The Princess Diaries: Audiobooks

When Mia Thermopolis learns she's a princess her world changes--for the worse! This story turns most little girls' dream into a nightmare for one New York teen. In The Princess Diaries Meg Cabot imagines the hijinks, antics, and neurotic wonderings of a modern unwilling royal.

Two different voice actors read these books but they have similar styles, so if I hadn't checked the back, I might not have noticed. Anne Hathaway, who plays Mia in the movie, reads some while the rest are read by Clea Lewis who has acted in several TV shows as well as done voices for cartoons. Some of the boys sound different with the different readers, but Mia sounds pretty much the same throughout. They also start with beautiful classical music over the Little Princess quotes at the beginning of each book which are probably the most moving things in the entire series.

I listened to seven of these which might lead one to believe that I like them, and I suppose I would have to confess I didn't hate them as much as I initially wanted to, but I still think the movie version is better. The reason being is that in the movie you can imagine that Mia is smart which makes her easier to sympathize with. In the book you can't hold onto any such delusions since you can see her every inane thought. Admittedly her father and grandmother are far more comical in the books, but the movie (while not the most profond) is definitely more profound than these books.

Jhumpa Lahiri is simply elegant

I finally managed to get my hands on a copy of Jhumpa Lahiri's latest book Unaccustomed Earth and, once again, was spellbound by her gorgeous prose. Hopefully you are familiar with her previous works Interpreter of Maladies (she won a Pulitzer Prize for this one in 2000!) and The Namesake. This latest work, a collection of short stories, follows Lahiri's previous path of exploring life through the eyes of Indian immigrants and their children raised in America. Not only does she make everyday life seem extraordinary, she also dives deep into intimate, haunting story-telling of love, identity, grief, tradition, and attachment. While her writing nods to tales of immigration, it ultimately finds a place in any culture where characters confront the secrets of the human heart. Her rich, emotional stories will unsettle you, get under your skin and leave you wanting more.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #111

The History of Lucy’s Love Life in Ten and a Half Chapters is fun, fluffy and fantastical.

29 year-old commitment-phobic Lucy is staring at the prospect of a perfect life with dishy and nice Anthony (with whom she had 400 plus one-night stands) and chucks it all, wondering if there’s something better on the horizon.

Sacked from her pointless job and bored, an errant time machine sends Lucy on a dating frenzy with bad boy Lord Byron, Leonardo da Vinci, Ovid and Casanova (a sweet guy, really). It’s a thrill ride but there’s also a lesson to be learned. The question is… Is Lucy ready for it?

This British chick lit./fantasy/romantic comedy is the first to be published in the United States by Deborah Wright, a graduate of Oxford University with three best-selling novels in the U.K.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #109

In Girls in Trucks we first meet Sarah Walters and her Camellia (Society) girls at the Charleston Cotillion School for future debutantes. Then come the Ivy League college days and the decade as single girls in the big city. We watch as they make consistent bad choices about men, drugs and alcohol, falling short of the Camellia Society ideal (no riding in shiny red trucks with boys), and in danger of totally missing out on a chance for happiness.

Told in the linked-short-story format, Katie Crouch’s “exceptional, stylish debut” is distinguished by its “gentle humor and sharp observation couched in straightforward prose with none of the preening preciosity so often seen in Southern fiction.”

Fresh, heartwarming and engaging, it reminds one of Melissa Bank’s The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing and The Last Girls by Lee Smith.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #107

Playwright Theresa Rebeck has won an Edgar and a Peabody for her TV work and numerous awards for her plays and shows great promise as a novelist.

Her debut Three Girls and Their Brother* refers to teenagers Amelia, Polly and Daria Heller - "insanely beautiful" sisters of a well-connected Manhattan family, and their brother Philip. A lavish spread in the New Yorker makes the sisters overnight media sensations and instant celebrities. Exposure and fame brings on enormous opportunities, as well as the paparazzi, lechers and rivalry. When the grown-ups around them prove unreliable guardians, the siblings are forced to take responsibility for themselves.

Three Girls is “a wickedly enjoyable expose on modern celebrity”, “a timely and entertaining morality tale” --- much more than a fluffy chick lit.

* = Starred Reviews

The Darjeeling Ltd.

About three minutes into The Darjeeling Limited, we watch a close up of a businessman running to the titular train pulling out of the station. All of a sudden, Adrien Brody’s character pops into frame and overtakes the man to the crunching opening chords of The Kinks’This Time Tomorrow,” and is able to throw himself aboard while the businessman falls into the distance, all in slow motion no less, and I knew I was going to love this movie already.

No one makes a film quite like Wes Anderson does. Bottle Rocket showed promise, Rushmore fulfilled said promise, and his unique filmmaking style culminated in The Royal Tenenbaums. And even though I actually liked The Life Aquatic (so much so that its cool reception actually surprised me,) I will admit it didn’t offer anything particularly new, and when a director releases a movie only every three years or so, especially a director so unconventional, one so-so movie will raise the questions, “Does he still have it in him, or is he just rehashing a formula?” making this next movie much more important.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #106

In this Olympic year, all eyes are on China. Coincidentally, we have a bumper crop of FFF by expat. Chinese writers, as well as a number of outstanding mysteries set in China.

The Eye of Jade, by Chinese exile Diane Wei Liang who fled her country after participating in the Tiananmen Square protests, is an impressive debut.

Set in the late 1990s' Beijing, P.I. Mei Wang was hired by a family friend to track down a jade seal from the Han Dynasty, supposedly destroyed by the Red Guards. Challenging family relationships, bureaucratic intricacies and an unconventional protagonist made for a fascinating read.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #105

Literature professor (Louisville, Kentucky) Will Lavender’s debut novel Obedience is one tautly strung thriller!

Students at Winchester University’s Logic and Reasoning 204 are greeted on the first day of class with one startling assignment – find a hypothetical missing girl name Polly before the end of term or she will be murdered.

As the clues set forth by the creepy prof. point more toward something real and sinister rather than a logic exercise, three of the students find disturbing personal connections with Polly. What looks like an academic exercise at first could turn deadly.

Obedience hooks you fast and hard. Ride it out and brace for the shock.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #105

Black Ships* is debut novelist Jo Graham's captivating retelling of Virgil's The Aeneid from the perspective of Gull, a slave girl taken at the sacking of Troy.

At 17, Gull was chosen by the oracle Pythia as her successor for her prophetic visions, but she must decide if she would give up her exalted position and sail with exiled Trojan Prince Aeneas on the black ships, in order to guide him to his destiny.

Graham ably re-creates a vivid picture of the ancient world in this historically based fantasy. Her spare style complements the action-filled plot, and the “smoldering emotional resonance” fully engages the reader.

Fabulous Fiction Firsts #104

L.A., gangs, turf war. Sound familiar? Well, Toby Barlow's debut Sharp Teeth* is anything but!

Written in free verse, this "highly addictive, enormously enjoyable, and unexpectedly moving", horror/thriller is about the fantastical world of werewolves. Caught in the middle of savage pack rivalry is Anthony, a kindhearted, down-and-out dogcatcher and the girl he loves who is in fact, a female werewolf.

This adrenaline-packed, fast-paced, darkly comic (card-playing dogs, crystal meth labs, surfing) debut by a Michigan author will surprise and entertain. Barlow is the Executive Creative Director of the giant ad agency JWT, whose clients include Ford, Shell and MTV. He lives in downtown Detroit.

* = Starred reviews

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