The Confidant by Helene Gremillon – Audiobook Review

The Confidant by Helene Gremillon, narrated by Ellen Archer
Published in audio by Penguin Audio, published in print by Penguin Books, both imprints of Penguin

Synopsis:

It begins with the death of Camille’s mother. The condolence cards are pouring in, but there is one letter that is different from the others. The letter comes with no return address from a man name Louis, a man that Camille does not know, and it tells of the girl he once loved, Annie. At first, Camille believes that she is receiving these letters by mistake, although that does not stop her from reading them. Louis continues sending Camille letters, telling more and more of Annie’s story, including her burgeoning friendship with a wealthy woman who wants a child more than anything, yet cannot have one of her own. As Camille continues to read Louis’s missives, she begins to wonder if her receipt of them really is a mistake, after all.

Thoughts on the story:

I feel like my comment about lots of books these days is that they are slow going initially. Maybe it is me? Am I having trouble getting into things? Maybe. But The Confidant started very slowly for me. So slowly, in fact, that I wasn’t sure I was going to want to finish, or that even if I did I would be able to give it a good review. I kept listening, though, and without realizing exactly when it happened, I began to be sucked into the story Gremillon created. Perhaps it was the modern frame to what is primarily Annie’s story, or perhaps there’s a bit of a difference of style in French works and it took me time to acclimate. Eventually, however, I found myself gripped by what was happening to Annie. Camille’s story was necessary, but even by the end I was not as invested in her as I was in Annie, a young woman essentially tricked into doing all sorts of things that a girl of her age really should not have been doing.

Thoughts on the audio production:

The one thing about The Confidant that I do not think is at all responsible for my slow start with the audiobook is Ellen Archer’s narration. This is a very emotional story, set during a very emotional time in Camille’s life, and it could have easily tipped into melodrama. Archer, though kept the emotion without succumbing to the drama.

Overall:

Set primarily in France in the years leading up to World War II – Camille’s portion of the story takes place in Paris in the 1970s – The Confidant is an intriguing, if initially slightly slow, story with great narration.

For more, please see my review for Audiofile Magazine.

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

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.

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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NW by Zadie Smith – Audiobook Review

NW by Zadie Smith, narrated by Karen Bryson and Don Gilet
Published in audio by Penguin Audio, published in print by The Penguin Press, both imprints of Penguin

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

This is the story of a city.

The northwest corner of a city. Here you’ll find guests and hosts, those with power and those without it, people who live somewhere special and others who live nowhere at all. And many people in between.

Every city is like this. Cheek-by-jowl living. Separate worlds.

And then there are the visitations: the rare times a stranger crosses a threshold without permission or warning, causing a disruption in the whole system. Like the April afternoon a woman came to Leah Hanwell’s door, seeking help, disturbing the peace, forcing Leah out of her isolation…

Thoughts on the story:

In classic Zadie Smith fashion, NW is a challenging book, one which falls somewhere between a novel and a collection of linked stories. Leah and Natalie’s stories are very much intertwined and inform one another. The girls grew up together in the Caldwell housing estates and have achieved varying degrees of success. Felix’s story is only tangentially related to the women’s stories and, for me, was more of a distraction than anything else. It was quite a long digression in the middle of the book that nearly made me lose interest. Overall, though, I thought that the stories Smith told did a wonderful job showcasing the diversity of urban life in NW London.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Let’s just be honest, Don Gilet is probably the only thing that kept me interested in Felix’s story when it interrupted those of Leah and Natalie, he did a truly wonderful job. I am slightly more conflicted about Karen Bryson’s performance. On one hand, she is practically a chameleon with voices and accents. She is able to differentiate between characters and bring them fully to life. On the other hand, she has a tendency to make wet mouth noises, which have a tendency to give me the creeps. At least one time when she smacks her mouth it is a conscious choice in voicing a character, but it seems much of the rest of the time that this is just her natural inclination between words, which bothers me a bit.

Overall:

NW is challenging, but worthwhile. I am certain that the audio helped me make it through what might have been a more difficult read in print, but listeners overly disturbed by wet mouth noises in narration may want to give this a miss.

For more please see my review for Audiofile Magazine.

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

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.

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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City of Women by David Gillham – Audiobook Review

City of Women by David Gillham, narrated by Suzanne Bertish
Published in audio by Penguin Audio, published in print by Amy Einhorn Books, both imprints of Penguin

Synopsis:

By 1943, Berlin is essentially devoid of men. Those who are left are mostly far too old or far too young to go to war, or they’ve been left behind for some other reason. Sigrid Schroder is just one of the many women left in Berlin, living with her bitter old mother-in-law while her husband is at the front. Although she may seem like a good German wife, Sigrid is not satisfied with her life as it is, first beginning an affair with a Jewish and then befriending a somewhat odd young girl nannying for a family in her building.  Before long, Sigrid’s world view – particularly her understanding of her country and the war in which it is engaged – has been turned on its head, making her do things she would have never previously considered.

Thoughts on the story:

You may be “ho-hum”ing about yet another World War II novel, but Gillham does come at the subject with a fresh set of eyes by concentrating on the German home front. There is a quiet, slow build to City of Women that can make the early pages somewhat of a slow start, which may cause some readers to have difficulty getting into the story, I certainly did. It took me twice as long to listen to the first half of this as the second half, because I just didn’t find myself making time for it. As Gillham’s story unravels, though, I became increasingly invested in Sigrid’s life, and curious to see how her character would continue to develop. There is a pretty major character arc throughout the book, but it is all set up very well and is quite believable.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Suzanne Bertish is, I believe, a new-to-me narrator, but she does a wonderful job narrating City of Women. Part of the believability of Sigrid’s character arc is attributable to Bertish’s excellent vocal characterization. Bertish also does a great job of making clear which pieces of text are dialog, so that it is easy to follow what is happening at any given time.

For more, see my review for Audiofile Magazine.

Overall:

Quite enjoyable after the slow beginning. I do think I might have connected earlier in print, but I suppose that isn’t something I can really know.

By the way! If you’re now thinking you want to read this book, but not listen, the ebook will be $2.99 on all ebook platforms on Sunday, October 21 (or so I’m told).

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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Gilt by Katherine Longshore – Audiobook Review

Gilt by Katherine Longshore, narrated by Jennifer Ikeda
Published in audio by Penguin Audio; published in print by Viking Juvenile, both imprints of Penguin

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

When Kitty Tylney’s best friend, Catherine Howard, worms her way into King Henry VIII’s heart and brings Kitty to court, she’s thrust into a world filled with fabulous gowns, sparkling jewels, and elegant parties. No longer stuck in Cat’s shadow, Kitty’s now caught between two men–the object of her affection and the object of her desire. But court is also full of secrets, lies, and sordid affairs, and as Kitty witnesses Cat’s meteoric rise and fall as queen, she must figure out how to keep being a good friend when the price of telling the truth could literally be her head.

Thoughts on the story:

Oh, you guys, I loved Gilt so hard. SO hard. Catherine Howard is a hard wife of Henry VIII to know what to do with. Unlike Anne Boleyn it seems likely that she was actually guilty of the crimes of which she was accused, so then the question becomes whether she was naïve or calculating; did she somehow fall into a trap of adultery or was she out to get what she wanted? The problem with telling her story is that the naïve girl who simply wants to love her dear Thomas Culpepper is sort of boring, and the young woman who is not above using her sexuality to manipulate situations in her favor isn’t the most likable of characters.

Katherine Longshore solves this problem by giving us the spoiled, manipulative Cat that we love to hate, but not forcing the reader to experience the entire story through her unsympathetic point of view. Instead of we are treated to Cat’s meteoric rise and downfall through the eyes of Kitty Tilney, a hanger-on and distant relation who always considered Cat Howard to be her best friend. Cat uses and abuses Kitty in ways that increase the drama of the story without giving way to melodrama. It also allows for a story of Kitty’s personal growth in a real and organic way, which means that Gilt isn’t just repeating a tired old Tudor storyline.

One note: Gilt is being marketed as a young adult novel and certainly works as one, partly because of the ages of the main characters, but it is a very mature young adult novel and doesn’t shy away from the adultery, rape, and politics happening at court. There is no reason why adult fans of Tudor historical fiction should shy away from this one based on the marketing label.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Jennifer Ikeda does a great job narrating Gilt. She’s believable as Kitty and does a good job with the voices. Like Longshore, she does a wonderful job finding the balance between expressing the drama inherent in the story and avoiding unnecessary melodrama.

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

Overall:

I have every confidence that I would have loved Gilt in print, but the audio is a fantastic option as well. Really, I’m just glad I got to experience Longshore’s version of Catherine Howard.

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

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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The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney – Audiobook Review

The Invisible Ones by Stef Penney, narrated by Dan Stevens
Published in audio by Penguin Audio, published in print by Putnam Books, both imprints of Penguin

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

Small-time private investigator Ray Lovell veers between paralysis and delirium in a hospital bed. But before the accident that landed him there, he’d been hired to find Rose Janko, the wife of a charismatic son of a traveling Gypsy family, who went missing seven years earlier. Half Romany himself, Ray is well aware that he’s been chosen more for his blood than his investigative skills. Still, he’s surprised by the intense hostility he encounters from the Jankos, who haven’t had an easy past. Touched by tragedy, they’re either cursed or hiding a terrible secret-whose discovery Ray can’t help suspecting is connected to Rose’s disappearance. . . .

Thoughts on the story:

With The Invisible Ones, Penney created a fascinating, twisting mystery with a level of detail about the lives of the Romany people that lends the story an air of authenticity. The characterization was very well done, particularly as the cast of characters expanded with the extended Janko family. My only real qualm is that I figured out the majority of the conclusion by about halfway through the book. Now, this may have been partially because I overheard a bit of discussion between two others who had read the book and something they said may have sparked the answer in my brain, I’m honestly not completely sure if I was looking for the answer or if it just was a bit too obvious. The good news is that even with being fairly certain of the ending I enjoyed the road Penney took me down to get there.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Let me just say a two things here. First of all, Dan Stevens has a super dreamy voice. Second, he is an extraordinarily accomplished narrator, both in imbuing the authors words with genuine life and in his ability to differentiate between characters. For more, please read my review for Audiofile Magazine.

Overall:

An absorbing mystery that is only enhanced by the absolutely amazing narration of Dan Stevens. Grab the audio!

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

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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