All tagged Audiobooks

Audiobooks: How I Came to Love Verse Novels by Molly Wetta

I’ve always loved poetry; I used to hate reading novels in verse. 

Part of my aversion to verse novels can be attributed to my first experience, which was Crank by Ellen Hopkins. The angsty, dramatic, dark story of addiction that is perennially popular with teenagers didn’t appeal to me at all. 

The sentences
just seemed so 
The line breaks

I've Been Listening... Quick Thoughts on 7 Audiobooks

I've been enjoying the hell out of my Audible subscription (seriously, it's so great) and have been using it, and Multnomah Country Library's rad digital downloads system, to check out books that I've heard mixed things about seem polarizing in some way. It's a fun way to explore books I'd maybe otherwise pass up. 

It's hard for me to write lengthy reviews of audiobooks because I don't retain details quite as well when I'm listening. But I thought I'd share some brief reflections on some books I listened to recently. 

Recommendation Roundup: April 2014

Clearly, I had a much better reading month than my CEFS compatriots, with a number of books I quite enjoyed. 

By far, my most surprising read was Zac & Mia, which is one of those review copies that I downloaded on impulse because the folks at Harper Collins have me auto-approved for their books. Little did I know that it had won the Text Prize in Australia a couple of years ago, because that would've been my first clue that it was a good one. It's getting a lot of comparisons to The Fault in Our Stars, but I'm not sure that's an apt one, though the subject matter is similar. If I were to compare it stylistically to a "cancer book," I'd probably say it's more similar to The Probability of Miracles by Wendy Wunder, but that's not that best comparison either. It's actually just unique, with a distinctive voice and style. 

Audiobook Review: The Program by Suzanne Young

“...some things are better left in the past. And true things are destined to repeat themselves.”

Suzanne Young's new novel, The Program, somehow got slapped with the label "dystopian." I'm not sure if this was thanks to early publicity or the viral nature of Goodreads shelves,  or something else, but this likely inadvertent label has stuck, and it's one that seems to have stuck. Unfortunately, the dystopian label does this intriguing and unique novel a huge disservice.  

If I were to slap a genre name on The Program, I'd say it's speculative fiction or allegorical alternate reality (which I don't think is actually a genre). It's set in a very familiar world, much like the modern day (it's set in my home state of Oregon, so it felt particularly familiar to me). Except in this iteration of our world, teen depression and suicide are an epidemic, one that's dealt with in an extreme way, hence The Program.

The Program is an extreme course of treatment for teen depression, in which memories of all things negative, painful and emotive are removed. Any extreme reaction can result in a trip to The Program, and those who return from the "treatment" are shells of their former selves.

In the case of The Program's narrator, Sloane, she's already seen what can happen to those who are untreated--her beloved brother died as a result of suicide, and it destroyed her parents. She made it through the dark days following her brother's death thanks to her boyfriend (and her brother's best friend), James. Together, they fight the darkness that threatens them. After that, a bunch of stuff happens (obviously, since it's not exactly a short book), all of which will massively spoil The Program if I share the details. But, let's just say, what Sloane experiences is quite harrowing and explores a number of compelling concepts including memory and social control.  

Historical Fiction Done Right - A Northern Light by Jennifer Donnelly

I've been doing a lot of reading lately that doesn't really feel necessitates a formal review. This is partially because I intentionally don't read all books with reviewing in mine. When I plan on reviewing a book, I stop, take notes, highlight, all that stuff. At the pace I read, that's overwhelming to do that for each and every book.

However, sometimes I still want to share my thoughts on ​some of these books.

That's the long way of my saying that this isn't a "review" of Jennifer Donnelly's A Northern Light. Instead, it's more a few impressions of why this historical novel worked for me when so many others have not. 

The crux of the story set in 1906 upstate New York (around Utica and Cortland, in the Adirondacks) and centers around two converging stories. The first is 16-year old Mattie's life on a farm, where her aspirations of a bookish life and college in New York City collide with the economic realities of caring for her sisters and helping her father on the farm, as well as the expectations for a girl her age to marry and establish a household. The second story is a mystery around the death of young woman staying at the hotel where Mattie works who's body is found in ​the lake. (This is drawn from real events, and also inspired the Book An American Tragedy and the film A Place in the Sun.)

A number of things distinguished A Northern Light for me, but the aspect that stands out the most is the approach to placing the novel in its historical context.

Audio Review: Time Between Us by Tamara Ireland Stone

Between my blog post about audiobooks and a desperate cry on Goodreads and Twitter for audiobook recommendations, there were several suggestions of Tamara Ireland Stone's debut novel, Time Between Us. I'd been curious about this book anyway, as I am a tremendous sucker for time travel or parallel universe-type stories (I lay the blame for this squarely on Fringe). 

I figured giving this particular book a whirl, since I had a couple of gratis Audible credits, and while I had extremely mixed feelings about The Time Between Us, I still enjoyed it quite a bit and am definitely onboard for the sequel, because there's something about this story that's extremely engaging and entertaining--and this was very much bolstered by the narrator's performance. 

Time Between Us is set in 1995 Evanston, Illinois and is told in the first person present perspective of Anna, a 16-year old avid runner who works in her father's bookstore and dreams of traveling the world. She meets Bennett, a boy she first spots at the track where she runs and later enrolls as a temporary student at the private school she attends. 

The two embark on an intense, whirlwind of a romance, culminating in Anna's discovery that Bennett has a big secret: he's from 2012, not 1995 and has traveled through time in search of someone from his present. 

Much of this premise mirrors the plot of the hordes of paranormal YA novels that exploded in recent years: average girl, mysterious book, special powers, etcetera, etcetera. However, despite that the basics of Time Between Us are nothing new, there's something fresh and fun in the writing and the engaging pace of the story. Some of this is because of the travel-meets-time travel aspect which we see through Anna's enthusiastic, very (in a good way) teenage eyes. But it's also because the wintery Evanston setting is well done and Anna has friends whose characters are well-developed and important to the story. She has a rich life before Bennett--she simply dreams of more.

Unfortunately, as much as I was swept up in Anna and Bennett's story and the question of if and how they could possibly be together, there is much in this story that's problematic.

Audiobook Adventures

My local NPR station did the unthinkable over the last six months or so: They changed the schedule entirely. As a result, all the worst shows (by "worst" I mean shows that involve audience participation) are during the ​times I'm in the car.

I got desperate. First I turned to podcasts, which I love, but there are only so many one can listen to in a row before they all start to run together.

Next, I tried something I've always disliked: Audiobooks.

Audiobooks have never really worked for me--I'm not sure why, but I suspect that because my previous attempts at audiobooking were pre-iPod, so a lot of the listening was annoying on a technical level, with the messing with CDs and all. I also think I'd chosen the wrong types of books for audio, since if I recall correctly, I mostly chose long, complex books, which weren't the easiest for me to track in shorter chunks while operating a motorized vehicle.

But finally, I've found some audiobooks which worked for me.

I adored finishing the the wonderful Curse Workers series on audio. Jesse Eisenberg narrates and adds so much to Cassel's voice, actually making him sound more teenage and funny, which I didn't pick up in the first book, which I read in the traditional way.​

I also loved listening to Catherine Gilbert Murdock's phenomenal Dairy Queen series (recommended by Flannery),​ which I'd actually started as an ebook a couple years ago and for some reason I couldn't get into (probably a wrong frame of mind thing). The narrator does a brilliant job of capturing both the Wisconsin accent and D.J.'s neurotic, self-deprecating tone.