All posts by Laurie C

I'm a public librarian in Massachusetts who loves to give reading suggestions, whether asked-for or not, a specialty known in library jargon as "reader's advisory". I read a lot -- mostly literary, genre, and young adult fiction, but also short stories and memoirs -- and listen to a lot of audiobooks. Newer favorites include Patry Francis, Donna Tartt, Meg Wolitzer, Lev Grossman, Jennifer Egan, Laurie R. King, Lionel Shriver, Carolyn Parkhurst, Penny Vincenzi, Michael Connelly, Alexander McCall Smith, Orson Scott Card, Patrick Rothfuss, Martha Southgate, Jennifer Haigh, Zadie Smith, and Louise Penny. Some older favorites are Lorrie Moore, Anne Tyler, Ian McEwan, Susan Howatch, and Connie Willis.

Reading a Classic with Ralph Cosham: David Copperfield by Charles Dickens (Audio)

Cover image of David Copperfield audio editionThe Blackstone Audio edition of David Copperfield by Charles Dickens, narrated by Ralph Cosham, comes close to being a perfect audiobook! Actually, I can’t think of anything wrong with it except that I listened to it too soon after The Beautiful Mystery by Louise Penny, also narrated by Ralph Cosham. The voice of Mr. Murdoch (a bad guy) in David Copperfield sounded just like the voice of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache (a good guy) in The Beautiful Mystery, which threw me off during the parts near the beginning of David Copperfield where the bullying Mr. Murdoch appears.

Listening to the audio edition read by Ralph Cosham, I felt as though I were sitting by an English fireside listening to the story of the early life of this engaging young man, David Copperfield, read aloud to me by a skilled storyteller, even though I was mostly driving in my car to and from work. It amazed me that a book first published in 1850 is still so engaging to a modern reader. Each time I had to stop listening, I could sympathize with the original readers who read it in serialized format and had to wait impatiently for the next installment.

I don’t think I’d read David Copperfield before, but many of the characters were familiar from hearing about them over the years: Uriah Heep, the ‘umble, obsequious sneak; Betsey Trotwood, David Copperfield’s formidable aunt; and, of course, the perpetually penurious and unemployed Mr. Micawber, who’s always waiting for “something to turn up.”

Since David Copperfield is written in the first-person, as if it were a memoir, it is already one of my favorite kinds of audiobooks. A first-person story with a believable narrator eliminates that stumbling block that some readers have with the first-person voice: How did this book come to exist as a physical book if we readers are supposed to believe in this narrator as a real person? It seems easier to suspend those niggling thoughts when you can just allow the voice of the audiobook narrator to become the story’s narrator in your mind. David Copperfield is supposed to be the most autobiographical of Dickens’ novels and his personal favorite, so it was no surprise that the character David Copperfield has a difficult childhood and eventually becomes an accomplished writer, which had the added bonus of explaining how the main character was able to write such a detailed and skillful “memoir.”

If you have somehow missed out on reading David Copperfield, like me, I highly recommend listening to this audio edition. It was so long it had to go on three MP3-CDs, but I was sorry when I came to the end.

David Copperfield
Charles Dickens, author
Ralph Cosham, narrator
Blackstone Audio, 2012
978-1-4551-3606-3
approx. 34 hours, on 3 MP3-CDs
$59.95 list, on sale at $26.99

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of this audiobook from the publisher through Audio Jukebox.

Weekend Cooking Guest Review: Sensational Slow Cooker Gourmet

Weekend Cooking badge

Weekend Cooking is hosted by Beth Fish Reads. This week’s Weekend Cooking feature is a guest post from Katie from the Doing Dewey blog.  See the original post here: Slow Cooker Recipes Review. Thanks to Katie for suggesting this week’s exchange of cookbook reviews!

GUEST POST by Katie

Book Title: Sensational Slow Cooker Gourmet

Author: Judith Finlayson

Rating: ★★★★★

Review Summary: Very focused on convenience and does a good job of spelling everything out – plus it finally got me to use my crock pot.This book of slow cooker recipes was a great fit for my busy schedule and most recipes don’t look like they’d be too pricey for my poor college student budget either 🙂 In fact, the recipe I made cost me less than $20 for ingredients and will probably make at least 6 meals. But before we get into the recipe, lets start with the book…

Image of cookbook cover

The Review: The introduction included some very useful information, such as tips for getting to know your crock pot and advice on avoiding mistakes that could lead to food poisoning. Unfortunately, this is buried in some of the typical fluff one finds at the beginning of such a book (“slow cooker recipes are awesome and convenient” kind of stuff), but I would strongly recommend reading this section any way. Where the book really starts to shine though, is the slow cooker recipes themselves.

The recipes all have great pictures, which is a must for me when picking a cook book. It’s by far the easiest way of identifying recipes I want to make. Nearly every recipe begins has a wonderful section called “Make Ahead” in the sidebar which tells you what you parts of the recipe you can prepare several days in advance. This makes it very easy to do the cooking when it’s convenient for you! Most of these slow cooker recipes can cook for 4 hours on high or 8 hours on low, which means it’s possible to complete a recipe in a day or let it cook over night depending on your schedule. Although I certainly don’t plan on going out and getting a new crock pot, I did appreciate that the author specified the best sort of crock pot for each recipe. Like many cook books, this book does include some cooking instructions in the ingredients list (“barley, rinsed and drained”, eg) which it’s easy to miss until you actually need to add the barley. Aside from that small and common problem, I liked everything about it.

The Recipe: To truly test out the book, I decided to try making the “Miso-Spiked Vegetable Soup with Barley” and everything went fairly smoothly. I spent about 15 minutes chopping vegetables and another 30 minutes frying them and figuring out my crock pot. I spilled a few things, missed that I needed to drain and rinse the barley until it was time to add it (immediately) to the frying pan, and discovered that the author was serious when she sad a larger crock pot would be better (5 quarts instead of 2.5 like mine). To deal with the smaller crock pot, I only added about half of the called for chicken broth.

In the morning, I discovered that a tiny bit of my barley had burned to the crock pot and my soup was more like a stew – even after adding the rest of the chicken broth. I added an approximate amount of parsley, which ended up being the strongest flavor in the finished product. However, the soup was very tasty any way and even with mistakes the time required to make it was under an hour in the evening and about 30 minutes in the morning. I’ll definitely try making it, and other slow cooker recipes, again 🙂

Picture of finished soup

National Book Award Finalists @nationalbook

NBA logoThe Bluestocking Society has the list of National Book Award finalists with an organized and attractive lineup of all the book covers, too, so head over there to see the full list of National Book Award finalists and comment on which ones you’ve read. (Me=none, so far, but definitely plan to read Junot Diaz’s This Is How You Lose Her soon, after listening to audiobook edition of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao ten years late.)

This year’s ratio of male to female authors? 13:7.

Click here for the National Book Awards site to find out more about the awards process and the National Book Foundation’s mission to “celebrate the best of American literature, to expand its audience, and to enhance the cultural value of good writing in America” with these annual awards.

4,565 people like the National Book Awards on Facebook, and you can follow the NBA on Twitter, too. Something just seems wrong about that.