Review: Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets by John Woolf, Nick Baker

Step right up, step right up and don’t be shy—welcome to Victorian Secrets. Over 12 fascinating episodes, Stephen Fry explores the weird and worrying ways of Victorian Britain through true accounts delving deep into a period of time we think we know, to discover an altogether darker reality.

Stephen Fry’s Victorian Secrets by John Woolf & Nick Baker.  An Audible Original published by Audible Studios, November 2018.  7 hours and 33 mins.  Read as my last book for Non-Fiction November.

Legendary British actor and comedian Stephen Fry takes us on a 12 episode journey through the secret taboos of the British Victorian era.  Each episode, or chapter, deals with a specific secret topic.  Just about every secret you can think of is covered!  Family, same sex relationships, porno, sex, dangerous women, beauty, freakshows, minorities, bathroom & health, science & seances, drugs, and Sherlock Holmes & the police.

This was a nice look under the skirt of the Victorian era.  I really learned a lot about a subject I only kind of knew about.  Throughout the audio,  Mr. Fry introduces us to different authors and historians who specialize in whatever theme they are talking about.  Most of them mention books they have written on the subject, so if you want a more detailed look at the subject, you have a title to check out.  I thought that was pretty handy.  Also throughout the audio are numerous quotes from real Victorians via dairies, letters, books and articles (newspapers and magazines).  If you think the Victorian era is straight-lace and conservative, you might be in for a shock!

Stephen Fry does a fantastic performance of narrating Victorian Secrets.  His voice is nice and relaxing, with a hint of cheeky-ness to it.   The authors also did well when they talked about their topics.  When it came to quotes being read from real Victorians, there were voice actors.  They sounded a little soap opreaish, with a side helping of melodramatic, but they were supposed to be like that.  Everyone did a fine job. Since this was an Audible Original, there was also a music score to accompany the multi-cast performance.  Each chapter had it’s own theme song that fit in nicely with whatever the subject was.  I really enjoyed all the ambient sounds in the background – if Mr. Fry was supposed to be in a crowded room, there were people talking in the background; if he was underground, there was an echo.  A really nice touch to add even more dimension to the audio.

The only drawback, for me, was that there was a LOT of sex talk.  I’m not a fan of sexy time romance in my books, so I grew a little bored with so much of it being discussed.  Victorian Secrets was filled with plenty of details about all kinds of sex things.  I wouldn’t have minded if it had all just been contained in to one chapter / episode, but it seemed like the sex topic spilled over in to almost all of the other episodes!  I enjoyed the non-sex topics the most- murder, crime, mental & physical health, drugs, science.  Those topics were really interesting.  I don’t regret listening to Victorian Secrets, but I wish I had known going in that it would be more sex talk then anything else.  I thought I was going to learn more about secret murders or crimes, but those topics weren’t covered nearly as in-depth.

This book was very entertaining and you do learn a lot of interesting facts about the Victorian era that you might not have known before.  Several taboo topics are covered, with scandalous sex being the most covered topic.  Stephen Fry is a great narrator and the multicast does a fine job with interviews and performances.


Review: The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore

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…

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Uh Oh, December is Here! What Should I Read?

December is right around the corner now and it will be here before we know it!  After a slow September and October for me, November seems to have flown right by.  😮

December is always the time when I try to cram in the last few books of the year, or try to complete any of the reading challenges / goals I might be behind in.   There always seems to be a few last min books I want to read before January appears.  December always feels like a deadline looming.

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Review: The Age of Daredevils by Michael Clarkson


At the dawn of the twentieth century, a small but determined band of barrel jumpers risked their lives in one of the world’s most wondrous waterfalls. Only a few survived.

By turns a family drama and an action-adventure story, The Age of Daredevils chronicles the lives of the men and women who devoted themselves to the extraordinary sport of jumping over Niagara Falls in a barrel—a death-defying gamble that proved a powerful temptation to a hardy few.

Internationally known in the 1920s and ’30s for their barrel-jumping exploits, the Hills were a father-son team of daredevils who also rescued dozens of misguided thrill seekers and accident victims who followed them into the river. The publicity surrounding the Hills’ spectacular feats ushered in tourism, making Niagara Falls the nation’s foremost honeymoon destination, but ultimately set Red Hill Jr. on a perilous path to surpass his father’s extraordinary leaps into the void.

Like the works of Jon Krakauer and David McCullough, The Age of Daredevils explores the primal force of fear and the thirst for adventure that drive humans to the brink of death to see if they can somehow escape.

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Review: Feeding the Dragon by Sharon Washington


Sharon Washington’s autobiographical one-woman play, Feeding the Dragon, delighted audiences off-Broadway and is now available exclusively on Audible. The one-act play invites listeners into Sharon’s unorthodox childhood, growing up in an apartment on the top floor of the St. Agnes Branch of the New York Public Library, where her father served as the building’s custodian. A love of literature and boundless imagination helped the playwright as a young woman persevere over dragons of all forms.

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Review: The Anomaly by Michael Rutger


Not all secrets are meant to be found. Nolan Moore — a rogue archaeologist hosting a documentary series derisively dismissed by the “real” experts, but beloved of conspiracy theorists. Nolan sets out to retrace the steps of an explorer from 1909 who claimed to have discovered a mysterious cavern high up in the ancient rock of the Grand Canyon. And, for once, he may have actually found what he seeks. Then the trip takes a nasty turn, and the cave begins turning against them in mysterious ways. Nolan’s story becomes one of survival against seemingly impossible odds. The only way out is to answer a series of intriguing questions: What is this strange cave? How has it remained hidden for so long? And what secret does it conceal that made its last visitors attempt to seal it forever?

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Review: Wicked Wichita by Joe Stumpe


Early Wichita earned a wicked reputation from newspapers across Kansas thanks to a bevy of madams and murderers, bootleggers and bank robbers, con men and crooked cops. Gambler and saloonkeeper “Rowdy Joe” Lowe was the toast of the town before shooting down his rival, “Red” Beard, and skipping town. Robber and cop killer “Clever Eddie” Adams spread a wave of terror until the police evened the score. Dixie Lee ran the city’s classiest brothel with little interference from authorities. Notorious quack “Professor” H. Samuels made a fortune selling worthless eye drops. And county attorney Willard Boone was chased out of town when he was caught with his hand in the bootlegger’s cookie jar. Local author Joe Stumpe tells the real stories of the city’s best-known and least-known criminals and misfits.

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