A Good Neighborhood by Therese Fowler

3 stars Fiction

This was one of those books where it was over before I knew it.  I listened to this audio in the car and then, time flew!  The drama built slowly, the romance had snuck itself in, and then I found myself disappointed that the whole book was over.  I could have sworn, I just put the second CD in.

Valerie and her son Xavier live in Oak Knoll, a peaceful, quiet neighborhood.  Xavier is a talented musician and Valerie loves nature and her surroundings.  When a local celebrity buys a nearby plot of land, new construction disturbs the quiet community as they begin building an upscale mansion and the family moves in.

Valerie had watched, as they destroyed the area to accommodate this new family, the destruction of natural resources was devastating to her.  Now, as the new family moves in, Xavier gets mistaken for hired help.  It’s an awkward beginning for these two families. 

As I listened to Brad, he started to get under my skin.  His superior thinking made me cringe but I liked the way this book was setting things up.  Valerie was up for the challenge but in the background, I was watching out for Xavier and Juniper. 

This is an entertaining book and one that I enjoyed.  

The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

5 stars Historical Fiction

This was an excellent audio to listen to. I couldn’t understand why I was able to get the audio right off the shelf at the library while the list to obtain the physical book was miles long. Although there were a lot of discs, the novel went quickly. Before reading this novel, I wondered if this book was going to be like The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek that I had previously read and loved, since they sounded similar in nature. What I found after I read this book was, although they were similar, it was the women in each story that made the two books different.  

I really enjoyed Margery in this story.  This woman had some spit fire in her. I loved her spunk from the minute I heard her speak. I wondered if somewhere, down the road in my listening of these discs, if something would backfire and she would pay for her outspoken personality.  Afterall, considering where she was, this time in history, and her being a woman, she really was an outstanding individual. Margery was her own person; she wasn’t concerned about what others thought or said.  Margery did what she thought needed to done.  I loved how Margery encouraged the women who supported the library and how she brought all the women together.

As the women brought the books to their patrons who lived out on the mountains, they were bringing more than just books to them.  I could feel the love, compassion, and companionship that their visits provided as I listened to the author’s words.  

As the women gathered for their “library meetings,” a big grin came across my face as I wondered exactly what they would be discussing today. No topic was dismissed as their meetings became more personal and entertaining each time they met.  Was it actually an official meeting or a girl’s night out, back at the meeting house as they met and chatted?  

I was delighted as to how much these women had grown during these 11 discs.  When they first came together, they thought of this as only a job but as I put in each disc, what this position became, was much more.  This became one of those books where I didn’t want it to end.

This book wasn’t all about women either.  Relationships both sweet and sour entered the picture from the sounds coming from the next room, to crushes, to the way individuals began to soften around the edges when certain others were around.  Some men also voiced their opinion about the library and about the women working in it.  You can imagine how that went down.

It was an entertaining and fast novel to listen to and I highly recommend it.

The Turn of the Key by Ruth Ware

3.5 stars Fiction

I listened to this book and what surprised me the most was that I didn’t think this book was a creepy or mysterious as I thought it would be. I was hoping for a good suspenseful story to listen to but I didn’t find that. I really enjoyed the story but I didn’t find it suspenseful, it was more action-packed with a few moments of mystery thrown in.

I thought that there were some really weird things about the house and the family to start with. We didn’t even need to add Rowan to the mix. What’s up with all those cameras and the audio in all those rooms? Can you not have any privacy? What are they afraid of? Then, the technology that supposed to make living in the house easier but seems like it’s overkill. I thought the family seemed a bit off. Did anyone find it strange that the parents left the kids, with their new nanny, on an extended amount of time, immediately after they hired her? I was glad that I had the e-version of this book as there were some things that just didn’t seem to be adding up and I thought I had missed something but as I read through the book, nope ……it was just strange.

I liked the character of Rowan as I thought her true personality came through when she needed it. I liked her determination yet she also had moments of uncertainty. I loved how the author wrote this novel. Important, unknown pieces of the story are fed to us readers throughout the novel as we follow Rowan along in her new nanny position.

I wanted more thrills and chills but in-all, it was a good read. I thought the last half of the book was really good. I’ll be looking out for Ruth’s book. 3.5 stars

The Library Book by Susan Orlean

4.5 stars Nonfiction

I just have to say “wow!”  I never expected this book to be packed with so much information.  At times, it almost felt overwhelming.  Centered around the 1986 Los Angeles library fire which burned for more than 7 hours and consumed 400,000 books, this book is not just about that fire. This book is about books, fires, libraries, reading, patrons, individuals, writing, it’s about the love of reading.  If any of these subjects’ interest you, then this title should be on your list, but I warn you, this book is not one to be read quickly.  You could do what I did and listen to this book and take breaks digesting what the author read to you, because it’s a lot! 

I found the fire to be interesting as the circumstances surrounding it, were unique.  Being such a big structure, filled with flammable materials, I figured it would be a ball of flames quickly but there were other factors to take into account.  As the author takes off from this subject, she leads me into a multitude of many other subjects, before coming back to the fire many times.  I got to thinking that this book would be a great one to listen to and read at the same time.  I would have loved to make reference to some of the other subjects that she branched off on but that was hard to do while just listening to her.   

I feel that the author did some research before launching into her writing because of the statistical and elaborate facts that she presented in her book.  The author also gave some interesting details about specific individual books in her chapters which sounded like books that I might enjoy and I should look up in the future.  As the author talked about the fire, she talked about how books burn, the investigation on how it started, how they tried to stop the fire, who was affected, the damage, the rebuilding, and the years since.  When I first started listening to this audio, I couldn’t believe this book could be this long but as I continued listening, I wondered how she was going to finally wrap things up in the end.

There were a few times, I thought the book got a bit long and I had to take a break. I think it was “information overload” on my part.  I didn’t really like how the author included random books at the beginning of each chapter.  I think if I had been reading the book, I could have skipped over this but listening to the audio, I couldn’t. Listening to call numbers and titles of books for no particular reason just broke up the mood for the story.

Overall, it’s a great book that’s based on a true event.  The author takes us readers, on an incredible journey, enlightening us with fascinating facts and stories centered around a building, that many of us like to call our second home.

Girl, Stop Apologizing: by Rachel Hollis

5 stars Nonfiction

Girls & ladies, listen and listen carefully to what I have to say.  If you feel you need someone in your corner, you need this book.  If you have goals and lack the motivation to go after them, you need this book.  If you just need to hear someone fired up, to get you moving, you need this book.  I was not prepared for what I listened to when I put this novel in my car’s CD player. 

I have just recently purchased a couple of Rachel Hollis’ cookbooks which I absolutely love. They are composed of dishes that I would actually make. Its real food created from actual grocery stores, not food made with fancy bouquet food where I’d buy a jar of something that I’d never use again but actual food. With these down-to-earth recipes, I figured Rachel would be an easy-going girl yet what I heard in this novel was a woman who was driven, strong, and very motivated. Bring it on Rachel, we need to hear more of this!  

The more I listened to this novel, the more I understood where she got this ambition. Rachel just doesn’t try to motivate us women, she gives us some background on her own story so I know where she is coming from.  Listening to her read her own novel, I could feel how she owned each word that she had put down in print.  The energy and desire that she has to help others feel the same way she feels can definitely be felt while listening to her. It’s as if she’s trying to tell people: “Come on! Wake up and get with the program!”

Do you need Rachel in your life?  I highly recommend the audio of this book, the enthusiasm and the passion as she reads her own words is definitely worth it.

Harbor Me by Jacqueline Woodson

4 stars Middle School/ Ya/ Children’s Chapter

I listened to the audio of this book and I thought it was really good.  The only issue I had was some of the voices on the audio.  It sounded like some of the voices were dubbed in, for they were louder than any of the other voices on the CD’s and it was annoying.  I enjoyed how the students discussed their opinions and their lives, and I enjoyed the discussion on the last CD.

As the students gather weekly in the Art room, they have become a small family.  They were chosen to be a part of this group and at first, they’re not quite sure exactly what their part is, in all of it.  They are a small group, a group of their own peers.  Meeting weekly to discuss anything they wanted, without any distractions or interruptions.

I like how the conversations started to change overtime.  They become more lucid and fluid, their tones changed and they started to care more for one another.  They weren’t just peers anyone but they became friends and sometimes they became brothers and sisters, someone they could depend and lean on.  They’re not all the same which makes their conversations interesting and sometimes intense. 

They’re kids, they speak from the heart and they show their emotions without warning.  It’s a great audio and it’s rather short.  The interview/conversation with the author at the end was interesting so make sure you stay tuned to that, if you listen to the audio.  I highly recommend the audio version of this book.      

Burial Rites by Hannah Kent

4.5 stars Historical Fiction

I was surprised how much I liked listening to this novel.  It felt dark and as the story continued, I started to have feelings for the woman who was just waiting for her sentence to be carried out. 

The farmer’s wife was not too happy to have this prisoner in her house but she had no choice.  They choose their house and now, they had to deal with it.  Agnes was not supposed to be there long, for she was sentenced to death for her crime.  When they brought Agnes, I loved the way the wife took charge over the situation.  She was not having this prisoner contaminate her house and the guards upset her household.  She seemed strong and determined, as she looked over the prisoner that was before her. 

As the story progressed, the characters seemed to transform.  We hear the truth and I began to have a change of heart.   Did Agnes really commit the crime, that they said she did?  That’s the question that really needs to be answered here.

I liked the darkness of the novel and how the story progressed.  She was a prisoner yet it there were times, I couldn’t see it and then, we had to remember what they said happened.   There was something about how the story was written, for when I listened to it, the words just flowed out and the images were right beside them.

I really wished that I would have read this novel instead of listened to it as I had a hard time with the audio.  I thought the main character was flirty.  Why?  I thought the narrator’s voice had an accent which translated to the main character and in this dark novel, it didn’t sit well with me considering her situation.  It’s just me, but this effected how I felt emotionally towards the characters too.  I would like to reread this novel in the future to hopefully get more connected with the characters.   A great story!

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (audio)

5 stars Fiction

This was remarkable! I listened to this book on audio and I actually feel sorry for the people who read the book, I really do!  With all the different individuals in the novel and how they constantly popped in and out of the conversation, I think reading this book would have been confusing to me.  Whatever you do, read this book!  I thought for sure, I was right back in the 70’s and thought I should be playing their record. Are we sure this story is fiction?

I’m not going to rehash the whole story for you, as most of you have already heard it and if you haven’t, the deal is…..if you liked the 70’s music scene, you will enjoy this novel.  It’s got music, friendships, family, passion, drugs, sex (just a bit), insecurities, heartaches, and lots of drama.

It felt as if, the group occurred by accident. They fed off one another and at times, you could feel them pushing and pulling each other away.  They were meant to be together yet at times, they mixed like oil and water.  The sound they created was like no other, for what they played were not just words on paper but feelings that were hard to contain.

I couldn’t wait to get back to this novel once I started it.  As the group struggled, I didn’t cheer for any specific individual, I wanted the whole group to make it through to the top.  I struggled with them through each drink, through each quarrel, and through each pill that was popped and each line that was consumed because I knew that all of these effected the group. And this group, I wanted to succeed. With each success, I was proud and couldn’t wait for the next one. I can’t tell you how many times I had to remind myself that this novel was fiction as I found myself drawn into the story, for I felt with this narration, they each were talking about their past.  Go, Six and Go, Daisy!    

Here is just a taste of the audio: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qKRB2lAuipY

Freak the Mighty by Rodman Philbrick

4 stars Middle School/ YA

I listened to this novel on audio and I wished that I hadn’t.  I didn’t care for the narration of this novel, as it felt as if the author was just reading a story to me. It felt rushed and for the most part, there was the lack of emotions except for the times when the story became so intense, that the narrator yelled. 

Kevin was a complex individual.  I loved his imagination and his ability to enjoy life. He made me laugh numerous times as he has no problem being himself, with his sarcastic tone and his use of words.  I loved his dictionary and when he arms Max with one, I couldn’t stop grinning.  Although he has a physical disability, he keeps going and he never stops to complain. As I stuck in the last CD, I started to dreed what the future might hold.  Kevin is talking again about his robots and he’s behaving like a man, yet here I am, a grown woman fearful that might turn into a crying baby behind the steering wheel of my own car. The tables are turning.  

I think I lost some of the emotional aspects of Kevin’s friendship with Max when I listened to this novel on audio.  I wanted some feeling in the narrator’s voice, a change in tone, or a pause while he read.  I stopped the audio a few times as I needed time just to think about what was transpiring.  What Kevin and Max had was unique; they both found something in each other that they were missing.

The ending was not what I needed or wanted. I see that there is another book that follows this, Max the Mighty that I will definitely have to read and not do the audio. Great book about friendship, family and being different.