Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – Mini Book Review

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Published by Random House

From the publisher:

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life-sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition-its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.

I read Olive Kitteridge after thoroughly enjoying Elizabeth Strout’s new novel, The Burgess Boys. The two books are so different that it is difficult to compare them, and I believe I did them a disservice by attempting to do so. Olive Kitteridge is fascinating, the linked stories an intriguing way to get at who Olive is. It was hard for me to come into the linked stories after the more cohesive The Burgess Boys. It is a brilliant book, I just wish I had read it at a time when I could better appreciate it.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: personal copy.
* 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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Penny, n by Madeline McDonnell – Book Review

Penny, n by Madeline McDonnell
Published by Rescue Press

From the publisher:

A definition: 1) A one-cent coin equal to one hundredth of a dollar; 2) A blue-skirted, soon-to-be thirty-year-old, champagne-swilling, high-rise-dwelling lounge singer; 3) A hopeful and lonely woman in love; 4) The object of a depressive and manic lexicographer’s angst and affection; 5) A trivial amount; 6) A slave or servant; 7) An Itty-Bitty-Kitty-Keeper, a Yuppy-puppy, a Munchkin or Muffin; 8) Bridey’s maid-of-honor; 9) A mother’s pretty wonder; 10) A love-sick story of worth and worry.

Penny, n is a curious little novella, more concerned with words and word play than story. Of course, the premise is about the power of words, the way they can change people and relationships, and not necessarily the ways we expect. While Penny’s lexicographer boyfriend begins working on a hotly contested definition for a new edition of the dictionary, he begins to call her by a new name, a name that will change their relationship and even Penny’s conception of herself.

Penny, n is not as quick of a read as you might guess, being only about 140 pages, but it is an interesting one and makes a good change of pace. Recommended.

For more information, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher.

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Snapper by Brian Kimberling – Audiobook Review

Snapper by Brian Kimberling, narrated by Macleod Andrews
Published in audio by Random House Audio, published in print by TK

Publisher’s Synopsis:

Nathan Lochmueller studies birds, earning just enough money to live on. He drives a glitter-festooned truck, the Gypsy Moth, and he is in love with Lola, a woman so free-spirited and mysterious she can break a man’s heart with a sigh or a shrug. Around them swirls a remarkable cast of characters: the proprietor of Fast Eddie’s Burgers & Beer, the genius behind “Thong Thursdays”; Uncle Dart, a Texan who brings his swagger to Indiana with profound and nearly devastating results; a snapping turtle with a taste for thumbs; a German shepherd who howls backup vocals; and the very charismatic state of Indiana itself. And at the center of it all is Nathan, creeping through the forest to observe the birds he loves and coming to terms with the accidental turns his life has taken.

Thoughts on the story:

Snapper is a lovely, contemplative little novel. It basically consists of Nathan musing about Indiana: his childhood, his job studying birds, and the people that surround him (good, bad, and ugly). I’m not sure how much Snapper would appeal to those who have not spent considerable time in Indiana (although anyone who has clocked significant time in small towns might understand pretty well), but I was born there and still have family in the Indianapolis area, so Nathan’s mixed feelings about the state rang very true to me. With anecdotes ranging from humorous to heartfelt, I fell a little bit in love with Nathan and his Indiana.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Macleod Andrew is a new-to-me narrator, but in my opinion he does a great job with Snapper. This is one of those lovely first person performances where the narrator becomes the main character and you sort of forget that this is fiction and a bunch of people had to work to make it happen. Very good.

Overall:

One thing to note about Snapper is that it is the perfect length – just about 6 hours in audio. It cuts off exactly where it should

For more information, please see the publisher’s website.

Source: Publisher.

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 – Audiobook Review

Life after Life by Kate Atkinson, narrated by Fenella Woolgar
Published in audio by Hachette Audio, published in print by Reagan Arthur Books, an imprint of Hachette

I have previously reviewed Life after Life in print, but in case you need a refresher, here’s the synopsis I wrote:

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.

When I first finished Life after Life I had pretty daydreams about how much I had loved it and hoped against hope that my editor at Audiofile Magazine would assign me the audio to review (SPOILER ALERT: she did). As the weeks passed after reading it, though, I began to grow worried about the audiobook. Life after Life is huge, and has the tendency to loop back in on itself. Turns out I shouldn’t have worried. I don’t know if it was Fenella Woolgar’s narration, the production as a whole, or the source material, but Life after Life actually translated to audio quite well. Of course, I did have the benefit of already having read it once, but that was at least two months before I listened to the audio, so while I’m sure it smoothed the way, I did not necessarily remember all the intricacies of the plot.

I do think a listener who had no idea what the book was about might still be hugely confused the first time Ursula dies and the whole thing starts again, but as long as you have the basic premise you’d might as well spend 15 hours listening to Fenella Woolgar’s lovely narration – particularly her smashingly good American, French, and German accents.

For more, please see my review for Audiofile Magazine

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

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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The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout – Book Review

The Burgess Boys by Elizabeth Strout
Published by Random House

The Burgess siblings are close and yet far apart at the same time. The boys, Jim and Bob, live mere blocks from one another, but emotionally they are light years apart – although closer both literally and metaphorically than either of them is to Bob’s twin sister Susan, who still lives in the small Maine town in which they all grew up. Bob dogs his brother’s  steps, but it seems that nothing would make Jim happier than to deny everything about his early life, including his siblings.

When Susan’s son Zach throws a pig’s head into a mosque during Ramadan, though, the family is forced back into a semblance of togetherness. Jim, a high profile attorney, knows that he has the skills to help get his nephew out of this. Not that this is an entirely selfless act; Jim is a big shot and and his nephew committing what seems to be a hate crime tarnishes his reputation.

I haven’t yet read Olive Kitteridge so I have very little to compare it to, but I loved The Burgess Boys. Jim and Susan are a bit hard to side with, but Bob is drawn in a way that makes it incredibly easy to empathize with him, and he seemed the key to the entire situation. I assumed, when I learned what the act was that this book hinges on, that I would have a very difficult time caring what happened to Zach, but I found myself caring about Bob enough that I could have an open mind about Zach’s motivations, and ultimately have my heart break nearly as much for him as for the victims of his crime.

There are a lot of things going on with each and every one of Strout’s characters, all this subplots would feel overly busy in the hands of a lesser novelist, but Strout puts all the pieces together beautifully and creates a book which can envelope its reader. 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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