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Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 9+ hours
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Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella, the 8th book in this series, is narrated admirably by Clare Corbett, and believe it or not, Becky Brandon (née Bloomwood) has matured a little. You really have to read Book 7 to get into this book because it picks up right where the previous book left off. (spoilers below)

Becky, her husband, Suze, and her mom are off to find Becky’s father and Suz’s husband, who have vanished. They track them down to Las Vegas, and the adventures they have are hilarious and ridiculous as they leave Los Angeles in search of them. Becky’s mother is at her wit’s end and believes her husband has another woman in his life, while Suze is determined to save her “brainwashed” husband from a gold-digging new-age coach. And it seems that Becky is the only practical and level-headed one in this bunch, at least until Becky feels her friendship with Suze is threatened by her long-time nemesis Alicia, who also happens to be along for this roadtrip.

Becky’s stint at the new age retreat in California has really gotten her thinking about her spending habits, and she’s so blocked by her guilt over the roadtrip and the disappearance of her father, that she can’t even let her friend Suze buy her a pair of cowboy boots or even spend $2.50 on a pencil. Kinsella has finally matured Becky enough to ensure readers will stick with her through this roadtrip adventure into her father’s past, and the antics and machinations of these characters will have readers agog and laughing. Shopaholic to the Rescue by Sophie Kinsella, narrated by Clare Corbett, is pure fun, and is just what the doctor ordered in the current political climate.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

About the Author:

Madeleine Wickham is a bestselling British author under her pseudonym, Sophie Kinsella. Educated at New College, Oxford, she worked as a financial journalist before turning to fiction. She is best known for writing a popular series of chick-lit novels. The Shopaholic novels series focuses on the misadventures of Becky Bloomwood, a financial journalist who cannot manage her own finances. The books follows her life from when her credit card debt first become overwhelming (“The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic”) to the latest book on being married and having a child (“Shopaholic & Baby”). Throughout the entire series, her obsession with shopping and the complications that imparts on her life are central themes.

My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella (audio)

Source: Audible
Audiobook, 9 CDs
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My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella, narrated by Fiona Hardingham, is a feel-good, fun-filled, novel in which a young junior assistant is able to get revenge on that incredibly flighty, inconsiderate, and mean boss who fires her. But there is so much more to Katie Brenner’s story. She’s leading a double-life — her Instagram account is full of happy pictures, events, and wonders from her life in London but her real life is less than stellar. She looks around her at her colleagues and wishes she could have their ultra-cool, happening lives, but the one she truly admires is her boss, Demeter. Her visions of the perfect life are shattered when her boss fires her out of the blue.

When she is forced to return to Somerset to regroup, she falls into a project she never expected to take off — a glamping business at her father’s farm. Katie is that wide-eyed young professional with dreams of hitting it big in the city, or at least meeting new friends and having fun. Like many young professionals, reality hits them head on and they must learn to rebalance their expectations and revise their career plans. Kinsella shines at comedy, and this novel is no exception. From spying on business meetings with a drone to walking around on a rooftop in stilts, Brenner is ready to grab whatever life throws at her in the branding business — especially a cute hunk like Alex.

Fiona Hardingham is the perfect narrator for this novel; her comic timing is spot on. When you need a break from your own reality, don’t hesitate to pick up My (Not So) Perfect Life by Sophie Kinsella. It’s sure to have you laughing and secretly cheering on Brenner as she gets revenge on her former boss.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Author:

Madeleine Wickham is a bestselling British author under her pseudonym, Sophie Kinsella. Educated at New College, Oxford, she worked as a financial journalist before turning to fiction. She is best known for writing a popular series of chick-lit novels. The Shopaholic novels series focuses on the misadventures of Becky Bloomwood, a financial journalist who cannot manage her own finances. The books follows her life from when her credit card debt first become overwhelming (“The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic”) to the latest book on being married and having a child (“Shopaholic & Baby”). Throughout the entire series, her obsession with shopping and the complications that imparts on her life are central themes.

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (Abridged Audio)

Source: Free from BBC
Audio, 10 episodes
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The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, abridged by Sara Davies and read by Clarke Peters, re-imagines the Underground Railroad as a literal railroad with trains, conductors, and stationmasters. Clarke Peters does a good job of narrating this abridged version of Whitehead’s book, which in the BBC version focuses on Cora, an escaped slave from Georgia who is later wanted for murder.

At first, Cora is reluctant to run north, and much of it might be because of her mother, who left and never returned.  She may be hoping that her mother would come back for her, but soon she had little choice but to run.  The railroad at first seems like the solution, as does the first stop in the South Carolina, but soon the reality of that state’s laws and experiments sets in.  Each state has its own culture and its own way of doing things, say the railroad workers, and that is true but not in the hopeful way that readers would want.

Whitehead has created a new way to view the Underground Railroad and slavery, as well as discrimination and racism.  As a child, I remember hearing about the railroad in our town and I wondered how the slaves got onto the trains without being caught — that was until I learned it was not a literal railroad.  The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead, abridged by Sara Davies and read by Clarke Peters, is a unique look at a part of this nation’s history that continues to throw its shadow over our freedoms and progress.  (I’ll likely be reading my hardcover later in the year as well.)

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Colson Whitehead is the author of the novels Zone One; Sag Harbor; The Intuitionist, a finalist for the PEN/Hemingway award; John Henry Days, which won the Young Lions Fiction Award, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize; and Apex Hides the Hurt, winner of the PEN Oakland Award. He also has written a book of essays about his home town, The Colossus of New York, and a non-fiction account of the 2011 World Series of Poker called The Noble Hustle. A recipient of a Whiting Writers’ Award, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a MacArthur Fellowship, I live in New York City.

The Underground Railroad, his latest book, is an Oprah’s Book Club pick and National Book Award winner. Visit his website.

Impertinent Strangers by P.O. Dixon (audio)

Source: the author
Audiobook, 5+ hrs.
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Impertinent Strangers by P.O. Dixon, narrated by Pearl Hewitt, revises the time line of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice quite a bit. Elizabeth Bennet is visiting Charlotte Collins at Hunsford Parsonage when she meets Mr. Darcy, and both view the other’s behavior as impertinent. Through quick assessments, Darcy and Miss Bennet have decided the other is not worthy of notice, and Elizabeth takes particular dislike to being told to warn her family against Mr. Wickham, whom she still holds in high esteem even though he abandoned her in pursuit of Mary King. Despite overhearing Darcy speak of her as merely “tolerable”, Elizabeth vows to be civil to him. Over the course of time, both begin to admire the other, but how can they bridge the gap that their earlier perceptions have wrought?

Hewitt is a fantastic narrator for this type of fiction. She does an excellent job voicing different characters so that they do not get confused by the reader, and her accent is spot on. Dixon’s story is surprising in how the original timeline is played with, which made the story enjoyable. However, the only drawback here is that the story seems rushed at the end and the description of the romance between Darcy and Elizabeth could have been fleshed out more with body language cues, etc., particularly in mixed and restricted company.

However, these do not detract from the overall story in which Darcy and Elizabeth must come together, learn to see past their own per-conceived notions, and dare to dream for a marriage that society would deem inappropriate at best. Impertinent Strangers by P.O. Dixon, narrated by Pearl Hewitt, is lovely and unique, especially as Darcy and Elizabeth find themselves able to get to know one another in unusual circumstances — on long walks from Rosing to Hunsford and in the east library at Rosings.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

P.O. Dixon has authored several Jane Austen “Pride and Prejudice” adaptations, all written with one overriding purpose in mind—falling in love with Darcy and Elizabeth. Sometimes provocative, but always entertaining, her stories have been read, commented on, and thoroughly enjoyed by thousands of readers worldwide.

The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible: 5+hrs.
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The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher, read by herself and her daughter Billie Lourd, is a memoir about her time during the filming of the first Star Wars movie and her rise to fame.  Based upon the diaries she found of her time on the set and during her tryst with her co-star (the Nerf herder), Fisher looks back on her teen self, who dropped out of drama school in London to be in the film, and how her time on the set revealed her insecurities.

Of the three memoirs I’ve read by Fisher, this is the best told by her with the fewest digressions and haphazard comments.  Like the previous two, there is a rehashing of information about her parents and their celebrity, etc., but it is not as bothersome as it may be reading the other two because the focus here is more on Fisher herself and her own experiences as a young actress on a movie set.  She was clearly young, and despite her celebrity family, had very little set experience and it showed.

Including her actual diary entries read by her daughter and Fisher’s recounting of her fan experiences, the memoir is funnier because it is closer to her real life experiences and less like a comedic sketch she created from her experiences.  The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher was fun, introspective, and endearing.  Readers will love that she keeps some things private and that she can find connections with complete strangers in autograph lines.  She was a woman who had deep empathy for others, which likely stems from her family and life experiences after her iconic performance.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Carrie Fisher (1956 – 2016) was an American actress, screenwriter and novelist, most famous for her portrayal of Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy.

Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 4+ hrs.
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Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher, which she narrates, is a much more linear memoir than Wishful Drinking, which was narrated more like a series of comedic sketches. Fisher has turned more introspective about her life, her memory, and the relationship to her parents, particularly her father and her one-time step-mother Elizabeth Taylor.

Some of these stories are similar to ones that she told in her previous memoir, but there are new anecdotes about Michael Jackson and Elizabeth Taylor. In many ways, the two books could have been combined. What is new here is her reflections on her life, shock therapy, and her parents. Fisher has given a great deal of thought to her escapades and how she, like her father, is happy and loves to live life. She lives and loves hard, like he did. There is a sense that laughter is important to her and how she deals with the not-so-pleasant events in her life.

Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher is a much more measured examination of her past addictions, her Electroconvulsive Therapy, and the side-effects of parental abandonment and fame. She does a lot less woe-is-me type stories in here and focuses on her learning experiences and her own examinations of her life and how she has lived it.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Carrie Fisher (1956 – 2016) was an American actress, screenwriter and novelist, most famous for her portrayal of Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy.

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audiobook, 3+ hrs.
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Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher, who narrates, is an entertaining listen even as the story is no where near linear and Fisher often takes detours to tell her tales. In some ways, this memoir is more like a comedic routine, leaving readers wondering if the events are true or merely anecdotes she tells to make her readers pay attention. From the marriage scorecard to the chart of Hollywood inbreeding, Fisher has a unique way of examining her life as a child of Hollywood stars. In midst of her wacky examinations, it is clear this would work wonderfully on stage as a show, which is how writing the book began (in her words) — it also works well on audio.

What shines in this audio are her one-liners and her jabs at Star Wars, but it also is clear that she loves her mother and her daughter. She has a deep love for her family, but she also sees them as part of how she became who she is. And while she does see genetics as part of the problem with her addiction and mental illness, she also indicates that it also is how she chose to cope with those issues. There is a lot about addiction and mental illness, but it is treated with the distance of wit and comedy, leaving the memoir lighter than readers may expect.

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher is short and in may ways a bit too light. However, listening to the audio, readers will get a clear sense that she has learned to let go of her tragedies and to move forward even though the road has been rough.

RATING: Tercet

About the Author:

Carrie Fisher (1956 – 2016) was an American actress, screenwriter and novelist, most famous for her portrayal of Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy.

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 18+ hours
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Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen is probably best told by its author. Springsteen is never afraid to speak his truth about his upbringing in New Jersey, the hard relationship with his father, and his incredible drive to become the musician he heard and envisioned in his own mind. Fans of Springsteen will be more aware of the bands he speaks of and the people in the music business than I am, but this did not detract from my enjoyment in his story. In some places the names and bands slow the pace a little, but that might be more of an issue in a print copy than in the audio.

Springsteen is the perfect narrator for his life, and it is clear that as he reads he is taken back in time to those early days as a musician playing in clubs and being told he is no singer. In many ways, this memoir is not about the past and what happened, but about how each experience helped him grow and learn — to be a good father, to be a better musician than even he dreamed, and to reach out to the working class homes of his past. He strove to become as successful as he could, focusing on his guitar skills and his songwriting at first before eventually using his voice to tell the stories in his songs.

He’s always been a storyteller, and he’s telling this story as part of the legacy for his own children. He wants them to know their roots, where they come from … but he also wants to provide them with a sketch of his mind and how he handled things, even when he made mistakes. Readers will love how he praises those who were patient with him, and they will see how he’s not afraid to hold a mirror up to his faults.

Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen is a memoir that gives an inside look into one of the longest surviving bands, the music industry, and one of the most memorable songwriters of all time. The thought he put into each song’s lyrics and atmosphere, and staging, etc., is nothing short of inspiring. It is clear that his early determination to make music served him well.

RATING: Quatrain

***Please visit The 3Rs Blog: Reading, ‘Riting, and Randomness for an even better review. Seriously!***

About the Author:

Bruce Springsteen is an American songwriter, singer and guitarist. He has frequently recorded and toured with the E Street Band. Springsteen is most widely known for his brand of heartland rock infused with pop hooks, poetic lyrics, and Americana sentiments centered around his native New Jersey. His eloquence in expressing ordinary, everyday problems has earned him numerous awards, including twenty Grammy Awards and an Academy Award, along with an international fan base. His most famous albums, Born to Run and Born in the U.S.A., epitomize his penchant for finding grandeur in the struggles of daily life. He has sold over 64 million albums in the U.S. alone.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 10 CDs
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The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater, narrated by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham, is an atmospheric novel based on a tale of water horses. Puck Connolly (Kate) is a young orphan girl who lives on Thisby, loves it with all of her heart, and barely has enough food for herself and her brothers. Her other main love is her horse, Dove. Her oldest brother, Gabe, earns the bulk of the money in the family, but he’s also plotting a life of his own away from the family home.

On the other side, there is the wildly successful horse trainer at the Malvern Farm, Sean Kendrick. This farm breeds horses and Kendrick is the premier rider in the Scorpio Races along the beach in November every year, and his capaill uisce (a type of water horse) Cor. While he has won the race four out of six times, he cannot escape the small room near the stable beneath the thumb of his employer, Malvern. He and Cor have a special bond, and it is clear that Sean’s love is for his horse.

Unlike Stiefvater’s other novels, which tend to be heavy on teen romance, the setting and the horses are the true stars of the Scorpio Races, especially on a less-than-forgiving island that is far enough away from American that a horseman can be considered a foreigner and the mainland can be seen as a way to improve one’s financial situation and see picture shows and musical numbers. The water horses are mysterious beasts that must be captured and dragged from the oceans they love, and while they eat flesh and can be difficult to control, they are the fastest and most magnificent animals to behold. The mystique of the island and the horses will draw readers in, but the story is not about the myth, so much as the love between man and beast and woman and beast.

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Steifvater, narrated by Steve West and Fiona Hardingham, is about wishes and reality, love and despair, hardship and compassion. It’s a story that comes from the sea mists and rises to the cliff tops to sing like a water horse thriving in its natural environment despite the November cold.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

New York Times bestselling author of The Shiver Trilogy, The Raven Cycle, and The Scorpio Races. Artist. Driver of things with wheels. Avid reader. All of Maggie Stiefvater’s life decisions have been based around her inability to be gainfully employed. Talking to yourself, staring into space, and coming to work in your pajamas are frowned upon when you’re a waitress, calligraphy instructor, or technical editor (all of which she’s tried), but are highly prized traits in novelists and artists. She’s made her living as one or the other since she was 22. She now lives an eccentric life in the middle of nowhere, Virginia.

Goliath by Scott Westerfeld (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 9 CDs
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***Read Leviathan and Behemoth before reading this one.***

Goliath (book #3) by Scott Westerfeld, narrated by Alan Cumming, takes Alek and Deryn to Siberia to pick up the slightly mad inventor Nikola Tesla, who claims to have created an invention that will end the war – Goliath. Alek continues to believe in his destiny as the next leader of Austria and as the only one who can end the war. As machines and manufactured animals come to battle, Alek uncovers Deryn’s secrets, but learns the true meaning of friendship, whom he can truly trust, and what it means to love something more than destiny.

Cumming continues to narrate this series with aplomb and he engrosses readers from the beginning. Westerfeld has created a believable alternate history, although gender issues are sort of glossed over for the most part, even as one of the main characters is a girl. Alek has grown up quite a bit in this story, and Deryn remains the anchor in the story. With appearances from William Randolf Hearst and Pancho Villa, it is clear that the politics of the war goes far beyond the war between machines and manufactured animals for superiority.

Goliath (book #3) by Scott Westerfeld, narrated by Alan Cumming, is a whole new world with a war threatening everything past and present. The series is strong throughout and the characters have evolved a great deal in the course of three books, with several close calls. Wonderful series.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Scott Westerfeld‘s teen novels include the Uglies series, the Midnighters trilogy, The Last Days, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and the sequel to Peeps. Scott was born in Texas, and alternates summers between Sydney, Australia, and New York City.

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audiobook, 8 CDs
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***Leviathan was a book club selection and I’ve finally been able to get back to the series, though this book is our book club selection for June. You’ll need to read the first to read this book.***

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld, narrated by Alan Cumming, is the second book in a young adult trilogy that is an alternate WWI history rife with steampunk elements. The German Clankers who rely on machines are advancing their war against the British Darwinists, using secretive technology and subversive tactics. Deryn, a young man in the British Air Service, has divided loyalties as he tries to continue hiding his identity from his closest friend, Alek, who is the heir to the empire. The Leviathan’s peace mission has hit a snag, and Alek stumbles upon a resistance in Constantinople even as they find themselves in enemy territory.

Alan Cumming is a stunning narrator; it’s clear that he enjoyed this book and narrating the heart-stopping action of Westerfeld’s alternate history. As the Clankers connive to garner support from Istanbul, the Darwinists seek to appease the government with gifts only to find they are too late. Deryn is quick-witted and eager to prove himself a dedicated soldier, even as he feels a bit of camaraderie and loyalty to Alek and his plight to escape the Clankers. Alek comes into his own away from his guardian, as he is forced to seek out people to trust and to devise his own plans to prevent an all-encompassing war between the Clankers and the Darwinists and get revenge on the Germans.

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld, narrated by Alan Cumming, is a stunning middle book in the series, providing Alek and Deryn with ample opportunity to prove themselves brave. Even as secrets continue between them, they remain friends. Westerfeld has a vivid imagination and it comes alive in the prose, especially as read by Cumming. Readers will fall into this world of unbelievable animal creations and giant machines of war.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Scott Westerfeld‘s teen novels include the Uglies series, the Midnighters trilogy, The Last Days, an ALA Best Book for Young Adults and the sequel to Peeps. Scott was born in Texas, and alternates summers between Sydney, Australia, and New York City.

Reached by Ally Condie (audio)

Source: Public Library
Audio, 11 CDs
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**If you missed my first review, this one could contain spoilers for Matched or the second review for Crossed.**

Reached by Ally Condie, narrated by Kate Simses, Jack Riccobono, and Matt Burns, reveals so many things that were forgotten by the characters or that other characters they meet along the way reveal to them. The backstory is here in the third book about the Society and the Rising, and all of the factions that are outside the two main struggling societies. Cassia continues to find her way through the darkness with Ky (who may not always be at her side), and Xander faces his own struggles as the plague ravages the population, even those inoculated with the vaccine provided by the Rising.

As a medic, he sees the stillness take hold of his friends and colleagues and the fear in their eyes. He is dutiful and eager to follow those he believes in. Cassia wants to find an end to the suffering; she’s looking for a way to inoculate the Society and the Rising with beauty. She finds it in the Gallery where people come to share their art and poems and songs. Like many things in these controlled societies, the beauty and originality is snuffed out. Ky, on the other hand, still tries to stay below the radar. The only one he believes in is Cassia.

This triangle of characters and their love for one another — though different for all of them — is heartening as they tackle the nearly impossible with only their faith in each other to guide them. Although there are moments of repetition when Cassia begins to regain some of her memories long after she was forced to take a red pill to forget, it is in line with the world Condie has created. The narrators are well matched with their characters, though Xander’s point of view is less robotic in this book compared to the last. The dialogue for him as improved.

Reached by Ally Condie, narrated by Kate Simses, Jack Riccobono, and Matt Burns, is a series of books that requires patience with the world and tension building. Readers will be satisfied with its conclusion as these societies tackle a mutated plague together and come out the other side eager to rebuild and collaborate with one another (even if only tentatively).

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Ally Condie is a former high school English teacher who lives with her husband, three sons and one daughter outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. She loves reading, running, eating, and listening to her husband play guitar.