Audiobook: Bookish People

by Susan Coll
Read by Alexa Morden
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There is some mild swearing and a couple of f-bombs. There is also mention of suicide. It’s in the Adult Fiction section of the bookstore.

A co-worker – the current Children’s Coordinator at the bookstore – turned me on to this one, saying: It’s super accurate, including down to the vacuum cleaner that won’t work. That was enough for me.

The basic plot: it’s one week at an independent bookstore in Washington, DC (not Politics and Prose, though) where everything seems to go wrong. The owner, Sophie, is having second and third thoughts about running a bookstore and just wants to hide away in the hidden room behind the sports section (I think?). Clemi, the event coordinator, has booked Raymond Chaucer, a notorious poet who is basically known because his wife killed herself. Clemi, however, thinks Chaucer is her real father. In between all that is a lot of rain, some pretty weird and funny customers, and a vacuum cleaner that just won’t work.

it’s particularly silly and fluffy; there’s really not much depth or growth here But the author must have some experience with working at a bookstore; there was a lot of insider baseball from Shelf Awareness (which is more like an industry newsletter, not a blog) to receiving and stocking books (though they order a LOT of books) to those weird customers who show up at author events. In fact, it was the author event, where one attendee just started rambling about spotted owls, that had me howling in laughter. I know those people; I have had those people at events I have run.

The narrator was particularly delightful and engaging, doing voices (I particularly liked her voice for Summer), and basically keeping me engrossed in an increasingly silly plot.

So, not a deep or moving book, but it was good for a few laughs, which I enjoyed.

Audiobook: Tomorrow, and Tomorrow, and Tomorrow

by Gabrielle Zevin
Read by Jennifer Kim and Julian Cihi
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: there is swearing, including multiple f-bombs, on-screen instances of some pretty unhealthy BDSM, and some violence. It’s in the Fiction section of the bookstore.

For reference about the title.

It’s really kind of hard to sum this on eup. There is a plot: Sadie and Sam are friends as children, they fall out and meet again as students at MIT And Harvard respectively, and end up making video games togethre with Sams roommate, Marx. But that doesn’t really do this novel justice. It’s really about friendships and all different types of love, and the relationships we make and break and make again. It covers about 40 years, and all the ups and downs in Sadie’s and Sam’s life, set against the backdrop of the games that they have made together over the years.

It didn’t always work for me; I found it to drag sometimes, and at other times I was bored with where the story was going. But in the end, I found it to be sweet and touching, and quite insistent that romantic love, at least as we all think about it, is not the Best Thing Ever, that people can live and thrive with other relationships in their life. It was definitely refreshing in that sense.

And the narration was quite good. She didn’t always do the voices, but I was able to follow the story.

And the narration was lovely. She didn’t do all the voices, but the writing was good enough that I could usually tell who was talking no matter what.

I didn’t absolutely love it, but I really liked it.

Audiobook: Counterfeit

by Kirstin Chen
Read by Catherine Ho
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There was some swearing. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

Ava Wong has lived a safe life: the daughter of Chinese immigrants, she chose the safe occupation (lawyer), married well (he’s a doctor) and has a child (he’s two), and is living a “good” life. Except, she’s supremely unhappy. Enter Winnie Fang, Ava’s former roommate at Stanford. She is a woman of the world and has developed a counterfeit scheme where she buys knock-off designer bags from China, purchases the same designer bag and returns the counterfeit to the store, selling the original on eBay for a discounted price. It’s made her, well if not millions, then at least a good living. She sees Ava’s unhappiness, and invites her into her world. The whole book is framed as Ava’s confession to a dective, having been caught out in the scheme, and is taking the fall. Except: is she?

To be honest: I wasn’t all that invested in Ava or Winnie’s story. I liked parts of it, and Ho kept me entertained, but I didn’t really feel connected to the story. It’s not that it wasn’t enjoyable (stick around: part 2 makes part 1 worth it), but in may ways, I felt like it was Rich People Problems, which are very uninspiring right now. . So while it wasn’t bad, it wasn’t all that great either. At least it helped fill the hours at work.

Audiobook: Flying Solo

by Linda Holmes
Read by Julia Whelan
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There’s swearing, including a couple of well-placed f-bombs. There is also off-screen sex. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

Laurie grew up in a small Main town, and couldn’t wait to get away. She didn’t return often, and once her immediate family moved away, there wasn’t much reason to return. That is, until her Great-Aunt who had no children of her own, passed away. Suddenly, it became Laurie’s job to go through Aunt Dot’s house and get it ready to be sold. Once there, she discovers a wooden duck in a blanket chest, and that starts off a chain of events that leads Laurie to a greater understanding of her aunt. Along the way, she reconnects with her old boyfriend, Nick, who is recently divorced.

I liked that this was a less-than-traditional romance. While it’s still about people falling in love, it features a heroine who called off her wedding because she didn’t feel right about it. She’s nearly 40, she’s she’s a larger woman; Holmes mentions “size18” and “larger body”. Laurie is a woman who knows that she wants to live alone and that maybe being married isn’t for her. She’s bucking societal norms, not doing things the way things are “supposed” to be done. I really really appreciated that. And honestly: it was this embracing of non-traditionalness that made the book a really good one for me.

Whelan is still a delightful narrator; she makes the listening experience super engaging and enjoyable. I will have to listen to her read more! In short: thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Audiobook: Yerba Buena

by Nina LaCour
Read by: Julia Whelan
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: there is some talk of drug use, some prostitution, off-screen sex, and swearing including f-bombs. It’s in the Adult Fiction section of the bookstore.

Emelie and Sara are two women, both at odds with their life. Emilie has been in college for seven years, changing her major five times, and has yet to graduate. Sara ran away from home at 16, without finishing high school when her best friend (and lover) was found dead in the river. She spent years working her way up from the bottom to become a respected bartender. When she and Emilie first meet, though, it’s an instant spark, but at the time, Emilie is having an affair with the owner of a restaurant. When they do connect, things don’t go well. In fact, that’s the whole point of the book, I think: Emilie and Sara have to become their own individuals before they can successfully become a couple.

I think that’s the whole point of the novel: it’s much less a love story than it is a growing-up story. Both Emilie and Sara have pasts they need to reconcile with and futures they need to figure out. Yes, they are ready for a relationship, but maybe not quite ready enough, which gives the whole book an air of the bittersweet to it. I adore LaCour’s writing and the way she makes characters come alive. It also helped that Whelan’s narration was incredibly engaging.

Definitely a good book.

Audiobook: Easy Beauty

by Chloé Cooper Jones
Read by the author
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: there are some disturbing conversations about people with disabilites, and swearing, including some f-bombs. It’s in the Biography section of the bookstore.

I’m not sure what I expected when I started this memoir about a woman who has gone through life with a rare condition that affects her physical appearance and the way she interacts with the world. But, it also affects the way other people see her, the way she is regareded in the world. She literally sits in aa conversaiton where friends of hers (friends!) debate whether or not her life was worth living. She is told by doctors that she can’t get pregnant and then she is left ot wonder if it’s “fair” to bring a child into her world.

The book also muses on connections humans make as she goes through dealing with her father’s multiple affairs, and on art as she tries to make sense of her world through the beauty of someone else’s imagination. She travels and experiences the world that way. It’s got stories, yes, but also thoughts about art and connection and life and motherhood that I found both insightful and valuable. I learned a lot about how Jones looks at the world and how being dismissive of the experiences of those with disabilities is damaging and limiting.

Jones was a good narrator, telling her own story and keeping me engaged throughout. It’s not what I usually read, but I am really glad I did.

Audiobook: The Charm Offensive

by Alison Cochran
Read by: Vikas Adam, Graham Halstead & Cassandra Campbell
Support your local independent bookstore buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There’s a bunch of swearing, including multiple f-bobms. There are also some steamy scenes. It’s in the Romance setion of the bookstore.

Dav is a producer on this reality Bachelor-eque reality TV show, Ever After. he’s still pretty into the premise: finding that magical fairy tale love. But, when he’s suddenly switched from being the handler for the women to being the handler for their newest “prince, ” Charlie, Dav starts to wonder a bit about this whole “Truve love” thing. Wealthy, tech-giant Charlie is everything Dav is not: sophisticated, handsome, awkward, intense, and on the show just to get a job in tech again. Things start out on the wrong foot between the two fo them, but as the season goes on, they find out that maybe they have more in common than they thought.

I think my favorite trope is when the thing is commenting on the thing while being the thing. In this case, Cochrun comments on the toxicity and overall hetero-ness of reality-TV love shows, while the story is set on a reality-tv love show where two gay men absolutely fall in love. It’s sweet, it’s fun, it’s smart, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. The narrators are brilliant and propel the whole book forward, definitely keeping me engaged the whole time. I couldn’t put it down!

Audiobook: Go Back to Where You Came From

by Wajahat Ali
Read by the author
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There’s a lot of swearing, including multiple f-bombs. It’s in the humor section of the bookstore.

I had no idea who Ali was when I picked this up. I think it called to me because I’m always looking for immigrant stories, ones by people who don’t have my experiences. And although Ali is not an immigrant, he’s a first-generation American, which is just as interesting. It’s basically a memoir; Ali tells the story of how his parents came to America from Pakistan, his childhood, and then growing up and the trials he and his parents faced. (Spoiler: it’s a lot.) Ali tells his story with grace, keeping a reader/listener engaged with wry humor and just plain good storytelling.

It’s a good reminder of white privilege, and that there must be something bout this country if immigrants still want to keep trying to make a life here in the face of all the obstacles put in their way by white supremacy. Ali was a good person to spend a few hours with, and I feel like I learned something after having listened to his story. It was a good reminder that we’re all in it togeher in this huge melting pot we call America. Maybe we can even figure out how to make it work. Ali seems to have some hope for the future. I hope he’s right.

Audiobook: Wintering

by Katherine May
Read by: Rebecca Lee
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There is some talk of mental illness and depression. It’s in the Self Help section of the bookstore.

This was all the rage at the bookstore the first Christmas of the pandemic. Everyone seemed to need a “self help” (t’s not really a book about how to make it through difficult times that Christmas. it’s a bit weird, i know, reading aboook about winter in the spring (but this is when the hold came through; I don’t remember when I put it on hold), but the thing is, while this book is set over winter and kind of deals with cold and snow, it’s really more about the down times in our lives. The “winters of our lives – and not just age, May insisted, and I think she’s right, that “winter” can come anytime when we’re feeling low, or fallow, or just not “summery”. Maybe it’s because I’ve noticed that I’m really attended to the weather, but somehow that resonated with me.

There really isn’t much else to the book. I enjoyed the narrator, she was delightful to listen to and kept me interested in the story. But, it was a compelling story: I was interested in what May had used to help her through her winters. And maybe I’ll figure out how to accept and cope with mine, too, as I get older.

Worth reading any time of the year.

Audiobook: Olga Dies Dreaming

by Xochitl Gonzalez
Read by: Almarie Guerra, Armando Riesco & Inés del Castillo
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There is a lot of sex, on-screen and off, a lot of f-bombs and swearing, and one (implied) rape scene. It’s in the Adult Fiction section of the bookstore.

Oh, this one is a hard book to sum up. Olga is a 40-year-old, single, wedding planner whose mother left the family when Olga was 13. Her older brother, Prieto, is a congressman for their Brooklyn district, and a closeted gay man. They’re basically trying to survive and deal with both the gap and the shadow that their revolutionary mother has created. It’s a process – Olga dealing with latent trauma and working with the ultra-rich, and she hits a breaking point when Hurricane Maria hits. As does Prieto. It’s very much a sibling book, a growing up book, a making your own way out of the shadow of your parent’s expectations book.

That doesn’t begin to cover the book, or how it held me spellbound, especially on audio. It was smart, interesting, informative (I did learn a bunch about Puerto Rico’s history), and fascinating. The narrators were all excellent, and I was completely engrossed in the story. I had feelings about the characters, and I wanted to spend more time with them (Mateo is really the best). An excellent book and one I’m glad I took a chance on.