28 April 2014

Sound Recommendations: Strong Stories, Strong Performances

Frog Music by Emma DonoghueIf you haven't yet read Emma Donoghue's Frog Music, or even if you have, rush right out and get a copy of the unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio, 12 hr, 47 min) read by Kristine Hvam.

Based on a true, unsolved murder that took place in 1876 San Fransisco during a heat wave and smallpox epidemic, Frog Music introduces us to gambling trapeze artists; a cross-dressing frog hunter; and a horseback-riding, dancer/prostitute. Chance meetings, jealousy, greed, lust, love, and betrayal drive the story, which is much less mystery than it is a tale of self-discovery.

Hvam puts her theatrical background to good use with her believable characterizations and accents and expressive reading. Especially impressive is how easily she slips into song, adding a wonderful layer to Donoghue's emotional novel. Frog Music is meant to be listened to and the unabridged audiobook is unforgettable.

The Enchanted by Rene DenfeldAlthough the subject matter is often rough (prison life, murder, child abuse), Rene Denfeld's The Enchanted is a haunting novel that makes you think about what happens to children who have no protectors. Set in a penitentiary for the worst offenders, the story is told through the eyes of one of the institution's most heinous criminals. Pretty boys, well-meaning parole officers, naive prison guards, and fallen priests must face the dark side of humanity on a daily basis.

The audiobook (Harper Audio; 7 hr, 4 min) is read by Jim Frangione, whose storytelling abilities shine in this production. He takes a nonjudgmental tone with just a hint of creepiness that leaves us with the responsibility to judge the principal protagonist. Frangione's characterizations are subtle but the emotional intensity of his narration is spellbinding, making us feel sympathy for individuals we should abhor.

Is there a clear division between good and evil? Can the unthinkable ever be forgiven? There are no easy answers, and the characters will remain with listeners for a long time after Frangione has finished the story.

Note: The original versions of these reviews were published by AudioFile magazine.


JoAnn 4/28/14, 7:51 AM  

I always appreciate your audio recommendations... was planning to read Frog Music, but now I'll be sure to listen. Thank you!

Beth Hoffman 4/28/14, 9:46 AM  

Though not typically a subject matter I'm drawn to, your review of THE ENCHANTED grabbed me, especially since you posed a question I often grapple with: "Can the unthinkable ever be forgiven?"

Daryl 4/28/14, 10:48 AM  

you're making me wish i could stay awake while i listen to an audio book …

Nise' 4/28/14, 8:35 PM  

Both books will be going on my audio list. I like both narrators.

Unknown 4/28/14, 9:23 PM  

I'm listening to Frog Music right now. I was reading in print, but switched and I'm enjoying the audio so much more. Great narration. Enjoyed your review.

Laurie C 4/29/14, 6:54 AM  

I'll do that! My audiobook recommendations have been piling up as fast as my TBR books, and it's not even June (Audiobook Month) yet!

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 4/29/14, 8:15 AM  

I just finished reading Frog Music and I do think it would make a great audio! Glad to hear you liked it.

Sandy Nawrot 4/29/14, 9:03 AM  

I'm all over Frog Music...I loved Hvam in Dare Me. Off to see what I can get at the library!

Vasilly 4/29/14, 11:46 PM  

I needed this post! I plan on either listening to or reading The Enchanted really soon.

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) 4/30/14, 2:45 AM  

I'm adding both of these to my audio list.

Melissa (Avid Reader) 4/30/14, 4:01 PM  

I just finished Frog Music and I'm still processing my thoughts, but the audio was really good!

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