Audio book: Mobituaries

by Mo Rocca
Read by the author.
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There may be some mild swearing. And sometimes the topics are kind of gross. It’s in the biography section of the bookstore.

I picked this one up because I like Mo Rocca on Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me. Which is also the reason I picked to listen to it rather than read it. I enjoyed listening to Mo tell these stories — some of which I knew, most of which I didn’t — about people and ideas that have passed on. The problem? In audio, while it was going, I was interested and entertained. Afterward, though, I couldn’t tell you a single thing about what I heard. Maybe it’s just how I retain knowledge, maybe it was a bit the way the book was structured (it was more a trivia book than anything else), but I didn’t retain a single thing. It’s very much a bathroom book: read a story while you go to the bathroom, and then put it down.

That does’t mean it was bad. Mo is very entertaining, both as a writer and a reader, and some of these stories were quite fascinating. But it just didn’t stick with me in the long run.

So: entertaining, but not really informative.

Audiobook: The Glass Hotel

by Emily St. John Mandel
Read by Dylan Moore
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Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There is a lot of swearing, including multiple f-bombs. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

This one is a bit hard to sum up, plot wise. We mostly follow Vincent, who grew up in a small town in British Columbia, on the ocean, and whose mom died in a freak accident when she was 13. She’s working as a bartender in the posh Hotel Caiette when she meets Jonathan Alkaitis, who ends up going to jail for running a Ponzi scheme. There are various sub-plots and diversions, but that’s the basic meat of it.

However, the joy in this book comes from the diversions. It doesn’t follow a linear timeline, jumping back and forth throughout the years, as we get to know Vincent and others. Mandel focuses on the effects of actions, and everything in the book is interconnected. There’s a bit of mystery, a bit of romance, a bit of commentary on class issues, and a bit of reflection of art. That sounds disjointed, but it never felt that way. Mandel knows how to bring a reader in and help them care about her characters.

Though, maybe it’s because I listened to the book. The narrator was fabulous, and she was able to pull me in and keep me interested even though the timeline wasn’t always the easiest to follow. I found myself caring about Vincent and her life, as well as a lot of the people who intersected with it, and I’m sure that’s almost entirely because of the way Moore told the story.

It’s not my favorite book of the year, but it was certainly an intriguing one.

Audiobook: Pretty Things

by Janelle Brown
Read by Julia WhelanLauren Fortgang & Hillary Huber 
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen on Libro.fm
Content: There is a lot of swearing, including many f-bombs, as well as non-graphic depictions of sex. It’s in the Fiction section of the bookstore.

Nina Ross has always been at the mercy of her mother’s lifestyle. They’ve moved over and over again, never quite getting ahead. Mostly because her mother really couldn’t hold down a job, preferring to con rich men out of their money. It’s not been a great life, except for that one year when she lived up in Tahoe, and met Benny, but was put off by his uber-rich family (including his sister, Vanessa). But that was all in the past, and Nina herself has resorted to conning and stealing with her boyfriend to help pay her mother’s medical bills since she came down with cancer.

Vanessa is the privileged daughter of a once uber-wealthy family. She wanted to make her own mark on the world, though, so she tried out several things (losing a lot of her trust fund) until she settled on being an Instagram influencer and all that comes with it. But her mother committed suicide, her brother is in an asylum because of his schizophrenia, and her father died and left her the family home, Stonehaven, at Tahoe.

Which is where Vanessa and Nina’s lives intersect: Nina and her boyfriend head up to Tahoe to con Vanessa out of the money Nina is sure is in the house safe. But will they succeed?

Alternating Vanessa and Nina’s viewpoints, this one kept me thoroughly engrossed. I don’t know if it was in part because the narrators were so fabulous (So fabulous!) or if it was the story that kept me interested, but I would sit for hours (working on puzzles) listening to the tale of Vanessa and Nina unfold. There’s a lot in there as well: class issues and privilege and perspectives and how we do or don’t trust and believe in people. Ultimately, it is the story of two women figuring out how to believe in themselves.

Definitely worth reading.

Audiobook: Stop Missing Your Life

by Cory Muscara
Read by the author
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at libro.fm
Content: There were two f-bombs and some mild swearing, which seemed odd and out of place. It’s in the mindfulness section of the bookstore.

I’m not entirely sure why I picked this up, other than to satisfy a category in the #ReadICT challenge, but I’m kind of glad I did. It’s a how-to and a why book on meditation, something I tried for a while (about a year, I think) and then dismissed as something “too hard” (sitting still is quite hard for me). I do yoga kind of regularly, once or twice a week, but meditation? Not so much.

But, in this crazy world (and especially after the insanity surrounding COVID), I really kind of needed this. Yeah, it’s another Buddhist mindfulness book, but I liked that Muscara is practical about the whole thing. He does impart Buddhist philosophy: that the idea to “happiness” is to be able to sit with emotion and situations as they are, whether “good” or “bad”, and be able to interact with them without trying to control them. That’s not how I usually think of “mindfulness”, and I appreciated thinking differently. He also gives a huge variety of meditation practices, from what you traditionally think of “meditation” to a practice with your phone (or any technology) in order to interact with it in a more present and mindful matter. I think, for me, the simple question of asking why am I doing things has made the most difference. Why am I scrolling through Facebook? Why am I eating the cake? Why do I feel anxious? It’s helped. That, and doing a body scan practice, which, yes, is a form of meditation, every night.

And I highly recommend it on audio. Cory is a good reader, and it’s beneficial to be able to go through some of the practices as he reads them. It’s a very conversational book, which works well in audio form.

It’s probably not drastically changed my life, but I do have a wider perspective on things, and maybe that will, in the long run, be a good thing.

Audio book: The Worst Best Man

by Mia Sosa
Read by: Rebecca Mozo and Wayne Mitchell
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: This is super sweary including a lot of f-bombs, and there’s on-screen sex several times. It’s in the romance section of the bookstore (yes, we have a romance section now!).

Lina Santos has worked hard to get where she is: the owner of a reputable wedding planning business. Sure, she was left at the altar by her fiance four years ago, but she hasn’t let that get in the way. Now, she’s got a shot at the job of a lifetime: wedding coordinator at a prestigious hotel chain. The catch? She has to work with her ex-fiance’s brother, Max, on the presentation. The double catch? They’re totally attracted to each other.

Oh this was so much stupid fun. It’s that sort of smart and sexy romance with a dash of Brazilian flavor (the author identifies as Brazilian-American) that is just fun to read. And this was definitely enhanced (*cough*) by the narrators. Mazo was delightful to listen to and if it’s possible to have a very sexy and sassy voice, Mitchell definitely has it. I think a good two-thirds of the fun of this one was in the delivery of the book. Not that the book itself wasn’t full of that great push and pull (*ahem*) of a well-written romance (and the sex scenes were definitely steamy!), but the narrators brought it to life and made it pop.

Not for everyone, obviously, but I thoroughly enjoyed my time with it.

Audio book: Becoming

by Michelle Obama
Read by the author.
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There’s some mild swearing. It’s in the Biography section of the bookstore.

This is your basic memoir: the life of Michelle Robinson Obama, from growing up in the South Side of Chicago to going to college at Princeton and law school at Harvard, to how she met and married Barak Obama, her challenges and successes as a professional woman with two children, and then dealing with a husband who wanted to become (and then became!) president and all the challenges and success with being the first lady of the United States.

First off: yes, it does live up to the hype, especially on audio. Obama is a delightful narrator, and listening to her tell her insightful, funny, interesting story is a treat (whether or not you agree with her husband’s politics, I think). She is a delightful, smart, good human being and I’m glad she chose to tell her story. I do hope it does what I think she hopes it does, and inspires young girls and young women to get involved.

Mostly what it made me do, in the end, was desperately miss having someone in the White House (whether or not you agree with their politics) who took the idea of governing seriously, who did their best to be ethical and honest, and who actually was Presidential. You could argue that Barak Obama wasn’t a great president, but what you can’t say is that he didn’t take the role seriously. Same for Michelle: she took the idea of being First Lady seriously, harnessing her influence for something good, and I miss that terribly.

At any rate, this was an excellent book.

Audio Book: The Witches are Coming

by Lindy West
Read by the author.
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There’s swearing, including lots of f-bombs, plus frank talk about sex. It’s in the Sociology section of the bookstore.

This book of essays, written in past couple of years and spurred on by the election of Donald Trump, is not just a feminist skewering of the alt-right and those attacking progress in all its forms. It’s also a reminder — especially for me, as a white, middle class, educated woman — that there are causes worth fighting for, that all sides (at least on the national scale) are not equal, and that it’s okay to be outspoken on things you believe in (and, to be fair: believing in things is a Good Thing).

It’s a reminder that “political correctness” is really just respecting other people and their identities and boundaries. A call that fat people deserve respect too, especially in this thin- and diet-obsessed culture. And maybe West is a White Woman, but (I thought, but I’m no BIPOC) she made sure she was trying to be inclusive and reminding those of us who are White Women that there are people out there who are marginalized and disadvantaged. And that there are people suffering while we’re sitting in our nice suburban households.

No, she’s not kind to the alt-right (but should she be?) or to the men who have abused their power for their own personal profit. And that’s part of what I liked about this. It was unapologetic and brazen and I loved that. It’s not going to resonate with all readers, but I think West knows that but she’s not trying to be palatable to all readers. She has Beliefs and she stands by them, and I can respect that.

And West is a good reader as well. She was entertaining and one of those readers I’d happily listen to for a long time.