August was a month where I decided to tackle one of the longest books on my TBR List. I came across the 2021 PopSugar Reading Challenge – a great general reading list of ideas like ” a book with a family tree” , ” a book set mostly or entirely outdoors’. “the longest book on your TBR list”…
A Little Life — Hanya Yangihara
It took a bit more for me to tackle the longest book on my TBR list since it was a commitment of 32 hours and 51 minutes. The book, A Little Life by Hanya Yangihara was on my TBR List solely because my nieces had recommended it and raved about how much they like it. They were right, it was an excellent book.
Hanya Yangihara draws the reader into the world of four college friends, young men with different dreams for their future and their lifelong bonds. There are a number of themes: race, sexual abuse, suicide, trust, family, relationships. This by far was the longest book I have ever listened to and it only dragged for a little while which almost seemed purposeful – in that doesn’t everybody’s life drag at moments?
The narrator, Oliver Wyman does an excellent job with such a powerful piece of literature. A Little Life is one of the most intense books I have ever read or listened to. It is by far one that touched my heart and had me in tears on more than one occasion. I highly recommend reading or listening to this book. 4.5 Stars.
Fox 8– George Saunders
After reading such an intense and long book, I opted to then tackle another PopSugar Reading Challenge suggestion and read “the shortest book” on my TBR List. This happened to be Fox 8 by George Saunders. Fox 8 was 37 minutes of pure joy. I love when I laugh out loud while listening to a book and it was a much needed reprieve being so amused to laughter after having been on the intense journey of A Little Life. Saunders narrates this charming story and is as clever as a fox in presenting a humorous story with a powerful message. I highly recommend this short but impactful story.
Dandelion Wine – Ray Bradbury
I absolutely fell in love with this book. I choose this book based off some comments from my Literati Book Club from members who referred to Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury as a story that they read over and over again during the summer. I am a fan of Ray Bradbury and after reading Dandelion Wine I am more convinced than ever at what a master storyteller Bradbury is. He wrapped me up in his words and took back to the summer of 1928, a time before I was born but a time I could imagine , thanks to his illustrative style. If you only know Ray Bradbury from Fahrenheit 451 or The Martian Chronicles, you should read this wonderful story about summer, being young, being old and everything in between. I’ll read this one again some summer. 5 Stars. 8 hours 42 minutes
In The Woods – Tana French
I closed out August with listening to In The Woods by Tana French. This is my first time reading or listening to a Tana French book, but it won’t be the last. The story is a mystery wrapped up in a mystery. I enjoyed listening to this book , the narrator Steven Crossley has a beautiful and soothing voice which my dogs enjoyed as well. They would always settle right down when it was time to listen which we did for the 20 hour and 24 minute long book. There are some themes in the book which some readers may fine triggering since it deals with domestic violence and rape; but certainly not in an overtly graphic manner.
In The Woods takes place in a small Irish town and is the story of Adam and his two best friends in the summer of 1984, and about the people who live there in 1984 nd twenty years later. In The Woods is about the murder investigation of Katie Devlin, a young girl who had her life ahead of her. In The Woods is about Detectives Cassie Maddox and Rob Ryan. Tana French does an excellent job of making you care about the characters which is what pulled me in so much to this book and kept me there for the first of the Dublin Murder Series. I look forward to reading the next book in series.
It’s been a very busy spring and start to the summer and admittedly my head has been in a book or listening to books. The more I listen to books, the more I want to read physical books, not just the ones on my Kindle. I like the feel of a hardback book on my lap, the feel of the pages as I turn them. Recently, I joined two book clubs that send you physical hardback books. I don’t live near a local bookstore – independent or otherwise, so I have found my recent membership into these two clubs to be helpful in introducing me to new books and authors.
Book of the Month Club was my obvious first choice, since I am very old-school. This was the club that my Mom was a member of way-back-when. I remember the box showing up as a little girl – like a gift in the mail! I thought it was the coolest thing, still do. My first book sent to me was The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah. I wrote a review of the book in my post Reading & Listenings – May 2021.
The other book club I am a member of is Literati which I discovered through my Instagram. Literati has a number of different clubs within their website and the books are selected authors, celebrities and people of interest. I am currently in the Joy Collective hosted by Kelly McGonigal. The focus of this group is : ” Rousing page-turners steeped in the science of our human brain…The Joy Collective will help you to discover actionable strategies to bring more joy, compassion, and resilience into your life. Feel connected to something bigger than yourself with books that explore our capacity to find hope, courage, and belonging.”
So far I have read the June pick of Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro. I was sucked into the story from the moment I opened the book. Kazuo Ishiguro is a beautiful writer who masterfully brings us right into the world of artificial intelligence with introducing us to Klara, the main character and narrator. Klara provides an interesting and unique perspective. The book touches upon many themes: relationships between humans and relationships humans have with technology; grief; social inequality, just to name a few. I highly recommend this to anyone – it’s a beautifully written book and has such an interesting perspective on what the future could bring.
What I like about the Literati Club which I think BOMC could do a better job is Literati makes you feel like you are part of a book club complete with discussions and questions to think about. Both have websites and apps but again Literati’s seems to be more engaging, particularly the ability to post a question to the group or make a remark. where as BOMC is simply more about selling the books as opposed to building a community discussion around the books.
The July pick for Literati’s Joy Collective which I have only just started yesterday The Beauty of Break by Michele Harper
As I have been listening to more and more books, I have wanted to read more and more books. Initially, I was having trouble staying awake when I read since I always was trying to read before bed when I was already tired. I eventually figured out a little lunchtime reading was a good time for me. I wasn’t as tired in the middle of the day. One morning I was so interested to get back to my book I decided to read my book instead of my phone. Progress.
“Darlin’,” he drawled, “go when you are invited. Bring good boots, drive slow, take blankets, carry your own salt, but by all means… go where the light is.
That’s not bad advice, wherever you live. Darlin’.”
When I wasn’t reading Mud Season, I was listening to Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. This title had been one of the first books that I added to my Audible library, then forgot about. Although I am uncertain as to where the original recommendation came from I noticed that James Patterson recommended it in his Masterclass course.
The Audible version I listened to was narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite and ran for 9 hours and 35 minutes. I’m not sure whether the narrator’s interpretation for certain characters’ voices may have ultimately affected how much I liked this book. I found certain voices to be annoying, although it could also have been the character.
This book was just okay for me. Parts were more interesting than others. But as a whole it was just 3 stars okay.
“It was easier to manipulate someone if they didn’t perceive you as a threat.”
I decided to switch things up with my next selection with Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel. Woah. Twisted is a good adjective to describe this book. Neither main characters (Patty or Rose Gold) are likeable which says a lot without saying too much. If you are into psychological thrillers – you will enjoy this selection. The Audible Audiobook is narrated by Megan Dodds and Jill Winternitz and runs 10 hours and 18 minutes in which the author holds your attention throughout. 3 Stars.
I wish I could remember how I found out about this next book I read so that I can thank them for the recommendation. This was a great story! The narration was by Bahni Turpin who was incredible and handled the various voices both male and female masterfully. The story runs 8 hours and 21 minutes long.
Laila Ibrahim has written a beautiful book about relationships. Ibrahim captures the strong bond formed between two women from completely different worlds in the decades leading up to the Civil War. She skillfully weaves into the story the historical views of the South about slavery and the behavior exhibited by some men towards women regardless of color in that time. This was a great book which I highly recommend to any fan of historical fiction. 4 stars!!
But I know a good man make life more sweet. Someone to hold you and love you, someone to share your dreams with, someone kind and thoughtful. A good man’s a treasure.
Laila Ibrahim – Yellow Crocus spoken by Mattie
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig is a book that I believe I learned about through some of the people I follow on the website Goodreads.com. I enjoyed this book immensely and appreciate a story about life, its realities but ultimately the possibilities which lay before all of us. The Audible audiobook is narrated by Carey Mulligan and runs 8 hours 50 minutes. I have since recommended it also to my daughter, who adored it and my brother, who is in the process of reading it.
The only way to learn is to live.
Matt Haig – The Midnight Library
[A quick note about Goodreads.] Last year I joined the Goodreads reading challenge and found that because of the challenge, it’s a personal one – you set the goal- I was more driven to read and listen to books. My biggest obstacle was that I always equated listening to my audiobooks on my long drives to visit my family down in Connecticut and with the quarantine I wasn’t driving anywhere. Instead, I would listen to a book while I was drawing or painting or even while working on a few puzzles. If it was a nice day and I had outdoor chores like weeding the garden or stacking wood, I would listen to my book as I did my work. Now I even find myself listening to my books while cleaning the house – except while vacuuming. Although I suppose the headphones would work well enough since I use them while I am riding the lawn tractor and listening. I made my goal of 50 book and then some last year.
For me, Goodreads has been a great source of ideas and a great way to share book ideas with friends and family. It helps so much to know what types of books people like to read in case you would like to gift them a book. FYI – I don’t get anything for recommending them in any way, shape or form. I just like the site and think other readers would too. Enough about that.
“Change isn’t always comfortable, but it is a fact of life.”
Switching to one of my favorite genres – mythology, I listened to The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris. The Gospel of Loki is part of a series Loki, Book 1 and I found this to be a fun and entertaining book to listen to. Loki’s story is told by the merry prankster, himself, such a different angle to spin the old familiar stories. Loki is such a wonderful character and Allan Corduner does a fantastic job bringing Loki to life! If you enjoy mythology, you will enjoy this. The Audible audiobook runs 10 hours and 6 minutes.
For a few months now I have been intimidated to listen to one of my books. I have discovered the equivalent of the way I would react to books of many pages. The big thick books that would usually make me not read the book just because I thought it would take me forever finish. For audiobooks, it’s length in hours and minutes, specifically when the books get into the 18+ hours. Keith Richard’s memoir Life is 23 hours and 5 minutes and it sat in my library for over 6 months. But I finally decided to dive in.
Wow, I knew when I dove into listening to Keith Richard’s Life that I would be in for a wild ride and that it was and more. I’ve listened to a few memoirs but non as long as this one, but after all we are talking about Keith Richards, the man, the myth and the legend which Keith addresses all three.
“When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equalizer.”
― Keith Richards
There is a lot to unpack in Keith’s life and it is so interesting. Musicians who understand how to play music will really be interested in his describing certain riffs and other technical aspects which Keith discusses – I am not musically inclined but it certainly did not diminish from the experience of listening to Keith’s story. I loved learning about how certain songs came to be and what was going on behind the scenes while they were working on different albums and tours. Keith published this in 2010, eleven (11) years ago now and the Rolling Stones are still together and still touring. God Bless You Keith!
I joined the Book of the Month Club so that I would be exposed to some new books and authors. Many people are very familiar with Kristin Hannah from her bestseller, The Nightingale but when my BOMC have me a chance to select on of her books I had not read any of her books and thought The Great Alone looked like as good as place as any to start. I am so glad I did too, I loved this book! I could relate to some of the rough living – feeding the animals in the middle of a snowy winter; feeding our wood furnace twice a day and making sure we have enough wood to burn throughout the season.
“… home was not just a cabin in a deep woods that overlooked a placid cove. Home was a state of mind, the peace that came from being who you were and living an honest life.”
I found myself at times eager to sit down and escape into the Alaskan wilderness which Kristin Hannah describes so well. Every character in the book brings something to the table which adds to the depth of the story. You come to care about each and every one of them. I highly recommend this book , it’s a great read!
Note: There are many themes that run throughout the story – some can be more triggering than others depending on your own personal experiences (abuse, first love, loss).
It’s was a whirlwind of a spring for me and from the looks of it, I had my head in a book or audiobook most of the time. Not a bad place to be actually. I counted up 14 titles in April and May – averaging 7 titles per months sounds about right. I have started to read – yes, with my eyes – more. It seems all this listening to books is having a positive effect on my ability to read. There was a time not too long ago where I had a tough time staying awake when I tried to read. Reading before bedtime, for someone who traditionally always struggled as a reader, is not a good time to start trying to build a new habit. I think that’s why I gravitated to the audiobooks. I love the freedom they give me, allowing me to be drawing or outside weeding in the garden with headphones on. I have been able to listen to fantastic works which previously I was too intimidated to attempt because reading has been a lifelong struggle for me. I’m a slow reader, although I must admit I am finally picking up my pace — after 50 years! Slow and steady…
The mind forgets but the heart will always remember. And what is the heart’s memory but love itself?
The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng
When I left off last post, I had already started The Gardens of Evening Mists as per the recommendation of my cousin who had learned about the book from her step-mom, also my Aunt. I am thankful the family grapevine brought me this book recommendation.
The Garden of Evening Mists is beautifully written by Tan Twan Eng and narrated by Anna Bentinck and runs 15 hours, 37 minutes. The descriptions of the Japanese garden of Yuguri will transport you to the Cameron Highlands of Malaya. But this book goes so much deeper than that. The characters are full of depth and each have their own individual stories which weave together in a story of love and survival during the Japanese occupation of Malaya. I highly recommend this book anyone interested in historical fiction or Asian culture. 4 Stars.
All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others.
Animal Farm- George Orwell
With everything going on in the United States of late, I had to re-read this great classic by Mr, George Orwell. I found Animal Farm to be as thought provoking today in 2021 as I did when I read it in high school in the early 1980s. I actually feel I have an even better understanding of what exactly George Orwell has been trying to warn us of through his illustrative tale.
I highly recommend either reading or re-reading or listening to Animal Farm. This classic withstands the test of time. Orwell is such a master of words and conveys so much in such a short succinct story. 101 pages which everyone should read or just over 3 hours to listen to – either way time well spent!
Words can be like x-rays if you use them properly — they’ll go through anything. You read and you’re pierced.
Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
I stayed on the theme of dystopia with Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. The title has come up as recommended reading by a couple of authors in my Masterclass courses: Atwood and Patterson, so I thought now was as good a time to revisit it. I listened to the free version which is offered with my Audible membership which is an 8 hour unabridged version but is narrated by Michael York. I have come to the conclusion that I don’t really enjoy listening to Michael York read to me. As for Huxley’s story, I highly recommend reading this book. It’s good even though it’s disturbing how prophetic is seems Huxley has been. I think Brave New World is a book that may need to be read, digested, re-read, digested, and not given over to someone else’s interpretation whether it be visual or even auditorial. It’s all in the words which when you read, you are pierced. 4 Stars Story, 1 Star Narrator.
My father and I have been talking more about the books we are reading and he recommended Need To Know by Karen Cleveland. He raved about how good it was and how much he enjoyed reading it. The Audible version is unabridged and narrated by Mia Barron who was excellent and runs for 9 hours and 39 minutes. After finishing Need to Know for myself, I thought that I just listened to an episode of the television show The Americans. Not that that’s bad, I liked that show and thought my Dad would like it too, if he watched something other than sports. Need To Know ultimately is an entertaining spy-thriller that would appeal to readers of that genre. A perfectly good beach read at 3 stars.
Still in the mood for mystery, I decided to check in with one of the classics that was recommended to me in one of my Masterclass writing classes. Specifically, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd by Agatha Christie had been recommended by Margaret Atwood as an excellent example of a first person narrative. It was and is an magnificent recommendation too that I give 5 stars! Agatha Christie is the master of mystery and The Murder of Roger Ackroyd is another piece of evidence in proving that case. The narrator, Hugh Fraser is the perfect storyteller for this story. If you are a fan of a good mystery – check this one out!
“The truth, however ugly in itself, is always curious and beautiful to seekers after it.”
Changing gears completely, I switched over to something that held some history and adventure with The Republic of Pirates:Being the True and Surprising Story of the Caribbean Pirates and The Man Who Brought Them Down by Colin Woodard, narrated by Lewis Grenville.
I have always been intrigued by pirates since I was a young girl. However, other than what I had seen in movies and via Disney, I realized I knew nothing about them, Until now. I loved learning the true history and story behind the Caribbean Pirates. The book is well researched and the way Colin Woodard weaves in real dialogue with the factual stories is well done. 5 stars!
I have so many more books to discuss, but I think this is a good place to take a pause. So look for more book recommendations in my next post Readings and Listenings – May 2021. If you are on the website Goodreads you can follow my reviews on my Goodreads.
It’s hard to believe it’s March already. The last month has been somewhat of a blur to me. A week into the month, my son called to tell me that he hurt his knee while sitting on his air mattress which has been doubling for a couch while he waits for the couch he ordered in December to arrive. The good news is that we learned just yesterday that it is scheduled for delivery the last Friday of this month. Finally.
The second week of the month started with my mother experiencing her second stroke in 5 months – this stroke ultimately took her life 5 days later. Since then we have said our goodbyes to her as a family graveside and with extended friends and extended family via a zoom memorial. I miss my long conversations with her and now continue to grieve. It will take some time but life goes on.
I have been reminded of that fact this last week as I have been consumed with dealing with my son’s knee surgery and having to care for him during his recovery. My mother always said ‘the job of a parent isn’t ever really fully done.’ She was always there for me when I needed her and I will always be there for my kids when and if they need my help. In the last 7 days, I have averaged 3.4 miles of walking and 10 flights of stairs daily in my own house simply running around, going up and down the stairs (the house unfortunately is not set up with a first floor bedroom). My left knee hurts a little bit.
I find listening to my books to be such a relief. It’s my me-time. I have been downloading my tax forms and filing stuff from last year that never got filed in 2020. I haven’t felt very artistic lately but I am trying to relax and get back into the routine of drawing.
I listened to 2 books in February, the first was a title I had in my library for a while and as part of my resolution to read the older titles in my library and stop accumulating more books – which I still do anyway – I finally tackled it. I am so glad I did too! Beneath a Scarlet Sky is a phenomenal story by Mark T. Sullivan. The audiobook which I listened to is narrated by Will Damron and runs 17 hours and 43 minutes and is just amazing! Wow! I found this to be a fascinating book.
“It all made Pino realize that the earth did not know war, that nature would go on no matter what horror one man might inflict on another. Nature didn’t care a bit about men and their need to kill and conquer.
Mark T. Sullivan, Beneath a Scarlet Sky
The story is about the remarkable life of Pino Lello, a young boy from Italy during WWII. I was on the edge of my seat plenty of times throughout the story. I highly recommend this read to anyone who is interested in history and adventures. 5 Stars.
I decided to switch gears afterwards and listened to another Taylor Jenkins Reid novel – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I found this book to drag in areas, granted that’s a lot of husbands to go through. Overall the plot is interesting and Evelyn Hugo character who I found to be very deep and complex. However, the character of Monique annoyed me bit. She seemed a bit whiny at times and I don’t like hanging out with whiny people and I have begun to notice I don’t like books as much that feature whiny protagonists. The book is narrated by Alma Cuervo, Julia Whelan and Robin Miles and runs 12 hours and 10 minutes. 3.5 Stars.
I am able to focus so much better on things and block out all the external clutter of the world which has been great lately. I continue to listen to The Word of Promise Audio Book, New King James Version which is narrated by Michael York, Jason Alexander, Joan Allen, Richard Dreyfus, Louis Gossett, Malcolm McDowell Jr., Gary Sinese, Marisa Tomei and Stacy Keach. This behemoth runs 98 hours and 1 minute. I’m only 2 hours 26 minutes into it so far but I have enjoyed listening to it. I have only read parts of the Bible and it is one of my resolutions to complete.
I began the March with A Burning: A Novel by Megha Majumdar. A classmate of mine who now lives in Australia recommended the book. The audiobook runs only 7 hours and 22 minutes and is narrated by Vikas Adam, Priya Ayyar, Deepti Gupta, Soneela Nankani, Neil Shah and Ulka Simone Monhanty who all take on the voices of the various characters features in this story about class, corruption, justice and the individual roads fated in life.
I found this to be an interesting glimpse into a different culture. The characters are unique and captivating – yet, all somewhat relatable despite living in a country where societal norms differ greatly from those in the western cultures. I felt frustrated for Jivan and Lovely and what they endure as women in India.
Many years ago I would have been asking why is this happening? But now I am knowing that there is no use in asking these questions. In life, many things happen for no reason at all.
Megha Majumdar, A Burning: A Novel
I thoroughly enjoyed the The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. Since finishing it, there are descriptive scenes which have stayed with me and I thought about repeatedly. I love old fairy tales and I love the idea of taking a children’s story and turning it into a novel. I loved the passages about the landscape and I found the characters to be as deep and full as the Alaskan snows they endured. I highly recommend this book to readers who are interested in adventures in the Alaskan wilderness with a touch of old fashioned fairy tale weaved into a modern day story of love and survival. 4 stars.
Currently I have started to listen to The Garden of Evening Mists by Tang Twan Eng, a recommendation from my cousin who first heard about the book from my Aunt. My cousin raved about it and thought I would enjoy since I love nature and gardening so much. I’ll let you know what I think about it next time.
Happy Reading – “A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies . . . The man who never reads lives only one.” – George R.R. Martin
I started 2021 off with an old Oprah’s Book Club recommendation American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins narrated by Yareli Arizmendi, it runs 16 hours, 43 minutes. I really enjoyed this book as it is filled with good characters who you come to care about. You are taken on their journey and the author does a good job of putting the reader/listener right by their side. 4 Stars.
Trauma waits for stillness. Lydia feels like a cracked egg, and she doesn’t know if she is the shell or the yolk, or the whole white. She is scrambled.
Jeanine Cummins, American Dirt
My cousin recommended The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse to me and I will be forever grateful that she did. This is a beautiful book – which I listened to the audiobook but also ordered myself the hardcover version of and am still waiting to receive a month later. So I am really happy I listened to the audiobook and didn’t have to delay the wonderfully powerful words that Charlie Mackesy wrote and had the pleasure of listening to the author tell his tale. In 58 minutes, I listened to one of the most powerful and touching stories I know I have ever known. I am eager to see his beautiful illustrations that are set to his equally beautiful words. This is a MUST READ- MUST LISTEN TO. 5 Stars
“The greatest illusion,” said the mole “is that life should be perfect.”
Charlie Mackesy – The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse
My son gave my the audiobook, From Here to There: The Art & Science of Finding & Losing Our Way for Christmas. We are always talking about finding our way in life whether it be on an actual road or hypothetical one. A Wired Most Fascinating Book of the Year, I am sure this is where he came across this title.
Michael Bond helps us explore from here to there and the fine art of navigating through life. Bond gives examples of people having been lost and then found and what they learned from their investigations. I found this to be a fascinating listen -albeit a bit technical in spots which is also why listening to this book was a better choice for me since I probably wouldn’t have read the technical parts as well as I listened to Pete Cross, the narrator read them to me. 3 Stars.
As the month rolled on I switched gears and listened to The Wife Between Us by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen- another recommendation from my Instagram friends over at Bites by the Page from the end of April. This was a great book that has your head spinning try to keep up with all the twists and turns. I highly recommend curling up with this book or audiobook. I listened to this book narrated by Julia Whelan and it runs 11 hours, 25 minutes. Four Stars.
I was happy,I think, but I wonder now if y memory is playing tricks on me. If it is giving me the gift of an illusion. We all layer them over our remembrances, the filters through which we want to see our lives.
Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, The Wife Between Us
Snow Flower and the Secret Fan by Lisa See is read by Janet Song and runs 11 hours and 6 minutes. This was an interesting story, the beginning reminded me of a young adult novel, I read with my children when they were in middle school called The Ties That Bind, the Ties that Break by Lensey Namioka and was published in 1999. The story of the relationship between Lily and Snow Flower is more than a story about two women in 19th century China and what they encounter in life. It’s the story about the close relationship women form and the depths of those bond and how misunderstandings can arise and threaten them. The more I thought about this book, the more I liked it. 4 Stars.
In our country we call this type of mother love teng ai. My son has told me that in men’s writing it is composed of two characters. The first means pain; the second means love. That is a mother’s love.
Lisa See, Snow Flower and the Secret Fan
Switching genres, I decided to listen to Bryan Cranston’s memoir, A Life in Parts. I like Bryan Cranston – although not a Malcolm in the Middle viewer, although I may revisit that since listening to his book. Cranston is an interesting fellow who has lead a very interesting life. I enjoyed listening to his rise to fame and it was fun hearing some of the background about Breaking Bad. If you enjoy Bryan Cranston as an actor, you will enjoy his book. 4 stars.
The best teacher is experience. Find the educational in every situation.
Bryan Cranston, A Life in Parts
Next I listened to The Other Side of Everything by Lauren Doyle Owens, narrated by Lisa Flanagan, Katie Schorr, Jack de Golia and runs 8 hours and 47 minutes. This book touches upon a number of intense subjects – but I guess that’s what happens when you glimpse into the lives of a neighborhood. A good mystery to curl up with when you are in the mood for one. 3 Stars.
Finally I ended the month with Objects of My Affection by Jill Smolinski, narrated by Xe Sands and it runs 10 hours, 16 minutes. I found this book a little difficult to get through only because I did not like any of the characters in this book except for Marva – everyone else I was not a fan of and certainly would not hang out with any of them if they were real. The issues dealt in the book are very real though – addiction, hoarding, suicide, aging and though I don’t like the character, Lucy, there are many Lucys in this world. She handles her son’s addiction the way a lot of parents would with denial. I am also not a fan of steamy love triangle but it can happen I suppose. That said the book as a whole is interesting, Marva’s story in particular. 2.5 stars
I know this is not exactly the right time of year to be discussing holiday-themed books but life has been more difficult than usual lately and I wasn’t writing as much but have started again – or at least I am trying to write more. With that said …. If you are ever interested in book recommendations for something to enjoy over the holidays – save this post! Or put some of these books of on your Goodreads “I Want to Read” List. When the holidays start to roll around, I have started to look for books that help get me in the mood. 2020 was a very difficult year, especially to get into the mood for celebrating the holidays. I started off with Seven Days of Us by Francesca Hornak which about a family that quarantines together during Christmas – nothing to do with COVID though. I enjoyed listening to this book which was narrated by Jilly Bond and runs 9 hours 34 minutes. The story is a little predictable but a good listen for the holidays. 3.5 Stars.
In this, the most wonderful time of the year, food is the savior. It s food that oils the wheels between deaf aunt and mute teenager. It is food that fills the cracks between siblings with cinnamon scented nostalgia, and it is food that gives the guilt ridden mother purpose.
Francesca Hornak – Seven Days of Us
Winter Street by Erin Hilderbrand, narrated by Erin Bennett is a Christmas novel which I found to be alright. A good listen for December but it wasn’t my favorite and it’s the first in a series which may have something to do with it. I have found with “first in a series” books that the good ones can stand up alone, on their own, despite the series. The audiobook runs for 6 hours, 51 minutes. 2.5 stars.
With this in mind, Ava tells herself to be present and celebrate the holiday instead of wishing it were over. Afterall, one is given only a certain number of Christmases in one’s life.
Erin Hilderbrand – Winter Street
Children were an act of optimism – sheer belief – the future will outshine the present.
Samantha Silva – Mr. Dickens and His Carol
I love Charles Dickens and last year listened to his A Christmas Carol. So this year, I was particularly excited to stumble upon Mr. Dickens and his Carol by Samantha Silva. As a writer, I have often wondered where great authors have found their inspiration and this is a story which explores that very idea. I really enjoyed this story – it’s a classic unto itself. Samantha Silva does an excellent job of giving us a fantastical glimpse into the muses and catalysts for some of the greatest stories ever written. A wonderful book! Narrated by Euan Morton, who was very good and runs 8 hours, 9 minutes. 5 Stars.
A good biography tells us the truth about a person’ a good story, the truth about ourselves.
Samantha Silva – Mr. Dickens and His Carol
Next up was One Day in December by Josie Silver, narrated by Eleanor Tomlinson and Charlie Anson, who were very good. I enjoyed this book even though I am not one for romantic stories but there was something about this story I found relatable. Looking over my notes at all the quotes I liked, I see Josie Silver and I are on a similar wavelength. Four Stars
There comes a point where you have to make the choice to be happy, because being sad for too long is exhausting.
Josie Silver, One Day in December
Sometimes you meet the right person at the wrong time.
Josie Silver, One Day in December
Bites by the Page is a great Instagram account which I have gotten a lot of great book recommendations from in the past and it didn’t disappoint for a good holiday read either. A Christmas Memory is wonderful book by Truman Capote which includes three short stories about the holidays in the south. Truman Capote is a master storyteller, the stories are real and don’t make any pretense that holidays are always happy.
Of course there is a Santa Claus. It’s just that no single somebody could do all he has to do. So the Lord has spread the task among all of us. That’s why everybody is Santa Claus. I am. You are.
Truman Capote, One Christmas
Finally, a classic quickie at only 1 hour and 20 minutes long, The Snow Queen by Hans Christian Andersen, narrated by Katherine Kellgren. The Snow Queen is what Disney made into Frozen and is a story ultimately about friendship.
When we get to the end of the story, you will know more than you do now.
October was a month filled with all sorts of wonderful listens for me. I spent a time listening to my audiobooks while working on my drawings and photographs. Other times I am literally on the floor filing. Many times I have put my headphones on and gone outside to weed or stack wood while listening to my audiobooks. I have enjoyed listening to so many books this year – here are some of the audiobooks I listened to in October and the very beginning of November.
I started the month off with A Book by Desi Arnaz. I really enjoyed listening to this memoir. One of my older brothers, Harry had mentioned he was reading it during a family zoom call and recommended it. We used to watch I Love Lucy together as kids and Lucy and Ricky Riccardo were like old friends.
Before listening to this book, I knew very little about Desi Arnaz. He led an amazing life from his early days in Cuba to his success in the United States. I found this was a fun book to listen to, I enjoyed hearing his stories very much. It was fun and interesting to learn some of the behind the scenes details. I highly recommend this reading or listening to this book!
Recently, I started to follow the Instagram page Bitesbythepage – “Sharing delicious recipes inspired by our favorite books each week’. A few weeks ago they posted an interview with the author, Deborah Goodrich Royce about her book Finding Mrs. Ford. I really enjoyed this book, sucked in by the vividly described setting of Watch Hill, Rhode Island, which immediately placed me in the world Mrs. Ford lived. The story grabbed me immediately and took me places I’ve lived or visited from NYC to Rhode Island and Warren, Michigan. The characters are believable and multi-dimensional. I highly recommend this book. I listened to the audiobook , narrated by Saska Maarleveld and it ran 9 hours and 35 minutes. 4 Stars!
My son had asked me to read the book, Dune before the new movie comes out. I’ve always loved science fiction/fantasy and over the years when he was a child read to him many books like the entire series of The Chronicles of Narnia, The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings series. So when he asked me to read Dune, I was open to the idea but decided to listen to the audiobook. At 21 hours and 2 minutes, the book was narrated by Scott, Brick, Orlagh Cassidy, Euan Morton, Simon Vance and Ilyana Kadushin.
The mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.
Dune is a complex book with multiple themes including water, religion, politics and racism. Listening to the book and recognizing these themes, I was struck by the fact that the book was originally published in June 1965 and I was 7 months old. I have read a lot of books at this stage of my life that are part of a big series. I had the feeling throughout the whole book that this was just the beginning of something meatier that we would read a few books in. There are 6 books in the original Dune series that Frank Herbert wrote between the years 1965 to 1985, and there are a few other books that he co-authored after that with Kevin J. Anderson.
My biggest criticism of the book would be that I didn’t feel very attached to the characters and the book as a whole was okay. 3 Stars.
I dove back into memoirs and biographies with Face It, Debbie Harry’s memoir. The audiobook was narrated by Debbie Harry, Chris Stein, Clem Burke, Alannah Currie and Gary Valentine. I love listening to memoirs that are narrated by the author. Listening to Debbie tell the stories and tales of her rise to fame was like sitting down with an old friend and hearing their stories.
I was a huge Blondie fan growing up in New York City in the 1980s. I saw Blondie at multiple venues during my teenage years, so listening to her tell her stories about the band was fun. Debbie narrates most of the audiobook which comes with a PDF file so you can see the fan artwork she includes in the book. Debbie kept thousands of drawings that were mailed to her throughout the years and seeing that she kept it was pretty incredible.
If you enjoyed Blondie’s music, I think you will enjoy this book or audiobook which runs 8 hours and 57 minutes. 3-1/2 stars
Next I switched up to a Cold War spy thriller by John Le Carré. Call For The Dead introduces us to one of Le Carré’s favorite protagonist, George Smiley. I like to read books in order so I decided to read this book first which is also John Le Carré’s first published book. The audiobook was a quick listen at 4 hour and 44 minutes and is narrated by Michael Jayston. I don’t read or listen to a lot of spy thrillers but I enjoyed this one. George Smiley is a likeable character that you come to have interest in and care about. I look forward to listening to more of Le Carré’s books especially the George Smiley series.
The Dutch House by Ann Patchett was the next book I listened to and I absolutely loved this book! It’s s story about a family and a house and Patchett makes you really involved and interested in the characters. Her vivid descriptions of the Dutch House place you right there. Tom Hanks narrates the novel which is 9 hours and 53 minutes, the story is well paced. I highly recommend this book or audiobook – I looked Tom Hanks as the narrator and thought he was perfect! 5 Stars.
You need to serve those who need to be served, not just the ones who make you feel good about yourself.
Ann Patchett – The Dutch House
Since it was October , I thought it only fitting to listen to a classic Agatha Christie Who-Dun-It and listened to Hallowe’en Party narrated by Hugh Fraser at 6 hours, 27 minutes. This was a fun book to listen to and Agatha Christie is the master of mystery. Hercule Poirot is called upon to solve the mystery revolving around a Halloween Party. Christie’s characters are charming and this story is engaging. Hugh Fraser is a wonderful narrator and adds to the experience. I highly recommend, particularly a good one for a cozy night by the fire in October. 4 Stars
I dove into this Stephen King book called Different Seasons. This is actually a compilation of four gripping novellas. The first one “Rita Hayworth & The Shawshank Redemption” was made into the well known movie, Shawshank Redemption which I never watched. The second story is called the “Apt Pupil’ and this turned out to be one of my favorites of all four stories. The third one is “The Body” which was made into the movie, Stand By Me – another great story. The last story was my least favorite, titled “The Breathing Method”. Frank Muller is the narrator and he is an excellent narrator, adding much to the experience. 4 stars.
It always comes down to two choices. Get busy living or get busy dying.
Rita Hayworth & The Shawshank Redemption- Stephen King
You can see something for the first time, and right away you know you have found your great interest. It’s like turning a key in a lock. Or falling in love for the first time.
Apt Pupil – Stephen King
The important things are the hardest things to say. They are the things you are ashamed of, because words make them smaller. When they were in your head, they were limitless, but when they come out, they seem no bigger than normal things.’
The Body – Stephen King
Homesickness is a real sickness – the ache of the uprooted plant.
The Breathing Method – Stephen King
I was still in the mood for mystery and continued by jumping back to a classic Agatha Christie mystery with And Then There Were None. This is one of my all time favorites – a masterpiece in suspense! The audiobook is 6 hours 2 minutes and narrated by Dan Stevens. I ghly recommend this book! 5 Stars.
I ended the month out with another recommendation by one of my favorite instagrammers Bites By The Page and listened to The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides, narrated by Jack Hawkins and Louise Breasley at 8 hours, 43 minutes. I loved this book! There were so many twists and turns and the story is so interesting. The narration was quite good and added to the experience. 5 stars.
Sometimes it takes courage, you know, and a long time, to be honest.
It’s been a busy couple of months for me, as I am selling my house down in Connecticut that I have been living in since 1995. So the last 7 or 8 weeks I have been submersed in packing and unpacking, repacking and organizing. Although I have continued to listen to my audiobooks while doing all of this. Again I find audiobooks to be such a refreshing change from watching television and since there is no vision to concern myself with- I am free to move about and focus my eyes on other things while my ears are able to continue listening contently.
There are some who can live without wild things, and some who cannot.
A couple of months ago, I became aware that my 87 year old father had recommended that one of my niece’s read Where The Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens. I had this book in my audio library to read and was curious as to why my father would so strongly recommend this book. Narrated by Cassandra Campbell for 12 hours and 12 minutes, Delia Owens transports you to another world, the worlds collide of Chase Andrews of Barkley Cove, North Carolina and young Kya Clark, who lives in the marshlands and dubbed the “Marsh Girl” by locals.
She knew the years of isolation had altered her behavior until she was different from others, but it wasn’t her fault she’d been alone. Most of what she knew, she’d learned from the wild. Nature had nurtured, tutored, and protected her when no one else would.
I really enjoyed this book. I was sucked into Kya’s world instantly. This is the first novel for Delia Owens. It’s easy to see the influence that her career as a zoologist has on her writing. The descriptions of the natural surrounding of the marsh in landscape and animal immerses the listener even deeper into Kya’s world.
Female fireflies draw in strange males with dishonest signals and eat them; mantis females devour their own mates. Female insects, Kya thought, know how to deal with their lovers.
I kept thinking about my Dad reading the book while I was listening. It’s not the type of book I would have thought my father would be drawn to. Most of the book I knew he liked, at least while I was growing up, were either historical or spy thrillers. I asked my Dad after finishing the book why he read the book and recommended it. He said that some people at the office (back when they were all allowed to be at the office together) had recommended the book to him and he was very touched by the story.
I always have a tough time coming off a book that has a good a story as Where The Crawdads Sing. I decided to switch genres and listened another book my father recommended. The Splendid and The Vile by Erik Larsen is an interesting portrait of Winston Churchill, his family and London during the Blitz.
If we can’t be safe, let us at least be comfortable.
Larsen’s book sounds more like a novel when listening to it than a history book. I was transported to that time in history and felt through Larsen’s descriptions that I was right there with Churchill, his family, close friends, advisors and political advisors and rivals. All quotes and accounts have been previously documented in journals, original archival documents, and declassified intelligence reports – some released only recently.
Never was there such a contrast of natural splendor and human vileness.
I enjoyed this book and learned so much for Churchill, his family and that brief but important moment in history.
The book I am currently listening to was a recommendation from my niece. She had told her mother (my sister) about it who told me. She said that if you enjoyed Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, you should definitely check out The Guest List by Lucy Foley. I’ve only started the 9 hour and 54 minute story but so far I am intrigued. This is the 20th book I have listened to so far this year – already surpassing the 16 that I listened to last year.
Human Touch: A Story in Real Time by Mitch Albom Narrated by Mitch Albom (4 hours, 39 minutes)
The first of the books I listened to was Mitch Albom’s Human Touch: A Story in Real Time. The book was published episodically over the last two months. The story chronicles the lives of four families living on a cul-de-sac in Michigan during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
In the beginning, I found myself having a difficult time listening to my books during the quarantine. There were so many distractions I found it difficult to focus and it would take something special to catch my interest and keep it. I chose to listen to Human Touch primarily because I have enjoyed many of Mitch Albom’s books: The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Tuesdays With Morrie, and The Time Keeper. The fact that the chapters were being written in real time and published weekly, I found appealing and intriguing. Once I was listening, I found that I enjoyed this format and would look forward to upcoming installments which were no longer than 35 minutes or less with the exception of the final one (55 minutes).
The 8 episodes totaling 4 hours and 39 minutes were narrated by author Mitch Albom, so it’s not a terribly long story. Albom peaks into the lives of four families struggling through the first months of the COVID-19 pandemic in Michigan. At first, I was hesitant to start listening to a story about the virus; afterall, wasn’t I trying to escape listening to things that could be upsetting or triggering at this time? I found myself taking a little comfort in hearing the stories of others and how they were coping at this time.
All in all, Albom once again creates characters that you come to care about and can empathize with. The topic of the pandemic is a sensitize one and since the virus is still a threat and states are reopening, so wrapping up the story in a neat bowed package isn’t really possible in my opinion. Overall, I’d give this audiobook about 3.5 stars.
The House of Mirth by Edith Wharton Narrated by Eleanor Bron (12 hours, 35 minutes)
This is the first book I’ve ever read/listened to of Edith Wharton. I choose to listen to this story since it had been recommended by one of my Master Class teachers as an example of baroque literature. Baroque literature has lots of metaphors, symbols, hyperbole and multiple layers of meaning. A common theme in baroque literature is that characters’ struggle to find deep meaning in their existence.
The House of Mirth focuses on Lily Bart’s plight to find a place for herself in New York’s elite society in the 19th century. I didn’t like Lily Bart throughout most of the novel – I don’t think if we ever met I would have been friends with her. She reminded me of some people I have come across in my life. I found the novel beautifully and masterfully written. By the end of the novel I found myself so invested in Lily’s struggle and was genuinely touched by this heartfelt story. I’d give this one 4 stars overall for story and narrator, Eleanor Bron seemed to be the perfect choice.
Cesar Millan’s Lessons from the Pack by Melissa Jo Peltier & Cesar Millan Narrated by Angelo Di Loreto, Cesar Millan (5 hours, 29 minutes)
I love dogs and I love reading or listening to dog stories. I am in the process of writing my own book of dog stories, so I naturally I wanted to listen to the Dog Whisperer’s stories.
Millan intersperses the lessons he’s learned personally with stories from his past along with tidbits under the headings of From the Celebrity Files, From the Science Files etc..the information given in these sections demonstrates the enormous impact dogs have had on mankind in general. I highly recommend this book for any dog or animal enthusiast. 4 stars
The Making of A Miracle: The Untold Story of the Captain of the 1980 Gold Medal-Winning U.S.Olympic Hockey Team by Mike Eruzione with Neal E. Boudette (7 hrs, 8 mins)
I was a freshman in high school when the miracle happened. I remember watching the games and falling for goalie, Jim Craig, whose I plastered all over the inside of my locker from the New York Post, Daily News and New York Times coverage of the So I was automatically excited when I saw this memoir. I am also a fan of a good sports story and this was and still is an incredible story told by the captain, Mike Eruzione.
I enjoyed listening to Eruzione tell about his humble beginnings and the fun stories about his family. When he mentioned parts of Boston where I too spent many years, it brought back fond memories. Eruzione, a Boston University alum (Wheelock’77) talks about his journey to BU which is not where he originally started and how a twist of fate changed his course. I also went to BU College of Communications (COM’87) as did the co-author Neal E. Boudette (COM’84).
It’s so interesting to hear his perspective and the behind the scenes stories about Herb Brooks and the rest of the team. It was like walking down memory lane, hearing the familiar names of the young men which made America believe in miracles. If you are looking for a good sports story, you don’t have to be a hockey fan to enjoy listening to Eruzione who is funny and whose riveting replays bring alive the plays and games of those 1980 Olympic hockey underdogs. 4 stars.