Blood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant – Audiobook Review

bloodandbeauty zps8a2ade86 pictureBlood and Beauty by Sarah Dunant, narrated by Edoardo Ballerini
Published in audio by Random House Audio, published in print by Random House

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

By the end of the fifteenth century, the beauty and creativity of Italy is matched by its brutality and corruption, nowhere more than in Rome and inside the Church. When Cardinal Rodrigo Borgia buys his way into the papacy as Alexander VI, he is defined not just by his wealth or his passionate love for his illegitimate children, but by his blood: He is a Spanish Pope in a city run by Italians. If the Borgias are to triumph, this charismatic, consummate politician with a huge appetite for life, women, and power must use papacy and family – in particular, his eldest son, Cesare, and his daughter Lucrezia – in order to succeed.

Cesare, with a dazzlingly cold intelligence and an even colder soul, is his greatest – though increasingly unstable – weapon. Later immortalized in Machiavelli’s The Prince, he provides the energy and the muscle. Lucrezia, beloved by both men, is the prime dynastic tool. Twelve years old when the novel opens, hers is a journey through three marriages, and from childish innocence to painful experience, from pawn to political player.

Thoughts on the story:

The Borgias rival the Tudors as one of the most dramatic families of the European Renaissance. Dunant approaches the family with a very literary and somewhat reserved bent. In the early pages of Blood and Beauty I worried that I would have a difficult time getting into the book because Dunant keeps the reader very distant from her characters. I need not have worried, though. Dunant tells the story of the Borgias beautifully and with such reality and tension that even knowing the history and where all of their lives were headed, I was completely rapt.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Edoardo Ballerini. You guys. He’s fabulous. Like, he’s just really fabulous. I’ve got a serious audio crush on him now. Every part of his performance is masterful.

soundbytes pictureOverall:

Amazing. The book, the audio edition, all of it. Read it or, even better, listen.

For more information, see the publisher’s page.
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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Revolutionary Summer by Joseph Ellis – Audiobook Review

revolutionarysummer zpsbbc333c4 pictureRevolutionary Summer: The Birth of American Independence by Joseph J. Ellis, narrated by Stefan Rudnicki
Published in audio by Random House Audio, published in print by Knopf, both imprints of Random House

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

The summer months of 1776 witnessed the most consequential events in the story of our country’s founding. While the thirteen colonies came together and agreed to secede from the British Empire, the British were dispatching the largest armada ever to cross the Atlantic to crush the rebellion in the cradle. The Continental Congress and the Continental Army were forced to make decisions on the run, improvising as history congealed around them. In a brilliant and seamless narrative, Ellis meticulously examines the most influential figures in this propitious moment, including George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, and Britain’s Admiral Lord Richard and General William Howe. He weaves together the political and military experiences as two sides of a single story, and shows how events on one front influenced outcomes on the other.

Thoughts on the story:

I am seriously impressed by Revolutionary Summer. It is a relatively brief book, just about seven hours in audio, but Ellis conveys a lot of information – including much that is glossed over in most accounts – in a very clear manner. He intertwines both the political and the military happenings of that summer, showing readers how they interrelate and influence one another. It is well-organized and informative, really a top-notch history.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Rudnicki has a wonderfully resonant voice and presents Revolutionary Summer clearly, adding just the right amount of audible interest.

soundbytes pictureOverall:

A wonderful audiobook and a wonderful look at American history. A great listen for 4th of July weekend.

For more information, please see the publisher’s page.
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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Confessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas – Audiobook Review

confessionsofasociopath zpsb1e8b04b pictureConfessions of a Sociopath by M.E. Thomas, narrated by Bernadette Sullivan
Published in audio by Random House Audio, published in print by Crown Books, both imprints of Random House

If you’re participating in Audiobook Week don’t forget to link up your reviews to the review linky.

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

Confessions of a Sociopath takes readers on a journey into the mind of a sociopath, revealing what makes the tick and what that means for the rest of humanity.   Written from the point of view of a diagnosed sociopath, it unveils these men and women who are “hiding in plain sight” for the very first time.

Confessions of a Sociopath is part confessional memoir, part primer for the wary. Drawn from Thomas’ own experiences; her popular blog, Sociopathworld.com; and current and historical scientific literature, it reveals just how different – and yet often very similar – sociopaths are from the rest of the world. The book confirms suspicions and debunks myths about sociopathy and is both the memoir of a high-functioning, law-abiding (well, mostly) sociopath and a roadmap – right from the source – for dealing with the sociopath in your life, be it a boss, sibling, parent, spouse, child, neighbor, colleague or friend.

Thoughts on the story:

At times M.E.’s story seems to contradict itself and I would be reminded that the narrator of this book self-identifies as a sociopath and wonder just how much I could trust her. Looking back now, I am not certain whether M.E. is a consciously unreliable narrator or if her lack of trust-worthiness has more to do with with a certain amount of self-delusion that is connected with her condition.

I found the first third of Confessions of a Sociopath to be the most interesting part, particularly the discussion of the lack of recognition of risk and all of the rotten food M.E. has eaten because the threat of food poisoning is not a deterrent. I was also interested in M.E.’s childhood and fairly incredulous when she describes it as not having been so bad, when it pretty clearly sounds terrible to me.

There is a point towards the end where the narrative begins to drag, particularly as M.E. begins to talk about all of her romantic conquests; that section goes on much longer than I was able to maintain interest. Of course, by that time I was pretty well invested in the book, so it wasn’t too big of a problem.

audiobookweekbutton zpsdb6e126c picture Thoughts on the audio production:

Bernadette Sullivan’s narration in Confessions of a Sociopath is not a delivery that would work in most audiobooks, but her dispassionate (although not without vocal interest) patter accentuates Thomas’s own style of writing and makes you truly believe you are listening to a sociopath tell you her story.

Overall:

Confessions of a Sociopath is a highly engaging – if at times very disturbing – audiobook. Recommended

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

 

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Snapper by Brian Kimberling – Audiobook Review

snapper zps118b0890 pictureSnapper 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.

soundbytes pictureOverall:

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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Salt Sugar Fat by Michael Moss – Audiobook Review

saltsugarfat zps4f26ac1a pictureSalt Sugar Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us by Michael Moss, narrated by Scott Brick
Published in audio by Random House Audio, published in print by Random House

Synopsis (partial synopsis from the publisher):

Moss takes us inside the labs where food scientists use cutting-edge technology to calculate the “bliss point” of sugary beverages or enhance the “mouthfeel” of fat by manipulating its chemical structure. He unearths marketing campaigns designed—in a technique adapted from tobacco companies—to redirect concerns about the health risks of their products: Dial back on one ingredient, pump up the other two, and tout the new line as “fat-free” or “low-salt.” He talks to concerned executives who confess that they could never produce truly healthy alternatives to their products even if serious regulation became a reality. Simply put: The industry itself would cease to exist without salt, sugar, and fat. Just as millions of “heavy users”—as the companies refer to their most ardent customers—are addicted to this seductive trio, so too are the companies that peddle them. You will never look at a nutrition label the same way again.

Thoughts on the story:

The one thing I’m really still stuck on from Salt, Sugar, Fat is the part where Coca Cola refers to people who consume a lot of its product as “heavy users.” The drug analogy continues throughout much of the book, as Moss explores our physiological and cultural addictions to  the titular ingredients. Moss does a fabulous job covering exactly how we got to where we are and just why it is so problematic. I was continually astounded by the prominence of Moss’s sources in the food industry; he clearly did his research and it is evident in the wealth of very well-presented information in the book. There was only one thing I did not love about Salt Sugar Fat, and that was how much my OCD self was bothered by the fact that  these building blocks of processed food are discussed in a different order than the title: sugar, fat, then salt instead of salt, sugar, then fat. It drove me a little crazy, particularly during section changes, but Moss’s astounding work still sucked me back in immediately

Thoughts on the audio production:

Scott Brick, I have finally listened to you! Besides Simon Vance, Scott Brick is the only audiobook narrator I know who has his very own superfan. Audible has close to 500 results for Scott Brick’s name, but despite the number of audiobooks I have listened to over the last few years, I have never heard him until now. Nonfiction narration is generally not what inspires superfandom, but Brick does a wonderful job with Salt Sugar Fat. Because Moss inserts himself in his research from time to time, the book often has an almost conversational quality (if you have conversations with REALLY SMART people who know an awful lot about nutrition and food science), and Brick translates this wonderfully straight into the listener’s ear. He does that thing where you forget that you are listening to a narrator speak someone else’s words and tricks you into believing that he is the author and he knows ALL THESE THINGS AND MORE. Really top-notch.

soundbytes pictureOverall:

General nonfiction caveats apply here: if you want to really study the material and be able to easily go back and reference things, you are probably best served either with print or a combination of print and audio. However, if you just want to be exposed to Moss’s research, the audio production of Salt Sugar Fat is wonderful and one I highly recommend.

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

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.

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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