Audiobook Review: Vegas to Varanasi: Shelly Hickman

Author: Shelly Hickman

Narrator: Jazmine Ramay

Series: Fortytude, Book One

Length: 6 hours 35 minutes

Publisher: Shelly Hickman

Released: July 2017

Genre: Romantic Comedy

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.

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Narrator Bio

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.

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Elsie’s Rating – ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Kiran’s never forgotten Anna, a popular girl in high school, even though they barely knew each other. Kiran has never forgotten how she stuck up for him when he was a chubby kid at school. It’s been years since then and Kiran is now an Adonis and Anna’s been through the wringer. After finding out her ex-husband is gay they remain friends and Anna devotes her life to her kids. Now that they are grown Anna finds herself in yet another dead-in relationship with an aspiring writer with a drinking issue. Uncomplicated Kiran is just what Anna needs if she can keep her now ex-boyfriend from ruining everything.

I absolutely loved this mid-life romance story. It had a wry type of humor, a truly good guy hero and Anna’s a nice person as well. As a matter of fact, there are no bad guys in this story, just decent people who have issues, some more serious than others. The interaction between Kiran and Anna was magic. While Kiran is now a toned and fit man he still has the humbleness of when he was overweight and the idolatry he’s felt towards Anna all these years never wanes.

This audiobook comes in at just over 6 ½ hours and is narrated by Jazmine Ramay. Wow, she did an amazing job on this fully voiced production. This audiobook required someone with good comic timing and Jazmine really did pull it off. I laughed out loud several times.

Author Shelly Hickman has a real winner in this book, it has diverse characters and It’s a feel good story, in today’s climate that’s not a bad thing at all!

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.

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
    Vegas to Varanasi Information
    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!

Music Playlist

https://open.spotify.com/user/jesstheaudiobookworm/playlist/0vAbXt5xHvn6YnKbZAZiLo
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

Dream Cast

Author Shelly Hickman has prepared a soundtrack for Vegas to Varanasi.

https://open.spotify.com/user/jesstheaudiobookworm/playlist/0vAbXt5xHvn6YnKbZAZiLo

Vegas to Varanasi Giveaway: $50 Amazon Gift Card

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