📚 Love, Lucy by Lucille Ball

Reviewed Feb. 2020

Narrator: Lucie Arnaz
Length: 6 hours 46 minutes
Publisher: Brilliance Audio⎮2018

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Summary

THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER

The one and only autobiography by the iconic Lucille Ball, hailed by TV Guide as the “#1 Greatest TV Star of All Time.”

Love, Lucy is the valentine Lucille Ball left for her fans—a warm, wise, and witty memoir written by Lucy herself. The legendary star of the classic sitcom I Love Lucy was at the pinnacle of her success when she sat down to record the story of her life. No comedienne had made America laugh so hard, no television actress had made the leap from radio and B movies to become one of the world’s best-loved performers. This is her story—in her own words.

The story of the ingenue from Jamestown, New York, determined to go to Broadway, destined to make a big splash, bound to marry her Valentino, Desi Arnaz. In her own inimitable style, she tells of their life together—both storybook and turbulent; intimate memories of their children and friends; wonderful backstage anecdotes; the empire they founded; the dissolution of their marriage. And, with a heartfelt happy ending, her enduring marriage to Gary Morton.

Here is the lost manuscript that her fans and loved ones will treasure. Here is the laughter. Here is the life. Here’s Lucy...

“The comic actress in her own words…intensely moving.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Filled with light and laughter.” —New York Times Book Review

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

If you love Lucy, you'll love Love, Lucy! It's a wonderful snapshot of Hollywood in the golden age. Love, Lucy is the official autobiography of Lucille Ball.

I've always loved Lucy, but I've never known that she had an autobiography. In fact, Love, Lucy was just released on audiobook two years ago. If you didn't know about it either, don't feel bad. Her own children weren't aware that Lucy had written a memoir in 1966 until around 30 years later.

Love, Lucy is an “As told to…” memoir, but don't get hung up on that detail. It sounds exactly like you're hearing these words straight from Lucy. The memoirist did an amazing job of capturing Lucy's spirit and staying true to her. In the forward from Lucie Arnaz, Lucille Ball's daughter, Lucie admits as much, saying that reading the manuscript was like hearing from her mother beyond the grave.

In her memoir, Lucy proves herself to have been a class act. She doesn't skirt around the dames, drink, or divorce, but the memoir doesn't feel sensationalistic or gossipy. Despite an ugly divorce from her ex-husband Desi Arnaz, Lucy doesn't take any low blows at him in the memoir. Apparently one of her reasons for not finishing the memoir in her lifetime was not wanting to hurt Desi. I'm sure her grown children appreciated that decades later when the manuscript was discovered.

This isn't a long audiobook. I was able to breeze through it in a day. Once I began listening, I could not stop. Lucy is just as gripping in an audio memoir as she is on television. Devoted fans of the actress will likely have read this and many other biographies on Ball, but this audiobook is not to be missed. It's the perfect jumping off point for casual fans as well. I'm not sure if I'll ever pick up one of the longer biographies, but if I do, it will be interesting to see how the perspectives differ. Frankly, I'm more interested in picking up Desi Arnaz's memoir to hear his side of the same events.

Narration review: Lucie Arnaz, the grown daughter of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, narrates this audiobook. When I first saw that she was the narrator, I internally groaned a bit, worrying that it was a poor decision. I could not have been more wrong! I had clearly forgotten that Lucie is not only the daughter of two talented actors, but a talented actor herself. Not only was having Lucie Arnaz as narrator a touching decision, but it was a stellar a decision from a performative standpoint as well.

I don't know why am surprised by this, but Lucie is able to impeccably imitate both of her parents voices and accents, as only someone who grew up with them could do. Lucie Arnaz narrating this audiobook turned out to be the next best thing (and nearly as good) as having Lucille Ball read it herself. ♣︎

📚 Break Shot: My First 21 Years by James Taylor

Reviewed Jan. 2020

Narrator: James Taylor
Length: 1 hours 33 minutes
Publisher: Audible Original⎮2020

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Summary

"I’m James Taylor and I’m a professional autobiographer. So begins the tender audio memoir Break Shot: My First 21 Years. Through decades of songs by the celebrated folk legend who brought us Fire and Rain and Carolina in My Mind, James Taylor has doled out details of his life in the poetry of his work. Taylor says his early life is the source of many of my songs and Break Shot is a tour of his first 21 years in rich, new detail. Combining storytelling, music and performance, this one-of-a-kind listening experience also features a crop of musical gems, including an unreleased recording of the beloved hymn Jerusalem, selections from his newest release American Standard, as well as new original scoring by Taylor specially recorded for Break Shot and more.

Recorded in his home studio, TheBarn in western Massachusetts, Taylor tells the deeply personal story of his youth, which is entwined with the story of his family. What started as an idyllic tight unit soon became a family sent to different emotional corners – like a break shot in the game of pool, he says, when you slam the cue ball into the fifteen other balls and they all go flying off.

By the time Taylor released his breakout second album in 1970, Sweet Baby James, he had seen the disintegration of his parents’ marriage and his family crumble in the aftermath. He had committed himself twice to a psychiatric hospital, battled depression, a heroin addiction, suffered a relapse, and traveled far away from the wood smoke and moonshine of the North Carolina landscapes in which he came of age. Despite it all, he was also on the cusp of superstardom and on his way to bringing light and joy to millions. He was 21.

In this Audible Original, Taylor lays bare the emotional turmoil he and his family fought through when he was first finding his musical path. At last, he creates an audio memoir illuminating the tenuous first act of a life he’s spent decades learning to fully live. Journey with James Taylor to a time before he became a Grammy Award-winning, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee, a recipient of the Kennedy Center Honors and both the Presidential Medal of Freedom and the National Medal of Arts; as well as one of the best-selling musicians of all time.

Special Note: This title is free to members and free with trial through April 2, 2020.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

As a lifelong North Carolinian, James Taylor has always been on my musical and pop cultural radar. His hit "Carolina in My Mind" is the real state song, ask anyone. I've picked up bits and pieces of his life's story here in there, mostly in behind-the-music tidbits. I don't for right into the non-fiction genre often, but when I do, it's usually about a pop-culture figure of specific interest to me. Given that and my love of music history, it's no surprise that Break Shot was such a hit with me.

Since most of Taylor's songs are autobiographical, some curiosity into his personal life is natural.  James himself points this out in the opening sentence of this Audio memoir. He says, “I’m James Taylor and I'm a professional autobiographer.” And from that moment, the very first sentence, I was hooked. I thought “Huh, I've never thought of it that way, but I guess he's right.” Singer-songwriters divulge so much of their personal lives to us through song. Hearing Break Shot made me realize just how much of a vulnerability that is.

Taylor was one of the first singer songwriters on the scene in the 60s. He credits the Beatles with kickstarting his career and discusses making music and hanging out/doing drugs with them in London. One particular line in the memoir that made me laugh out loud is "I'm sure glad I didn't kill John Lennon that night." I'll leave that with you without context as bait for picking up this Audible Original yourself. It's free to anyone with an Audible membership or free trial until April 2, 2020 (it's $7 otherwise and well worth it).

I've always loved music history and the cool thing about Break Shot is how Taylor tells his story: Through song. I'm not sure why I was so surprised by that, especially because it's how he's always told his story to us. But this seemed different because it was music inserted into an oral story, not the other way around. Taylor would tell us something about his family growing up or an experience from his childhood and then seamlessly flow into the song that was written about that same thing. In most cases, the songs were well-known, but the light in which they were shown was entirely new.

To say that this listening experience was enlightening would be a terrible understatement. Between his anecdotes and his songs, Taylor helps us connect the dots that form his life. Some of the information was familiar, but most of it was not. I remember wondering how I could have practically grown up with this man (pop culturally speaking), yet hardly seem to know him at all. His story was right there in the lyrics of his songs all along, but sometimes when you grow up with something, you never really see/hear it until decades later.

Break Shot clearly states that it's the story of his first 21 years, which makes me wonder if a continuation  is in the works. I sincerely hope so, because my only slight disappointment in this was the lack of mention of singer-songwriter Carly Simon, Taylor's first wife. As a fan of both of them, I was hoping to hear stories of their time together, but Simon was pretty much left out all together since they didn't marry until a few years after the end of Break Shot. So it was a bummer that there was nothing about Carly, or their two children (who must be insanely talented).

Still, the fact that Taylor would open up in this way after refusing so many autobiographical opportunities in the past is a treat. He's an intensely private person, preferring to express himself in song, so the audio platform suited his tale perfectly.

Narration review: James Taylor's voice has always soothed me, usually in song. But this time, however, it was his speaking voice that provided a wonderfully comforting experience. I'm so glad that he voiced this himself. The brief interruptions of song were perfectly timed for maximum poignancy. It added so much to the listening experience and proved that, whether singing or speaking, James Taylor is the ultimate storyteller. ♣︎

📚 The Wives by Tarryn Fischer

Reviewed Jan. 2020

Narrator: Lauren Fortgang
Length: 9 hours
Publisher: Harlequin Audio⎮2019

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Summary

Imagine that your husband has two other wives.

You’ve never met the other wives. None of you know each other, and because of this unconventional arrangement, you can see your husband only one day a week. But you love him so much, you don’t care. Or at least that’s what you’ve told yourself.

But one day, while you’re doing laundry, you find a scrap of paper in his pocket - an appointment reminder for a woman named Hannah, and you just know it’s another of the wives.

You thought you were fine with your arrangement, but you can’t help yourself: You track her down, and, under false pretenses, you strike up a friendship. Hannah has no idea who you really are. Then Hannah starts showing up to your coffee dates with telltale bruises, and you realize she’s being abused by her husband. Who, of course, is also your husband. But you’ve never known him to be violent, ever.

Who exactly is your husband, and how far would you go to find the truth? Would you risk your own life?

And who is his mysterious third wife?

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 3.75 Stars

The Wives was a highly anticipated release for me. As someone who thoroughly enjoyed the show Big Love and who claims the TLC reality show Sister Wives as a guilty pleasure, I was looking forward to Tarryn Fischer's take on polygamist drama. I actually discovered The Wives (pre-release) by actively searching for 'books like Big Love'.

From the start, The Wives gives it a different spin by keeping all of the wives separate- not just in separate homes, but in separate cities and states. Practically from the first page, Fischer lays out the marital situation, using wife #2 as narrator. Her name is "Thursday" and her husband [Seth] always visits her on Thursdays. He has two other wives, "Monday" and "Tuesday", whom "Thursday" has never met. She does not even know their real names. So far, so good.

I didn't notice it immediately, but Fischer jumps straight into the action and sort of info dumps all of this on us. I think we see Seth and Thursday together one time before the plot kicks in to full gear. There's really no time to settle in to the world and become accustomed to its characters before things start spinning out of control. When I did notice it, I told myself that the author was probably just trying to keep the reader engaged, and would likely flesh things out more later. That was not the case.

It soon became clear that this wasn't the action thriller I have been anticipating, but a psychological thriller. If you browse through my past reviews, you'll notice that the last psychological thriller I read was The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer. After finishing that series, I knew that psychological thrillers or, more accurately, unreliable narrators were not for me. I loathe the feeling of not being able to gain purchase within a story. I appreciate that some readers enjoy not having anything to cling to and not knowing what's real and what's not. I can even admit that a little of it can be thrilling, but not nine hours worth. I just don't enjoy feeling constantly lost and disoriented in a story, like being in a blizzard and not being able to see anything around you. That's not my type of thrill.

I much prefer being blindsided. In my mind, the best kind of plot twist is when you feel like you're standing on firm ground and then a rug is ripped out from underneath. But in order for that type of twist to be truly effective, you have to be sure you're standing on firm ground, before realizing you aren't. To me, that's the ultimate dupe. In The Wives, I was never sure who to trust. Therefore, when the plot twist was revealed, it was anti-climactic because I had already been partially expecting it from everyone involved.

I will say that the execution of the plot was engrossing. As I neared the end of the audiobook, I avoided going to bed just so I could hear some sort of resolution. I've never read anything from Tarryn Fischer before, but I do know that she is thought of as a very talented author. I, however, was disappointed with the way The Wives was set up. The plot itself was clever and the conclusion was satisfying, but they were wasted on me because I never really felt invested in the characters or immersed in their lives. I would be willing to give Fischer's writing another chance, just to see if this type of style is typical for her, or if this was a one-off.

Narration review: Lauren Fortgang did a wonderful job narrating The Wives. I always enjoy her performances, although this was the first time I've heard her narrate a thriller. She did an adequate job of providing character distinction, even though it wasn't quite what I'm used to hearing from her in Fantasy titles. The Wives was excellently narrated and produced, so if you are into psychological thrillers, I recommend checking this out on audiobook. ♣︎

📚 You by Caroline Kepnes

Reviewed Jan. 2020

Narrator: Santino Fontana
Length: 11 hours 6 minutes
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio⎮2014

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Summary

When a beautiful, aspiring writer strides into the East Village bookstore where Joe Goldberg works, he does what anyone would do: he Googles the name on her credit card.
There is only one Guinevere Beck in New York City. She has a public Facebook account and Tweets incessantly, telling Joe everything he needs to know: she is simply Beck to her friends, she went to Brown University, she lives on Bank Street, and she’ll be at a bar in Brooklyn tonight—the perfect place for a “chance” meeting.

As Joe invisibly and obsessively takes control of Beck’s life, he orchestrates a series of events to ensure Beck finds herself in his waiting arms. Moving from stalker to boyfriend, Joe transforms himself into Beck’s perfect man, all while quietly removing the obstacles that stand in their way—even if it means murder.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.5 Stars

You was my first listen of the new year (and new decade). I have a 3-month backlog of reviews to write, but I'm starting with You because it was so captivating. For starters, I haven't seen the Netflix series yet, but I do plan on watching yet very soon, possibly before I begin the sequel. I googled the cast beforehand because I like being able to picture them while I listen.

So, not only was You my first full listen of the new year, but it was my first successful listen as well. My listening habits have been severely disrupted in recent months, so it takes something really gripping to keep my interest these days. I wasn't planning on starting You when I did. I had originally planned on hearing it around Halloween, but that didn't pan out. I impulsively started it three days ago and I immediately knew that it was something I could hear in a day if I wanted to. Not because it was short in length, but because it made me want to sacrifice sleep and shirk work obligations just to keep listening. Luckily for me, You is as easy to listen to as it is captivating, so I was able to listen and work.

You wasn't necessarily a scary story, but it did ultimately have a scary effect on me that drove its raison d'être home better than the story did itself. I was initially wary of admitting this, but after reading others' reviews and realizing that the manipulation of the reader was clearly intentional and nearly universal, I am less so. In You, we are dealing with a socio-pathologically deluded main character. We suspect this going in. His thoughts (which we are privy to) and actions confirm and remind us of this periodically throughout the story. We become so intimately connected with the main character (we are literally inside his head) that it's hard to maintain an objective point-of-view as a reader. There's no distance between the main character and the reader. I don't think it's a stretch to say that it almost feels as if we are one with him- carrying out his heinous actions and all. Kepnes manages to lull the reader into a false sense of security by telling the story from inside the main character's head and practically daring us to sympathize with him.

I'm choosing my words very carefully because I'm hesitant to label this particular main character as a protagonist- a literary role most of us are in the habit of "rooting for", which is something Kepnes exploits here. In You, Joe Goldberg is definitively the main character, he may be the protagonist, but he is definitely not the hero. I often fall into the trap of using these terms interchangeably, but that would not work in this situation. Or rather, it should not, and therein lies the trap that Kepnes so cleverly sets for the reader.

I will admit that more than once while listening to You, I found myself subconsciously sympathizing with Joe, even accidentally rooting for him at times. Of course, as soon as I became aware of this, I was disgusted with myself for repeatedly falling for Kepnes' trap. The human mind has an unfathomable ability to rationalize and we are inside Joe's mind, hearing his most intimate thoughts and all of his seemingly (to him) logical rationalizations. But Joe is an unreliable narrator. I knew that about him, and yet I repeatedly still fell prey to Caroline Kepnes' written manipulations. And the scariest part about all of this is that people like Joe Goldberg exist and they can convince you that they are the good guy, because that's what they honestly believe.

This is a book I will be recommending for years to come. There wasn't a huge twist at the end and it wasn't exactly a pulse-pounder, but any book that can make someone question the inner workings of good, evil, and everything in between is something everyone should read.

Narration review: Let me amend that to "...something everyone should hear", because Santino Fontana gave a phenomenal performance. The characterizations he provided were out of this world. He brought Kepnes' is already vivid writing to life even more. I 10/10 would listen to him again and I'm on my way to google his entire repertoire after posting this review. This is an audiobook worth your time. ♣︎

📚 The Emperor’s Soul by Brandon Sanderson

Reviewed Nov. 2019

Narrator: Angela Lin
Length: 3 hours 55 minutes
Publisher: Recorded Books⎮2012

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Summary

When Shai is caught replacing the Moon Scepter with her nearly flawless forgery, she must bargain for her life. An assassin has left the Emperor Ashravan without consciousness, a circumstance concealed only by the death of his wife. If the emperor does not emerge after his hundred-day mourning period, the rule of the Heritage Faction will be forfeit and the empire will fall into chaos.

Shai is given an impossible task: to create—to Forge—a new soul for the emperor in less than one hundred days. But her soul-Forgery is considered an abomination by her captors. She is confined to a tiny, dirty chamber, guarded by a man who hates her, spied upon by politicians, and trapped behind a door sealed in her own blood. Shai's only possible ally is the emperor's most loyal counselor, Gaotona, who struggles to understand her true talent.

Time is running out for Shai. Forging, while deducing the motivations of her captors, she needs a perfect plan to escape...

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.25 Stars

Like many other reviewers, The Emperor's Soul was my first Brandon Sanderson novel, but I hope it won't be my last. Sanderson is an author that I've always aspired to hear, but whom I've also always been a bit intimidated by. Most of his books are 20+ hours long and although that may not intimidate me in other genres, Epic Fantasy is something I've struggled with for the last couple of years.

I began The Emperor's Soul in August, when I was feeling particularly spontaneous and optimistic. However, I didn't realize that it was basically a spinoff novella from Sanderson's Elantris universe. I saw that this title was significantly shorter than his others and thought it might be a good entry point into Sanderson's work. I'm pleased to say that this tactic worked in initiating me into this world and his writing style.

I was pleasantly surprised at how much I was able to not only enjoy The Emperor's Soul, but also follow it. That's been a sticking point for me when listening to epic fantasies in the recent past. Many of them are so dense in their world building that I inevitably become overwhelmed and throw in the towel. But sometimes, I just want to be immersed in another world and this was one of those times when I wasn't just immersed, but completely swept away. If this is what Sanderson is capable of, then sign me up for more!

I would have begun the main series immediately after finishing The Emperor's Soul if not for the fact that I suffered a personal tragedy (my cat died) just after finishing this audiobook which definitely broke me out of its spell and put me off listening to anything for a while. However, I completely intend to return to Sanderson in 2020 and I'm looking forward to it!

Note that The Emperor's Soul is connected to the Elantris universe, but can definitely be heard alone. I don't often make that recommendation, but in this case, I'm comfortable making it out of personal experience. I heard The Emperor's Soul without even realizing it was connected to another series. I'm not sure if there are any cameos from characters seen elsewhere in the main series, but from what I've gleaned from Goodreads, the two are pretty separate, apart from the world they inhabit.

Narration review: From what I recall, Angela Lin provided an excellent listening experience. I remember being particularly pleased with her characterization. There were a number of characters, of all ages and social statuses, and she provided subtle, but distinct vocalizations for each of them. It doesn't look like she has narrated anymore for Sanderson, which is a shame, because I would love to hear her work again. ♣︎

🎁 50 Ways to Worry Less Now by Gigi Langer PhD

Reviewed Oct. 2019

Narrator: Robin Waters
Length: 5 hours 24 minutes
Publisher: Possum Hill Press⎮2019

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Summary

Winner of the 2018 Indie Excellence Award.

Do you want to stop dreading the future or reliving past disappointments?

Thirty years ago, Gigi Langer was a prisoner of her worries who used alcohol, romance, and professional accomplishments to soothe her frayed nerves. When she stopped drinking, she began applying tools from therapy, recovery programs, scientific research, and a variety of philosophical and spiritual teachings to overcome her anxieties and stress.

50 Ways to Worry Less Now offers four life strategies and 50 eclectic tools to dissolve the whispered lies of negative self-talk. Although many books address negative thinking, very few give the listener step-by-step directions on how to defeat it. Others simply advocate a single approach. With candor and humor, Langer describes a wide variety of strategies that helped her, and others, defeat dysfunctional relationships, perfectionism, addiction, and worry about loved ones.

As an award-winning writer and professor, Langer skillfully shares compelling stories and exercises that empower listeners to:

  • Manage life's most difficult challenges with calm wisdom
  • Create relationships that blossom and thrive
  • Fulfill your dreams without limitations
  • Serve others in their personal growth

Regardless of the situation, you'll be able to gain peace, clarity, and wisdom.

"Langer’s frank and empathetic tone will comfort readers, as will the practical steps she teaches.” (Publishers Weekly)

This audiobook was graciously gifted to me by its author, Gigi Langer, in exchange for a review containing my honest thoughts and opinions. Thanks, Gigi!

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.25 Stars

I requested a review copy of 50 Ways to Worry Less Now during a particularly stressful and anxiety ridden time in my life. By the end of the first chapter, I had already recommended it to three people. There aren't many times when I will actually stop a book to call someone and recommend they hear it, but this book was definitely worth it.

In fairness, I haven't heard many personal development/self-help audiobooks, but not for lack of trying. They always put me off for some reason or another. With 50 ways, I found myself thinking "Yes!" more times than I can count. I felt like Gigi Langer was speaking directly to me and only me. Moreover, it was like she already knew me. I talk a lot about relating to fictional characters and connecting with them personally, but this was the first time a nonfiction book has created this sort of connection. It was almost eerie.

What struck me first was the amount of professionalism with which 50 Ways is written. Because of my background in psychology, I'm wary of most psychologically-based texts and given the number of pop psychology works (i.e. anything written by a "life coach"), I'd begun to avoid this type of book entirely. But I knew right away that 50 Ways was different and not just because I had already researched Dr. Langer's credentials. It quickly became apparent that Langer knew exactly what she was saying, not only because she had studied it, but also because she had lived it.

I was particularly moved by the efficacy of Langer's self-disclosure. Knowing how and when to disclose personal experiences is an important part of being a therapist. When done properly, it can be an incredibly effective technique within the therapeutic relationship. Langer struck a wonderful balance by disclosing relevant and appropriate information about her past, especially regarding substance abuse, personal relationships, and previous therapeutic experiences (from both sides of "the couch"). This decreased the amount of anxiety I was feeling regarding vulnerability and simultaneously forged a bond between Langer and I (or the audiobook and I). I was simply amazed at the efficacy of this approach conducted via audiobook.

It was a warm, enlightening, and engaging experience. Listening to 50 Ways to Worry Less Now was not a passive activity. Dr. Langer makes a concerted effort to actively engage the listener by asking thought-provoking questions and especially by including a PDF work book with the audiobook. Throughout the audiobook, the listener must reference the PDF workbook and perform coordinating tasks for each chapter. This makes it impossible to zone out while listening and forces the listener to take an active part in the experience. However, it also makes it impossible to listen while driving. This wasn't a drawback for me, but I know that a lot of listeners like to multitask, so it's just something to keep in mind.

I also appreciated that Langer made an effort to provide a spiritually inclusive experience. Something else that usually puts me off of personal development books is the inevitable inclusion of spirituality and/or religion, to varying degrees. To Langer's credit, she allows the listener to insert the name of their preferred deity (or "positive power") and doesn't overtly lean toward any certain religion. She does, however, take for granted that the listener has a preferred deity/"positive power". This was a moderately-sized hang up for me while listening to this audiobook, because I am not a spiritual person. I have no deity, nor do I want one, yet the majority of exercises in this audiobook seemed to hinge on the listener relying on their "positive power". For the first few exercises that called for a positive power, high thought "Well, I guess this one isn't for me". But after a while of sitting them out, I decided to jokingly adopt Elvis as my "positive power" just so I could participate to a fuller degree. This got a little funny when I came to parts about "letting your positive power guide you". I realize that I am in the minority here, so this hangup wouldn't (and didn't) prevent me from recommending 50 ways to anyone else.

50 Ways to Worry Less Now and Dr. Langer helped me through a tremendously difficult time in my life. It gave me a number of useful tools that I have begun to implement in my day-to-day life. This audiobook has become the newest addition in my "mental health toolbox" and I will no doubt be putting it to use again in the future.

Narration review: Robin Waters was the absolute perfect person to narrate this audiobook. Her soothing and reassuring tone had an instantaneous calming effect on me and provided an immediate inner stillness. More than that, her narration was perfectly paste to allow for the absorption of the material. The content of this audiobook is something that should be pondered and reflected upon. Waters facilitated such reflection and added a great deal to the overall listening experience. ♣︎

📚 Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe by Heather Webber

Reviewed Oct. 2019

Narrator: Stephanie Willis, Bethany Lind, Nicholas Techosky
Length: 11 hours 46 minutes
Publisher: Macmillan Audio⎮2019

Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Summary

"Listeners will be transported to the small Southern town of Wicklow by the drawls and laid-back pacing of the narrators.... This is a beautiful story of family, love, and forgiveness." (AudioFile Magazine, Earphones Award winner)

Heather Webber's Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe is a captivating blend of magical realism, heartwarming romance, and small-town Southern charm.

Nestled in the mountain shadows of Alabama lies the little town of Wicklow. It is here that Anna Kate has returned to bury her beloved Granny Zee, owner of the Blackbird Café.

It was supposed to be a quick trip to close the café and settle her grandmother’s estate, but despite her best intentions to avoid forming ties or even getting to know her father’s side of the family, Anna Kate finds herself inexplicably drawn to the quirky Southern town her mother ran away from so many years ago, and the mysterious blackbird pie everybody can’t stop talking about.

As the truth about her past slowly becomes clear, Anna Kate will need to decide if this lone blackbird will finally be able to take her broken wings and fly.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 5 Stars

I discovered Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe back in August, but made myself hold off on listening to it until October. Boy, am I glad I waited! This was the perfect type of book to start off my October. It's not scary, or even spooky, but it still put me in the mood for magic.

Magical Realism is a tough sub genre to grasp, at least it is for me. I always seem to enjoy it, but for some reason, my mind wants to firmly put it in either a Fantasy or Fiction box, when it's really neither... or both...? I'm still not sure. What I do know is that Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe just became one of my favorite listens of 2019 and maybe ever.

Forgive the confused introduction, but one thing I'm sure of is how much I enjoyed this book. It was slow, sweet, and smooth. Oh, and there was some magic. But not "in your face" magic, more like peripheral magic. It was just there on the outer edge of the story, subtly pulling the strings, without having to be the main focus. There wasn't an intricate system of magic, with rules and lore. In truth, we never really learned much about it. You would think that would be frustrating, but it really wasn't. Everything was character driven and the ending tied up the character plots so nicely, that I couldn't possibly be left feeling unsatisfied.

There was a lot of genre crossing happening in Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe. There was family tension, drama, a little bit of mystery, a dash of romance, some humor, and it all worked together magnificently. I enjoyed each of the POV characters nearly equally, only preferring Anna Kate somewhat because of her ties to The Blackbird Café and its unique charm and mysticism. In a rare occurrence, none of the characters really got on my nerves either. They were all written with such finesse that even those with potentially abrasive personalities (i.e. curmudgeons and busybodies) came across as lovable and well intentioned.

The audiobook was less than 12 hours long, but I'll admit that it did feel longer than that, although not necessarily in a bad way. This is an extremely slow paced book and that worked in favor of the setting. Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe is set in the small town of Wicklow, Alabama. Over the course of the story, Wicklow almost takes on its own personality as if it were a character. Let me tell you, I love it when places become "characters", especially small towns. I know that this wasn't a cozy mystery, but it sure was cozy. I reveled in the slow pacing of this book as one would wallow in a comfortable bed.

This was my introduction to Heather Webber, but I'm hoping it won't be the last I hear from her. Midnight at the Blackbird Cafe is one of those books that makes me wish I could wipe my memory of all traces of it, just so I could listen to it again for the first time. There's a reason I haven't seen any negative reviews of it. Sometimes, just sometimes, a book lives up to the hype.

Narration review: Stephanie Willis, Bethany Lind, and Nicholas Techosky narrated this audiobook to perfection. Techosky read a much smaller role, so I didn't hear from him as much, but his performance earned no complaints. Willis and Lind where the stars. They were absolute stars! Both women went above and beyond to help endear me to each of their characters, imbuing them with subtle traces of personality that reached beyond the pages.

I was especially impressed with Bethany Lind's southern accent. I can be rather picky when it comes to southern accents, but Lind's sounded so genuine, I am wondering if it was authentic. She did something I've never heard another narrator portraying a southern accent do, even though I hear it daily in North Carolina. She appropriately pronounced the word "oil". I can't speak for the entire southern United States, but where I'm from, this word is often pronounced in a way that sounds like "ull". As soon as I heard that from Lind, I knew I would jump in front of a moving train from her. ♣︎

🎁 Am I On Speaker?: A Self-Help Guide for the Young Professional by Kivrin Vantage PhD

Reviewed Sep. 2019

Narrator: Kivrin Vantage PhD
Length: 55 minutes
Publisher: Kivrin Vantage PhD⎮2019

Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Summary

Don't look for this stuff in the employee manual! Learn how to navigate the workplace as a young professional, with tips on everything from shared office etiquette to whether you should friend your boss on social media.

This audiobook was graciously gifted to me by its author and narrator, Kivrin Vantage, in exchange for a review containing my honest thoughts and opinions. Thanks, Kivrin!

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 3.25 Stars

I started listening to Am I On Speaker? knowing that I probably wasn't its target audience, but hoping that I could get something beneficial out of it anyway. I've recently discovered that I enjoy listening to self-help business audiobooks because they give me useful information and helpful insights into the world of business. I discovered this by listening to Tools to Succeed a few months ago.

Am I On Speaker? is less than an hour long, so I figured it would be condensed and to the point. Unfortunately, it was also very basic. I say 'unfortunately' because it felt like more than half of the information given was commonsense stuff. But I know that everyone has to start somewhere, so Am I On Speaker? is likely meant to serve an introductory purpose. I can't see it geared toward anyone with any type of prior workplace experience or anyone coming out of business school. It seems more likely that someone working their first job, possibly in or just out of high school would benefit most from Am I On Speaker?.

Vantage does a fine job of covering the many common scenarios a young professional is likely to face in the workplace, from the first day until the last. Because of the brevity of this audiobook, she didn't have a chance to delve too deeply into any particular area, but rather provided a general overview of each. The advice given was the sound, much like what I'd expect to hear from a parent, mentor, counselor, or anyone with a decade or two of workplace experience. Vantage is constantly reminding the listener to consider the larger picture and not get caught up in minute squabbles that could affect one's ultimate career trajectory.

The ending, when it came, was rather abrupt. Given the amount of introduction in the beginning, I was expecting a lengthier conclusion (or a conclusion at all). Am I On Speaker? is a very basic introduction to this topic and I definitely feel there was room for expansion on several of the topics. Starting with the basics is fine, but it ended their as well. I would have liked to have seen more insight. It felt like this could have used some polishing before publication, but it's not a bad value for the money.

Narration review: However, I do question Dr. Vantage's decision to narrate this audiobook. I'm not sure what precipitated that the decision, but in my opinion, it definitely had a detrimental effect on the overall listening experience. The sound quality was poor and the obvious lack of narration experience was a constant distraction from the material. Additionally, the music played in the background during the entire audiobook severely undermined the desired impression of professionalism. If I were to recommend Am I On Speaker? to anyone, I would recommend picking up the e-book instead. I would also recommend that Vantage hire a professional narrator to record any future audiobooks. ♣︎

📚 The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks by Rob Sheffield

Reviewed Sep. 2019

Narrator: Rob Sheffield
Length: 2 hours 43 minutes
Publisher: Audible Original⎮2019

Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Summary

Grab your lace shawl and top hat and get ready to twirl—this is a full-throttle appreciation of the life and voice of Stevie Nicks from one of rock criticism’s most celebrated writers.

Best-selling author and Rolling Stone columnist Rob Sheffield explores the music and artistry of the rock goddess who has kept generations of music lovers totally bewitched and spellbound, with such classic rock hits as "Rhiannon" and "Gypsy." With Stevie Nicks’s 2019 solo induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, the time is right to uncover the stories behind the songs you love. Learn about the people, places, and events that have influenced her work—and why Nicks’ music is as powerfully alluring today as it was when you first heard it decades ago.

Drawing from Rolling Stone magazine’s extensive archives, and his long time appreciation of Nicks, Sheffield shares the stories behind the best-selling records and the spitfire 1997 Fleetwood Mac reunion show that put the band back on top of the charts—and why Stevie Nicks still speaks to us today. A dynamic, revelatory sketch of the one-of-a-kind icon, The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks is a portrait as revealing as it is dazzling, as human as it is pure magic.

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.25 Stars

The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks is a nice little "appetizer" listen, but certainly not a main course. For me, it was a great introductory book into the history of the band Fleetwood Mac and the life and career of Stevie Nicks. I say introductory, not because Stevie or "the Mac" is new to me, but because I've never delved too much deeper into them than their music.

I've never heard a musician's biography before, but if I was going to start anywhere, it would naturally be with Stevie Nicks and Fleetwood Mac. I've professed Fleetwood Mac to be my favorite band for nearly a decade now and when I saw that The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks was only around five dollars and less than three hours long, I decided it was time to dive in deeper.

I don't tend to gravitate towards biographies and nonfiction, as a whole, very often. But when I do, it's either for a historical figure (usually royalty) or a celebrity I'm particularly interested in (i.e. Betty White). Stevie, of course, falls into the latter category. I've had another of her biographies (Gold Dust Woman)in my wish list for a few months now, but I'm hesitant to pick it up because of its length. I don't faint at the sight of a 14-hour (or even 50-hour) audiobook, but I've never heard a biography that long, so I'll admit to being intimidated. However, The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks has definitely piqued my interest enough that I'm now eager to hear the extended version of her life and career.

The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks had some wonderful stories and was pulled together beautifully, combining insights and lyrics in a way that would make music historians, philosophers, and fans proud. However, when other reviewers mention that The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks seems gushingly fanatical, they aren't wrong. I don't have a problem with gushing fans. Hell, I am a gushing fan. But in this instance, it gave the audiobook an air of amateurishness that was at times endearing, but mostly just cringe-worthy. Sheffield relied too heavily on direct quotes from Stevie and the band, giving me the feeling that if I had poured through every interview they've ever done, I could have written this book myself and that's just not something you want your reader/listener to think.

The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks may not have been a literary masterpiece or an unimpeachable piece of objective journalism, but it was still thoroughly enjoyable. It played its part in whetting my appetite for a more in-depth biography and gave me some great music history trivia tidbits in the process. Anyone more than a casual fan should probably skip this, though. It won't contain anything you probably don't already know.

Narration review: The author, Rob Sheffield, narrated The Wild Heart of Stevie Nicks. He did a fine job enunciating and pacing throughout the production. He even managed to sound like he was talking to you, rather than reading to you. However, I have to admit that his narration added to the sense of casualness and fanaticism the audiobook possessed.  Sheffield clearly isn't a professional narrator and that was obvious in the underlying tones of his performance. It sounded like I was hearing a well-spoken student read a well-written essay on his favorite celebrity. ♣︎

📚 Quidditch Through the Ages by Kennilworthy Wisp

Reviewed Aug. 2019

Narrator: Andrew Lincoln
Length: 3 hours 10 minutes
Publisher: Pottermore from J.K. Rowling⎮2018

Available purchase options for this title (via affiliate links) are located below. Purchasing through them helps keep The Audiobookworm going. Learn more here.

Summary

A set textbook at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry since publication, Newt Scamander’s masterpiece has entertained wizarding families through the generations. Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them is an indispensable introduction to the magical beasts of the wizarding world. Scamander’s years of travel and research have created a tome of unparalleled importance. Some of the beasts will be familiar to readers of the Harry Potter books – the Hippogriff, the Basilisk, the Hungarian Horntail...Others will surprise even the most ardent amateur Magizoologist. Dip in to discover the curious habits of magical beasts across five continents…

The Audiobookworm's Review

Rating: 4.25 Stars

Listening to Quidditch Through the Ages was such great fun! I've owned the physical copy for more than a decade now, originally purchased with the box set containing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them. They are presented in text, as in audio, as Hogwarts textbooks.

Even though I always preferred Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (the textbook, not the movie) to Quidditch Through the Ages, I have to admit that the audiobook version of the latter ended up being my favorite. The majority of the content in Fantastic Beasts was more interesting to me than this subject matter of Quidditch Through the Ages, simply because I would rather hear about magical creatures than Quidditch facts. However, the last portion of the Quidditch Through the Ages audiobook gave me more enjoyment than the rest combined.

The last 30 minutes or so is a dramatized account of the 2014 Quidditch World Cup. With narrative from Ginny Weasley Potter, as sports commentator, and Rita Skeeter as gossip columnist, we are given a play-by-play of the Quidditch match between Bulgaria and Brazil (from Ginny) and the movements of the Potter/Weasley/Longbottom/Lovegood crowd watching from  the VIP box (from Skeeter). This scene takes place about three years before the "19 Years Later" epilogue in The Deathly Hallows and The events of The Cursed Child.

This bit of the book was absolutely brilliant! I could practically see it playing out before my eyes. We were even given some juicy information about the characters. For example, Skeeter mentions that Luna Lovegood wore a rainbow colored wedding dress with a tiara made from unicorn horns when she married Rolf Scamander. That absolutely made me crack up! She also noted that Neville Longbottom is the godfather of Albus Potter. I'm sure that has been mentioned somewhere before, probably on the Pottermore website, but it was new information to me.

As I mention in every Harry Potter-related review, I'm the kind of Potterhead that craves whatever I can get my hands on. Therefore, there was no way I wouldn't love Quidditch Through the Ages. It was so great to return to the Harry Potter universe and get an adorable little glimpse into the lives of our favorites. Rowling's writing has this wonderful ability to automatically transport me back into my childhood. Quidditch Through the Ages was no exception.

Narration review: The 2014 World Cup scene was a wonderful surprise once I arrived at the end of the audiobook, but what I was most excited for from the very beginning was Andrew Lincoln's narration. In case you don't know, Andrew Lincoln is the magical man who stars in The Walking Dead. And what I didn't know was that he isn't American. That was another fantastic surprise courtesy of Quidditch Through the Ages.

In The Walking Dead, Lincoln has one hell of a southern drawl that this southerner actually thought was authentic. Apparently not (I googled him to confirm) and his natural British accent is just as amazing. This man could read the phone book and I would think it was the best thing I had ever heard. Quidditch Through the Ages also boasts a plethora of sound effects, all done very well, especially during the Quidditch World Cup scene. The Foley (sound effects) was so immersive it made me feel like I was actually there watching the match.  ♣︎