Even when writing nonfiction, award-winning fantasy author Neil Gaiman never fails. In this first collection, Gaiman includes a variety of essays, speeches, articles, and introductions. His topics include books, fairy tales, music, authors (living and dead), and writing, just to name a few. The pieces towards the beginning, on the importance of books and libraries, is likely to warm the heart of any reader, and his thoughts on any subject are always precise, intelligent, and beautifully worded. Gaiman manages to put into words the things we’ve all been feeling, but never quite knew how to speak about.
While his introductions to other books might feel incomplete without the books themselves, they were still interesting to read because Gaiman talks about how each influenced his own life or books he’s written that I’ve loved. Additionally, some of these introductions are written for books by authors he has known and it was fascinating to read about these authors I’ve always seen on book spines, but now have a more personal understanding of through Gaiman’s eyes.
Gaiman himself reads the audiobook of The View from the Cheap Seats, and his soothing voice will make any drive more relaxing and comfortable. I personally spent 8 hours on a road trip listening to this audiobook and not once wanted to turn it off, even for a moment.
Love the newest Star Wars movie, but wish it had more detail? Or want to experience it all over in a new way? Check out the novelization of The Force Awakens by Alan Dean Foster. This book follows the same plot as the movie, but with a few extra scenes, and a little more insight to what the characters are thinking and feeling.
The true magic, however, is in the audiobook. Brilliantly narrated by Marc Thompson, who has recorded dozens of Star Wars audiobooks, this adaptation does something most audiobooks don’t: it includes sound effects and music. While sound effects can often be distracting and unwanted in audiobooks, this one blends them in seamlessly and the soundtrack by John Williams really grounds the story—and even adds to the drama when you hear a character’s familiar theme starting to play in the background.
Overall, this is a great way to experience what, by now, is likely to be a familiar story. If you’re going on a road trip, this is an excellent audiobook to listen to with your whole family.
I listened to Joel Osteen’s The Power of I Am on audio. It is a motivational CD that builds up your character and how God is in the center of your being.
Want to learn more? Watch Pastor Osteen on Oprah’s Lifeclass.
Required: a willingness to suspend disbelief and go along for the gripping ride. In this near futuristic thriller, newly minted FBI Agent Chris Shane gets thrust into a complicated case on his first day.
NPR summarizes the premise best: in this world, Haden’s Syndrome is “a global, meningitis-like pandemic that, in addition to killing lots of people, also left a certain percentage of them completely paralyzed. This paralysis is called ‘lock in.’” Shane is a Haden and uses a personal transport device to navigate the world (hence the futuristic technology part).
Science fiction isn’t my go-to genre, and it may not be yours, but if you enjoy fast-paced adventures with a mystery to solve, give this one a shot. In John Scalzi’s Lock In, the world is grounded in enough reality that theoretically it could happen. And Will Wheaton does a fantastic job narrating the novel. Highly recommended.
Mindy Kaling is back with the follow-up to her first memoir, Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? and the second book may be even better than the first. The creator and star of The Mindy Project provides a hilarious look at her life in television, being a woman of color in Hollywood, her attempts at finding love, relationship with BJ Novak, and what it takes to be beautiful. Kaling’s humor is always on point, especially as she reads the audiobook herself, but it does not overshadow the weight of her words or the clever observations made. Why Not Me? is a fun read that will make you laugh out loud and hope for nothing more than for Kaling to become your best friend.
Juliet Stevenson‘s delightful rendition of this classic was the perfect way to experience Jane Austen. Her command of the many characters and their quirks brought out the humor and heart in Austen’s words.
Check out the audio version of Emma in Hoopla, or read a print copy. And if you already know (and love) Emma, check out Georgette Heyer’s The Grand Sophy. I think you’ll see a few endearing similarities between Emma and Sophy.
Rob Reiner’s The Princess Bride is a beloved classic of many, and it’s no surprise why. The movie has something for everyone, being packed with pirates, sword fights, castles, giants, princesses, true love, and about a hundred famous lines to quote.
But the road to becoming a classic isn’t easy and at times, it seemed like the movie may not get made at all. It’s that struggle that Cary Elwes, the actor in the lead role of Westley, covers in his memoir. He writes of the fight to get the script’s rights and get a director and actors to sign on, then covers the months of filming and swashbuckling practice, and even covers the years in which the film grew in popularity since its debut over 25 years ago. The book includes pieces of interviews with other members of the cast and crew, including Robin Wright (Buttercup), Mandy Patinkin (Inigo), Wallace Shawn (Vizzini), Billy Crystal (Miracle Max), and Rob Reiner (director), many of whom add their voices to Elwes’s in the audiobook adaptation.
As You Wish is a fantastic read full of fun anecdotes and movie magic which is sure to please any Princess Bride fan.
It took me a while to get into the story of the recently widowed Nora Webster in Colm Toibin’s latest novel, but I ended up enjoying this patient exploration of a woman’s life. After her beloved husband passes away, Nora struggles to take care of her four children while living on a meager widower’s pension.
Narrator Fiona Shaw’s authentic Irish accent enriches the story that takes place in small town of Wexford, Ireland, where Nora raises her two young boys. Nora’s sisters, aunts, and friends all offer assistance and advice as she navigates the unfamiliar terrain of her new life. In Nora Webster, the transition of Nora from grieving widow to resilient independent woman is a wonderful journey for the reader.
Neil Patrick Harris’s autobiography is not your regular autobiography—it’s a choose your own adventure book. Written in second person, the book mimics the format of the Choose Your Own Adventure series he grew up reading, where the reader is given choices and asked to turn to a specific page to follow that choice to its conclusion. These include pursuing a career as a teenaged doctor, learning magic, and meeting the man of your dreams—but be careful, some roads lead to death by quicksand!
In this unusual autobiography, Neil covers his childhood, how he first got started in theatre and television, and his time on Doogie Howser, and later, How I Met Your Mother. The chapters on his personal life “behind the scenes” and about his family are my favorite and you can really feel the love Neil feels for his husband and children. The print version gives you the full experience of the format, but the audiobook makes up for this by including recordings of speeches Neil has given, one as a thirteen year old, and one as an adult, receiving a Tony award. The format does make the audiobook tricky, but it was handled well, asking the reader not to turn to a page number, but to “keep listening” or “wait awhile.” Included in both are drink and food recipes, as well as instructions for magic tricks.
Choose Your Own Autobiography is a fun and fascinating detour from the usual memoir fare and it’s done in a way that only NPH could do.
In Georgette Heyer‘s The Grand Sophy, a lighthearted and witty regency romance along the same vein as Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice, Sophia Stanton-Lacy returns to England after traveling around continental Europe with her diplomat father…and immediately throws her cousin’s household into chaos. With her effervescent personality and managing manner, Sophy effortlessly fixes familial and romantic relationships. You’ll admire Sophy’s mad skills as a horsewoman, her disregard for silly rules, and the way her kindhearted yet devious mind conceives her madcap plans.
I listened to the engaging narration by Sarah Woodward — and you can too by downloading the book through Hoopla!