My Audiobook Club – August/September

The last days of summer were crazy busy for me. We’ve been getting all the wood cut, split and stacked for our wood furnace which we use primarily for our winter heat. Later this morning we will go out and do four more gator loads which we estimate will complete filling our woodshed, the last remaining space we have for wood stacking.

While I’m out there doing a lot this work and some of my other gardening work, I have my headphones on all the while listening to one of my audiobooks. Since my last My Audiobook Club post I have listened to and completed 8 more books. That brings my total this year to 27 books and counting.

I started the month with a recommendation from my 22 year old niece and goddaughter, The Guest List by Lucy Foley. The audiobook is narrated by a cast of voices and runs 9 hours and 54 minutes. A fun mystery in the style of a good Agatha Christie thriller, I give this a four star rating. I hate to say too much about a book, always fearing that I may inadvertently give away too much. 3.75 stars

In my experience, those who have the greatest respect for the rules also take the most enjoyment in breaking them.

Lucy Foley, The Guest List

I followed up this audiobook with another recommendation from my goddaughter since she’d steered me well the last time. Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel by Taylor Jenkins Reid is also narrated by a cast of voices and runs 9 hours and 3 minutes. This was another fun listen which reminded me of hanging out and listening to old friends, if I had hung out with a bunch of rock musicians that is. Taylor Jenkins Reid weaves a tale about a fictional band into a musical world that was the soundtrack of my generation’s lifetime. I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook and give it 4 stars.

You can’t control another person. It doesn’t matter how much you love them. You can’t love someone back to health and you can’t hate someone back to health and no matter how right you are about something, it doesn’t mean they will change their mind.

Taylor Jenkins Reid, Daisy Jones & The Six: A Novel

I followed up this book with Little Fires Everywhere by Celeste Ng narration by Jennifer Lim with a run time of 11 hours, 27 minutes. This is a book with lots of different storylines going on at once which sometimes can be difficult to follow. I enjoyed this book though, there was something about the family which I found relatable – probably the dysfunctionality. I can see how this was made into a television miniseries. 3.5 Stars

Sometimes you have to scorch everything to the ground and start over. After the burning, the soil is richer, and new things can grow. People are like that too. They start over. They find a way.

Celeste Ng, Little Fires Everywhere

I dove into an oldie but a goodie, a book I read in high-school, Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut narrated by James Franco for 5 hours and 13 minutes. I liked this book in high school and 35 years later I enjoyed listening to the audiobook. Vonnegut has a way of creating interesting characters that you come to care about, some you may have met in another of his books. Slaughterhouse Five is an intense book about Billy Pilgrim, a World War II veteran and POW and his experience at Dresden. It’s a timeless book which reminds us of a moment in history form a very personal point of view. If you have never read Slaughterhouse Five, you should. 5 Stars. Must read/listen.

That’s one thing Earthlings might learn to do, if they tried hard enough: Ignore the awful times and concentrate on the good ones.

Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse Five

After such an intense book, I decided to completely switch gears and check out something completely different. Tomorrow by Damian Dibben, narration by George Blagden at 10 hours and 42 minutes was a fantastical story of a dog and his master. Most of the story is set in one of my favorite cities in the world, Venice, Italy which is described time and gain throughout the story. Having visited Venice many times I found it easy to put myself right there in the action. I love dog stories and particularly stories which remind you of the incredibly strong bond between a dog and their human. I highly recommend this book or audiobook for any dog enthusiast, it’s a certainly a must read/listen. 4 Stars.

Humans possess a fascination for our species, and an innate kindness that they do not always have for each other.

Damian Dibben, Tomorrow

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout was narrated by Kimberly Farr and was a long 12 hours and 2 minutes. I was underwhelmed by this story. I had all sorts of expectations considering it is a Pulitzer Prize Winner and was named best book of the year by a bunch of different media organizations. But that right there should have been my tip off. The media has been a less than reliable source in recent years. So what would they know about a good book. The book is about the title character and her family and I kept thinking at some point things would come together but they didn’t. There are more Olive books which is why things felt a little unfinished. There were a few poignant quotes I took from the book though. This one in particular made me chuckle: “She didn’t like being alone. Even more, she didn’t like being with people.” 2 Stars

Had they known at these moments to be quietly joyful? Most like not. People mostly did not know enough when they were living life that they were living it.

Kimberly Farr, Olive Kitteridge

I went back to another classic, not wanting to be disappointed and I wasn’t. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury narrated by Tim Robbins was poignant to me today as it was back when I read it for the first time in high school. Time and again I kept going back over certain lines which stood out to me where I was astounded by the timelessness of Bradbury’s ideas. It’s a story which demonstrates how important it is to have books and art, know your history and remember the facts. It’s a story about how facts and how history can be distorted and falsified. This is a must read/listen – 5 Stars.

Books were only one type of receptacle where we stored a lot of things we were afraid we might forget. There is nothing magical in them, at all. The magic is only in what books say, how they stitch the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

We need not be let alone. We need to be really bothered once in a while. How long is it since you were really bothered? About something important, about something real?

Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451

Finally, I circled back to an audiobook I had started a few months earlier but stopped because it just wasn’t into it initially. The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward and narrated by Theresa Plummer ran 8 hours and 3 minutes. Recently I made a commitment to myself to finish projects that I started and walked away from, so I gave this book another try.

The story was a lot deeper than it initially appeared to be and perhaps I was more in the right frame of mind to listen to this type of story. Another dysfunctional family’s story is always something I can relate to. Overall, the book was better than I thought it would be in the beginning. A Reese’s Book Club X Hello Sunshine Book Club pick, so I had big expectations and I can see Witherspoon producing this story in movie or something one day. 3.5 stars.

My Audiobook Club- June/July

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.

My Audiobook Club – April/May

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.

Xine’s Audiobook-Book Club

Welcome to Xine’s Audiobook-Book Club, where I am the one and only member of the club that I know of at least. I’ve found listening to my audiobooks more difficult lately. Everything that’s been going on in the world and being in quarantine now these last what 6 or 7 weeks – I’m losing count. Actually I’m not sure I really want to know. Focus is difficult with my normal routine so upended.

I finished The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister in early March.It had been a selection from the Reese’s Book Club narrated by Gabra Zackman and ran 9 hours, 34 minutes. I enjoyed listening to this book. The story flowed and the author’s descriptions of the scents enveloped my senses taking me further into the story and Emmaline’s world.

The concept of the Nightingale invention is an intriguing idea and when I googled the concept I found a 2013 Wired.com article about a scent capturing machine. Some of the quotes which stood out to me in this audiobook included:

“Scents were like rain and birds. They left and came back.”

“It’s amazing how easily we can cast ourselves in the role of hero.”

I hadn’t realized how much I counted on the emotional armor of his friendship until he wasn’t there.”

“Maybe that’s how it always is, I thought – we all just go along, cathing glimpses of one another, thinking we know everything.”

“Grief makes a tunnel of our lives. And it is all too easy to lose sight of the other people in the dark with us. To wish they weren’t there so their loss wouldn’t rub up against us.”

Good Dog:True Stories of Love, Loss and Loyalty by David DiBenedetto and the editors of Garden & Gun Magazine. I loved this book and highly recommend it particularly for any dog enthusiasts out there. I actually read this book – an actual book where I could feel the paper as I turned the pages. Not an electronic one on my kindle. The stories were manageable in length, so I would breeze through a few of them at a time. I was forced to take a break for a couple of days when I misplaced the book – it had been hiding under a blanket that was tossed onto a chair next to where I had been reading it. I could relate to these stories as I have my own dogs and have lived through the same if not very similar experiences. I enjoyed reading this book so much that it prompted me to start writing my own stories down about my pack, Xine’s Pack. I had been struggling for years with notes about writing the stories of my own dogs, but something happened to me after I finished Good Dog, I sat down and the words came flying out 45 pages I wrote immediately. In the time we’ve been in quarantine I am now up to close to 200 pages. Some of my favorite quotes from Good Dog include:

“Life is heard. People can’t be trusted. Vigilance is key. Be wise who you love and when you do love, do it with every fiber of your being. Till death do you part.”

“When a pet dies, as with any beloved person or thing, you do not mourn the departed. You mourn the life you’ve lived along with the departed.”

I was only able to get through half of the 8 hours and 8 minutes of John Waters Hitchhikes Across America. I enjoyed the first half of the book, strange as it was; however, I found the second part so disturbing and disgusting that after trying a few times to get through it, I finally gave up. I had to turn it off for good. Not my cup of tea, I’ll definitely be exchanging this title.

I finished Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education by Michael Pollan (9hrs, 1min). A manifesto for gardeners and environmentalists, the American Horticulture Society lists this as one of 75 greatest books ever written on gardening. As I am a gardener and have written many articles related to gardening I know that making gardening sound interesting without making it sound too technical can be a challenge. I could easily relate to to his stories and chuckled at some as every gardener goes through similar experiences in one way or another. Listening to Michael Pollan describe his experiences I found very enjoyable as it took my mind away from the world’s problems and into the garden, despite that it was cold, rainy and even snowy in my own garden. I highly recommend this book to other gardeners or people who have an interest in nature and the environment.

I followed that book up with another Michael Pollan book, Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World, an Audible exclusive – this was a quick listen at 2 hours, 2minutes. I love caffeine and have been pretty much addicted to it for 45 years now. I found this to be an interesting history and explanation of how caffeine has shaped our world, so it was an easy listen.

Currently, as April finally wraps up – it seems like it’s been one of the longest months ever, I’m listening to two more books. The first is Cesar Milan’s Lessons From The Pack by Melissa Jo Peltier and Cesar Milan, 5 hours and 29 minutes. I just started this book and I’m only an hour in but as someone who has lived with many dogs and learned many lessons myself from them – I can again relate to this book and enjoy listening to Cesar’s stories.

Finally, I am listening to another Audible Original, this one by Mitch Albom called Human Touch. This book is actually in progress taking place in current time in a small town in Michigan during the Covid19 pandemic. Each week there is a new installment released, so far there have only been three installments and I’m on pins and needles waiting for the next chapter to be released. The story follows the interwoven lives of four families who live on a cul-de-sac and how the pandemic touches each and every one of them. I have always loved reading Albom’s books like Tuesdays with Morrie and Five People You Meet In Heaven. But I was a little hesitant at first to listen to this book since part of listening to the stories is to take my mind off of everything that it going on currently. But I have found that I am again able to relate to what is going on in the book and there is some sort of comfort knowing that others are going through some of the exact same things I am right now.

In the Library for next month I’m thinking about a classic Agatha Christie mystery, And Then There Were None. If you have any recommendations for future reads or listens, please let me know by leaving a comment – I’m always looking for new book sto enjoy. appy listening and reading everyone!

Xine’s Audiobook Club- What I’m listening to this month

Hi! I’m Xine and welcome to my Audiobook Club. Since we are all practicing social distancing, I’ve decided to start an online Audiobook Club. I hope you join me as we are all entering this new world of social distancing, but just because we need to distance ourselves doesn’t mean we can’t still all have to be isolated. We can all keep up an online conversation one way or another. So with that, once again welcome to Xine’s Audiobook Club. I’m Xine and this is what I’ve been listing to this month.

It’s been a weird month so far and my book selections this month seem to mimicking that. An eclectic selection I started the month listening to Carsick – John Waters Hitchhikes across America. I’m currently on chapter 16, 4 hours 56 minutes remaining of this 8 hour, 8 minute journey. So I’m over halfway there. I started listening to Carsick because the description sounded interesting and different from my usual picks and I was up for something different. I know who John Waters is but haven’t seen any of his movies but I’ve heard of them.

I was also waiting for the new Reese Witherspoon’s Book of the Month Club selection to be released. I had enjoyed listening to the February book, The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister and narrated by Gabra Zackman. I started following the book club since I sometimes get overwhelmed by all the books and don’t know what to listen to so having someone else choose is nice. I end up listening to titles I, myself, never would have selected and a usually pleasantly surprised but not aways.

I always end up listening to more than one book at a time, I like to mix up the rotation with a biography or memoir, a novel of fiction, perhaps some comedy essays or short stories. I had started listening to George Carlin Reads to You, but found myself no longer amused by some of the comedian’s once funny observations about life. In today’s world it’s just not so funny right now. Maybe I’m just getting old. So I stopped listening and exchanged the title for a credit. Did you know you can do that on Audible? You can exchange your titles back at any time, even after you have listened to them completely. You get the option of exchanging it for another title right away or receiving a credit back. I listen to so many more books since discovering this little seemingly hidden feature which is the only logical reason as to why they do this. I say hidden only because I accidentally discovered it on iPhone and when I looked on my desktop it doesn’t seem to be an option.

This month’s Reese’s Book Club selection is The Jetsetters by Amanda Eyre Ward and narrated by Theresa Plummer. It looks to be about family relationships, something I can certainly relate to. I’m currently only on chapter 4 and just been introduced to all the characters and their lives.and still have 7 hours and 9 minutes remaining in this 8 hr and 3 minute book. So I have much to look forward to.

Finally, I have selected Second Nature: A Gardener’s Education by Michael Pollan since I am a gardener and have read another titles by Pollan, The Omnivore’s Dilemma and enjoyed it. I hadn’t known about this book when I looked up titles under his name in the the Audible library and it intrigued me. Plus it’s a nice change of pace from whatever wild tale Waters’ is spinning and from just trying to figure out who is who of The Jetsetters.

These days, I find I can only take so much of listening to the news, although that’s important to stay up-to-date on what’s going on, particularly with the Covid-19 pandemic gripping our world right now. As I work on other things, whether it be on the computer, cleaning the house, folding the laundry, even while outside in my garden with my headphones on – I can escape to another world even if it’s only for a few hours.

Stay safe, and healthy everyone!

End Note: You may have noticed by now that I have included some links to the books and or audiobooks when and where I could to make things easy for anyone who may be interested in checkin any of these titles out. In the interest of transparency I am part of the Amazon affiliate program. So if you were to click on the link and actually purchase something – I would get a small commission for the referral. Just wanted you to know.

I’ve Become an Audiobook Enthusiast

It started all because I wanted to read more. I had the thought a few years ago while I was driving back and forth from my house in New Hampshire to my other house in Connecticut that I could be spending my time better in the car rather than purely getting myself from one location to the other.

It takes four hours give or take to take to do the drive – 8 roads total including I89, I91 and Route15. I’ve done the I91, Route 15 part hundreds of times over the years since that was my route to the condo trailside at Okemo I used to once enjoy. A different lifetime now.

I used to love driving but as I have aged – I’m only 55 yrs old – I find it more difficult now. I get tired easier and really don’t like driving at night. Too much glare and won’t unless I absolutely have to because one of my kids has an emergency of some sort.

At the time this all started I was obsessed with the show, The Game of Thrones and wanted to read the books. Problem was, when I would go to read at bedtime usually, I would fall asleep literally minutes later. So I decided to start listening to audiobooks on my drives down and back to Connecticut. Music would sometimes have the opposite effect of keeping me alert at the wheel despite listening to SiriusXM’s Lithium or Classic Vinyl.

Over two decades ago I had to drive a long distance from Michigan and I was advised to listen to talk radio instead of music. I found myself switching from the music stations to the news and talk radio stations to keep myself awake and was happy it worked.

I started listening to The Game of Thrones: A Song of Ice and Fire: Book One by George R.R. Martin and narrated by Roy Divine. It took 33 hours and 47 minutes. I listened to the book while driving back and forth to Connecticut. I listened while I was working in New Hampshire either splitting wood outside – we have a hydraulic wood splitter so it’s not as tough as it may sound, although it is physical labor. Sometimes I’d be inside with my headphones on in the wood shop making our garden kits, listening to the story. I discovered quickly how much faster some of my work was done while listening to my book. Or at least it felt like it went faster. I began to look forward to my long drives or work knowing I’d be submerged in another world and the time would fly by.

I loved the first book, A Game of Thrones and the second, A Clash of Kings. By the time I got to Book 3, A Storm of Swords I had found myself a little bored and Game of Throned out. After all, these are long marathon books upwards of 34 hours and that was the shortest one. Storm of Swords is 48 hours long!

The titles that sucked me in to the wonderful world of audiobook listening

On one of my trips down to Connecticut or back, something happened with my book I was listening to, so while driving I had to quickly select something that would play since I still had over 2 hours left in the drive. I wound up listening to The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion, narrated by Dan O’Grady.

This narrator’s voice perked me up – Roy Dotrice’s deep tones were beginning to lull me to sleep some. But this guy was much more upbeat. I didn’t know anything about the book when I started listening to it. I must have added it to my library at some point because it sounded interesting or was on sale or both. But I found that I was much more alert and involved in the story listening to Dan O’Grady reading now.

Since then, which is only about 18 months or so give or take, I’ve listened so far to twenty-three more titles and counting. Plus I actually read a book. So with that I am adding a new regular feature to my Xines’ Pack blog – Xine’s Book Club. I won’t limit it to calling it Xine’s Audiobook Club because I do want to actually read more too. So look for future posts about the books and audiobooks I read. I’m open to hearing suggestions and thoughts from others that have read or listened to these titles. It would be great to have an online discussion going.

Until happy listening or reading to you!