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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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Audiobook Review – Moon Over Manifest – Clare Vanderpool

moon over manifestMoon Over Manifest
Author: Clare Vanderpool

Narrators: Jenna Lamia, Cassandra Campbell, Kirby Heyborne
Run Time: 9 hrs and 31 minutes
Producer: Listening Library

Description:
The movement of the train rocked me like a lullaby. I closed my eyes to the dusty countryside and imagined the sign I’d seen only in Gideon’s stories: Manifest—A Town with a rich past and a bright future.

Abilene Tucker feels abandoned. Her father has put her on a train, sending her off to live with an old friend for the summer while he works a railroad job. Armed only with a few possessions and her list of universals, Abilene jumps off the train in Manifest, Kansas, aiming to learn about the boy her father once was.
Having heard stories about Manifest, Abilene is disappointed to find that it’s just a dried-up, worn-out old town. But her disappointment quickly turns to excitement when she discovers a hidden cigar box full of mementos, including some old letters that mention a spy known as the Rattler. These mysterious letters send Abilene and her new friends, Lettie and Ruthanne, on an honest-to-goodness spy hunt, even though they are warned to “Leave Well Enough Alone.”

Abilene throws all caution aside when she heads down the mysterious Path to Perdition to pay a debt to the reclusive Miss Sadie, a diviner who only tells stories from the past. It seems that Manifest’s history is full of colorful and shadowy characters—and long-held secrets. The more Abilene hears, the more determined she is to learn just what role her father played in that history. And as Manifest’s secrets are laid bare one by one, Abilene begins to weave her own story into the fabric of the town.

Review:
I typically don’t play much attention to books that win the Newberry Award (or similar), but after listening to Moon Over Manifest, I am intrigued to check out more of them (I think the last one I remember reading was The Giver – Lois Lowry). My purpose for picking up this book…I was looking for an audiobook that had 2 or more narrators that my library had available immediately…and thus, I grabbed Moon Over Manifest to listen to (yes, I know, a hugely scientific method of picking which book to listen to next).

My initial reaction/thoughts, when I heard the name of the main character, was Abilene – I wonder what the etomology of that name is, since it isn’t one you normally hear (and the last i heard it was in The Help). According to Think Baby Names, the origins of the name is one of Hebrew origin and it is believed to have been derived from the hebrew word for grass – which now that I think about it kind of fits the character of Abilene. She was truely a girl that I would love to sit down and have a meal with to talk – the whole idea of her existing (along with her father) in a state of perpetual motion moving from place to place.

But the story in itself is a coming of age, finding out what your place is in the world – which in part means, where did you come from? And for Abilene that is the purpose behind her summer in Manifest – finding out the story of her past. But tied in with finding out her past, understanding the history of the town and the time period itself. It is really hard to say more about the book without revealing any spoilers, and I don’t really want to do that, so I am just going to leave my review of the book as is…

When it came to the narrators, the only one of the three that I had previously listened to – Kirby Heyborne – and when I saw that he was one of the narrators I jumped at the narration. I had also heard good things about Cassandra Campbell, although I had never listened to anything done by her. I was also a bit confused at the beginning because Overdrive listed Justine Eyre as the main narrator, but the audiobook listed and stated Jenna Lamia – so I thought at the beginning that maybe they were a pseudonym of each other, but I found out I was wrong.

I have no real complaints about the narration – I thought that all three of the narrators fit their roles well and added to the depth/texture of the story. If I was to make one comment, I think that Kirby Heyborne was a bit under-used. He, specifically, was the voice of Ned, one of the boys from Manifest who was fighting in WW1. While I think his voice was great for. However, some of the other flash-backs I think could have used his voice – especially since they were told from the perspective of a young boy. While a bit nit-picky, that was my biggest complaint about the overall narration.

I was a bit conflicted overall with what to give Moon Over Manifest – I was wavering at a 3.5, but not sure if I should round up or down and now sitting down and thinking about it – I think I am going to go with the round-up option. This is the type of book, while written for a young-adult audience, can be enjoyed by pretty much anyone who enjoys historical fiction.

 
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Posted by on February 13, 2013 in Audiobook Review

 

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