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Audiobook Review – Euphoria – Lily King

euphoriaEuphoria
Author: Lily King

Narrators: Simon Vance, Xe Sands
Run Time: 6hr 53 min

Review Copy Provided by Publisher via Audiobook Jukebox

Description:
English anthropologist Andrew Bankson has been alone in the field for several years, studying a tribe on the Sepik River in the Territory of New Guinea with little success. Increasingly frustrated and isolated by his research, Bankson is on the verge of suicide when he encounters the famous and controversial Nell Stone and her wry, mercurial Australian husband Fen. Bankson is enthralled by the magnetic couple whose eager attentions pull him back from the brink of despair.

Nell and Fen have their own reasons for befriending Bankson. Emotionally and physically raw from studying the bloodthirsty Mumbanyo tribe, the couple is hungry for a new discovery. But when Bankson leads them to the artistic, female-dominated Tam, he ignites an intellectual and emotional firestorm between the three of them that burns out of anyone’s control. Ultimately, their groundbreaking work will make history, but not without sacrifice.

Review:
I had heard this book raved about in several audiobook groups I am part of, so when I was offered the opportunity to review it through audiobook jukebox, I jumped on it (mostly because the copy at my library had 60+ people on the wait list..). Plus the narrators (Simon Vance and Xe Sands) are two of my favorites. There was something about the description that caught my attention – i haven’t read a lot about cultural anthropology but it is an area that interests me, the idea of living intimately with a group of people for a period of time, learning about their way of life.

However, I don’t think that I could truly appreciate the beauty of the language and writing style because I made the dumb mistake of listening to the audiobook while on a road trip. And I know now that I really shouldn’t have been listening at 11pm at night – it wasn’t fair to the author or the book. That being said, I did like what I remember listening to. The language was lyrical and the story moved at a nice pace. I felt like the author did a good job of managing the tension in the relationships between the three main characters.

I think my one disappointment with the story was that I expected a bit more about the tribe of people they lived with – at times, it felt like the lives of Nell, Fen and Andrew drown out the premise of living with the natives in New Guinea. It also felt like the ending was a bit rushed to me – I was left (even if it was 3am) feeling like something was missing. I guess because I am ultimately a romantic at heart and the ending didn’t quite feel complete to me.

While I had some issues with parts of the storyline, I had no issues with the narrators. Simon Vance has been a favorite of mine since I listened to him do the Steig Larsson books and Xe Sands is one of my favorite romance narrators. I do wish that there had been more Xe – the majority of the book was narrated by Simon Vance – not that I don’t like him (in fact, I totally fangirl gush over his narration at times), I just wanted more Xe. I’ll say that while she warned me prior to listening that I may need to turn up the volume for her parts because they were quieter, I didn’t have that issue – I didn’t have to adjust the volume on my car audio at all while listening.

Overall, I gave both the book and the narration 3.5 stars but am intrigued to see how that would be adjusted should I re-listen to it later on.

 
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Posted by on October 22, 2014 in Audiobook Review

 

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Audiobook Review – The Martian – Andy Weir

the martianThe Martian
Author: Andy Weir
Narrator: R.C. Bray
Audiobook Length: 10h4s 53 min
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆

Description:
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first men to walk on the surface of Mars. Now, he’s sure he’ll be the first man to die there.

It started with the dust storm that holed his suit and nearly killed him, and that forced his crew to leave him behind, sure he was already dead. Now he’s stranded millions of miles from the nearest human being, with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive–and even if he could get word out, his food would be gone years before a rescue mission could arrive. Chances are, though, he won’t have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment, or plain-old “human error” are much more likely to get him first.

But Mark isn’t ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills–and a relentless, dogged refusal to quit–he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. But will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?

Review:
Every so often (although more frequently), there are books that people rave about, and rave about and sometimes I avoid the temptation to jump in and read and other times I take the plunge. I’d been hearing about The Martian on and off for probably a good year nearly from various online reading groups, so when it was selected as a group read in one of my Goodreads groups, I toddled off to Audible and grabbed the audiobook. Of course, as usual, I had several other books to finish up first before I could start it, but when I did, holy roller coaster of a ride. As I started listening, the whole storyline reminded me of that 1980’s TV show MacGyver (with the fantabulous Richard Dean Anderson). You know, where you give RDA a carrot, a battery and a spoon and he constructs a working bomb – that is who Mark Watney reminded me of. Of course, he wasn’t hunting (or being hunted by bad guys), or blowing things up (well…not on purpose at least) – but the problem solving mentally was perfect.

I’ll admit that I am not a science geek by any stretch of a means, so a lot of that kind of stuff went right over my head – especially when they had the guy talking about orbital physics (I can barely spell it – I just had to resort to using spell check to spell physics…). But even with all that, the technically stuff was for the most part, addressed in a way that even a lay person could attempt to understand – which the author used technie words/theories, he also tried to dumb them down for normal people. I think if the story had just been limited to Mark’s POV, it would have been a lot weaker overall – however, the integration of the NASA scientists who are trying to rescue him and his former crew-members who left him for dead, made the storyline much more intriguing.

The narrator, R.C. Bray, is brand-new to me but I can tell you that it won’t be the last time I listen to him. He managed to toe the line between comedic inference and serious moments perfectly. There were times when I was laughing so hard at his narration that I was crying. I found that his voice distinctions between Mark and the assortment of other characters was well-defined, even down to his narration of the Chinese astronaut and the Indian astrophysicist. I highly recommend him as a narrator to try.

Overall, I gave both the book and narration 4 stars, and glad that I took the opportunity to listen to it. Personally, for me, I think it worked better in audio, than reading, but that might just be me.

 
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Posted by on October 16, 2014 in Audiobook Review

 

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Review – Born in Blood – Alexandra Ivy

born in bloodBorn in Blood
Author: Alexandra Ivy
Series: #1 in the Sentinals series
Rating: ☆ ☆ ☆

Narrator: Jim Frangione
Run Time: 10hrs 56min

Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Description:
Sergeant Duncan O’Conner has seen it all before. A beautiful erotic dancer is found murdered in her home—no suspect, no motive. But there’s one clue: she’s missing her heart. It’s enough to make the hard-bitten Kansas City cop enlist the help of a necro—one of the dead-channeling freaks who live in the domed city of nearby Valhalla. It’s a long shot, but desperate crimes call for desperate measures.

Unlike the other “high-bloods” in Valhalla, Callie Brown considers her abilities a gift, not a curse. But when she reads the dancer’s final thoughts, she senses a powerful presence blocking her vision. This is no ordinary homicide. This is the work of a legendary necromancer who controls souls. A ravenous force that will put Callie’s skills to the test, O’Conner’s career at risk, and both their hearts on the line…literally.

Review:
When I was approached by Recorded Books to participate in their reviewer program I was intrigued and when I saw the wide variety of books and narrators I was in heaven. So I figured I would try a new to me author and a new to me narrator to kick things off. Haha, I’m a bit nuts what can I say. I know you are probably thinking, new to you for both of them, they are both popular in their respective skills, but for some reason I’d just never gotten around to reading or listening to anything done by them. But anyways onto the book/narration…

The first book in a new series I find is normally the weakest, especially in Paranormal Romance/UF because there is significant world-building that needs to go on, and it can’t all happen in one book without a huge information dump. I appreciated how Ms Ivy approached this – there was a steady flow of world building and characterization through-out the narrative. I never felt like I was getting over-loaded.

The use of a necromancy and individuals having the ability to see dead people and what they experienced prior to death was kind of cool and not something I remember coming across in a romance novel before (at least not when it isn’t just the evil person involved in it). I will admit that Callie did irk me on occasion, she seemed a bit goody-goody at times, but she grew on me as the story progressed. But I fell in love with Duncan, the H, from the get-go. There was something about him that just drew me to him. Maybe it was how he didn’t necessarily demonize those with special abilities since he didn’t have any – he may have been skeptical, but he was willing to work with them.

The story itself was well developed and enjoyable – I was kept guessing on what was going to happen next – which made me appreciate the writing skills of the author – i wasn’t bored while listening. That being said, I know a lot of people love Jim Frangione as a narrator, but it took me a while to warm up to him. Overtime i’ve come to realize that I prefer dual narration audiobooks (yes, I know that they are more expensive/time-consuming to produce) – but I know very few men who narrate the female voice well and vice versa. And while I really liked Jim’s interpretation of Duncan, I found his voice for Callie to be ear-grating for the first couple of hours until I got used to his tone/candance. His pacing was good – I never felt the need the either speed up or slow down the narration, and his vareity of voices worked well with the book – there weren’t so many that they got mixed up, but he could make them all unique in their own way.

Overall, I’d be interested in reading another book by this author (be it in the next in the series, or another book) and listening to other books narrated by Frangione. I gave both the book and the narration 3 stars.

 
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Posted by on October 9, 2014 in Audiobook Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Here There Be Dragons – James A Owens

here there be dragonsHere There Be Dragons
Author: James A Owens
Series: #1 in the The Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica series

Narrator: James Langton
Run Time: 8hrs and 27 minutes

Description:
The Imaginarium Geographica

“What is it?” John asked.
The little man blinked and arched an eyebrow.
“It is the world, my boy,” he said. “All the world, in ink and blood, vellum and parchment, leather and hide. It is the world, and it is yours to save or lose.”

An unusual murder brings together three strangers, John, Jack, and Charles, on a rainy night in London during the first World War. An eccentric little man called Bert tells them that they are now the caretakers of the Imaginarium Geographica — an atlas of all the lands that have ever existed in myth and legend, fable and fairy tale. These lands, Bert claims, can be traveled to in his ship the Indigo Dragon, one of only seven vessels that is able to cross the Frontier between worlds into the Archipelago of Dreams.

Pursued by strange and terrifying creatures, the companions flee London aboard the Dragonship. Traveling to the very realm of the imagination itself, they must learn to overcome their fears and trust in one another if they are to defeat the dark forces that threaten the destiny of two worlds.

Review:
So my initial thought after finishing this was how the heck have I not read/listened to this author before. I initially bought it back in February of 2011 and then never listened to it, but I needed a book that had been shelved as fantasy and sci-fi for a challenge, as well as trying to knock off some of my purchased and not listened books off the pile. I was immediately sucked into the story. Its actually pretty easy to describe – take any fantasy book that you have probably heard of in the past, and then mash all of the various worlds together into a series of islands and a governing council and you’ll have the basis of the story.

It begins in 1920(ish) England, so there was immediately a historical feel to the story, along with the impact of the war, which is felt by several of the main characters. We are introduced to Jack, John and Charles who are the protagonists of the story (and there is a pretty cool twist at the end over who the main characters really are). A murder of a mentor and the mission to protect the Imaginarium Geographica, or the atlas of all the imaginary worlds that we believe exist.

The entire story was like a roller coaster of adventure – it was literally on the go from the get-go – I think the whole book took place only over about a 4 day period (or so it seemed, maybe it took a bit longer). And while it was a longer book, it didn’t feel like it was long – I was sucked in (and for the first time in a long-time I found myself sitting in the car listening to just a couple more minutes…). This is the kind of book that would appeal to not only adults but children, while the main characters were older (in their early 20’s), it was written in a way to appeal to a younger audience with the adventures.

It was my first time listening to a book narrated by James Langton. I do think that his strengths were in the male voices which were the predominate part of the book. While his female voices weren’t bad, they were definately weaker than the male ones. I will say, however, that I plan to see what else he has narrated in the future. I’ve already added the second book in the series to my audible wishlist for a future credit.

Overall, I gave Here, There Be Dragons 4 stars and a high recommendation to other people who enjoy fantasy with touches of realism.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2014 in Audiobook Review

 

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Audiobook Review – Down and Out in Bugtussle – Stephanie McAfee

bugtussleDown and Out in Bugtussle: The Mad Fat Road to Happiness
Author: Stephanie McAfee
Series: #3 in the Mad Fat Girl series
Narrator: Cassandra Campbell
Run Time: 9hrs 43 minutes

Review Copy Provided by Tantor Audio

Description:
When her dream life in Florida with her now-ex-fiancé goes south, so does Ace — she moves back home to Bugtussle, Mississippi, and into her late Gramma Jones’ little house. But even though her best friends, Lilly and Chloe, are thrilled that she’s returned home, not everything is smooth sailing. Ace wants her job back as art teacher at the high school, but the beautiful Cameron Becker has no plans to relinquish that position. Although Ace wants to run Miss Becker out of town, she accepts a job as a substitute teacher. On top of her job woes, Ace’s friends keep setting her up on blind dates when all she really wants is for people to stop meddling in her love life.

In her quest to find inner peace, Ace takes up gardening and discovers old love letters in her grandmother’s well-worn gardening book. With her faithful chiweenie, Buster Loo, by her side, Ace is determined to get to the bottom of her Gramma’s secret life, all while hoping her own doesn’t implode.

Review:
Ok, I’ll admit it – I primarily requested the audiobook because of the word Bugtussle in the title…it just made me giggle. Unfortunately for me that book didn’t live up to the humor that I was expecting. I don’t know if it was because I hadn’t read (or listened) to the previous 2 books in the series and didn’t know/previous read about the characters or what – but it just didn’t quite work for me. One of my first gripes was with the subtitle – the Mad Fat Road to Happiness – i honestly expected someone who was happy with their body and being big (although, you never find out how big Ace is), but through-out the book, there were many instances where there was almost an unhappiness with her life and her body – comments about clothes not fitting, how she looked in clothes etc. It didn’t exactly sound happy to me…

For me, Ace also just seemed fake – a lot of her humor felt forced and not natural. It just felt like there were supposed to be funny interactions between Ace and her friends, but it was just like listening to nails on a chalkboard. I will say that Ace and her interactions with Stacey Dewberry (substitute teacher stuck in the 80’s both clothing, make-up and car wise) – were probably the most entertaining and I liked Stacey the most as a character.

That being said, I didn’t mind Cassandra Campbells narration. I thought that she did a good job of distinguishing between the characters and making them all unique. But unfortunately, good narration couldn’t improve on my lack of enjoyment with the book. Overall, I gave Down and Out in Bugtussle 2 stars and likely won’t be checking out anything by the author in the future. I would recommend if people try the books, to maybe go with book 1 first, i don’t know if that would have improved my experience or not, but now its too late to find out.

 
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Posted by on January 15, 2014 in Audiobook Review

 

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Classics Retold Review – Emma – Jane Austen

classics retold

EmmaEmma
Author: Jane Austen

Description:
‘I never have been in love; it is not my way, or my nature; and I do not think I ever shall.’

Beautiful, clever, rich – and single – Emma Woodhouse is perfectly content with her life and sees no need for either love or marriage. Nothing, however, delights her more than interfering in the romantic lives of others. But when she ignores the warnings of her good friend Mr Knightley and attempts to arrange a suitable match for her protegee Harriet Smith, her carefully laid plans soon unravel and have consequences that she never expected. With its imperfect but charming heroine and its witty and subtle exploration of relationships, Emma is often seen as Jane Austen’s most flawless work.

Review:
I have to say that this is probably one of my favorite Jane Austen (only slightly behind Pride and Prejudice). Of all the characters in the various Jane Austen books, I found the ones in Emma to be the most relatable. While all of them were bound by the various society dictates, there was a quirky-ness that shone through with Ms Austen’s descriptions and the development of the story.

It’s hard to say exactly what I really enjoyed about the book, there wasn’t one specific thing that I can say, yes, it was this scene, this person…but rather it was the amalgamation of everyone together. It was like seeing a stained glass mirror…while each part is individually created when its built and is pretty on its own, it is the final product that make people ohhhh and ahhh.

But I always find it hard to write reviews of these classics, because they are classics for a reason…so I’ll leave my review of Emma at that, but since I did listen to the audiobook, I need to address the narration a little bit. I have to admit when I saw that the only version of the audiobook that my library had had a male narrator (Michael Page), I was a tad skeptical, since Emma is told from a female POV and I can’t remember a classic that i’ve listened to, off the top of my head, that has had a male narrator. So it was a completely new experience for me. But I was pleasantly surprised. There was something smooth and flowing about his narration. I know that i’ll be checking out more books narrated by him in the future (and taking a peek, it looks like he had a pretty decent backlist).

 

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Audiobook Review – Where’d You Go Bernadette – Maria Semple

where'd you go bernadetteWhere’d You Go, Bernadette
Author: Maria Semple

Narrator: Kathleen Wilhoite
Run Time: 9hrs and 39 minutes
Producer: Hachette Audio

Description:
Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle—and people in general—has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence—creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

Review:
Where to start, oh where to start…if I had to pick one word to describe Where’d you go Bernadette – it was would be quirky…not weird (although Bernadette really did have her moments), but not really funny either (in fact, it almost felt a bit overdone and trying too hard in places). I think that since I had to wait for it so long to come in at the library (I was on the reserve list for like 3 months) that I overhyped it to myself. But its not like I regret listening to it – in fact in made for a rather entertaining road trip.

Its hard to describe Bernadette as a character…maybe completely and utterly self-absorbed and quite possibly a narcissist. It was ultimately all about her – no matter who she hurt…in fact it actually started to piss me off. I don’t know if i’ve dislike a character as much as her since I listened to Gone Girl last year…and then there was Bee, her daughter…omg, all I can say is that in places, she needed a good spanking (yes, I said it!). Her husband was at least kind of redeemable but then he was such a minor character (as much as that is possible), that he was kind of an odd-ball. And then there were the gnats…or the other residents of the neighbourhood where Bernadette lived…it seemed at times that they took over the story, and then were left hanging. In fact that was probably one of my biggest gripes – there were several story lines that were just not tied up and i was left with questions – which was part of the reason, i only gave it 4 stars – if everything had been tied up, it might have come close to a 5 star listen.

The narrator, Kathleen Wilhoite was brand new to me and I can say for sure, that it won’t be the last time I listen to her. I loved the inflection that she used for the different characters – I thought she nailed Bernadettes quirky-ness and Bee’s at-times whiny teenage voice. Even her voice for Bernadette’s hubby was good – which I often struggle with (the female narrators doing male voices and vice versa).

Overall, I gave both the story and the narration a solid 4 stars – and i’ll be interested to see what the author comes up with in the future.

 
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Posted by on July 31, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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