14 August 2014

Sound Recommendations: A Summer Quartet

Sea of Shadows by Kelley ArmstrongKelly Armstrong is starting a new young adult series (Age of Legends) with her Sea of Shadows. At the center of the story are twins Moria and Ashyn, who were tapped from birth to become the Keeper and the Seeker, respectively, of their village on their 16th birthday. Now that they've come of age, their principal duties involve protecting the people from the evils that live in the surrounding Forest of the Dead by performing very specific rites. Despite their training, something goes horribly wrong on their first try, setting off a series of events that ripple throughout the land. Much to love here, from the strong female characters to the complex world (with its underlying Japanese feel). Yes, there is some romance, but it doesn't take center stage; the girls' quest and the larger political issues are more important. Genre: high fantasy Audiobook: The unabridged audiobook (Harper Audio; 12 h, 31 min) was nicely read by Jennifer Ikeda. She varied her pacing, inflection, and volume to match the action and tension, and her characterizations were consistent.

Life Drawing by Robin BlackLife Drawing by Robin Black is an introspective look at a modern marriage. Artist Augusta (Gus) and her writer husband, Owen, have moved to an old farmhouse to revive their marriage and immerse themselves in their art. After a couple of years living in near isolation, the couple is surprised when Alison, a British ex-pat who is also an painter, rents the farmhouse across the field. An innocent walk around the pond and a few shared secrets between Gus and Alison entangle the two families in unexpected ways. I was surprised by how much I was invested in Gus's story, even though I didn't always like her or the choices she made. The book touches on several complex issues, making it a good choice for book clubs: aging, marriage, friendships, alternative lifestyles, family duty, death, and parenthood. Genre: contemporary fiction Audiobook: The unabridged audiobook (Random House; 9 h, 55 min) was read by Cassandra Campbell. Campbell is at her best on this audiobook. Her silky smooth narration seems to wrap around the words, bringing out the depth of the emotions without ever straying into dramatization.

Lucky Us by Amy BloomSet in the 1940s, Amy Bloom's Lucky Us explores the art of self-reinvention as a means of survival for two half-sisters who have few resources and fewer opportunities. The story is mostly told from Eva's perspective, who matures from a fairly naive 12-year-old into a world-weary but tough young lady about a decade later The older Iris is the ambitious one, and her dreams of stardom take the girls to Hollywood. When their fortunes shift again, the sisters, with a friend and their father in tow, decide to start over in Great Neck, New York. My heart went out to Eva, and I admired her spunk and determination to keep the wolf from the door. As other reviewers have noted, the story is bittersweet: it takes some dark turns, but the well-timed humor lightens the mood. This is another good book club pick, with its themes of sexuality, family, and honesty. Genre: historical fiction Audiobook: The unabridged audiobook (Random House; 7 h, 18 min) was read by Alicyn Packard. Although Packard did a fine job bringing the emotional aspects of the book to life, she was less skilled with her characterizations. Regardless, this is an enjoyable listen.

The Girl with All the Gifts by M. R. CareyYes, I know, you've had it up to here with zombie stories. That's what I thought before I listened to M. R. Carey's The Girl with All the Gifts. After a fungus has jumped from its insect host to humans, the world is divided into three groups: the Hungries (zombies), the Junkers (survivalists), and everyone else. This is the surprisingly moving story of how smart, curious 10-year-old Melanie discovers that she's no ordinary girl attending an ordinary school. She is instead a Hungry who is being observed by scientists hoping to find a cure to the fungal infection. Although the plot seems stereotypical--a small group of humans is forced into the wilds to battle its way to the safety of the next enclave--the story has plenty that is new and fresh. It's part coming-of-age story and part an exploration of what it means to be human. Genre: dystopian / zombie apocalypse Audiobook: The unbridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 13 h, 14 min) was read by Finty Williams. Williams's sensitive performance makes this an outstanding audiobook experience. Her pacing is perfect and her characterizations are spot-on. Don't miss this one.


bermudaonion 8/14/14, 7:38 AM  

It looks like you've done some good listening here lately. I really want to read Lucky Us but might look for it in print.

JoAnn 8/14/14, 9:18 AM  

Life Drawing is new to me, but I will consider anything Cassandra Campbell narrates!

Daryl 8/14/14, 9:48 AM  

i just read in swift succession the Chemical Garden series … if you've not read it, you will love it … now i am off to look into these …thanks!

rhapsodyinbooks 8/14/14, 10:25 AM  

Even when a Kelley Armstrong book isn't a favorite, I still love her!

Linda 8/14/14, 11:13 AM  

I've got Sea of Shadows in my library loot pile and I've got The Girl With All The Gifts on hold at the library. Looking forward to both of them.

Irish 8/15/14, 12:33 PM  

I haven't listened to an audio in ages so this post is perfect for me as I need to get back to my book listening! I also have several audible credits to burn and think that The Girl With All the Gifts might be worthy of one of them.

Today's blog post: Revenge Bound by Heidi Joy Tretheway

jilllora 8/16/14, 10:46 PM  

I listened to The Girl with All the Gifts, too. Serious love.

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) 8/17/14, 12:25 PM  

I really enjoyed Life Drawing. I choose it because Cassandra Campbell was the narrator for the audiobook, but along the way I discovered a new author and a great book.

thecuecard 8/24/14, 6:01 PM  

I think I'd like to read Life Drawing -- maybe in print. Sounds interesting. thanks!

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