For My Ears: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins and narrated by Yareli Arizmendi

(from Amazon):

También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams.

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy―two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia―trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

American Dirt will leave readers utterly changed. It is a literary achievement filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity on every page. It is one of the most important books for our times.

Already being hailed as “a Grapes of Wrath for our times” and “a new American classic,” Jeanine Cummins’s American Dirt is a rare exploration into the inner hearts of people willing to sacrifice everything for a glimmer of hope.

I had heard a lot about this book, an Oprah pick so everybody was reading it, so at first I stayed away. However, I wanted something compelling for my commute this fall, so I purchased it through Audible.

I have to say – I was hooked into this story from the first page. Lydia and Luca’s story kept me coming back for more and I so wanted them to succeed. I did find the drug cartel story a little extreme – I’m no expert, but I have known numerous people who came from Mexico to California and the ones I knew (both legal and illegal) came for a better life and opportunities (as my own grandparents and great-grandparents came from Europe for the same reasons) and weren’t running because someone was trying to murder them.

Now I know that this novel has been controversial. The author is not from Mexico and this is not her story. Also, some people have pointed out that she is making a lot of money telling this story when there are many Latinx authors who could tell the story with authenticity.

Regardless, I have to say that if someone reads this book (or listens to it, as I did) and it causes them to have some empathy, some understanding, some compassion, then I think that’s a good thing.

At school, we often read La Linea by Ann Jamarillo with the middle school kids – a story of two siblings coming to the US with many similarities (except they aren’t running from a drug cartel). If you are looking for a book for younger readers to tell the story of why some people come to America for a better life, I recommend it.

This is a long listen. While I liked the narration, I didn’t love it. The Spanish words jumped out at me, reminding me of when I watch Giada on television and she mentions Italian dishes.

Have you read American Dirt? If so, let me know what you think.

For My Ears: Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent

Oh my goodness — now that I’m commuting again (though shorter than in the past due to less cars on the road due to COVID shutdowns) I’m listening to audiobooks every day. I listened to this one in August/September and it was a doozy. Naratted by several apt actors (Caoilfhionn Dunne, David McFetridge, and Lesley McGuire), it tells the story of a family and the secrets they hide.

Here’s the overview via Amazon/Audible:

From the international best-selling author of Unraveling Oliver, an “unputdownable psychological thriller with an ending that lingers long after turning the final page” (The Irish Times) about a Dublin family whose dark secrets and twisted relationships are suddenly revealed.  

My husband did not mean to kill Annie Doyle, but the lying tramp deserved it. 

On the surface, Lydia Fitzsimons has the perfect life – wife of a respected, successful judge, mother to a beloved son, mistress of a beautiful house in Dublin. That beautiful house, however, holds a secret. And when Lydia’s son, Laurence, discovers its secret, wheels are set in motion that lead to an increasingly claustrophobic and devastatingly dark climax. 

For fans of Ruth Ware and Gillian Flynn, this novel is a “seductively sinister story. The twists come together in a superbly scary denouncement, which delivers a final sting in the tail. Brilliantly macabre” (Sunday Mirror).

So this is the kind of story that starts off with a bang. You fall into the dark hole of it and you never are able to climb your way out.

I have to be honest and say that while this was superbly plotted and well-written I HATED the ending. Hated it. Almost cried from frustration and upset. Still can’t stop thinking about it. So – it’s good. Really good. It just didn’t make me happy (and I like happy).

Let me know what you thought! I got mine with an Audible credit.

For My Ears: What I’ve Been Listening To…(it’s a lot!)

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Where would I be without audible during my daily commute (over an hour each way!) ??

I have listened to a LOT of really great reads this spring and have been so busy with work (and running around performing in a community theater production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame) that I haven’t posted recently about my listening finds.

Here’s what I’ve been spending my audible credits listening to:

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

Some Luck by Jane Smiley

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas is a well-written, wrenching and vividly accurate portrayal of life for a black teenager, as she deals with her death of her close friend. It is superbly narrated by Bahni Turpin. A must read for teens and those who care about them, it’s on my 15 year old’s summer reading list and I’ve encouraged our school to incorporate it into our reading list.

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From Amazon:

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil’s name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does-or does not-say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

And don’t miss On the Come Up, Angie Thomas’s powerful follow-up to The Hate U Give.

One of Us Is Lying  by Karen M. McManus is a thoughtful and twisty mystery, as a group of teens grapple with the death of a classmate, which leaves them all suspects. Multiple narrators help keep the story straight as you listen (as they are in first person) and thankfully each chapter is headed by who is speaking. I figured it out in advance, but hey – I’m a teacher! 🙂 Great narration!

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The Breakfast Club meets Pretty Little LiarsOne of Us Is Lying is the story of what happens when five strangers walk into detention and only four walk out alive. Everyone is a suspect, and everyone has something to hide.

Pay close attention, and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon five students at Bayview High walk into detention.

Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule.

Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess.

Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.

Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.

And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High’s notorious gossip app.

Only Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon’s dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn’t an accident. On Monday he died. But on Tuesday he’d planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who’s still on the loose?

Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them.

Cast of narrators:

Kim Mai Guest – Bronwyn
Shannon McManus – Andy
Robbie Daymond – Nate
Macleod Andrews – Cooper

Some Luck: A Novel by Jane Smiley is Ms. Smiley at her finest – telling an ordinary story about ordinary people that shows us just how extraordinary life can be. Her ability to take the simplest things – the dust floating in the air of the parlor, a mother tucking in her child at night, a man looking out over the  vast fields of his farm – and imbue them with a beauty and a life of their own, well, she is just simply extraordinary.

Ably narrated by Loralei King.

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From the winner of the Pulitzer Prize: a powerful, engrossing new novel – the life and times of a remarkable family over three transformative decades in America.

On their farm in Denby, Iowa, Rosanna and Walter Langdon abide by time-honored values that they pass on to their five wildly different children: from Frank, the handsome, willful first born, and Joe, whose love of animals and the land sustains him, to Claire, who earns a special place in her father’s heart.

Each chapter in Some Luck covers a single year, beginning in 1920, as American soldiers like Walter return home from World War I, and going up through the early 1950s, with the country on the cusp of enormous social and economic change. As the Langdons branch out from Iowa to both coasts of America, the personal and the historical merge seamlessly: one moment electricity is just beginning to power the farm, and the next a son is volunteering to fight the Nazis; later still, a girl you’d seen growing up now has a little girl of her own, and you discover that your laughter and your admiration for all these lives are mixing with tears.

Some Luck delivers on everything we look for in a work of fiction. Taking us through cycles of births and deaths, passions and betrayals, among characters we come to know inside and out, it is a tour de force that stands wholly on its own. But it is also the first part of a dazzling epic trilogy – a literary adventure that will span a century in America: an astonishing feat of storytelling by a beloved writer at the height of her powers.

We Were the Lucky Ones by Georgia Hunter is a story of a Polish Jewish family during WWII. The family is divided and spread across the world in order to survive. In the end, they are reunited, and to be honest, I thought, “Well that could never happen, because the Jewish population of Poland was almost completely destroyed by Hitler’s forces.” Amazingly, the author’s note says that this is a true story of her family! Reading that at the end truly made my day. This is a wonderful story about the power of resiliency and the love of family. It is read by Kathleen Gati and Robert Fass.

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An extraordinary, propulsive novel based on the true story of a family of Polish Jews who are separated at the start of the Second World War, determined to survive – and to reunite.

It is the spring of 1939, and three generations of the Kurc family are doing their best to live normal lives, even as the shadow of war grows closer. The talk around the family Seder table is of new babies and budding romance, not of the increasing hardships threatening Jews in their hometown of Radom, Poland. But soon the horrors overtaking Europe will become inescapable, and the Kurcs will be flung to the far corners of the world, each desperately trying to navigate his or her own path to safety.

As one sibling is forced into exile, another attempts to flee the continent while others struggle to escape certain death, either by working grueling hours on empty stomachs in the factories of the ghetto or by hiding as gentiles in plain sight. Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere.

A novel of breathtaking sweep and scope that spans five continents and six years and transports listeners from the jazz clubs of Paris to Krakow’s most brutal prison to the ports of Northern Africa and the farthest reaches of the Siberian gulag, We Were the Lucky Ones demonstrates how in the face of the 20th century’s darkest moment, the human spirit could find a way to survive and even triumph.

The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah, and read by Julie Whelan, was a truly interesting and engaging read, following a family that moves “off the grid” to Alaska and the struggles they have, both physical and personal, to survive.

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This program is read by acclaimed narrator Julia Whelan, whose enchanting voice brought Gone Girl and Fates and Furies to life. Kristin Hannah reads the acknowledgments.

Alaska, 1974.

Unpredictable. Unforgiving. Untamed.

For a family in crisis, the ultimate test of survival.

Ernt Allbright, a former POW, comes home from the Vietnam war a changed and volatile man. When he loses yet another job, he makes an impulsive decision: He will move his family north, to Alaska, where they will live off the grid in America’s last true frontier.

Thirteen-year-old Leni, a girl coming of age in a tumultuous time, caught in the riptide of her parents’ passionate, stormy relationship, dares to hope that a new land will lead to a better future for her family. She is desperate for a place to belong. Her mother, Cora, will do anything and go anywhere for the man she loves, even if means following him into the unknown.

At first, Alaska seems to be the answer to their prayers. In a wild, remote corner of the state, they find a fiercely independent community of strong men and even stronger women. The long, sunlit days and the generosity of the locals make up for the Allbrights’ lack of preparation and dwindling resources.

But as winter approaches and darkness descends on Alaska, Ernt’s fragile mental state deteriorates and the family begins to fracture. Soon the perils outside pale in comparison to threats from within. In their small cabin, covered in snow, blanketed in 18 hours of night, Leni and her mother learn the terrible truth: They are on their own. In the wild, there is no one to save them but themselves.

In this unforgettable portrait of human frailty and resilience, Kristin Hannah reveals the indomitable character of the modern American pioneer and the spirit of a vanishing Alaska – a place of incomparable beauty and danger. The Great Alone is a daring, beautiful, stay-up-all-night audiobook about love and loss, the fight for survival, and the wildness that lives in both man and nature.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn, and read by Mary Ann Lee, was a riveting, suspenseful story, some of which I was able to figure out, but some of which kept me guessing until the end. This is always a joy to have during a boring commute!

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For listeners of Gillian Flynn and Tana French comes one of the decade’s most anticipated debuts, to be published in 36 languages around the world and already in development as a major film from Fox: A twisty, powerful Hitchcockian thriller about an agoraphobic woman who believes she witnessed a crime in a neighboring house.

It isn’t paranoia if it’s really happening….

Anna Fox lives alone – a recluse in her New York City home, unable to venture outside. She spends her day drinking wine (maybe too much), watching old movies, recalling happier times…and spying on her neighbors.

Then the Russells move into the house across the way: a father, mother, their teenaged son. The perfect family. But when Anna, gazing out her window one night, sees something she shouldn’t, her world begins to crumble. And its shocking secrets are laid bare.

What is real? What is imagined? Who is in danger? Who is in control? In this diabolically gripping thriller, no one – and nothing – is what it seems.

Twisty and powerful, ingenious and moving, The Woman in the Window is a smart, sophisticated novel of psychological suspense that recalls the best of Hitchcock.

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty is beautifully read by Caroline Lee and while it is a lot like the HBO series, the book is SO much better! A parent is murdered at a school function and the book works back in time to give the stories behind each of the main characters. This was the first read I’ve done by Ms. Moriarty, and I can see why she has a legion of fans.

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Pirriwee Public’s annual school Trivia Night has ended in a shocking riot. One parent is dead. The school principal is horrified. As police investigate what appears to have been a tragic accident, signs begin to indicate that this devastating death might have been cold-blooded murder.

In this thought-provoking novel, number-one New York Times best-selling author Liane Moriarty deftly explores the reality of parenting and playground politics, ex-husbands and ex-wives, and fractured families. And in her pitch-perfect way, she shows us the truth about what really goes on behind closed suburban doors.

 

So — this is what I’ve been listening to. What do you have lately for your ears??

 

 

 

Audiobooks! For my Ears – for the past few months…

I’ve been totally remiss in documenting my audiobooks for y’all, so I wanted to do a big post on all the great stuff I’ve been listening to.

First I have to say: where would I be without Audible? I am a total convert. I’ll be honest. I did NOT want to spend the money to be an Audible subscriber, but, as someone who commutes now about 12+ hours a week (plus weekend fun!), I am hooked on books and get the most bang for my buck by digitally downloading books through Audible. I also buy them cheaply through their Daily Deal. And I still get CD’s to listen to from the library, because I love my local library.

So – here are some of the things I’ve been listening to (with blurbs from Amazon):

THE BOY IN THE SUITCASE by Lene Kaaberbol and Agnete Friis Read by Katherine Kellgren

Audie Award Nominee, Solo Narration – Female, 2013

Audie Award Nominee, Best Thriller/Suspense Category, 2013

Nina Borg, a Red Cross nurse, wife, and mother of two, is trying to live a quiet life. The last thing her husband wants is for her to go running off on another dangerous mission to help illegal refugees. But when Nina’s estranged friend, Karin, leaves her a key to a public locker in the Copenhagen train station, and begs her to take care of its contents, Nina gets suckered into her most dangerous case yet.

Because inside the suitcase is a three-year-old boy: naked and drugged, but alive. Nina’s natural instinct is to rescue the boy, but she knows the situation is risky. Is the boy a victim of child trafficking? Can he be turned over to authorities, or will they only return him to whoever sold him? In an increasingly desperate trek across Denmark, Nina tries to figure out who the boy is, where he belongs, and who exactly is hunting him down. When Karin is discovered brutally murdered, Nina realizes that her life and the boy’s are in jeopardy, too.

**This was a great story that I  got as a “deal”. Loved the narration. The plot kept me listening. And it’s the first in a series!

A MAN CALLED OVE by Fredrik Backman Read by George Newbern

Meet Ove. He’s a curmudgeon – the kind of man who points at people he dislikes as if they were burglars caught outside his bedroom window. He has staunch principles, strict routines, and a short fuse. People call him “the bitter neighbor from hell”. But behind the cranky exterior there is a story and a sadness. So when one November morning a chatty young couple with two chatty young daughters move in next door and accidentally flatten Ove’s mailbox, it is the lead-in to a comical and heartwarming tale of unkempt cats, unexpected friendship, and the ancient art of backing up a U-Haul. All of which will change one cranky old man and a local residents’ association to their very foundations.

**Hard to say why I loved this so much, but it reminded me of “Storied Life…”. Such a lovely story of a life well lived. Made me cry. I heard there’s a movie in the works. The narrator had the perfect voice quality for this novel, too.

FINDING AUDREY by Sophie Kinsella Read by Gemma Whelan

From the number-one New York Times best-selling author of the Shopaholic series comes a terrific blend of comedy, romance, and psychological recovery in a contemporary YA novel sure to inspire and entertain.

An anxiety disorder disrupts 14-year-old Audrey’s daily life. She has been making slow but steady progress with Dr. Sarah, but when Audrey meets Linus, her brother’s gaming teammate, she is energized. She connects with him. Audrey can talk through her fears with Linus in a way she’s never been able to do with anyone before. As their friendship deepens and her recovery gains momentum, a sweet romantic connection develops, one that helps not just Audrey but also her entire family.

**LOVED this one- made my daughter listen to it, too. Then I asked our school librarian to get it for the middle school. The accent of the narrator was perfect.

PAX by Sara Pennypacker Read by Michael Curran-Dorsano

Pax and Peter have been inseparable ever since Peter rescued him as a kit. But one day the unimaginable happens: Peter’s dad enlists in the military and makes him return the fox to the wild.

At his grandfather’s house 300 miles away from home, Peter knows he isn’t where he should be – with Pax. He strikes out on his own despite the encroaching war, spurred by love, loyalty, and grief, to be reunited with his fox.

Meanwhile Pax, steadfastly waiting for his boy, embarks on adventures and discoveries of his own….

From best-selling and award-winning author Sara Pennypacker comes a beautifully wrought, utterly compelling novel about the essential truths that define us and the devastating costs of war.Pax is destined to become a beloved classic.

**So — I got this as it was listed in one of my GoodReads groups as a potential Newbery winner. I have to say, while well-written, it just didn’t do much for me. I found it slow and my mind wandered while listening. I am thinking that I’m not a good candidate for books told from animals’ points of view.

SUMMIT LAKE by Charlie Donlea Read by Shannon McManus

“A gem of a mystery, fast-paced and suspenseful.”–Catherine Coulter, # 1 New York Timesbestselling author

Set in a small, picturesque North Carolina town, Charlie Donlea’s suspenseful debut novel tells the haunting story of a murdered law school student, the reporter assigned to her story—and the intimate connection that comes when the living walk in the footsteps of the dead.

“No suspects.  No persons of interest.  Just a girl who was alive one day and dead the next.”

Some places seem too beautiful to be touched by horror. Summit Lake, nestled in the Blue Ridge Mountains, is that kind of place, with charming stilt houses dotted along the pristine water. But two weeks ago, Becca Eckersley, a first-year law student, was brutally murdered in one of those houses. The daughter of a powerful attorney, Becca was hard-working, accomplished, and ambitious. Now, while the town reels with grief and shocked residents gather to share their theories, the police are baffled.

At first, investigative reporter Kelsey Castle thinks of the assignment as a fluff piece. But the savagery of the crime, and the determined efforts to keep the case quiet, all hint at something far more than a random attack by a stranger. As Kelsey digs deeper, pushing on despite danger and warnings, she feels a growing connection to the dead girl. And the more she learns about Becca’s friendships, her love life—and the secrets she was keeping—the more convinced she becomes that learning the truth about Becca could be the key to overcoming her own dark past…

Advance Praise for Summit Lake

“An exciting debut, with all the right touches, captivating from the first page to the last.  There’s a bright future ahead for this newcomer to the thriller genre — definitely a talent to watch.”–Steve Berry, New York Times bestselling author

“Gripping! This one kept me up late into the night.”–Nancy Bush, New York Times bestselling author

“A swift, outstanding debut. Summit Lake engrossed me then knocked me cold. Charlie Donlea is a superb storyteller sure to damage the best seller lists.”–Robert Dugoni, New York Times bestselling author

Summit Lake makes a small town come alive through the lens of madness, misunderstandings, betrayal, and a pile of the kind of secrets that makes a mystery of a life so hard to untangle from its death. The pages fly by, zinging through the twists and revelations, all the way to the shattering conclusion.”–Jamie Mason

“A brilliant, haunting thriller in which The Lovely Bones meets The Silence of the Lambs—with a bit of Twin Peaks thrown in for good measure! Charlie Donlea weaves a unique, spellbinding tale about a bond between two fascinating women—one living, one dead. Full of unexpected twists and turns, Summit Lake is an irresistible page-turner.”–Kevin O’Brien, New York Timesbestselling author

“Grabs you from the very start and doesn’t let go! This gripping thriller keeps you at the edge of your seat and gasping in all the right places. Donlea spins a perfectly crafted story of two women, both victims of violent crime, searching for justice, redemption and ultimately—peace. You won’t be able to put this book down until you’ve uncovered all the secrets hidden inside the picturesque town of Summit Lake.”–Emily Bleeker

**I liked this one! Though I had it all figured out, I still liked the twists and turns. Great narration, too.

THE WONDER by Emma Donoghue Read by Kate Lock

*The latest masterpiece by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room*

ACCLAIM FOR THE WONDER: “Deliciously gothic…. Dark and vivid, with complicated characters, this is a novel that lodges itself deep” (USA Today, 3/4 stars);“Heartbreaking and transcendent” (New York Times); A fable as lean and discomfiting as Anna’s dwindling body…. Donoghue keeps us riveted” (Chicago Tribune);“Donoghue poses powerful questions about faith and belief” (Newsday)

In the latest masterpiece by Emma Donoghue, bestselling author of Room, an English nurse brought to a small Irish village to observe what appears to be a miracle-a girl said to have survived without food for months-soon finds herself fighting to save the child’s life.

Tourists flock to the cabin of eleven-year-old Anna O’Donnell, who believes herself to be living off manna from heaven, and a journalist is sent to cover the sensation. Lib Wright, a veteran of Florence Nightingale’s Crimean campaign, is hired to keep watch over the girl.

Written with all the propulsive tension that made Room a huge bestseller, THE WONDER works beautifully on many levels–a tale of two strangers who transform each other’s lives, a powerful psychological thriller, and a story of love pitted against evil.

**So — I’m on chapter 12 of 17 of this one and it’s slow going. The story barely moves and there is a lot of character speculation and ruminating and not much action. I’m hoping things will suddenly pick up. And I hate to be less than positive but the narration is quite troubling to me. The reader’s regular voice is lovely – very BBC – and I wish she had read the entire book just in her regular voice. Instead she does all these voices and accents and it’s – well, let’s just say it doesn’t work for me. I often can’t understand her and the accent seems to travel all over Ireland to Scotland to Northern England (I have a thing for accents since I do theater). Perhaps this book would be a better choice to read? Regardless, I still have a couple of hours left so perhaps there will be a rousing ending? One can hope.
I must also put in a plug for NUMBER THE STARS which I’m reading with the fifth graders. Lois Lowry’s story of a young girl in WWII Copenhagen is unforgettable and the kids have loved it. Blair Brown’s narration is soothing and beautiful. All the kids agree: she’s a great reader!
I love using audiobooks in class to reinforce/build comprehension. The kids really enjoy it, too.
What are YOU listening to today?

Oh my Ears! What I’ve Been Listening to in the Car…Part One

The crazy commute continues, and while I love my NPR and the Broadway channel, Audible is keeping me sane. I have to say, though, that I often miss things because I have (wait for it —- ) concentrate on driving! I don’t “rewind” or whatever you’d call it digitally simply because I need to focus on driving, not fiddle with my audio player. However, if the choice is listen or not get a book at all, then I’m definitely up for listening!

In this last stretch I listened to six books – one was an Audible gift for the holidays while the rest I either got with my monthly credit or purchased because I couldn’t wait until the end of the month.

After All the Stars in the Heavens (reviewed earlier and separately), I purchased WONDER by R. J. Palacios. Yes, I know I am the LAST PERSON IN THE WORLD to get to this book, but it never seems to be in at the library. Well, it was worth the wait and the $9.99 I paid for it because this book (which you’ve probably all read already) is a gem. WONDER tells the story of Auggie Pullman, a fifth grader who has always been schooled at home because of his physical differences (which are facial). It’s a year in Auggie’s life as he integrates into school and navigates the social scene. I loved this story! When I first heard the main narrator (Diana Steele for Auggie) I thought it was Paula Poundstone trying to sound like a little kid, but eventually it grew on me and I decided it was just perfect. I can still hear that voice in my head!

Next I received a free download from Audible also a holiday treat – the short story of THE CHIMES by Charles Dickens. Wow – this was a miserable and depressing story. I guess Dickens published three stories about Christmas with THE CHIMES coming after A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Anyways — while superbly written, the story centered on this poor, hapless man named Toby “Trotty” Veck whose whole happy life is just a big illusion because everyone’s really dead. Whew — Merry Christmas!

Anyway – after that pick-me-up, I got the NEW Agatha Raisin by MC Beaton – DISHING THE DIRT. I couldn’t wait for it so I bought it for myself as a treat. Agatha is dealing with a new gal in town – a therapist – who not only seems to know a lot about people (including about Agatha’s past), but she uses it to her own devices. That said, she promptly ends up dead (the therapist that is) and Agatha needs to figure out who dunnit! This story was ably read by Alison Larkin.

Over the actual week of Christmas I listened to THE TIME BETWEEN, which I got on sale. It is by Karen White and I really like her stories. Understandably though, close to Christmas is not a good time for listening as there are many crazy people on the roads (or at least there are around here/Boston). This is a story of family and relationships, sisters and secrets. It takes place in the South, which many of Ms. White’s stories do. It was really good and had my fave themes of redemption and forgiveness in it. It had more than one narrator/voice for the women portrayed and all were very good and appropriate: Jennifer Ikeda, Barbara Rosenblat, and Angela Goethals. I may go back and listen to it again.

Well this ends Part One! Part Deux will be coming — featuring a YA novel I really wanted and loved called Nightfall by Jake Halpern and Peter Kujawinski and Isabel Allende’s new novel: The Japanese Lover.

Oh My Ears! What I’ve Been Listening to in the Car…

 

With my new commute (Boston area traffic!!), I’ve become a devotee of Audible and audiobooks which I purchase via Amazon.

Here’s what I’ve been listening to in the car each morning (well,along with NPR):

FALL OF GIANTS by Ken Follett — This is SUPER long (over 30 hours) and I’m still listening to it. If this was a book (um – it is) it would be 1,000 pages! It’s the first in the Century trilogy and normally I love, love, love these sweeping sagas that are multi-generational and trace a family line through the years (a la Edward Rutherfurd). It focuses on several storylines that apparently converge and take place around the time of WWI. Have to be honest here — while listening to it I found it had a lot of sex and violence. I just couldn’t always stay focused; but of course that might have been the traffic…

THE STORMCHASERS by Jenna Blum — How did Jenna Blum have a book out that I did not know about? I loved her “THOSE WHO SAVED US” and her short story in GRAND CENTRAL. This was totally different for her – twins Charles and Karena haven’t seen each other in years, not since Charles, who suffers from bipolar disorder, disappeared in his quest as a storm chaser. Karena is determined to find him now and her path takes her into the subculture of storm chasing. This was interesting and compelling and heart breaking – all at once. Jenna Blum does a great job of painting a picture of what life is like with a family member who suffers from mental illness. Charles’ bipolar comes with psychotic episodes and is especially frightening. I liked this novel, but I didn’t love it as I found it depressing. The narration sometimes bothered me when the narrator used what I call a “voiceover voice” – when you pitch your voice slightly higher and lift your soft palate, if you know what I mean.

THE BONES OF PARIS by Laurie R. King — I love Laurie King’s Mary Russell and Sherlock Holmes books and I thought I’d love this one. It was a sometimes gritty mystery about missing young women in Paris during the Jazz Age and an intrepid detective’s search for them. It was very well-written, but a bit too harsh sexually for my tastes (I don’t like to grimace while driving). Definitely not a cozy, but well-plotted and interesting. I loved the narrator’s voice (Jefferson Mays). Oddly enough it had characters in it that I was reading about in another book (Mann Ray and Lee Miller from THE BEAUTIFUL AMERICAN).

NIGHT ROAD by Kristin Hannah – I just finished this one. I loved Kristin Hannah’s THE NIGHTINGALE, so I wanted to read another by her. This was great and I couldn’t stop listening (which is good because if you know Boston traffic, I had plenty of time to sit and listen). In this novel, twins Mia and Zack befriend new girl Lexi and the three become inseparable. The twins’ mother, Jude, welcomes Lexi into their home, though she has a definite plan for her children. Then, senior year, events happen that will change forever the lives of all of them. This book has some of my favorite themes of self-forgiveness and reconciliation in it. I really enjoyed it and Kathleen McInerney’s narration.

ECHO – by Pam Munoz Ryan – I’m listening to it now! It’s a children’s fantasy story. There’s music mixed in, too.

With my next Audible credit, I will purchase ALL THE STARS IN HEAVEN by my gal Adriana — love her books!

What are YOU listening to these days?