Audiobook Review: All Creatures Great and Small by James Herriot

Title: All Creatures Great and Small
Author: James Herriot
Narrator: Nicholas Ralph
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publication date: Originally published 1972
Print length: 448 pages
Audio length: 15 hours 23 minutes
Genre: Memoir
Source: Library
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The first volume in the multimillion copy bestselling series.

Delve into the magical, unforgettable world of James Herriot, the world’s most beloved veterinarian, and his menagerie of heartwarming, funny, and tragic animal patients.

For fifty years, generations of readers have flocked to Herriot’s marvelous tales, deep love of life, and extraordinary storytelling abilities. For decades, Herriot roamed the remote, beautiful Yorkshire Dales, treating every patient that came his way from smallest to largest, and observing animals and humans alike with his keen, loving eye.

In All Creatures Great and Small, we meet the young Herriot as he takes up his calling and discovers that the realities of veterinary practice in rural Yorkshire are very different from the sterile setting of veterinary school.

James Herriot’s memoirs have sold 80 million copies wordwide, and continue to delight and entertain readers of all ages.

If you’re looking to let a little bit of sunlight and warmth into your soul, you couldn’t ask for more than this lovely classic (fictionalized) memoir.

All Creatures Great and Small, originally published in 1972, is the memoir of a country veterinarian, going back to the beginning of his career as a newly qualified vet in the late 1930s. James Herriot wrote a series of eight memoirs during his lifetime, which have been published and republished many times in the years since. All Creatures Great and Small consists of the first two of his books and a smidge of the third — and these stories have also been adapted for film and television (more on that later).

All Creatures starts with young James arriving in the Yorkshire Dales to become an apprentice at an established veterinary practice. James’s specialty is farm animals, and the practice’s clientele are largely the region’s farmer, although they do care for the assorted household pets of their village as well. James’s mentor is Siegfried Farnon, an oddball man who’s clearly very gifted at his work, but who has many personality quirks and a disturbing ability to disregard or forget anything that’s inconvenient to him.

Over the course of the book, James develops confidence in his veterinary skills, and slowly earns the grudging respect of the locals, who initially view him as an inexperienced outsider. James is gifted when it comes to the animals under his care, saving countless lives through his modern approaches and determination to see procedures through, no matter how hard.

One of the lovely aspects of the book is the description of the people themselves — from the curmudgeonly farmers to the eccentric mansion dwellers to the race horse owners, and more. The author describes them all with humor and kindness, and brings to life the oddities and personality traits that makes them all so unique.

Note: I mentioned above that this is a fictionalized memoir — a fact I didn’t actually realize until a book group friend provided some background. The author’s name is actually a pen name, the town where he sets the book is not a real place, but rather a made-up town based on the author’s experiences in the area of the Yorkshire Dales, and he’s altered/embroidered many of the chief characters in the book and/or based them on real people, but with different names and some different characteristics. Not that any of this truly matters to me. The book is so enjoyable that I don’t mind the blend of fact and fiction. For more on James Alfred “Alf” Wight, the man behind the James Herriot pen name, see articles here and here.

The audiobook edition that I listened to is a new version which has the star of the current PBS Masterpiece production as the narrator. Nicholas Ralph is terrific in the TV role, and he’s wonderful as the audiobook narrator too. His voice is so familiar at this point that it truly feels like sitting back and listening to James Herriot himself telling us his stories! The actor not only brings James’s character to life, but also delivers distinctive, enjoyable versions of all the various characters, and it’s a delight.

If you haven’t checked out the TV series yet, I highly recommend it! Two seasons have aired so far, and season 3 will be released in the US in January 2023.

I absolutely loved listening to the audiobook of All Creatures Great and Small (and once again, need to give a shout-out to my book group for picking it!). It’s a gentle, heart-warming, funny look at a bygone time, and James Herriot’s love for the community and his profession shine through on every page and with every story he tells.

Highly recommended… and as for me, I look forward to reading (or listening to) the next book in the series, All Things Bright and Beautiful.



Shelf Control #314: Home Baked: My Mom, Marijuana, and the Stoning of San Francisco by Alia Volz

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Home Baked: My Mom, Marijuana, and the Stoning of San Francisco
Author: Alia Volz
Published: 2020
Length: 436 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

A blazingly funny, heartfelt memoir from the daughter of the larger-than-life woman who ran Sticky Fingers Brownies, an underground bakery that distributed thousands of marijuana brownies per month and helped provide medical marijuana to AIDS patients in San Francisco—for fans of Armistead Maupin and Patricia Lockwood

During the ’70s in San Francisco, Alia’s mother ran the underground Sticky Fingers Brownies, delivering upwards of 10,000 illegal marijuana edibles per month throughout the circus-like atmosphere of a city in the throes of major change. She exchanged psychic readings with Alia’s future father, and thereafter had a partner in business and life.

Decades before cannabusiness went mainstream, when marijuana was as illicit as heroin, they ingeniously hid themselves in plain sight, parading through town—and through the scenes and upheavals of the day, from Gay Liberation to the tragedy of the Peoples Temple—in bright and elaborate outfits, the goods wrapped in hand-designed packaging and tucked into Alia’s stroller. But the stars were not aligned forever and, after leaving the city and a shoulda-seen-it-coming divorce, Alia and her mom returned to San Francisco in the mid-80s, this time using Sticky Fingers’ distribution channels to provide medical marijuana to friends and former customers now suffering the depredations of AIDS.

Exhilarating, laugh-out-loud funny, and heartbreaking, Home Baked celebrates an eccentric and remarkable extended family, taking us through love, loss, and finding home.

How and when I got it:

I picked up the Kindle edition about a year ago.

Why I want to read it:

Just last week, I mentioned that I often add non-fiction books to my shelves, yet somehow never find myself motivated to read them. And yet here I go again, featuring a non-fiction book as this week’s Shelf Control book!

This book got a lot of buzz here in San Francisco when it came out in 2020. I remember seeing not just reviews in the arts section of the paper, but also profiles, interviews, etc. And honestly, doesn’t this just sound fascinating?

San Francisco is not my hometown, but I’ve lived here since the mid-90s. Since moving here, I’ve been eager to learn more about SF’s recent and more distant history — and what better and more exciting times to read about than the 70s and 80s? The blurb mentioning Armistead Maupin (author of Tales of the City) doesn’t hurt a bit, and I’m also eager to see how this edibles business transformed into a cause supporting AIDS patients needing medical marijuana.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Shelf Control #313: The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

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Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women
Author: Kate Moore
Published: 2017
Length: 404 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

The incredible true story of the women who fought America’s Undark danger

The Curies’ newly discovered element of radium makes gleaming headlines across the nation as the fresh face of beauty, and wonder drug of the medical community. From body lotion to tonic water, the popular new element shines bright in the otherwise dark years of the First World War.

Meanwhile, hundreds of girls toil amidst the glowing dust of the radium-dial factories. The glittering chemical covers their bodies from head to toe; they light up the night like industrious fireflies. With such a coveted job, these “shining girls” are the luckiest alive—until they begin to fall mysteriously ill.

But the factories that once offered golden opportunities are now ignoring all claims of the gruesome side effects, and the women’s cries of corruption. And as the fatal poison of the radium takes hold, the brave shining girls find themselves embroiled in one of the biggest scandals of America’s early 20th century, and in a groundbreaking battle for workers’ rights that will echo for centuries to come.

Written with a sparkling voice and breakneck pace, The Radium Girls fully illuminates the inspiring young women exposed to the “wonder” substance of radium, and their awe-inspiring strength in the face of almost impossible circumstances. Their courage and tenacity led to life-changing regulations, research into nuclear bombing, and ultimately saved hundreds of thousands of lives.

How and when I got it:

I added the Kindle edition to my e-library in 2017, a few months after the book’s release.

Why I want to read it:

I’ve heard about the “radium girls” many times over the years, in the context of history websites, mentions in TV profiles, and even through a weird but amazing speculative fiction novella (The Only Harmless Great Thing by Brooke Bolander). The sheer horror of what these women went through is astonishing.

I’ve heard so many great things about The Radium Girls, and have been meaning to read it ever since I got a copy! Sadly, as I seem to always mention, I just don’t gravitate toward reading non-fiction — which is something I need to change. I have so many non-fiction books on my shelves that sound amazing, but I just never seem to be ready to pick them up.

Have you read or heard of The Radium Girls? Does this sound like something you’d want to read?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

A gorgeous book to give: The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady by Edith Holden

Title: The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady
Author: Edith Holden
Publisher: Rizzoli
Publication date: 2018
Length: 192 pages
Genre: Nature
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A charming addition to Rizzoli’s carefully curated program of bringing classic books back into print.

This beautifully packaged facsimile of Edith Holden’s original diary is filled with a naturalist’s masterful paintings and delightful observations chronicling the English countryside throughout 1906. As one of the few true records of the time in print, the handwritten thoughts and paintings contained in The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady transport readers to a more refined, romantic, and simpler time.

Capitalizing on the current Downton Abbey-inspired appetite for Edwardian-era ephemera, fashions, and society, this reproduction brings readers back to a time in which propriety, civility, and an appreciation for the natural world reigned. This souvenir of a bygone era serves not only as a calming touchstone, but a reminder that as long as we choose to see it, we are still surrounded by beauty and grace. Presented to retain the charm and beauty of the original volume filled with Holden’s hand-drawn illustrations of the English countryside’s flora and fauna through the changing seasons of the year, as well as handwritten notes, observations, and quotations, The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady makes a lovely addition to any home’s library or side table.

Looking for a gorgeous gift book for a nature lover? Have I got a book for you!

Edith Holden was a British artist and teacher who lived from 1871 – 1920. In 1906, she spent a year documenting the beauty of the world around her through her journals, which were first published in 1977.

Rizzoli reissued this beautiful replication of Edith Holden’s work in 2018, and I’m so glad I stumbled across it. This high-quality hardcover features thick, sturdy pages, filled with the words and illustrations that the author originally recorded.

Organized by month, Edith Holden includes background information on the calendar, some mottos and rhymes about each month, a day-by-day recording of the plants, animals, and weather she encounters, and beautiful illustrations of the natural world she observes. Mixed in with these are also a rich array of poems that she’s selected, all of which complement her writing and drawings.

For me, the true highlight is the illustrations. They’re just beautiful. Not being a huge poetry fan, I ended up skimming a lot of these (ugh, I’m so unsophisticated and lack a decent appreciation for poems), but they’re still nice to have.

I read through the entire book, and I think this is one I’ll keep handy for a quick peek whenever I need a pick-me-up. This would be an amazing gift for the gardener or nature lover or poetry fan in your life!

To see more examples of Edith Holden’s artwork, visit this site, which handles licensing for all related merchandise (and has a nice gallery of images to browse through).

There’s also a coloring book:

And who knew? There was even a TV series about Edith Holden!

As for how I first became interested, I have to be honest and say it’s all about the jigsaw puzzles! I had never even heard of this book until I stumbled across a set of seasonal jigsaw puzzles inspired by Edith Holden… and even after I’d completed all four, I had no idea there was a book until a kind friend mentioned it to me.

This book would make a terrific gift for someone who loves beautiful books, nature, gardens, even historical diaries! Or maybe even a nice little treat for yourself.

Shelf Control #289: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee: An Indian History of the American West
Author: Dee Brown
Published: Originally published 1970; 30th anniversary edition published 2001
Length: 509 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Now a special 30th-anniversary edition in both hardcover and paperback, the classic bestselling history The New York Times called “Original, remarkable, and finally heartbreaking…Impossible to put down.”

Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee is Dee Brown’s eloquent, fully documented account of the systematic destruction of the American Indian during the second half of the nineteenth century. A national bestseller in hardcover for more than a year after its initial publication, it has sold almost four million copies and has been translated into seventeen languages. For this elegant thirtieth-anniversary edition—published in both hardcover and paperback—Brown has contributed an incisive new preface.

Using council records, autobiographies, and firsthand descriptions, Brown allows the great chiefs and warriors of the Dakota, Ute, Sioux, Cheyenne, and other tribes to tell us in their own words of the battles, massacres, and broken treaties that finally left them demoralized and defeated. A unique and disturbing narrative told with force and clarity, Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee changed forever our vision of how the West was really won.

How and when I got it:

I bought the Kindle edition several years ago.

Why I want to read it:

I’ve been exploring Native American fiction over the years, but feel like there are still so many gaps in my knowledge when it comes to understanding the history of Native Americans and the impact of US policies.

I’ve been hearing about this book for ages, and I know it’s considered a modern classic. A family member just read it and raved about it, and that reminded me that this has been on my to-read list for far too long.

I never seem to find time for non-fiction, but this is yet another one that I need to make a priority. From everything I’ve heard, this is an important and powerful look into history and the lasting effects of the US’s westward expansion and settlement upon native populations.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Through affiliate programs, I may earn commissions from purchases made when you click through these links, at no cost to you.

Buy now: Amazon – Book Depository – Bookshop.org

Shelf Control #276: A trio of Bill Bryson books

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

For this week’s Shelf Control post, I thought I’d focus on an author, rather than one particular title. It turns out that I have several unread books on my shelves by Bill Bryson. What am I going to do about that?

Title: In a Sunburned Country
Published: 2000

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Every time Bill Bryson walks out the door, memorable travel literature threatens to break out. His previous excursion along the Appalachian Trail resulted in the sublime national bestseller A Walk in the WoodsIn A Sunburned Country is his report on what he found in an entirely different place: Australia, the country that doubles as a continent, and a place with the friendliest inhabitants, the hottest, driest weather, and the most peculiar and lethal wildlife to be found on the planet. The result is a deliciously funny, fact-filled, and adventurous performance by a writer who combines humor, wonder, and unflagging curiosity.

Despite the fact that Australia harbors more things that can kill you in extremely nasty ways than anywhere else, including sharks, crocodiles, snakes, even riptides and deserts, Bill Bryson adores the place, and he takes his readers on a rollicking ride far beyond that beaten tourist path. Wherever he goes he finds Australians who are cheerful, extroverted, and unfailingly obliging, and these beaming products of land with clean, safe cities, cold beer, and constant sunshine fill the pages of this wonderful book. Australia is an immense and fortunate land, and it has found in Bill Bryson its perfect guide

Title: The Body: An Occupant’s Guide
Published: 2019

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

In the bestselling, prize-winning A Short History of Nearly Everything, Bill Bryson achieved the seemingly impossible by making the science of our world both understandable and entertaining to millions of people around the globe.

Now he turns his attention inwards to explore the human body, how it functions and its remarkable ability to heal itself. Full of extraordinary facts and astonishing stories, The Body: A Guide for Occupants is a brilliant, often very funny attempt to understand the miracle of our physical and neurological make up.

A wonderful successor to A Short History of Nearly Everything, this book will have you marvelling at the form you occupy, and celebrating the genius of your existence, time and time again.

Title: Notes From A Small Island
Published: 1995

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

“Suddenly, in the space of a moment, I realized what it was that I loved about Britain-which is to say, all of it.”

After nearly two decades spent on British soil, Bill Bryson – bestselling author of The Mother Tongue and Made in America-decided to return to the United States. (“I had recently read,” Bryson writes, “that 3.7 million Americans believed that they had been abducted by aliens at one time or another, so it was clear that my people needed me.”) But before departing, he set out on a grand farewell tour of the green and kindly island that had so long been his home.

Veering from the ludicrous to the endearing and back again, Notes from a Small Island is a delightfully irreverent jaunt around the unparalleled floating nation that has produced zebra crossings, Shakespeare, Twiggie Winkie’s Farm, and places with names like Farleigh Wallop and Titsey. The result is an uproarious social commentary that conveys the true glory of Britain, from the satiric pen of an unapologetic Anglophile.

How and when I got them:

I bought The Body when there was a Kindle deal, but the other two are paperbacks I picked up at library sales over the years.

Why I want to read these books:

I constantly struggle with making myself read the non-fiction books on my shelves. I’ve always heard that this author’s books are fun, engaging reads, with plenty of humor as well as great descriptions and adventures. I love the sound of the topics, and know that if I ever break out of my non-stop fiction reading, I’ll enjoy them.

So… this post is a reminder to myself to read non-fiction every so often — especially these books, which I’ve been interested in for a long time, and have a feeling will really appeal to me.

Have you read any of these or other Bill Bryson books? Any you’d particularly recommend?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Shelf Control #270: Lost Kingdom by Julia Flynn Siler

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Lost Kingdom: Hawaii’s Last Queen, the Sugar Kings, and America’s First Imperial Adventure
Author: Julia Flynn Siler
Published: 2012
Length: 307 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Around 200 A.D., intrepid Polynesians arrived at an undisturbed archipelago. For centuries, their descendants lived with little contact from the western world. In 1778, their isolation was shattered with the arrival of Captain Cook.

Deftly weaving together a memorable cast of characters, Lost Hawaii brings to life the ensuing clash between a vulnerable Polynesian people and relentlessly expanding capitalist powers. Portraits of royalty and rogues, sugar barons, and missionaries combine into a sweeping tale of the Hawaiian Kingdom’s rise and fall.

At the center of the story is Lili‘uokalani, the last queen of Hawai‘i. Born in 1838, she lived through the nearly complete economic transformation of the islands. Lucrative sugar plantations gradually subsumed the majority of the land, owned almost exclusively by white planters, dubbed the “Sugar Kings.” Hawai‘i became a prize in the contest between America, Britain, and France, each seeking to expand their military and commercial influence in the Pacific.

The monarchy had become a figurehead, victim to manipulation from the wealthy sugar plantation owners. Lili‘uokalani was determined to enact a constitution to reinstate the monarchy’s power but was outmaneuvered by the U.S. The annexation of Hawai‘i had begun, ushering in a new century of American imperialism.

How and when I got it:

I bought a hardcover edition several years ago, most likely at one of my library’s book sales.

Why I want to read it:

I’ve been fascinated by Hawaii for a long time — not just its beauty and beaches, but also the complicated history of its people and land. I’ve read fiction set in different historical periods of Hawaii’s past (most notably, James Michener’s massive Hawaii), and have read bits and pieces of non-fiction about Hawaiian history, but Lost Kingdom sounds really expansive in its scope.

I remember reading about Lost Kingdom when it was first released, and I know I read at least one (if not more) very positive reviews. I don’t read a ton of non-fiction, but a great history book always appeals to me.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!

Stay tuned!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Through affiliate programs, I may earn commissions from purchases made when you click through these links, at no cost to you.

Buy now: Amazon – Book Depository – Bookshop.org

Book Review: The Heroine’s Journey by Gail Carriger

Title: The Heroine’s Journey
Author: Gail Carriger
Publisher: Gail Carriger LLC
Publication date: September 28, 2020
Length: 322 pages
Genre: Non-fiction – literature/writing
Source: Purchased
Rating:

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Tired of the hero’s journey?
Frustrated that funny, romantic, and comforting stories aren’t taken seriously?
Sad that the books and movies you love never seem to be critically acclaimed, even when they sell like crazy?

The heroine’s journey is here to help.

Multiple New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger presents a clear concise analysis of the heroine’s journey, how it differs from the hero’s journey, and how you can use it to improve your writing and your life.

In this book you’ll learn:

* How to spot the heroine’s journey in popular books, movies, and the world around you.
* The source myths and basic characters, tropes, and archetypes of this narrative.
* A step-by-step break down of how to successfully write this journey.

What do Agatha Christie, JK Rowling, and Nora Roberts all have in common?
They all write the heroine’s journey. Read this book to learn all about it.

From Harry Potter to Twilight, from Wonder Woman to Star Wars, you’ll never look at pop culture the same way again.

I’m not a writer… so why am I reading a book about writing? Because it’s by Gail Carriger, that’s why!

Gail Carriger is a favorite writer, and her books own prime shelf real estate in my personal library. I adore her characters, her plots, her world-building, her dialogue, and her silliness. (She’s also unfailingly welcoming and warm at book signings, which can’t be easy…)

In any case — after reading about The Heroine’s Journey through Gail’s social media and newsletters, I was intrigued enough to want to check it out. Lo and behold, it was a fascinating read, even for a non-writer like me!

In The Heroine’s Journey, Gail explains in details how a Heroine’s Journey differs from the much better-known Hero’s Journey. Surprise #1 — the heroine of a Heroine’s Journey does not have to be female! The concept of the hero and heroine, at least as Gail explains, has much more to do with the types of journeys they’re on, the obstacles they encounter, the resources they use, and their ultimate goal, than with a definition based on gender identification.

Through the use of literary and pop culture references, Gail clearly identifies the key elements of a Heroine’s Journey, and explains the tropes, characters, and beats that provide the journey’s framework. She also provides excellent examples of different techniques to use to bring characters to life, get readers involved, and provide a satisfactory payoff for devoted readers.

As an avid reader, and someone who loves genre fiction of all sorts, I found this book so interesting! It really helped me understand why certain types of stories and plots resonate, and taught me a lot about structure and underlying themes as part of understanding a writer’s craft and accomplishments.

And as for the geek in me, I adored the fact that she used Harry Potter throughout the book to explain different facets of the Heroine’s Journey. It’s fine to provide a writerly explanation of different points, but the examples are what really brought the points to life for me.

The Heroine’s Journey is a great read for anyone who enjoys learning about the craft behind the stories we love. I’ll be pushing this book into the hands of a few writer friends of mine too!

Shelf Control #254: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: I’ll Be Gone in the Dark
Author: Michelle McNamara
Published: 2018
Length: 352 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

A masterful true crime account of the Golden State Killer—the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California for over a decade—from Michelle McNamara, the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case.

“You’ll be silent forever, and I’ll be gone in the dark.”

For more than ten years, a mysterious and violent predator committed fifty sexual assaults in Northern California before moving south, where he perpetrated ten sadistic murders. Then he disappeared, eluding capture by multiple police forces and some of the best detectives in the area.

Three decades later, Michelle McNamara, a true crime journalist who created the popular website TrueCrimeDiary.com, was determined to find the violent psychopath she called “the Golden State Killer.” Michelle pored over police reports, interviewed victims, and embedded herself in the online communities that were as obsessed with the case as she was.

At the time of the crimes, the Golden State Killer was between the ages of eighteen and thirty, Caucasian, and athletic—capable of vaulting tall fences. He always wore a mask. After choosing a victim—he favored suburban couples—he often entered their home when no one was there, studying family pictures, mastering the layout. He attacked while they slept, using a flashlight to awaken and blind them. Though they could not recognize him, his victims recalled his voice: a guttural whisper through clenched teeth, abrupt and threatening.

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark—the masterpiece McNamara was writing at the time of her sudden death—offers an atmospheric snapshot of a moment in American history and a chilling account of a criminal mastermind and the wreckage he left behind. It is also a portrait of a woman’s obsession and her unflagging pursuit of the truth. Framed by an introduction by Gillian Flynn and an afterword by her husband, Patton Oswalt, the book was completed by Michelle’s lead researcher and a close colleague. Utterly original and compelling, it is destined to become a true crime classic—and may at last unmask the Golden State Killer. 

How and when I got it:

A family member sent me her copy after she finished reading it, over a year ago.

Why I want to read it:

True crime is not a go-to genre for me, but I’ve been hearing so much about this book ever since it came out, and I’m intrigued. My family member (who loves true crime) has been raving about this book, and thinks it’s one of the best in the genre.

The more I hear, the more fascinated I am by the topic, and want to learn more about the author’s investigative techniques, her sources, and the work she did to uncover a killer.

Have you read this book? Would you want to?

Please share your thoughts!


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Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!

Shelf Control #247: Cool Gray City of Love by Gary Kamiya

Shelves final

Welcome to Shelf Control — an original feature created and hosted by Bookshelf Fantasies.

Shelf Control is a weekly celebration of the unread books on our shelves. Pick a book you own but haven’t read, write a post about it (suggestions: include what it’s about, why you want to read it, and when you got it), and link up! For more info on what Shelf Control is all about, check out my introductory post, here.

Want to join in? Shelf Control posts go up every Wednesday. See the guidelines at the bottom of the post, and jump on board!

Title: Cool Gray City of Love: 49 Views of San Francisco
Author: Gary Kamiya
Published: 2013
Length: 400 pages

What it’s about (synopsis via Goodreads):

Cool, Gray City of Love brings together an exuberant combination of personal insight, deeply researched history, in-depth reporting, and lyrical prose to create an unparalleled portrait of San Francisco. Each of its 49 chapters explores a specific site or intersection in the city, from the mighty Golden Gate Bridge to the raunchy Tenderloin to the soaring sea cliffs at Land’s End.

This unique approach captures the exhilarating experience of walking through San Francisco’s sublime terrain, while at the same time tying that experience to a history as rollicking and unpredictable as the city herself. From her absurd beginnings as the most distant and moth-eaten outpost of the world’s most extensive empire, to her instantaneous fame during the Gold Rush, from her apocalyptic destruction by earthquake and fire to her perennial embrace of rebels, dreamers, hedonists and misfits of all stripes, the City by the Bay has always followed a trajectory as wildly independent as the untrammeled natural forces that created her.

This ambitious, eclectic, and beautifully written book draws on everything from on-the-ground reporting to obscure academic papers to the author’s 40-year life in San Francisco to create a rich and insightful portrait of a magical corner of the world. Complete with hand-drawn maps of the 49 locations, this handsome package will sit comfortably on the short shelf of enduring books about places, alongside E. B. White’s Here is New York, Jose Saramago’s Journey to Portugal, or Alfred Kazin’s A Walker in the City

How and when I got it:

I bought a copy last year.

Why I want to read it:

I came to San Francisco in my 20s, and while I love my adopted city, I always feel like there’s more for me to learn and explore. I’ve been familiar with this author for a while now, thanks to the weekly column he writes for the San Francisco Chronicle, Portals to the Past, in which he highlights different stories from SF’s history. They’re always surprising, sometimes very funny and/or weird, and never fail to entertain.

I first heard of this book a few years ago, and I finally decided to treat myself to a copy last year, but sadly, haven’t actually taken it off the shelf to read yet. I think this is one that could be read in small bites, maybe just a chapter here and there in between other books.

What do you think? Would you read this book?

Please share your thoughts!


__________________________________

Want to participate in Shelf Control? Here’s how:

  • Write a blog post about a book that you own that you haven’t read yet.
  • Add your link in the comments or link back from your own post, so I can add you to the participant list.
  • Check out other posts, and…

Have fun!