Posts Categorized: Audio Books

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman, read by Jenna Lamia

May 30, 2013 Audio Books, Book Reviews, Books 6

9780670025831_p0_v1_s600Requisite disclaimer: I know Beth. She’s been a commenter on my blog for years. I love her. And she loves my dog.

Also: The publisher sent me this book.

This is my unbiased opinion of her new book, Looking for Me.

Summary:

Teddi Overman found her life’s passion for furniture in a broken-down chair left on the side of the road in rural Kentucky. She learns to turn other people’s castoffs into beautifully restored antiques, and eventually finds a way to open her own shop in Charleston. There, Teddi builds a life for herself as unexpected and quirky as the customers who visit her shop.  Though Teddi is surrounded by remarkable friends and finds love in the most surprising way, nothing can alleviate the haunting uncertainty she’s felt in the years since her brother Josh’s mysterious disappearance. When signs emerge that Josh might still be alive, Teddi is drawn home to Kentucky.  It’s a journey that could help her come to terms with her shattered family—and to find herself at last.  But first she must decide what to let go of and what to keep.

Thoughts:

There are a few things in life I just completely love with all my heart. Family. Books. Food. My Country. Being Southern. Southern Novels. Art. Antiques. Fixing Up Things (at least I want to, as many can tell if you follow me on Pinterest).

Basically what I’m saying is this book was written for me.

Looking for Me is the story of Teddi Overman, and the lengths she does to, well, find herself. Growing up with an unhappy mother, with little indication as to why she is so unhappy, and a somewhat emotionally distant father, and a brother who is a nature prodigy (seriously, the boy LOVES The Great Outdoors), Teddi struggles to find herself and her place in this world, to get away and just go find what she wants. Early in life, she discovered a love for restoring furniture, or, one could say a knack for putting things to rights. Her mother has other ideas for Teddi, but her father and his gift of a car and a map help her escape. As she finally breaks away from her family, she journeys to Charleston, SC, and there, she finds some sembelance of what she wants. In the time she is gone, her father dies, her brother disappears, and her mother continues to be her mysterious, unhappy self. It is when her mother finally agrees to come visit Teddi in Charleston, that Teddi begins to learn new things about herself, and about the family she left behind.

I’m a firm believer in the right book and the right time. My timing for this book could not have been more perfect. It showed up in the mail (thank you Penguin, for sending the audiobook!). I read the description, saw that Jenna Lamia (I looooove Jenna Lamia) read it, and having been promising myself for AGES to read one of Beth’s books, so in the car it went. Jenna’s magical voice brought Teddi to life. I LOVE Teddi. I love her family. I love her shop. I want her shop. I even love her dog. And Beth’s writing is a perfect example of Southern Literature. The cadence of the Southern accent, the cadence of Southern life, are there. The love of family, the pain of loss, the search for ones own identity, within the family and without. And the slightly ambiguous ending, the not knowing for sure…about….something (I’m not telling) made it a perfect read for me. And geez, now I really, really, REALLY want to go to Charleston.

Now, back to Saving Ceecee Honeycutt for me. I don’t know what I’ve been waiting for.

Looking for Me by Beth Hoffman
Read by Jenna Lamia
ISBN-13:  9781611761702
Publisher: Penguin Group
Publication date: 5/28/2013
Time: 12 hours 14 minutes
Rating: 5 out of 5

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Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

May 7, 2013 Audio Books, Book Reviews, Books 10

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I don’t know about you, but I get nervous when books are compared to others. I get REALLY nervous when books are compared to books I love. I find that, for the most part, this leads to a letdown.

Between Shades of Gray has been compared to The Book Thief.

I completely and totally love The Book Thief. With, like, most of my heart. So, naturally, I was also completely and totally nervous about Between Shades of Gray.

I’ll say this right now. I needn’t have been. While in many ways, Between Shades of Gray is not like The Book Thief, in others it is. And I have nothing but love, now for both of the books.

Between Shades of Gray has war, and prisons camps, and family, and strength, and hope, and love. So much love. Oh geez, I’m going to cry again. Just let me get to what the book is about:

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they’ve known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin’s orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously-and at great risk-documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father’s prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

That last part? About how Between Shades of Gray is novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart? THAT IS SO TRUE. I was slightly surprised by just how much. On the surface, it seems like I wouldn’t have a lot in common with Lina. She’s 15. I’m 35. She’s Lithuanian. I’m American. She has a loving family life with her parents and brother. I had a loving family life with my grandparents, and now my husband and children. She was sent to a labor camp in Siberia. I’ve never had such treatment. We DO have art in common, and we’re both girls, but that’s about it. Yet, thanks to Sepetys gorgeous writing, I felt I came to know Lina so well. I could understand her. I could imagine what I would do in her place. I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be nearly as strong as she was.

After all I’ve said, I bet you’re thinking, “But Heather, this book will make me cry!” Well, yes, it probably will. Books about war are sad, especially when told through the eyes of a young person. However, there is so much HOPE in this book. Lina. Never. Gives. Up. Through the worst things that could happen to a person, she never gives up hope, she never gives up love, and she never, ever, gives up her strength. I’m telling you; Lina will steal your heart, just as surely as she stole mine.

Frankly put, this book is not to be missed.

Notes on the reader: Emily Klein was perfect. Her voice was soft, young, and just absolutely perfect for Lina. At first, I wasn’t too sure, but she completely won me over.

Favorite bits:

“Have you ever wondered what a human life is worth? That morning, my brother’s was worth a pocket watch.”

“I left the jutra to chop wood. I began my walk through the snow, five kilometers to the tree line. That’s when I saw it.

A tiny silver of gold appeared between shades of gray on the horizon.

I stared at the amber band of sunlight, smiling.

The sun had returned.

I closed my eyes. I felt Andrius moving close. “I’ll see you,” he said.

“Yes, I will see you,” I whispered “I will.”

I reached into my pocket and squeezed the stone.”

“Sometimes kindness can be delivered in a clumsy way. But it’s far more sincere in its clumsiness than those distinguished men you read about in books. Your father was very clumsy.”

“Andrius, I’m…scared.”

He stopped and turned to me. “No. Don’t be scared. Don’t give them anything Lina, not even your fear.”

Between Shades of Gray
By Ruta Sepetys
Read by Emily Klein
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
Publication date: 4/3/2012
Pages: 368; Time: 7 hours, 47 minutes
Acquired from the NC Digital Library

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Enclave by Ann Aguirre, read by Emily Bauer

November 29, 2012 Audio Books, Book Reviews, Books 4

Title: Enclave: Razorland #1
Author: Ann Aguirre
Read by: Emily Bauer
Published: April 2011
ISBN: 9781427211200
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Acquired from the publisher

Introduction:

This dystopian novel has a lot going for it. And little bit NOT.

Plot:

It is I Have No Idea How Many Years into the future. Humanity has taken to living underground, it was appears to be the subway system of New York City. Humans don’t live long. The age of twenty-one is considered old age. Deuce, our heroine, was born underground. She has never seen the sun, by all appearances has never even heard of it. Deuce is a Huntress. She takes to the tunnels to hunt meat and protect the enclave from what they call “Freaks”. Freaks are, best I can tell, something of a cross between zombies and feral humans. Her hunting partner, Fade, was not born in the enclave. He was found, young and alone, in the tunnels, and the enclave took him in. Deuce is a loyal member of the enclave. Fade, maybe not so much, but, since he’s her partner, she is also loyal to him. Yet, when Fade, and circumstance, make Deuce stand up and take notice, she realizes things are maybe not what she thought.

When Deuce and Fade are exiled from the Enclave, and forced to go “topside”, Deuce learns, well, a lot. More than she ever dreamed possible.

Characters:

Deuce is excellent. She’s strong. She’s smart. She relies on herself and with good reason. She can kick ass! She’s a little naive (what female character in YA isn’t any more?) and a little too trusting. She is ignorant, but only because everyone in the Enclave (except for perhaps the Word guy) is ignorant.

Fade was weak, especially compared to Deuce. The basics (and this really doesn’t give anything away!) is that he’s two years older than Deuce. He was born above ground (where the people of the enclave believe you’ll burn up if you were to walk up there) and he knew his father. He’s a wicked good fighter, he has a tendency to go feral when fighting, and he’s quiet. He’s fiercely loyal to the few (like, one, maybe two) friends he has.

Strengths:

  • Liked the main girl, Deuce, very much. She was very appealing in a Katniss/Katsa kind of way.
  • The world building, while sometimes a little far fetched (I have a hard time believing that the same world that is so far gone that paved roads are little more than rubble also has canned food that is edible), is also (besides that) rather well done. For instance, I liked that Aguirre made sure to make Deuce very sensitive to the sun and she doesn’t just let that go. Deuce has to worry about the sun constantly and I think that’s very true to how a girl who has only lived underground would be.
  • The story was good, if not as strong as I’d like. I kind of wonder if this isn’t a symptom of an adult writer writing a YA?
  • Strong, fast pace, which is good for the genre
  • The girl knows how to fight!

Weaknesses:

  • Could improve on character development. I felt Fade was weak; well, really every character was weak besides Deuce.
  • The plot could have been better developed. It is compelling, but I was left wanting more meat in the story (no pun intended), it’s a case of show me, don’t tell me.
  • The “love triangle” was weird. I haven’t mention the other guy. There is ALWAYS another guy. I don’t even remember his name, only that I didn’t like him. I mean, I REALLY didn’t like him. See next bullet.
  • Didn’t like the serial-rapist-and-rape-accomplice-suddenly-turned-good character (THIS is the other guy. I know. Gross.). You don’t just flip a switch on a personality like that. He makes creepy Edward Cullen look like a saint.
  • The world building is a little weird. It feels like the event-that-is-not-defined happened a very long time ago, long enough for streets to be rubble from rain and erosion, yet they can still eat food from cans? That food should be beyond rancid if it’s been that long ago. Not that we would know.
  • Didn’t care for the reader that much. She sounded way too young.

Conclusion: 

While it had some problems, Enclave was a decent dystopian novel. I am intrigued enough to read the next in the series. I think Deuce is a terrific character and I’m anxious to see if some of the problems I had with Enclave are resolved in Outpost.

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The Bookseller by Roald Dahl

September 27, 2012 Audio Books, Book Reviews, Books 6

The Bookseller
By Roald Dahl
Read by David Ian Davies
Published:  1987
Playboy
Length: about 45 minutes
Downloaded from NC Digital Library

This…is not your typical Roald Dahl book. If you’re like me, you associate Dahl with magical flying peaches, chocolate mixed by waterfall, prankster geniuses, bald witches with ‘wig-rash,’ and other such fantastical and beloved things. I read Dahl through my childhood. I adored him. I still adore him. I have introduced him to my own children, through his novels and the movies made from his novels. His stories are part of the food of our lives.

So, it took me completely by surprise to find he had written so many things for adults. So many adult things for adults.

The Bookseller is completely different from anything I’ve ever read by Dahl. The two main characters are… just…smarmy. Completely smarmy. They put the smarm in smarmy. Mr. Buggage and his “secretary” Miss Tottle (their names even sound smarmy, don’t they?) run a bookshop in London, England, called Buggage’s Rare Book Shop. And they DO actually sell books. It’s just not their main source of income. It’s what goes on in the backroom that pays the bills. It is…unsavory. There is unexpectedness of a fraudulent, and sexual, nature going on back there. Uh huh. *eyebrows up and down*

Let’s just say it involves the newspaper and letters, going out every day, to grieving widows of the dearly, and wealthy, departed.

I don’t want to give much more away. I think it’s best left as a surprise. It was completely unexpected, for me, and didn’t jive with my previous experiences with Dahl AT ALL. I suppose adding that this story was published in Playboy should pretty much clue you in. This is not to say that THIS brand new experience with Dahl was BAD. On the contrary, I quite enjoyed this story. Very much so, and I think that is partially because it was SO unexpected. Dahl’s trademark sense of humor was very much intact, if a bit darker than I’m used to. Which is fine, I have a dark sense of humor.

The audiobook was read by David Ian Davies, who did a serviceable job. I enjoyed his performance very much. He has a lovely, deep voice that fit perfectly with the story, I thought. I wasn’t bowled away or anything, but I really enjoyed it all the same. How’s that for contradictory? Anyway, the audiobook was great fun and I hope to read more of Roald Dahl’s adult stories soon.

Warning: be careful how you look up information on this story. The first link I came to gave the entire story away. On a Roald Dahl Fan site too! The shame!

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The Chaperone by Laura Moriarty

August 1, 2012 Audio Books, Book Reviews, Books 9

I received this book twice. Once as an audiobook, pretty much unsolicited, and once as a hardbook which pretty much was. It wasn’t hard to pick which one to read. My decision to listen was pretty easy, when I saw that Elizabeth McGovern, Cora from Downton Abbey, read the book. I mean, really, the choice was so completely EASY. And, when I started the book, it was love at first listen. Publishers, please get Elizabeth McGovern to read all the books.

The Chaperone starts in 1920s Wichita, Kansas with Cora Coffman Carlisle escorting a 15-year-old aspiring dancer and actress named Louise Brooks to New York to attend a dance class with a prestigious dance school. This is Louise Brooks:

Photo Credit: ClassicCinemaImages.com

Yes, she was a real person. Louise Brooks was a silent film star in the 20s and 30s, whose career petered out with the advent of talkies. Louise was a wild, arrogant, beautiful girl who cared little for what people thought or said about her. Cora, 36, with a peculiar innocence one wouldn’t expect from a married 36-year-old mother of twins to have. Cora is extremely naive. She’s very…trained…in how she should act, how she should dress, what she should think…the way most women were in these times. Louise is a shock, or a breath of fresh air, depending on how you look at it. As they travel to New York and as they move through the city, the narrative flashes back and forward between present and Cora’s past and we learn just why she is so innocent, so…complacent. The summer brings unexpected changes for Cora, thanks to her experiences with Louise, unexpected changes that will have affects for years to come. Without a doubt, Louise changes Cora for good.

I honestly don’t want to say much more than that. Cora is a completely amazing, complicated, stubborn character, who undergoes what I think is best called a coming-of-age in New York. Her worldview shifts into something unexpected and completely fascinating. Elizabeth McGovern’s narration is so perfect. She IS Cora for me. If they ever make a movie of this book, they should get her. Being from the mid-West, she has the accent and I know she could pull of Cora’s poise. Her voice is so soothing, yet can deepen and roughen depending on the sex of the character in a convincing way. Simply put she is marvelous and I’m already bemoaning the fact that I can only find two more audiobooks she’s read. McGovern outshines any problems I have with this novel.

Because there are a couple. Moriarty’s writing has come a long way. I read her first book ages ago and, while I enjoyed that book (The Center of Everything), I wasn’t bowled over by it. The Chaperone shows a lot of growth, in my opinion. A few of her characters feel a little one-note in this novel, but Cora shines in such a way that it almost doesn’t matter. Several fade to the background; Alan, Cora’s husband in particular feels forgotten at times. The twins, so important to Cora and her character, rarely appear in the story. I would have liked to have seen them more, but, since this IS about Cora, it’s a minor quibble. Honestly, I think my opinion of the book is strongly influenced by just how much I enjoyed Elizabeth McGovern’s reading, however all in all, The Chaperone was an great read that I’m pretty sure will stay with me for quite awhile.

Many thanks to Penguin for sending me both copies of this book! I was compensated for this BlogHer Book Club for my review but all opinions expressed are my own.

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Audiobook Review: Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness

July 24, 2012 Audio Books, Book Reviews, Books 11

Shadow of Night
By Deborah Harkness

Read by Jennifer Ikeda
ISBN: 9780670023486
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date: 7/10/2012
Pages: 592 (or 20 disks)
Series: All Souls Trilogy, #2
Source: the publisher was kind enough to send me a copy

You know that feeling you have when a book you’ve been looking forward to for months finally comes out and you have it in your hot little hands and… and… it disappoints you?

Yeah? You do?

That’s how I feel about this book.

You see, I read, and adored A Discovery of Witches last year. It had a few problems, least of which was its slight Twilight feeling, but I forgave the problems because of the characters, in particular, Diana and Matthew. I reread A Discovery of Witches by listening to the audio book and delighted in it even more. The reader was fantastic, the characters every bit as fascinating as I remembered; so my excitement for Shadow of Night was doubled. When I got it unsolicited in the mail, I was beside myself.

Then I started listening to Shadow of Night. I read it with Andi and we burned up the internets. Shadow of Night picks up right where A Discovery of Witches left off, so yes, this review does contain spoilers for the first book. Diana and Matthew have traveled back in time to 1591, Elizabethan England, in order for Diana to find a witch who can teach her how to use and control her magic and to hide from the Convention who so desperately wants to harm her and use her to gain control of a magical book called Ashmole 782. Diana and Matthew land in the middle of Matthew’s old life as a spy, member of the mysterious School of Night AND avowed witch hater.

Dum, dum, dummmmm….

So, um, yeah, that does sound exciting, yes? And it was…to a certain extent. It was all the useless details on dress, on food, on this famous person and that famous person and yes! Matthew knew that famous person too! This book is so bloated with useless, inconsequencial, and pointless to the plot information that it eventually became an eye-roll bonanza. If I heard one more time about Matthew’s garters, or all the many layers of clothing Diana had to wear, I was going to scream. I’m all for building the scene, but I can picture a few things in my head myself. I’m surprised my eyes didn’t roll out of my head. At one point, I emailed Andi to say it felt like someone just had to show off how much she knows about the time period. Harkness is a professor and researched the history of magic and science in Europe , especially during the period from 1500 to 1700. Andi agreed.

My biggest complaint is that this trip to the past few pointless. I don’t see where they did anything in the past they couldn’t have done in the present. They go back to find Ashmole 782 and, as a result of their visit, the book is damaged as it was when Diana found it in the present, so basically, they caused the damage. They do find a witch to help Diana, which takes eons (!) (it felt like, really, it was half the book) but I figure they could just as easily have found one in the present. The only thing they couldn’t have done is met the School of Night (again for Matthew) and HOLY RUSTED METAL BATMAN, I could have lived with out Christopher Marlowe. Marlowe is another beef, but a purely irritating one to even discuss. Let’s just say I didn’t like him and still don’t understand Matthew’s tolerance of him. If you’ve read the book, you’ll understand that I hope. There’s a lot of mumbo jumbo about alchemy, which honestly, I didn’t really understand at all. And if I hear one more reference to the Goddess Diana, I cannot be help responsible for my actions.

And then, there is the Big Thing that Happens at the End and then is Never Explained. *grumble* I really can’t say anything more about that. Spoilers!

That’s not to say the book didn’t have any merits. It did. I still LIKE Matthew and Diana. I probably don’t quite love them like I did, but I do still like them. I’m still invested enough to read the last book, which Andi and I have already agreed to read together as well. A new character was introduced, Matthew’s vampire nephew Gallowglass, who *really* captured my imagination (purr…), so much so that I would read a book dedicated to his character in a heartbeat. I enjoyed meeting Matthew’s father Philippe. And the witches from Elizabethan London were interested, especially Goody Alsop, if they did seem slightly pointless. Queen Elizabeth herself makes an appearance (of course she does…. eye roll) and she is just as I always imagined her and is a lot of fun. And Diana finally starts stand up for herself to the control freak Matthew.

In the end, this book really could have used some editing to cure the extreme case of MiddleNovelitis (trademark pending) this book had. Just a wee bit of editing really could have made all the difference. Okay, a little more than wee.

As for the reader, Jennifer Ikeda returns from A Discovery of Witches and she does just as great a job in this one as that. She has a nice, measured voice that is really pleasant to listen to. Plus, she has an excellent command of accents! In this book she uses American, English, French, German, Southern American, and Scottish; and that is just the ones I remember! And I can’t be completely sure if it was the fact that I was listening to the book or the fact that I was reading it with Andi, but I’m pretty sure one of the two (or possibly both!) kept me reading to the end. So thank goodness for Jennifer Ikeda and Andi!

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What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty

June 28, 2012 Audio Books, Book Reviews 6

Alice has it all. She’s 29 years old. She’s married to Nick, a man she adores. She’s pregnant with her first child, nervous, but excited to welcome this new life into her own. She already adores that little tiny life growing inside her. She has a mother, a sister, an honorary grandmother… life is pretty perfect. So, when she opens her eyes on the floor of a gym, a wicked headache blooming behind her eyes, and she only recognizes Jane, the woman she works with, she’s a little freaked out. When she’s told she was in “her weekly spin class” and that she fell and hit her head on the neighboring bike and that it’s 2008 and she’s 39, she understandably freaks out a little bit. Then, she finds out she has 3 kids, she doesn’t work, her mother has married her atrocious father-in-law, and that her husband hates her and they are getting a divorce. And she doesn’t remember a bit of it. Things are… confusing.

Elizabeth, Alice’s sister, feels like she has nothing. She’s married to a lovely man named Ben, she has a tenuous relationship with her sister Alice. She loves her nieces and nephew, but something is missing. She wants nothing more than to be a mother. She obsesses over it. But after 7 years, 12 IVF cycles, and several miscarriages, she’s ready to give up. Motherhood is not in the cards for her and she is bitter. After an incident at the local coffee shop, she has to see a therapist, and her story is told in her “homework for Dr. Hodges.” She just went and had the last embryo implanted and she already knows this one won’t take either. She is completely without hope.

Liane Moriarty’s novel, What Alice Forgot, feels a little like chick-lit. I really didn’t realize it was until I got into the story. It’s been quite awhile since I read any chick-lit. I grew tired of the formulas, the stock characters, and the fluffy story-lines. Apparently chick-lit has changed quite a bit since I stopped reading it, because this book enraptured me! I sped read it in the last 3 days, not only because this review was due, but because I couldn’t put it down. Moriarty’s characters grabbed my heart and wouldn’t let it go until the last. 39-year-old Alice, acting like the 29-year-old Alice, is so lovely. She’s such a wonderful, conflicted, heartbreaker of a character. Her 29-year-old self is so endearing, with her complete adoration for her husband Nick, her completely true-to-life feelings on motherhood and marriage, and her, just, joy in living. As she slowly discovers the changes that led to her marriage breakup, the three lovely, crazy, kids she has no memory of, and the complete change in her relationship with her sister, she held my heart in her hands. I felt an instant kinship with her. And Elizabeth was, well, I wanted to smack her, but at the same time, I’ve felt myself there, wanting a child more than anything and not understanding why I couldn’t carry a child. I’ve had a miscarriage, granted, only one, so I’ve only had a small taste of the pain Elizabeth has, and it was so completely believable. Liane Moriarty’s characters are so well drawn. Only a couple didn’t feel fully realized, and that may be only because I didn’t identify with them as strongly as I did Alice and Elizabeth.

Due to time constraints, I chose to listen to the audio edition of this book instead of reading the novel. Tamara Lovatt-Smith was a great choice to read What Alice Forgot. The novel is set in Sydney, Australia, and Lovatt-Smith’s accent was pleasant and not at all distracting. I thought having her read it a plus, because instead of my own broad Southern accent telling the story, I had a real Australian accent in there; always a plus. She doesn’t change for voice for any characters, but she has an appealing way of reading that I quite enjoyed. The production value was great. All in all, I’m really glad I listened to the audio. It’s the way to go with this one.

If you’ve read the book or are at all interested, I encourage you to join the discussion over at the BlogHer Book Club. They are always interesting and very insightful. It will go on for 4 weeks, so you have time to get a copy and join in!

This is a paid review for BlogHer Book Club but the opinions expressed are my own. Penguin did supply a copy of the book, but I acquired my own copy of the audiobook from Audible.

What Alice Forgot
By Liane Moriarty
Read by Tamara Lovatt-Smith

ISBN-13: 9781101555019
Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
Publication date: 9/20/2011
Length: 13 hours and 32 minutes
Edition description: Unabridged

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Audiobook Week – Mid-Week Audiobook Meme

June 27, 2012 Audio Books, Books 13

Wednesday: Mid-week Audiobook Week Meme
This will not be up until the morning of Wednesday, June 27th, but it will be short and fast, so check in and join the fun.

Current/most recent audiobook:

What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty, read by Tamara Lovatt-Smith
A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness, read by Jennifer Ikeda

Yes, I am listening to two audiobooks.

Impressions:

What Alice Forgot: The story is sort of getting on my nerves, but Lovatt-Smith is pulling me through. She has a lovely voice, even if she doesn’t change it for characters.

A Discovery of Witches: I’m rereading this to get read for Shadow of Night (WHICH CAME IN AUDIO IN THE MAIL YESTERDAY! WOOT! Sorry.) and I actually think I’m enjoying it more than when I read it. I love the way Jennifer Ikeda reads and her characterization.

Current/most recent favorite audiobook:

It’s hard to pick; I’ve loved all the audiobooks I’ve finished this year. My favorite for the year remains Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.

Favorite narrator you’ve discovered recently:

Wil Wheaton! I’ve listened to two books this year that he’s read (Ready Player One and Peter & Max by Bill Willingham) and I just loved his reading.

One title from your TBL (to be listened) stack, or your audio wishlist:

Oh my gosh, there are so many! And Audible has a $5 sale going on! Eek! Okay, first one that comes to mind is The Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon. I’ve been wanting to reread it for forever but the only audio available was abridged. An unabridged version has finally come available. It’s read by a new-to-me reader; David Colacci. I hope it’s good! I LOVED that book.

Your audio dream team (what book or author would you LOVE to see paired with a certain narrator, can already exist or not):

Oh my gosh, I can’t even think. I’ll listen to anything read by Neil Gaiman, Wil Wheaton, Jennifer Ikeda, Nick Podehl, MacLeod Andrews, Angela Dawe, and on and on and on.

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The School of Essential Ingredients by Erika Bauermeister – Audiobook Review

June 27, 2012 Audio Books, Books 7

In honor of audiobook week, I’m rerunning my reviews of some of my favorite audiobooks. The School of Essential Ingredients was the first time I heard the magic that is Cassandra Campbell’s voice. This magical book held me captivated to the very end.


I downloaded this from the library on a whim.  I knew it was a food book, which I knew I normally love, but I only kind of knew what it was about.  I’d seen reviews on blogs, but I pretty much just skimmed them (thinking I wanted to read it and didn’t want to ruin anything!) but didn’t retain much of anything about what the book was about.  I knew I liked the cover and I thought “what the heck” and “I need something to listen to” and “well, all the books I really want to listen to are checked out” so “I’ll get this one.”

Let me tell you.  It was the BEST book decision I had made in quite awhile and I think of the main ingredients in pulling me out of my slump.  Pun fully intended.

The first impression I had, as I started up the book on my iPod, was Oh My Goodness where has this narrator been all my life?  Cassandra Campbell has an amazing voice and was perfect for this book.  I would (seriously) put her up there with Neil Gaiman, who I have always said I would gladly love to listen to him read the phone book.  Her voice is wonderful.   But I instantly fell in love with this book because of the story.  Or stories, rather, for The School of Essential Ingredients is, essentially, a collection of stories about a group of people who attend a cooking class in Lillian’s Restaurant, every Monday night.

These people are all searching for something.  The first of these students, Claire, is a young mother searching for the self she lost when her children were born.  Antonia, a beautiful, young Italian woman is searching for away to adapt to life in America.  Tom is a lonely widower, just looking to learn how to survive without the love of his life, his wife, who he lost to breast cancer.  Carl and Helen are looking for each other in the storm-tossed sea of their marriage.  Chloe who is just looking to belong and Ian, looking for love.  Each character’s story is as beautiful and touching as the first one, about Lillian herself and her search for the mother who is there, but not.

And then, there’s the food.  If you can pick up this book and not come away hungry, I’m afraid there is something wrong with you.  The flavors, the aromas, and the textures are all lovingly detailed and mouthwatering.  Each meal sounds sumptuous and delicious; the characters tales the fine wine holding it all together.  I hate that I waited so long to read this book.

And, as I said, Cassandra Campbell’s reading is perfect for this book.  If you love food books, audiobooks, or marvelous character studies, you can’t go wrong with The School of Essential Ingredients.

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The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck

June 26, 2012 Audio Books, Book Reviews 3

In honor of Audiobook Week, I’m rerunning a few of my favorite audiobooks. The Good Earth was a very pleasant surprise and showed me that maybe all those classics I’d been wanting to read might be made more manageable if I read them with the audio. I have a couple more Pearl S. Buck books on my iPod and I can’t wait to get to them.


The word epic was created for this book. No, not really… but it could have been. The Good Earth is epic in every sense of the word. The Good Earth tells the story of Wang Lung, a Chinese farmer and his family as they struggle to survive a peasant life in old China. It begins with Wang Lung looking at his old father saying, “I need a woman,” to him getting said woman, to them having lots of children. In between there are times of plenty, times of famine, births, deaths, and the acquiring of more land, more glorious land!  Wang Lung is obsessed with land! Okay, it’s about a whole lot more, but I don’t want to give too much away.

And the writing. The writing is so beautiful. Witness:

“There was only this perfect sympathy of movement, of turning this earth of theirs over and over to the sun, this earth which formed their home and fed their bodies and made their gods…Some time, in some age, bodies of men and women had been buried there, houses had stood there, had fallen, and gone back into the earth. So would also their house, some time, return into the earth, their bodies also. Each had his turn at this earth. They worked on, moving together-together-producing the fruit of this earth.”

and

“Wang Lung sat smoking, thinking of the silver as it had lain upon the table. It had come out of the earth, this silver, out of the earth that he ploughed and turned and spent himself upon. He took his life from the earth; drop by drop by his sweat he wrung food from it and from the food, silver. Each time before this that he had taken the silver out to give to anyone, it had been like taking a piece of his life and giving it to someone carelessly. But not for the first time, such giving was not pain. He saw, not the silver in the alien hand of a merchant in the town; he saw the silver transmuted into something worth even more than life itself – clothes upon the body of his son.”

and

“But Wang Lung thought of his land and pondered this way and that, with the sickened heart of deferred hope, how he could get back to it. He belonged, not to this scum which clung to the walls of a rich man’s house; nor did he belong to the rich man’s house. He belonged to the land and he could not live with any fullness until he felt the land under his feet and followed a plow in the springtime and bore a scythe in his hand at harvest.”

Oh, I could quote the whole book at you. Every word, every sentence, felt so carefully constructed, so lovingly crafted. The main characters were so well written. This book was made for me. Or, rather, I was made for it. Either way you put it, I loved this book. The gardener in me loved the farmer in there. Wang Lung was born into a farming family and he embraced it. To say the land was the blood running through is veins is putting it VERY mildly. I have to say, loving land seems like such a Southern thing to me. That probably sounds narrow-minded, but I grew up hearing things like “Buy land, they won’t make any more of it,” and “Hold on to your land” etc, etc. My grandparents (who raised me) were Irish descendants, so I always assumed it was an Irish thing. Plus, I’ve never read a book set in China where someone was so obsessed with his land. Truthfully, I’ve never read a book where a character was so obsessed with land! I am thrilled to have finally read this book!

Fair warning, we’re probably getting into spoiler territory, but I have to get this off my chest.

The only thing I just couldn’t get over was the treatment of women. Wow, did the Chinese have a low opinion of girls and women. I felt for O-lan. Oh, how I felt for O-lan. Acquired from a great house where she was a kitchen slave, she did not find herself elevated very much upon becoming Wang Lung’s wife. He treated her like a possession. He consistently mistreated her. When she arises from giving birth to their first child, she comes back to the field to help. him. work. And does she get a thank you? No. She gets his silent admiration, which means nothing. He never appreciated her until she was gone. And that made me hate Wang Lung. There were many things I liked about him, but that. That was inexcusable. Makes me glad the revolution happened and I hope the Chinese have improved their attitudes.

Okay, rant over.

I listened to the audio production by Blackstone Audio. Anthony Heald read The Good Earth and did a marvelous job. I have never listened to him read a book before, but I will definitely seek him out in the future. I loved the way he did the old man, Wang Lung’s father. And he was able to feminize his voice for the women, despite having quite a deep voice. All in all, he made it a pleasure to listen to this book.

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