Younger Tom’s Tollbooth in the City of Windy Poplars… and Other Stories

Everyday Adventures

Which is to say, the books I read in April are (were? they still exist…):

  • Uncle Tom’s Cabin
  • Girl Who Owned a City
  • The Phantom Tollbooth
  • Anne of Windy Poplars
  • Younger


And in May I added the following to the read:

  • The God Conspiracy*
  • Digital Magic*
  • Roses of Winter*
  • Into the Woods*
  • The Paying Guests
  • Big Little Lies
  • Brood of Bones*
  • Chasing the Bard*
  • The Seventh Child

Now, my book posts tend to run a bit long, so I’m going to try to keep this brief, by comparison, because I’ve been meaning to write this post since the beginning of May when I was otherwise distracted by Todd’s broken bones. It’s pretty much been hanging over my head as the one I needed to get out of the way so I can get back to blogging regularly, even though it’s more for me than anyone else: turns out I like recording what I’ve read!

This round of books started with finding a copy of Uncle Ton’s Cabin on my Kindle. Now, I thought I was pretty familiar with the story, having seen The King and I oodles of times since I was small and they’ve got that fabulous version of the story as the entertainment for the big important dinner party.

Not the movie version, but a very good rendition of it. (Direct link for the feed readers: Small House of Uncle Tom, Ballet from The King and I)

So I thought I knew what I’d be reading, right? Wrong! Rogers and Hammerstein took some serious liberties with the source material! Eliza? Never met Legree. Legree doesn’t even show up until probably 2/3 through the book! The other thing I was unprepared for was the outright preachiness of the book. I suppose it makes sense given the time it was written in, and the moral appeal Stowe was attempting to make (while being pretty patronizing at the same time), but still. Sheesh!

It also took me about 2 weeks to get through, reading before bed, which is where the graphic novel (Girl Who Owned a City) came in–I wanted a nice, quick read–a palate cleanser, if you will–and I also wanted to try out the public library ereader system. Because that was something else I did in April: got a library card! Of course, I’d hoped to be able to remotely check out the upcoming book club titles but, as with a lot of newer books, there was a waiting list. And when they finally did become available, wouldn’t you know they both popped up in the same week, with only 7 days allowed for each, overlapping? So I sped my way through The Paying Guests and Big Little Lies during the last week of May. I was okay with the Paying Guests (kinda feel about it the way I felt about The Awakening from an earlier month’s book club) but I absolutely adored Big Little Lies.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I also read a real-life paper-printed book in April–Anne of Windy Poplars–which led directly to receiving tickets to the local production of Anne of Green Gables at the end of the month for my birthday. Todd’s great at observational gifts like this. The funny thing about Windy Poplars, is that I have all the Anne stories in Kindle format except Windy Poplars. For some strange reason, at the time I purchased the collection, the publisher had not okayed that particular volume’s digital rights, so there was this gaping hole. And since her years teaching at the college and dealing with the Pringles, et al., are my favorite from the television shows, I was bummed that it was the Windy Poplars installment that held them. So, when I had a couple days off to run some errands in town and I happened to find this in The Bookshelf, I picked up a copy and started in while I enjoyed a leisurely lunch at Grassroots Coffee. That was an awesome day!

Rounding out the April books (back to digital) was a bit of old and new. The Phantom Tollbooth was also lurking about the Kindle files and I’m sad I never read this as a kid because I would have adored it! Having read it for the first time as an adult, though, I think I appreciate it differently. (Just like when I read A Wrinkle in Time a couple years ago–very different from if I’d read it at the intended age.) Younger was one of the Kindle First offerings and I really liked that it dealt with the issues of aging and beauty but turned the often-trod topics on its ear a bit by starting with an older protagonist and regressing her in a very curious way.

When May rolled around and I was spending a lot of time in waiting rooms and monitoring Todd’s recovery, reading was not something I was very good at. If you notice the asterisks on most of May’s reading list, those are all audiobooks–Podiobooks, technically speaking, books published in podcast form. I used to listen to these ages ago while at work, but I find it difficult to concentrate on narrative while working, these days. But! My 2+ hours spent in the car each day? Perfect for consuming audiobooks, and I can get through a book a week or so this way.

There are a couple of things to be aware of if you want to take advantage of Podiobook’s catalog of free audio books. First, the reader is often the author, and that doesn’t always work out so well. Sometimes it’s just the tone of voice that doesn’t sound right to me, so being able to listen to a bit of the first chapter is a good thing before I download the whole series. Other times it might be cruddy production value. Also, my ancient iPod (a 2nd gen Nano) has a default of sorting podcasts newest first and not autoplaying the next one. Because of that, I was focusing on books that had 30 minute or more chapters so that I wasn’t having to fumble with the player while on the highway. Safety first! Then I realized I could drag the podcast episodes into a playlist and put them in any order I wanted, and it’d auto play from one to the other. Success!

Despite my dislike of the preachiness of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, I knowingly downloaded The God Prophecy–does that make me a hypocrite? I don’t think so. I just like knowing what I’m getting into! And end of the world stories are generally fast-paced and interesting. The Christian point of view is a natural one for this sort of story, though I gave the speakers a serious side-eye when the Big Bad’s real identity was revealed. You had to go there, huh? Sigh… Another standout was Brood of Bones. I mean, a narcoleptic priestess in a town where every female over 12 is pregnant all at once sounds like a dark comedy in the making, but turned out to be incredibly suspenseful, bordering on scary at times. The fact that this is but the first book in a series makes me very happy. The fact that the other books are not available in audio form, read by Henrietta Meire, makes me sad. But I will hear here voice in my head as I look up the rest of Marling’s work. After her, the Phillipa Ballentine books (read by the author) are both engaging and a aural pleasure. Seriously, these books make me look forward to driving to and from work.

And I finally finished The Seventh Child. Holy cats, y’all, but that was a slog. I really don’t like books with a slow start (The Paying Guests, this goes for you, too), but I’ve found that if I can stick it out, I’ll be rewarded. Eventually. The Seventh Child took a slow meander through several different orphans lives while building to any sort of real action. It was a good 70% through the book before the pace finally picked up and I wanted to power through to find out more, only to switch to another set of characters who were meandering their way through political machinations and, in the process, killing the momentum. Was the ending ultimately good? Yes, thankfully. There was even a little twist I didn’t expect (though not the ultimate plot answer: that I saw coming pretty much from the beginning, which is why slogging through this book for more than a month was just so excruciating).

Okay, so brief is relative, I guess. But I think that covers it all, more or less. Now I can get back to the other stuff I want to tell you guys about.

Next week!

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