August Reads & Listens

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.

As always you can see these reviews and more of my reviews on my Goodreads Profile.

Summer Book Clubs 2021

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.

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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.”

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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

Readings and Listenings- April 2021

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.”

― Agatha Christie, The Murder of Roger Ackroyd

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.

Happy reading and listening!

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