LibriVox – download free audiobooks from the public domain…and you can volunteer to record them too!

A couple days ago my work friend and I were talking about doing voice recordings for podcasts and she told me about LibriVox. Established in 2005, it’s a non-commercial, non-profit and ad-free project run by volunteers and is dedicated to recording and providing audiobooks from the public domain. Anyone (including you!) who wants to record one of these books is welcome to do so. They currently have more than 12 thousand volunteer readers.

Here’s a brief description from their website explaining what they do and how they do it:

LibriVox volunteers record chapters of books in the public domain, and then we release the audio files back onto the net for free. All our audio is in the public domain, so you may use it for whatever purpose you wish. Please note: Our readers are free to choose the books they wish to record. LibriVox sees itself as a library of audiobooks. Because the books we read are in the public domain, our readers and listeners should be aware that many of them are very old, and may contain language or express notions that are antiquated at best, offending at worst.

Volunteering for LibriVox is easy and does not require any experience with recording or audio engineering or acting or public speaking. All you need is a computer, a microphone, some free recording software, and your own voice. We accept all volunteers in all languages, with all kinds of accents. You’re welcome to volunteer to read any language you speak, as long as you can make yourself understood in it. You don’t need to audition, but we do suggest a 1-Minute Test recording just to check your setup. We’ll accept you no matter what you sound like.

Doesn’t this sound fun? I hopped on their website to check it out and found these audiobooks ready for download. I listened to the beginnings of a couple and they sounded good!

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

In Our Time by Ernest Hemingway

Main Street by Sinclair Lewis

Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf

The Painted Veil by W. Somerset Maugham

So what do you think, would you listen to one of these audiobook versions? You can use a computer or download the app to your phone. Would you volunteer to record a book? Leave a comment!

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Audiobook Review: Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner, read by Ari Graynor and Beth Malone

Mrs. Everything
by
Jennifer Weiner

Read by Ari Graynor and Beth Malone

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I started Mrs. Everything, Weiner’s 2019 decades-spanning family drama about two sisters who grow up in Detroit during the 1950s. I’d read All Fall Down and remembered it as a semi-light read that covered serious issues. In that sense, the two books are similar, but at 480 pages (and close to 17 hours of listening), Mrs. Everything covers a lot more ground.

Jo and Bethie Kaufman are young girls when their parents move them from a racially-diverse apartment in Detroit to a mostly Jewish, and safer residential neighborhood just outside the city. Early on, their stay-at-home mother tells them that “birds of a feather must flock together,” based on her own painful childhood experiences as the daughter of immigrant parents. When their father dies, Jo, Bethie and their mother must learn to fend for themselves.

Jo is tall, strong and athletic, the classic tomboy, and Bethie is rounder, pretty and loves everything girly. Both girls struggle to find their own way and face many obstacles. Jo knows she’s different. She only likes girls, but must decide between what was then an unacceptable lifestyle or the conventional route of marriage and children. Bethie, a promising singer and stage performer, learns early that being pretty can attract the wrong kind of attention and enters a ten-year-long period of self-destruction.

Mrs. Everything is historical in that in addition to cultural, political, and social references, it covers major national and political events, wars, civil rights protests and women’s rights movements. To add color to her story, Weiner also includes trends, fashions, music, popular foods, descriptions of homes and interior décor. Present-day problems focus on women’s struggles in the modern world and highlight the Me Too movement.

I don’t like criticizing a book that supports worthy issues, but Mrs. Everything is an exhausting read in that it covers every single bad thing that could happen to a family and is a certifiable man-hater book. Most of the men in the story are terrible people, with only two exceptions: the deceased father and Bethie’s husband, a minor character. I found this approach very one-sided and unrealistic. Although I didn’t try to verify every date and fact, other readers have been critical of the author’s inaccurate references to time and place. I will say that I think that the author is very casual with some of her descriptions and plot lines. Maybe that doesn’t matter. I found it a little annoying.

Reviews of Mrs. Everything are mostly positive (It’s a New York Times Best Seller), but I’m not alone in my opinion and best seller doesn’t always mean it’s good. In the end, I’d say that this type of book just isn’t for me. To help you make your own decision, here are three bloggers’ reviews.

Subakka Bookstuff
Read with Aimee
Becky’s Reading Journey

Have you read Mrs. Everything? What did you think? Leave a comment!

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Audiobook review: Still Alice by Lisa Genova, narrated by the author

Still Alice
by
Lisa Genova

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I recently listened to Still Alice by Lisa Genova, a fictional account of a woman who is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s disease. The story begins with Alice Howland at the peak of her career. At fifty years old, she’s a renowned professor of psycholinguistics at Harvard University. She and her husband, John, a professor of biology, have spent their careers researching and teaching at Harvard. Despite some slight tension in their marriage over John’s lab schedule and a daughter who has skipped college to become an actress, everything is pretty good in the Howland family and with their two other adult children.

But then Alice starts forgetting things and gets lost after a jog, just minutes from her home. And worse lapses follow.

Alice and her family are stunned by the Alzheimer’s diagnosis. The book looks at the disease from Alice’s point of view and chronicles her inevitable decline. Genova also shows how the family reacts. John’s denial and then his aggressive search for the best medicines and trials are a reflection of his scientific mind. Because her strain of the disease is genetic, their adult children grapple with the news and results of their own testing. The Howlands rally around Alice, but they also take inward paths. John is sometimes supportive and other times he escapes into his career. Their children are just beginning their adult lives, a period that’s meant for them, not a sick parent. Genova presents an interesting dynamic between the siblings and their parents and shows how they step up, and back, in different ways.

Alice copes in surprising ways. Her brilliant mind has enabled her to use creative work-arounds, a strategy that has likely covered up her disease before she was diagnosed. She offers surprising insight as she devises a private plan to measure and face her decline.

Genova outlines this heartbreaking scenario with detailed scientific explanations and provides many resources for patients and families who suffer with Alzheimer’s.

While I found the story compelling and important, I was disappointed in its telling. Genova presents her story awkwardly. It’s a third-person look into Alice’s mind, using a lot of plain dialogue and coupled with long and scientific explanations of the disease, reading more like an informational pamphlet than a novel. I wanted to learn more about the Howlands and felt these characters could have been better developed, a missed chance that could have made the story great. I was also sorry to have chosen the audiobook version. Genova’s narration was plain with little inflection, making the characters all sound the same. A professional narrator would have made a huge difference.

Still Alice was adapted to film in 2014 and stars Julianne Moore, Alec Baldwin, Kristen Stewart, Kate Bosworth and Hunter Parish. It was directed by Richard Glatzer and Wash Westmoreland. The film won many awards and Moore won the Academy Award for Best Actress for her performance.

All-in-all, I’d recommend Still Alice to readers who want to know more about how Alzheimer’s affects its patients and their families, but I’d steer you to the print version.

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Audiobook Review: The Perfect Couple by Elin Hilderbrand

The Perfect Couple
by
Elin Hilderbrand

(3.75 stars rounded up to a 4)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Even though summer is over, I decided to try one of Elin Hilderbrand’s popular beach reads. I listened to the audiobook version of The Perfect Couple. This is the third book of the author’s Nantucket Series and, although I hadn’t read the first two, the story is very easy to follow as a standalone.

Set on Nantucket, Massachusetts, the story begins on the eve of Celeste Otis and Benji Winbury’s wedding and it’s a classic story of the stark contrast between the wealthy and regular folks. Benji’s parents are English and dripping in money. His mother, Greer, is a famous mystery writer and his father, Tag made his money in a vaguely-described investment career. Benji sits on some boards and lives in a penthouse apartment in Manhattan, with a trust fund coming his way. Celeste, however, comes from much more modest beginnings in Easton, Pennsylvania. Now she is the head herpetologist at the Bronx Zoo’s World of Reptiles. Her parents, Bruce and Karen, work every day jobs: Bruce in the men’s department at Nieman Marcus and Karen at the Crayola factory gift shop.

The Winburys are revered and established vacationers on Nantucket and the lavish wedding will take place at their Summerland retreat by the sea. Karen Otis is dying of breast cancer, Greer has taken over the wedding plans, and money is no object.

Guests arrive for the rehearsal dinner and are greeted with plenty of lobster, oysters, fancy hors d’oeuvres and strong drinks, prelude to a fancy dinner. As the alcohol flows, things begin to happen. But despite drama between various characters, all systems are go for the wedding until a shocking death halts the plans.

As details emerge, Chief of Police Ed Kapenash investigates and several guests are under suspicion. Between Kapenash’s investigations and alternating chapters in which the reader learns how Celeste and Benji meet and the back stories of both families, Hilderbrand challenges the reader to come up with a definition of the perfect couple.

The Perfect Couple is a true beach read as well as a light mystery, told in an expected soap opera format. Stereotyped characters and lots of references to brands, fashion, food and local attractions are a given. This story is in the pure entertainment category, with some touching moments and more serious themes, including love, family, and friendship. I enjoyed listening to this story and recommend it when you’re looking for something light and fun.

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Audiobook Review: The River by Peter Heller

The River
by
Peter Heller

Rating:

Wynn and Jack have been best friends ever since they met during freshman orientation at Dartmouth. They’re from different parts of the country: Wynn from Vermont and Jack from a Colorado ranch. But they bonded over their mutual love and deep respect for the outdoors and have taken many trips together. Now, with time off from college, they embark on a wildnerness canoe trip up the Maskwa River in northern Canada. Months in the planning, they are fit and able, and totally prepared, maybe.

A wildfire in the distance has them worried. Still, they keep paddling through the lakes leading to the river, hoping for the best. Once they enter the river, there will be no turning back. When they hear a man and a woman arguing on a nearby island, they decide to warn the couple about the fire. Strangely, when they land, the couple is nowhere to be found.

Later, a man appears, alone, injured and dazed. Is this the man they heard? Where is the woman? Something isn’t right and their careful plans are no good. The only sure thing now is the approaching fire and the swift river current.

I enjoyed listening to this descriptive and atmospheric thriller, read by Mark Deakins. Deakins has a deep voice that enhances the drama and tension of the story. Heller includes the friends’ important backstories which play well into the plot. Wynn, an art major, has an optimistic and trusting nature. Jack is more suspicious and more quick-tempered. But the two have always complemented each other and assume different roles. Neither is ready for what’s ahead, however, and an interesting dynamic develops between them as the tension builds.

I love stories where nature is a dominant force and The River is a good example of this. Heller’s descriptions make it easy to picture the lakes and river and are at times poetic. That makes sense because Heller is also an award-winning nature writer and author of literary nonfiction. (Read more about Heller here.) That said, I thought that the abundance of description bogged down the story a bit. There’s a lot of discussion of gear and different brands, fly fishing lures, and repeated references to filtered squeeze bottles, gathering berries, and wishing they had thought to bring salt. I enjoyed that part at first, but felt it got in the way later.

I always naively think rivers run south but the river they’re on runs north. That got me wanting to picture their route. A little research led me to this link which explains that the Maskwa River of the novel is actually the Winisk River and that Heller based the Cree village of Wapahk on the village of Peawanuck. You can learn more about this here at knopfdoubleday.com.

The River is a fast listen, at just seven hours. I listened to it during my walks and was totally engrossed.

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On audiobooks and coloring

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

One of the things I like to do while I’m listening to an audiobook is color. I’m no artist, but I enjoy coloring pages and hearing a good story. Very relaxing!

Today I’m sharing links to free coloring pages for adults and some audiobooks I recommend.

Art Is Fun

Crayola

Just Color


Dear Martin by Nic Stone

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

The Guest Room by Chris Bohjalian

Hidden Bodies by Caroline Kepnes


Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Seinfeldia by Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Truly Madly Guilty by Liane Moriarty

What If? by Randall Munroe


Many thanks to my friend J. for giving me this idea yesterday!

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BC Mom’s Author Update: The Reflections of Queen Snow White (Audiobook) by David Meredith

Welcome to Book Club Mom’s Author Update. Open to all authors who want to share news with readers. I recently caught up with David Meredith, who has news about the new audiobook version of The Reflections of Queen Snow White. Here’s what David has to say:


David Meredith

I’d like to announce The Reflections of Queen Snow White has been released in audiobook format through Audible and Amazon.com (click here to view), expertly narrated by Robin Waters. The #1 Kindle Best Seller for Fantasy and Futuristic Romance is also available in paperback as an e-book – FREE to Kindle Unlimited (KU) users!

Dr. David Meredith is a writer and educator originally from Knoxville, Tennessee. He received both a Bachelor of Arts and a Master of Arts from East Tennessee State University and a Doctorate in Educational Leadership (Ed.D.) from Trevecca Nazarene University in Nashville. On and off, he spent nearly a decade, from 1999-2010 teaching English in Northern Japan, but currently lives with his wife and three children in the Nashville Area where he continues to write and teach English.

Find out more about David and his books at these links:

Facebook: @DavidMeredithWriting
Amazon Author Page: David Meredith
Twitter: @DMeredith2013
Who’s That Indie Author? – David Meredith


For information about Book Club Mom’s Author Update,
email bvitelli2009@gmail.com.

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Audiobook review: Roar by Cecelia Ahern

Roar
by
Cecelia Ahern

Rating:

I’m not sure how to review a book like this. It’s a collection of thirty feminist fables, with titles that all begin with “The Woman Who…” The author addresses many of the challenges women of many ages face, mostly dealing with identity and self-worth. Some of them are coping with not being “seen” or taken seriously, or being treated as possessions. Some are mothers in crisis, who rush around with their young children. Others are young professionals, feeling suppressed by their male colleagues.

I listened to the audiobook version, which was narrated by three women. I would not call this a relaxing experience. The stories are combative and aggressive and I felt as if the message for most had a very “us against them” approach. The exceptions were some I did enjoy, including “The Woman Who Thought Her Mirror Was Broken,” “The Woman Who Forgot Her Name,” and “The Woman Who Walked in Her Husband’s Shoes.” I liked these because there was better resolution and understanding between the men and women in the stories. Although Ahern uses exaggerated metaphors to make her points (women disappearing, unraveling, being eaten up by guilt), these three fables were more relatable.

Many of the stories, at least in the audio version, have such an angry and staccato tone to them that I grew tired of the message, despite its worth. I think this collection, 289 pages in print and an eight-and-a-half-hour listen, would have been better if it was shorter.

Perhaps these stories were just not for me. There seems to be an equal measure of critical and positive talk online. I’m sharing several bloggers’ positive opinions here so you can decide for yourself:

Bookshelf Fantasies
Emma R
aclaireum

Have you read Roar? What did you think?

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Audiobook: What If? by Randall Munroe, read by Wil Wheaton

What If?
Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions

by
Randall Munroe
Read by Wil Wheaton

Rating:

Have you ever wondered how fast you could hit a speed bump while driving…and live? Or what would happen to the world if we drained our oceans? Maybe you’ve tried to imagine what Times Square, New York looked like one million, or even a billion years ago. All the answers to these and many other hypothetical questions are in this fun and informative book.

Randall Munroe is a former NASA roboticist and the creator of the xkcd.com, “a webcomic of romance, sarcasm, math, and language” and this book is a collection of the most popular questions he’s received.

I picked this audiobook because the title caught my eye. Although I don’t have a math or science mind, I like random information and appreciate that people like Munroe have the brain power to provide the answers. I’d never thought about any of the more than fifty scenarios, but I was interested in the answers and appreciated that he took the time to figure them out. But be ready for very detailed and thorough explanations!

While the questions represent wild and unrealistic situations, Munroe answers them respectfully and enthusiastically with serious math and science. One person asked what would happen if you tried to hit a baseball pitched at 90 percent the speed of light. Another wonders if it would be fatal to swim in a spent nuclear fuel pool. Munroe also includes short answers to what he calls “Weird (and Worrying) Questions” and believe me, no question is too unusual to be considered. While many of the questions are based on an interest in science, many reflect social and ethical ideas. These were the ones I was the most interested in.

In addition, Wil Wheaton is an excellent narrator, capturing the author’s happy interest in tackling all kinds of questions, from the wacky to the types that I’m thinking would be good to know in certain, though unlikely, situations.

This is the type of audiobook that would be best listened to one chapter at a time, with a little rest between explanations. I did that in the beginning, but listened to the rest of it over the span of a day. For the non-math and science types, this might be a little too intense. I also checked out the print version at the library and I’m glad I did because the book is illustrated with the author’s famous stick figures and that makes reading a little lighter. While I enjoyed listening to the audiobook version, I also think What If? would make a great coffee table book and recommend either to all curious listeners and readers.

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On YouTube today – audiobook update and general news!

Hi Everybody,

Today on YouTube I’m giving you an audiobook update and some general Book Club Mom news! Check it out here:

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