Audio book: My Kitchen Year

mykitchenyearby Ruth Reichl
Read by the author
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s no swearing. It’s a cookbook, so it’s not something one typically reads, but her story is fascinating. It’s in the cook book section of the bookstore.

I picked this one up because I was looking for something to read. I knew it was a cookbook, but it’s Ruth Reichl, and I have loved her writing in the past. I figured it was worth my time.

And, for the most part, it was. It’s the story of the year following the folding of Gourmet magazine, of which she was editor, and how she found purpose again. And, because it’s Reichl, she found it through food.

I think, when I picked it up, I hoped there would be more stories and less recipes, but I was surprised to find that I didn’t mind the recipes. Reichl reads them as if she’s your friend, telling you how to make something (no list of ingredients at the top; I wonder what the print version looks like…), complete with advice and variations, in case you don’t like things the way she does. She has such a comfortable, familiar writing and reading voice, it was almost like spending time with a friend.

She made the food sound delicious, as well; thankfully, tis was a cookbook of the month at the store a while back, and so I know the recipes are good (especially the chocolate cake!). And the stories that accompanied the recipes — the book is organized by timeline rather than by recipe — are classic Reichl: simple and yet evocative.

So, even though listening to a cookbook is an unusual choice, I don’t regret picking this one up at all. It was delightful to spend some time hearing Reichl’s story.

Audiobook: The View From the Cheap Seats

viewfromcheapseatsby Neil Gaiman
Read by the author.
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s a handful of f-bombs scattered throughout the book. It’s in the creative nonfiction section of the bookstore.

I’ve often said (many times) that Neil Gaiman can come to my house and read my grocery list and I’ll be happy to listen to it. That is still true. I will listen to Gaiman read anything, including works of short non-fiction, from articles and interviews to book introductions and speeches. He has a fantastic reading voice, and I love that it gives depth to his words.

That said, this was more of a dip-in, dip-out book rather than a read straight through one. Even though I love Gaiman on audio, I found myself kind of impatient with the sections (like the one on comics) that didn’t interest me. If I had actually read this one (and many of the pieces are worth reading), I would have picked and chosen the ones (like “What the Very Bad Swear Word is a Children’s Book, Anyway?” or “Make Good Art”) that I was interested in, and left the rest alone.

But, like anything Gaiman writes, when he was good, he was interesting, and the observations were thoughtful and thought-provoking. Though audio maybe wasn’t the best choice for this one.

Audio book: The Last Original Wife

lastoriginalwifeby Dorothea Benton Frank
Read by: Robin Miles
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Content: There’s a lot of mild swearing and a couple of f-bombs. And some off-screen sex. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

Leslie Carter is the last original wife among her husband Wesley’s super successful Atlanta set. One was gone to divorce, another to death. And their husbands — Wesley’s friends — are marrying girls half their age. And Lesley has had enough. Actually, the “Barbies” are just a catalyst for what Leslie has been suspecting for a while: Wesley doesn’t really love her, he’s just still married to her because it’s easy and convenient. So, after a brawl in the club dining room between two of the new wives, Leslie up and leaves Wesley. She heads back to her hometown of Charleston, South Carolina and her brother — who, because Wesley’s a homophobe, she hasn’t seen in years — and takes up with an old high school flame, and learns that by discovering her roots, she finds herself again.

So. I wanted to like this one. And I did at first. Wesley was such a hideous character, so sexist and clueless, right from the start that it was easy to hate him and root for Leslie to leave him. But, that said, I got really tired really fast of all the descriptions of what they ate and drank (I really don’t care which wine is good with which meal) and what they wore (so she chose a red dress for the wedding of her best friend’s daughter, so what?). I got really tired of the ending — after Leslie decided to leave Wesley and they went through therapy, the book went on for another few hours. What was the point? (She needed a Happily Ever After with a Good Man). And it was so slut-shaming. I want to read the book from Cornelia’s– she’s the second wife of one of Wesley’s friends — point of view; she was so much a caricature that I couldn’t take her seriously. (And I got so very tired of Leslie’s judgement. She wasn’t perfect either.) I won’t even start on the whole Canadian-izing of the Southern accent. No Southerner says hoose for house (it’s hOWse). (The Canadian/Upper Midwest came out with out and about too…) Drove me nuts. Oh, and then there’s the math: Leslie was turning 60 and she’d been married for 30 years (it was a shotgun wedding, and her oldest was almost 30). HOWEVER, she got pregnant in college and had to drop out before she graduated. WTH? The math doesn’t add up.

The thing it did have going for it? A great sense of place. Frank knows Charleston and knows how to write about the town in a way that made me want to go. I could picture the warm, lazy summer, and the walks down the roads. I almost wanted to see it for myself. And I’ll admit that I didn’t bail on this one; I did want to see Leslie’s story all the way through, even if I did get impatient with it.

So, while it was annoying, it wasn’t awful.

Audio book: Six of Crows

sixofcrowsby Leigh Bardugo
Read by: Jay Snyder, Brandon Rubin, David LeDoux, Lauren Fortgang, Roger Clark, Elizabeth Evans, and Tristan Morris
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is a lot of violence, some of it on the graphic side. Illusions to prostitution, and two swear words (they stood out). It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8), but I’m glad I read it. It’s probably on par with Hunger Games, so if your kid/you can handle the content of that, this one is probably okay.

I put this one off. I know I did. I know I should have read it last fall when it was Hot and Everyone was reading it. But, I was busy, and I kept putting it off. Until I was in need of a new audio book and I stumbled across this one. I finished it, went into work and declared “So THAT’S what I was missing!” Yeah.

Kaz Brekker has worked his way up in the Dregs — a criminal gang in the island city/nation of Ketterdam — and has a reputation for being brutal and willing to take anything on. So when he’s tasked with springing a scientist out of the most secure prison in the world — the Ice Fortress in Fjerda — of course he accepts. The price is right, after all. He gathers together a crew of six people — ranging from a merchant’s exiled son to a Grisha —  and they set out to achieve the impossible. Of course, they don’t get along, there’s a lot of internal mistrust and bickering. And, of course, things go badly. (I was wondering how it was all going to fit in one book. The answer is it does but it doesn’t.)

This was enormous amounts of fun. Perhaps part of that fun was the audio form: there were five different people doing the five different narrators, which helped immensely. I really enjoyed the way each one did the other characters slightly differently as well as the way each actor interpreted their own character. It definitely added something more to the book.

I have to admit that I liked this one better than the Grisha books. For whatever reason, I love heist books, I love books with twists and turns (though some of the twists were unfair; she didn’t give me enough information to see things coming and I was genuinely surprised a couple of times) and this one had both. I came to like the characters — Matthais the Fjorden had the most character growth (I wanted to throttle him in the beginning), but I loved the rest of the crew as well. I liked the diversity — it felt effortless and natural rather than an author just trying to be diverse. Bardugo expanded the narrow world she’d created in the Grisha books, and gave it much more depth, which I absolutely adored.

I’ll most definitely be picking up the next one (maybe even in audio) to see how this adventure ends.

Audiobook: Furiously Happy

furiouslyhappyby Jenny Lawson
Read by the author.
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: Lots of swearing. Lots. And lots. You’ve been warned. It’s in the adult biography section of the bookstore.

I’m late to this party. I knew who Jenny Lawson was (I do work in a bookstore, after all) and I was aware of her book. I’d just never picked it up. I have so much else to read, that I figured a small book about a weird upbringing as the daughter of a taxidermist never really appealed to me.

But, when I was looking for a new audiobook, this one jumped out at me. Ann Kingman talked about it on Books on the Nightstand a while back, and so I picked it up.

I had no idea I was missing THIS.

In a series of short, random, wandering essays, Lawson tackles her mental illnesses (ADHD, anxiety, and depression), her crazy life and marriage, therapy, the ways she copes, and her adventures in, well, everything. It’s really random  and often super hilarious. I laughed a TON. Possibly because she’s super deadpan in her reading of the book, which just helped make it that more often. But, I also appreciated her being so candid about things I struggle with. She’s right: it does help to know that there are other people out there talking about struggling with depression, who have ways of dealing with it (or not), to put in perspective your own struggles. It’s wonderful. And the fact she does it with a sense of humor is that much better, too.

I probably should backtrack and get her first book, just to be complete.

Audiobook: The Bollywood Affair

bollywoodaffairby Sonali Dev
Read by Priya Avyar
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: Oh there’s some sexytimes in this one. One on-screen, and a couple of off-screens. Not to mention being littered with f-bombs (one character in particular!). It would be in the adult fiction section of the bookstore if we had it.

I was in the mood for something Indian, and this one had been on my radar thanks to the YAckers (even though it wasn’t our book group book) and I got an unexpected credit on Audiobooks.com, so I thought I’d use it for this. I had no idea what I was getting into.

Mili Rathod hasn’t seen her husband in 20 years, not since their wedding when she was 4 years old. She’s spent her whole life working to be the best wife, serving his family, being a dutiful daughter-in-law. Now she has an opportunity to go to America for an eight-month class, and she takes it, thinking it will help make her a desirable, modern wife.

Samir Rathod is a hotshot Bollywood director, and playboy, not really caring about the hearts he breaks. The only people in his life he truly cares about is his foster mother and his half-brother. And so, when his half-brother sends him to America to get an annulment from his “wife”, Samir willingly goes, thinking it will be an easy task.

But once in America, Samir gets pulled into Mili’s orbit, and ends up taking care of her (she falls off a bike fairly early on), cooking for her, helping her help her friend elope, falling in love with her. And soon, their lives are so intertwined that they realize that they just can’t live without each other.

On the one hand, this was SO bad. Mili’s a cry-er (seriously: SO. MANY. TEARS.) and I swear if I ever hear “his bulging muscles” or “her tender golden eyes” or “flashed with anger” again, I might just scream. It’s totally a bodice ripper with saris. But, perhaps, that’s what saved it. I loved all the little details from the food (yum!) to the culture to the interactions between the characters. (Not to mention the narrators spot-on Indian-English accents, all of which were different and unique.) And yes, I did find myself (in spite of the sappy language) rooting for Samir and Mili, wanting them to put aside their differences, their cultural hangups, and just GET TOGETHER ALREADY.

Even with all the tiring romance-y language, it was a ton of fun. And I’m glad I read it.

 

Audiobook: School for Brides

schoolforbridesby Patrice Kindl
Read by Bianca Amato
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: Keeping the Castle
Content: Nothing objectionable, but a working knowledge of Regeny manners is helpful. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Set a year after Keeping the Castle (but you don’t need to read that one first), the Winthrop Hopkins Female Academy has one purpose: to educate young ladies to make smashing matches. The problem, however, is that in Lesser Hoo, Yorkshire, there is exactly one bachelor, who isn’t exactly everyone’s idea of eligible. How are eight young women supposed to find their matches if there isn’t any eligible young men around?

Thus begins the very charming A School for Brides (which was a delight to listen to). Things begin to look up when a young man breaks his leg while in the country and is put up at the school to heal. His friends come calling, and suddenly everything is looking a lot more complicated. Several of the girls are simply delightful (plus the instructor, Miss Quince; I adored her), being that excellent cross between feminist and historical, saucy and authentic. There were so many delightful characters (though sometimes I wished I was reading it so I could keep track of who was who) doing so many delightful things. There were also ones to loathe, so it wasn’t a perfect froth.

As I was reading, I realized it’s a homage to Jane Austen’s work, but it’s also a parody. That feeling kind of increased when I did some looking at how to spell the names and discovered that Miss Foll-ee-ut (which is how the reader was pronouncing it) is spelled Pffolliott. Definitely a send up to the silliness that goes on in historical England. (Leave it to Psmith, anyone?)

Amato was also delightful, capturing the spirit of the book in her narration as well as the essence of each character, which is a trick since there’s so many. It’s definitely a fun read.