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- November/December 2020

There’s been a lot going on in my life and in the world and I have been way behind in my writing. The end of the year brought for me a whirlwind of listening to my audiobooks while I dealt with life, the holidays and worked on my drawings which you can see on my art blog Xine Segalas Creatives .

I have found listening to my audiobooks to be quite a comforting routine which I didn’t realize I was in until I well into it. I started listening to audiobooks while driving from New Hampshire down to visit my family in Connecticut almost 5 years ago. I still owned my house down there and I drive down frequently during the summer and fall to check in on the house, my son who was living in the house and visit my friends and family. I used to listen to music when I drove but the four hour drive after doing it for so long was boring and certain stretches I would struggle to stay awake. I remembered that listening to talk radio helped me once during a particularly long drive from Michigan to Connecticut, but I don’t enjoy listening to talk radio and thought audiobooks a better option. Since developing this new habit – which due to some great books, I extended my listening time to when I was indoors working on my art or on the computer. It makes tedious chores like filing and weeding a whole lot more enjoyable. Last year I listened to over 50 audiobooks – so much better than anything on TV.

I started the month of November 2020 with The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller. I am a huge fan of mythology – greek, roman, norse or otherwise. So I was ready to head back into another and I did not regret diving into Miller’s novel.

What’s admired in one generation is abhorred in another.

Odyssus to Achilles’ son

Miller sticks pretty close to the events in Homer’s Iliad but casts Achilles’ best friend, Patroclus as the narrator. This allows us into Achilles’ world from the uniquely close perspective of his closest friend and paramour, Patroclus. Narrated by Frasier Douglas who has the perfect voice for this type of book which ran 11 hours and 15 minutes. I really enjoyed this take on Achilles’ story and gave the book four stars on my Goodreads page.

I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know in death, at the end of the world.

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto was an interesting book. I listened to this book for one reason and one reason alone: I have always enjoyed Mitch Albom’s books. Albom did not disappoint me either this this story about a fictional musician as told by the narrator, Music. Music is exactly what and who you think he is – “an art of sound in time that expresses ideas and emotions in significant forms through elements of rhythm, melody, harmony and color” – except he is telling us the story of Frankie Presto.

This is life. Things get taken away. You will learn to start over many times — or you will be useless.

Mitch Albom, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

It’s a brilliant epic story that takes us through a sort of history of music, as real musicians that we all know from Elvis Presley, Tony Bennett, The Byrds and more are interwoven throughout the story and Frankie Presto’s life.

There are so many great quotes from this book, it’s hard for me to just pull one or two. Mitch Albom is such a gifted writer when he pens such beautiful metaphors. The audiobook is narrated by Mitch Albom, Paul Stanley – yes, from the band KISS and George Guidall and runs 9 hours and 43 minutes.

” Everyone joins a band in this life. You are born into your first band. Your mother plays lead. She shares the stage with your father and siblings. Or perhaps your father is absent, an empty stool under a spotlight. But he is still a founding member, and if he surfaces one day, you will make room for him. As life goes on, you join other bands, some through friendship, some through romance, some through neighborhoods, school, an army. Maybe you will all dress the same, or laugh at your own private vocabulary. Maybe you will flop on couches backstage or share a boardroom table, or crowd around a galley inside a ship. But in each band you join, you play a distinct part and it will affect you as much as you affect it.”

Mitch Albom, The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto

I can’t remember where I first saw this book and thought – my, that looks interesting, but I am glad I did. The Feather Thief by Kirk Wallace Johnson is a fascinating story about as the subtitle suggests about beauty, obsession, and the Natural History heist of the century. This was the second true-crime book I have ever ventured to read – In Cold Blood by Truman Capote being the first. But it took me decades to return to a genre which can be very interesting and not always bloody. I found this to be a interesting story about a terrible crime which more people should know and care about. The audiobook is narrated by Macleod Andrews and runs 8 hours and 4 minutes. Four Stars.

I guess I was in a mood and continued with the true-crime genre with a classic, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by Jeff Berendt and the version I listened to was narrated by Jeff Woodman. There are a couple of versions of this book in the Audible library, I choose the one with that had been listen to by more people and had a higher rating to boot than the other version offered. This book runs 15 hours and 4 minutes and there is a lot of meat to this story and I rated it 4 stars.

Rule Number One: Always stick around for one more drink. That’s when things happen. That is when you find out everything you want to know.

John Berendt, Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil

Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey is an unconventional but very funny memoir. Matt is a great storyteller and listening to his book is like sitting down with him and sharing a few beers. I thoroughly enjoyed this memoir with his bumper sticker philosophy and all.

“I’m not perfect; no, I step in shit all the time and recognize it when I do. I’ve just learned how to scrape it off my boots and carry on.”

 Matthew McConaughey, Greenlights

The Archer by Paulo Coelho narrated by Vikas Adam is 49 minutes of powerful storytelling. I have been a fan of Paulo Coehlo’s since reading The Alchemist, so when I came upon this quick little audio book , I was certainly open to listening. I like finding sort, quick listens. Length is not defines how deep or powerful a story can come across to the reader. A truly gifted author can send a profound message to the reader in just a few words. I found listening to the Archer I was hit with the arrows of his words. I highly recommend either reading or listening to The Archer.

Use your bad moments to discover what makes you tremble. Use your good moments to find your road to inner peace. But do no stop either out of fear or joy.

Paulo Coelho, The Archer

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