I received this audiobook as part of my participation in a blog tour with Audiobookworm Promotions. The tour is being sponsored by Shelly Hickman. The gifting of this audiobook did not affect my opinion of it.
Author: Shelly Hickman
Narrator: Jazmine Ramay
Series: Fortytude, Book One
Length: 6 hours 35 minutes
Publisher: Shelly Hickman
Released: July 2017
Genre: Romantic Comedy
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Anna has never been the beautiful one; she’s always been the nice one. So when the gorgeous man sitting across the table at a wedding reception remembers her from high school—and quite fondly at that—she’s taken off guard.
Formerly overweight and unpopular, Kiran has never forgotten Anna, the one person who was kind to him when no one else could be bothered, and Anna’s a bit flustered as she slowly comes to grips with his intense attraction for her.
In what feels like a romantic dream come true, all-grown-up, hunky Kiran invites Anna on a trip to Varanasi. But her troubled, whack-a-do ex-boyfriend starts interfering, creating drama at every turn, which begs the question, “Can nice girls really finish first?”
Hello there! A little about me. A long-time Las Vegas native, I spend my days teaching computer technology to hormonal middle schoolers. I live with my husband of 20+ years and have a teenage daughter, grown son, and child of the furry persuasion.
I'm a huge fan of The Walking Dead and Game of Thrones, as well as movies with stupid humor. Zoolander, Austin Powers, and Monty Python are some of my faves. And if you asked me where the best place in the world is, it would have to be Disneyland. I mean, it is the happiest place on Earth.
I love to write about relationships, family as well as romantic, and my aim is to explore life's challenges with honesty and humor.
A graduate of PCPA (Pacific Conservatory for the Performing Arts) and the Cabaret Conference at YALE, her credits include Cory (Barefoot in the Park), Penelope (Penelopiad), Gwendolyn (The Importance of Being Earnest), and the 2nd Wyrd Sister (Macbeth). Jazmine has worked in Theatre, Film and Television and has had appearances in Curb Your Enthusiasm and various TV and commercial spots. She was recently seen in the original cast of B Street Theatre’s World Premiere production of Bars and Measures. She has performed in fundraisers and musical variety’s like Broadway Beginnings and COLE, and was a part of a 1920’s review performing at Grauman’s Egyptian in Hollywood. She is currently working in Los Angeles as a Singer and Actress and closed four plays in 2016. She is currently working in Los Angeles.
If you could sum up Vegas to Varanasi in three words, what would they be?
Interesting, Enjoyable, Refreshing
Who was your favorite character and why?
This is one book that I don't think that I could pick a favorite character. All characters are needed here, well maybe except for one, in order to enjoy what the author has written.
What does Jazmine Ramay bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?
Her singing ability. It was a pleasant surprise to the story when Anna sings (even though it's not a full song) to Kiran. If I were reading the book instead there's no way I would do that when it came to that point in the story. I'm one of those that always sings so low (so low you can't hear me).
For me, she was the perfect choice for our main character. She even does a good job with some of the accents. There was one comedic point but it was more on my end than hers. She was talking about a coffee machine, and it took me a couple of times to figure out that that was what she meant. For some reason my brain kept thinking that she was saying carrots. I thought that this was some kind of new dispenser that I'd never heard of before.
Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?
I wouldn't say that it was an extreme reaction but there was one point that I felt sorry for why Karin and Anna are going to Varanasi in the first place. There's also one character that you want to give him a swift kick in the pants and tell him to grow a pair and get help.Then you have to feel sorry for Anna that he's constantly bothering her and her family.
Any additional comments?
This was a pleasant surprise. I'm one of those that even though I know it's wrong I still end up seeing the cover and not sure that I want to take the chance on the book. I'm so glad that I didn't let that happen here.
I don't know that I'll ever get to India and this was a great way to get a feel for the country and the family dynamic. It's listed as a romance but I felt it was more of looking into the life of a woman starting over as her two kids are growing up. It's reconnecting with someone they knew in school and trying to get away from someone who is turning toxic while still being concerned by what they're doing to their life.
There were a few moments where I chuckled but wouldn't say that this was a comedy. Don't get me wrong. They were great moments and lightened the story but I was more interested in seeing how Anna was handling her life, start a new relationship, while being nice about getting away from someone she finds she didn't really know at all. Would I listen to this again? Yes. Would I read the book? Yes.
Q&A with Author Shelly Hickman
- Was a possible audiobook recording something you were conscious of while writing? Absolutely not, and neither was the possibility of the sequels which also came to pass. Any future works will now have that consideration. :)
- How did you select your narrator? Through another author I follow, I learned that authors can connect with narrators through Amazon’s Audiobook Creation Exchange. I posted the book with a sample and opened it for auditions. Jazmine drew my attention because not only does she have a beautiful speaking voice, but her delivery is so natural, warm, and engaging.
- How closely did you work with your narrator before and during the recording process? Did you give them any pronunciation tips or special insight into the characters? It really takes patience to be a narrator of someone else’s work, because it’s natural for the creator to have a special attachment to her characters. I was no different and when writing, we hear things a certain way in our heads. I did work very closely with Jazmine as she sent me the audio chapter by chapter. There were a few glitches along the way, and I know that she probably got a little frustrated with me, but she was the consummate professional when making adjustments per my request. I was kind of picky about how Kiran came across because he’s a complicated character, but I couldn’t be more pleased with her final portrayal of him.
- Are you an audiobook listener? What about the audiobook format appeals to you? I’ve just recently become an audiobook listener. As I’ve become older, I find that I have difficulty seeing a book through to its end, even when I like it. My attention is more easily scattered these days, and I have a hard time focusing. Over the past few years, I’ve gotten into the habit of reading more than one book at a time, but not finishing any of them. Audiobooks have made it a lot easier for me to finish a book I’ve started. I’ll play them on my phone while getting ready in the morning, or in my car while driving to work. I don’t always read humor but I definitely lean toward it, and when the narrator has great comedic timing, it makes the work that much more enjoyable.
I recently listened to God is Disappointed in You by Mark Russell and narrated by James Urbaniak. One of the places I listened was at the gym and the people around me must have thought me pretty amusing, because I would just smile and laugh while doing my workout. Audiobooks make the time fly, especially when you’re someone like me who hates going to the gym.
- What do you say to those who view listening to audiobooks as “cheating” or “inferior to real reading”? There are pros and cons to listening to audiobooks. I would agree that books allow more flexibility for readers to see characters in their own minds. Some people don’t like characters painted by a narrator, and would rather choose how they see and hear them. If a narrator’s voice happens to be irritating to a listener, that alone could ruin an otherwise enjoyable story for the them. I get all of that. As a teacher, I also recognize that reading also helps us learn and recognize words that we may have been unfamiliar with. I will often look up words that I’ve come across while reading, and people are less likely to do that while listening to audio.
However, audiobooks make it so much easier for people to fit literature and non-fiction into their busy schedules. I recently listened to The Obesity Code by Jason Fung, and I can tell you if I tried to read that to completion, it wouldn’t have happened. As I said earlier, I just don’t have the attention span. As far as fiction goes, when you have a talented narrator such as Jazmine Ramay (smiles), the audio experience can make a story that much more enjoyable.
- If this title were being made into a TV series or movie, who would you cast to play the primary roles? Sarah Jessica Parker would be perfect as Anna. She just has a down-to-earth, “you could tell her anything” persona that would suit the character well.
Hrithik Roshan is who I envision as Kiran. Honestly, I had no idea who he was before I started writing this book. I only discovered him when I searched for an Indian celebrity to model him after. Not only is he lovely to look at, in interviews he seems quite humble and gracious.
- Have any of your characters ever appeared in your dreams? No, but I would welcome Kiran any time he’d like to pay a visit. Heh heh.
- How did you celebrate after finishing this novel? I had a launch party on Facebook which was a lot of fun. There were contests to see who could come up with the funniest captions for given images; giveaways of various items, such as old prints of Varanasi, etc. I had a great time and hope that the attendees did too.
- What gets you out of a writing slump? A reading slump? I wish I knew the answer to the first question because I have been in a serious writing slump since I published my last book, Harmony to Heartburn. It just seems life has gotten in the way, and I prefer to start new projects at the beginning of my summer breaks from teaching. I think if I tried to start a book during the school year, the constant interruption to the writing would be discouraging and I would become resentful. Not that I’m able to complete a book in two and a half months, but summer breaks afford me a good chunk of time to get the ball rolling.
As far as reading slumps go, if I just start reading again that usually does the trick. Reading doesn’t require a certain frame of mind the same way writing does, so it’s much easier to pick it up again when the time and mood is right.
- What’s next for you? I’m working to eventually have all five of my books available in audio. I’m currently working with Jo Mercer as she produces Somewhere Between Black and White, and Jazmine plans to begin narrating the sequel to Vegas to Varanasi, (Menopause to Matrimony), sometime in the near future. Her schedule is very busy, but I’m hoping we will have it available within the year.
I’m also working on narrating my first book, Believe. My voice doesn’t possess the lovely speaking qualities of Jo or Jazmine, but I’ve heard that readers enjoy listening to an author tell her own stories. Believe is a very personal story about the loss of my first child to leukemia, and I’m very close to having all of the audio ready to send to a sound engineer. I know nothing about making audio up to specs for Audible!
Author Shelly Hickman has put together a post about her dream cast for Vegas to Varanasi.
Anna: Sarah Jessica Parker
Kiran: Hrithik Roshan
David: Steve Carrell
Luke: John Taylor of Duran Duran
Carly: Jane Levy
Hayden: Brenton Thwaites
Julia: Melissa McCarthy
Richard: Alec Baldwin
Christine: Kate Winslet
Author Shelly Hickman has prepared a soundtrack for Vegas to Varanasi.
➜Sign up as a host here