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Happy New Year! I know that’s a little late..a lot late, but this is my first post of the year, so it’s time. Thanks to COVID we’ve entered the year with a bang. Despite all the advice to avoid travel, I didn’t. I traveled over Christmas, came home to a bunch of snow, and then hopped on a plane a week later. That trip was to Denver for my niece Megan’s baby shower. I’m so glad I went and the I managed not to get sick. Since that trip, I’ve mostly stayed close to home. Through it all, I’ve managed to get quite a bit of reading done, so am sharing audiobooks today and will share books I read in print on Thursday. I hope you’ll find a few you like.
There’s a lot of variety in the audiobooks I listened to this month, both nonfiction and fiction. The great news is I liked them all!
These Precious Days by Ann Patchett
Narrator: Ann Patchett
Publisher: Harper (Harper Audio)
Release Date: November 23, 2021
Length: 320 pages (11 hrs. 14 min.)
My Thoughts: Timing really is everything. In late November, I got a copy of 𝐓𝐇𝐄𝐒𝐄 𝐏𝐑𝐄𝐂𝐈𝐎𝐔𝐒 𝐃𝐀𝐘𝐒 from the library. I read the first essay and had little desire to read more, which felt like a huge failure because I adore Ann Patchett. By the time the book was due, I hadn’t read any more of it. Then, shortly after Christmas, my Libby hold came in for the audiobook, so I thought I’d try again. Win! Win! Win!
I don’t know if it was my own frame of mind or listening to Patchett’s own voice deliver her essays, but either way I loved almost all of them. Patchett is just such a gifted writer and her life is so interesting that I just wanted more and more. I especially liked the essays that talked about the writing process, Snoopy, her friendship with Tom Hanks’ assistant, Sooki, and the essay about losing her father. Some made me laugh, some made me cry, all made me eager for more from Ann Patchett. I hope it won’t be too long before we get a new novel from her. Grade: B
I Came All This Way to Meet You by Jami Attenberg
Narrator: Xe Sands
Publisher: Ecco (Harper Audio)
Release Date: January 11, 2022
Length: 272 pages (6 hrs. 44 min.)
My Thoughts: I feel like I’ve been in therapy with Jami Attenberg and I liked it! 𝐈 𝐂𝐀𝐌𝐄 𝐀𝐋𝐋 𝐓𝐇𝐈𝐒 𝗪𝐀𝐘 𝐓𝐎 𝐌𝐄𝐄𝐓 𝐘𝐎𝐔 is her memoir of a creative life that at various times left her broke, sleeping on other people’s couches, drifting around the world, doubting herself, and often alone. Through it all, no matter what else was going on in her world, Attenberg always looked for the next story, the next seed of an idea. Adversity never took her focus off of writing.
The essays jump around in time, and that might have bothered me in print, but it didn’t on audio. The common thread running through Attenberg’s book and her life was the power of the written word and how it always seemed to save her, eventually truly becoming her home. I appreciated her honesty, especially in her openness about the life she’s lived, and the loneliness that often haunted her.
I started this book in print and found it a little slow, so I switched to the audiobook, flying through the rest. Beautiful narration by Xe Sands made 𝘐 𝘊𝘢𝘮𝘦 𝘈𝘭𝘭 𝘛𝘩𝘪𝘴 𝘞𝘢𝘺 𝘵𝘰 𝘔𝘦𝘦𝘵 𝘠𝘰𝘶 a memoir I definitely recommend listening to. Grade: B.
Note: I received copies of this book from Harper Audio (via Libro.fm) and from Ecco Publishing (via NetGalley) in exchange for my honest thoughts.
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xóchitl González
Narrators: Almarie Guerra, Inés del Castillo, and Armando Riesco
Publisher: Flatiron Books (Macmillan Audio)
Release Date: January 4, 2022
Length: 384 pages (11 hrs. 22 min.)
My Thoughts: I love finding a book that’s a good mashup of genres and that’s exactly what 𝐎𝐋𝐆𝐀 𝐃𝐈𝐄𝐒 𝐃𝐑𝐄𝐀𝐌𝐈𝐍𝐆 by Xóchitl González was for me. A little bit family drama, a little bit suspense, and a little bit romance, all in perfect balance. This is the story of Olga and Pietro, third generation Puerto Ricans living in New York. Olga is a high-end wedding planner and Pietro is a U.S. Congressman. They both seem to have it together, but we all know appearances can be deceiving, and their lives are far from transparent.
Both are haunted by their activist parents. One’s dead, the other they haven’t seen for more than 20 years, though regularly receive cryptic missives from. Neither Olga nor Pietro can escape the shadow their parents cast. Plus, there’s a lot going on with their large extended family and even more in their personal lives.
Along the way debut author González gave the reader a good lesson in Puerto Rican history and the repercussions of ongoing colonialism there. Everything built toward 2017’s Hurricane Maria that devastated the island, just as both Olga’s and Pietro’s lives were being upended. 𝘖𝘭𝘨𝘢 𝘋𝘪𝘦𝘴 𝘋𝘳𝘦𝘢𝘮𝘪𝘯𝘨 was a fast, fun read with some real depth to it. I’ look forward to seeing what Xóchitl González writes next. Grade: B
Note: I received copies of this book from Macmillan Audio (via Libro.fm) and from Flatiron Books (via NetGalley) in exchange for my honest thoughts.
Hell of a Book by Jason Mott
Narrators: JD Jackson and Ronald Peet
Publisher: Dutton (Penguin Audio)
Release Date: June 29, 2021
Length: 323 pages (9 hrs. 40 min.)
My Thoughts: I don’t even know where to begin with 𝐇𝐄𝐋𝐋 𝐎𝐅 𝐀 𝐁𝐎𝐎𝐊, the 𝟸𝟶𝟸𝟷 𝘕𝘢𝘵𝘪𝘰𝘯𝘢𝘭 𝘉𝘰𝘰𝘬 𝘈𝘸𝘢𝘳𝘥 winner by Jason Mott. It’s brilliant. It’s confusing. It’s funny. It’s thought-provoking. It’s sad. On the surface, it’s a story about an unnamed Black author on a book tour for his book, called “Hell of a Book.” During the tour, funny things happen, but in the background something more serious and sinister is going on. The author keeps seeing “The Kid” who is trying to convey some urgency to him about what’s happening in the world; things the author seems to be missing or avoiding. It’s also the story of Soot, a very dark skinned boy living in the south. Soot’s parents are trying to do everything they can to protect and prepare him for the life of a Black man.
The way Jason Mott wove all this together kept me very off balance the entire book. Like me, the author was off balance much of the time, so we had that in common! The story also had me thinking the entire time I was listening. I constantly wondered about what was really happening in the story AND about how all of it translates to the world we live in. This was most especially true of the unwarranted killing of Black bodies by police and the fear that lives in Black parents because of it. With humor, heart and immense creativity, Mott delivered a truly sad commentary on the world we live in. Narrators, JD Jackson and Ronald Peet, were both fantastic, and I felt like listening gave me more time to think. 𝘏𝘦𝘭𝘭 𝘰𝘧 𝘢 𝘉𝘰𝘰𝘬 truly was a hell of a book. Grade: A-
Have you listened to any great audiobooks recently?
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I’m listening to the Patchett audio now … and I’m enjoying it. She’s doing a good job of reading it. I’d like to read the Gonzalez and Mott books too. I’m glad you liked them!