Friday, June 10, 2011

Audiobook Week: Audiobook Resources

Where do you learn about great audiobook titles? Find reviews? Buy your audiobooks? Share your secrets with the rest of us!

I wish I had some great secret reservoir of audiobook resources but I am kind of dull here. I check them out of the library and I buy them at used book shops or thrift stores. I haven't gotten tech-savvy enough to figure out the online resources I hear about like Don't have much incentive to master them though because I don't have an iPod, so I am limited to CD's in the car. I could borrow one from one of my three children who all have iPods or I'm also sure it would somehow work on my iPad but it's all just too much. I'm Scarlett on this one...I'll figure it out tomorrow. (I know it is possible to listen to audiobooks from my Blackberry but haven't conquered that yet either.) Writing this post makes me feel like I have turned into my mother!

It made me giggle that Jen told me she tweeted about the giveaway yesterday (still going on if you want to enter), who would have ever thought the least tech savvy person in the universe would be tweeted about?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Audiobook Week: Audiobooks for the Uninitiated and Giveaway

Whether you just started listening or have a long history with audiobooks, you probably have some suggestions for those new to audio whether for narrators, titles, or ways to experience the medium. Write a post, make a list, get creative.

Not very creative but I am going to list a few recent f"most interesting" reads and then, give them away. Jen, does such a great job organizing audiobook week that I want to put my own thank you out into the blogosphere in the from of a few gently used but very much enjoyed audiobooks. To enter just comment and then I'll draw a name from there on Sunday when audiobook week is all over. Two of the books were ones I loved and one book just fascinated me simply out of morbid curiosity - click on the covers to read my reviews if you can't just immediately figure out which is which!

From Goodreads: When a mysterious young woman named Katie appears in the small North Carolina town of Southport, her sudden arrival raises questions about her past. Beautiful yet self-effacing, Katie seems determined to avoid forming personal ties until a series of events draws her into two reluctant relationships: one with Alex, a widowed store owner with a kind heart and two young children; and another with her plainspoken single neighbor, Jo. Despite her reservations, Katie slowly begins to let down her guard, putting down roots in the close-knit community and becoming increasingly attached to Alex and his family. But even as Katie begins to fall in love, she struggles with the dark secret that still haunts and terrifies her . . . a past that set her on a fearful, shattering journey across the country, to the sheltered oasis of Southport. With Jo's empathic and stubborn support, Katie eventually realizes that she must choose between a life of transient safety and one of riskier rewards . . . and that in the darkest hour, love is the only true safe haven.

From the Amazon product description: When Elspeth Noblin dies of cancer, she leaves her London apartment to her twin nieces, Julia and Valentina. These two American girls never met their English aunt, only knew that their mother, too, was a twin, and Elspeth her sister. Julia and Valentina are semi-normal American teenagers--with seemingly little interest in college, finding jobs, or anything outside their cozy home in the suburbs of Chicago, and with an abnormally intense attachment to one another. The girls move to Elspeth's flat, which borders Highgate Cemetery in London. They come to know the building's other residents. There is Martin, a brilliant and charming crossword puzzle setter suffering from crippling Obsessive Compulsive Disorder; Marjike, Martin's devoted but trapped wife; and Robert, Elspeth's elusive lover, a scholar of the cemetery. As the girls become embroiled in the fraying lives of their aunt's neighbors, they also discover that much is still alive in Highgate, including--perhaps--their aunt, who can't seem to leave her old apartment and life behind.

From the author's website: Julie Powell thought cooking her way through Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking was the craziest thing she’d ever do--until she embarked on the voyage recounted in her new memoir, CLEAVING.

Her marriage challenged by an insane, irresistible love affair, Julie decides to leave town and immerse herself in a new obsession: butchery. She finds her way to Fleischer’s, a butcher shop where she buries herself in the details of food. She learns how to break down a side of beef and French a rack of ribs--tough, physical work that only sometimes distracts her from thoughts of afternoon trysts.

The camaraderie at Fleischer’s leads Julie to search out fellow butchers around the world--from South America to Europe to Africa. At the end of her odyssey, she has learned a new art and perhaps even mastered her unruly heart.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

America's Women by Gail Collins

Although it's a cultural history of women in America since the first European settlers, America's Women possesses none of the stodginess or predictability of such chronicles. Former New York Times editorial writer Collins has a keen sense of her subject's richness. The author of Scorpion Tongues moves from everyday details to social generalization without sacrificing the thrust of her narrative or her central theme: "the tension between the yearning to create a home and the urge to get out of it."

I have had this one sliding around on the floor of the car forever waiting until I had absolutely nothing else left to listen to - my expectations for enjoyment were LOW. I went in with such low expectations that my experience exceeded them just by being somewhat interesting. America's Women is a series of essays about women in American history highlighting some names that were familiar and some new to me. Gail Collins actually tells a good story and because this was like a series of short stories with just the tiniest bit of reflection/discussion thrown in, I enjoyed the essays. The essays were in chronological order, that really helped with my weak history background. It was also a good book for the car since they were fairly short essays and could usually be finished in one trip. I would never have made it through in print because it didn't "hook" me - this was a very passive experience on my part. I started the car, it came up through the speakers and I just let it play.

Thinking about the content - the role of women in history and especially the challenges they have faced, this book gave a great overview. Time allows for some of it to seem quaint, the rules from the days of the old west about riding side saddle. But the fights for racial equality are still hurtful to hear about and the idea of the ERA not passing through with ease in my own lifetime is really hard to wrap my head around. I enjoyed the stories and I think I learned a little bit.

And, because it is Audiobook Week, this can count as an entry in all the great giveaways Jen has going on!

Audiobook Week: Mid-week meme

Current/most recent audiobook: I am listening to T.C. Boyle's The Women about Frank Lloyd wright and the women in his life. I've wanted to read this one ever since I read and loved Loving Frank . Frank Lloyd Wright is an interesting guy.
Impressions: Well, although I have wanted this forever, I may not make it through. I have finished the first of fourteen discs and it has not captured my attention; there's a lot of big words and not much action. I am going to keep on for a bit and see how it goes.

Current favorite audiobook: All time favorite would have to be Backseat Saints by Joshilyn Jackson. That one just knocked my socks off!

One narrator who always makes you choose audio over print: I always choose audio for the David Baldacci books narrated by Ron McLarty. I don't think I would ever take the time to sit down and read one of Baldacci's action/adventure books but I am content to listen to them while I am driving.

Genre you most often choose to listen to: I am a genre slut - I do 'em all and have no distinct preference.

If given the choice, you will always choose audio when: it's humor like David Sedaris. I love to laugh in the car!

If given the choice, you will always choose print when: There's going to be extensive quoting from diaries or letters or such. I have a hard time with those transitions on audio - can't keep my place.

(I'll add a plug, I have a little giveaway tomorrow - like a hostess gift - nothing big just a "thank you all for inviting me to the Audiobook Week party" kind of thing.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Audiobook Week: Sound Effects in Audiobooks

Love them? Hate them? Take them or leave them? How do you feel about sound effects in audiobooks?
Alternate suggestions: Single narrator vs. multiple narrators vs. full cast, audio dramatizations, etc.

I'm a day late (and a dollar short) on this one - forgive me. I had to work a twelve hour day yesterday so please cut me some slack and now I have the morning off to compensate me so I am catching up! Regarding today's (yesterday's) question... I am probably in the minority saying I am not a big fan of sound effects. I must have the attention span of a gnat because the "voice on the phone" effect or hearing some music in the background just totally yanks me out of the story and makes me notice the sound effect rather than attend to the story.

I had a great time reading other people's thoughts on narrators. It really opened my eyes to the times when multiple narrators would be a good thing. One example was The Help which I read in print but can totally see being great with multilpe narrators on audio because of the way the point of view changes with the change of each chapter. Now, my bad multiple narrator experience came from a recent David Baldacci book - Hell's Corner. Rather than have one of my favorite narrators Ron McLarty read the whole thing as he has done in the other books I've listened to. They added a female voice for the women in the story. I found it very disconcerting because she would just pop in whenever a female talked. So it would be going along great with McLarty voicing all the men and doing the narrative portions and then all of a sudden this woman would pipe in and jar me - yuck.

Thta's it for Tuesday. Happy audiobook week everybody. I am going to giveawy some audiobooks with the Thursday post about book suggestions so check back.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Audiobook Week: 2010-2011, Your Audiobook Year

Are you new to audiobooks in the last year? Have you been listening to them forever but discovered something new this year? Favorite titles? New times/places to listen? This is your chance to introduce yourself and your general listening experience.

I have been listening to audiobooks for about three years. Not sure what got me started but once I did I was hooked. I am pretty easy to please but have found that I prefer books narrated by a single, professional reader. It flows better for me with one voice changing ever so slightly for the different characters than more than one voice which I find somewhat jarring. I also have come to appreciate a professional narrator as some of the author-read books have been almost intolerable. (There are exceptions to this - David Sedaris comes right to mind as an author who does an outstanding job reading his books.)

I particpate in the audiobook challenge over at Teresa's Reading Corner although I am often negligent about posting my reviews!

Sunday, June 5, 2011

The Butterfly's Daughter by Mary Alice Monroe

From Goodreads: Four very different women embark on a transformational journey that follows the migrating monarchs across the United States to Mexico. The story begins when Luz Avila's grandmother, the local butterfly lady, purchases an old, orange VW bug for a road trip home to Mexico. When she unexpectedly dies, Luz is inspired to take her grandmother's ashes home. In the manner of the Aztec myth of the goddess who brings light to the world, Luz attracts a collection of lost women, each seeking change in their lives. The Mexican people believe the monarchs are the spirits of the recently departed and Luz taps into ancient rituals and myths as she follows the spectacular, glittering river of orange monarchs in the sky to home.
I really enjoyed this one. I was excited to win it as a First Reads pick expecting the Southern fiction I love. Mary Alice Monroe is for me linked to the South Carolina coast but this book took me out of that comfort zone on a journey from Wisconsin to Mexico. I loved how fully Monroe was able to immerse me in the Mexican-American culture with her descriptions. I liked that the characters were multi-faceted, it wasn't a rosy, carefree "girls on the loose" ride to Mexico; the main character, Luz, faced some gritty challenges and it was empowering to feel her grow stronger as she traveled. I liked the bittersweet ending - not everything turns out like a fairy tale. A few of the minor characters were so interesting, that I am hoping they have spin-off potential!

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult

From Goodreads: As Jodi Picoult's Picture Perfect begins, it is daybreak in downtown Los Angeles. A woman suffering from amnesia is taken in by an officer new to the L.A. police force, after he finds her wandering aimlessly near a graveyard. Days later, when her husband comes to claim her at the police station, no one is more stunned than Cassie Barrett to learn that not only is she a renowned anthropologist, but she is married to Hollywood's leading man, Alex Rivers.
As Alex helps Cassie become reaccustomed to her fairy-tale existence, fragments of memory return: the whirlwind romance on location in Africa, her major anthropological discovery, the trajectory of Alex's career. Yet as Cassie settles into her glamor-filled life, uneasiness nags at her. She senses there is something troubling and wild that she cannot remember, something that would alter the picture of her perfect marriage. When she finds a positive pregnancy test in her bathroom, she is flooded with dark memories. Trying to piece together her past, she runs to the only person she trusts will keep her hidden--Will Flying Horse, the policeman who had initially harbored her.

Well, this one was not a homerun for me. I am having a string of Jodi Picoult bad luck. Tenth Circle was okay, Change of Heart was just okay too, and this one was just not even as okay as the others. How could I just love My Sister's Keeper (pre-blogging days so no review) and then not connect with any of her other books I read? I'm not really enthused by Native American settings (Team Edward not Jacob) unless they are done really well. So the use of the Native American stories and the chacracter Will and his family felt more like a distraction since they didn't capture my interest. And, what's with the cover? What does a yellow sundress on a fishing pole in the middle of a field have to do with this story? I must have missed something.

BookTiger tells me that Nineteen Minutes is good so that one is still on my list and we'll see how it stacks up against these others.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Water for Elephants - the movie

I saw Water for Elephants last night. I read the book when it first came out in paperback probably four or five years ago so it wasn't exactly fresh! I felt like the movie stayed pretty close to the book; the kind of seamy quality to circus life was definitely there. I am a Reese Witherspoon fan - if I see Legally Blonde on TV I will watch it every time! But in this movie, vampire boy stole the show. His emotions seemed so much more real, he was believeable as Jacob where Reese looked like she was acting as Marlena.

Just in case you didn't read the book, here's a synopsis from Goodreads - (book is highly recommended): Though he may not speak of them, the memories still dwell inside Jacob Jankowski's ninety-something-year-old mind. Memories of himself as a young man, tossed by fate onto a rickety train that was home to the Benzini Brothers Most Spectacular Show on Earth. Memories of a world filled with freaks and clowns, with wonder and pain and anger and passion; a world with its own narrow, irrational rules, its own way of life, and its own way of death. The world of the circus: to Jacob it was both salvation and a living hell.

Jacob was there because his luck had run out - orphaned and penniless, he had no direction until he landed on this locomotive 'ship of fools'. It was the early part of the Great Depression, and everyone in this third-rate circus was lucky to have any job at all. Marlena, the star of the equestrian act, was there because she fell in love with the wrong man, a handsome circus boss with a wide mean streak. And Rosie the elephant was there because she was the great gray hope, the new act that was going to be the salvation of the circus; the only problem was, Rosie didn't have an act - in fact, she couldn't even follow instructions. The bond that grew among this unlikely trio was one of love and trust, and ultimately, it was their only hope for survival.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Return Journey by Maeve Binchy

From Goodreads: In The Return Journey, Maeve Binchy brings us sons and lovers, daughters and strangers, husbands and wives in their infinite variety—powerfully compelling stories of love, loss, revelation, and reconciliation. A secretary's silent passion for her boss meets the acid test on a business trip....A man and a woman's mutual disdain at first sight shows how deceptive appearances can be....An insecure wife clings to the illusion of order, only to discover chaos at the hands of a house sitter who opens the wrong doors....A pair of star-crossed travelers take each other's bags, and then learn that when you unlock a stranger's suitcase, you enter a stranger's life. In their company are many more, whose poignant, ironic, often humorous stories—unforgettable slices of life—make up The Return Journey, a spellbinding trip into the human heart.

Just exactly what I expected, isn't that the beauty of Maeve Binchy? You know what you are going to get! This was an easy to read collection of stories; a few of which I enjoyed very much and some of which were completely forgettable. I was trying to decide if there was some sort of theme to what I liked but really couldn't find one. I think it boils down to whether or not I befriend the character in my mind. I could definitely relate to the women with insecurities - one with a good result as she finally sees her own worth compared to the man she has been pursuing and one with disastrous results when she compares herself to another woman and feels she comes up short. I also like the ones about family relationships - a daughter trying to connect with her father in a way beyond the normal superficiality of their relationship. Overall just a solid Binchy book - a nice curl up and read kind of book.