STAFF PICK: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told by Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman

Post by Laura Laidman

Title: The Greatest Love Story Ever Told
Author: Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman
Narrator: Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman

Hollywood marriages are rarely ones that people would consider long lasting, inspirational, or ‘great love stories’, but Megan Mullally and Nick Offerman have never been the type to follow trends. From their May-December partnership (Mullally is 12 years older than Offerman), to their courtship while she was an Emmy Award winning superstar on Will & Grace and he was sleeping in a friend’s unfinished basement and struggling for work, they’ve trumped the expectations society has put on Hollywood stars, and on love itself.

In The Greatest Love Story Ever Told, Mullally and Offerman dissect their marriage, careers, childhoods, passions, and what makes them work as a unit. Both are known for being hilarious scene stealers in two outrageously funny sitcoms (Will & Grace and Parks & Rec, respectively), as well as their many guest appearances in other shows that always capture an audience’s attention. As a team, they play off each other’s humor brilliantly, and listening along with their back and forth had me laughing in the car all the way to work each day.

Unlike most traditional books, The Greatest Love Story Ever Told is an open dialogue between our two narrators rather than a structured linear timeline of their courtship and relationship. Mullally and Offerman go off on tangents, sing songs, side bar, and tease each other (and the listener) in a playful, sweet way that comes with the intimate knowledge of nearly two decades together. Intercut between topics such as family life, having kids, acting, and music are solo chapters more akin to traditional biographical works, where Offerman shares his personal histories and views on his life in Hollywood, and his devoted love for his wife, and a few from Mullally exploring her eccentric childhood, career, and aging in Hollywood.

This was easily the most fun I’ve had listening to an audiobook, and I had to pause several times simply because I was missing chunks of the story because I was laughing too hard. Even with the laughter, sidebarsm, and tangents, at the heart of the book are two people who are very much in love after 18 years together in Hollywood. And that is pretty inspirational.

The Greatest Love Story Ever Told.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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STAFF PICK: A Spark of Light by Jodi Picoult

Post by Pam Campbell

Title: A Spark of Light
Author: Jodi Picoult
Narrator: Jodi Picoult and Bahni Turpin

We begin at the end in Jodi Picoult’s latest mesmerizing audiobook, A Spark of Light. It speaks to her storytelling abilities that we’re able to follow along in reverse. The theme of the audiobook is controversial, but her writing is in top form. To be honest, I am at a loss as to where to begin this review. Trying to keep my personal beliefs about this topic to myself and simply review the story line, characters, writing, and world that Picoult has created is difficult. I’m going to borrow her method and start with how I normally end a review and work my way backwards.

At the heart of this story is a woman’s right to make decisions with regards to her body; her self; her worth. What Picoult brings to this sensitive subject is a somewhat balanced view of individuals on either side of the pro-life vs. pro-choice debate. Bahni Turpin does a wonderful job of bringing the characters to life and enhances the heightened atmosphere created by Picoult.

Exploring every aspect of women’s health and how it can affect those around us, Picoult takes a private matter and shines a light on how it becomes a public matter, exposing the raw emotions of why this topic is so provocative, and why there are such extreme opinions.

A Spark of Light is fast-paced, which made it difficult to press pause. Every chapter represents an hour in time on the fateful day when a women’s health center is held hostage. We are immediately taken to the end of the day and the end of the hostage situation. We are introduced to the survivors in disbelief, and to Hugh McElroy, the hostage negotiator and father of 15-year-old Wren, a hostage in the center.

The end unfolds before us, before we have bonded with the characters, before we know their motives. And it works. I was immediately invested in knowing how this came to pass. I wanted to know more about Wren, Hugh, Janine, Dr. Ward, Joy, Aunt Bex, and George. A Spark of Light begins like a newscast interrupting your daily programming to bring you a breaking story. It is a story that needs to be told and one that Picoult expertly delves into with passion, respect, and conviction.

A Spark of Light.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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STAFF PICK: The Bus on Thursday by Shirley Barrett

Post by Laura Laidman

Title: The Bus on Thursday
Author: Shirley Barrett
Narrator: Katherine Littrell

The tagline of The Bus on Thursday, “Bridget Jones meets The Exorcist,” didn’t just grab my attention — it had me hitting download the moment it was available. Balancing snappy comedic diaries with one of my all-time favorite horror movies was something I needed to get in my headphones immediately.

That, and I was also curious to see if it was actually doable.

I was really pleased that The Bus on Thursday was able to combine the fast paced, comedic timing and humility I was looking for and the dark, demonic mystery that has me dying for cooler weather, sweaters, and all things Halloween. In this hilariously evil audiobook from author and screenwriter Shirley Barrett, we meet Eleanor Mellett, a primary school teacher whose life is turned upside down after a bad breakup and a breast cancer diagnosis in her early 30s.

Eleanor finds herself out of work and being sliced, diced, and reconstructed, all while trying to figure out her love life and what comes next. Once she receives a clean bill of health, Eleanor knows she needs a fresh start — one that doesn’t involve her old job, ex, and best frenemy. That’s when she finds Talbingo, a small town in immediate need of a new teacher.

At first glance, Talbingo seems perfect. Nestled near the mountains with learning-hungry kids and friendly neighbors is exactly what Eleanor had in mind. But things aren’t exactly what they seem in this quaint Australian town. The last teacher has been declared missing, and the kids aren’t the biggest fans of their new teacher. There’s also a local priest who is convinced that Eleanor’s cancer isn’t a medical issue, but a demonic one.

Through witty blog posts, Eleanor invites us into her life and the craziness that is Talbingo. Day by day, readers learn about the overly attached teen that is getting too close in class, the handsome neighbor who may know more about the previous teacher’s absence than he lets on, the petite woman from church who is crying over her decoupage, and the rest of Talbingo’s more interesting residents.

The Bus on Thursday is a clever, fast-paced listen that kept me guessing with each minute. Is Eleanor possessed by a demon? Or is she just losing her mind due to the isolation of Talbingo? Is her new paramour the devil? Or is he just not looking for a commitment? Either way, Eleanor is hilarious and going through this journey with her kept me laughing and spooked at the same time — just in time for Halloween.

Eleanor’s blog is brought to life with fiery sass by the amazing Katherine Littrell. Her inflection, attitude, and heart really added to the story in a way that made me feel like Eleanor was a friend pouring her heart out to me rather than being just a character in the book. Even as she’s breaking down, she kept me laughing and I dreaded having to hit pause.

The Bus on Thursday.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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STAFF PICK: Ponti by Sharlene Teo

Post by Miranda Winters-Sayle

Title: Ponti
Author: Sharlene Teo
Narrator: Vera Chok

Capturing the profound affect relationships have on our futures, Ponti is cleverly told through three perspectives that reflect the past, present, and future. Sixteen-year-old Szu struggles to connect with her distant mother, Amisa, a once beautiful actress who claimed her 15 minutes of fame in a B-list horror movie. Szu befriends Circe, a sharp-tongued privileged girl equally lonely as her, and the two develop an intense friendship that will change their lives forever.

Set in Singapore, Amisa’s younger years are explored as she stars in Ponti!, a horror movie about a monster that masquerades as a beautiful young woman to lure in its victims. Amisa, who plays a ghost, must come to terms that the movie has neither kick started her career as an actress or brought her the fame and happiness she dreamed of.

In the future, we learn that Circe is helping produce a remake of the Ponti! trilogy, which causes her to confront her own guilt for abandoning Szu after she experiences a major loss.

I was surprised that Ponti is Sharlene Teo‘s debut novel. The imagery she uses made me feel as though I were in Singapore, and the characters were so well developed that I felt like I knew them personally. The teenage relationship between Szu and Circe were written so realistically — their bond, dialogue, and teenage angst were relatable and recognizable.

Vera Chok was a fantastic choice to narrate Ponti, as she was able to seamlessly portray young Szu just as effectively as middle-aged Circe. Her knowledge of Chinese and Malay allowed her to perform accents, which is vital for a novel like Ponti, which reflects a distinct culture and its surreal cities and people.

 

Ponti.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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STAFF PICK: Locked In by Valentin Chmerkovskiy and Victoria Arlen

Post by Pam Campbell

Title: Locked In: The Will to Survive and the Resolve to Live
Author: Valentin Chmerkovskiy and Victoria Arlen
Narrator: Victoria Arlen

Imagine being 10 years old, and suddenly losing your ability to move your arms and legs. Imagine also losing your ability to eat at the same time. Now imagine being told that there is nothing wrong with you, that it’s all in your head.

In Locked In: The Will to Survive and the Resolve to Live, Victoria Arlen recounts her extraordinary story of living through the most unimaginable circumstances and then moving forward to accomplish old dreams, and live out fantastic new realities.

At 10 years old, Victoria’s health quickly deteriorated, to the point where she was suffering from multitudes of seizures a day and was unable to move. She became unable to communicate or even eat. She became locked in.

While she was locked inside herself, Victoria was able to hear, see and understand everything that was going on around her. Her memories remained intact and she was fully aware of her surroundings. She was aware of the abuse being imposed on her, both mentally and physically, by some of her doctors and nurses. And yet she fought to survive and never gave up.

It would be four years before Victoria would be able to move or communicate. And as soon as she could communicate with her family, she was even more determined to achieve her very own miracle. She recovered. She thrived. She beat the odds, so far out of the water that she went on to achieve great success. She still has great success ahead of her and she is very aware that she will always have to work to maintain her movement and mobility.

Victoria reads her own story for the audiobook and to hear her speak of the struggles and triumphs herself, definitely enhanced the book. Her story is inspiring in these turbulent times, and her message is clear: never give up on second chances, work for what you want, and miracles happen every day. But perhaps the message that stood out most to me was her thoughts on unkindness. While she was experiencing cruelty and horrible methods of treatment, she knew that unkindness never improves a situation. Inflicting pain or giving hatred is not the answer; kindness and love are.

After all, it was the love and kindness of her family that saw her thrive. It was through her love for her family that she was able to endure being locked in for years. It is with love and kindness in her heart that Victoria was able to beat the odds and live out her dreams and make new ones.

Locked In

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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STAFF PICK: Vox by Christina Dalcher

Post by Miranda Winter-Sayle

Title: Vox
Author: Christina Dalcher
Narrator: Julia Whelan

Imagine you could only speak 100 words a day. How do you determine the importance of every word? This is the decision that Dr. Jean McClellan and all female citizens of the United States must make every day, in the world of this debut novel.

Vox, by Christina Dalcher, is a precautionary tale of a possible future for the United States. Women are not allowed to speak more than 100 words a day – a law that is upheld by bracelets that emit an electric shock that grows worse with every word spoken above the limit. Women are not permitted to have jobs, read, or travel outside the United States.

(I reached the end of my own 100 words in the middle of the previous sentence. Of course, in the society in Vox, I would not be permitted to write this review at all.)

Dr. Jean McClellan is a cognitive linguist who was researching the reversal of brain damage that caused a person’s inability to speak. Her research abruptly ended when religious extremists took over the United States and the subsequent introduction of patriarchal laws forbid women’s participation in society. But when the president’s brother is injured, she is given a choice: regain her voice and continue her research to save one of the men responsible this new world, or refuse and face implicit consequences – in silence.

As a fan of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, I was incredibly excited to listen to Vox — and it did not disappoint. The premise is well-executed and the world that Dalcher creates is terrifyingly believable. Like The Handmaid’s Tale, Vox’s dystopia is in its early days, which allows the audience to witness the before and the after of the new world. The description of the evolution of modern day society into this universe was easily my favorite part of the novel.

Julia Whelan is a narrator I’ve heard before and she never fails to disappoint. Her tone perfectly reflects the anger that Dr. McClellan feels through the duration of the novel. She captures the somber tone of the novel expertly.

Vox was included on many most-anticipated summer releases lists, and now I understand why: its timely subject matter and original storytelling make it a compelling listen, and one I would definitely recommend.

New to Audiobooks.com? Get a free audiobook when you sign up for our one month free trial. Digital audiobooks make audible stories come to life when you’re commuting, working out, cleaning, cooking and more! Listening is easy with our top-rated free audiobook apps for iOS and Android, which let you download & listen to bestselling audiobooks on the go, wherever you are. Click here to get your free audiobook!