Oct 132020
 

Anxious People By cover art

Anxious People by Fredrik Backman
Narrated by: Marin Ireland
Length: 9 hrs and 53 mins
Release date: 09-08-20

Looking at real estate isn’t usually a life-or-death situation, but an apartment open house becomes just that when a failed bank robber bursts in and takes a group of strangers hostage. The captives include a recently retired couple who relentlessly hunts down fixer-uppers to avoid the painful truth that they can’t fix their own marriage. There’s a wealthy bank director who has been too busy to care about anyone else and a young couple who are about to have their first child but can’t seem to agree on anything, from where they want to live to how they met in the first place. Add to the mix an 87-year-old woman who has lived long enough not to be afraid of someone waving a gun in her face, a flustered but still-ready-to-make-a-deal real estate agent, and a mystery man who has locked himself in the apartment’s only bathroom, and you’ve got the worst group of hostages in the world.

Each of them carries a lifetime of grievances, hurts, secrets, and passions that are ready to boil over. None of them is entirely who they appear to be. And all of them – the bank robber included – desperately crave some sort of rescue. As the authorities and the media surround the premises, these reluctant allies will reveal surprising truths about themselves and set in motion a chain of events so unexpected that even they can hardly explain what happens next.

Rich with Fredrik Backman’s “pitch-perfect dialogue and an unparalleled understanding of human nature” (Shelf Awareness), Anxious People is an ingeniously constructed story about the enduring power of friendship, forgiveness, and hope – the things that save us, even in the most anxious times.

Thoughts
This is a very kooky book. and I absolutely loved it! The characters are all dealing with personal issues and that was a big part of the book and a big part of what made it so interesting.

The story is about a robber who tries to rob a cashless bank. And then it gets weirder. When he finds out he’s not getting any money, he runs out of the bank and into an apartment building where he takes a group of people, who are viewing one of the apartments during an open house, hostage.  One couple is expecting a baby, another is an older married couple who flip houses. There is also a bank executive, an elderly widow, and a man who is only wearing the head of a rabbit costume and his underwear. The police who investigate the crime and interview the hostages are father and son, who are also dealing with their own issues.

I love every Backman book I’ve read, and I think this one may be my favorite. It kept me guessing who the robber was and every time I was wrong. When I finally found out who it was, I was shocked.

This is a very good book that makes you want to keep reading and makes you keep guessing. It had a little bit of everything, it was sad at times, funny, quirky, and had very interesting characters.

If you haven’t read this yet, you should give it a try. I loved it! I’d give it a 10*

Sep 212020
 

Side Trip By cover art
Side Trip by Kerry Lonsdale
Narrated by: James Patrick Cronin, Sarah Naughton
Length: 9 hrs and 53 mins
Release date: 07-07-20

An unforgettable and breathtaking novel of love, loss, and the unexpected routes that life takes from Amazon Charts and Wall Street Journal bestselling author Kerry Lonsdale.

With her deceased sister’s Route 66 bucket list in hand, California girl Joy Evers sets out on a cross-country road trip to meet up with her fiancé, checking off the bullets along the way.

Singer-songwriter Dylan Westfield has a serious case of wanderlust and a broken-down car. Stuck at a diner between LA and Flagstaff, he meets Joy, his complete opposite. She’s energetic. He’s moody. She’s by the book. He’s spontaneous. She believes in love at first sight. He thinks love is a complicated mess. But Joy has a brand-new convertible.

They strike a deal. She’ll drive him to New York. He’ll pay for gas. Only three rules apply: no exchanging of last names; what happens on the road, stays on the road; and if one of them wants to take a side trip, they both must agree.

A heart-stirring love story that spans a decade, Side Trip explores what-if. What if Joy and Dylan had exchanged last names? What if he’d told her she made him believe love was worth the risk? And what if they hadn’t made that second deal when they couldn’t say goodbye?

Thoughts
I love road trips so this book really appealed to me, and I loved every minute of it… almost. I loved the way Joy and Dylan interacted with each other. I loved that their first encounter was a road trip and that if one of them thought of a “side trip” they wanted to take, they would have to see if the other person agreed to it, and of course they did. The side trips were the most interesting parts of the book for me.

The ending was really sad and I paused to think things through before listening to the last little bit. And here is where the book took a dive, in my opinion. There was another alternate ending which was the complete opposite of the first one. Even though I enjoyed the book up until the end, I didn’t enjoy the dual endings at all.

Aug 242020
 

Floating Twigs audiobook cover art

Floating Twigs by Charles Tabb

By: Charles Tabb
Narrated by: Neill Thorne
Length: 7 hrs and 23 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 06-04-20
Language: English
Publisher: Charles Tabb

It’s 1968 in the rural coastline town of Denton, Florida, and the only thing with a tougher life than 12-year-old Jack Turner is a starving dog named Bones. When they meet while Jack is fishing, Jack knows that he and Bones are meant for each other, and he promises his oft-absent alcoholic parents that he’ll somehow get a job to pay for his new dog’s food and care.

In the process of finding work, Jack meets Hank Pittman, a middle-aged man who lives in a dilapidated school bus at the harbor, and Mrs. Mary Jane Dawson, an eccentric but kind older woman in need of gardening help. As Bones nurses back to health, Hank and Mrs. Dawson become the caring parents Jack never had.

But gossip and lies about Jack’s growing relationships lead to an attack on Bones’ life and questions about Hank’s past. When Hank is put on trial for a crime he didn’t commit, everything Jack holds dear is set in the balance of that small-town courtroom.

Floating Twigs is a timeless coming-of-age story about a boy and his dog, the responsibilities that come with loving others, and how, sometimes, one small moment can change a life forever.

Thoughts
There was so much more to this book than I was expecting, and I loved every minute of it, it was one of the best books I’ve read. The author drew me into the book from the first paragraph and I loved spending some time in Denton, Florida. I liked all the characters except a few (but they add so much to the book) and each of them were so well written that I felt like I knew them.

Having Roger and Lee as his best friends, his only friends,  was a Blessing to Jack a few times throughout the book, and I loved the bond they had. The other boys in the story added another dimension to the book. I felt sad for Jack and his home life. When he found Bones I was glad he finally he had something in his life that would give him so much happiness and love, and Hank and Mrs. Dawson added even more.

This book shows small town life at it’s best and worst. It had the town’s wealthiest and poorest, the kindest and the meanest, the helpful and the trouble makers. It had it all!

I LOVED this book! One night I kept turning off my iPhone and tried to go to sleep but I couldn’t stop thinking about the book, and ended up doing that about 3 times. I finally gave up and finished it. Good thing I didn’t have to get up at 5:30 to go to work!

A lot of people have said they don’t read books with animals because they get sad. This book does have some sad things in it concerning Bones, but the overall theme concerning him is that he is found by Jack who loved and cared for him and they love each other and have a very close bond. And no, Bones does not die during the book.

I really liked the narrator, he did a great job!

This is the first book I’ve read by Tabb but I will definitely try another one.

If you haven’t read this one, give it a try, it’s such a good book. It is a 5* with 1,059 ratings.

Jul 062020
 

Brave Girl, Quiet Girl audiobook cover art

Brave Girl, Quiet Girl by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Narrated by: Kate Rudd, Jess Nahikian
Length: 8 hrs and 58 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 05-19-20
Language: English
Publisher: Brilliance Audio

Brooke is a divorced single mom, financially strapped, living with her mother, and holding tight to the one thing that matters most: her two-year-old daughter, Etta. Then, in a matter of seconds, Brooke’s life is shattered when she’s carjacked. Helpless and terrified, all Brooke can do is watch as Etta, still strapped in her seat, disappears into the Los Angeles night.

Miles away, Etta is found by Molly, a homeless teen who is all too used to darkness. Thrown away by her parents, and with a future as stable as the wooden crate she calls home, Molly survives day to day by her wits. As unpredictable as her life is, she’s stunned to find Etta, abandoned and alone. Shielding the little girl from more than the elements, Molly must put herself in harm’s way to protect a child as lost as she is.

Out of one terrible moment, Brooke’s and Molly’s desperate paths converge and an unlikely friendship across generations and circumstances is formed. With it, Brooke and Molly will come to discover that what’s lost – and what’s found – can change in a heartbeat.

Thoughts
Every book I’ve read by this author has been really good and this one is too. The book is about a little girl being in a car that is carjacked. I wasn’t sure if this was a good book choice right now with everything going on in the world, but the book took all of that out of my head and into Brooke, Molly, and Etta’s world.

I loved Molly. She was having a hard time just surviving since her mother threw her out of the house. But when she found Etta she did everything she could to keep the little girl safe, and get her back to her mom.

Then there’s Brooke, Etta’s mom. I didn’t like her for a big part of the book, but I love characters that make me want to shake some sense into them. I didn’t like the way she talked to and about her mother, who was letting her and Etta stay with her until Brooke got back on her feet. After Etta was found safe Brooke acted ungrateful to Molly, even though if it wasn’t for her she may not have ever gotten Etta back. Thankfully in the end Brooke and Molly formed a bond and became close.

I hope Hyde continues this story. I would love to find out how things went for all the characters after this book ended. Great characters, great story, great narration!

Jun 302020
 

Cut and Run audiobook cover art

Cut and Run by Mary Burton

Narrated by: Brittany Pressley
Length: 8 hrs and 57 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 10-09-18
Language: English
Publisher: Brilliance Audio

Twin sisters separated by the past are reunited by unspeakable crimes in New York Times bestselling author Mary Burton’s throat-clutching novel of suspense…

Trauma victims are not new to medical examiner Faith McIntyre, but this one is different. The unconscious woman clinging to life after a hit and run is FBI agent Macy Crow. What the woman from Quantico was doing in a dark alley after midnight is just one mystery. The other is more unsettling: Macy is Faith’s mirror image—the twin sister she never knew she had.

Faith knew that she was adopted, but now she’s finding that her childhood concealed other secrets. Following the trail of clues Macy left behind, Faith and Texas Ranger Mitchell Hayden make a shocking discovery on an isolated country ranch—a burial ground for three women who disappeared thirty years before.

They weren’t the only victims in a killer’s twisted plot. And they won’t be the last.

As the missing pieces of Faith’s and Macy’s dark lives snap into place, Faith is becoming more terrified by what she sees—and by what she must do to save her sister and herself from the past.

Thoughts
This was a great book to get my mind off of all that’s going on. It’s got a lot of twists that I didn’t see coming and kept me in suspense. I kept trying to guess who the bad guy was. Come to find out, all my guesses were wrong.

The book was non stop action and I set the timer on the audiobook a few times so that I could keep listening until I fell asleep without having a very hard time finding the spot I last remembered.

This was the first book by this author that I’ve read but after reading it I checked her other books and next on my list is Hide and Seek which continues with Macy’s story.

If you like suspense/thrillers, you should like this book.

The narrator did a great job!

Jun 222020
 

A Life Without Water audiobook cover art

A Life Without Water by Marci Bolden
Narrated by: Tanya Eby
Series: Life Without Water, Book 1
Length: 7 hrs and 42 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 04-28-20
Language: English

Carol Denman divorced her husband over 20 years ago and has never looked back. But on the day before their daughter’s 30th birthday, John barges back into Carol’s life with a request that threatens the fragile stability she has built.

John Bowman is sick. Very sick. While he still can, he has some amends to make and some promises to fulfill. But to do that, he not only needs his ex-wife’s agreement…he needs her.

With the past hovering between them like a ghost, Carol and John embark on a decades-overdue road trip. Together they plunge back into a life without water…but which may ultimately set them free.

Thoughts
Oh my goodness, this was so good but it was also very sad. I loved going with John and Carol on the journey to fulfill the promise they made concerning their daughter. If it had been me, I would have wanted each of us to do it on our own but since John was sick I would have done it with him like Carol did, no matter what my feelings about him were. I knew the reason why they made the promise but finding out the details of what happened took quite a way into the book.

The trip they took was very interesting, lots of stops in different states and even one stop that really surprised me. In the end Carol realized that not all the things that made her resent John were his fault, some of them were hers.

Even though this book is such a sad story, there are also some uplifting moments and even a few that are funny.

The narrator did a good job and made this a very easy book to listen to.

This is the first book by this author that I’ve read but I’m patiently waiting for the audio of book #2 in this series, A Life Without Flowers which is expected to be released on September 29th of this year.

Jun 182020
 

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland audiobook cover art

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Narrated by: Michael Scott
Series: Alice in Wonderland, Book 1
Length: 2 hrs and 44 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 10-05-18
Language: English
Publisher: AB Books

In the opening scene of this story Alice is a young girl living in the country and becomes bored by her sister sitting out in the open field quietly reading. When a white rabbit passes by Alice decides to follow it and when the rabbit pops down a large rabbit hole, well Alice follows as well. Once at the bottom she explores a new and strange world where nothing is as it seems and everything continues to change. She meets bizarre and crazy characters who speak in rhymes, riddles and just plain nonsense.

Thoughts
I’ve had this book on my tbr list for so many years but just never got a copy. A few weeks ago I thought it was way past time for me to read it so I got the Audible copy. It surprised me that the book was so short, I thought it would be a lot longer. But one thing happened after another so it didn’t really “feel” that short. I was totally engrossed in the book.

The book was really good. It was silly, funny, and had a great cast of characters. I loved the Queen and all her “off with their head!” comments over and over, when random people did random things.

Other quotes I liked were:
“It would have made a dreadfully ugly child; but it makes rather a handsome pig.”

“I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.”

A few of my favorites are:
“One of the deep secrets of life is that all that is really worth the doing is what we do for others.”

”And what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice, ‘without pictures or conversation?”

I loved this quote the most since it is very true with what’s happening in the world today:
“It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.”

The story started out a bit different than what I thought it was going to and I couldn’t wait to find out what was going to happen next. I thought the flow of the book was great and that Michael Scott was the perfect choice for the narration. I loved listening to him tell this story. Between the writing and the narration I could see the story in my mind.

If you haven’t read this yet, you should. I really enjoyed it.

This will be a book I return to every so often. It was an easy listen and a great story. It got me out of the reading rut I fell back into when  2020 hit the fan.

BTW: I’ve never seen the movie either, so I plan on watching it soon.

Jun 042020
 

The Giver of Stars audiobook cover art

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes
Narrated by: Julia Whelan
Length: 13 hrs and 52 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 10-08-19
Language: English

Alice Wright marries handsome American Bennett Van Cleve hoping to escape her stifling life in England. But small-town Kentucky quickly proves equally claustrophobic, especially living alongside her overbearing father-in-law. So, when a call goes out for a team of women to deliver books as part of Eleanor Roosevelt’s new traveling library, Alice signs on enthusiastically.

The leader, and soon Alice’s greatest ally, is Margery, a smart-talking, self-sufficient woman who’s never asked a man’s permission for anything. They will be joined by three other singular women who become known as the Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky.

What happens to them – and to the men they love – becomes an unforgettable drama of loyalty, justice, humanity, and passion. These heroic women refuse to be cowed by men or by convention. And though they face all kinds of dangers in a landscape that is at times breathtakingly beautiful, at others brutal, they’re committed to their job: bringing books to people who have never had any, arming them with facts that will change their lives.

Based on a true story rooted in America’s past, The Giver of Stars is unparalleled in its scope and epic in its storytelling. Funny, heartbreaking, enthralling, it is destined to become a modern classic – a richly rewarding novel of women’s friendship, of true love, and of what happens when we reach beyond our grasp for the great beyond.

Soon to be a major motion picture!

Thoughts
I think anyone, especially women, who loves books or historical fiction or hf based on true events would love this book! I don’t think I’ve ever heard about Packhorse Librarians of Kentucky so this book was an eye opener. I like to think that if I was living in that area at that time, I too would have joined these women. I can’t imagine not having easy access to books.

The women where very brave, having to deal with people who didn’t want books loaned to their family members.  The mountains were hard to navigate and bad weather was a whole other issue. They had to memorize all their routes so they didn’t get lost, maybe forever.

Some of the women had personal things they had to deal with along with the worry of the trips, but they all were very strong and dealt with things as they came, and forged a friendship with each other that was a very strong sisterhood.

The descriptions of the area and what was going on brought this book alive. Julia Whelan did a great job with the narration.

I loved this book so much! It’s the first book by Moyes that I’ve read and now I want to read more.

May 292020
 

Break Shot: My First 21 Years by James Taylor

Narrated by: James Taylor
Length: 1 hr and 33 mins
Performance
Release date: 01-31-20
Language: English
Publisher: Audible Original

“I’m James Taylor and I’m a professional autobiographer,” says the celebrated folk singer at the start of this tender audio memoir. Through decades of music by one of the best-selling musicians of all time, who created classics like “Fire and Rain” and “Carolina in My Mind,” James Taylor has doled out his history in the poetry of his work. Taylor says his early life is, “the source of many of my songs,” and Break Shot is a tour of his first 21 years in rich, new detail. Praised by Forbes magazine as going “beyond the spoken word,” Break Shot combines storytelling, music and performance to create a one-of-a-kind listening experience. Longtime fans will savor a crop of musical gems, including an unreleased recording of the beloved hymn “Jerusalem,” selections from his newest release American Standard, as well as new original scoring by Taylor specially recorded for Break Shot and more from the Grammy Award-winning artist.

Recorded in his home studio, The Barn in western Massachusetts, Taylor tells the deeply personal story of his youth, which is entwined with the story of his family. What started as an idyllic tight unit soon became a family sent to different emotional corners—like a break shot in the game of pool, he says, when you slam the cue ball into the fifteen other balls and they all go flying off. By the time Taylor released his breakout second album in 1970, Sweet Baby James, he had seen the disintegration of his parents’ marriage and his family crumble in the aftermath. He had committed himself twice to a psychiatric hospital, battled depression, a heroin addiction, suffered a relapse, and traveled far away from the wood smoke and moonshine of the North Carolina landscapes in which he came of age. Despite it all, he was also on the cusp of superstardom and on his way to bringing light and joy to millions. He was 21.

Journey with James Taylor to a time before he became a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors and both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Arts—and a beloved voice to millions.

Thoughts
I’ve always liked James Taylor’s songs. They are very mellow and calming. I knew nothing about him other than his music so when I saw this Audible Original I knew I wanted to listen to it.

A few things I learned were… he came from a well to do family, he wasn’t as squeaky clean as I thought he was, he had 3 brothers and a sister and that many of  Taylor family members suffered from alcoholism and depression.

This was a short book at just over an hour and a half, but it was packed with information and I was glued to the story.

Taylor narrated the book himself and did a good job.

I think fans and non fans of James Taylor will enjoy this.

May 072020
 

Feels Like Falling audiobook cover art

Feels Like Falling by Kristy Woodson Harvey
Narrated by: Kelsey Navarro, Amanda Ronconi
Length: 10 hrs and 1 min
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 04-28-20
Language: English
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio

It’s summertime on the North Carolina coast and the livin’ is easy. Unless, that is, you’ve just lost your mother to cancer, your sister to her extremist husband, and your husband to his executive assistant. Meet Gray Howard. Right when Gray could use a serious infusion of good karma in her life, she inadvertently gets a stranger, Diana Harrington, fired from her job at the local pharmacy.

Diana Harrington’s summer isn’t off to the greatest start either: Hours before losing her job, she broke up with her boyfriend and moved out of their shared house with only a worn-out Impala for a bed. Lucky for her, Gray has an empty guest house and a very guilty conscience. With Gray’s kindness, Diana’s tide begins to turn. But when her first love returns, every secret from her past seems to resurface all at once. And, as Gray begins to blaze a new trail, she discovers, with Diana’s help, that what she envisioned as her perfect life may not be what she wants at all.

In her warmest, wisest novel yet, Kristy Woodson Harvey delivers a discerning portrait of modern womanhood through two vastly different lenses. Feels Like Falling is a beach bag essential for Harvey fans — and for a new generation of readers.

Thoughts
This is my first book by this author, and I loved it. I loved the friendships between Gray, Diana, and Marcy and how the three women had such a solid bond. Gray and Marcy were friends for years, then Gray and Diana meet at the perfect time, in a not so perfect way. All three women ended up being more like sisters and I loved that! I’ve had a friend like that since I was young and so I connected with them right away.

Then Gray’s sister Quinn is introduced. I absolutely loved Gray, Marcy and Diana. But to me, Quinn was the most interesting character, even though she had the least amount of time in the book. I loved how she grew as a person and sister.

The men in the book were great characters too although it took a very long time for me to change my mind about Greg.

I also enjoyed learning about the relationship between Diana and her brother. Very touching! But Diana and Frank’s relationship? Now that was an amazing story inside of an amazing story!

I loved the descriptions of  Cape Carolina! It sounds like my kind of place.

The narration was perfect. Both Kelsey Navarro and Amanda Ronconi did an excellent job.

This was a book that I didn’t want to end. I can’t recommend it enough!

Apr 302020
 

The Lonely Heart of Maybelle Lane audiobook cover art

The Lonely Heart Of Maybell Lane by Kate O’Shaughnessy

By: Kate O’Shaughnessy
Narrated by: Catherine Taber
Length: 6 hrs and 35 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 03-03-20
Language: English
Publisher: Listening Library

This sparkling middle-grade debut is a classic-in-the-making!

Maybelle Lane is looking for her father, but on the road to Nashville she finds so much more: courage, brains, heart – and true friends.

Eleven-year-old Maybelle Lane collects sounds. She records the Louisiana crickets chirping, Momma strumming her guitar, their broken trailer door squeaking. But the crown jewel of her collection is a sound she didn’t collect herself: an old recording of her daddy’s warm-sunshine laugh, saved on an old phone’s voicemail. It’s the only thing she has of his, and the only thing she knows about him.

Until the day she hears that laugh – his laugh – pouring out of the car radio. Going against Momma’s wishes, Maybelle starts listening to her radio DJ daddy’s new show, drinking in every word like a plant leaning toward the sun. When he announces he’ll be the judge of a singing contest in Nashville, she signs up. What better way to meet than to stand before him and sing with all her heart?

But the road to Nashville is bumpy. Her starch-stiff neighbor Mrs. Boggs offers to drive her in her RV. And a bully of a boy from the trailer park hitches a ride, too. These are not the people May would have chosen to help her, but it turns out they’re searching for things as well. And the journey will mold them into the best kind of family – the kind you choose for yourself.

Includes an original song introduced by the author.

Thoughts
I can’t emphasize how much I loved this book! I loved Maybelle (May), her friend Tommy, teacher Mrs. Boggs (Alice), and May’s mom Gemma! They were all interesting characters and I connected with each of them at some point in the book. I fell in love with poor Pickles, the badly mistreated, disabled dog that they ended up stealing so that he could be loved and taken care of the way he should be.

I loved that May recorded sounds! I take a lot of photos but think collecting sounds is a great way to hang on to great memories too and wish I had thought of that years ago. I may just buy me a recorder! I loved that May had the courage to do something that she was terrified of doing!

I loved that the book took place during a road trip in an RV! I love road trips and would love to go on one in an RV again!

This book is packed full of non stop adventure that made the listening time speed by. I’m really surprised so much happened in a 6 1/2 hour long book because it didn’t seemed rushed at all.

There was a nice mix of happy and sad, and May seemed older than her 11 years in her reactions to the bad that happened, and so did Tommy.

The relationships between May, Tommy, and Mrs. Boggs (Alice) grew over the time they spent together and I was glad when May realized Tommy wasn’t the bully she thought he was,  and when Mrs. Boggs started loosening up.

This book will be in my top favorites for this year! I ‘d love for there to be a sequel!

This book was the first I’ve read by this author, and it definitely makes me want to read more by her.

Catherine Taber did a great job with the narration!

Apr 282020
 

Our Harlem: Seven Days of Cooking, Music and Soul at the Red Rooster by Marcus Samuelsson

Narrated by: Marcus Samuelsson
Length: 6 hrs and 5 mins
Original Recording Audiobook
Release date: 06-27-19

To hear Ethiopian and Swedish chef, TV personality, and restauranteur Marcus Samuelsson cook with special guests at the Red Rooster restaurant is to make an audio pilgrimage to Harlem. Listeners will get to know the iconic neighborhood, Marcus’s home, through its food, its history, and—most importantly—its people. Special guests join Marcus each day of the week to cook, to laugh, and to share their stories, including Melba Wilson, Jelani Cobb, Bevy Smith, and Kevin Young, to name a few. Our Harlem transports listeners to the hub of African American culture.

Join us when Marcus recreates the short ribs he made at the Red Rooster for President Obama’s fundraiser there, and when author Jelani Cobb discusses the lasting significance of the first African American President. Listen to Marcus explore the African and Southern roots of his favorite ingredients with food historian Jessica Harris, and make fried chicken with Harlem’s very own Charles Gabriel. And venture out in El Barrio to La Marqueta with Marcus and Harlem native Aurora Flores.

Writers Isabel Wilkerson and Nicholas Lemann ponder the Great Migration, and how it brought Southern food (think shrimp and grits), new voters, and amazing creative talent to Harlem. Dapper Dan, legendary taste-maker, opines about Harlem style. And musicians who play at Ginny’s, Red Rooster’s supper club, provide the rhythms that pulse through the neighborhood—from El Barrio Night’s Latin beats to Sunday’s teenage gospel choir.

A PDF of the recipes from The Red Rooster Cookbook that are featured in Our Harlem and reimagined in this audio can be found here.

Thoughts
I’ve been a fan of Marcus Samuelsson for a long time so I was very happy to see this audio and to learn it also had a PDF of the recipes.

The audio is narrated by Marcus and includes a variety of  guests. It was fun to listen to their conversations and discover what foods they loved, and I loved learning so many interesting facts about Harlem. Their banter was friendly and funny and made the time go by quickly.

I’ve never heard of or tried some of the spices/foods they mentioned and that was another nice thing about the book. It opened my eyes to new things and now I have a few new to me spices, cheese etc. on my list to try.

I really liked this audio and think any foodie or Marcus lover will too.

My only complaint is that sometimes the background music was too loud.

Here is one of the recipes I want to try when it’s safe to go to the store and pick up the ingredients myself. Every time I order groceries online they make substitutions if they’re out of the item I want,  and I want to make this with the exact items listed.

PEANUT-BACON PORK CHOPS

FOR THE PEANUT-BACON SAUCE
½ pound bacon, chopped
½ cup roasted peanuts
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
½ cup dry red wine
1 cup chicken broth
¼ cup juice from Pickled Cucumbers
and Radishes or pickled gherkins,
plus 1 tablespoon chopped pickled
cucumber or pickled gherkins
½ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
Coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Cook the bacon and peanuts in a skillet over medium heat until
the fat has rendered and the bacon is crisp, 12 to 14 minutes. Use a
slotted spoon to transfer the bacon and peanuts to a bowl. Pour off
all but about 1 tablespoon of the bacon grease. Add the shallots,
garlic, and mustard seeds and cook, stirring, until the shallots have
softened, about 2 minutes.

2. Add the wine and bring it to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the
brown stuff in the skillet. Add the chicken broth, pickle juice, and
thyme and bring to a simmer. Turn the heat down to mediumlow and cook at a simmer until reduced by two thirds, about 25
minutes. Stir in the chopped pickle, peanut butter, butter, and the
bacon and peanuts. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Keep Warm

FOR THE PORK CHOPS
Ingredients
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Jerk Sauce
4 (12-ounce) center-cut pork
chops (1 ½ inches thick)

While working on the sauce, mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil with
the jerk sauce. Rub over both sides of the pork chops.

2. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in a cast-iron skillet over
medium heat. Add the pork chops and cook until they reach an
internal temperature of 140°F, 6 to 7 minutes per side.

3. Let the chops rest on a cutting board for 5 minutes before serving
with the sauce.

 

Apr 132020
 

Nobody Will Tell You This But Me: A True (As Told to Me) Story

Nobody Will Tell You This But Me by Bess Kalb

Bess Kalb, Emmy-nominated TV writer and New Yorker contributor, saved every voicemail her grandmother Bobby Bell ever left her. Bobby was a force–irrepressible, glamorous, unapologetically opinionated. Bobby doted on Bess; Bess adored Bobby. Then, at ninety, Bobby died. But in this debut memoir, Bobby is speaking to Bess once more, in a voice as passionate as it ever was in life.

Recounting both family lore and family secrets, Bobby brings us four generations of indomitable women and the men who loved them. There’s Bobby’s mother, who traveled solo from Belarus to America in the 1880s to escape the pogroms, and Bess’s mother, a 1970s rebel who always fought against convention. Then there’s Bess, who grew up in New York and entered the rough-and-tumble world of L.A. television. Her grandma Bobby was with her all the way–she was the light of Bess’s childhood and her fiercest supporter, giving Bess unequivocal love, even if sometimes of the toughest kind.

In Nobody Will Tell You This But Me, Bobby reminds Bess of the experiences they shared, and she delivers–in phone calls, texts, and unforgettable heart-to-hearts brought vividly to the page–her signature wisdom:

If the earth is cracking behind you, you put one foot in front of the other.
Never. Buy. Fake. Anything.
I swear on your life every word of this is true.

With humor and poignancy, Bess Kalb gives us proof of the special bond that can skip a generation and endure beyond death. This book is a feat of extraordinary ventriloquism and imagination by a remarkably talented writer.

Thoughts
This was a touching, emotional, funny book! I loved the relationship between Bess and her Grandma Bobbie. I don’t remember either of my grandmothers, they died when I was really young, but this is what I hope my relationship with them would have been like!

The book is based on their talks, phone calls, and texts. It made me laugh out loud and made me tear up, but mainly it made me miss my grandmothers even more than I always have.

The book is rated 4.8. Both women and men have rated this book 5★.  A lot of them read it in one sitting.

I think you should read it.

Apr 022020
 

With the Fire on High audiobook cover art

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
Narrated by: Elizabeth Acevedo
Length: 7 hrs and 27 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 05-07-19
Language: English
Publisher: Quill Tree Books

Ever since she got pregnant freshman year, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about making the tough decisions – doing what has to be done for her daughter and her abuela. The one place she can let all that go is in the kitchen, where she adds a little something magical to everything she cooks, turning her food into straight-up goodness.

Even though she dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, Emoni knows that it’s not worth her time to pursue the impossible. Yet despite the rules she thinks she has to play by, once Emoni starts cooking, her only choice is to let her talent break free.

Thoughts
I loved the story, the characters, the food, and flow of this book. Emoni had a lot to deal with in her life, but she was level headed, knew what she wanted, and trudged ahead to make sure she reached her goals so that she could give her daughter “Baby Girl” everything she needed. I loved the relationship between her and her abuela. Both of my grandmothers passed away when I was really young and I don’t remember them, so those parts of the book were very touching to me.

I really enjoyed reading about the trip to Spain. I would have loved to have taken a trip like that when I was in school. The relationship with her boyfriend Malichi was just what it should have been, but now I’m wondering what happened to them after the book ended.

I loved how the family recipes connected Emoni, her abuela, and her aunt. The one thing I wish is that all of the recipes would have had ingredient amounts.

This is a great book and I recommend it to anyone who likes family/women relationships or culinary themed fiction books.

The author did a great job with the narration!

Here is one of the recipes in the book:
Part 3: The Bittersweet
Emoni, When The World Tries To Break You, Break Beer Bread With Those You Love
Serves Your Strength When You Feel Alone

Ingredients:
3 double scoops of flour
4 thumbs of white sugar
1/2 stick of melted butter
2 bottles of beer
a sprinkle of Sage
a sprinkle of Island Oregano

Directions:
1: Preheat oven to 400°
Mix all ingredients except herbs until it’s a smooth mixture
Mix Sage and Island Oregano into the batter

2:
Spread the mixture into a greased bread pan
Spread some more butter over the top

3:
Bake the bread for the entirety of Bad Bunny’s last album

Mar 112020
 

Edith and the Mysterious Stranger: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho

Edith and the Mysterious Stranger: A Family Saga in Bear Lake, Idaho
Book 2
by Linda Weaver Clarke
Narrated by Carolyn Kashner

Length: 6 hrs and 33 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: March 26, 2018
Language: English
Publisher: Red Mountain Shadows Publishing

In this inspirational historical romance, Edith is a nurse and has gone home to assist her cousin who is “with child.” Edith has wonderful qualities but never gives a man a second chance because her expectations are so high. However, all that changes when a mysterious stranger starts writing to her. For the first time, she gets to know a man’s inner soul before making any harsh judgments.

Whoever he is, this man is a mystery and the best thing that has ever happened to her. The question that puzzles her is whether or not he’s as wonderful in person as he is in his letters.

Thoughts
This is the second book in the series, and this time we meet Edith, a nurse, who has gone back home to help with her cousin Melinda’s pregnancy and birth.  Melinda and her husband Gilbert are from book 1 in this series, as is Jenny, Gilbert’s daughter and Melinda’s step daughter.

I loved the first book so I thought I might like the rest of the books in the series. I’m not a big fan of historical fiction, but I loved the first 2 books in the series, so I will be listening to the rest.

I loved the “secret admirer” aspect of the book and spent most of the book trying to figure out which man he was. There was one part that threw me off a bit but I kept reading and pretty much had figured it out by the time he was revealed, which didn’t take away from the book at all.

This book was a nice short read (listen) and I liked it from the beginning to the end. It had a bit of everything, friendships, first loves, humor, and even a few situations that were a bit tense.

As I said above, I’m not a big fan of historical fiction, but this series is changing my mind.

Highly recommended whether you’re a fan of historical fiction or not.

Audiobook Challenge

2020 Reading Challenge Month-by-Month

Feb 282020
 

Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service

Grateful American: A Journey from Self to Service by Gary Sinise

Narrated by: Gary Sinise

Length: 12 hrs and 13 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 02-12-19
Language: English
Publisher: Thomas Nelson

As a kid in suburban Chicago, Gary Sinise was more interested in sports and rock ‘n’ roll than reading or schoolwork. But when he impulsively auditioned for a school production of West Side Story, he found his purpose – or so it seemed.

Within a few years, Gary and a handful of friends created what became one of the most exciting and important new theater companies in America. From its humble beginnings in a suburban Chicago church basement and eventual move into the city, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company launched a series of groundbreaking productions, igniting Gary’s career along with those of John Malkovich, Joan Allen, Gary Cole, Laurie Metcalf, Jeff Perry, John Mahoney, and others. Television and film came calling soon after, and Gary starred in Of Mice and Men (which he also directed) and The Stand before taking the role that would change his life in unforeseeable ways: Lieutenant Dan in the Academy Award-winning Forrest Gump.

The military community’s embrace of the character of the disabled veteran was matched only by the depth of Gary’s realization that America’s defenders had not received all the honor, respect, and gratitude their sacrifices deserve. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, this became Gary’s mission. While starring in hits like Apollo 13, Ransom, Truman, George Wallace, CSI:NY, and Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders, Gary has worked tirelessly on behalf of those who serve this country, entertaining more than a half-million troops around the world playing bass guitar with his Lt. Dan Band, raising funds on behalf of veterans, and eventually founding the Gary Sinise Foundation with a mission to serve and honor America’s defenders, veterans, first responders, their families, and those in need.

Grateful American is the moving, entertaining, profoundly gripping story of how one man found his calling: to see that those who defend this country and its freedoms are never forgotten.

Thoughts
I’ve been a fan of Gary Sinise for a lot of years. I love his acting, how much he’s done for vets, his band (Lt. Dan Band),  and after listening to this book I like him even more.

The book is full of so many stories about his life from childhood through adulthood. I learned about things that he and his wife have gone through in their marriage and as parents, and so much more. He has led a very interesting life full of ups and downs, and if you read this you’ll find out what an amazing man, husband, and father he is. I knew quite a bit about what he’s done but this book is full of things that I had no clue about.

I loved this book and recommend it whether you are a fan of Gary’s or not.

Audiobook Challenge

2020 Reading Challenge Month-by-Month

Feb 132020
 

Forever and Ever, Amen: A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life

Forever and Ever, Amen:
A Memoir of Music, Faith, and Braving the Storms of Life by Randy Travis
Ken Abraham – contributor

Narrated by: Rory Feek
Length: 9 hrs and 46 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 05-14-19

Narrated by: Rory Feek
Length: 9 hrs and 46 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 05-14-19

The long-awaited, deeply personal story of one of American music’s greatest icons, a remarkable tale of the utmost heights of fame and success, the deepest lows of life’s sorrows, and a miraculous return from the brink of death – told as only Randy Travis can.

Beloved around the world, Randy Travis has sold more than 25 million albums in both country and gospel genres and is considered one of the finest performers of his generation, admired by superstars across the musical landscape, from Garth Brooks to Mick Jagger.

From a working-class background in North Carolina to a job as a cook and club singer in Nashville to his “overnight success” with his smash 1986 album Storms of Life – which launched the neotraditional movement in country music – Randy’s first three decades are a true rags-to-riches story.

But in 2009, this seemingly charmed life began a downward spiral. His marriage dissolved, he discovered that his finances had unraveled, and his struggles with anger led to alcohol abuse, public embarrassment, and even police arrest in 2012.

Then, just as he was putting his life back together, Randy suffered a devastating viral cardiomyopathy that led to a massive stroke he was not expected to survive. Yet he not only survived but also learned to walk again and in 2016 accepted his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame by singing the hymn that explains his life today: “Amazing Grace.”

Filled with never-before-told stories, Forever and Ever, Amen is a riveting tale of unfathomable success, great joy, deep pain, and redemption that can come only from above.

Dive into Randy’s story with photos available in the audiobook companion PDF download.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying PDF will be available in your Audible Library along with the audio.

Thoughts
I enjoyed this audiobook so much. I learned about Randy’s childhood, his teen years, how he got started in the music industry, and more. It was all very interesting.

I  really only listened to classic rock up until the time I met my husband in the late 80’s. He liked all genres of music so I got used to listening to a lot of different music. Soon I was a fan of many different country stars, including Randy Travis.

There were parts of this book that were funny, but also a lot of sad things.  I learned so much about his life, and I’m sure there are many people who would learn a lot about him too.

I liked hearing about his career and the people he met, many famous names! I was sad to learn that his first manager/wife (Lib) controlled almost everything in his life, including who he spent his spare time with and his finances, and that she took so much from him. I liked her in the beginning of the book but then her true colors came out. I don’t think she was/is a person any of us would want to have in our lives. Read/listen to the book and I think you’ll agree.

Randy’s life was filled with super highs and super lows, and it breaks my heart to learn that Lib took such advantage of him. It was implied in the book that she was the one who took almost every penny he ever made, and I couldn’t think of anyone else who would have done it since the book stated she was the one person in control of everything. She also took most all of his belongings without his knowledge when she left because of their divorce. Thankfully, he found happiness with his second wife Mary.

He was always a trusting, kind person, and he has been taken advantage of, and that is so sad to me. Randy is a Christian, who has done un-Christian like things, which is true of a lot of Christians. But I’m glad that both his faith and wife Mary got him through the massive stroke and coma that almost took his life.

This was read by Rory Feek and he did a great job!

Audiobook Challenge

Nonfiction Challenge: Memoir

Jan 312020
 

Recipe for a Perfect Wife audiobook cover art

Recipe For A Perfect Housewife by Karma Brown

Narrated by: Jorjeana Marie, Mozhan Marnò
Length: 9 hrs and 51 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 12-31-19
Language: English
Publisher: Penguin Audio

When Alice Hale leaves a career in publicity to become a writer and follows her husband to the New York suburbs, she is unaccustomed to filling her days alone in a big, empty house. But when she finds a vintage cookbook buried in a box in the old home’s basement, she becomes captivated by the cookbook’s previous owner – 1950’s housewife Nellie Murdoch. As Alice cooks her way through the past, she realizes that within the cookbook’s pages, Nellie left clues about her life – including a mysterious series of unsent letters penned to her mother.

Soon, Alice learns that while baked Alaska and meatloaf five ways may seem harmless, Nellie’s secrets may have been anything but. When Alice uncovers a more sinister – even dangerous – side to Nellie’s marriage, and has become increasingly dissatisfied with the mounting pressures in her own relationship, she begins to take control of her life and protect herself with a few secrets of her own.

Thoughts
WOW… but first let me say I LOVED this book!
I loved that it took place in the 1950’s and again in the 2000’s.
I loved that the two stories took place in the same house.
I loved that Nellie’s story influenced what happened in Alice’s story.
I loved all the 1950’s recipes.
I loved that the recipe book was Nellie’s mother, then Nellie’s, and then Alice’s.
I loved the ending!

This book was a bit scary/freaky, it was part love story & part out of love story, a few of the characters were manipulative, but they were all a great addition to the story. The pace was steady and it kept me interested. I didn’t want to stop listening so I could find out what was going to happen next.

I’ve read some reviews where people didn’t like one of the story lines, but I thought both were very good. The author did a great job of linking them together, and the narrators did a great job!

This was my first book by this author but I plan on reading more from her.

Some of the recipes in the book had “special” ingredients like rose petals etc., but I decided to make the  Tuna Casserole. My mom made this when I was growing up and I made it when my kids were growing up, but we used noodles too. We never used potato chips.

Chapter 24
Nellie

July 30, 1956

Tuna Casserole
2 cans cream of mushroom soup
1 cup milk
2- 7 oz. cans tuna, drained
3 hard cooked eggs, sliced
2 cups cooked peas
2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 cup crushed potato chips

In a casserole dish blend mushroom soup and milk
Stir in tuna, sliced eggs, cooked peas, salt, & pepper
Bake at 350 for 25 minutes
Top with potato chips and bake 5 minutes longer

Foodies Read

Audiobook 

Weekend Cooking

Jan 152020
 

It’s Not What It Looks Like by Molly Burke

Audible Audiobook
Listening Length: 3 hours and 5 minutes
Program Type: Audiobook
Version: Original recording
Publisher: Audible Original
Audible.com Release Date: August 1, 2019
Language: English, English
ASIN: B07TXLSL83

Close your eyes and get ready to see the world in a new and more positive way. As a child in Toronto, Molly Burke was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa and became completely sightless as a teenager. Now an award-winning YouTube star and global Influencer, Molly shares what it’s like to be a purple-haired, pink-obsessed fashion and makeup lover in a seeing world. She speaks with authenticity and candor about how she tackles the preconceived notions we have around blindness; Molly has made it her mission to make us see her – and ourselves- in a wholly empowering way. Learn about her struggles with bullying and anxiety, her quest for inclusivity, how she built a successful Influencer business (with more than 1.8 million followers), and what it’s really like to travel with the true star of this audio, her service dog, Gallop.

Thoughts
I had never heard of Molly Burke before seeing this Audible Original. After listening to it I subscribed to her YouTube channel.

Molly tells us what it was like loosing her site from a young age and up to the time she wrote the book. I learned alot about what it would be like to loose your site slowly, after years of being able to see. She is brutaly honest about many things, and talks about her fears, accomplishments, family, friends and what it was like to be bullied for being blind. That part upset me a lot. Bullying is just plan wrong in any circumstance, but especially so when the person is disabled in any way.

I really enjoyed listening to Molly talk about her service dogs, her love for them was evident in her voice. She talked about how people can make it so hard for someone who depends on a service dog, and what is ok and not ok to do when you see someone with a service dog.

I enjoyed listening to this audiobook, the author did a great job with the narration. I would recommend it to everyone.

2020 Diversity Challenge

2020 Non-Fiction Challenge: Medical Issue

2020 Audiobook Challenge

Jan 092020
 

Regretting You audiobook cover art

Regretting You by Colleen Hoover

Narrated by: Tanya Eby, Lauren Ezzo
Length: 11 hrs and 17 mins
Unabridged Audiobook
Release date: 12-10-19
Language: English
Publisher: Brilliance Audio

Morgan Grant and her sixteen-year-old daughter, Clara, would like nothing more than to be nothing alike.

Morgan is determined to prevent her daughter from making the same mistakes she did. By getting pregnant and married way too young, Morgan put her own dreams on hold. Clara doesn’t want to follow in her mother’s footsteps. Her predictable mother doesn’t have a spontaneous bone in her body.

With warring personalities and conflicting goals, Morgan and Clara find it increasingly difficult to coexist. The only person who can bring peace to the household is Chris—Morgan’s husband, Clara’s father, and the family anchor. But that peace is shattered when Chris is involved in a tragic and questionable accident. The heartbreaking and long-lasting consequences will reach far beyond just Morgan and Clara.

While struggling to rebuild everything that crashed around them, Morgan finds comfort in the last person she expects to, and Clara turns to the one boy she’s been forbidden to see. With each passing day, new secrets, resentment, and misunderstandings make mother and daughter fall further apart. So far apart, it might be impossible for them to ever fall back together.

Thoughts
This book had my feelings all over the place. At first I was thinking “this book is so good! I love Morgan, Chris, Jenny, Jonah and Clara”. Then I was thinking “Morgan and Clara are so aggravating. What in the world is wrong with them?”

Then slowly, things happened that made me like them again. And I loved Johna, Miller and his gramps all the way through the book.

This is a book that took me on a roller coaster of feelings. I laughed with them, cried with them, and felt their pain. And in the end I loved them again.

The two narrators did a great job!

This is the first book I’ve read by Hoover, but I plan on reading more from her. This book was outstanding!

2020 Reading Challenge Month-by-Month

2020 Audiobook Challenge