Archive for the ‘Audiobooks’ Category

Review of We Are Okay, by Nina LaCour

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

We Are Okay

by Nina LaCour
read by Joyeana Marie

Listening Library, 2017. 5.5 hours on 5 compact discs.
Starred Review
2018 Printz Medal Winner

While I’m reading for the Newbery, I’m trying not to listen to any audio versions of eligible books – since we don’t want to bias our opinions by good or bad readers. This leaves my commute time open to listen to the award winners from last year that I didn’t get read.

We Are Okay begins with Marin saying good-by to her roommate for Christmas break. She’s about to be the only person in the dorm for a few weeks – in a cold part of upstate New York. But she’s expecting a visitor – Mabel, her long time friend, has told Marin that she’s coming – and didn’t give her a chance to refuse the visit.

We gradually find out why Marin is there alone, why she would plan to be all by herself when everyone else has gone to visit family. We learn what happened to Gramps, whom she used to live with. We learn that Marin ignored hundreds of texts from Mabel – but that now Mabel has come to see her anyway.

Once there, the girls get caught in a snowstorm that puts the power out, but they aren’t in danger, since the groundskeeper, who was meant to keep an eye on Marin, helps them out. Something about the snow and the situation help Marin start to open up about what happened.

We also find out that Marin and Mabel were more than friends. The memories of that aspect of their relationship are woven into all the feelings about Marin’s disappearance and Mabel’s search for her. (I always feel I should warn audiobook listeners that there are some sexy times. Why is it more embarrassing to listen to sexy passages than to read about them? Well, at least you wouldn’t want anyone else to be in the car.)

When I was almost to the end of this audiobook, I had almost decided that the whole book was far, far too sad. That I would not be able to recommend it because the situation Marin had come through was almost too much to bear.

However, to my surprise, the author pulled off a happy, tear-jerking ending. With just the right touch, she brings great big hope despite and even because of all that went before. By the time I finished, I’m a huge fan of this book – a tender and compassionate story about fragile people and family and belonging.

Just beautiful.

ninalacour.com
listeninglibrary.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/we_are_okay.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Art of Storytelling, by Professor Hannah B. Harvey

Thursday, April 12th, 2018

The Art of Storytelling

From Parents to Professionals

(The Great Courses)

by Professor Hannah B. Harvey

The Teaching Company, 2013. 24 lectures on 12 CDs.
Starred Review

This is another one a friend recommended to me, but I didn’t actually put on hold until I heard him recommend it to someone else. I’d long thought I’d like to listen to one of the Library’s “Great Courses,” but wasn’t sure where to start. So when I heard this one highly recommended, I decided to start there.

One of the best things about listening to these lectures was that I began noticing, more than ever, how many stories fill my days. Shortly after I began listening to the course, a friend told me and a few other people the story of her daughter’s difficult pregnancy. She had us on the edge of our seats and rejoicing with her in the outcome – and I realized she’d done everything right in connecting with her audience and making us feel the emotions along with her. But I wouldn’t have even noticed it was storytelling if I hadn’t been listening to this course.

Now, this material is pretty obviously applicable to my job. After all, I conduct storytimes regularly! Though I do feel strongly about reading books in those storytimes, so I’m not going to switch over to the same form of storytelling she’s talking about – but so many of the ideas and techniques are applicable.

And it’s also applicable to something I’m doing lately – going to classrooms and talking about the Newbery Medal and what it’s like to be on the committee. Listening to that is helping me to focus on connecting with the audience and telling it as a story – not just as a list of facts about the medal. I was even on a county podcast, and the interviewer asked me *why* I would want to do this, and I floundered for a bit – and then thought of a story to tell that explains it – about that moment of thinking a book is so good, I wish I could tell the whole world about it. Being on the Newbery committee, I really get to do that!

But back to this lecture series, the subtitle says “From Parents to Professionals” – the lecturer very much believes this is applicable in board rooms and living rooms both – and I have to agree with her. What’s more, the more I think about it, now that I’m aware of storytelling principles, the more opportunities I am going to find to use storytelling to communicate more effectively.

thegreatcourses.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/art_of_storytelling.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Thick as Thieves audiobook, by Megan Whalen Turner, performed by Steve West

Monday, March 5th, 2018

Thick as Thieves

by Megan Whalen Turner
performed by Steve West

HarperAudio, 2017. 8.75 hours on 7 discs.
Starred Review

This is now the third time I’ve read Thick as Thieves, and I don’t get tired of it. As with all of Megan Whalen Turner’s books, I discovered a few more nuances each time.

But the audiobook version has the advantage of being read by my new narrator-crush, Steve West, discovered when he read Strange the Dreamer. I could (and do) listen to his voice for hours. He delineates the characters well with different voices. Although the audio version doesn’t have a map, I didn’t feel like it was dragging as I listened to his narration – it made each episode that much more interesting.

And there’s probably not much more I need to say. This is the fifth book in one of my very favorite series. It’s got adventure and danger and characters you root for. And has an outstanding narrator as well. I do recommend reading the books in order, beginning with The Thief, but let me say that they also make outstanding family listening.

harperaudio.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/thick_as_thieves_audio.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Long Way Down audiobook, by Jason Reynolds

Saturday, February 17th, 2018

Long Way Down

by Jason Reynolds
read by the author

Simon & Schuster Audio, 2017. 2 hours on 2 discs.
Starred Review
2018 Odyssey Honor

I already wrote about how amazing this book was in my review of the print version. I found new levels of amazing by listening to it.

Jason Reynolds reads his own poetry, so he knows exactly how each line was intended. I noticed details I didn’t notice when I read it myself.

This audiobook is about a kid in a situation where what he thinks he needs to do is kill the person he’s sure murdered his brother. And then on each stop of the elevator someone gets on who was a victim of the same rules Will is trying to live by.

There’s whole new power in listening to Jason Reynolds read the words himself.

It’s a short book in either form, but it’s not one you’ll easily forget.

jasonwritesbooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/long_way_down_audio.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this audiobook?

Review of Precious and Grace, by Alexander McCall Smith

Sunday, January 14th, 2018

Precious and Grace

by Alexander McCall Smith
narrated by Lisette Lecat

Recorded Books, 2016. 9.75 hours on 8 CDs.

Here’s another book about the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency, with co-directors Precious Ramotswe and Grace Makutsi. The main puzzle of the book involves a Canadian lady who wants to find the place where she grew up in Gabarone and the lady who cared for her. But Mma Ramotswe senses there’s more to the case than meets the eye.

Other plot threads involve a stray dog befriended by Fanwell and a business scheme which Mr. Polopetsi falls for. And guess who’s up for Woman of the Year? It’s Grace Makutsi’s nemesis, Violet Sepotho.

It’s interesting that this one doesn’t have a surprisingly amusing title, but boils the work down to a story of friendship between two interesting ladies, Precious and Grace. They have their difficult moments, but ultimately they help people solve their problems. The book is filled with the usual gentle philosophy.

I’m now enjoying listening to these in audiobook format, getting more of the flavor of the book, as well as correct pronunciation, with the skilled narration and lovely accent of Lisette Lecat.

There’s nothing really new in this installment. But if you’ve come this far, you’ll enjoy another installment of philosophy and friendship with Precious and Grace.

alexandermccallsmith.com
recordedbooks.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/precious_and_grace.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Hate U Give, by Angie Thomas, performed by Bahni Turpin

Wednesday, December 20th, 2017

The Hate U Give

by Angie Thomas
performed by Bahni Turpin

HarperCollins Publishers, 2017. 11¾ hours on 10 compact discs.
Starred Review

Wow. This debut novel packs a big punch.

Starr Carter lives in two lives. There’s Garden Heights, where she lives and where her dad runs a store, where gangs fight over territory and they hear gunshots at night. And then there’s the world of Williamson, the private school in the suburbs that she attends, where she is one of two white people in the junior class.

Starr goes to a party in her neighborhood and gets a ride home with Khalil, a childhood friend she hasn’t seen in a while. But a policeman pulls him over for a broken tail light and doesn’t like Khalil’s attitude. After the cop pulls him out of the car and tells him to hold still, Khalil opens the car door to ask Starr if she’s okay – and the policeman shoots Khalil three times. He dies before Starr’s eyes.

The book is about Starr’s reaction to that and the many repercussions. Right away, the news starts portraying Khalil as a gang member and a drug dealer and a thug – as if that means he deserves to die. She doesn’t want anyone to know she was the witness – but her friends at Williamson don’t understand why this incident has affected her so much.

The story continues through the grand jury decision about whether the policeman should be prosecuted – and the reaction in Garden Heights.

I was deeply moved by this book – and could begin to imagine what it would be like to have a friend die in front of me – in a way that a news story alone doesn’t bring home, with all its implications.

Listening to this book was a good way to enjoy it. I liked hearing the narrator use a different voice when Starr was talking in Garden Heights as opposed to when she was among her white friends, taking care to speak precisely and properly. This isn’t family listening unless your whole family doesn’t mind hearing a lot of profanity – It’s appropriate and also helps set the scene, but do be aware it’s there.

The book is long, and a bit repetitive in spots, but I’m a lot more patient with that when I’m listening, since I’m in the car anyway. I was glad when I had an extra-long drive toward the end, because I wanted to hear more of this amazing book.

And yes, lives like Khalil’s – and all the actual young men he represents – do matter. If he didn’t live a perfect life, that doesn’t make it okay to shoot him when he was unarmed and no threat. This book brings that message home – with a story and characters who will pull you in and make you care.

angiethomas.com
harperaudio.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/hate_u_give.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine, by Alexander McCall Smith

Friday, November 10th, 2017

The Woman Who Walked in Sunshine

by Alexander McCall Smith
read by Lisette Lecat

Recorded Books, 2015. 9 hours 15 minutes on 8 discs.

This is the 16th book about Precious Ramotswe of the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency in Botswana.

I love these books, especially loving the characters and the relationships that have developed through the series. However, it feels like the action moves more and more slowly each time, so I’ve taken to listening instead of reading, because I tend to be more patient with audiobooks. And the lovely narrator’s voice has finally settled for me the pronunciation of “Mma” and “Rra.”

There were still times when I was annoyed with the slow plot arc, since more than once Mma Ramotswe was thinking long and hard about whether she should talk to Mma Makutsi. But the overall story had the usual one or two interesting cases. This time there was one about a scandal in the past of a late government official as well as the story of a little street boy who vandalizes the tiny white van.

But the overall story is about Mma Ramotswe going on holiday. It’s not her idea – her staff seem to be conspiring to get her to take one. Now that she’s a partner, is Mma Makutsi plotting to take over the agency? However, taking a holiday is more difficult than it would seem.

Truly, a woman with a loving husband is like a woman who walks in sunshine. Listening to this book will bring sunshine into your life.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/woman_who_walked_in_sunshine.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Beyond the Bright Sea, by Lauren Wolk

Thursday, November 9th, 2017

Beyond the Bright Sea

by Lauren Wolk
read by Jorjeana Marie

Listening Library (Penguin Random House), 2017. 7.5 hours on 6 compact discs.

Beyond the Bright Sea tells the story of a 12-year-old girl living on a small island off the coast of Massachusetts.

Here’s how the book begins:

My name is Crow.

When I was a baby, someone tucked me into an old boat and pushed me out to sea.

I washed up on a tiny island, like a seed riding the tide.

It was Osh who found me and took me in. Who taught me how to put down roots, and thrive on both sun and rain, and understand what it is to bloom….

And then, one night when I was twelve, I saw a fire burning on Penikese, the island where no one ever went, and I decided on my own that it was time to find out where I’d come from and why I’d been sent away.

But I didn’t understand what I was risking until I nearly lost it.

This book is set in the 1920s. The island called Penikese is where about ten years earlier there’d been a leper colony, with the residents kept isolated from any other human beings. Is Crow’s story connected with theirs?

Miss Maggie lives on Cuddyhunk, the next island over. She has helped Osh care for Crow since she first washed up on Osh’s island. Miss Maggie wrote letters to Penikese and several other places, asking about a missing newborn baby, but never got any reply. All the same, the islanders treat her as if she will sprout a dreadful disease at any time.

At first, Crow wants to prove she’s not from Penikese. But the more she finds out, the more that changes.

There’s a surprising amount of adventure in what starts out sounding like a quiet story. Crow’s quest to find her origins ends up involving shipwrecks and pirate treasure, but all with plenty of love from Osh and Miss Maggie.

I wasn’t crazy about the narrator – she read the story almost too calmly and quietly, though to be fair, Crow is a calm and quiet child. There are also some coincidences in the story itself. I was somewhat disturbed by the presence of a purely evil character – I think a little more so because there had also been a purely evil character in Lauren Wolk’s previous book, Wolf Hollow, which was also very good in spite of that. I guess I was willing to overlook it the first time, but the second time that particular objection gets a little stronger.

That said, this audiobook made absorbing listening, and I would love to meet Crow, Osh, Miss Maggie, and their cat named Mouse. Lauren Wolk’s good people feel like real people you’d love to meet, and she makes the world of these 1920s islands come alive.

penguin.com/middle-grade
listeninglibrary.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Childrens_Fiction/beyond_the_bright_sea.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman

Friday, July 7th, 2017

Norse Mythology

by Neil Gaiman
performed by the author

HarperAudio, 2017. 6.5 hours on 6 compact discs. Unabridged.

I could listen to Neil Gaiman read the phone book! Although I ended up finding Norse mythology quite strange and wild – I can’t imagine a better way to hear these stories than read by Neil Gaiman. And written by Neil Gaiman doesn’t hurt, either. He captures the magical and mystical feel of the tales.

There’s an explanation at the beginning about Asgard and Midgard and the Land of the Giants and all the rest – It might have been simpler if I’d had that explanation in print to refer back to. Anyway, this way I was caught up in the stories. Most of them had Loki being a trickster and Thor throwing his hammer around to get his way.

There are many stories in this collection, and many of them have more than one chapter. There’s a dizzying array of characters, though usually Neil Gaiman refers back to where we have seen an obscure character before, so it seems quite coherent.

We do learn how Thor gets his hammer and what powers it has. And we find out about many adventures of the gods and goddesses, which so often start by an action that wasn’t terribly wise. And then there are consequences. And gods and giants try to trick others and are tricked themselves. And most of the stories were not familiar to me like Greek myths, so they were all new adventures.

That review seems a little coherent, but here’s the bottom line: Norse mythology explained and retold by Neil Gaiman, and even read by Neil Gaiman. Now that’s worth listening to!

neilgaiman.com
harperaudio.com

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Fiction/norse_mythology.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?

Review of Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah

Friday, June 30th, 2017

Born a Crime

Stories from a South African Childhood

by Trevor Noah
performed by the author

Brilliance Audio, 2016. 7 discs, 8 hours, 48 minutes.
Starred Review

Trevor Noah, current host of The Daily Show was born in South Africa during apartheid. Since it was illegal for people of different races (as defined by the authorities) to have sexual relations, his birth to a black mother and white (Swiss) father was proof that a crime had been committed.

He couldn’t be seen in public with either of his parents. To walk in the park, they’d get a colored woman to walk with him, and his mother would pose as the nanny. At his grandmother’s house in Soweto, Trevor wasn’t allowed to go outside, because if police saw him, there could be serious trouble.

This book was especially good to listen to, since Trevor can speak the various African words correctly. His mother made sure he learned English first, but he learned many other African languages as well. He has some interesting observations about how you can be part of any group if you speak like they do.

Though he did have trouble fitting in. There are interesting observations on that, too. This book helped me understand how to this day, Trevor Noah’s outsider perspective helps him get to the heart of things.

This book is abundantly entertaining. The author is a comedian and shows us the funny side of so many things, while at the same time giving us perspective on things as wide-ranging as racism, poverty, going to church, and domestic violence.

This is an eye-opening and amazing story. And it’s all true. Mostly, it’s about Trevor’s life growing up in South Africa as apartheid fell. There are lots of laughs mixed in with more sobering truths. I highly recommend this audiobook.

Buy from Amazon.com

Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Nonfiction/born_a_crime.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?