In order not to confuse her readers, Faye includes a dictionary of selected flash terms at the beginning of the book, as well as weaving explanations into the context of the story. It is impressive how she manages to do this without it seeming as if she is explaining what is being said on each and every page, but while still remaining true to her characters. As far as the mystery, Faye provides enough clues that a reader can begin to guess who might be involved and perhaps even why, but not so many that there are no surprises left during the climax. As for Faye’s writing, her prose is beautiful and evocative, without getting in the way of the fascinating story she has to tell.

Mystery, history, and prose, The Gods of Gotham has everything. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, for BOOK CLUB.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin – Book Review

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb by Melanie Benjamin
Published by Delacorte Press, an imprint of Random House

In P.T. Barnum’s over-sized world, Lavinia “Vinnie” Bump was both the biggest and the smallest thing around. Born a normal size, both Vinnie and her younger sister Minnie simply stopped growing as young children, Vinnie eventually standing only 32 inches high, and Minnie even smaller. Vinnie, however, was determined never to let her height define her or hold her back and set out to make sure that she had access to nearly everything life could offer.

Melanie Benjamin has a special talent for ferreting out fascinating women who most people would never think to wonder about and bringing their stories to life, first with Alice Liddell, the real Alice behind Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, and now with Lavinia Bump. Benjamin’s Lavinia was strong and determined, although fallible and occasionally naive. There were times that her voice seemed a bit too reminiscent of Alice’s in Alice I Have Been, but the women did, at least how Benjamin wrote them, have somewhat similar, at times almost imperial, personalities.

The Autobiography of Mrs. Tom Thumb provides a much different perspective of the 1850s and 60s than most readers are probably familiar with, but Benjamin makes both her characters and the time period come to life. Recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Personal.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.
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