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 – May 2021

As I have been listening to more and more books, I have wanted to read more and more books. Initially, I was having trouble staying awake when I read since I always was trying to read before bed when I was already tired. I eventually figured out a little lunchtime reading was a good time for me. I wasn’t as tired in the middle of the day. One morning I was so interested to get back to my book I decided to read my book instead of my phone. Progress.

“Darlin’,” he drawled, “go when you are invited. Bring good boots, drive slow, take blankets, carry your own salt, but by all means… go where the light is.

That’s not bad advice, wherever you live. Darlin’.”

Mud Season – Ellen Stimson

I also began with short books. Short, non-intimidating-in-length-or-thickness, books. Mud Season: How One Woman’s Dream of Moving to Vermont, Raising Children, Chickens and Sheep, and Running the Old Country Store Pretty Much Led to One Calamity After Another is a mouthful of a title but the book itself was completely manageable. There isn’t much more to say about this book without giving anything away that hasn’t been given away already in the title. I enjoyed reading this book, it gave me a few laughs and some nice recipes to boot. It’s the perfect 256-page book to settle in with during mud season.

When I wasn’t reading Mud Season, I was listening to Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple. This title had been one of the first books that I added to my Audible library, then forgot about. Although I am uncertain as to where the original recommendation came from I noticed that James Patterson recommended it in his Masterclass course.

The Audible version I listened to was narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite and ran for 9 hours and 35 minutes. I’m not sure whether the narrator’s interpretation for certain characters’ voices may have ultimately affected how much I liked this book. I found certain voices to be annoying, although it could also have been the character.

This book was just okay for me. Parts were more interesting than others. But as a whole it was just 3 stars okay.

“It was easier to manipulate someone if they didn’t perceive you as a threat.”

― Stephanie Wrobel, Darling Rose Gold

I decided to switch things up with my next selection with Darling Rose Gold by Stephanie Wrobel. Woah. Twisted is a good adjective to describe this book. Neither main characters (Patty or Rose Gold) are likeable which says a lot without saying too much. If you are into psychological thrillers – you will enjoy this selection. The Audible Audiobook is narrated by Megan Dodds and Jill Winternitz and runs 10 hours and 18 minutes in which the author holds your attention throughout. 3 Stars.

I wish I could remember how I found out about this next book I read so that I can thank them for the recommendation. This was a great story! The narration was by Bahni Turpin who was incredible and handled the various voices both male and female masterfully. The story runs 8 hours and 21 minutes long.

Laila Ibrahim has written a beautiful book about relationships. Ibrahim captures the strong bond formed between two women from completely different worlds in the decades leading up to the Civil War. She skillfully weaves into the story the historical views of the South about slavery and the behavior exhibited by some men towards women regardless of color in that time. This was a great book which I highly recommend to any fan of historical fiction. 4 stars!!

But I know a good man make life more sweet. Someone to hold you and love you, someone to share your dreams with, someone kind and thoughtful. A good man’s a treasure.

Laila Ibrahim – Yellow Crocus spoken by Mattie

The Midnight Library by Matt Haig is a book that I believe I learned about through some of the people I follow on the website Goodreads.com. I enjoyed this book immensely and appreciate a story about life, its realities but ultimately the possibilities which lay before all of us. The Audible audiobook is narrated by Carey Mulligan and runs 8 hours 50 minutes. I have since recommended it also to my daughter, who adored it and my brother, who is in the process of reading it.

The only way to learn is to live.

Matt Haig – The Midnight Library

[A quick note about Goodreads.] Last year I joined the Goodreads reading challenge and found that because of the challenge, it’s a personal one – you set the goal- I was more driven to read and listen to books. My biggest obstacle was that I always equated listening to my audiobooks on my long drives to visit my family down in Connecticut and with the quarantine I wasn’t driving anywhere. Instead, I would listen to a book while I was drawing or painting or even while working on a few puzzles. If it was a nice day and I had outdoor chores like weeding the garden or stacking wood, I would listen to my book as I did my work. Now I even find myself listening to my books while cleaning the house – except while vacuuming. Although I suppose the headphones would work well enough since I use them while I am riding the lawn tractor and listening. I made my goal of 50 book and then some last year.

For me, Goodreads has been a great source of ideas and a great way to share book ideas with friends and family. It helps so much to know what types of books people like to read in case you would like to gift them a book. FYI – I don’t get anything for recommending them in any way, shape or form. I just like the site and think other readers would too. Enough about that.

“Change isn’t always comfortable, but it is a fact of life.”

― Joanne Harris, The Gospel of Loki

Switching to one of my favorite genres – mythology, I listened to The Gospel of Loki by Joanne M. Harris. The Gospel of Loki is part of a series Loki, Book 1 and I found this to be a fun and entertaining book to listen to. Loki’s story is told by the merry prankster, himself, such a different angle to spin the old familiar stories. Loki is such a wonderful character and Allan Corduner does a fantastic job bringing Loki to life! If you enjoy mythology, you will enjoy this. The Audible audiobook runs 10 hours and 6 minutes.

For a few months now I have been intimidated to listen to one of my books. I have discovered the equivalent of the way I would react to books of many pages. The big thick books that would usually make me not read the book just because I thought it would take me forever finish. For audiobooks, it’s length in hours and minutes, specifically when the books get into the 18+ hours. Keith Richard’s memoir Life is 23 hours and 5 minutes and it sat in my library for over 6 months. But I finally decided to dive in.

Wow, I knew when I dove into listening to Keith Richard’s Life that I would be in for a wild ride and that it was and more. I’ve listened to a few memoirs but non as long as this one, but after all we are talking about Keith Richards, the man, the myth and the legend which Keith addresses all three.

“When you are growing up there are two institutional places that affect you most powerfully: the church, which belongs to God, and the public library, which belongs to you. The public library is a great equalizer.”

― Keith Richards


There is a lot to unpack in Keith’s life and it is so interesting. Musicians who understand how to play music will really be interested in his describing certain riffs and other technical aspects which Keith discusses – I am not musically inclined but it certainly did not diminish from the experience of listening to Keith’s story.
I loved learning about how certain songs came to be and what was going on behind the scenes while they were working on different albums and tours.
Keith published this in 2010, eleven (11) years ago now and the Rolling Stones are still together and still touring. God Bless You Keith!

I joined the Book of the Month Club so that I would be exposed to some new books and authors. Many people are very familiar with Kristin Hannah from her bestseller, The Nightingale but when my BOMC have me a chance to select on of her books I had not read any of her books and thought The Great Alone looked like as good as place as any to start. I am so glad I did too, I loved this book! I could relate to some of the rough living – feeding the animals in the middle of a snowy winter; feeding our wood furnace twice a day and making sure we have enough wood to burn throughout the season.

“… home was not just a cabin in a deep woods that overlooked a placid cove. Home was a state of mind, the peace that came from being who you were and living an honest life.”

― Kristin Hannah, The Great Alone

I found myself at times eager to sit down and escape into the Alaskan wilderness which Kristin Hannah describes so well. Every character in the book brings something to the table which adds to the depth of the story. You come to care about each and every one of them. I highly recommend this book , it’s a great read!

Note: There are many themes that run throughout the story – some can be more triggering than others depending on your own personal experiences (abuse, first love, loss).

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!

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

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

I have started to use the website Goodreads.com to track the books I have read, want to read etc… You can see some of these and other book reviews of mine on my profile page there. If you are also on the Goodreads.com site friend me!

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 – 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.

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!

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!