Monday, August 31, 2015

Audio Obsession #1. What stops you from listening to audiobooks? (Part 1)

Audio Obsession is a feature where I spread my love for audiobooks around blogosphere. Here you’ll see all things audio related.

What stops you from listening to audiobooks?

I love audio format. So it really pains me to know that many of my fellow booklovers don’t listen to audiobooks. What stops people? I’ve come across several reasons; today I’m going to discuss them. On Wednesday I plan to post Part 2, where we’ll continue this discussion.

Audiobooks are so long, I don’t have time.

I agree audiobooks are long. An average length of an audiobook is about twelve hours. You can read a book faster. But look at this from another angle. You can listen on those occasions, when you don’t have an opportunity to read. You can listen while driving, cleaning, cooking, working-out, etc. Audiobooks help to make even dreadful choirs bearable and maybe even enjoyable.

Example from my real life.
I hate ironing. So much so, that while choosing clothes to buy I ask myself if it would be easy to iron this garment. If not I wouldn’t buy it. Here is my story: I needed to iron a big pile of clothes and my mood wasn’t cheerful. Then I put my ear buds in and started Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. The story was so engaging, that I finished ironing in no time.

I know some people speed-up, so they can get through the audiobook quicker. I don’t do this. I feel like I would lose something special if I increase the speed. I LISTEN. I like to hear different intonations, pauses. I want to absorb emotions in narrator’s voice. It’s hard to do if you speed up.

I’ve listened to one audiobook, it was awful. I think audiobooks are not for me.

I hear this phrase a lot. It’s funny really, because people don’t say “reading is not for me” after they’ve read one or two bad books. My advice: if you’ve listened one or two audiobooks and didn’t like them, pick up another one. Just be pickier in your choice. Choose a book you are really interested in. Not some random audiobook that you can borrow from your friend or a family member or a book that happened to be available in your local library. It should be a book you want to read. Then make your research: read reviews about audio version of this book; find information about the narrator, is he or she good; listen to an audio sample. This way you increase chances to find an audiobook that would work for you.

Audiobooks are expensive.

This is true. Audiobooks are expensive. I’m fortunate that I can afford to buy them, but I understand that it can be an issue for many readers. There are ways to purchase audiobooks for low prices or even listen them for free.

Lovely Rachel from Reader’s Den is my guest today. Here her tips how to safe your money.

1. Borrow and download audio books for free through your library. Use your library card to sign into the Overdrive application on your phone or iPad. You can also borrow e-books as well, and have them delivered to your electronic reading device. You usually only have 14-21 days to complete the book.

2. Subscribe to the Audible Daily Deal. Every day they have a book discounted from the normal price. Usually $3.95 or $4.95 compared to $14.95 and higher. Audible also runs sales from time to time so it's good to be part of their mailing list.

3. Look for e-book/audiobook sale combos on Amazon. A lot of times if there is an audio version of the book you can buy the e-copy and get the audio version with it for a highly reduced rate.
The Yellow Rose Beauty Shop by Carolyn Brown is $4.99 for the e-copy and for an additional $1.99 you can add the audio version. This is nice when you want to switch back and forth from e-copy and audio version. I've done this with a lot of the Kate Daniels and Mercy Thompson series.

So tell me, do you listen to audiobooks? If not, what stops you? Have I convinced you to pick up an audiobook?

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Audiobook review: One Plus One by Jojo Moyes

Title: One Plus One
Author: Jojo Moyes
Narrators: Elizabeth Bower, Ben Elliot, Nicola Stanton, Steven France
Story rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Audio rating: 5 of 5 Stars
Overall rating: 5 of 5 Stars


I’ve read this book two months ago and it still stays in my thoughts. Not in a way “this book broke my heart, and I’m still picking up pieces”, but in a way “this book made me happy and put a smile on my face”.

One Plus One is the most lighthearted and funniest book by Jojo Moyes I’ve read so far. It reminded me of Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty in that sense that Jojo Moyes manages to tell us about sad, depressing things in such light, full of hope manner that reader never feels overwhelmed by negative emotions.

But this book is not all fun. Yes, there were many comical moments, but there also were heartbreaking scenes, which made me tear up.

What this book is about? Two years ago Jess’s husband suffered depression and went to live with his mother. She raises their daughter Tanzie and her stepson Nicky alone, working low paid jobs and trying to meet ends. Now her Goth stepson is bullied and her math genius daughter has a chance to go to a private math school on a scholarship, but Jess can’t afford even this small payment. Their last desperate chance is a Math Olympiad where Tanzie can win needed sum of money. The only problem, it takes place in Scotland, and they need to get there. This is where Ed comes to rescue; he offered to ride them to Olympiad. Ed is a technology millionaire, whose life recently came apart. He faces major legal problems. This is how this road trip for Jess, Ed, Nicky, Tanzie and Norman (their big and stinky dog) begins.

As all Jojo Moyes’s books, One Plus One is very character-driven story. The author brought to life such interesting complex characters. Jess, Ed, Nicky, Tanzie, each of them has their own personality, their own voice, and the audio format only added to this difference. They are so imperfectly real.

Jess was such a sunny and full of life heroine. Her motto was "Good things happen to good people. You just have to keep faith." Her life was hard but she was so optimistic. It was heartbreaking to see how she at one point lost her believe in goodness. I wanted to hug her and I was happy that Ed was with her.

What surprised me the most was the romance. It was sweet, touching and unexpectedly full of eroticism and passion.

“As they drove she kept stealing looks at him. She found she couldn’t see his hands without picturing them on her skin, that soft mop of hair travelling slowly down her bare stomach. She thought about the smell of him, the tough muscle and the smooth skin of him.”

Despite wonderful romance, One Plus One is more family and character’s growth book. Jojo Moyes masterfully pictures different types of relationship here: Jess and Tanzie, Jess and Nicky, fantastic sibling bound between Tanzie and Nicky, Ed’s relationship with his family, with his father. I was especially touched by Nicky and Tanzie, there were so much love, caring and support between them.

My thoughts about the audiobook

Narration was very good. It’s been a while since I’ve listened to a multiple narration and I forgot how wonderful it is when each character has their own voice. There were four narrators, each for Jess, Ed, Nicky and Tanzie and they’d done a great job bringing these characters to life. I also liked that Nicky and Tanzie sounded like a teenage boy and a girl. I find it very annoying when a young character is performed by a narrator with an “old” voice.

One Plus One ended up on my favorite shelf. I highly recommend it to those who love character driven stories about family and love.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Review: Once Upon a Rose (La Vie en Roses #1) by Laura Florand

Title: Once Upon a Rose (La Vie en Roses #1)
Author: Laura Florand
My rating: 4 of 5 Stars
SUMMARY (from Goodreads)
She stole his roses.

Fleeing the spotlight, burnt out rock star Layla—“Belle”—Dubois seeks refuge in the south of France. That old, half-forgotten heritage in a valley of roses seems like a good place to soothe a wounded heart. She certainly doesn’t expect the most dangerous threat to her heart to pounce on her as soon as she sets foot on the land.

He wants them back.

Matt didn’t mean to growl at her quite that loudly. But—his roses! She can’t have his roses. Even if she does have all those curls and green eyes and, and, and…what was he growling about again?

Or maybe he just wants her.

When an enemy invades his valley and threatens his home, heart, and livelihood, Matthieu Rosier really knows only one way to defend himself.

It might involve kissing.

I’m such a slow reader. I’m so jealous of my friends who can read a book in one sitting and gush about it in a couple of hours, while I’m still 20 % in. It’s not even that English is not my first language, because I read slowly in Russian too. So you can imagine my horror when I realized (while reading Once Upon a Rose) that my reading pace dropped even more. What’s happened? I blame it all on Laura Florand. Her writing is gorgeous, and I kept rereading sentences and whole paragraphs.

Laura Florand’s writing is sensual and, I don’t know, kinesthetic… When she wrote about a scent, I felt it; when she described a texture, it was like I run my fingers through it. It’s amazing! I don’t think I’ve ever read a book where my senses were so involved. I feel so inadequate trying to put it into words; I’ll just give you example of this beauty:

"The scent of roses reached her from his hand, mixed with the apples of her shampoo, and she closed her eyes against a wave of hunger. It didn’t help. Closing her eyes meant that all she could do was feel—his hand shifting in her hair, his breath brushing over her lips, the cool shade of the street after the sun of the fields, and the press of a knocker against her back. The silence of the stone seemed to hold her safe in it. A gentle echo sounded of someone walking down another cobblestone street below. She wanted him to talk again, into her darkness."

I think Laura Florand’s writing is perfect for audiobooks. I want to listen one of her books in audio. Audio format gives readers opportunity to appreciate beautiful words more.

I don’t easily give a spot on my “awesome hero” shelf, but Matt definitely goes there. I fell in love with this big and growling man, who is such a sweetie inside. Aaaaand he is blushing! I have a soft spot for blushing heroes.

"That smile she sometimes had for him made him feel so confusedly and vulnerably happy, as if he was a teddy-bear she was about to pick up and squeeze. He had never in his life felt very squeezable before."

Also it was such a treat to meet Matt’s big family. His grandfather, Tante Colette, aunts and uncles, and of course his cousins (I hope each of them will get his own book in future). To have so many relatives, many of them in the same area and this big heritage. Nowadays people know grandparents, great grandparents, but how many of us can trace their family back to the Renaissance?

I loved Matt’s relationship with his cousins. There were four of them present, each of them with his own distinct personality and story to tell. It’s obvious they all love each other and have each other backs despite competitive nature of their relationship. Their teasing of Matt was so endearing.

The romance… What can I tell? I swooned. It was sensual, beautifully-written and it pleased romantic it me.

I have to mention the setting. Laura Florand pictured Provence so vividly; it was like I was transported there, like I walked with Layla on these old narrow beautiful streets, like I was looking on rose fields. Laura Florand definitely made me want to visit these places.

Why didn’t I give this book 5 Stars? The same reason – Laura Florand’s writing style. Have you ever been in perfume shop? You want to buy a perfume, you walk in, and there are all these scents around you. And while one perfect scent is a pleasure for your senses, when you are bombarded by all of them at once, you get overloaded. So you need to get out for fresh air, or you’ll have a headache. I’m not sure I make any sense here, but this is how I felt while reading Once Upon Rose. There were actually a couple of times when I had to put the book aside for a while because I was overwhelmed.

All in all Once Upon a Rose was a heartfelt beautiful story, which left me with warm feelings. I was told that this is one of lightest books by Laura Florand and her other novels are more emotional and heavy, which of course don’t stop me at all, I’m looking forward to my next book by this author.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Review: The Last Letter from Your Lover by Jojo Moyes

Title: The Last Letter from Your Lover
Author: Jojo Moyes
My rating: 4 of 5 Stars


I think I can tell that Jojo Moyes became one of my favorite authors. I’ve read four books by her and I loved them all. I read The Last Letter from Your Lover back in May, when I had a break from reviewing. I had a pile of books, and I ended up writing mini-reviews for most of them. Not in this case. This book deserves a full review.

The Last Letter from Your Lover has similar structure to another Jojo Moyes’s book The Girl You Left Behind. There are two stories in one book. Strangely, I wasn’t frustrated when we were abruptly switched from one story to another as I was while reading The Girl You Left Behind. Probably I was prepared this time.

In 1960 Jennifer Stirling awakened in hospital after a car accident with no recollections of who she was and how she ended up there. As she’s trying to return to normal life, she could feel the strain between her and her husband and finally she found a letter from a mysterious B where he asked her to leave her husband. It’s obvious she had a lover, but who he was and how Jennifer could find him? In 2003 Ellie Haworth, a journalist who is trying to pick up her collapsing career, finds this letter in the newspaper’s archive. Intrigued, she decides to find out what happened to Jennifer and B, while trying to sort her own life, since she has an affair with a married man.

The first chapters of the book were slow, painfully so. Probably some readers would get bored and give up on the book, but I didn’t have problem with it. Jojo Moyes perfectly created this stifling atmosphere, where confused Jennifer couldn’t breathe.

I admit I was hesitant to pick up this book because it deals with infidelity. Writing about such sensitive topic requires tact and not every writer can pull it off. But Jojo Moyes did an amazing job here. All relationships in this book were complex, messy and real.

Laurence, Jennifer’s husband was an interesting character. I’m glad Jojo Moyes didn’t make him the evil, so Jennifer’s choice would be easy. Laurence was an average man from that period of time. He was cold, he thought that a good wife should be just a pretty silent thing on her husband’s arm, but he genuinely loved Jennifer, he tried to make her happy in his own way, and he suffered and didn’t understand why she wasn’t happy.

Romance between Jennifer and B really touched me despite it being an affair. Their story was unfolded in snippet, by letters, memories, and my heart broke every time something went wrong.

"If only’ is a very dangerous game indeed."

You know I tend to think and rethink “what if”; what if I’ve done it differently. I consciously try not to do it because what good can it bring? I’ve done what I’ve done and now I can’t change it. Life goes on. So Jennifer and B's story was like my personal hell. So many lost opportunities, so many different paths, so many “what ifs”.

I especially was grabbed by relationship between Ellie and John. He is married and she is that woman. I didn’t expect to feel so much. I sympathized with Ellie, I felt frustration, anger. Their relationship were painful, draining. While Ellie could see the toxic effect they had on her life, she couldn’t get out of this trap.

When I was in my early twenties, young and single, and later when I was happy newlywed I had a strong negative opinion about infidelity. I was quick to judge and thought that to have an affair was an awful and unforgivable thing to do. I also pitied and couldn’t understand those women who stayed with their unfaithful husbands. As time passed something in me shifted and I realized that things are not black and white. Relationships are more complex. I don’t try to justify infidelity. I personally think that if two people love each other and are in relationship, they should be faithful, but now I have it in me to at least try to understand the other side. The other revelation I had some time ago, you can’t really predict how you would react if you discovered that your partner was unfaithful. My close friend found herself in such situation. She always was pretty vocal that she would kick her husband out of her life if he cheated but when it happened she decided to give him second chance, she did it for herself, for their relationship, for their children. God, it’s so easier when it’s just two of you… So far they are good together. I’m sorry, I got way off track here, but this book made me think about all of this. There was a scene in the book that was a trigger to this train of thoughts.

The scene where John’s wife confronts Ellie.

I absolutely loved Ellie’s relationship with Rory. He is a sweet guy, very down-to-earth. I felt like he can be my neibour. He is not a muscular superhero with bad behavior, he is kind, caring guy. I don’t think I’ve ever come across such an unflattering description of hero.

"He’s not her type. He’s sarcastic, a bit chippy, probably several years younger than she is. She suspects he earns significantly less than she does, and probably still shares a flat."

Isn’t it wonderful?

and another:

"Her head, her flat, her life, are full of John. There’s no room for this man. Perhaps what she actually feels for him is sisterly, and only mildly confused by the fact that he is not exactly ugly."

At first Ellie didn’t see him as a love interest at all. She just liked to spend time with him and in his presence she could relax, be herself. There was a scene when they went skating:

"When she fell over, he laughed mercilessly. It was liberating to do this with someone whose opinion she cared so little for: if it had been John, she would have fretted that the chill of the ice was making her nose redden."

As they form tentative friendship I couldn’t help myself, but rooted for them and wished them to become more than friends.

There was also twist at the end which I totally didn’t see coming. Speaking about the end, I was pleased how the book ended. It was an open-ending but full of hope.

All in all I it was another great book by Jojo Moyes, and I enjoyed it a lot.