Book: Starting from Scratch
Author: Georgia Beers
Publisher: Brisk Press
Producer: Dog Ear Audio
|A non-traditional cookbook|
I was truly fortunate to have grown up in a home with two parents. And, though it sometimes led to a quirky confluence of family dynamics, my mother’s father lived with us from the time I was six. Still, I was closest to my father’s mother—a tough-as-nails farmwoman who weighed 100 lbs. soaking wet, and who never saw fit to drive a car, drink a cup of coffee, or wear a pair of pants.
Her name was Wilma. I called her Grandma.
Growing up, Grandma was my best friend, and closest confidant. She was a playfully eccentric old woman who dyed her lovely gray hair a shimmering shade of auburn not found in nature, walked to town twice a week to do her trading, wouldn’t eat cheese because it “cramped” her, and made the best chocolate chip cookies in the universe. When she passed away, I inherited her “cookbook,” an old-timey spiral notebook full of handwritten recipes for concoctions such as Osgood Pie, Crackled Sugar Cookies, Olive Taylor’s Slaw to Freeze, Albolene Cream for Dry Skin, and “Cleans Drains.”
Grandma was a simple woman—if you mixed it together, then it was a recipe.
|A well-loved cookie recipe|
Of course, the woman had standards— she put a big black “X” across Glenna McDowell’s Hot Water Pie Crust recipe, with a firm rejoinder, “(Don’t Like).” Still, I loved her cookies, and the first time I went to bake up a batch of the transcendent chocolate chip, I was tickled to realize it was the original Toll House Cookie recipe—only written in the down-home vernacular that she spoke.
And for every imaginable reason, I Iove that last part most of all.
A few years ago I cracked open Starting from Scratch by Golden Crown Literary Society 2013 Conference Keynote Speaker, Georgia Beers. This classic romance tells the story of Avery King, a self-deprecating cookie baking, child fearing introvert. Suckered into coaching her best friend’s t-ball team, Avery comes face-to-face with a hoard of dreaded children. She surprises herself when she succeeds at not breaking any of the kids, or thumping their parents up-side the head. She’s even more surprised when she finds herself hurtling headlong into a relationship with the very hot mother of one of the t-ballers.
Of course, nothing is ever easy, and Avery has a long laundry list of mommy issues dating back to the age of four, when she was abandoned into the care of her about-to-retire grandmother. Still, Avery is great with little Max, and her relationship with his mother is going gangbusters until a slightly bitter ex-girlfriend exposes all of Avery’s fears and failures. And, as much as Max’s mom, Elena, has come to love Avery, she needs a partner who understands that children come first…always. What happens next is enough to turn Avery inside out, as everything in her life begins to change in ways she never could bring herself to imagine.
Admittedly, it’s been a while, but I remember that Starting from Scratch was a well-written novel that was balanced on almost every level. It was equal parts sweet, smart, sad, and saucy; the characters had both depth and definition, the plot was predictable but plausible, and the pacing was universally apropos to the elements of the storyline. Overall, it was a better-than-average romance that left me with a warm and gooey feel-good vibe.
Recently, however, the good folks of Dog Ear Audio slipped me an audiobook copy of Starting from Scratch, and asked if I’d consider taking it out for a spin.
The audiobook market has always been the red headed second cousin, once removed, from the publishing industry. However, it serves a deserving audience that ranges from long distance commuters and exercise enthusiasts to those with physical and neurological disabilities. Some traditional readers refuse to listen to a book, believing that it lessens the impact. Of course, many folks who prefer audiobooks claim that listening requires you to experience every word—something that is often lost when readers devour written books in huge gulps. There is no universal right or wrong way to experience a book: it is as personal as any subject matter or genre preference a reader might have.
Still, for any audiobook to succeed, a lot of elements must converge.
The interplay between literary content and technical production is a balancing act that would make any of the Flying Wallendas proud. A truly effective audiobook maintains a balance between strong content and faultless production values.
In Starting from Scratch, which is read by author, Georgia Beers, narration is the foundation to the listening experience. Her reading is authentic and appropriate to the first-person narrative content, with voices that match the regional dialect, as well as the genders, ages, and moods of the characters. She uses well-placed inflections and tones, conveying the storyline through engaging expression, emotion, and energy. Technical terms and other challenging phrases and words are pronounced correctly and with ease.
Ms. Beers consistently maintains and differentiates character voices and dialects, and narrative descriptions (e.g., “I gulped,”) are read appropriately. She reads in a straightforward manner, using her natural voice with suitable inflections, tones, and emphasis, allowing the narration to stay true to the spirit and context of the written word, and forging a direct, personal connection with the listener.
Production factors work in tandem with the reading to create total listener engagement. Dog Ear Audio provides a clean, crisp sound that allows for periods of silence and a range of dynamics. Volume levels remain consistent throughout the recording. Music is used as a framework to the narration, but it is not obtrusive and does not interrupt the narrative flow. The recording was free of sibilant or plosive microphone pickups, and no noticeable sound effects were used— if they were, then they subtly enhanced rather than detracted from the reading.
For audiobooks, the packaging should correctly note title, author, readers’ names, running times, and abridgment status. In this instance, Dog Ear Audio provided a download from Payloadz that went into my iTunes Library instead of the more traditional format of Compact Discs. As a result, the only information provided within iTunes on my iPad was the running time, and the document title of “sfs_payloadzsinglefile”—leaving it difficult, but not impossible, to distinguish from other audiobook titles in my library. It should be noted, however, that the title, author, and narrator were stated at the onset of the audio recording.
An audiobook must stand alone as a fully realized expression of the author’s intent and meaning, and the clear mark of an excellent audiobook lies in its ability to remove the wall of performance and draw the listener into the story with minimal effort. Georgia Beers’ Starting from Scratch allowed me the luxury of experiencing the novel in both written and audio forms. I distinctly remember enjoying the story when I first read it in 2010, but I was impressed by, and enjoyed, the audiobook more than I could have imagined.
Fans of Georgia Beers, and those who are looking for a textbook romance that is sweet, smart, funny, and a little bit sad, will likely love Starting from Scratch. And, for those who have a little more than seven hours, and are looking for something to entertain them on the treadmill, on the train, or on a rainy weekend—the audiobook from Dog Ear Audio will not disappoint.
The payloadz.com download rings up at $22.50 USD, and the CD set will set you back $24.95 USD—a healthy sum for one story. Still, if you’re in the market for a quality lesbian fiction audiobook, Starting from Scratch is well worth the price.