Eighty Days by Matthew Goodman – Audiobook Review

Eighty Days: Nellie Bly and Elizabeth Bisland’s History-Making Race Around the World by Matthew Goodman, narrated by Kathe Mazur
Published in audio by Random House Audio, published in print by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House, both imprints of Random House

Synopsis:

November 14, 1889, Nellie Bly set off to travel around the world in less than eighty days, an attempt to break the record set by Jules Verne’s fictional character Phileas Fogg from the novel Around the World in Eighty Days. Bly’s travel was paid for by the paper she worked for, Joseph Pulitzer’s World paper in New York. Although the idea originated with her, by the end of the day Nellie Bly was not the only young woman traveling around the world. The publishers of The Cosmopolitan decided to send Elizabeth Bisland, who wrote a books column for the magazine, on her own journey heading west instead of east, in at attempt to beat not only Phileas Fogg, but Nellie Bly as well.

Thoughts on the story:

I love it when authors find fascinating historical events about which I know nothing and tell it really well. I knew a bit about Nellie Bly before Eighty Days, but interestingly not about her race around the world. My knowledge was limited to her expose on the insane asylum on Blackwell Island, a reference it is possible I learned from my massive The West Wing marathon earlier this year. Goodman lays his story out very clearly, alternating between the two women’s stories in a way that is faithful to the timeline while still maintaining a good flow. While the book itself is rather long, it has a good pace and is continually interesting.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Kathe Mazur does a wonderful job narrating. Like Goodman’s writing itself, she maintains a good pace and, while she doesn’t do much vocal differentiation between the stories, it isn’t really necessary or called for here, and there is no problem keeping the narrative straight.

For more, please see my review for Audiofile Magazine.

Overall:

A long book, but well worth the read. Fascinating and highly recommended.

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

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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Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio – Audiobook Review

Parlor Games by Maryka Biaggio, narrated by Leslie Carroll
Published in audio by Random House Audio, published in print by Doubleday, both imprints of Random House

Synopsis:

Of course it would end like this, with May on trial for extortion. After all, she has been named the “Most Dangerous Woman” by the Pinkerton Detective Agency and one Pinkerton in particular seems to be trailing her. All May has ever wanted was to provide for her family and get out of her small Michigan town. Chicago had promise, and was so close to home, but that damned Pinkerton Reed Doherty first targeted her there, necessitating a life on the move, always looking for the place she could settle down and be secure.

Thoughts on the story:

Love!

May is a fabulous, if possibly unreliable, main narrator. She’s smart, sly, and self-assured and her story is an absolutely fascinating one. Biaggio leads her readers all over Europe and the continental United States at the turn of the 20th century. Is May really a con woman? Does she just want a good and secure life? Both? Neither? Biaggio has a great sense of pacing, moving back and forth deftly between the trial and the years leading up to it, never losing her reader’s interest. This is the whole package: lovely writing, great story, amazing characters, and vivid settings.

Thoughts on the audio production:

If you pick up the audio, you actually get the whole package plus, because Leslie Carroll’s narration captures May beautifully. Like Biaggio, she has great pacing, and the voices she creates for the secondary and tertiary characters bring listeners even more fully into May’s story.

For more please see my review for Audiofile Magazine.

Overall:

Such a fabulous book and, as good as I’m sure it is in print, the audio production adds that extra je ne sais quoi. I adored it, very highly recommended.

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

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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The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis – Audiobook Review

The Twelve Tribes of Hattie by Ayana Mathis, narrated by Adenrele Ojo, Bahni Turpin, and Adam Lazarre-White
Published in audio by Random House Audio; published in print by Knopf, both imprints of Random House

Synopsis:

When 15 year old Hattie leaves Georgia for Philadelphia in 1923, she’s looking for a better life in the North. What she finds instead is a life that will bring her sadness, sorrow, and oh-so-many children. Over the next half century, each of Hattie’s children will be affected by the sorrow she finds, and the bad choices she makes. Some will be able to move on, others will find themselves irrevocably damaged by the the love they wish they had had from their mother.

Thoughts on the story:

Oh man, Ayana Mathis brings the sorrow immediately with the death of Hattie’s first children, young twins. Twins! I almost had to abandon it right there because Mathis tells of Hattie’s loss in a way that is raw and real and it was twins and I very nearly couldn’t handle it. I’m glad I did, though, and before long I understood why Mathis had to start with something so difficult, because the loss of Hattie’s babies informs everything else that happens throughout the novel.

Actually, about that. Some readers might find The Twelve Tribes of Hattie more satisfying if they think of it as a collection of highly linked and chronological stories instead of as a novel. Each section of the book focuses on a different of Hattie’s children and the real cohesion comes in the form of an understanding of their family dynamics. Some threads of storyline are woven throughout of many or all of the pieces, but this is not a traditional narrative. Once I stopped expecting the traditional narrative I thoroughly enjoyed the way Mathis told this family’s story. By touching lightly on each of the children, she actually gave a much more complete look at their lives than she would have if she had simply told the entire story from Hattie’s point of view and simply mentioned each of her children briefly.

Thoughts on the audio production:

I chose to listen to The Twelve Tribes of Hattie instead of reading it because of Bahni Turpin and Adam Lazarre-White, both of whom I’ve thoroughly enjoyed in the past. Although both of them did a wonderful job, I am not entirely sure why they were brought in.  I assumed that Lazarre-White would narrate for all of Hattie’s male children, but he did not, Ojo narrated the vast majority of the book, including more than one section from a man’s point of view. I also imagined that Turpin would narrate a fair number of Hattie’s female children, but her part was very minor as well. I very much enjoyed their performances, but it did distract me slightly trying to figure out the logic behind it. Ojo was a new-to-me narrator and was, by and large, very good. I did find she was occasionally a bit too halting, but for the most part I really enjoyed the audio production.

Overall:

I can see why Oprah picked The Twelve Tribes of Hattie as the first book for her reboot of her book club. It is an interesting and worthwhile story, and I definitely enjoyed it in audio. Recommended.

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: 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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Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin – Audiobook Review

Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin, narrated by Kathe Mazur
Published in audio by Random House Audio, published in print by Crown, an imprint of Random House

Synopsis:

In The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin discovered the ways to make herself happy. In Happier at Home, she reprises her attempts to make herself more happy, this time focusing on that center of a happy life, her home.

Thoughts on the story:

I’m starting to get a bit overwhelmed by Rubin’s attempts at happiness. Not the projects she undertakes, but her lists. She has personal commandments, splendid truths, and rules of adulthood. These were, by and large, laid out in her first book, The Happiness Project, and simply referenced (and added to) in Happier at Home. This was, frankly, sort of confusing. Perhaps in the printed version these are listed in an appendix, but for the audio I would have liked to have them all listed out at the beginning. It has been two years and probably 400 books since I read The Happiness Project, so I really didn’t remember what all of Rubin’s splendid truths are, which had a tendency to make them seem a bit out of left field when she mentioned one.

Something about Happier at Home seemed much more personal than The Happiness Project. In The Happiness Project I more got the idea that we were looking at broad ideas and then how Rubin fit them with her commandment to “be Gretchen.” Happier at Home seemed to be closer to “here are things  that will make me happy.” That is all well and good and does make for interesting reading, but there seems to be less that is directly applicable.

Thoughts on the audio production:

The structure of Happier at Home is not the easiest to discern in audio. There are subsections within each chapter, but it took me a few chapters to figure out that at the beginning of each chapter Mazur was reading a list of the subsections before she delved into the first topic. There isn’t much that Mazur could have changed about this, as a narrator, and I’m not entirely sure what I would have liked the director or producer to do, but this confusion definitely hampered my listening experience. Other than that, the audio is a good way to experience Happier at Home if you are not looking to take notes on what Rubin did to try for yourself. In this way I think Happier at Home is a better listen than The Happiness Project would be because of its seemingly more personal nature.

Overall:

Despite Kathe Mazur’s good narration, I think the organization of Happier at Home would make print a better choice here. You also may only want to pick this up if you are reasonably familiar with The Happiness Project.

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: 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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I Am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits – Audiobook Review

I am Forbidden by Anouk Markovits, narrated by Rosalyn Landor
Published in audio by Random House Audio, published in print by Hogarth Books, both imprints of Random House

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

Sweeping from the Central European countryside just before World War II to Paris to contemporary Williamsburg, Brooklyn, I Am Forbidden brings to life four generations of one Satmar family.

Opening in 1939 Transylvania, five-year-old Josef witnesses the murder of his family by the Romanian Iron Guard and is rescued by a Gentile maid to be raised as her own son. Five years later, Josef rescues a young girl, Mila, after her parents are killed while running to meet the Rebbe they hoped would save them. Josef helps Mila reach Zalman Stern, a leader in the Satmar community, in whose home Mila is raised as a sister to Zalman’s daughter, Atara. As the two girls mature, Mila’s faith intensifies, while her beloved sister Atara discovers a world of books and learning that she cannot ignore. With the rise of communism in central Europe, the family moves to Paris, to the Marais, where Zalman tries to raise his children apart from the city in which they live.

When the two girls come of age, Mila marries within the faith, while Atara continues to question fundamentalist doctrine. The different choices the two sisters makes force them apart until a dangerous secret threatens to banish them from the only community they’ve ever known.

Thoughts on the story:

There are times early on in I am Forbidden when the reader may wonder exactly what is going on and have trouble following the threads of relationship. By the time the family moves to Williamsburg, however, Marouk’s narrative straightens itself out and becomes increasingly engaging. That Satmar society is not one I am familiar with, and it was fascinating to learn more about them through Mila and Atara and their differing views on their faith. Markovits seems to be very respectful of the culture, even when he seems to disagree with some of the specifics – or at least his characters do. As a result, I am Forbidden is filled with genuine emotion and a quiet drama.

Thoughts on the audio production:

In I am Forbidden Rosalyn Landor is, as always, fabulous. She brings poise and a quiet dignity to the story, which works very well with the world Markovits creates. Landor is one of those narrators I could simply sit and listen to for hours, she’s just that good, and I am Forbidden is no exception.

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

Overall:

I am Forbidden is a lovely, quiet novel that works very well in audio, largely thanks to Rosalyn Landor’s performance. Recommended.

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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