08 November 2013

Sound Recommendations: An Eclectic Mix

This edition of Sound Recommendations is an eclectic mix of history, philosophy, and mystery. Two of the books were written for adults and one for middle grade readers. For my full audiobook reviews of these titles, check out the AudioFile magazine website.

Artful by Ali SmithAli Smith is an author I should have at least heard of (she won the Whitbread Award, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and has appeared on best-of-the-year lists), but I was not familiar with her when I agreed to listen to her short book Artful, published early this year. Originally presented as four lectures at Oxford, Artful comes together as a single work. The story is told by an unnamed protagonist, who discusses an amazing range of topics, from Renaissance art to Oliver Twist, from ghosts to music, all the while finding the commonalities among them and tying them neatly into her grief over her recently dead lover. I was surprised by how much I loved this blend of fact and fiction, and Smith's narration is beautifully done. On the other hand, Artful is a book that makes you want to stop and think, to reread paragraphs, and to share with others; thus I suggest reading the print version first or having a copy in hand while you listen. [hardcover: Penguin Press, ISBN-13 9781594204869; audio: Highbridge, 4 hr, 6 min]

Lincoln's Grave Robbers by Steve SheinkinDid you know that in 1876 there was plot to steal Abraham Lincoln's body and ransom it to free an infamous counterfeiter from federal prison? I didn't either. Steve Sheinkin's Lincoln's Grave Robbers tells this exciting true story geared for middle grade readers. I was absolutely fascinated with this book and learned quite a bit about counterfeiting, the minting of money, the origins of the secret service, and more. This is one of those stranger-than-fiction stories with double agents, crossed communications, and helpful civilians. Never mind the intended audience for this book, I recommend it for everyone. Actor Will Patton does the narration with impressive skill, bringing just the right amount of drama to his performance. He has a great sense of pacing, amping up the tension and keeping the whole family engaged in the story. [hardcover: Scholastic Press, ISBN-13 9780545405720; audio: Scholastic Audio, 3 hr 16 min]

Garden of Stones by Sophie LittlefieldSophie Littlefield's Garden of Stones opens in 1978, when Lucy Takeda, a survivor of the U.S. Japanese interment camp Manzanar, hears about a neighborhood murder. That event and her daughter's impending wedding, cause Lucy to remember her transformation from a carefree young teen to a guarded young woman to an eccentric, yet independent single mother. Littlefield exposes some of the worst aspects of the interment camps as well as the few options open to young Lucy when she has the opportunity to reenter the outside world. Garden of Stones is a genre bender, combing elements of mystery with historical fiction and family drama. Emily Woo Zeller's narration is particularly strong in its consistent, yet distinct characterizations. She brings a reserved emotion to her performance, which allows listeners to form their own opinions and conclusions about Lucy's past and present. [paperback: Harlequin MIRA, ISBN-13 9780778313526; audio: Tantor, 8 hr, 25 min]


bermudaonion 11/8/13, 7:57 AM  

Garden of Stones is the most appealing to me. Thanks for the reviews - I'm always on the lookout for new audio books.

JaneGS 11/8/13, 9:48 AM  

Artful sounds wonderful to me, and I think it would work well as an audio book. Definitely checking this out from my library.

Nise' 11/9/13, 8:59 PM  

I love Will Patton's narration and will definitely check that book out.

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