The Other Typist by Susanne Rindell – Book Review

The Other Typist by Susanne Rindell
Published by Amy Einhorn Books/Putnam, an imprint of Penguin

As a typist in a Prohibition-era New York police station, Rose Baker holds a certain amount of power. After all, whatever is in the reports she writes up is taken as gospel truth in prosecuting criminals. It is about as much power as a single woman who grew up in an orphanage can have in 1923. But then Odalie enters the precinct and Rose’s life. There is something about this woman, something that inspires gossip and stories. Something about Odalie also inspires friendship and devotion in Rose. As their relationship continues, Rose’s world begins to change and it might never be the same.

Oh, I don’t know what to tell you guys about The Other Typist except that it is AWESOME. You can tell very early on as Rose reminisces about her time with Odalie that there is something off, both with the relationship and perhaps even with Rose herself. What follows is an absolutely tantalizing story, all twisty and turny and amazing. The first third of the book I read over a few days, but the last two thirds I read in all but a single sitting because once it gets going it gets going like whoa.

I can’t say too much more without spoiling the book for you, but OH MY GOSH GO AND READ IT.

Highly recommended, as if you couldn’t tell.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer – Audiobook Review

Frances and Bernard by Carlene Bauer, narrated by Angela Brazil and Stephen R. Thorne
Published in audio by AudioGo, published in print by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Synopsis:

I would probably use about a billion words to try to describe this and the publisher’s description is SO pithy and perfect, so I’m just going to use that:

Loosely inspired by Robert Lowell and Flannery O’Connor, this absorbing, charming novel brings us into mid-century New York and the lives and letters of two writers– their intense friendship, their discussions of writing and art and faith, and their bittersweet romance.

Thoughts on the story:

Frances and Bernard is a fairly contemplative book, the musings of (and repressed affection between) Bernard and Frances. I’m not entirely sure how I would have felt about this in print, I’m not sure it would have held my interest initially. Luckily the narrators were enough to keep me entertained at that point, and later Bauer’s story itself becomes emotionally involving enough to captivate me. I was surprised at the sheer volume of their discussion of their Catholic faith and equally surprised just how intrigued I was by all of their discussions, from the personal, to the religious, to the literary.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Angela Brazil and Stephen R. Thorne? Perfect. PERFECT. This is an example of fabulous casting, both narrators fit their role perfectly, and since nearly the entire book is a letter written by one of them or the other, the dual narrator format works incredibly well.

Overall:

Frances and Bernard is a quietly lovely epistolary novel and the narration elevates the audio to another level entirely. Highly recommended.

For more, please see my review for Audiofile magazine.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Print*
Indiebound: Print*
Audible.com

Source: Audiofile Magazine.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Sound Bytes is a meme that occurs every Friday! I encourage you to review your audiobooks on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

 

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Life after Life by Kate Atkinson – Book Review

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson
Published by Reagan Arthur Books, an imprint of Hachette

It is 1910 and one of the snowiest nights in memory in England when Ursula Todd is born. Unfortunately, little Ursula is not long for this world, dying almost before her mother even realizes she has been born. Luckily for Ursula, she is born again, the same day to the same family, and this time with another result. So Ursula is born time and time again, as she succumbs to the perils of early 20th-cenutry life but is repeatedly granted another chance, as if her life is building towards some grand purpose.

So, basically Life After Life is brilliant. It isn’t immediately apparent, especially as the child Ursula dies repeatedly. The first hundred pages or so can be difficult for parents, as it almost seems a catalog of everything bad that can happen to a kid. It is when the Spanish Flu hits Ursula’s household that Atkinson’s dark comic genius shines through. It is also at this time that the reader realizes that Ursula is semi-aware of what is happening to her. From that point forward, Ursula dies with a little less frequency and the intricacies of cause and effect are writ large on her life.

To call Life After Life an absorbing book would be to undersell it. It is an astonishingly good novel, one I could not stop talking about during and after reading it. It is also an innovative look at the way our choices – as well as events beyond our control – shape our lives, and how the smallest change can make a huge difference.

Life After Life is the book that everyone is going to be talking about for the rest of the year, and it absolutely deserves that honor. Very highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Hand Me Down by Melanie Thorne – Audiobook Review

Hand Me Down by Melanie Thorne, narrated by Ali Ahn
Published in audio by Recorded Books; published in print by Plume, an imprint of Penguin

Synopsis:

Life has not been easy for fourteen year old Elizabeth Reid and her sister Jaimie. Things got better for awhile once their  mother left their abusive, alcoholic father. The man she brought into their lives next, though, was worse. Terrance is a convicted sex offender who has been jailed more than once for the crimes of exposing himself to and assaulting women. Although Liz’s mother swears up and down that Terrance poses no threat to her adolescent daughters, the lascivious looks and glancing touches he gives Liz tell her otherwise. Worse still are his threats that if Liz pushes back too hard on his flirtatious advances he will turn to her sister. It is almost a relief when Terrance’s parole officer decides that he can have no unsupervised visits with the girls, meaning he can no longer live in the same house as his stepdaughters. The only problem is that Liz’s mother chooses her new husband over her daughters, leaving the girls’ housing to the whims of friends and family.

Thoughts on the story:

With Hand Me Down, Thorne has created a story that draws in the reader immediately. Within less than half an hour of starting the audio, I was tweeting about how incensed I was on behalf of the main character, because the adults in her life put her in such a terrible position. Liz’s mom, in particular, is barely worthy of the title. Thorne does explore her backstory a bit, so that the reader can get an idea of what may have made her so monumentally stupid in this situation, but it isn’t so much that I ever really gave up hating her for her willful blindness. The hate didn’t make me dislike the book, though. On the contrary, the hate just showed me how completely invested I was in Liz’s story, and I, well, devourered Thorne’s story.

Now, yes, the protagonist is fourteen. No, this is not a young adult book, although it certainly has crossover appeal. Why is this an adult book? Well, partly because that is just how it is marketed. Partly also because the setting makes Liz more a contemporary of mine (perhaps even older than me), rather those of kids who are teenagers today. It also just feels as if it was written with an adult audience in mind, which is sort of an intangible quality, but there nonetheless.

Thoughts on the audio production:

I was quite impressed with Ali Ahn’s narration. She does a fabulous job differentiating between voices young and old, male and female. Her portrayal of Elizabeth in particular is quite moving. My only qualm about the audio production is that there were occasionally slightly odd pauses, seemingly the result of imperfect editing. The pause would seem as if the scene had ended, but it would quickly become clear once the narration resumed that the same scene was still ongoing. This happens just a handful of times so it isn’t enough to impede the overall enjoyment of this production – particularly with Ahn’s masterful narration – it is just enough to notice.

Overall:

A moving book paired with an equally moving performance, Hand Me Down is a fabulous listen.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Print*
Indiebound: Print*
Audible.com

Source: Author.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

Sound Bytes is a meme that occurs every Friday! I encourage you to review your audiobooks on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

 

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Heft by Liz Moore – Audiobook Review

Heft by Liz Moore, narrated by Kirby Heyborne and Keith Szarabajka
Published in audio by Blackstone Audio, published in print by W.W. Norton

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

Former academic Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds and hasn’t left his rambling Brooklyn home in a decade. Twenty miles away, in Yonkers, seventeen-year-old Kel Keller navigates life as the poor kid in a rich school and pins his hopes on what seems like a promising baseball career—if he can untangle himself from his family drama. The link between this unlikely pair is Kel’s mother, Charlene, a former student of Arthur’s. After nearly two decades of silence, it is Charlene’s unexpected phone call to Arthur—a plea for help—that jostles them into action.

Thoughts on the story:

Heft is very well-written with great characterization. It is also unremittingly depressing for quite awhile. Both Arthur and Kel just have bad thing after bad thing happen to them. It seems they have so little in their lives that is good that it can be hard to take. Still, Moore has created compelling characters and difficult as it is to stay with them, it is also hard to turn away.

Thoughts on the audio production:

(Note: the original version of this review had the narrators’ names reversed)

Keith Szarabajka is an incredibly talented narrator, and he performes Arthur’s role magnificently, not to mention the amazing range of disparate voices he gives to those with whom Arthur came in contact. I was less enthused by Kirby Heyborne’s performance. He does a technically good job, but Szarabajka is a hard act to follow. In addition, it is a bit difficult to believe Heyborne as a teenager when he was born in 1952. He is able to affect a fairly youthful voice, but a teenager he is not. Perhaps other people aren’t bothered by this in audiobooks, but it drives me batty. I am much more able to accept a vaguely adult sounding child, but a maturely voiced teenager pulls me right out of the audiobook.

Overall:

I think I might have preferred this in print, so the sadness didn’t go straight into my ears, but Keith Szarabajka’s performance is worth a listen.

Buy this book from:
Powells: Audio/Print*
Indiebound: Audio/Print*

Source: review.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc

Sound Bytes is a meme that occurs every Friday! I encourage you to review your audiobooks on Fridays and include the link here. If you have reviewed an audiobook earlier in the week, please feel free to link that review as well. Thanks to Pam for creating the button.

 

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