Tuesday, May 10, 2011

GRG Recap - Audiobooks

What an eclectic bunch! Every month, I am astounded anew at how fearless my readers are in getting out of their comfort zone. While audiobooks are a lifeline for me, spending at least two hours in the car each day, this genre was a reach for those who don't have the time or circumstances conducive to listening to an entire book, especially if they are limited to CDs.

Of course, there are other audio options: downloadable digital audiobooks and Playaways! Visit the Library's website at www.eolib.org and click "Downloadable Collection" to learn what devices are compatible with Overdrive Media Console and how to get started. The Library is happy to offer downloadable collection demonstrations by appointment (205-445-1121). Playaways are self-contained digital audiobooks. The books are preloaded on a small MP3-player-sized device that is incredibly portable and versatile. Listen to the book using earbuds, portable speakers, or simply plug it in to your car's audio port! No software to download, no CDs to keep up with, easy peasy lemon squeezy!

May's topic is nonfiction sportswriting and the meeting will be on May 31st at 6:30pm. There is a selection of books on display at the Reference Desk on the second floor, but your are free to make your own selection. Also, I am happy to assist you in selecting a book if the number of choices is overwhelming!

Now, on to the list of audiobooks we discussed!

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch and Jeffrey Zaslow (Narrated by Erik Singer)

A lot of professors give talks titled "The Last Lecture." Professors are asked to consider their demise and to ruminate on what matters most to them. And while they speak, audiences can't help but mull the same question: What wisdom would we impart to the world if we knew it was our last chance? If we had to vanish tomorrow, what would we want as our legacy?

When Randy Pausch, a computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon, was asked to give such a lecture, he didn't have to imagine it as his last, since he had recently been diagnosed with terminal cancer. But the lecture he gave--"Really Achieving Your Childhood Dreams"--wasn't about dying. It was about the importance of overcoming obstacles, of enabling the dreams of others, of seizing every moment (because "time is all you have...and you may find one day that you have less than you think"). It was a summation of everything Randy had come to believe. It was about living.

In this book, Randy Pausch has combined the humor, inspiration and intelligence that made his lecture such a phenomenon and given it an indelible form. It is a book that will be shared for generations to come.

The Help by Kathryn Stockett (Narrated by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, and Cassandra Campbell)

Three ordinary women are about to take one extraordinary step.

Twenty-two-year-old Skeeter has just returned home after graduating from Ole Miss. She may have a degree, but it is 1962, Mississippi, and her mother will not be happy till Skeeter has a ring on her finger. Skeeter would normally find solace with her beloved maid Constantine, the woman who raised her, but Constantine has disappeared and no one will tell Skeeter where she has gone.
Aibileen is a black maid, a wise, regal woman raising her seventeenth white child. Something has shifted inside her after the loss of her own son, who died while his bosses looked the other way. She is devoted to the little girl she looks after, though she knows both their hearts may be broken.

Minny, Aibileen’s best friend, is short, fat, and perhaps the sassiest woman in Mississippi. She can cook like nobody’s business, but she can’t mind her tongue, so she’s lost yet another job. Minny finally finds a position working for someone too new to town to know her reputation. But her new boss has secrets of her own.

Seemingly as different from one another as can be, these women will nonetheless come together for a clandestine project that will put them all at risk. And why? Because they are suffocating within the lines that define their town and their times. And sometimes lines are made to be crossed.

In pitch-perfect voices, Kathryn Stockett creates three extraordinary women whose determination to start a movement of their own forever changes a town, and the way women—mothers, daughters, caregivers, friends—view one another. A deeply moving novel filled with poignancy, humor, and hope, The Help is a timeless and universal story about the lines we abide by, and the ones we don’t.

The Weed That Strings the Hangman's Bag: A Flavia de Luce Mystery by Alan Bradley (Narrated by Jayne Entwistle)

From Dagger Award–winning and internationally bestselling author Alan Bradley comes this utterly beguiling mystery starring one of fiction’s most remarkable sleuths: Flavia de Luce, a dangerously brilliant eleven-year-old with a passion for chemistry and a genius for solving murders. This time, Flavia finds herself untangling two deaths—separated by time but linked by the unlikeliest of threads.

Flavia thinks that her days of crime-solving in the bucolic English hamlet of Bishop’s Lacy are over—and then Rupert Porson has an unfortunate rendezvous with electricity. The beloved puppeteer has had his own strings sizzled, but who’d do such a thing and why? For Flavia, the questions are intriguing enough to make her put aside her chemistry experiments and schemes of vengeance against her insufferable big sisters. Astride Gladys, her trusty bicycle, Flavia sets out from the de Luces’ crumbling family mansion in search of Bishop’s Lacey’s deadliest secrets.
Does the madwoman who lives in Gibbet Wood know more than she’s letting on? What of the vicar’s odd ministrations to the catatonic woman in the dovecote? Then there’s a German pilot obsessed with the Brontë sisters, a reproachful spinster aunt, and even a box of poisoned chocolates. Most troubling of all is Porson’s assistant, the charming but erratic Nialla. All clues point toward a suspicious death years earlier and a case the local constables can’t solve—without Flavia’s help. But in getting so close to who’s secretly pulling the strings of this dance of death, has our precocious heroine finally gotten in way over her head?

City of Masks: A Cree Black Thriller by Daniel Hecht (Narrated by Anna Fields)

Introducing Cree Black, a parapsychologist with a haunted past.

The 150-year-old Beauforte House, located in the Garden District in New Orleans, has some secrets. When Lila Beauforte takes up residence in her ancestral home as an adult she begins to see some of those secrets literally come to life. Terrified by an insidious and ultimately violent presence, Lila is losing her characteristic tenacity. Fearing for his sister's sanity, Ronald Beauforte reluctantly calls Cree Black for help.

Based out of Seattle, Cree Black and her partner take on the world beyond our senses. Detectives of the spirit, the so-called ghostbusters are able to conjure ghosts with the hope of exorcising them out of people's lives. A natural empath with a Ph.D. in psychology, Cree is susceptible to the emotional vulnerability of her clients. As she gets closer to the truth, the proverbial bones in the closet of the prestigious New Orleans family come crashing down around them, and Cree must fight to keep her own ghosts from destroying her.

In this first of a series novels featuring Cree Black, Daniel Hecht has created an entirely plausible heart-stopping ghost thriller. Hecht is a master storyteller and this intelligent, unusual take on the supernatural tale combines a traditional mystery with a compassionate exploration of life's real emotional passages and existential questions. Relying on the science of parapsychology to spine-tingling effect, he brings to life a remarkably compelling character in Cree Black-as well as the ghosts she confronts.

Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother by Amy Chua (Narrated by the author)

All decent parents want to do what's best for their children. What Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother reveals is that the Chinese just have a totally different idea of how to do that. Western parents try to respect their children's individuality, encouraging them to pursue their true passions and providing a nurturing environment. The Chinese believe that the best way to protect your children is by preparing them for the future and arming them with skills, strong work habits, and inner confidence. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother chronicles Chua's iron-willed decision to raise her daughters, Sophia and Lulu, her way-the Chinese way-and the remarkable results her choice inspires.

Here are some things Amy Chua would never allow her daughters to do:
• have a playdate
• be in a school play
• complain about not being in a school play
• not be the #1 student in every subject except gym and drama
• play any instrument other than the piano or violin
• not play the piano or violin

The truth is Lulu and Sophia would never have had time for a playdate. They were too busy practicing their instruments (two to three hours a day and double sessions on the weekend) and perfecting their Mandarin. Of course no one is perfect, including Chua herself. Witness this scene:

"According to Sophia, here are three things I actually said to her at the piano as I supervised her practicing:

1. Oh my God, you're just getting worse and worse.
2. I'm going to count to three, then I want musicality.
3. If the next time's not PERFECT, I'm going to take all your stuffed animals and burn them!"

But Chua demands as much of herself as she does of her daughters. And in her sacrifices-the exacting attention spent studying her daughters' performances, the office hours lost shuttling the girls to lessons-the depth of her love for her children becomes clear. Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother is an eye-opening exploration of the differences in Eastern and Western parenting- and the lessons parents and children everywhere teach one another.

I am the Messenger by Markus Zusak (Narrated by Marc Aden Gray)

protect the diamonds
survive the clubs
dig deep through the spades
feel the hearts

Ed Kennedy is an underage cabdriver without much of a future. He's pathetic at playing cards, hopelessly in love with his best friend, Audrey, and utterly devoted to his coffee-drinking dog, the Doorman. His life is one of peaceful routine and incompetence until he inadvertently stops a bank robbery.

That's when the first ace arrives in the mail.

That's when Ed becomes the messenger.

Chosen to care, he makes his way through town helping and hurting (when necessary) until only one question remains: Who's behind Ed's mission?

A 2005 Michael L. Printz Honor Book and recipient of five starred reviews, I Am the Messenger is a cryptic journey filled with laughter, fists, and love.

The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova (Narrated by Trent Williams, Anne Heche, Erin Cottrell, Sarah Zimmerman, and John Lee)

Andrew Marlow, a psychiatrist, has a perfectly ordered life--solitary, perhaps, but full of devotion to his profession and the painting hobby he loves. This order is destroyed when the renowned painter Robert Oliver attacks a canvas in the National Gallery of Art and becomes Marlow's patient.

When Oliver refuses to talk or cooperate, Marlow finds himself going beyond his own legal and ethical boundaries to understand the secret that torments this silent genius, a journey that will lead him into the lives of the women closest to Robert Oliver and toward a tragedy at the heart of French Impressionism.

Moving from American museums to the coast of Normandy, from the late nineteenth century to the late twentieth, from young love to last love, THE SWAN THIEVES is a story of obsession, the losses of history, and the power of art to preserve human hope.

The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (Narrated by Bianca Amato and Jill Tanner)

Sometimes, when you open the door to the past, what you confront is your destiny.

Reclusive author Vida Winter, famous for her collection of twelve enchanting stories, has spent the past six decades penning a series of alternate lives for herself. Now old and ailing, she is ready to reveal the truth about her extraordinary existence and the violent and tragic past she has kept secret for so long. Calling on Margaret Lea, a young biographer troubled by her own painful history, Vida disinters the life she meant to bury for good. Margaret is mesmerized by the author's tale of gothic strangeness -- featuring the beautiful and willful Isabelle, the feral twins Adeline and Emmeline, a ghost, a governess,a topiary garden and a devastating fire. Together, Margaret and Vida confront the ghosts that have haunted them while becoming, finally, transformed by the truth themselves.

Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen (Narrated by Rachel Botchan)

Ever since her parents began fighting, Auden has been unable to sleep at night. Now, spending a summer at a charming beach town with her father and his new family, she has to find new places to pass the time she spends awake. And so she meets Eli, a fellow insomniac who becomes her nighttime guide. Together, they embark on parallel quests: for Auden, to experience the carefree teenage life she has missed; for Eli, to come to terms with the death of a friend. In her trademark blockbuster-style, Sarah Dessen creates a powerful and irresistible story of two people learning how to connect.

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston (Narrated by Ruby Dee)

One of the most important works of twentieth-century American literature, Zora Neale Hurston's beloved 1937 classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God, is an enduring Southern love story sparkling with wit, beauty, and heartfelt wisdom. Told in the captivating voice of a woman who refuses to live in sorrow, bitterness, fear, or foolish romantic dreams, it is the story of fair-skinned, fiercely independent Janie Crawford, and her evolving selfhood through three marriages and a life marked by poverty, trials, and purpose. A true literary wonder, Hurston's masterwork remains as relevant and affecting today as when it was first published -- perhaps the most widely read and highly regarded novel in the entire canon of African American literature.

From the Library of Congress website:

"The Zora Neale Hurston Plays at the Library of Congress present a selection of ten plays written by Hurston (1891-1960), author, anthropologist, and folklorist. Deposited as typescripts in the United States Copyright Office between 1925 and 1944, most of the plays remained unpublished and unproduced until they were rediscovered in the Copyright Deposit Drama Collection in 1997. The plays reflect Hurston's life experience, travels, and research, especially her study of folklore in the African-American South. Totaling 1,068 images, the scripts are housed in the Library's Manuscript, Music, and Rare Book and Special Collections divisions."

Happy reading,

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