The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R. by Carole DeSanti – Audiobook Review

The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R. by Carole DeSanti, narrated by Kate Reading
Published in audio by Blackstone Audio, published in print by TK

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

Love and war converge in this lush, epic story of a young woman’s struggle with life and love during and after the Second Empire (1852 – 1871), an era that was absinthe-soaked, fueled by railway money and prostitution, and transformed by cataclysmic social upheaval.

Eugénie R., born in foie gras country, follows the man she loves to Paris but soon finds herself marooned. An outcast, she charts the treacherous waters of sexual commerce on a journey through artists’ ateliers and pawnshops, zinc bars and luxurious bordellos.

Giving birth to a daughter she is forced to abandon, Eugénie spends the next 10 years fighting to get her back, falling in love along the way with an artist, a woman, and a revolutionary. Then, as the gates of the city close on the eve of the Siege of Paris, Eugénie comes face to face with her past. Drawn into a net of desire and need, promises and lies, she must make a choice and find her way to a life that she can call her own.

Thoughts on the story:

There is an awful lot going on in The Unruly Passions of Eugenie R. and it is, perhaps, slightly overambitious. However, the fact that it is told from the perspective of not only a single woman, but a woman whose name is in the register of prostitutes, which makes her even less than a second class citizen, brings something to the story that is both fascinating and helps it be cohesive. DeSanti is covering a lot of historical ground here, and the strength of Eugenie’s character helps hold it all together, as it could have easily been a loose mess of historical vignettes.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Narrator Kate Reading seems to fit Eugenie’s character very well, with accurate French pronunciation where necessary. At over 16 hours, a lesser narrator could have made this a very dull listen indeed, but Reading kept me engaged and interested in Eugenie’s life.

For more on the audio production, see my review for Audiofile Magazine.

Overall:

A long but engaging listen. Recommended

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

I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review 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.

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.
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Death by Black Hole by Neil deGrasse Tyson – Audiobook Review

Death by Black Hole by Neil deGrasse Tyson, narrated by Dion Graham
Published in audio by Blackstone Audio, published in print by W. W. Norton & Co

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

Loyal readers of the monthly “Universe” essays in Natural History magazine have long recognized Neil deGrasse Tyson’s talent for guiding them through the mysteries of the cosmos with stunning clarity and almost childlike enthusiasm. Here, Tyson compiles his favorite essays across a myriad of cosmic topics. The title essay introduces readers to the physics of black holes by explaining the gory details of what would happen to your body if you fell into one. “Holy Wars” examines the needless friction between science and religion in the context of historical conflicts. “The Search for Life in the Universe” explores astral life from the frontiers of astrobiology. And “Hollywood Nights” assails the movie industry’s feeble efforts to get its night skies right.

Thoughts on the book:

If there’s one thing that Neil deGrasse Tyson knows how to do, it is make astrophysics interesting. If there are two things, they are how to make astrophysics interesting and how to make it comprehensible to the layperson. Each of Tyson’s essays in Death by Black Hole is well-reasoned, well-organized, and accessible to those with basic science skills. In one particularly interesting piece, Tyson details a number of experiments one can conduct with no more than a stick and some string (and, you know, some equations), all of which have significant things to teach us about the structure of the universe as a whole. He does get a bit nit picky in the essay “Hollywood Nights,” as he catalogs the liberties that the film industry has taken with the universe, often at the same time he admits that no movie is likely to get EVERYTHING right. Overall, however, Death by Black Hole is full of fascinating information.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Dion Graham does a wonderful job narrating Death by Black Hole. In particular, he captures Tyson’s obvious passion for and excitement about this topic, without coming across corny. His excitement is so genuine, in fact, that one suspects that he may be an astrophysics junkie as well and if not then he is a truly superb narrator. The delineations from one essay to the next were clear, which is essential in an audio collection like this (see: my one criticism of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?). That being said, the audio was not idea, in my experience, for close study of the subject, what with limited ability to go back and review, or take time and really allow what Tyson is saying to sink in. Luckily, his style in these pieces is more loosely informative than scholarly, so listening to get a general overview of his subjects worked well for me.

Overall:

A fascinating essay collection, and one whose narrator ably matches the passion of its author. Recommended.

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

I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review 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.

Source: Library.
* 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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Winter King by Thomas Penn – Audiobook Review

Winter King by Thomas Penn, narrated by Simon Vance
Published in audio by Blackstone Audio, published in print by Simon & Schuster

Synopsis:

In 1501, the War of the Roses came to an end when Henry Tudor, soon to be Henry VII, defeated Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. Henry VII was now King of England. It was assumed he would rule through the right of his wife, Elizabeth of York, Richard’s niece, but instead Henry surprised everyone by claiming to rule in his own right. When he began dating his reign to the day before the Battle of Bosworth, he suddenly gained the ability to decry – and punish – as treasonous anyone who served Richard to the end.

The Tudors are perhaps the most famous and popular dynasty in English history. Certainly, Henry VIII and Elizabeth I, Henry VII’s son and granddaughter, are outsized personalities who unsurprisingly draw attention to the family, but Henry VII made both to of their reigns possible. Henry VII is frequently overshadowed by both Henry VIII, and by his Yorkist predecessors, the golden Edward IV and the much-maligned Richard III. However, he is the man who is able to set such a prominent dynasty of the Tudors on the throne through, doing so by controlling England with an iron fist; from executing those who were a possible threat to his dynasty, to his shrewd negotiations over the fate of Catherine of Aragorn after the death of her husband, Henry’s oldest son Arthur.

Thoughts on the story:

In Winter King, Penn lays out the history and significance of Henry’s rule with great clarity and insight. For the first time, for example, I understood the significance of and reasons for Henry VIII’s execution of Dudley and Empson upon his ascension – a fact that is much mentioned but rarely expounded upon, beyond the fact that they were perhaps the most hated men in the kingdom. In fact, all devotees of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I’s rules would do well to read this engaging history of the founder of their dynasty, as much done by Henry VII set the stage for actions they took during their own reigns.

Thoughts on the audio production:

In The Winter King, we see Simon Vance at his best. He narrates at a good speed to keep the history moving, without going so quickly that it is difficult to keep up with the myriad of people, events, and significances. His voice is at once soothing and engaging, drawing the reader into the world of 16th century England.

Overall:

This is a fascinating and very well narrated account of Henry VII’s reign. Readers new to Tudor politics may want to stick to print, so they can go back and forth and remind themselves of who is doing what, but Vance’s narration is a superb way to experience Winter King for those with even a passing familiarity of the time. Highly recommended.

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

I’m launching a brand-new meme every Friday! I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review 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.

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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The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons – Audiobook Review

The House at Tyneford by Natasha Solomons, narrated by Justine Eyre
Published in audio by Blackstone Audio, published in print by Plume, an imprint of Penguin

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

It’s the spring of 1938 and no longer safe to be a Jew in Vienna. Nineteen-year-old Elise Landau is forced to leave her glittering life of parties and champagne to become a parlor maid in England. She arrives at Tyneford, the great house on the bay, where servants polish silver and serve drinks on the lawn. But war is coming, and the world is changing. When the master of Tyneford’s young son, Kit, returns home, he and Elise strike up an unlikely friendship that will transform Tyneford – and Elise – forever.

Thoughts on the story:

The House at Tyneford is certainly a charming story, with the well-off young Jewish woman from Austria leaving everything she knew to be safe from the encroaching war as a parlormaid and subsequently falling in love with the heir to the estate. However, the story was also utterly predictable. At any given time while listening I could likely have predicted at least the next hour’s worth of plot. This, in turn, made for a less-than engaging experience with the story. If there are no surprises and no wonder, if the plot is all but formulaic, then what, really, is the point? Nothing amazed me, and as a result I find The House at Tyneford to be more than a little lackluster.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Eyre gave a fairly good performance, although she didn’t really blow me away. I was impressed, however, with her ability to switch between Austrian and British accents. For a more detailed audio review, please see my review for Audiofile Magazine.

Overall:

Although many others have loved this story, I cannot particularly recommend it either in print or audio.

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

I encourage you to review any audiobooks you review 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.

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.
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The End of Everything by Megan Abbott – Audiobook Review

The End of Everything by Megan Abbott, narrated by Emily Bauer
Published in audio by Blackstone Audio; published in print by Regan Arthur Books, an imprint of Hachette

Synopsis:

Lizze has a wonderful life for a 13 year old girl. Since her parents’ divorce she doesn’t see her father – he moved to California – but living next door to her best friend Evie Verver makes Lizzie feel as if her family is complete. Evie’s feminine yet strong older sister Dusty is more central to Lizzie’s life than is her own brother, and Mr. Verver is a father-figure extraordinaire, plus perhaps a bit of a crush of Lizzie’s. When Evie disappears suddenly after school, though, Lizzie’s entire world turns upside down. As the person who spent the most time with Evie, Lizzie is convinced that she must know something that nobody else knows, something that can save Evie. Without her friend, Lizzie feels empty, and she cannot bear Mr. Verver’s pain, or the speculations of the girls in school as to what has become of Evie. The more she digs into her friend’s disappearance, though, the less convinced Lizze becomes that she really knew Evie at all.

Thoughts on the story:

Missing girl novels are not exactly few and far between, and they have been attempted by some fabulous authors – Stewart O’Nan’s Songs for the Missing and Hannah Pittard’s The Fates Will Find Their Way come to mind – but The End of Everything proves to be a very strong entry in the field. Looking at the entire incident from the point of view of a young girl brings an entirely different perspective. So many of these books are told at least partly through an adult’s eyes (or the eyes of multiple adults), but Lizzie brings an innocence and an urgency to the situation. So often the adult characters move very quickly to despair, or a hope that somehow seems bereft, but Lizzie continues to believe not only that Evie can be saved, but that she is the one who must somehow hold the key. Despite the fact that so much of the book is very internal with few actual plot points, Lizzie’s perspective on the situation makes for a compelling read.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Emily Bauer and Kate Simses are absolutely my favorite female narrators of young adult books. Like Simses, Bauer is both compelling and believable as a teen or young adult. While she doesn’t quite sound 13, she definitely has a young enough voice to allow the listener to suspend disbelief and accept her as a young teen without being pulled out of the story by an overly mature voice. She does a wonderful job narrating the oft-disturbing The End of Everything, thoroughly convincing me that the problems I had when listening to one of her prior audiobooks had much more to do with the story and the way the character was presented by the author than the way Bauer voiced her. This is definitely a strong audio.

Overall:

Abbott has created an extremely strong story of loss and fear, which is only enhanced by Bauer’s compelling narration. This is a great listen, but would likely be just as fabulous in print, pick it up either way.

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

I encourage you to review any 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.

Source: Library.
* 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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