George Saunders on the Lincoln in the Bardo Audiobook

February 10, 2017

botFrom Books on Tape:

Listeners know George Saunders from his previous bestselling and critically acclaimed short story collections, including National Book Award finalist Tenth of December, read by the Author. Now, in his highly-anticipated first novel LINCOLN IN THE BARDO, Saunders tells an incredibly entertaining story, masterfully blending historical fact with inventive fiction. Step into the studio with Saunders and producer Kelly Gildea to learn more about the “jaw-droppingly good” audio production of LINCOLN IN THE BARDO, read by the Author, Nick Offerman, David Sedaris, Julianne Moore, Ben Stiller, and many more. 

Saunders based his tale on the true story of the death of Abraham Lincoln’s son Willie at the dawn of the Civil War. Two nights after his death, Abraham Lincoln visited his son in the cemetery. Set over the course of that one night, Saunders brings the cemetery’s many ghosts alive to tell a moving and thought-provoking story about the meaning of life, death, grief, and the powers of good and evil. These ghostly voices are brought to life on audio by a cast of 166 narrators, including Academy Award winning actors, musicians, Penguin Random House employees, and Saunders’ own family and friends.

Saunders shares more about the incredible production process in this behind-the-scenes video, first revealed by Saunders explains how producer Kelly Gildea rose to the challenge of capturing 166 unique voices in one audiobook and how the audio medium truly captures the diversity of American voices he portrays in this story:


george-saunders_3Producer Kelly Gildea masterminded this unique production, featuring 166 narrators recorded at 17 different studios—a recording-breaking number of narrators for Penguin Random House Audio. It was also submitted for a Guinness World Record for most individual voices on a single audiobook!

Kelly says, “This audiobook started as a conversation between me and George Saunders where he asked, ‘I don’t have to narrate this whole thing myself, do I?’ and I thought, ‘Why is he asking that?’ I peeked at the manuscript, which is structured (somewhat) like a play, and thought, ‘How the hell are we going to do this?’

The idea for using a different voice for each character was tossed out casually at first, then explored, and then became something we couldn’t turn away from. Now, listening to it, I don’t know any other way I’d do it. George’s panoply of voices is fully represented in the richness of our audio. We had Nick Offerman and David Sedaris on board fairly quickly in the process, and the other parts filled in rapidly. Luckily, most everyone who’s read him is in love with George, and many people volunteered their time and considerable talents to contribute to this production.

It’s a unique structure, and a blast to listen to. Be prepared to experience a wide range of emotions as George’s writing walks a perfect line between poignancy and humor.”


FALLING by Jane Green

July 19, 2016
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Emma Montague is a British transplant of the manor born. She moves to New York to pursue a high powered career in banking until she just burns out on it. She then moves to Westport, Connecticut and finds an old, very dated house for rent near the beach. The landlord, Dominic, is a good looking single father who, as it turns out, lives right next door with his 6 year old son, Jesse.

There is instant chemistry between them, but not the fireworks kind, more the comfortable kind. When you meet someone and you feel like you’ve known them forever, somehow.

Emma is trying to figure out what to do with her life and for the first time, finally feels like she’s found a home. The house is so dated with it’s pink shag carpeting that it gives Emma something to do, something she loves. She decides to start looking for work in interior design.

Dominic is a carpenter and a bartender, and he invites Emma to visit him at work. He buys her drinks, but is dating a young hottie. Eventually they both realize that there is something undeniable between them, and they fall into bed and in love.

Jesse loves Emma, until he finds her sleeping in his father’s bed. It’s just been the two of them since his mother took off after he was born, and he doesn’t want to share. Their relationship is rocky but Emma works hard at it and eventually wears the little fella down.

This is not a romance, happily ever after type book but instead a look at the different relationships we form in our lives and how they grow and change. The characters are so well drawn that I was completely hooked, but I couldn’t see where it was going until I reached the stunning conclusion. Another excellent read from Jane Green.

7/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

FALLING by Jane Green. Berkley (July 19, 2016). ISBN: 978-0399583285. 384p.




June 2, 2016
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This is Simses’ second novel, and a lovely addition to the women’s fiction bookshelf.

Grace Hammond is having a bad day. She loses her job, her relationship goes awry and she becomes homeless, forcing her to head home to her parents and the small town where she grew up. Grace is an only child since her sister died, and she and her parents are still dealing with their grief.

Grace finds her sister’s old bike, a classic Schwinn, rusted and rotting out in the backyard shed. She takes it to the bike shop in town, where she corrects the grammar on their fliers and pisses off the owner’s son, Mitch. They work out a deal where she will organize the bike shop, which is a big mess, and they will work on her bike.

Meanwhile, the small town is all aflutter because there is a movie being filmed there. The director is Grace’s old high school boyfriend, and while they reconnect, things aren’t going as smoothly as Grace thinks they should be. Grace has a lot of thinking to do, and a lot of issues and relationships to resolve.

I really enjoyed this book, it is as charming as Simses’ first, The Irresistible Blueberry Bakeshop & Café. If you are looking for a light, entertaining beach read, look no further.


6/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

THE RULES OF LOVE & GRAMMAR by Mary Simses. Little, Brown and Company (May 31, 2016). ISBN: 978-0316382069. 384p.



HEAT WAVE by Nancy Thayer

May 21, 2016
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Narrated by Kathe Mazur

Loved the narrator, always a plus for an audio book.

I liked the story but I had some issues.

This is about a young woman who is happily married with two young daughters living a fairly blissful life on Nantucket. Carley truly loves her life; she’s a happy homemaker and mom, that is until her husband dies suddenly from a heart attack.

She inherits their big old house on the Sound that has been in her in-law’s family for years, but no money. Her husband had made a lot of bad investments and unbeknownst to Carley, they were broke. Her in-laws invite her to move her family in with them, but she demurs. Instead, she turns her big home into a bed & breakfast. Just like that she’s in business.

Carley’s husband’s best friend, Wyatt, helps her out, offering advice and taking Carley and the girls sailing. While her daughters are visiting their grandparents in New York, Carley runs into Wyatt and they end up spending the week together, mostly in bed. They don’t tell anyone though, Carley thinks it is too soon. She spends the rest of the book teetering between admitting to herself that she has fallen in love with Wyatt and then talking herself out of it because it was too soon or she was afraid of what her kids or her in-laws or her friends would say. It really started to grate on me.

There are other subplots involving her best friends, adultery, secrets and more, but Carley is always at the heart of it all. It was an enjoyable read but you really have to suspend your disbelief. The book was published in 2011, so I had some issues with unprotected sex with a man who is extremely sexually active, another character gets pregnant after two one night stands with different men, the fact that everyone on this island has no money issues at all, including the broke widow, and a few other little things. But I got past it and enjoyed the book. Ultimately, it was an entertaining read.

5/16 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch™

HEAT WAVE by Nancy Thayer. Random House Audio. ASIN: B005745JK0. Listening Length: 9 hours and 38 minutes.

Paperback: Ballantine Books; Reprint edition (May 29, 2012). ISBN 978-0345518323. 336p.



November 22, 2014

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A Deep Look at a Shallow Year

Narrated by Andy Cohen

In case you missed my review of Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture, I  love Andy Cohen. I am a Bravo junkie and never miss an episode of Top Chef (in all its incantations,) the The Real Housewives of New Jersey (and occasionally other Housewives) and Watch What Happens Live, hosted by Andy Cohen.

I knew after reading his first book and then listening to it that I had to listen to the new one – Andy reads it himself, which really does add a whole new dimension. I love his little asides to us listeners, especially the part of the book where he discusses how he spent the afternoon recording the audiobook and how much he hated doing it, which he called “meta meta” for us listeners.

Andy was completely enthralled with The Andy Warhol Diaries, and this book is an homage to that one. He mentions another possible title, “Namedropping,” which certainly would have been appropriate as well. Andy kept a journal for 2013, and kept track of everyone he ran into, dined with (and where), topics discussed, guests on his show, shows where he was the guest, parties attended,  events that he emceed, and so forth. The names flow like water, from the aforementioned New Jersey Housewives, his oldest and dearest friends (see Most Talkative) and of course, the real celebrities: Oprah, Cher, Barbra Streisand, Lady GaGa, Beyoncé, as well as the celebrities he calls friends: Anderson Cooper, Jerry Seinfeld, Jimmy Fallon, Kelly Ripa & Mark Consuelos, and Sarah Jessica Parker (affectionately called “SJP” or even “SJ” throughout the book) and her hubby Matthew Broderick, the late great Joan Rivers and tons more.

Cohen obsesses with his weight, his workouts, his friends, and gossip, and his self deprecating sense of humor is always at the forefront. But the star of the book, besides Andy himself, is his dog Wacha, who as of 11/21/14 has over 200 pictures and 93,000 followers on Instagram, and Wacha is often the subject of his daily journal. Andy discusses how and why he came to adopt a dog, the vet he sees at the “Barbara Walters Animal Hospital” and the famous people who love Wacha and do Instagram photo shoots with him, like John Mayer. Wacha has become the love of his life and the antidote to loneliness. Andy dates a lot, mostly younger men, and claims he wants a husband (and his mother reminds him to find a husband) but no one promising is on the horizon yet.

One of the things I like best about listening to the book (besides the fact it entertained me on my long flights from Ft. Lauderdale to Los Angeles and back again) was that I could share it. My husband listened to whatever part I was up to while driving around L.A., and my daughter listened to some while driving around Boca, and everyone laughed and enjoyed the bits they heard. Very few books work that way.

The best memoirs are entertaining, informative and ring true, and once again Cohen meets all those criteria plus he is laugh out loud funny.  If you are the least bit obsessed with pop culture, celebrities and/or television, you do not want to miss this book.

11/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE ANDY COHEN DIARIES by Andy Cohen. Henry Holt and Co.; First Edition edition (November 11, 2014). ISBN 978-1627792288. 352p.

Audible Audio Edition: Macmillan Audio; Unabridged edition (November 11, 2014). ISBN: 978-1427259318. Listening Length: 13 hours and 30 minutes.



November 20, 2014

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A Novel of Food

Narrated by Xe Sands

This is a sweet, old fashioned tale – so old fashioned, I’m really not sure when it is supposed to take place. Could be the 1950’s-60s, but sometimes feels more modern and then with a jolt, no cell phones, back to another era. I guess the author,  the Executive Producer of Food Network’s Dinner: Impossible, was going for timeless, and perhaps it was achieved.

I listened to the audio book, so had a different experience from the printed version. For one thing, there are no recipes in the audio, just a note at the end to check out the website for recipes. Some of the print reviews made note of the fact that recipes were interspersed throughout the chapters, in the midst of story, which some felt were jarring, but the audio book avoided that issue.

So this novel of food is exactly that – if you don’t want to read lavish descriptions of meals on a regular basis, then this is not the book for you. I love that stuff, so it worked for me.

Angelina is a young woman whose husband dies suddenly in her kitchen. The young widow quickly loses her job and when a neighbor comes knocking on her door, offering to pay her to cook him breakfast and dinner six days a week, she decides that food may be her salvation, in more ways than one. Soon other men come knocking, and almost immediately Angelina’s dining room table is full of bachelors looking for a good meal.

The men quickly become a family of sorts, with Angelina the glue that binds them together. When she finds out she’s pregnant some months after her husband’s passing, the bachelors all rally around and support her.

If it hasn’t slapped you in the face yet, the message here is that when one door closes, another opens and Angelina steps through into a good life, despite her tragedy. And despite her tragedy, this is a light hearted read, interspersed with humor and love. It is a lovely read, and a memorable one.

11/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ANGELINA’S BACHELORS by Brian O’Reilly. Tantor Audio (December 30, 2011). ASIN: B006RCYUFQ. Listening Length: 7 hours and 22 minutes.

Paperback: Gallery Books; Reprint edition (August 9, 2011). ISBN 978-1451620566. 384p.


October 28, 2014

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Life with Harper Lee

narrated by Amy Lynn Stewart

This is the latest biography of the reclusive author and an interesting look at her life. Marja Mills went to Monroeville, Alabama as had so many journalists before her, but for some reason Alice Lee, Harper’s sister, took a liking to her. Perhaps it was because she wasn’t being pushy. Perhaps it was because Chicago had chosen  To Kill a Mockingbird for their one read program, and had sent Marja to get a story. Or perhaps she felt empathy for the lupus-stricken journalist. Whatever the reason, the Lee sisters spent a great deal of time with the author.

So when the book was published and Harper Lee protested, saying they never gave permission, it seemed rather unlikely. Mills claims that Lee had a stroke in 2007, resulting in memory issues, which seems the more believable explanation. Mills rented the house next door to the Lees, with their recommendation to the landlord. Harper’s friends spent lots of time with Mills, while other journalists and would-be biographers were given the cold shoulder. With that said, the book is no gossip fest, but rather a nuanced look at the life of one of America’s most cherished authors.

The sour relationship with Truman Capote is lightly touched upon, as was Harper’s fond regard for Gregory Peck, who played Atticus Finch in the film version, but this is no celebrity tell all, and that is probably a good thing. Lee fiercely guards her privacy, but is no recluse – she lived a full life, dining at local restaurants,  feeding the ducks, and enjoying her friends until she had her stroke. She did live in both New York City and Alabama, and this book doesn’t touch on the NY experience much.

The narrator did a fine job differentiating between the various characters, and I especially loved her portrayal of Alice and Harper. Other than the constant gloating about actually spending time with Harper Lee (and really, who can blame her) it was an interesting and illuminating read about one of my favorite authors.

10/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE MOCKINGBIRD NEXT DOOR: Life with Harper Lee by Marja Mills. Penguin Audio (November 4, 2014). ASIN: B00L83I7B2. Listening Length: 8 hours and 11 minutes


October 7, 2014

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Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture

Narrated by Andy Cohen

I love Andy Cohen. I am a Bravo junkie and never miss an episode of Top Chef (in all its incantations,) the New Jersey Housewives and Watch What Happens Live, hosted by Andy Cohen.

So I when I heard he had a new book coming out,The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year, I decided to listen to his first book. I had read it when it came out, but listening to it brought a whole other level of pleasure – Andy reads it himself.

Most Talkative is a memoir, rich with stories of growing up in St. Louis, attending college at Boston University, his semester abroad in London, and finally landing in New York City and the news business. And of course, he dishes about celebrities he’s met, the Housewives and the Reunion shows. It’s camp at its best, and hearing him read his own stories is just fabulous.

The best memoirs are entertaining, informative and ring true, and this one meets all those criteria. If you like Bravo, the Housewives, or Andy Cohen, don’t miss this book. And I can’t wait for the next one!

10/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MOST TALKATIVE by Andy Cohen. St. Martin’s Griffin; Reprint edition (April 2, 2013). ISBN 978-1250031464. 304p.

Audible Audio Edition: Macmillan Audio (May 8, 2012.) ASIN: B0081CDQ0K. Listening Length: 8 hours and 37 minutes.



October 4, 2014

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The Life and Times of Jon Stewart

Narrated by Cassandra Campbell

I am a long time fan of Jon Stewart so I was delighted to come across this new biography. I learned that his real name is Jonathan Stuart Leibowitz and he changed it after a comedy club introduction was botched, then legally changed it after he got married. I learned a tiny bit about his wife, and a little about his childhood. I definitely get the feeling that this is an unauthorized biography – the only quotes are from a few former employees and critics.

The vast majority of the book is a look at Stewart’s career, which can more easily be obtained from or Wikipedia. I found some of the information given repetitive at times, and at least in one instance, completely inaccurate (no book can reach the New York Times bestseller list in one week; they compile two weeks of sales before placing on the list.)

Rogak presents Stewart for half the book as insecure but hard working, and then skews towards overbearing, demanding and still hard working. I have to say that I didn’t love this book. It really didn’t shed a whole lot of light on much in the way of personal information; she claims repeatedly that Stewart is a very private person, so that is understandable. But if you want to trace his career, it’s all in there. All that said, I’m not sorry I read it by any means, so I would suggest it for diehard fans. It is not the juicy celebrity bio, the type that often lingers on the bestseller lists.

Finally, I didn’t love the narrator of this book. I found her tone unnecessarily snarky much of the time.

10/14 Stacy Alesi

ANGRY OPTIMIST by Lisa Rogak. Thomas Dunne Books (September 9, 2014). ISBN 978-1250014443. 288p.
Audiobook on CD: Tantor Audio; MP3 – Unabridged CD edition (September 9, 2014). ISBN 978-1494555559. Listening Length: 6 hours and 16 minutes

FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell

September 26, 2014

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Narrated by Rebecca Lowman & Maxwell Caulfield

I love Rainbow Rowell. I first read her debut novel. Attachments, and then went through all of her books. With Fangirl,  I am now all caught up – until she publishes another book., and I can hardly wait for it.

Fangirl is an adult novel that is probably more popular with the Young Adult set since it is about a college freshman who writes fan fiction. I personally don’t know any adults who read fan fiction, although I’m sure they are out there. But my 22 year old daughter devours it, as do other young adults that I know. And interestingly, the paperback was published by Macmillan Children’s.

Anyway, Cather is the college freshman and I listened to this on audio book. Rowell’s books are fantastic on audio, and this one is no exception. There are two narrators, Rebecca Lowman, who reads Cather’s story, and Maxwell Caulfield, who reads the fan fiction that Cather writes. It is loosely based on Harry Potter, but is called Simon Snow and is gay fan fiction with vampires. I don’t like vampires and I wasn’t a fan of the fan fic, as it is called, so I tended to fast forward through those parts.

Cather is an identical twin, her sister is Wren (say the names together and you’ll get it.) Their mother took off when they were 8 years old and their father is bipolar but has managed to bring them up by himself. They girls go away to school in Lincoln, Nebraska, not too far from their home in Omaha. Much to Cather’s dismay, Wren decides she doesn’t want to room with her sister and they drift apart.

Cather’s roommate is Reagan, an upperclassman with a string of boyfriends. One of them, Levi, is always in their room and is very kind to Cather. Eventually they fall in love, but not without a lot of misunderstandings along the way. There is more angst with Cather’s family – her mother shows up, her sister gets alcohol poisoning, and her father has a bad manic episode. But Cather’s real struggle is with her fiction writing class – she wants to write fan fic, and her professor isn’t having any of it.

This is another charming story from this terrific storyteller. The characters are deftly brought to life and their stories are absorbing. I hated when it ended, and I can’t think of a better recommendation than that.

9/14 Stacy Alesi

FANGIRL by Rainbow Rowell. St. Martin’s Griffin; First Edition edition (September 10, 2013). ISBN 978-1250030955. 448p.
Audiobook on CD: Listening Library (Audio); Unabridged edition (September 10, 2013). ISBN 978-0804121286.