February/March AudioBook Club

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.

Me and Mom

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

January 2021 – My Audiobook Club

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

Holiday Reading and Listening 2020

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.

Hans Christian Andersen – The Snow Queen

My Audiobook Club- Sept/Oct

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.

Frank Herbert

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.

The Silent Patient – Alex Michaelides

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.