27 January 2017

Sound Recommendations: Two Novels for Winter Listening

Review: Leopard at the Door by Jennifer McVeighI introduced you to Jennifer McVeigh's fantastic Leopard at the Door (Putnam, 2017) in December, and direct you to that post for the background information about this historical novel, which is based on true events and set in Kenya in the 1950s. The protagonist is a young woman, Rachel, who returns to Africa after finishing secondary school in England. McVeigh does a good job of balancing action with Rachel's adjustment to a Kenya that is no longer the utopia of her childhood memories. The novel explores the Mau Mau Rebellion and doesn't shrink from the horrors of colonial rule or the mixed feelings of whites who were sympathetic to the Kikuyu. I highly recommend this novel to those who are interested in colonial Kenya, forgotten historical events, coming-of-age stories, and books about family dynamics.

Audiobook notes: Although I had intended to read Leopard at the Door in print, I ultimately decided to listen to the unabridged audiobook (Penguin Audio; 12 hr, 15 min), which was read by Katharine McEwan, whose British accent was perfect for the protagonist. McEwan's performance was expressive, yet it often felt rushed, and her American accent fell short. My recommendation is to listen to a sample before buying or borrowing the audiobook.

Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden Katherine Arden's The Bear and the Nightingale (Del Rey, 2017) is a cross-genre novel that is deserving of all its buzz. Set in the Russian frontier of days gone by (medieval times?), it is the story of Vasilisa, a girl who can see folk-belief creatures, and what happens when her father remarries and a churchman from court comes to stay in the village. This is a many layered novel, a kind of fairy tale within a fairy tale, that also explores the friction between pagan beliefs and the Catholic Church, gender roles, families, and the joy of free thought and living according to one's true nature. I loved the details of Russian life, the woods, the creatures, and Valsilisa's conflicts. I'm giving this two thumbs up and I recommend it especially to those of you who like your magic mixed with realism and who read fantasy or fairy tales.

Audiobook notes: I listened to the unabridged audiobook of The Bear and the Nightingale (Random House Audio; 11 hr, 48 min) read by Kathleen Gati. This was my first time with Gati, but I can tell you it won't be my last. I loved her varied cadence, good pacing, believable Russian accent, and her well-done characterizations. I was glued to my earbuds. I appreciated that Gati generally restricted her accent to the dialogue so it didn't become overwhelming. Don't hesitate to listen to this audiobook.


rhapsodyinbooks 1/27/17, 7:04 AM  

I have The Bear and the Nightingale on hold at the library. Can't wait!

Sarah's Book Shelves 1/27/17, 7:35 AM  

I'm planning to pick up the Leopard at the Door sometime this year. I've been hearing such good things!

Kailana 1/27/17, 8:07 AM  

Oh, I forgot to tell you I read and enjoyed The Bear and the Nightingale! Thanks for letting me know what you thought so I didn't miss out on a great read. :)

Amanda 1/27/17, 8:51 AM  

I downloaded the Bear and the Nightingale a few weeks ago and look forward to listening to it, especially now that I hear the audio is so good!

bermudaonion 1/27/17, 9:10 AM  

I can't wait to get to Leopard at the Door.

Daryl 1/27/17, 10:58 AM  

adding these to my list ... thanks!!!!!

Vicki 1/27/17, 1:18 PM  

I have Leopard at the Door and am excited to read it.

Iliana 1/28/17, 2:41 PM  

The Leopard at the Door is one I'm really curious about!

Unknown 1/29/17, 6:28 AM  

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Beth. I have a hard copy of Leopard at the Door, but was considering purchasing the audio version. I am more into audio these days. It's nice to have both options. I might do a combo read/listen.

Nise' 1/29/17, 12:12 PM  

The Bear and The Nightingale is on my audio stacks. Looking forward to the listen.

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