Glow by Jessica Marie Tuccelli – Audiobook Review

Glow by Jessica Marie Tuccelli, narrated by Donna Postel
Published in audio by Highbridge Audio; published in print by Viking Adult, an imprint of Penguin

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

In the autumn of 1941, Amelia J. McGee, a young woman of Cherokee and Scotch-Irish descent, and an outspoken pamphleteer for the NAACP, hastily sends her daughter, Ella, alone on a bus home to Georgia in the middle of the night—a desperate measure that proves calamitous when the child encounters two drifters and is left for dead on the side of the road.

Ella awakens in the homestead of Willie Mae Cotton, a wise root doctor and former slave, and her partner, Mary-Mary Freeborn, tucked deep in the Takatoka Forest. As Ella heals, the secrets of her lineage are revealed.

Shot through with Cherokee lore and hoodoo conjuring, Glow transports us from Washington, D.C., on the brink of World War II to the Blue Ridge frontier of 1836, from the parlors of antebellum manses to the plantation kitchens where girls are raised by women who stand in as mothers. As the land with all its promise and turmoil passes from one generation to the next, Ella’s ancestral home turns from safe haven to mayhem and back again.

Thoughts on the story:

Tuccelli’s writing is lovely, and the concept behind Glow is a very interesting one. The people of the Blue Ridge mountains are not often written about, nor are biracial communities in general. The problem lies in the arrangement of the story. In some ways, Glow takes the reader ever deeper into the past, with stories inside stories, and then brings them back out to the 1940s, but the progression is not quite as smooth as that, with some jumping around. The jumping of time periods is inconsistent, and occasionally happens after so long that the reader may have forgotten what they have already learned about the characters and completely lost track of how their stories relate to one another. Tuccelli does provide a family tree, but more textual clues – and trying to do fewer things in general – would make this a stronger book.

Thoughts on the audio production:

This production just did not work for me at all. Donna Postel, the narrator, was not really the problem, I think she did the best she could with the source material, but I am not convinced that Glow is particularly well suited to audio, given Tuccelli’s reliance on her family tree instead of textual clues to show connections between characters. I also think that, if anything, there should have been multiple narrators, each taking a different time period and person’s story. Having a single narrator move between the time periods, in the way they were arranged, ended up causing the entire story to run together, without enough distinction.

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

Overall:

Glow is a bit overambitious, and doesn’t quite achieve the ends it desires. The audio production is particularly weak, and not a way I would recommend approaching this.

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.
Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2012

NPR American Chronicles: Women’s Equality – Audiobook Review

NPR American Chronicles: Women’s Equality by NPR, performed by Susan Stamberg
Published in audio by Highbridge Audio

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

NPR explores the issues, struggles, and triumphs of the American women’s movement, from early pioneers to modern groundbreakers and leaders of today who fight to preserve hard-won rights. Profiles of Victoria Woodhull, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony provide insights into the origins of the movement, while reflections from Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Geraldine Ferraro, and others reveal the passion and dedication required to maintain progress in the continuing struggle for women’s equality.

Thoughts on the story:

It comes as no surprise that the NPR news pieces included here are both thoughtful and interesting. The real strength of NPR American Chronicles: Women’s Equality comes from the curation. There is a wonderful mix of topics, from the women’s movement of the later 20th century to profiles of the suffragettes and other early proponents of increased equality. For an alternate viewpoint, an interview with Phullis Schlafly, conservative activists and vocal opponent of the Equal Rights Amendment, is even included.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Much of the speech in NPR American Chronicles: Women’s Equality would not fly in traditional audiobooks. It is rife with the much dreaded ‘mouth noises:’ speakers can be heard to breathe, smack their lips, sigh, etc. However, in the conventions of NPR news this is generally accepted, and since Women’s Equality is essentially just a collection of NPR news stories, I can give this issue a pass in this case (although I think it important to mention for those listeners who just absolutely can’t stand that). There is a significant variety from piece to piece in the prevalence of the ‘mouth noises’ and the fluency of the speakers, but that is to be expected due to the number of different subjects interviewed and the number of different journalists and on-air personalities reporting the various stories.

Overall:

For more on this book, please see my AudioFile Magazine review.

Highly recommended.

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

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: .
* 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.
Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2012

Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber – Audiobook Review

Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber, narrated by Tamara Marston
Published in audio by Highbridge Audio, published in print by WW Norton & co

Synopsis:

Avis and Brian Muir have what seems like it should be a happy life. They live in a big house in a wealthy community in Miami. Avis has a job that she loves. Brian has a job he at least likes, and one that more than pays the bills. They have two lovely and intelligent children. When their daughter Felice runs away at thirteen, though, the entire family falls apart. Now, five years later, they have fallen even farther, even as they continue to hope that they may someday because a “real” family again, whatever that might mean.

Thoughts on the story:

Abu-Jaber is extremely skilled at getting inside her characters heads, going so far as showing the reader the neurosis of which the characters themselves may not even be aware. In Birds of Paradise, she manages the often difficult task of fully fleshing out all four members of the family, making each of them seem real, bringing to life their hopes and their foibles. Felice’s storyline is particularly interesting. Although the secret that drove her to running away is relatively easy to guess, it is believable, even logical by the standards of her young teenage self.

Thoughts on the audio production:

This is where Birds of Paradise fell apart for me. Marston seemed more like she was reading Abu-Jaber’s text than like she was narrating or performing it. She had a great command of accents – a necessity for the multicultural world in which the Muirs live – but there was little to no passion in her voice, which is somewhat of a problem in a book with such deep emotions from its characters. Also, she had an incorrect and obnoxious pronunciation of the state Oregon that just pulled me right out of the book and annoyed me every time she said it. Marston’s narration really detracted from the potential power of Abu-Jaber’s story.

Overall:

Be prepared to become emotionally involved in the lives of the Muirs if you pick up Birds of Paradise, but for full effect choose print.

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: .
* 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.
Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2011

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai – Audiobook Review

The Borrower by Rebecca Makkai, narrated by Emily Bauer
Published in audio by Highbridge Audio; published in print by Viking, an imprint of Penguin

Synopsis:

Liberal librarian Lucy Hull is not exactly what one would call happy in her life in Hannibal, Missouri. The one bright spot in her life is 10-year-old Ian Drake, the most spirited, voracious reader in Hannibal. Ian is also quite possibly gay, and the son of incredibly conservative Christian parents who have him enrolled in a religious program designed to turn him straight. When Ian runs away from home, his first stop is the library, where Lucy finds him early one morning. Somehow they end up in her car, with Lucy basically stuck continuing on with him in order to avoid the appearance of having kidnapped  him.

Thoughts on the story:

Lucy is an incredibly obnoxious character from the get-go. Her self-righteous indulgence gives The Borrower a feeling of being about ISSUES. Now, my personal beliefs line up more or less with Lucy’s, but her attitude is an incredible turn-off, as is her inability to admit agency for anything that happens in her life. This combination of character traits garners no sympathy for her in the early pages of the book, as much as she feels that she has been trapped into the pseudo-kidnapping. Luckily much of this self-righteousness wears off over the course of the book, making her bearable by the end.

One particularly interesting device in The Borrower is the co-opting of children’s book plots such as Where’s Spot and The Very Hungry Caterpillar to show Lucy’s physical and emotional state of being. It is certainly clever in a book where the main character is a children’s librarian, but nearly every time it simply seems to go on too long. It also seems a little strange that the books whose plots are co-opted are geared to such young children, when Lucy’s favorite patron at the library is 10.

Thoughts on the audio production:

I must say, if I had encountered The Borrower in print, I’m not sure I would have even bothered to finish it. It was only Emily Bauer’s young and naive voice that began to give me a modicum of sympathy for Lucy as she began to realize just how much of a mess she had made of things. Bauer’s narration wasn’t perfect – her Russian accents left something to be desired, which is a bit of a problem in a book with multiple Russian characters – but in general I think that she added a good deal to my enjoyment of the story.

Overall:

This ended up as a fairly engaging listen despite some significant problems in the beginning. If you are going to experience it, I recommend audio.

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, via LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
* 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.
Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2011