Tag Archives: Jodi Meadows

New Grandma’s Review Roundup

In June, I was thrilled to become a new grandma, although it was almost three months early and my knitting projects were still in progress! After all, I have double the projects with newborn twins, sister and brother. What with trips to the hospital for cuddles, library work, and keeping the yarn flowing, I am listening to more audiobooks and writing fewer reviews. Here are some quick picks from a wide range of titles.

My Contrary Mary

Such fun! This alternate history of Mary, Queen of Scots and her young marriage to Francis, heir to the French throne, is somewhat complicated by the fact that, in this version of the world, some people can turn into animals and some cannot. Naturally, the ones who can’t hate the ones who can and vice versa. Don’t bother looking up the dates on Wikipedia, this story is about what the writers want to have happen in the unfortunate monarch’s life. The team of Brodi Ashton, Cynthia Hand, and Jodi Meadows bring us another rollicking tale, supposedly written for teens but with many adult fans, certainly among my own acquaintance. I listened to this one on audio, because the reader, Fiona Hardingham, is fabulous and adds another dimension to the experience. My favorite by this group is still My Plain Jane (reviewed here) perhaps just because of the petulant voice of the ghost.

The Eternal Current, by Aaron Niequist

Many Christians are leaving traditional churches these days, not because they don’t believe, but because they cannot find life in the dry, rote services they find there. Jesus gave us traditions that are earthy and real, and they were embraced by the early church, but somehow lost over the centuries. Pastor Aaron Niequist and a group of like-minded believers formed a group called The Practice which began meeting each week to recapture historic and new traditions of Christianity. This book, subtitled How a Practice-Based Faith Can Save Us from Drowning, is also a podcast to help readers flesh out the concepts and even the methods for the various practices. For example, the members of Niequist’s group all expressed a desire to participate in communion more often and in more meaningful ways. Jesus obviously taught this meal to his disciples, but most Protestant churches today only have communion once a month or even less, using little plastic cups of grape juice. Niequist isn’t condemning these churches; rather, he is asking: “How can we do this better? What did Jesus intend?” If the name Niequist rings a bell, his wife, Shauna, is also a writer and appears with him on the podcast occasionally. Her book, Present Over Perfect, is reviewed here. One of our pastors mentioned this book as being instrumental in the direction of our church, so if you are also longing for meaning, reach out to me and I’ll give you more details.

Bring Your Baggage and Don’t Pack Light, by Helen Ellis

The author of Southern Lady Code brings us another collection of humorous essays, this one centering on the lives and relationships of women past a certain age. Think hot flashes. Helen Ellis can be hilariously funny, but she can also be quite coarse. The author reads the short audiobook herself, which is always a treat. I listened to this one while prepping dinner for just a few days. Entertainment for the fiercely feminist, but proceed with caution.

Love People, Use Things, by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus

I was expecting the Marie Kondo element, but the 7 Habits vibe, the heavy dose of Dave Ramsey, and especially the memoir took me by surprise. Also the kick in the pants. The guys from The Minimalist podcast start off by helping you to deal with your extra stuff, and then Joshua launches into a life history with lessons that he learned along the way. Ryan ends each chapter with a summary and some questions to get you thinking. They take a deep dive into relationships and values, delivering far more than a cleaning manual. Good stuff if you want to give your life a thorough airing, plus I gave away six boxes of donations just from my dresser drawers and closets.

We Are the Brennans, by Tracey Lange

Sunny Brennan left her large, Irish-American family five years ago to live in California. When she drank too much and crashed her car, she reluctantly agreed to come back home to her three grown brothers, her ailing dad, and her former fiancé, who is now married with a little son. She had only planned to stay while she healed, but her family soon had her helping at the pub, where she began to suspect that her oldest brother was hiding something. He’s not the only one. Sunny has been keeping a painful secret that has changed all of their lives forever. So much family drama! An engrossing read with love triangles, squabbling siblings, and crimes new and old. Sunny’s mother is firmly planted on my Most Despicable Characters list.

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The usual disclaimer: I read or listened to advance copies of all of these except The Eternal Current, which I own. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else.

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My Plain Jane, by Cynthia Hand, &c.

My Plain Jane audioJane Eyre and Charlotte Brontë are students at Lowood School, where they are, naturally, cold and starving. Charlotte, who is continually scribbling in her notebook, thinks that Jane is somewhat odd, since she talks to herself at times. In actuality, Jane is talking to her friend, Helen Burns, who died a short while ago. When Jane hears that the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits is coming to a local pub, she runs in to observe, and the star agent— the handsome Alexander Blackwood— realizes that Jane can see ghosts, just as the Society members can. It turns out that Jane is a “beacon,” one of the few people in each generation who can draw ghosts to themselves. Most people think that Jane is quite plain, but to the ghosts, she is incredibly lovely.

Once the head of the Society finds out that Jane is a beacon, he orders Blackwood to bring her to London to work with them—spare no expense, whatever it takes. But Jane has never had a normal life, and so she decides to take a nice, quiet governess position at Thornfield Hall, in the employ of one Mr. Rochester. While her boss is tall, dark, and brooding—everything a young woman could desire—Mr. Blackwood will not give up on wooing her to a position with the Society, and Miss Brontë has agreed to help him. Meanwhile, Helen sticks with Jane and continually offers stubbornly sensible but hilarious advice that is generally ignored.

If all this sounds familiar, but just a little off, that’s because Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have taken the classic Jane Eyre and tossed it in a blender with a ghost story, a spy thriller, a dash of romance, and a cup or two of humor. This is a rollicking tale of wild goose chases, mistaken identities, and brilliant satire. For those who missed the first book in this series, My Lady Jane, it is not necessary to read them in order. Let’s hope that the authors have many more Janes in store.

I listened to the downloadable audio version of this book, which was fantastic. Fiona Hardingham brought all of her comedic talent to bear on this story. My favorite voice was that of Helen Burns, a petulant ghost who sounded very much like Shirley Henderson’s role as the weepy friend with a high voice in Bridget Jones’ Diary who lisped, “Bwidget.”

Teens and adults will be completely entertained by this fast-paced and fun mash-up. During the very worst part of Hurricane Florence, when I thought that trees were going to fall on the house any minute, I sat on a kitchen chair in our pantry under the stairs with my phone balanced on the spice mixes and listened for a couple of hours. I barely heard the storm. I can’t think of a higher recommendation than that!

Disclaimer: I listened to our library’s downloadable audio version of this book. Opinions expressed are solely my own and may not reflect those of my employer or anyone else. (Although I have talked to several colleagues and they completely agree. But don’t tell anyone.)

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