MINDING FRANKIE by Maeve Binchy

September 14, 2014

Click to purchase

Read by Sile Bermingham

Emily is a middle aged woman with no real ties to America after her father, an alcoholic, passes on, so she decides to take an extended trip to visit her aunt and uncle in Dublin. Their son Noel is living at home and spending his days working in an office, sneaking drinks before lunch, and wandering aimlessly through life. But he really likes Emily, everyone does, and in her very subtle way she starts steering him towards the future.

Then he hears from Stella, a girl he barely remembers since all they did was drink and party together. She informs him that she is dying of cancer and oh, by the way, she’s pregnant with his child. After denial comes acceptance, and Stella puts his name on the birth certificate and asks that he raise her daughter, Frankie. Noel can barely take care of himself, but he agrees to become the baby’s guardian.

Emily helps him find a place to live and offers to pay if he’ll enroll in college. There he meets Lisa, a graphic designer with a serious crush on Anton, a celebrity-chef wannabe. After some trouble at home, Lisa ends up moving in with Noel and helping out with Frankie while trying to make herself indispensable to Anton and quitting her job in the process.

Noel joins AA and falls in love with his daughter. A ferocious social worker, Moirer, is assigned to his case, and everyone in town is petrified that she will take Frankie away from him. His parents help out, and all his friends and neighbors in the area where he grew up are eager to help mind Frankie. Her first year of life she is surrounded by people who love her, and Noel sorts out his life.

There is a cast of quirky yet lovable characters of the sort that often frequent Binchy’s novels. I haven’t read her for a while, and listening to this book was a delight. Bermingham’s narration with all the different accents – American, Irish, even Australian, adds even more depth to this charming story. I have a short commute, so I found myself listening at home while doing the dishes and so forth. This was one of the longer audio books I’ve listened to, and I really enjoyed every minute of it.

9/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

MINDING FRANKIE by Maeve Binchy. Anchor (December 27, 2011). ISBN 978-0307475497. 512p.
Downloadable: Audible Audio Edition. Random House Audio. Listening Length: 13 hours and 23 minutes. ASIN: B004Q3G4EI.


LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell

July 28, 2014

Click to purchase

UPDATE:

Win a copy of the Landline audio book!

Macmillan Audio has offered up an audio book on CD for one lucky reader! Check out this excerpt read by the extraordinary Rebecca Lowman.

Send an email to contest@gmail.com with “LANDLINE” as the subject. You must include your snail mail address in your email.

All entries must be received by August 12, 2014. One (1) name will be drawn from all qualified entries and notified via email. This contest is open to all adults over 18 years of age in the United States only. One entry per email address. Subscribers to the monthly newsletter earn an extra entry into every contest. Follow this blog to earn another entry into every contest. Winners may win only one time per year (365 days) for contests with prizes of more than one book. Your email address will not be shared or sold to anyone.

Review:

Rainbow Rowell seems able to shift between Young Adult and Adult books seamlessly. This is her latest, and while ostensibly for adults, those who love teen books will undoubtedly enjoy this one too.

I listened to the audiobook, narrated by Rebecca Lowman, who also narrated Rowell’s Eleanor and Park.  She does a fine job here.

Georgie McCool is a comedy writer working with her writing partner, Seth, on a hit TV show she hates. Seth and Georgie have their own idea for a sitcom and a week before Christmas, finally get a call from the network looking for several scripts.

Georgie panics as she, her husband Neal and their two young daughters are supposed to go to Neal’s parents for Christmas, out in Omaha.  Georgie needs to stay home and write, so an unhappy Neal takes the kids to Omaha himself.

When Georgie calls, her calls all go directly to voicemail until the mailbox is full. Her daughters call her sporadically, but she never talks to Neal. That is, until the night she crashes at her mother’s house and uses the landline in her old bedroom to call Neal’s house, not his cell. Somehow, she ends up talking to Neal – but not present day Neal, this is Neal back in 1998, a week before he proposes to her.

Suspend your disbelief and go along on an adventure through Georgie & Neal’s past to their present, and let me warn you that you will be laughing and crying along the way. Rowell writes these amazing characters that are warm and loveable yet still feel real,  but most of all, they are simply unforgettable. Teen book or adult, all her books are just a joy to read.

7/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

LANDLINE by Rainbow Rowell. St. Martin’s Press (July 8, 2014). ISBN 978-1250049377. 320p.
Audiobook: Macmillan Audio; Unabridged edition (July 8, 2014). ISBN: 978-1427239327
Downloadable: Audible Audio Edition. Macmillan Audio. Listening Length: 9 hours and 3 minutes.


TALK by Michael Smerconish

June 26, 2014

Click to purchase

Narrated by James Edward Thomas

I must admit to having a bit of a crush on Smerconish, so when I heard he wrote a novel I wanted it. I might have been happier had he read it, or not – usually authors are terrible readers, but despite the narrator (who did an excellent job,) I still had Smerconish’s voice in my head.

I thought the name was pronounced “Smer CONE ish,” like my name should be pronounced “A LEE see” (but rarely is) but turns out it’s “Smer KAHN ish.” I like learning stuff, and this was only the beginning.

If you are not familiar with Smerconish, he is a long time talk radio host based out of Philadelphia airing on Syrius XM’S Potus channel and more recently, host of his own TV show on CNN. I found him during his four years of guest hosting for Chris Matthews on MSNBC, but he’s not a left leaning liberal. He’s much more middle of the road, so CNN seems like a good fit.

Talk centers around a right wing talk radio host, Stan Powers, based out of Tampa but with an eye on the national stage. While Stan doesn’t necessarily espouse all the drivel he spiels, he likes his paycheck and is willing to do what it takes to get on top of the ultra competitive media pile.

Set slightly in the future, the liberal president (after Obama) has decided not to run for re-election, causing both parties to move into high gear for the primaries. The frontrunning Democrat is the governor of Florida, so Stan is in a good place for national attention.

The machinations of talk radio, political TV, and the politicians themselves was just fascinating. Stan is a great character, flawed but very likeable, and he’s surrounded by a cast of interesting people from his agent to his mentor to the first lady of Florida, with whom he had a brief college fling. The characters all ring true, which may be unfortunate, but nonetheless help make the story all the more compelling.

This is the first “adult” audiobook that I’ve listened to that held my attention throughout. Smerconish is a smart cookie, writing about what he knows, and anyone who listens to talk radio or watches FOX or MSNBC will be hooked on Talk – I was.

6/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

TALK by Michael Smerconish. Audible Audio Edition. Audible Studios (May 6, 2014). ASIN B00JRABMY2. Listening Length: 8 hours and 31 minutes.

Hardcover: Cider Mill Press (May 6, 2014). ISBN 978-1604334906. 272p.


ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell

June 19, 2014

Click to purchase

Narrated by Rebecca Lowman & Sunil Malhotra

This was the first audiobook I’ve listened to in a while that completely captured my attention to the point where I kept the car idling so I could keep listening (on more than one occasion.)

I met Rainbow Rowell of the fabulous alliterative name at the audiobook dinner at the Public Library Association meeting in Indianapolis this past March. She claimed nervousness, yet was gregarious and charming. I just adored her.

After hearing her speak (she was a last minute replacement for an ailing Walter Mosely) I was completely entranced. She talked about how she never wanted to listen to her books on audio because she already had the voices in her head. But she was asked for input on the readers for this book, so she succumbed and listened. She said these readers brought another dimension to the book that she wasn’t expecting. I was intrigued and decided to give it a listen. I’m very glad I did.

Set in 1986, Eleanor (read by Lowman) is poor, so poor she doesn’t even own a toothbrush. Her mother is married to an abusive second husband who had thrown Eleanor out of the house for over a year. She lived with friends of her mother’s, and her father was just out of the picture. She has returned to live with her mother and younger siblings when the book opens. She meets Park (read by Malhotra) on the bus when he is the only one to let her sit down. Eventually they form an uneasy alliance, which turns to friendship, and eventually to love.

Eleanor’s family life is difficult at best, and Park’s more normal family seems almost like a fairy tale to Eleanor. Her troubles grow as she is picked on in school, and on the bus, and eventually all her troubles come to a head with her stepfather. Some of this was pretty disturbing, and it is a credit to the author and the readers that I felt so drawn to these characters and their story.

Although classified as Young Adult, the themes of love, dysfunctional families and more are universal and I never found myself thinking that this book was not written for adults. The story is completely engrossing, the characters full developed, and the setting and time period were interesting and believable. I loved it.

6/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

ELEANOR & PARK by Rainbow Rowell. Listening Library (Audio); Unabridged edition (February 26, 2013). ISBN 978-0385368261. Listening Length: 8 hours and 56 minutes.


THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green

June 9, 2014

Click to purchase


Read by Kate Rudd

Right up front I should mention that I have a hard time listening to audiobooks, at least adult ones. My mind tends to wander and suddenly I realize I have no idea what’s going on or where I am in the book.

That said, I read all the Harry Potter on audio (Jim Dale is simply mesmerizing) and I’ve listened to a few other children’s books and now this, a YA (Young Adult) by John Green.

I had lunch with Green, and about a thousand other librarians, at the Public Library Association conference in Indianapolis in March. And with the arrival of the film version of the book, I was, let’s call it, professionally curious. I almost always prefer the book to the movie, and frankly, I’m in no rush to see the film but I am glad I read the book.

I received the audio version as part of a swag bag at the PLA audio book dinner, so I thought I’d give it a try. Kate Rudd is an excellent reader. She held my attention throughout and sounded authentic to each character.

Speaking of characters, each is richly imagined and realized here. Hazel is a 16-year-old with a terminal cancer diagnosis. She takes her portable oxygen with her to a teen support group, where she meets Augustus Waters. Augustus has been in remission for over a year after losing his leg to cancer. They share a love of reading, and Hazel is obsessed with a book that has no ending, presumably because the narrator dies of cancer. Augustus becomes equally obsessed, and eventually they travel to Amsterdam to meet the author and learn the ending.

Things don’t go as planned but Hazel & Augustus fall in love, lose their virginity and have to deal with the deadly realities of cancer. There is humor, pathos and of course, tearjerking galore in this sweet love story that also happens to be about cancer.

As a parent, I think (I hope!) I bring a different perspective than the millions of teens who adore this book. I didn’t love it but I can definitely see it’s appeal. Green has written an engrossing tale of teen angst that adults may also enjoy.

6/14 Stacy Alesi, AKA the BookBitch

THE FAULT IN OUR STARS by John Green. Audible Audio Edition. Brilliance Audio (January 10, 2012). ASIN B006VPAXQY. Listening Length: 7 hours and 14 minutes.