23 April 2018

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: Sound Recommendations

Sound Recommendations: 4 audiobook reviewsThis past week was a little busier than I was expecting but by Friday afternoon, I felt I was caught up and took the entire weekend off! I did some gardening and took a couple of walks, and generally relaxed.

I gave my eyes a break and turned to only audiobooks last week. I now feel ready to tackle print reading for fun instead of for work. I can't wait to attack my spring books . . . I have a lot of catching up to do.

On TV, I started the new Lost in Space, which I like so far. The new season of Westworld is here. It took me a while to remember what was going on, but by the end I was reinvested in the story.

Here's what I listened to last week.

Review: Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha RaoGirls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao (Flatiron; March 6). I’m sure I’m in the minority here, especially because I think the themes of this book are important, but this much-praised novel wasn't for me, and I stopped reading fairly early on. I'll begin with the little I know about the plot: two young women of marriageable age in India face a future shaped by men who have all the power. I’m guessing they find a way out. Why did I stop reading? First, I was listening to the audiobook (Macmillan Audio; 11 hr, 38 min) and reached a breaking point with narrator Soneela Nankani. Let me be quick to say that I’ve listened to other books she’s read and, while she is a not favorite narrator, neither did I dislike her performances. For this book, though, I thought her voice was too young, too earnest, and too often on the verge of tears. I just had to turn the audiobook off. So why didn’t I read the novel in print instead? The primary reason was the author’s fondness for metaphors and similes, which were used in abundance and in groups. The other big reason occurred when one of the main characters had a sort of break down; while I understood the woman’s distress, I didn’t buy her symptoms. Then she behaved very shallowly, and I simply gave up at that point. You may have a better experience. Other people and reviewers have loved the book. Give it a try if you’re curious. (for a freelance assignment)

Review: Death of a Village by M. C. BeatonI cleansed my brain by turning to M. C. Beaton and a Hamish Macbeth mystery. Death of a Village (Blackstone Audio; 5 hr, 21 min) is the 19th book in the series and had all the elements I love about these cozies set in the Scottish Highlands. Village gossip, a couple of different scam artists, and a murder are at the heart of the story. Hamish, of course, solves all the crimes but has to downplay his role so he doesn’t get promoted out of his rural beat, where he has friends and plenty of time for himself and his dog. To get the most out of the books, it’s always good to start at the beginning of a series, but you might do okay to jump in anywhere. This is one of my favorite escape series: the audiobooks, read by Graeme Malcolm are short and entertaining, and I often turn to them in between heavier books. (personal copy)

Review: A Shout in the Ruins by Kevin PowersA Shout in the Ruins by Kevin Powers (Little, Brown, May 15) won’t be out until next month, but I couldn’t wait to read it. It’s a dual-time-period story that reveals the long-reaching effects of slavery and the post–Civil War years. In the 1950s, ninety-year-old George returns to his North Carolina roots to see if he can discover anything about his past or the woman who took him in when he was orphaned as a toddler. In the 1860s we follow the love story of two slaves, their owners, and how they fared during and after the war. Powers gives us a lot to think about and a lot to account for in our country’s history and builds characters that are easy to love or hate. There are disturbing episodes of casual cruelty, which are barely balanced by acts of kindness. The unabridged audiobook (Hachette Audio; 7 hr, 13 min) was read by Robert Petkoff, whose performance was strong and affecting. He created a deep emotional atmosphere but avoided melodrama and portrayed the characters in a way that lets listeners come to their own conclusions about events and behaviors. (audiobook provided by the publisher)

Review: The Girl I Used to Be by Mary TorjussenI finished The Girl I Used to Be by Mary Torjussen (Berkley; April 24) yesterday. First off, don’t read the Publishers Weekly review; it spoils the story in the first sentence. Torjussen’s newest psychological thriller involves Gemma, a real estate agent / business owner in Chester, England, who becomes the victim of a cyber-blackmailing scheme. She’s sure she knows who is trying to ruin her life, the question is why. The more she tries to keep things secret, the more it affects her business and her marriage, but Gemma is afraid to confide in anyone. When she finally turns to the police, she realizes that she doesn’t have solid proof of the villain’s identity and doesn’t want her name in the newspaper, which could destroy her reputation, her family, and her work. Although some of what Gemma’s hiding is easy to figure out, I was still surprised and wasn’t sure who her allies were, right up to the end. I don’t think this is the most intense thriller I’ve ever read, but I was invested enough to really want to know how she was going to protect herself, stop the blackmail, and save her marriage. The unabridged audiobook (Penguin Audio; 9 hr, 54 min) was read primarily by Katharine McEwan, who narrated the sections told from Gemma’s point of view. Fiona Hardingham took on the sections told by another woman (being vague so as not to spoil the book). Both infused their performances with tension and good pacing, and each picked up her character’s personality. (ARC and audiobook provided by the publisher)


Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 4/23/18, 6:34 AM  

One of the first audiobooks I remember listening to had a narrator that seemed overly emotional, forced. It put me off audiobooks for a long time. Happily, I’m listening to Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson right now, and that is not the case at all. In fact, it’s the perfect book for an audiobook, almost like someone is sharing a book with you, reading together.


Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 4/23/18, 7:27 AM  

Girls Burn Brighter did not work for me either. I can't stand the overuse of similes, etc in writing, so that was part of it. Also, I just couldn't get immersed in the story. I heard from people that finished it that it was brutal and some weren't necessarily glad they finished it.

bermudaonion 4/23/18, 8:08 AM  

Yay for being caught up! Carl is enjoying Lost in Space too.

After seeing what you and Sarah thought, I think I'll skip Birls Burn Brighter.

Susie | Novel Visits 4/23/18, 8:45 AM  

I'm with you on Girls Burn Brighter. I wanted to stop reading it early on, but for some reason kept going. The abuse of women was so awful in it and so graphic that I'll never forget the book, but wish I could!

JoAnn 4/23/18, 8:57 AM  

Seems like Girls Burn Brighter wasn't a big hit among my blogging friends... a good indication that it might not be for me either.

rhapsodyinbooks 4/23/18, 9:02 AM  

I hate when publishers include spoilers!

Laurel-Rain Snow 4/23/18, 10:39 AM  

I like the sound of The Girl I Used to Be. Enjoy your week; thanks for sharing...and thanks for visiting my blog.

Kathy Martin 4/23/18, 10:43 AM  

Nice variety of audiobooks this week. I need to give the M. C. Beaton series a try. I will be starting at book 1 for an introduction to the characters though. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Daryl 4/23/18, 11:44 AM  

saw your comment on Twitter about spoilers and wondered .. now i know ...

Les in Oregon 4/23/18, 12:28 PM  

How nice to have some down time to garden and do some fun things. Publishers Weekly is terrible about spoilers so I've stopped reading their reviews. Grrrr. The Girl I Used To Be sounds like one I'd enjoy. Thanks for the recommendation.

(Diane) bookchickdi 4/23/18, 3:38 PM  

I stayed up to 2 am Saturday night and Sunday night watching all ten episodes of Lost In Space. I love that Maureen and Judy are such strong, smart problem solvers. (Although Maureen shows spectacularly bad judgement in trusting Dr. Smith.) I hope we get a season two.

Greg 4/23/18, 3:54 PM  

I was kind of sorry to miss the premiere of Westworld, I decided not to splurge on HBO just for that but it will be hard missing it (I'll catch up down the road at some point). Lost in space is one I started but I haven't finished the first episode yet. And The Girl I Used To Be is one I've been looking forward to, so glad to hear it's pretty good.

Sue Jackson 4/23/18, 4:48 PM  

Ah, yes, that's one of the reasons I stopped reviewing for PW. I was so careful to avoid spoilers in my reviews and then their editors would add them in! Drove me a little crazy :)

Both A Shout in the Ruins and The Girl I Used to Be sound very good - thanks for the heads-up!

Enjoy your books this week - glad you will have time for some non-work reading!


Book By Book

Yvonne 4/23/18, 8:12 PM  

I loved The Girl I Used To Be. It kept me guessing. Hope you have a great week!

Aj @ Read All The Things! 4/23/18, 9:16 PM  

A Shout in the Ruins sounds kind of awesome. I love historical fiction. Have a great week!

Aj @ Read All The Things!

Katherine P 4/24/18, 5:29 PM  

I will avoid the Publisher's Weekly review! It always drives me crazy when that happens - especially when it's a publication that has so much reach. I really need to try the Beaton books in audio. I enjoy them though not enough that they end up high on my list. I think they'd be perfect in audio.

Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness) 4/26/18, 8:39 PM  

Congrats on taking an entire weekend off, I know that can be a challenge!

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