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  • Eleanor Oliphant Is Completely Fine

  • A Novel
  • By: Gail Honeyman
  • Narrated by: Cathleen McCarron
  • Length: 11 hrs and 2 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 25,686
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars 23,824
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 23,722

Meet Eleanor Oliphant: She struggles with appropriate social skills and tends to say exactly what she's thinking. Nothing is missing in her carefully timetabled life of avoiding social interactions, where weekends are punctuated by frozen pizza, vodka, and phone chats with Mummy. But everything changes when Eleanor meets Raymond, the bumbling and deeply unhygienic IT guy from her office.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Close To Perfection--A Definite Thumbs Up!

  • By Kathy on 08-07-17

An absolute delight!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-30-18

DING! DING! DING! We have a WINNER! Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine will undoubtedly be my favorite read this month. I’m sure this book will also be on my Top Ten Read in 2018 list.

Eleanor was, at first, a bit hard to like. She was a bit judgey, aloof, and condescending. Her week revolved around work and her Wednesday evening chats with Mummy. Her weekends were spent in the company of her potted plant, Polly, and one or three bottles of vodka. We soon learn, however, that there is likely a reason that Eleanor is the way she is. Among other things, Eleanor has a large scar on one side of her cheek as the result of “an incident” in her childhood. This incident has resulted in Mummy being “inaccessible”, hence their only contact being their weekly chats.

When Eleanor experiences IT trouble one day at work, she is forced to contact Raymond, the new IT person, to solve her computer issues. She finds his lack of immediate response, overall appearance, and cigarette oder to be quite off-putting. When she and Raymond are coincidentally leaving the office together one day, they witness an older man collapsing in front of them. Raymond is quick to help but Eleanor must be guilted in to providing aid. So begins her reluctant connection to Raymond and Sammy, the man on the sidewalk. She is somewhat motivated to be cordial to Raymond, though, as she is in need of some IT assistance at home. You see, she has met someone and wishes to do some internet stalking research. And by “met someone”, we mean that she has seen a guy singing in a band who she is now a bit obsessed with.

Eleanor’s obsession with Johnnie motivates her to make some changes to her wardrobe an appearance. Her shopping and beautification efforts provided me with more than a few giggles.

In the meantime, Eleanor’s unlikely friendships with Raymond and and Sammy deepen and provides us with glimpses of another side to Eleanor’s personality which is quite lovely. She is, indeed, capable of caring for other people. She is quite obviously lonely. As much as she is averse to touch and intimacy, she also craves it. It becomes obvious that Eleanor’s scars are emotional as well.

I absolutely adored Raymond! He was — cigarette stench and perpetual wearing of trainers excepted — the perfect friend for Eleanor. We should all have a rock like that in our lives; someone to accept us unconditionally and be a soft cushion on which to land in times of trouble.

As the story evolves and continues, we learn more about “the incident” and Eleanor’s struggle to heal, to defeat her demons, and live a more fulfilling life. By the middle of the book, I was absolutely rooting for Eleanor and found it difficult to stop listening.

This book does address some serious topics including PTSD, alcoholism, suicide, and child abuse. And though there were moments that I felt a little burdened by the weight of it, I found that it was written with sensitivity. There was nothing terribly explicit that I can recall and I never found it to be over the top or gratuitous. It was all very necessary to Eleanor’s story. Anyone who’s had a toxic parental relationship will relate to all aspects of Eleanor’s conversations with Mummy; from the beginning of the book to the very end. All this said, I found Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine to be an overwhelmingly positive and uplifting read.

I’m in awe of the fact that this is Gail Honeyman’s debut novel. She clearly has a very keen sense of the depths and nuances of human emotion. She writes in a way that is substantive while being simultaneously witty and humorous. I can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.

I chose Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine as my first audiobook. Though I found that I can’t multitask with listening, I really enjoyed it. I found that when I was tired, it was much easier to listen than it would have been to read. The narrator, Cathleen McCarron was the perfect voice for Eleanor. I loved how she gave Raymond his voice as well.

  • West Cork

  • By: Sam Bungey, Jennifer Forde
  • Narrated by: Sam Bungey, Jennifer Forde
  • Length: 7 hrs and 50 mins
  • Original Recording
  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars 22,691
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 20,260
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars 20,262

This much we do know: Sophie Toscan du Plantier was murdered days before Christmas in 1996, her broken body discovered at the edge of her property near the town of Schull in West Cork, Ireland. The rest remains a mystery. Gripping, yet ever elusive, join the real-life hunt for answers in the year’s first not-to-be-missed, true-crime series.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • EXCELLENT.

  • By Ilia on 03-07-18

Engaging & atmospheric as any fictional mystery!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-30-18

seem to be on quite a roll when it comes to audiobooks lately. I'm beginning to know straightaway if it's going to work or not. One of the things I love about Audible is that if it isn't, I can exchange the book, free of charge, for another. Fortunately, I haven't had to do that in a while. West Cork is my third five-star audiobook in a row.

I first heard about this book while standing in one of the many, many, many looooong lines I stood in at Book Expo. I happened to be standing next to a young man who works for Audible and we started chatting about audiobooks. I mentioned that I'd just heard some great things about West Cork and that I was considering using one of my subscription credits to listen to it. I must've skimmed over the synopsis because I was under the impression that it was a work of fiction. He explained that it was nonfiction and that I should think of it as a series of podcast episodes presented by the investigative journalists who sought answers to questions surrounding the unsolved murder of a young woman in a remote Irish seaside town. Though I don't read a lot of nonfiction, I do watch a lot of true crime on Investigation Discovery. That, coupled with the young man's (I wish I could remember his name. I'm just awful with names.) genuine enthusiasm for the story, the journalists, and the atmosphere of West Cork motivated me to give it a go.

West Cork is the story of the unsolved murder of Sophie Tuscan du Plantier and how it affected the peaceful town of West Cork, Ireland. It has all the hallmarks of a great thriller—a beautiful, wealthy, and mysterious victim, a brutal crime scene, questionable investigative practices, and a suspect who is either the most wrongly accused man who ever was or a narcissistic murderer who loves bringing attention upon himself. The townspeople provided a unique cast of characters as you might expect in any small, close-knit towns all over the globe. Nosy neighbors, surly pub-goes, artsy types—none wanted to believe that this heinous killing could have been committed by one of their own. It would have been preferable to have found it had been carried out by one of the blow-ins—the name given to people who appeared to come from nowhere to settle in West Cork for the benefit of isolation and anonymity.

I was fascinated by the forensics which were somewhat limited by the techniques available in 1996, the local Gardaí's knowledge of how to employ them, and the remote location of the murder. The ensuing investigation and various court proceeds held my attention and made me long for the resolution that would have been possible had this been a work of fiction.

In many ways listening to West Cork felt like watching a show on ID. Sam Bungey and Jennifer Forde were excellent narrators and I loved listening to them conduct interviews and informal chats with all of the interested parties including Ms. du Plantier's family members, the suspect, the townspeople, and even the Gardaí. I was quite impressed with the access they'd been given. It speaks to their level of credibilty and what appears to be their genuine drive to help solve this murder.

I absolutely loved the soundtrack. I would've never imagined it could have such an effect on my experience. It provided an edge-of-the-seat sense of urgency and yet was beautiful at the same time. And it definitely helped boost the creepy factor as I was listening while running on quiet, rural roads...

I would definitely recommend West Cork to anyone who loves true crime or mystery/thriller fiction. I hope that Mr. Bungey and Ms. Forde go on to produce similar works in the future as I'd certainly love to give a listen.

  • The Trauma Cleaner

  • By: Sarah Krasnostein
  • Narrated by: Rachael Tidd
  • Length: 9 hrs and 17 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 70
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 65
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 65

Before she was a trauma cleaner, Sandra Pankhurst was many things: husband and father, drag queen, gender reassignment patient, sex worker, small businesswoman, trophy wife... but as a little boy, raised in violence and excluded from the family home, she just wanted to belong. Now she believes her clients deserve no less. A man who bled quietly to death in his living room. Sarah Krasnostein has watched the extraordinary Sandra Pankhurst bring order and care to these, the living and the dead - and the book she has written is equally extraordinary.  

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Beautiful, emotional, and perfectly narrated.

  • By LitWitWineDine on 06-30-18

Beautiful, emotional, and perfectly narrated.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-30-18

I’ve been chewing on this review for days and I’m sure I won’t do this one justice. How do you put into words a story that makes your heart heavy with sorrow and full of love, joy, and compassion at the same time? I’d have a hard time formulating an answer the question “what is it about?”. I keep ending up with some sort of grammatically incorrect, run-on gibberish that goes something like this: It’s about this woman’s life, only she wasn’t born in a woman’s body, whose parent’s were horribly abusive but somehow she maintains this amazing level of dignity through all of these shitty things that happen to in her life, and not only that but she goes on to run this very successful and interesting business where she employs all of the empathy and compassion she was either born with or has acquired because of her experiences (probably both) to help other people who are at or near rock bottom when they need her services. Or she cleans up the messes their dead bodies make.

Okay, now that that’s out of the way, I’ll try to make my thoughts a little more coherent. The Trauma Cleaner is a beautifully written story about Sandra Pankhurst, owner of Specialized Trauma Cleaning Services (STC) in Australia. The chapters alternate between Sandra’s personal story and those of a few of her clients. Sandra’s story is both heartbreaking and inspiring. One should be prepared to read, or in my case listen to, some very disturbing details. It’s been decades since I read A Child Called It, and while I don’t recall all of the details of that book, I recall parts of it making me feel quite similarly.

I really don’t want to say much more about Sandra’s story or that of her clients. That is for the reader to discover. What I’d like to tell you about is what makes this story so special and why I grew so fond of Sandra and the author, Sarah Krasnostein.

First, this book is filled with empathy and respect. Hoarders, sex workers, LGBTQIA, those with behavioral health issues, and every other marginalized or otherwise disenfranchised person or group mentioned in this book is spoken of with tenderness and respect.

Second, and this is very me-specific, I really liked and identified with Sandra. She reminded me of bits and pieces of my grandmother, myself, and a few my favorite nurse/healtcare co-workers over the years. As a matter of fact, I found her to be as much, if not more, a carer than a cleaner. She really has a gift of relating to all kinds of people in the way that works for them. She uses candor, humor, and when needed, tough love. She would be an excellent nurse herself.

I’m really very glad that I listened to The Trauma Cleaner I think I was even more engaged than if I’d been reading it. Rachael Tidd was an excellent narrator.

I didn’t do any research on Sandra prior to completing my listen and I’m glad I didn’t. After I was through, I did some Googling and found some great articles and interviews. I’m not including links because I think it’s better to go in not knowing much beyond the blurb but wanted to mention that they are out there.

** This book contains graphic descriptions of child abuse and (adult) sexual abuse.**

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell

  • A Novel
  • By: Robert Dugoni
  • Narrated by: Robert Dugoni
  • Length: 11 hrs and 41 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,649
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,271
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 4,259

Sam Hill always saw the world through different eyes. Born with red pupils, he was called “Devil Boy” or Sam “Hell” by his classmates; “God’s will” is what his mother called his ocular albinism. Her words were of little comfort, but Sam persevered. Sam believed it was God who sent Ernie Cantwell, the only African American kid in his class, to be the friend he so desperately needed. And that it was God’s idea for Mickie Kennedy to storm into Our Lady of Mercy like a tornado, uprooting every rule Sam had been taught about boys and girls. Forty years later, Sam, a small-town eye doctor, is no longer certain anything was by design.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Wow..allow yourself to be submerged in this book

  • By Donna Smith McG on 05-18-18

Loved it!

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-20-18

I’m beginning to learn that audiobooks either work or do not for me. There is no middle ground. I’m happy to report that The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell definitely worked!

There are many things I loved about this book but my overwhelming response upon finishing it was Wow, this book was so refreshing! I can’t recall the last time I read a book centered around a likable protagonist with an amazing and supportive family. That’s not to say that there wasn’t plenty of adversity. To be sure, there was. In fact, this book covered a great many weighty topics including bullying, racism, domestic abuse, and child abuse. These topics were addressed, however, with sensitivity and in such a way as to convey hope and a sense of justice in most cases.

As for the characters, Robert Dugoni does an amazing job of presenting us with a carefully constructed cast spanning the spectrum between good/almost perfect and pretty darn evil. What really stuck with me is how he managed to give us an understanding of how even the most unlikable characters became the way they are without excusing their behavior. Sam’s friends Mickey and Ernie were quite lovable and a beautiful reminder that our circle does not need to be large to be full. As for his parents, I can only say that everyone should have parents like Sam’s.

Another refreshing and interesting aspect of this book was the role of religion. Sam’s mother is a devout, walk-the-walk Catholic who isn’t afraid to go toe-to-toe with the intimidating Sister Beatrice at Our Lady of Mercy. I loved her for that. She was decidedly not, as his father would have called it, a “Christmas Catholic”. She was the real deal. While the church was not made out to be perfect, neither were it’s faults gratuitously sensationalized. I found Sam’s struggle with his religious beliefs to be very realistic. And while religion plays a role in the book, it’s never, ever preachy.

Overall, I loved The Extraordinary Life of Sam Hell. The audiobook was performed by the author and he did a fabulous job bringing the characters and story to life. In fact, I’m rather glad I listened to this one. I think I may have had an even better experience than if I’d read it. I haven’t read Robert Dugoni’s Tracy Crosswhite series but I would definitely read his work in the future.

  • Far from the Tree

  • By: Robin Benway
  • Narrated by: Julia Whelan
  • Length: 8 hrs and 54 mins
  • Unabridged
  • Overall
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,131
  • Performance
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,039
  • Story
    4.5 out of 5 stars 1,035

Being the middle child has its ups and downs. But for Grace, an only child who was adopted at birth, discovering that she is a middle child is a different ride altogether. After putting her own baby up for adoption, she goes looking for her biological family, including: Maya, her loudmouthed younger bio sister, who has a lot to say about their newfound family ties. And Joaquin, their stoic older bio brother, who has no interest in bonding over their shared biological mother.

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • SO MOVED BY THIS STORY! GREAT FICTION!

  • By Ann on 02-28-18

Perfect for readers of adult literary fiction.

Overall
5 out of 5 stars
Performance
5 out of 5 stars
Story
5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 06-07-18

Far From the Tree took me far out of my comfort zone in the most excellent way! It’s only the second audiobook I’ve listen to till the very end and it’s YA.

Here’s what I loved:

The Characters – Grace, Maya, and Joaquin were well-developed characters to love. They’re all basically good kids carrying more baggage than most adults could bear. Some of their baggage is shared and some is very specific to the character.

The Story – There’s a lot going on here but it all blends seamlessly. Themes explored include teen pregnancy, racism, family dynamics, bullying, and behavioral health and substance abuse issues. Yes, lots of heavy stuff! Yet throughout there’s an underlying sense of hope and healing.

The Feels – As you might guess from reading the above, this is a very emotional read. Sadness, despair, joy, fear, etc. All the feels are there! Be prepared for teary eyes.

The Writing/Narration – I can’t speak to how it would be to read this in print but the language was very easy to listen to. The narrator, Julia Whelan did a fantastic job giving each character a very specific voice.

The Takeaway – Far From the Tree is a beautiful story. It’s YA that’s perfect for readers of adult literary fiction.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful