Archive for the ‘Audiobooks’ Category

Review of The Camelot Betrayal, by Kiersten White, read by Elizabeth Knowelden

Thursday, February 18th, 2021

The Camelot Betrayal

Camelot Rising, Book Two

by Kiersten White
read by Elizabeth Knowelden

Listening Library, 2020. 15 hours, 28 minutes.
Review written February 18, 2021, from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review

When I finished reading for the 2020 Cybils Awards, the first thing I did was put on hold the sequel to The Guinevere Deception, which was published while we were deliberating. Best of all, I could get it in audiobook form and hear more of the mesmerizing voice of Elizabeth Knowelden, whose reading is so perfect for a tale of fantasy and mystery.

In the first book, Guinevere, who is not really Guinevere, was finding her place in Camelot and fighting the Dark Queen. In this book there are more adventures, and Guinevere must save herself from them, relying on her own magic. And while she’s battling other dangers and rescuing innocents and fighting evil, within Camelot there’s another threat – the sister of the real Guinevere has come to visit.

I love the way even though this is based on the well-known Arthurian legend, I have no idea what to expect. Sir Launcelot, for example, is a woman, and the legend of Tristan and Isolde isn’t at all what we expect it to be. And of course Guinevere herself is not really the princess she is thought to be… or is she? And does she really belong in Camelot by Arthur’s side?

Like so many good trilogies, this second book ends on a cliff-hanger, including, yes, a betrayal. Though we’re not completely sure who’s doing the betraying and who is betrayed. The plot is getting twisted, and it will be hard to wait for what I hope is the final volume, with some untwisting of knots.

I loved listening to this even more than the first book. I do get annoyed with Guinevere at times, getting obsessed with trouble coming where there isn’t necessarily trouble to be found – but then when trouble comes from a different direction, her worry seems worth it and I realize that as a reader I was expertly misdirected. I should probably say no more about that, so I’ll simply state that this book is full of adventure and danger and magic and makes for a magnificent listening experience.

listeninglibrary.com

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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 eaudiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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.

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Review of This Is My Brain In Love, by I. W. Gregorio

Wednesday, February 10th, 2021

This Is My Brain in Love

by I. W. Gregorio
read by Diane Doen and Zeno Robinson

Hachette Audio, 2020. 9 hours, 30 minutes.
Review written November 16, 2020, from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review
2021 Schneider Family Award Winner
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#9 General Teen Fiction

This book begins at the start of summer before Jocelyn Wu’s Junior year of high school. Her father tells her that their family restaurant is failing and they will have to move back to the big city where he worked for her uncle. Jos has finally made friends in Utica, and she is not ready to uproot everything and move back. She asks her father to give her a chance. If they can establish an internet presence and advertise at events, maybe they can turn things around.

Jos doesn’t think she has the expertise to turn things around by herself, so she convinces her dad to advertise for a summer intern. When Will Dominici applies, she doesn’t expect an attractive boy her age whose mother is Nigerian and father Italian. As they work together, they are more and more attracted to one another – which doesn’t go over well with Jos’s dad.

This is a delightful teen romance. The two narrators alternating Will’s and Jocelyn’s perspectives add to the fun. Something distinctive about this book is that both teens are dealing with mental illness. Will has been seeing a therapist for anxiety disorder since he was eight years old. He notices that Jos is awfully hard on herself and starts showing warning signs of depression, though she’s resistant to that idea. But the love story ends up being a natural frame for talking about mental illness and how it’s hard – but necessary – to ask for help.

I listened to this on eaudiobook, so I couldn’t renew as easily as a physical copy. But I didn’t even resent cramming in the last three hours to get it finished before it expired. Maybe it was a little unrealistic that two teens could turn the business around, and throwing in sinister developers who wanted to replace the family restaurant felt a little less realistic, but it’s actually kind of easy to believe that teens know more about internet advertising than immigrant adults. And it all adds up to a feel-good listening experience.

The narrators were excellent, and I appreciated that the narrator for Jocelyn’s viewpoint could quote her parents and Amah speaking Mandarin without missing a beat.

This book made me want to try some Potstickers.

theNOVL.com
LBYR.com

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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.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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.

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Review of The Hidden Life of Trees, by Peter Wohlleben

Thursday, February 4th, 2021

The Hidden Life of Trees

What They Feel, How They Communicate

Discoveries from a Secret World

by Peter Wohlleben

HarperCollins, 2016. 7 hours, 30 minutes.
Review written September 25, 2020, from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#6 General Nonfiction

I finally read this book by listening to it on an eaudiobook. I had read the Young Readers’ Edition, Can You Hear the Trees Talking?, which includes the general ideas presented here, along with glorious full-color photographs.

On audiobook, the narrator’s pleasant voice and British accent makes for a nice listening experience, though I don’t absorb facts as well by listening as I do by seeing. Still, this was just as fascinating as the children’s version, with many more interesting details.

I learned more information about how the forest is connected through fungi in the soil. Trees can even feed other trees that are in distress through the fungi. I learned about how trees communicate through scent – by producing chemicals – and through the fungi. I learned that trees can learn and how “mother” trees train their children to grow slowly at first, and how that helps them to live longer lives. I learned how the forest is interconnected and it’s actually a disservice to trees to clear out old rotting stumps. I also learned that they have discovered stumps cut down centuries before that are still alive because their neighbors feed them. And many other fascinating details like that.

This did make me look at forests with new eyes. Trees are living things and although their ways of communicating and learning and adapting are completely different from ours, scientists are learning that they do these things. And Peter Wohlleben is particularly skilled at passing on that knowledge.

He also has some theories about how walking in the forest makes us feel good. It turns out that’s more true in a healthy forest. It made me want to run out and walk in a forest right away.

Now that I’ve started, I’m going to read more of his books.

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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.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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.

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Review of The Guinevere Deception, by Kiersten White, read by Elizabeth Knowelden

Friday, January 22nd, 2021

The Guinevere Deception

by Kiersten White
read by Elizabeth Knowelden

Delacorte Press, 2019. 10 hours, 51 minutes.
Review written December 28, 2020, from a library eaudiobook
2020 Cybils Finalist, Young Adult Speculative Fiction
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#7 Teen Speculative Fiction
Starred Review

This is the second book I’ve listened to that’s read by Elizabeth Knowelden (the first being Damsel, by Elana K. Arnold), and she’s my new favorite female narrator. Her voice makes anything sound magical. Interestingly, The Guinevere Deception has a beginning similar to Damsel, with both having a young teenage girl being brought to a castle to wed a king.

In The Guinevere Deception, the girl is going to wed King Arthur. But as the title hints, the girl is not actually Guinevere. Merlin, who has been banished from Camelot along with all magic, has substituted this girl for Guinevere so that she will be in place to protect King Arthur from a coming threat.

We don’t even learn the girl’s original name, as she takes on the identity of Princess Guinevere and marries Arthur. She learns about Camelot and what’s expected of a queen, while always on the look out for threats to Arthur, especially magical threats, which is where she can best protect him.

Even knowing a skeleton version of Arthurian legend, I had plenty of surprises reading this book. Guinevere is proficient in certain simple types of magic, but how can she protect Arthur when she doesn’t even know what threat is coming, and when he is often away from Camelot and from his queen? There’s a patchwork knight winning jousts, and Guinevere is sure he is not what he seems. And what about the Dark Queen – was she really defeated as decisively as Arthur thinks? How, then, was a village destroyed by the forest right on the border of Camelot?

And meanwhile, why is Guinevere forgetting her past and who she was before she took on the identity of Guinevere?

I was delighted to learn that this is Book One of a trilogy – so now I’ll get to listen to more!

kierstenwhite.com
GetUnderlined.com

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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.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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.

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Review of Clap When You Land, by Elizabeth Acevedo

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

Clap When You Land

by Elizabeth Acevedo
performed by the author and Melania-Luisa Marte

Quill Tree Books, 2020, 6 hours.
Review written July 4, 2020, from a library eaudiobook
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out:
#3 General Teen Fiction

As Clap When You Land begins, Camino goes to the airport in the Dominican Republic to greet her Papi, who comes to stay with her and her aunt every summer. But people at the airport are crying. Then we meet Yahaira in New York City. She is called to the office, where she sees her mother crying and learns that her Papi has been in a plane crash.

Both girls end up dealing with their Papi’s death in the plane crash, and then they have to deal with discovering that he was keeping secrets. So they’re dealing with grief, but also with discovering they have a sister their own age.

Since Yahaira’s mother was married to Papi first, she’s the one who gets insurance money from the airline. But Camino is the one who had relied on money from Papi for school and to keep from being harassed. Both girls look like Papi, and both inherited things from Papi. Camino loves swimming, and Yahaira used to play chess. Now they are figuring out who they are without him and how to go on with their lives.

It’s always a delight to listen to Elizabeth Acevedo read her own work. Her voice has a musical quality. This book is written in verse, though since I was listening rather than reading, I only noticed in spots.

It’s a powerful story of grief and hope and family secrets.

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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 an audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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.

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Review of They Went Left, by Monica Hesse

Tuesday, November 17th, 2020

They Went Left

by Monica Hesse
read by Caitlin Davies

Little, Brown Books for Young Readers, 2020. 9 hours.
Review written July 13, 2020, from a library eaudiobook

They Went Left is a novel of the Holocaust – but takes place after World War II has ended. Zofia Lederman spent months in a hospital, and something’s still wrong with her mind. She still gets pulled into dark memories – and she’s not even sure the memories are real.

Zofia wants nothing more than to find her little brother, Abek. She’s obsessed with the promise she made to him to find him after the war. All the rest of her family is dead – they went left to the gas chambers when sorted at the camp.

First Zofia has a helpful Russian soldier take her to their home in Poland. But it’s empty and has been looted, and Abek isn’t there. It becomes clear she isn’t being welcomed back by her former neighbors, either.

Then Zofiya hears of a place for displaced persons in Germany. Others from the camp where she last saw Abek have gone there. She makes the journey there to find her brother. Once there, she’s surrounded by other people trying to figure out how to go on with their lives. It turns out not every displaced person was even in the camps. And all the while, she’s starting to wonder which of her memories she even dares to believe.

This powerful story will linger in your memory. It captures the exquisite pain of figuring out how to start your life over after seeing your whole family die and experiencing horrors.

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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 an eaudiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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.

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Review of My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me, by Jason B. Rosenthal

Tuesday, August 11th, 2020

My Wife Said You May Want to Marry Me

by Jason B. Rosenthal
read by the author

HarperAudio, 2020. 7 hours on 6 CDs.
Review written August 11, 2020, from a library audiobook
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #2 General Nonfiction

On March 3, 2017, beloved children’s author Amy Krouse Rosenthal (okay, she wrote things for adults, too, and even made films, but being a children’s author is what I loved her for) had a column published in the New York Times, “You May Want to Marry My Husband.” It told about her impending death from ovarian cancer, which indeed happened ten days later, but also about what a wonderful man her husband was, how beautiful their life together, and hoping that he would start a new love story after her death, because she wanted him to have a happy life.

This book is Jason’s follow-up. It tells about his life with Amy and their joyful partnership, about the two years he cared for her after her cancer diagnosis, and about dealing with grief. Amy gave him the gift of a platform to talk about end of life, the grieving process, and meeting life after loss with resilience.

As a divorced woman, I’ve dealt with loss. I’m glad that Jason acknowledges that he was lucky to have the loving relationship he had. And Amy blessed it with her last loving act of writing that column. Divorced people (especially those blind-sided by a spouse who leaves before they realize anything’s wrong) don’t get that benediction, but we still have to deal with the absence of someone we love. I appreciated that Jason doesn’t shy away from telling about the good times as if to avoid pain. And his insights are helpful for anyone dealing with loss, even if on the surface, your loss seems quite different from the too-early death of a beloved spouse.

Another thing I have in common with Jason is a succession of losses. Both my parents died, two months apart, last Fall. In the two years since Amy’s death, both Jason’s father and Amy’s father died, as well as the dog that was their family’s companion for many years. Loss piled on top of loss has its own difficult impact. Jason expresses so well the process of dealing with loss upon loss while remembering the love and joy. He doesn’t pretend to have it all together. He talks about times of weeping. And he is again and again thankful to Amy for urging him to fill those empty pages with a new love story.

Listening to Jason’s own voice makes it all the more personal. Listening to this audiobook feels like a brother or a close friend sharing their life and offering encouragement. I understand why hundreds of people have written to him. Amy’s column alone makes me wish it just so happened that I was right for him. (For starters, I don’t live in Chicago.) I have no doubt he’s going to again be a wonderful husband to some lucky woman. (And he has started dating someone. I’m a little envious that he was able to find someone “organically” without using online dating, but hey, everyone’s life is different.)

The part about his life together with Amy was full of joy. I drooled at the description of the home they built – with a wall covered with bookshelves from the basement to the third floor. And I love that they set goals for their relationship while on their honeymoon. They traveled the world together. They made room for quality time with their children and with each other. And they were each other’s biggest fans.

But he’s also got encouraging and uplifting things to say about his life now and about dealing with loss and having resiliency. This is not a sad book, even though it’s centered around a very sad event. It’s the story of a joyful and loving partnership and about someone learning to continue to live a joyful and meaningful life after that partnership ended far too soon.

Like I said, it feels like the author is talking to you personally. I will resist the urge to add to the pile of letters he’s received. Let me just say it now: Jason, thank you for this book. Thank you for telling Amy’s story and your story. Thank you for giving others a window into navigating the journey of loss and new beginnings.

jasonbrosenthal.com

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

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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.

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Review of So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

So You Want to Talk About Race

by Ijeoma Oluo
read by Bahni Turpin

Blackstone Audio, 2018. 7 hours, 41 minutes.
Review written June 17, 2020, from a library eaudiobook.
Starred Review
2020 Sonderbooks Stand-out: #7 General Nonfiction

I wish I already knew the things talked about in this book. I wish the topic wasn’t so timely in 2020. And I wish it hadn’t taken timely current events to get me to listen to this book. However, all things taken together, I’m very glad this book exists to educate me about issues of race and how black people in America have many very different experiences than I do. And I’m glad I finally listened to it.

This book is a black person telling things like they are. She doesn’t hold back to spare your feelings. So much of what she says was eye-opening for me. I hadn’t thought much about how the world responds to black people, because the world doesn’t respond to me that way.

I was surprised by how long the book was. It turned out that she had plenty of things to cover, and covered them well. Whatever else I was feeling as I listened to this book, I wasn’t bored for even a second.

I liked the way she approached explaining privilege. She first talked about ways in which she herself is privileged. One of those ways is by having a college degree. Yes, she worked hard for that degree. It did help that she was born into a family that valued education. But once she got the degree, she was able to get better-paying jobs, even when they didn’t use anything she learned while gaining the degree. Just having the degree got her a higher income. Then she encourages the listener to consider their own privilege.

Something disturbing happened during the week I was listening to this book. There have been many protests going on, and some friends of mine actually posted things that exactly fit what Ijeoma Oluo had talked about. One was accusing protesters of “making everything about race.” Another said “I want my country back!,” and yet another posted a video of a white man who’d traveled across America and said what good people he’d found throughout this country and that we should all calm down. That story was nice, but he seemed completely oblivious to what I’d just learned, that if a black man traveled throughout this country, he couldn’t count on a positive and helpful attitude in every neighborhood where he shows up as a stranger. The very idea that black people and people of color have very different experiences in America than white people do was an insight I became much more aware of from listening to this book.

I still have a long way to go. This author, like others, said that you’re going to make some mistakes. But better that than continuing on my oblivious path. And she finished the book with some practical steps those of us with privilege can take.

ijeomaoluo.com

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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 eaudiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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.

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Review of The Queen of Nothing, by Holly Black, read by Caitlin Kelly

Saturday, June 13th, 2020

The Queen of Nothing

by Holly Black
read by Caitlin Kelly

Hachette Audio, 2019. 9.5 hours on 8 CDs.
Review written February 28, 2020, from a library audiobook
Starred Review

The Folk of the Air trilogy is so good! The Queen of Nothing is the third and final volume of the trilogy. The whole series is full of twists and turns and reversals. Each book has multiple moments where you’re not sure how the main character is even going to survive, let alone triumph. The books are full of assassinations and betrayals and political intrigue, and each book is more intense than the one before. I listened to this audiobook on my commute, and it’s one of those that once I got somewhere near the end, I had to bring the final CD inside the house to listen because I couldn’t bear to stop.

Jude has been brought up in Faerie after the redcap former husband of her mother killed both her mother and father, but pledged to take care of her and her twin sister. This adopted father taught her to be a deadly fighter, but at the start of this book, he’s fighting on the other side.

I don’t want to say much about how the book opens, because it gives away some of what went before. (And, yes, you must read these books in order.) I’ll just say that Jude is in exile in the mortal world. Her twin sister, Taryn, convinces Jude to go into Faerie “just for a few hours” pretending to be Taryn, so she can truthfully testify in the case of Taryn’s murdered husband.

Not surprisingly, things do not go as planned, and Jude is trapped in Faerie with people planning to make war against the High King of Faerie. Perhaps Jude can get information to use against them….

Twists and turns and treacheries follow. Holly Black is unsurpassed in her ability to surprise and shock her readers. But she is also able to delight us.

It is just as well I listened to this book, because in print form I don’t think I would have been able to stop. This way the enjoyment lasted longer. As it is, this book is responsible for me not remembering where I was going on an evening when I planned to go to choir rehearsal after work.

blackholly.com
HachetteAudio.com

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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.

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Review of Kiss Carlo, by Adriana Trigiani

Thursday, June 11th, 2020

Kiss Carlo

by Adriana Trigiani
read by Edoardo Ballerini

HarperAudio, 2018. 16 hours, 2 minutes.
Review written June 3, 2020, from a library eaudiobook

I listened to Kiss Carlo as a Skip-the-Line loan for an eaudiobook during the Covid-19 pandemic, when I’m listening to audiobooks on my phone (instead of CDs in the car) for the first time in my life. So I didn’t have to wait for an available copy, but I had to finish in 14 days, and my status as a library employee wouldn’t help me fudge that. This meant a little extra time doing puzzles!

The book is a historical novel about a big Italian family in South Philadelphia shortly after World War II. Nicky Castone has been engaged to his girl Peachy for seven years. She even waited for him during the war. He drives a cab for his family’s taxicab company, which is in a feud with another branch of the family and their taxicab company. Nicky is an orphan, but his aunt and uncle love him as their own. He’s also looked after by Hortense Mooney, the black dispatcher at the cab company. She tells Nicky that Peachy isn’t right for him.

Another plot thread deals with Calla Berelli, who is taking over her father’s theater, which runs Shakespeare plays year round. The theater is struggling, and the rise of television isn’t helping. Nicky’s been doing odd jobs at the theater for a long time, wherever he’s needed, and one night – which happens to be the night he finally told Peachy he was working at the theater – an emergency calls an actor away, and Nicky, who’d been prompting and knew all the lines, had to take the part.

In that moment, Nicky begins to realize that acting makes him feel alive. His fiancée is not at all pleased, which eventually tips Nicky off that maybe they aren’t right for each other after all.

But the path Nicky travels takes many twists and turns from there, including impersonating Carlo, an ambassador from Italy scheduled to be an officiating dignitary at a jubilee celebration in a small town in Pennsylvania. Nicky does it to escape Peachy’s angry father, and Hortense accompanies him as an American government official to lend him credence.

Okay, after that paragraph – let me give up trying to explain the plot. But it’s all in good fun. Some of the turns the plot takes are maybe a little unlikely, but the story is enjoyable. The big strength is in portraying the close-knit Italian-American community and the various characters along the way.

The narrator did a great job voicing the characters, expressing their characters with enough consistency that I could tell who was speaking by the voice used, and with a nice use of accents.

This was a light-hearted listen that still pulled you into the world of the book.

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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.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but 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.

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