05 June 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Reading with My Ears

Audiobook recommendations for JuneMonday morning after BookExpo is always a day of mixed feelings. I'm already missing my friends, but I'm also happy to wake up at home. I'm sorry that today is not going to be a day full of book events, authors, publicists, and publishing companies, but I'm also ready to get back to work and everyday life.

Coming up this week: As you can imagine, I'll have one or two posts about BookExpo coming up later this week and into next. I'm not quite sure about the specifics, but expect round-ups of books I'm excited about.

What I read last week. June is Audiobook Month, so it's appropriate that I turned to audiobooks last week during my travels and my down time in New York. I managed to finish two books.

Review: The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer (audiobook)The Scribe of Siena by Melodie Winawer (Touchstone; 2017): If you like art, historical fiction, time travel, and/or medieval Italy, you'll find a lot to like about this novel. Beatrice, a neurosurgeon, gets involved in finishing her late-brother's research into why Siena, Italy, was so hard hit by the plague and why it lost its political power to Florence during the 1300s. While reading the journal of a lesser-known painter, she finds herself transported back in time, where she witnesses firsthand the arrival of the Black Death, meets the painter, and has run-ins with the Medici family. I liked the book for its historical details and as pure escape reading. On the other hand, I couldn't help but compare it to the Outlander series and thus found The Scribe of Siena a little lacking. The plot was somewhat predictable, and although I enjoyed meeting the characters, I didn't form a lasting connection to them. The unabridged audiobook (Simon & Schuster Audio; 16 hr, 12 min) was read by one my favorite narrators, Cassandra Campbell. Campbell's voice is always a pleasure to listen to: she is expressive, creates consistent characterizations, pronounces the Italian and Latin believably and with ease, and is easy to understand. Unfortunately, I could hear obvious breath noises during the first hour or two of the audiobook and almost gave up listening; the good news is that they eventually disappear and the rest of the production was well done.

Review: Beartown by Fredrik Backman (audiobook)Beartown by Fredrik Backman (Atria, 2017): I was hesitant to read Backman's newest novel because it was getting so much buzz; I was sure it could never live up to its reputation. Plus I heard it was about hockey, a sport I've watched but hardly follow. Thank god I ignored my doubts and gave this brilliant novel a try. Yes, it's about hockey, but it's really about families, loyalty, friendship, small towns, sexuality, gender equality, marriages, what sports heroes can get away with, and really so much more. I was so utterly taken up by this town and these people that I almost literally couldn't stop listening. I started the book on the train home from New York on Saturday morning and by Sunday late afternoon I had finished. Backman's writing is gorgeous: sparse, poetic, and powerful. The characters are fleshed out slowly, just the way they would be in real life: At first we know the superficial: she's a lawyer, he's a coach, she's a musician, he's a troublemaker. Then, as we get to known the town's citizens better, we begin to understand why they behave and react as they do, and we start to polish our opinions. The novel is emotional and tender, brutal and beautiful. (Kudos to translator Neil Smith, who did an amazing job.) Do not miss this book. The unabridged audiobook (Simon & Schuster Audio; 13 hr, 11 min) was read by Marin Ireland, who totally nailed the novel. There is a specific verbal hook in this story, repeated throughout, that could have tripped up a lesser narrator, but Ireland gives it the perfect tone and emphasis. Not only are her characterizations pitch perfect but she hits that sweet spot of creating an emotionally charged atmosphere while still leaving the listener ample room to form her own reactions. I see awards in this audiobook's future.


Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 6/5/17, 7:35 AM  

Looking forward to all the BEA round-up posts since I couldn't be there!

And I LOVED Beartown! It's about hockey like Friday Night Lights is about football....it kind of is, but not really. The sport is more of the context and background than the main focus. And, I shied away from reading it at first as well b/c I DNF'd A Man Called Ove.

JoAnn 6/5/17, 7:50 AM  

Can't wait your BEA round-up... I'm sure several books will find their way to my wish list!

Majanka Verstraete 6/5/17, 7:50 AM  

Love the cover of Bear Town. Enjoy reading!

My It's Monday! What Are You Reading? post.

Kathy Martin 6/5/17, 8:14 AM  

I never read books that get a lot of Buzz but Beartown is tempting me to make an exception. I used to follow hockey when I was in high school but drifted away in adulthood. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 6/5/17, 8:34 AM  

It was a delight to meet you at BookExpo. I can't wait to see your roundup of favorite finds from there.


Susie | Novel Visits 6/5/17, 8:35 AM  

I'm so happy to hear you enjoyed Beartown so much. My doubts about it have been the same as yours were, so your endorsement means a lot. And, since it was so great on audio, I may listen to it.

Looking forward to your posts about BEA!

bermudaonion 6/5/17, 9:15 AM  

I didn't read a single word while I was at BEA.

Breathing noises get to me so I'm glad to know they disappear. I can't wait to read Beartown.

Heather 6/5/17, 9:31 AM  

I was hesitant about Bear Town too! It didn't sound like Backman's usual writing. I should never have doubted him. I know next to nothing about hockey, but it didn't really matter, thank goodness.

I'm looking up The Scribe of Siena. It sounds like it will hit all my buttons.

Karen White 6/5/17, 10:07 AM  

It was so fun to see you last week - thanks for making the effort to come to our post-APAC happy hour, and for bringing Sheila. Even though we had to shout to be heard, it was great to catch up.
My husband is hockey obsessed at the moment, so BEAR TOWN looks like a good Father's Day present...

Laurel-Rain Snow 6/5/17, 10:27 AM  

How great that you went to BEA....I hope to do that again someday.

Bear Town is on my wish list. Thanks for sharing, and here are MY WEEKLY UPDATES

rhapsodyinbooks 6/5/17, 11:11 AM  

I will probably read the Siena book next, but I have it in hard copy.

pussreboots 6/5/17, 11:22 AM  

Scribe of Siena sounds interesting. Armchair Book Expo, getting ready to move, drama club, and a volunteers' tea. Come see what I'm reading this week.

Amanda @ Gun in Act One 6/5/17, 11:56 AM  

I have to add the Scribe of Sienna to my list! I have never read Outlander so I'm hoping that works to my advantage here.

I am so glad BearTown didn't disappoint. I love Backman for everything else he's written and I would have been so sad if this one had not lived up.

Yvonne 6/5/17, 1:58 PM  

I'm looking forward to reading your BookExpo posts. That sounds like such a fun event. I hope to go someday.

Unknown 6/5/17, 2:00 PM  

I look forward to your BEA recaps, I know it's a whirlwind of all things bookish! I have seen many reviews of BearTown, but haven't really given it much thought, as I've skimmed most of them. Yours intrigues me and I also search out great audio books, because I can fit them in with the print books I'm reading.
Have a good week being back home.

Greg 6/5/17, 7:24 PM  

I always get a little sad after a convention. :) Can't wait to hear about BookExpo and see the book hauls. That's always fun. We live vicariously through those who attended lol.

Scribe of Siena sounds kinda interesting in spite of the similarity to Outlander (and the unfortunate breathing noises which thankfully go away). I like these kind of time travel stories sometimes, although I wonder why I never get to go back in time when I read something? Hmm... :)

Have a great week.

Heidenkind 6/5/17, 11:39 PM  

The Scribe of Sienna sounds like it's worth checking out.

Sue Jackson 6/6/17, 6:38 PM  

Oooh...I love books with time travel!

And I had the EXACT same thoughts when i heard about Beartown, so I appreciate your review! I'll give it another look.

Enjoy your books this week - glad you had fun at BEA!


2017 Big Book Summer Challenge

kay - Infinite Shelf 6/6/17, 9:33 PM  

I saw The Scribe of Siena at the store this weekend and thought it looked good! Art, historical fiction, time travel and Italy : yes, that does sound like a perfect fit for me. It's too bad about the breathing sounds on the audio though, that would have made me want to give up too. Glad to hear it went away and you were able to enjoy the rest of the book after that!

Daryl 6/12/17, 10:36 AM  

you would love Connie Willis' time travel novels ... British historians from 2050something in Oxford traval back in time to get more accurate takes on history ...

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