Hand Me Down by Melanie Thorne – Audiobook Review

Hand Me Down by Melanie Thorne, narrated by Ali Ahn
Published in audio by Recorded Books; published in print by Plume, an imprint of Penguin

Synopsis:

Life has not been easy for fourteen year old Elizabeth Reid and her sister Jaimie. Things got better for awhile once their  mother left their abusive, alcoholic father. The man she brought into their lives next, though, was worse. Terrance is a convicted sex offender who has been jailed more than once for the crimes of exposing himself to and assaulting women. Although Liz’s mother swears up and down that Terrance poses no threat to her adolescent daughters, the lascivious looks and glancing touches he gives Liz tell her otherwise. Worse still are his threats that if Liz pushes back too hard on his flirtatious advances he will turn to her sister. It is almost a relief when Terrance’s parole officer decides that he can have no unsupervised visits with the girls, meaning he can no longer live in the same house as his stepdaughters. The only problem is that Liz’s mother chooses her new husband over her daughters, leaving the girls’ housing to the whims of friends and family.

Thoughts on the story:

With Hand Me Down, Thorne has created a story that draws in the reader immediately. Within less than half an hour of starting the audio, I was tweeting about how incensed I was on behalf of the main character, because the adults in her life put her in such a terrible position. Liz’s mom, in particular, is barely worthy of the title. Thorne does explore her backstory a bit, so that the reader can get an idea of what may have made her so monumentally stupid in this situation, but it isn’t so much that I ever really gave up hating her for her willful blindness. The hate didn’t make me dislike the book, though. On the contrary, the hate just showed me how completely invested I was in Liz’s story, and I, well, devourered Thorne’s story.

Now, yes, the protagonist is fourteen. No, this is not a young adult book, although it certainly has crossover appeal. Why is this an adult book? Well, partly because that is just how it is marketed. Partly also because the setting makes Liz more a contemporary of mine (perhaps even older than me), rather those of kids who are teenagers today. It also just feels as if it was written with an adult audience in mind, which is sort of an intangible quality, but there nonetheless.

Thoughts on the audio production:

I was quite impressed with Ali Ahn’s narration. She does a fabulous job differentiating between voices young and old, male and female. Her portrayal of Elizabeth in particular is quite moving. My only qualm about the audio production is that there were occasionally slightly odd pauses, seemingly the result of imperfect editing. The pause would seem as if the scene had ended, but it would quickly become clear once the narration resumed that the same scene was still ongoing. This happens just a handful of times so it isn’t enough to impede the overall enjoyment of this production – particularly with Ahn’s masterful narration – it is just enough to notice.

Overall:

A moving book paired with an equally moving performance, Hand Me Down is a fabulous listen.

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

Source: Author.
* 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.

 

Mister Linky’s Magical Widgets

This plugin requires intervention by this site’s administrator.

To display the widget for this post, please click here.

Digiprove sealCopyright protected by Digiprove © 2013

The Surrendered – Audiobook Review

The Surrendered by Chang-Rae Lee, narrated by James Yaegashi
Published in print by Riverhead, an imprint of Penguin
Published in audio by Recorded Books

Synopsis:

As much as I hate using the publisher’s description of books, I think I may have to for “The Surrendered.” There was so much going on I don’t think I can put it together coherently.

June Han was only a girl when the Korean War left her orphaned; Hector Brennan was a young GI who fled the petty tragedies of his small town to serve his country. When the war ended, their lives collided at a Korean orphanage where they vied for the attentions of Sylvie Tanner, the beautiful yet deeply damaged missionary wife whose elusive love seemed to transform everything. Thirty years later and on the other side of the world, June and Hector are reunited in a plot that will force them to come to terms with the mysterious secrets of their past, and the shocking acts of love and violence that bind them together.

As Lee unfurls the stunning story of June, Hector, and Sylvie, he weaves a profound meditation on the nature of heroism and sacrifice, the power of love, and the possibilities for mercy, salvation, and surrendering oneself to another. Combining the complex themes of identity and belonging of Native Speaker and A Gesture Life with the broad range, energy, and pure storytelling gifts of Aloft, Chang-rae Lee has delivered his most ambitious, exciting, and unforgettable work yet. It is a mesmeriz­ing novel, elegantly suspenseful and deeply affecting.

Thoughts on the story:

I really didn’t quite like the way that “The Surrendered” was structured. It opened with June in Korea, and then jumped ahead to her adult life. Shortly after we realize that she’s very sick and about to go off in search of her child, we jump to a pretty long section on Hector. At that point I had no idea how they really connected, and wasn’t sure why we had left June. I thought that this just went on too long, and it really broke up my investment in the story. In addition, June’s search for her son seemed to me like it was too much simply a vehicle to get her and Hector together and to tell their story in Korea, it didn’t have enough of an emotional impact for my taste. I think I would have preferred “The Surrendered” had it been set solely in Korea, with perhaps some flashbacks to Hector’s life before the war.

Thoughts on the audio production:

I’m sort of sad, because this production was so well done, and yet it so didn’t work for me. My first problem was that the entire first two discs worth of story didn’t have any dialog at all. This is obviously not the fault of James Yaegashi or Recorded Books, but it made it seem like Yaegashi was reading more than narrating. It wasn’t until I got farther into the story that I realized what a good narrator he actually really is. My biggest problem with “The Surrendered” in audio, though, was all the jumping around the story did between characters and in time. Perhaps I’m just not yet a sophisticated enough connoisseur, but I have a difficult time following most stories that jump around a lot in audio. I find that in print there tend to be clues in the formatting of the book, and it is much easier for me to jump back to find where that thread of storyline left off in print.

Overall:

Because so many factors contributed to me not really liking “The Surrendered” I think that others with different pet peeves many enjoy it, but I can’t quite recommend it.

Buy this book from:
Audible: Audio
Powells: Print*
A local independent bookstore via Indiebound: Print*
Amazon: Print*

This review was done with an audiobook received from Recorded Books for review.
* 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 © 2010