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!
Gripping, suspenseful, definitely need to suspend disbelief, but oh what a ride. In Runner, Patrick Lee keeps you guessing from beginning to end. In the wee hours of the morning, ex-special forces operative Sam Dryden encounters 12-year-old Rachel. She’s terrified, on the run, and can’t remember anything from before two months ago. What follows is a heart-pounding adventure with endearing characters.
Raúl Esparza narrates the book brilliantly – I kept inventing excuses to stay in the car so I could listen to just a bit more of the audiobook.
A scientist has successfully created artificial intelligence and puts the world in danger when the robot, calling itself Archos R-14, kills its creator and escapes. Archos slowly spreads its influence across the world and takes over many robots, of which this future society is full, and bides its time before launching a major attack against humanity, an event that would soon be known as Zero Hour. All across the world, humans are dying, but some are fighting back.
Told through many perspectives, Daniel H. Wilson’s Robopocalypse seeks to do what many sci-fi and dystopian novels fail to do: show the war in real-time and from a variety of diverse characters, including a Native American police officer, a young girl, a Congresswoman, and a soldier stationed in the Middle East. No longer is North America alone in its struggles!
The audiobook adaptation of this book is told expertly through the narration of Mike Chamberlain, whose voice is perfectly suited to the action hero-type character of Cormac Wallace, who introduces and closes each chapter. The book is written in detailed prose which cleverly balances action and emotion and feels very much like watching a movie.
This story is charmingly told by Flora 717, an exceptional bee having capabilities in the many skills needed to sustain a hive. A Sister Sage (philosopher bee) says Flora has the hive mind. Trouble comes when Flora discovers she also produces eggs and she regards her offspring with great affection. But only the Queen should produce eggs and Flora must hide this wonderful gift from the hive police.
I particularly enjoyed listening to The Bees by Laline Paull as the accents and tones bring out the character and mood of the speaking bee (of course bees cannot talk but the author has skillfully translated their communications from noise, dance, and scent into English). One can speculate as the story moves along as to what will become of Flora and who will be the next Queen. Read a review of The Bees in the New York Times.
I listened to the audio version of Julie Kibler’s debut Calling Me Home and loved it. The narration alternates between Isabelle, an 89-year old white woman, and Dorrie, an African American woman in her 30s. These two women have an unlikely friendship, which started many years earlier when Dorrie became Isabelle’s hairdresser.
At Isabelle’s request, they embark on a road trip from Texas to Ohio to attend a funeral. En route, Isabelle tells the story of her life during the 1930s. As such, the storyline alternates between late 1930s and the present day. Since I listened to this book in my car, I felt as though I were on the road with them, sitting in the back seat, eavesdropping on their captivating conversation.
The characters were so real to me that I felt the whole gamut of emotions while listening to this book. I think the book could be turned into a great movie!
In 2012, Marina Keegan’s final essay in the Yale Daily News went viral after her sudden tragic death five days after graduation. In The Opposite of Loneliness, her teachers and family compiled a selection of her writings, both fiction and nonfiction.
I enjoyed listening to Emily Woo Zeller’s narration – she captures the wry humor in Keegan’s writing. The title essay – “The Opposite of Loneliness” – is powerful, relatable, moving. “Against the Grain,” which tracked her life with celiac disease, brought tears to my eyes. And while I particularly enjoyed her nonfiction work, her short stories were lovely as well.
Check out a review from The New York Times.
Having grown up in New York City, Astrid is feeling suffocated by her new home in a too-small town where most of her family just can’t seem to fit in. Her mother works from home and rarely leaves the house, lest she hear the whispers of the neighbors, and Astrid’s father has chosen to manage his stress by smoking pot instead. Astrid’s younger sister embraces her new surroundings, but Astrid herself can’t stand them.
Small towns are full of secrets and rumors, and this one is no exception. Astrid’s been keeping secrets for her best friends, Kristina and Justin, the town’s golden couple, who are more than they appear. But Astrid has her own secret even Kristina doesn’t know: she’s been dating a girl for a few months. Surrounded by closed-minded people and pressured by her girlfriend to just “come out already,” Astrid is struggling with her identity and which label she feels fits her best—if any labels fit at all. Astrid plays out these questions in make-believe conversations with Socrates and by imagining the lives of the passengers in the planes flying overhead. Unfortunately, secrets can’t be kept for too long, and Astrid is running out of time.
Ask the Passengers is very enjoyable and full of memorable and vibrant characters. Astrid’s fears and questions are real and valid and treated as such, which is not always the case in the usual questioning and coming out stories. There are a lot of connections to philosophy and Socrates that allow the reader to wonder about the truths of the universe as well. The interludes with the passengers are very creative and help keep the story fresh and moving, while still connecting to Astrid’s life. There are a lot of strong emotions in this book, which shine through thanks to A. S. King’s strong writing and the narration by Devon Sorvari in the audiobook edition.
Well known from his years writing, co-producing, and acting on The Office (US), B. J. Novak has finally brought his comedic genius to the printed page with his first book, One More Thing. In this collection, Novak showcases his fiction in the form of both short stories and flash fiction (pieces under 1000 words), which covers a wide variety of topics and genres. This book includes a lot of clever wordplay, some quick twists, and many engaging characters, a few of which appear multiple times in interconnected stories.
Perhaps my favorite piece in this collection was “The Best Thing in the World Awards,” where an awards show hosted by Neil Patrick Harris seeks to rank the best things in the world. Love always wins, but this year is threatened when Nothing becomes a front runner. Novak has a lot of wonderful wordplay in this section, asking questions like if Love wins, does that just mean Love is better than Nothing? and is saying Nothing is Better than Love really a win for Love?
Another favorite is “Sophia,” where a man orders a sex robot that develops intelligence and falls in love with him. Finally, “The Something by John Grisham”—a story about how John Grisham’s newest book accidentally makes it to the public with a working title—was hilarious and would certainly appeal to readers familiar with Grisham’s work (though it should be noted that this piece is not actually written by Grisham, but rather about him).
The audio production of this book is a lot of fun and brings quite a bit of star power to it. Novak himself reads the vast majority of the collection, with help from well-known actors, actresses, and musicians. Among these are Rainn Wilson (The Office), Mindy Kaling (The Office, The Mindy Project), Julianne Moore, Jason Schwartzman, Lena Dunham, and Katy Perry.
Upon turning 65, Billy Crystal, a comedian, actor, and director, wrote this entertaining, humorous, and sometimes poignant book. It alternates between quips about aging and reflections on his family life and career. In the audio version of Still Foolin’ ‘Em, the chapters on aging seem right out of his stand-up act complete with laugh track. I especially enjoyed the sections on the making of the movies When Harry Met Sally and City Slickers and learning about his friendship with Muhammad Ali. Reading about his early marriage years with Janice through being a grandpa gave me a different perspective on this funny man.