Tag Archives: audiobooks

5 for Friday – What I Read This Spring

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I’m a bit behind on what I’ve read and listened to, but here’s what was in front of me this spring… just before our trip to Charleston. FYI – There are some great ones/favorites in here!

The Artist
by Suzanne Hagelin 
(fiction) – on the fence

I’m guessing I found this book as a free download on the Amazon Kindle store. It had good reviews and I “purchased” it on a whim. Although I don’t own a tablet or e-reader, I like to have a few Kindle books on my phone in case I’m stranded in line somewhere without a book. I don’t tend to enjoy reading books on my phone. This was a shorter book with an intriguing premise; but I’m not sure I like how it unfolded. As usual, I’m just not fond of many endings to books.

~

Underground Railroad
by Colson Whitehead 
(fiction) – must read

This book has an ongoing, growing waiting list at my library and for good reason. I can’t say that I’ve ever read a historical novel like this. Whitehead is a wonderfully descriptive writer who captures such depth in imagining place and time you can almost feel it. I loved this book… the only part I didn’t was the ending. Because this piece could truly have kept on going.

~

Behold the Dreamers
by Imbolo Mbue 
(fiction, audiobook) – must read/listen

Somewhere along the way, I not only had reserved this on my to-read list, but also as one as I should listen to on audio. I would definitely agree that this is the route you should take there. This book probably rates up there as one of my favorite audiobooks of all time! The narrator has a phenomenal ability to do a wide range of voices and accents that feel completely authentic. In today’s world of immigrant debates, I think this book is highly relevant to our time.

~

Sheet Pan Suppers:
120 Recipes for Simple, Surprising, Hands-Off Meals Straight from the Oven
*Plus Breakfasts. Desserts. and Snacks, Too!

by Molly Gilbert (non-fiction, cookbook) – skip

This is one of those cookbooks where I started reading and got really excited about it. I love the idea of pulling an entire meal out of the oven all arranged and cooked on one pan. Then after putting the cookbook aside for a few days and returning to it later, I lost interest. I only found a couple of recipes I could actually find myself making.

~

Dinner: A Love Story
by Jenny Rosenstrach (non-fiction, cookbook/memoir) – must read

Kat at Tenaciously Yours posts weekly photos of her dinners and sites many of her meals as coming from Dinner: A Love Story. With my plan to borrow one cookbook per week from the library this year, this seemed a logical choice.

I completely adored this cookbook, but not for the reasons I thought! Since this book is part memoir, it does read just like a story… which is how I often read cookbooks anyway. After flagging several recipes, I decided to just purchase the cookbook myself. This is why it’s helpful to check cookbooks out of the library – you can decide whether or not you want to own them!

~

This is a sixth one, but I’m adding it because it’ll be my last audiobook for a while, until this winter when my commute resumes.

M Train
by Patti Smith (non-fiction, audiobook) – DNF

I had this on a list of recommended audiobooks. At the time, I didn’t know it was non-fiction, nor the content of the story. I am not familar with author Patti Smith either. At first listen, I couldn’t believe that they had her narrate her own book on audio. It was monotonous and dry and I had hard time paying attention. The writing is excellent, but I couldn’t get past her voice. But after a while, it grew on me. (Which often seems to be the case with audiobooks.) Then it just felt right that she was reading this memoir of sorts. Because it was her experience.

I did abandon this book however, because it was what I was listening to when my commute came to a halt. After that, I was in the car for no more than a few minutes at a time by myself. It didn’t make sense to keep going when I was having a hard time concentrating with my own circumstances as it was. But her experiences (and love of black coffee) and the content of the book is interesting enough that I may revisit when my commute resumes this winter.

What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

Cheers~
Carrie

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Friday 5: Some of the better books I’ve read lately…

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I’ve had a good round of books as of late! Here you go…

I Let You Go
by Clare Mackintosh 
(fiction) – worth a read

i-let-you-go

I am guessing that I found this book on Modern Mrs. Darcy’s Unputdownable list. On my copy from the library, a quote from The Girl on the Train author Paula Hawkins indicates that this novel has a “killer twist”.

I was drawn to this book, of course, by the blue cover. {I tend to be!} I can agree with Hawkins that there was a twist to this book; but I don’t think it is where you are expecting. While there is a bit of twist at the end; I think the real twist is in the middle. You will be questioning everything you read in the pages prior! For this reason, I don’t think it can ever be made into a movie. Still, I loved reading about the Welsh coast, which would be a beautiful setting in a film.

Truthfully, I liked this book more than The Girl on the TrainI would classify it as “unputdownable”, too. While it did take me about a week to read it, I read the last 60% of the book in one day.

~

The High Mountains of Portugal
by Yann Martel
 (fiction, audiobook) – on the fence

This book was on my list for two reasons:

1) I read Yann Martel’s Life of Pi years ago and loved it and

2) we are considering a trip to Portugal this fall.

I am not sure why I chose the audiobook version of this novel; but I am thinking I may have enjoyed this a bit more if I read the hard copy. I do remember having a hard time getting into Martel’s Life of Pi, but that by the end it became one of my favorite books! The High Mountains of Portugal also took me a while to get into, but I think part of that may have been because of the reader’s voice.

Funny, though, I thought the reader’s voice was quite perfect for this book – almost too perfect. The Portuguese phrases and place names seemed to be so perfectly pronounced, that I had a hard time picturing them in my head. You know how sometimes when you read a language that you don’t know on paper that you can get the general gist because there may be similar spelling or words to a language you already know? I wanted that.

I found my mind wandering during much of the audiobook, but kept up with most of it. This novel covers three inter-related tales. However, I think the symbolism is so profound (much like Life of Pi), that I just might need the Cliff notes. Much of it was over my head. (And the fact that I wasn’t listening carefully the entire time.)

For the record, this is one of the several books that I’ve been reading as of late that mentions Agatha Christie novels, three of which are in this post! (The other is Behind Closed Doors.) Truth be told, I’ve never read a book by this famed author. Maybe this is a sign I should?!

~

Food, Health and Happiness:
115 On-Point Recipes for Great Meals and a Better Life

by Oprah Winfrey
 (cookbook) – worth a read

I learned of this cookbook from Biz at My Bizzy Kitchen. Because of the recent soup craze in our household, Biz had me when she said “I was thrilled that the first 19 recipes are soup recipes!” Not only that, but Biz and I also have in common the tendency to read cookbooks like novels. Plus, Oprah. So this recommendation was a no-brainer.

This cookbook really does read like a novel! Oprah has always shared her struggles with food; but in this book she dispenses the wisdom she has learned through the years and I love the message – real food with people you love.

There are several recipes in this book that I will realistically never make. But I did pull out a few that I will. {Yes, they are soups!} And one of the great food tips I got from Oprah in this book – using (Sabatino brand) truffle zest and truffle salt! Rob and I have bought truffle oil in the past – a very expensive one we didn’t use very often and ended up throwing out and a cheaper one that had a taste of kerosene on the finish. Salt and zest makes much more sense.

I’ve already had some decadent truffle scrambled eggs in the morning with this little hint of flavor and no added calories. Indulgent!

~

Rules of Civility
by Amor Towles
 (fiction) – must read

This book was also on MMD’s Unputdownable list. And here is another book that took me a week to read, but the last 60% was in just one day! This book takes place over the course of one year – 1938. I wasn’t sure how into it I was at the beginning, but there are so many messages here. I learned, too, that while I shy away from historical novels sometimes, I do like books set in this era. I wanted a word to describe it, so I looked up a few things and realized the “era” that I enjoy is of a much wider range than I had expected. Apparently, I need to brush up on my history!

  • The Gilded Age (1870-1900) – Mark Twain described the late 19th century as the Guilded Age, or as “glittering on the surface but corrupt underneath.” I thought this described the 1930s, but apparently I was wrong…
  • Midnight in Paris – This film takes place in Paris in the 20s. Parts of this book reminded me of this this movie – all of the artists and such.
  • Prohibition (1920-1933) – All the gin-drinking in this novel had me curious about when Prohibition ended. In fact, I thought it lasted just a few years. But 13 years?! I should have remembered this from all of the St. Paul Gangster Tours I’ve been. (The Volstead Act was signed in St. Paul.)
  • The Great Depression (1929 – 1939) – The protaganist in this story acts and speaks as if The Great Depression is over, without actually saying so. This may be because it 1938 was the tail end and such an economic crisis spanned the globe. (Did some of this crisis have to do with Prohibition, I wonder?!)
  • World War II (1939-1945) – Looking up all of these dates put these things in to perspective for me and gave me a bit of a time line.

I really like that this book was set over the course of one year. There is a whole chapter that takes place on birthday in 1938. Oddly enough, it had me thinking about my maternal grandfather. Truth be told, all of my grandparents would have been alive during this time. However, my grandpa shared my birth month and it got me thinking that he would have been 24 at the time. Was his life similar or extremely different since he didn’t live in Manhattan?

It’s times like these that I wish I would have had the maturity and foresight to ask all of my grandparents about their lives during those times before their passing. Why is it now that I find it more fascinating?

By the end of this book, I realized I had to finally start watching the Amazon series Z: The Beginning of Everything. Zelda Fitzgerald was one of my favorite “characters” in Midnight in Paris. I wanted to see more of her. I have no idea if either adaptation is a true account of what F. Scott Fitzgerald’s wife was like; but I find it entertaining nonetheless.

Last piece of note: This is one of the books I’ve read recently that mentions Agatha Christie novels!

~

my grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry
by Fredrik Backman (fiction) – worth a read 

I adored Backman’s A Man Called Ove; but I listened to the audiobook. This was the first of his books that I read with my eyes. 🙂 This is a moving story about the relationship of an “almost-eight-year-old” and her grandmother. The grandmother tells her granddaughter some glorious fairy tales… that sometimes get blurred with reality.

For instance, you see that dog on the cover of the book? They feed this animal chocolate – and mostly sweets all of the time. While reading, I had to google this book and figure out why in the world they would do such a thing. I was so worried the dog would die! But I came across this interview with the author. I guess he’s been asked this question a lot… {Insert angry emails here!}

We, as readers, were meant to use our imaginations for this part because the animal is supposed to be a wurse. But the book’s description of a wurse did not remind me of a dog at all. That, in conjunction with the misleading photo on the front of the book and the fact that none of the other imaginary parts of the fairy tales ended up in reality made me confused. Wouldn’t you be confused by this passage?

Other than that silliness, I really did enjoy this book. In the end, you’ll understand the reason for the fairy tales and how they take shape (just not as literally as the wurse) in reality. It’s worth the read. {Even if you have to get confused about wurses!} Oh… wait. One more thing. Agatha Christie is mentioned in this book, too. I think this is a sign…

~

If you’ve read Agatha Christie, which book is your favorite?

Which book would tell someone to read first?

Cheers~
Carrie

All About Audiobooks {And a Few Recommendations}

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You guys.

Audiobooks have changed my life.

{Also, my favorite book of 2016 is in this post.}

How It Began

When my professional life changed and my commute went from 5 minutes to 30, I knew I had to do something. I’ve been a nervous driver since our accident last February. I over-anticipate what’s going to happen. I think every vehicle is coming into my lane. I don’t trust anyone. {I’m not a very good rider, either. But that’s another story. That’s when real books and magazines come in to play!}

Truth be told, I used to love driving! I used to drive all over the Twin Cities teaching about wine! Back then, I happily listened to mixed CDs that my husband made me. There were only a couple of audiobooks that I had ever listened to at that time; but they were books that I had already read: The Secret and The Power by Rhonda Byrne. I was discussing them with a colleague and she mentioned how listening to them on CD in her car really did wonders for absorbing each book’s message. So I bought them.

When I discovered I could borrow audiobooks from the library just like any other books, I thought, Why not?” 

Does It Count as Reading?

Now I listen to books as if I’m reading them – for the first time. At first, I wondered if listening to an audiobook “counted” as reading the book itself. I read several articles on this topic and the verdict is – It sure does! You do need to concentrate when you are listening to an audiobook. I find that I cannot listen to one while I’m cooking and concentrating on what needs to added next to my dish. However, with driving, it allows me to focus on something else just enough to keep my mind off the driving anxiety, but without distracting me completely. It’s not like the radio, which can be more like background noise. I’m thinking I might enjoy listening to an audiobook while walking or running, now, too.

Choosing an Audiobook

The hardest part is choosing the right one. Not all audiobooks are equal to their originals. It’s a different experience whether you devour a book with your eyeballs or your ears! A book may be great, but the reader’s voice may not suit you, or even suit the book. Sometimes the book might come off better on audio. Other times, it just takes a few minutes to get used to the voice or the style and then I’m okay. All I really can rely on?

Recommendations.

First, I have found that books written by comedians tend to make great audiobooks because they are often read by the authors. They know how to deliver! How did I discover this?

Trial and Error.

One of the first ones I listened to was Amy Schumer’s The Girl with The Lower Back TattooLoved it.

Here are a few other audiobooks I’ve tried, written by comedians and other celebrities. Of course, if you aren’t interested in any of these celebrities, you probably won’t enjoy them.

why-not-me

Why Not Me?
by Mindy Kaling
 (non-fiction) – worth a listen

For me, this was more a bit of fluff. I got to learn a few things about Mindy and what Hollywood is like. I feel like she’s someone I could hang out with sometime. She seems pretty easy going.

~

yes-please

Yes Please
by Amy Poehler
 (non-fiction) – must listen

This is is one book that I could argue that the audiobook is even better than the hard copy without having read the hard copy. Why? Because it’s as if Amy Poehler is talking to you. She reads from her own studio and invites guests in to talk in between about some of the chapters. The last chapter is actually read on stage at a stand-up show. I loved it.

~

oprah

What I Know For Sure
by Oprah Winfrey 
(non-fiction) – must listen

There’s just something about Oprah sharing the things she’s learned in life that makes me feel like I’m “almost” talking with a mom or a mentor over coffee.

~

Audiobook Duds

I’ve had a few other recommendations that were utter duds for me. But sometimes it’s the only way to pick them! Here’s why they didn’t work for me:

short-history

*A Short History of Nearly Everything
by Bill Bryson 
(non-fiction) – DNF

I picked this one up not based on recommendations, but on a whim when I returned another one. I pulled it off the shelf because one of my favorite books is by Bryson – Neither Here Nor There. I read it right after my 12-week post-college backpacking trip through Europe. It was laugh-out-loud-funny. But as an audiobook, I just could not get into this one. The author did not read the book. Instead, it was a gentleman with a British accent. Bryson is not British; but he did live there. And most certainly books read in a British accent can work well. This one was just to dry for my tastes. Maybe I’ll find the humor if I read the hard copy one day…

~

what-if

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions
by Randall Munroe 
(non-fiction?) – DNF

I know that this one was recommended on a Best Audiobooks list somewhere. Someone commented that they liked having it read by Wil Wheaton. But the book is horribly absurd. Why did you take these horrible minutes from me! Truly the worst, in my opinion.

~

getting-things-done

Getting Things Done: The Act of Stress-Free Productivity
by David Allen 
(non-fiction) – DNF

I thought that a motivational book would be great on audio! I was wrong. The Secret and The Power worked for me; but not this one. It just couldn’t keep my attention. There was too much theory and asserting of how these “methods” work before actually getting to the methods. I kept finding my mind wandering.

~

the-kitchen-house

The Kitchen House
by Kathleen Grissom 
(fiction) – DNF

Here is an audiobook that was recommended from the fiction category. The truth is, I did like the reader’s voice. She did the other character’s voices extremely well, too. I think it probably is a pretty great work of fiction set during the era of slavery. I just had trouble concentrating. It could have been timing. Or just me. It might be worth a revisit.

~

Best Sellers

The best part about borrowing bestsellers on audiobook is that you often don’t have to sit on the library waiting list nearly as long as you’d have to for the hard copy! Here are a few books I decided to soak up with my ears instead.

a-man-called-ove

A Man Called Ove
by Fredrik Backman 
(fiction) – must listen

Yes! Yes! This one was worth it on audiobook! They chose the perfect gentleman to read the English version of this book of Swedish origin to convey the essence of the main character. I also would have never known how “Ove” was pronounced. I am looking forward to seeing the movie now. After listening to this audiobook, I’m wondering if The Nest would be worth a listen rather than a read? I haven’t seen the sound recording on any recommended lists yet; but the audiobook is readily available at my library while I’m on the long wait list for the book. Should I take the plunge?

~

the-couple-next-door

The Couple Next Door
by Shari Lapena 
(fiction) – currently listening

I’m currently listening to this audiobook. I was strangely drawn to the cover. I’m not sure I love the reader’s voice; but it certainly is appropriate for the genre. I’ll have to get back to you on this one. As of right now, I think the book itself would be an easy read.

~

But the best, best, best audiobook I’ve read so far – AND my favorite book I “read” in 2016 is…

kitchens

Kitchens of the Great Midwest
by J. Ryan Stradal 
(fiction) – must listen

I didn’t know anything about this book prior to listening to it. I probably saw it on a list somewhere and added it to my Good Reads audio list. In fact, I thought it was non-fiction. I suspected it would cover actual kitchens and chefs in the Midwest.

But, no. It’s a genius work of fiction! I loved, loved every second of it. You must listen to this book if you live in the Midwest and are interested in food at all whatsoever. I laughed out loud so many times. Both readers are excellent and do accents and the character voices well. I did see a review of several books on a blog recently, and next to this one they noted, “Good/Not Great.”

WHAT?! I guess that goes to show how hard it is to rely on someone else’s opinion. I cannot recall the blog, but perhaps this person isn’t from the Midwest and couldn’t relate. Or perhaps the audiobook made all of the difference in the world! This one comes highly recommended from me. I knew I had only a few minutes left in the book when I arrived home from my commute one day. The book was so good that I drove a round the block a few times just to finish it!

~

Going forward, I’ll include my audiobooks with all of my others, because to me, they are just as important.

 Do you listen to books on audio? 

If so, how do you choose them and what are your favorites?

Cheers~
Carrie