Posts Tagged ‘Audiobooks’

Book Reviews: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Author: Ruta Sepetys
TitleBetween Shades of Gray
Narrator:Emily Klein
Publication Info: Penguin Audio (2011)
Summary/Review:

This novel set in the World War II-era depicts the oppression of Lithuanian partisans through the eyes of 15-year-old Lina.  A promising young artists, Lina and her mother and brother are rounded up by the NKVD with other women, children, the elderly, and disabled and transported to a labor camp in Siberia.  The narrative depicts the hardscrabble life as Lina and her community in the labor camp as they struggle to survive.  But there are also moments of joy and unexpected solace.  It’s a decent novel and an introduction to the Stalinist persecution of Lithuania.

Recommended booksStalemate by Icchokas Meras, The Day Lasts More Than a Hundred Years by Chingiz Aitmatov, and One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich by Alexander Solzhenitsyn
Rating: **1/2

Book Reviews: Artemis Fowl: The Time Paradox by Eoin Colfer

Author: Eoin Colfer
TitleArtemis Fowl: The Time Paradox
NarratorEnn Reitel
Publication Info: New York : Random House/Listening Library, p2008.

Books I’ve Previously Read by the Same Author:

Summary/Review:

I gave up on reading the Artemis Fowl series a while back because I felt it was becoming formulaic with diminishing returns.  But I had a change of heart, and after a decade decided to pick up where I left off.  It felt good to be reacquainted with the characters like old friends.  And this book strikes me as more mature than the earlier novels.  In order to save his mother, a teenage Artemis has to go back in time with Holly to face his most devious opponent yet: his 10-year-old self.  The novel oozes with philosophical ideas and pondering of mortality.  The book also features a group of people whose goal is to cause extinction of animals, which is particularly grim.  Sure, the formula is still there (Mulch Diggums shows up for some fart jokes and the ultimate villain is the same old character) but it feels refreshed and new.  I’ll have to continue reading the newer installments of this series.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Reviews: Midnight Rising by Tony Horwitz

Author: Tony Horwitz
TitleMidnight Rising
NarratorDan Oreskes
Publication Info: Macmillan Audio (2011)
Previously read by same author:

Summary/Review:

Tony Horwitz, one of my favorite authors, presents a compelling history of John Brown and his followers and the keystone event of their raid on Harpers Ferry.  Brown’s life and family are discussed from childhood, to his involvement in Utopian abolition movements, and their targeted assassinations of pro-slavery advocates in “Bleeding Kansas.”  It’s eerie that the rhetoric and tactics of Brown and his followers while targeting the noble cause of abolition still resemble those of today’s Tea Party/2nd Amendment activists.The raid on Harpers Ferry took considerable planning and secrecy, although curiously it is uncertain what result Brown expected.  Did he really expect it to spark a nation-wide uprising, or did he intend a blood sacrifice?  Similarly, his changes in tactics during the raid itself contradict the planning.  What’s interesting is that while the raid was widely condemned, even by ardent abolitionists, Brown’s real influence came in his words and letters while in jail and on trial.  Even people who despised Brown and all he stood for came to admire his bravery and determination.  Horwitz’s book is an interesting account on this key event in American history and the ripples it would have throughout the country.

Recommended booksCloudsplitter by Russell Banks
Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Looking for Alaska by John Green

AuthorJohn Green
TitleLooking for Alaska
NarratorJeff Woodman
Publication Info: [Grand Haven, Mich.] : Brilliance Audio, 2006.
Previously Read By Same Author:  The Fault in Our Stars and An Abundance of Katherines.
Summary/Review:

This novel is told by a boy named Miles who transfers into a boarding school where he befriends his roommate “The Colonel” and falls in love with an intelligent, attractive, but impulsive young woman named Alaska.  Like other works in the boarding school genre, the story involves a lot of drinking, smoking, sex, and pranks.  But Miles also attends classes and his religious studies class in particular play’s an important role in helping Miles deal with some of the issues he’s facing in his life.

I don’t want to give anything away, but the novel turns on a tragic moment.  On the downside, I found the book draws a little too much on the “women in refrigerators” trope and moral lessons that are a bit too pat.  Overall though, I found it an accurate and entertaining depiction of teenage life.

Recommended booksThe Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger, The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie, and Fade by Robert Cormier
Rating: **1/2

Book Review: Airman by Eoin Colfer

AuthorEoin Colfer
TitleAirman
Narrator: John Keating
Publication Info: [New York] : Listening Library, 2007.
Books I’ve Previously Read by the Same Author:

Summary/Review:

Irish author Eoin Colfer, creator of the Artemis Fowl series, spins a classic adventure story set in the fin de siècle era on the Saltee Islands off the coast of Ireland.  In this story, the Saltees are home to a fictional sovereign kingdom which bases its economy on diamond mining.  The protagonist of the story is Conor Broekhart who is friend of the daughter of the island’s progressive, American-born king.  Conor shows an early proclivity towards science and engineering and when he is 14 he is framed for the murder of the king and sent to prison/mining colony.  It’s up to young Conor to escape from prison and save the kingdom through his knowledge of flying machines.  The outcome is never in doubt but Colfer spins an entertaining yarn with a lot of action and many memorable characters.  John Keating does a magnificent job of narrating this escapist story.

Recommended books: The Land That Isn’t There, An Irish Adventure by Leonard Wibberley, The Twenty-One Balloons by William Pene du Bois
Rating: ****

Book Review: Art of Mindful Living by Thích Nhất Hạnh

Author: Thích Nhất Hạnh
TitleArt of Mindful Living
Publication Info: Sounds True, Incorporated (2000)

Summary/Review:

This book is actually a lovely collection of lectures delivered by Thích Nhất Hạnh on finding the “kingdom of God” here and now by escaping distraction.  He mostly focuses on breathing exercises (a bell tones throughout to remind listeners to breathe). He also has interesting techniques such as taking a moment to breathe every time a phone rings (which benefits both oneself and the person calling) and the practice of hugging.  Only two hours, but full of wisdom and a delight to listen to.

Rating: ****

Recommended Books: Contemplative Prayer by Thomas Keating

Book Review: Night of the Humans by David Llewellyn

Author: David Llewellyn
TitleNight of the Humans
Narrator: Arthur Darvill
Publication Info:  Bath, [England] : AudioGo/BBC Audiobooks, p2010
Summary/Review:

This Doctor Who New Series Adventures joins Amy and the Eleventh Doctor early on their travels as they’re drawn to an enormous pile of space junk known as The Gyre where they encounter noseless humanoids with Arabic names known as the Sittuun, who’ve also been shipwrecked.  The villains of the piece turn out to be primitive humans who believe they’re on Earth and condemn those who say differently as blasphemers. There’s also a shady character named Dirk Slipstream who is very Douglass Adams.   The book takes advantage of its medium in creating settings and characters that would not likely translate well to a low-budget television show, but the story didn’t hold my interest too well.  The audiobook is narrated by Arthur Darvill even though his character Rory doesn’t appear in the story.  He does enjoyable impersonations of Karen Gillan and Matt Smith, though.

Rating: **

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