08 August 2013

Sound Recommendations: Five Great Audiobook Productions

Because I've been so busy with work lately, I've been craving audiobooks and going through them like crazy. I recently discovered (no laughing, I'm so slow on the uptake) that when I put audiobooks on my phone, I can remove the headphones and just listen through the phone's speakers. That means I've found some extra time to listen to books, and I don't have to worry about whether I'm damaging my hearing.

This week's Sound Recommendations cover urban fantasy, paranormal, literary fiction, and middle grade fiction. I feel funny using the word recommendations because the first two mini-reviews aren't all that positive about the novels, but I did love the audio productions.

Entice / Endure by Carrie JonesCarrie Jones's pixies series (I already reviewed Need and Captivate) takes place in rural Maine. The quartet started out strong as the teenage Zara (living with her grandmother after her father's untimely death) discovers that the world around us is not as benevolent as it appears. In fact, wicked pixies are out to destroy humankind and were-animals roam the Maine forests. Unfortunately, the final books didn't hold up to the initial potential of the series as Zara and her allies--humans, weres, an elf, and good pixies--take on the challenge to save the world and find true love at the same time. Entice (8 hr, 30 min) and Endure (8 hr, 31 min) were both produced by Brilliance Audio and read by Julian Whelan who does a fantastic job projecting the excitement and action of the plot as well as the conflicting and changing feelings of deep love Zara has for her were-boyfriend and her pixie king. If you like young adult urban fantasy, you'll probably enjoy Zara's story. Excellent audio productions, even if not my favorite series.

Dead Ever After by Charlaine HarrisThere has been a lot of controversy over the last Sookie Stackhouse book, Dead Ever After (10 hr, 11 min). Let me tell you right now, I'm in the camp with the disappointed. First, all the previous books in the series are told through Sookie's eyes, which adds to the fun. This installment deviates from that formula a bit; in fact, when I started listening, I had to check my phone to make sure I had downloaded the correct title--that's how startling the difference was. Second, I felt that Charlaine Harris took the easy way out of finding a way to tie up the series. Some characters were simply sent away, several got married or had babies, and Sookie realized that a good friend might hold the key to her future. As I mentioned the other day, I thought the series was going downhill and I'm not sorry to see it end. I am, however, sorry that the last installment is such a poor entry. The good news is that Johanna Parker once again narrated the Recorded Books audiobook edition. She is such a joy to listen to that I almost forgot how mad I was at Harris.

Instructions for a Heatwave by Maggie O'FarrellIn 1976, in the midst of an unrelenting heatwave, Robert Riordan walks out of his house and fails to return. His wife calls their grown children, who all return home to help find their father. Each family member has at least one closely held secret (some big, some not), and as they search for Robert, their pasts and presents come bubbling up to the surface. Maggie O'Farrell's Instructions for a Heatwave (9 hr, 11 min) is a beautifully written novel about the underside of families, revealing the complex relationships between siblings and parents and how each person recalls shared events from a totally different perspective. Although Robert's disappearance is at the core of the story, this is not a mystery. It's a look at how one family balances personal and mutual crises during a time of changing mores and the decreasing influence of the Church. John Lee is brilliant as the narrator of the Random House Audio production. His characterizations are spot-on, and his lyrical cadence is a perfect match for O'Farrell's prose. (My full audiobook review will be available from AudioFile Magazine.)

Summer of Gypsy Moths by Sara PennypackerSara Pennypacker's Summer of Gyspy Moths (6 hr, 28 min) transports us to a Cape Cod summer, when twelve-year-old Stella is sent to live with her great-aunt Louise. Stella's mother is flighty, to put it kindly, always heading off on a new adventure and sometimes forgetting that she has daughter. After only one month with her aunt, however, Stella is starting to let down her guard. All would be perfect except for the foster kid, Angel, who is as prickly and stand-offish as can be. So much for Louise's hope that the girls would be friends. One day the girls come home from school to discover their lives have once again been turned upside down. Will they be able to make a truce and work together to stay in the Cape Cod house? This is a charming story of how two young girls try to find happiness and stability in a world that hasn't been kind to them. You can't help but love their spunk and determination and their growing friendship, despite their many differences. Both middle grade readers and adults will root for Stella and want to race through the book to see what happens. Jenna Lamia, one of my favorite narrators, reads the Listening Library edition of the novel. Stella's story is tailor-made for Lamia, who conveys the preteen's hopes, fears, and frustrations perfectly. This is a don't-miss listen for readers of all ages.


rhapsodyinbooks 8/8/13, 7:38 AM  

Summer of the Gypsy Moths sounds good. I totally agree that many books marked children or MG or of course YA are really for readers of all ages!

JoAnn 8/8/13, 8:23 AM  

I've just added Instructions for a Heatwave to my wish
list. Summer of the Gypsy Moths sounds absolutely delightful, too. Thanks!

Nicole (Linus's Blanket) 8/8/13, 10:18 AM  

I have Instructions for a Heatwave in print, but I might combine with audio after your stamp of approval.

bermudaonion 8/8/13, 10:37 AM  

I've got Summer of the Gypsy Moths and I'm really excited about it.

I'm laughing with you, not at you, about listening on your phone without earbuds.

Vasilly 8/8/13, 1:08 PM  

I love Sara Pennypacker's writing, so I'm adding Summer of the Gypsy Moths to my tbr list along with O'Farrell's latest.

Julie P. 8/8/13, 1:56 PM  

I'm packing INSTRUCTIONS FOR A HEAT WAVE for next week's vacation.

Daryl 8/8/13, 2:16 PM  

the last one intrigues me .. made me think of the Boxcar Children ... when i read it, it wasnt a series .. nevertheless ... i am getting the last one for my friend's daughter. thanks!

Belle Wong 8/8/13, 10:15 PM  

Summer of the Gypsy Moths sounds good to me, too. Now you've got me worried, though - can it be damaging to listen to audiobooks with headphones? I'm going to use my iPhone more now, too, plus my speaker docks!

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