Tag: audio books

Jan 24

Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill

Audio Books, Non Fiction 10

Greetings Bookworms!

If you’re anything like me (and I imagine that you are) you’ve fantasized yourself into the plot of a novel every now and again. It’s difficult NOT to get swept up sometimes. Of course, whenever I’m in the throes of a particularly dreamy bout of “I wish I were Elizabeth Bennet” or, you know, any historical heroine, I like to remind myself about the lack of indoor plumbing. That usually helps. Which is why I was so flipping excited to get my paws on a copy of Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners by Therese Oneill. Actually, I decided to use an Audible credit to get the audio book version and OMG. It was an EXCELLENT use of a credit!

It’s so easy to get caught up in false nostalgia, isn’t it? I mean, the past gets all obscured in mist and fog. It seems so idyllic, what with the nattily dressed gents and the waltzing and folks being so polite all the time. Therese Oneill is here to burst your bubble, but her fabulous and irreverent sense of humor takes some of the sting out of it. (The narration of the audio book is A+ hilarious. If you’re on the fence, go audio!) Did you know, my little erstwhile Austen-ite, just how horrendous everyone smelled in the Victorian era? Or just how much you really love your indoor plumbing and modern sewer systems?

Oneill walks the reader, a modern 21st Century woman, through the ins and outs of life in the Victorian era. From the fashions of the day to the complex social mores, this book is seriously eye opening. Then there’s the whole issue of things we take completely for granted- say, for example, that the medical community understands that mental illness is not caused by one’s uterus? There are a zillion reasons I’m grateful I live in there here and now, in spite of any daydreams about Mr. Darcy. That dude probably smelled really, really bad anyway.

I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It was so funny and so informative. I wish all non fiction were this delicious. If you have even a passing interest in the subject, do yourself a favor and give Unmentionable: The Victorian Lady’s Guide to Sex, Marriage, and Manners a read (or a listen.) You won’t regret it!

Talk to me, Bookworms! What’s the one bit of modern living that you are most grateful for?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Oct 04

Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love by Simran Sethi

Audio Books, Book Club, Non Fiction 5

Greetings Bookworms!

I’ve discussed before that I’ve got a rather tenuous relationship with non fiction. Luckily, my relationship with bread, wine, and chocolate has always been top notch. Thus, when one of my neighbors chose Bread, Wine, Chocolate: The Slow Loss of Foods We Love by Simran Sethi for book club, my curiosity was piqued.

breadwinechocolateThis  tome focuses on a series of five foods- the aforementioned bread, wine, and chocolate, as well as beer and coffee. Sethi takes the reader on a journey to explore the history and cultural importance of each of these foods, as well as delving deeply into the flavor profiles of some of the world’s most complex tastes. From far flung cacao fields to craft beer breweries, Sethi’s research is extensive and thorough. I learned a ridiculous amount from reading this book. I mean, genetic biodiversity? I didn’t even know this was a thing I should be concerned with. And now? I am CONCERNED, y’all.

I will forever sing the praises of listening to non-fiction audio books. I don’t know why they work so much better for me than just, you know, eyeball reading, but they do. I found the scientific bits fascinating and didn’t get bogged down at all even when things got super technical and scientific. My mind was legit blown several times. I mean, do you KNOW how chocolate comes to be? Like REALLY know? I’m willing to bet that a lot of you don’t. I always imagined little beans growing on a bush somewhere that were picked and ground and VOILA chocolate. Oh no. So many more steps. And bizarrely shaped fruits. And fermentation. And don’t even get me started on coffee.

Bread, Wine, Chocolate is the stuff of foodies’ dreams. It’s awesome, though, I’ll admit that NOT being a foodie, some of it was lost on me. I love to eat and drink and all, but I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to muster the intensity and enthusiasm Sethi and the professionals she interviewed had for flavor profiles. If you happen to BE a foodie though? THIS IS YOUR BOOK. SIMRAN SETHI IS YOUR PEOPLE. GO READ THIS.

Talk to me, Bookworms! Are you well versed in wine or does it mostly make you feel like a (tipsy) nincompoop?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Sep 30

The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate by NK Jemisin

Audio Books, Dystopian, Fantasy, Science Fiction 7

Rusting Earth, Bookworms!

I’ve told you before that I rely on my bookish friends on Twitter for oodles of recommendations, but I cannot thank Shaina enough for raving about NK Jemisin. I devoured The Fifth Season (with my ears) and waited on tenterhooks for a few weeks before the sequel, The Obelisk Gate was released. Obviously, I gobbled that book down as well, but I was only semi-lucky in the timing of my reading because now I shall utterly rot in wait for release of the conclusion to the trilogy. Siiiigh. But let me tell you about these phenomenal books in the meantime, so that you may read them and then join me in my anticipation.

fifth-seasonThe world is ending… Again. Sometime in the distant future, the Earth has begun a series of catastrophic “seasons.” Seismic instability leads to volcanic eruptions that cause apocalyptic ash clouds. Unprepared populations even in The Stillness are unable to grow crops during this period and populations dramatically decrease due to violence, illness, famine, and desperation. But humanity has evolved somewhat. There are some who wield power that can help control the tumultuous earth- or use it as a weapon. Post apocalyptic society plus geological superpowers equals WHOA.

That abstract I just wrote completely sucks and in no way explains how great these books are. In fact, the world building is so incredible and detailed, it takes a bit of reading to fully understand everything that’s going on. Stick with it, though, the payoff is one thousand percent worth it. NK Jemisin is a master craftswoman. I want to thrust these books into the hands of every science fiction and fantasy reader I know. And then I want to thrust these books into the hands of people who think they don’t like science fiction and fantasy. They’re just so dang innovative! I mean, this world has NOTHING WHATSOEVER in common theobeliskgatewith Medieval Europe. It’s not just the Middle Ages plus dragons and magic (not that that isn’t great in its own way) it’s a whole different world. Except it’s THIS WORLD. Sort of. It might make your head spin a little. Don’t worry, that’s a good thing. I’m sure the books are fabulous in print, but the narrator of the audio books is superb. Besides, I always like to hear how names are meant to be pronounced, especially in fantasy novels. It adds a little something to the experience, I think. Plus it prevents me from sounding dumb when discussing the book with folks in person. The ONLY problem I can find with these books is the fact that I unwisely started the series before it was completed and therefore am prevented from full binge reading.

Alright Bookworms, who has already read The Fifth Season and The Obelisk Gate? And does anyone know if NK Jemisin’s backlist titles are anywhere near this awesome? I think I’m going to have a LOT of reading to do while I wait for the final installment of this series… 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission. The author will too, obviously, because royalties, so you’d be doing us both a solid.*

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Aug 22

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

Audio Books, Historical Fiction 4

How Goes It, Bookworms?

I’m doing well, you know. Reading and thinking and whatnot. I’ve also been bridesmaiding. Since the bride in question lives a couple of hours from me, I’ve had lots of time to check out audiobooks and podcasts whilst road tripping to various pre-wedding events. Thank heaven for that because holy heck, I just finished Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, and frankly, I’m surprised my head did not explode from the awesomeness.

homegoingHomegoing centers on two branches of the same family beginning in 18th Century Ghana. Two half sisters born in different villages face shockingly different fates. One sister marries a British officer and lives a fairly luxurious life in Cape Coast Castle. The other sister is captured by a neighboring tribe and kept in the dungeon of the very same castle until she is transported and sold into slavery. (They’re unaware of the other’s existences, of course.) What follows is a story following each branch of the family generation by generation, one in the US and one in Ghana.

Y’all, this book is POWERFUL. It covers all sorts of gritty bits of history, both in the US and in Africa, that have been swept under the proverbial rug. I was at least semi-familiar with most of the things in this book, but knowing a thing is different from FEELING a thing… Like, in college I took a class on the history of criminal justice in the US, so we read non fiction on the subject of chain gangs and the hideous post slavery incarceration practices in the American South. I’m not sure if it’s just that it was required reading or that I’m typically a thousand times more engaged by fiction, but this book hit me like my school books never did. I think the generation by generation approach Gyasi took was freaking brilliant, because it smacks you upside the head with a dose of THIS WAS NOT THAT LONG AGO. Because it wasn’t. Slavery was not THAT long ago. Chain gangs were not THAT long ago. Segregation was not THAT long ago. There is still so much work to be done.

I highly recommend this book to every human on planet earth, obviously, but if you’re not the fence about your medium, the audio book is PHENOMENAL. The narrator Dominic Hoffman is sooooooooo good at setting the scenes with his use of accents and inflection. I know that audio book narration is a completely different art form than acting in a movie, but when you can’t rely on an anguished twisted facial expression to get your point across and manage to portray that simply with your vocal cords? I’m in awe. If you are interested in additional background information on the book, I must also recommend the Beaks and Geeks podcast where Gyasi was interviewed. I am kicking myself SO HARD right now for deciding not to wait in the long signing line at BEA for this book. Although, maybe it’s for the best. I probably would just have embarrassed myself, as per usual.

Talk to me Bookworms! Have you read HomegoingWere you similarly gobsmacked?

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

 

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Jul 22

The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman

Audio Books, Historical Fiction 11

Salutations Bookworms!

I’ve been summering hardcore, so I haven’t been in a “let’s sit in front of the computer” sort of mood lately. I mean, there are hummingbirds in my yard to stare at. Hummingbirds, you guys! But, just because I haven’t been in a computery mood doesn’t mean I haven’t been in a book mood. I am up to my eyeballs in books I’ve experienced and just haven’t told y’all about yet. Historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, as you very well know, and I will read books from basically any point in human history. Heck, I’d read books from dinosaur history if they had compelling characters… (Sidebar: How awesome would it be to read Pride and Prejudice, sans zombies, but where everyone is a dinosaur? I mean, would we assign dinos based on the characters’ personal attributes or just have to make everyone a triceratops? If you have to choose but one dinosaur, triceratops is always the correct choice. But, like Lydia’s got some raptor in her, so…) I was talking about a book wasn’t I? Oh yes! The Dovekeepers by Alice Hoffman! I read it… With my ears. What a delicious audio book treat. Let me tell you about it.

thedovekeepersThe Dovekeepers tells the tale of the siege of Masada from the perspectives of four different women. In case you’re unfamiliar with Jewish history, way back in like 70 CE, the Romans were being total dicks to basically everyone. They burned the temple in Jerusalem and murdered and pillaged all up in the holy land. Different Judaic sects fled into the dessert, and a group of them landed at Herod’s old mountain castle that was all imposing and fortress-y. Masada, said fortress, housed the bands of fleeing Jewish folk for months but it couldn’t last forever. According to Josephus, the ancient historian, only two women and five children survived to tell the tale.

Alice Hoffman put her own spin on the story, weaving mythology, history, and a dash of mysticism to bring history to life. Books like this are SO my jam. This book reminded me a lot of Anita Diamant’s The Red Tent (review), what with the biblical times (well, approximately, anyway) and the writing of women back into religious history. And, of course, Alice Hoffman being Alice Hoffman, the magical elements were perfection. The narrators of the audio book were fabulous too, and each of the four women were given a different voice. Literally. A lot of audio book narrators are really great at differentiating their voices to represent different characters, but you just can’t beat the differentiation that comes with actual different people reading each woman’s account. There are no triceratops in this book, but it’s still totally worth reading.

Alright Bookworms. Talk to me. If each Bennett sister were, in fact, a different dinosaur, which ones would they be? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jun 30

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Audio Books, Coming of Age, Young Adult Fiction 22

My Dearest Bookworms,

You know how I really love audio books? And how I also really love Hamilton, and by extension, Lin-Manuel Miranda? I’m actually considering writing an entire post on the subject because I haven’t been THIS fangirly since high school. Because I’m fangirling so hard, I was checking Lin-Manuel’s IMDB just to see if he’d been in stuff I’d seen without me realizing it (which yes, yes that definitely happened.) BUT THEN. I saw that he was credited as having narrated some audio books. I remember seeing Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz floating around the blogosphere and thinking that I should read it one of these days, but when I saw that LMM narrated? It jumped straight to the top of the list.

aristotleanddanteI’m just going to give you the abstract from Goodreads because I can’t form a coherent synopsis of this book:

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship—the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Holy crap. Holy freaking crap, you guys. How do I love this book? Let me count the ways! First, Sáenz absolutely NAILS teenagerdom. That summertime listless boredom? It brought me back in a big way. Second, I absolutely adored these kids’ parents. They’re not perfect by any means, but both sets are so loving and compassionate. I don’t know why that struck me as so rare in a YA novel, but I wanted to give everyone a big fat hug. I can’t really tell you some of the other reasons I loved the book so so so much because they’d be spoilers, so you’re just going to have to trust me here. THEY ARE EXCELLENT REASONS.

I would have loved this book even if I’d read it with my eyeballs, but the fact that Lin-Manuel Miranda read me a story? Incredible. You guys! He casually dropped at least two mentions of Alexander Hamilton, which were written into the book and in no way referencing Hamilton the musical. It was so meta. LMM is a fantastic narrator (no surprise) and you could tell he adored the words he was reading which made it that much better. Although, he seems to adore a lot of things. Because he is basically the best humanity has to offer. Like, if aliens wanted to exterminate us? I think LMM could talk them out of it. (I pray nightly that he doesn’t end up having some hideous dark secret or massive scandal somewhere down the line, because I just don’t think I could handle having my heart broken like that. No pressure, Lin. But behave yourself… Mostly.)

Wow. It’s been a while since I’ve been this gushy about a book. Fittingly, I’m wearing a t-shirt that says “hyperbole” with an exclamation mark graphic. I am VERY EXCITED about this one. Go forth and read Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. Or have Lin-Manuel Miranda read it to you. If you ask really nicely, maybe I’ll do an interpretive dance of it for you. I hope you like tap!

Whew. Time to chat, Bookworms. What’s the last book you were ridiculously enthusiastic about? 

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Jun 15

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Audio Books 8

Happy Wednesday, Bookworms!

I’m still playing catch up with reviews (thank heaven for Andi’s Reviewathon!) I’m a little nervous about tackling this next review because the book left me gobsmacked, but I’m going to try anyway. Y’all ready to hear my take on Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie? Let’s do this.

americanahIfemelu and Obinze are teenagers living in Nigeria when they fall in love. They are separated when an unstable government makes their educational aspirations difficult to achieve in Nigeria. Ifemelu soon leaves for America while Obinze stays behind, hoping they’ll soon be reunited and begin a life together.

Unfortunately, life had other plans for the pair. Ifemelu’s introduction into American life wasn’t the seamless transition she’d hoped it would be. Obinze found it impossible to emigrate to the US. Instead he embarks on a dangerous journey into an undocumented life in London. Their lives have taken them very different places, and when they each eventually return to Nigeria, they face a new set of challenges.

Holy crap, you guys. This book was so flipping good. It was smart and humorous and beautiful and eye opening. I listened to it and I cannot recommend the audio version highly enough. The narrator was spectacular. If it bothers you to not know the correct pronunciation of names while reading, audio is definitely the way to go. I am not at all familiar with the pronunciation of Nigerian names, nor do I know enough about the language to play the sound-it-out game. Being able to hear the names pronounced with the correct accent added so much to my reading experience. (Admit it. If you read Harry Potter before you saw the movies, you mentally read “HERMY-OWN.” And now you feel silly about it.)

Seriously, y’all, you do NOT need to be a Nigerian expat to dig this book (although if you ARE a Nigerian expat, I’d LOVE to hear your take on it!) Reading books written by and about people of other cultures and backgrounds is important to me. I feel like it makes me a more empathetic, well-rounded human being. And, isn’t that kind of the point of life? I think what I”m trying to say here is that reading = life. I’m not at all prone to hyperbole. And you should read Americanah.

Talk to me, Bookworms! Have you read anything awesome lately set in Africa? I’m just adding to the TBR pile with reckless abandon these days. YOLO. 

*I just said YOLO. WHO AM I EVEN? But also, if you buy something through a link on this site, I might make a few cents. My slang will still be pathetic though.*

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Apr 11

Emma Thompson Reads Me Ghost Stories: The Turn of the Screw

Audio Books, Classics 15

Greetings Bookworms!

How often do you get to say that a celebrity read you a bedtime story? You’d be able to say that a lot more often if you were down with audio books, believe you me. Of course, if you’d rather stay up all night being confused and creeped out than actually sleep, I’ve got the bedtime story for you. Or Emma Thompson does. Audible hooked up with Emma Thompson to produce an audio version of The Turn of the Screw by Henry James, which is only the quintessential gothic ghost story. *Please note that I did not actually listen to this before bed because nightmares. I only listened in broad daylight.*

turnofthescrewI decided to give the book a listen because I love Emma Thompson and The Turn of the Screw has been on my TBR list since the beginning of time. The narrator of an audio book can have a profound effect on the awesomeness of the experience, which is why it was smart-smart-smart of the powers that be to tap an Oscar winning actress to tackle Henry James. The Turn of the Screw isn’t long and it doesn’t do the blood and guts thing, so it relies heavily on atmosphere, foreboding, and playing into the reader’s fear of potentially evil children (which is a fear instilled into this reader by a few babysitting jobs… And Children of the Corn.) Emma Thompson’s narration hit all the right creepy notes, and she did a good enough job of differentiating between the different characters’ voices that I was never in doubt as to who was talking. A neat trick considering the characters consisted of a governess, a heavily accented housekeeper, and two small children.

We’ve discussed before on this blog that I’ve got a serious weakness for audio books. We’ve also discussed some of the channels by which I access my audio books. Audible has long been one of my favorites. You can buy books without a subscription if you want, but at $14.95 a month, the subscription offers big savings, particularly if you’re into giant chunksters. One of Diana Gabaldon’s novels could run you nearly $50 if you were to buy a la carte (still not a bad deal if you’re considering the 55 hours of listening enjoyment AND the endless Jamie Fraser daydreams), but if you had a subscription? Giant savings. Another one of the things I love about Audible? Even if you suspend your subscription for any reason, you get to KEEP all those books you bought at a ridiculous savings and listen to them whenever you want. If there are series you want to revisit again and again? I highly recommend you purchase them through Audible. I personally have the entire Outlander and Harry Potter series hanging out in my library.

Still unsure if you want to try out Audible? They’ll give you a one month subscription for FREE. That’s right. You could listen to Emma Thompson read you The Turn of the Screw (or any other book you fancy) for zero dollars. Give it a whirl! You’ve got nothing to lose. Well. Except maybe sleep. Curse you, Henry James!

*This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Audible. The opinions and text are all mine.*

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Mar 21

A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Audio Books, Classics 14

Greetings Bookworms,

I’ve got a seemingly endless list of well known classics that I’ve been planning to read forever and I finally got around to tackling one. Yaaaaay Katie! I like to congratulate myself sometimes. High five, me! Yeah, so, A Clockwork Orange happened. It doesn’t seem like the sort of book that I can say I “read.” It’s more the sort of book that happened to me. Via my earholes. This was probably a wise decision, given the adventurous language. I might have gotten frustrated with the slang had I not the appropriate inflections to guide me. Audio books, FTW!

aclockworkorangeYou know how everyone is always lamenting teens these days? It’s the favorite past time of everyone over the age of 25. They’re either too soft or turning vicious. But, uh, the fifteen year old protagonist of A Clockwork OrangeIt’s a whole new nightmarish level of horrifying. Little Alex and his gang of “droogs” go around beating the crap out of people, thieving, raping, and pillaging. It’s… Intense. When Alex inevitably gets caught, he’s sent to prison learning to do little more than become a more efficient criminal. Toward the end of his sentence, Alex signs up for a rehabilitation program, the methods of which are nearly as horrifying as Alex’s pre-prison activities. I’m not going to sugar coat it. This book is a pretty traumatic read. It’s a creepy parable about good and evil and human freedom… And slang. So much slang.

Before you ask, nope. I never have seen the Stanley Kubrik film. I’m not sure that I will now that I know the source material because there are things I simply don’t need to see on screen. The intro to this audio book ranted about several things, among them the movie adaptation, and the fact that the American version of the novel was published without the last chapter. The British version did have it, as did the version I listened to. I’ve got to say I think the final chapter added a new level of brain food to the book. If you’re going to pick it up, try to get a version with the chapter included. Should you read this book? Probably. I mean, if you want to be well versed in all the things. Still, if you’re going to read it, go in knowing that it’s not for the faint of heart, okay?

Talk to me Bookworms! Who has seen this movie? Read the book? Was anyone else traumatized by it?!

*If you make a purchase through a link on this site, I will receive a small commission.*

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Feb 23

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan

Audio Books, Cozy Lady Fiction, Humor 25

Cheerio Bookworms!

This may come as a shock to you, but I have a crush on… England. My feelings on the subject can be summed up in the immortal speech Hugh Grant as Prime Minister gives in Love Actually. “We may be a small country, but we’re a great one, too. The country of Shakespeare, Churchill, the Beatles, Sean Connery, Harry Potter. David Beckham’s right foot. David Beckham’s left foot, come to that.” I could go on and on but nobody wants to hear me sing the praises of clotted cream. You want to talk about books, don’t you? Fiiiiiine, you twisted my arm. The Royal We
by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan is, more or less, the dream of many an American anglophile.

theroyalweRebecca Porter is a down-to-earth gal from America’s Heartland. Her twin Lacey was always the one fantasizing about fame, fortune, and glamour, which is why it’s such a strange turn of events when Bex ends up meeting the dashing Prince Nicholas while studying abroad at Oxford. Bex falls for Nick in spite of herself, and is reluctantly drawn into his tabloid laced, ritual heavy, duty filled, existence.

The book is basically Prince William and Kate Middleton fan fiction. Except that Kate probably had it easier because she at least had the accent going for her. Plus that woman has a fashionista gene that Bex seriously lacked… (Or she’s just got a really good style team. I have no idea what really goes on.) It would have been really easy for this book to fall squarely into the cheeseball Hallmark Original Movie trap (which are prefectly entertaining when it’s Christmas and… You know what? They’re perfectly entertaining. We’re not here to judge my terrible taste in movies.) It managed to avoid that pitfall, though. The Royal We is hilarious without a hint of the saccharine. Think… Hugh Grant movie, vibe-wise. It’s oozing with charm and hilarious sidekicks, but it still manages to pack some intense emotional punches. I may have shed a few tears.

I have one teeny tiny complaint, though. I’ve never met an American girl named Rebecca who goes by Bex. That’s a thoroughly British sounding nickname. A girl from Iowa would go by Becky, maybe Becca, but Bex? It’s like a blaring signal that she’s destined to marry a royal. Is my corner of Illinois MORE BORING THAN MUSCATINE, IOWA when it comes to nicknames for Rebecca?

Obviously I haven’t got anything really to complain about. I’m grasping at straws. The Royal We is delightful. When I finished it, I texted several friends telling them they needed to read it. RIGHT NOW. If that’s not a ringing endorsement, I don’t know what is! (Oh, and the audio book version? Dynamite.)

Talk to me, Bookworms. Do any of you know a Rebecca who goes by Bex? Does it strike anyone else as an unusual choice for Muscatine, Iowa? I’m genuinely interested, here. 

 

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