The Fault in Our Stars by John Green – Audiobook Review

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, narrated by Kate Rudd
Published in audio by Brilliance Audio; published in print by Dutton Juvenile, an imprint of Penguin

Synopsis:

Hazel Grace Lancaster isn’t a huge fan of her cancer support group. It is the same thing over and over, other than the fact that the list of the dead grows ever longer. When smart and cancer survivor cynical Augustus Waters joins the group to support a friend, though, Hazel finally has a reason to go, and a reason to connect to the people around her. As a cancer kid who has been out of school for years, Hazel is no longer particularly close to her peers, but Augustus understands her in a way that others cannot. And, perhaps most importantly, he understands her love of Peter Van Houten’s book, An Imperial Affliction. In fact, Augustus is even willing to use his wish for a trip to Holland so that he and Hazel can meet Van Houten and attempt to gain closure on his story.

Thoughts on the story:

Many people have felt emotionally manipulated by The Fault in Our Stars, but I don’t think it is particularly manipulative. The main characters are, after all, a boy who is in remission with bone cancer and a girl with terminal thyroid cancer. There is inherently some measure of manipulation in such a story, unless the author goes the direction of being completely unrealistic. Once you sign on to read a book where nearly everyone is incredibly sick, you must expect some incredibly sad moments. John Green definitely brought the sad and emotional moments in The Fault in Our Stars. One of the most emotionally affecting moments is Hazel’s determination that she will not be a grenade in the lives of people she loves, hence her attempt to distance herself from those around her.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Kate Rudd is a wonderful match for The Fault in Our Stars. She perfectly captures both Hazel’s fear and her sarcasm. It is amazing how she and Green’s words can cause a listener to actually laugh out loud about the plight of being a teenager with cancer, but she does and it is incredibly effective. It is important to be careful to when and where you are listening to this, though, because the audiobook is, at times, tear-inducing.

Overall:

Yes, this is a very emotional book, and as such won’t be for everyone. I can certainly understand that some people have felt manipulated, but I found The Fault in Our Stars to be a tragically lovely book, one that is certain to work well in either print or 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: Library.
* 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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Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung – Book Review

Forgotten Country by Catherine Chung
Published by Riverhead Books, an imprint of Penguin

In every generation of Janie’s family, one sister is lost. Her aunt, for instance, was ostensibly kidnapped from her college dorm by North Koreans, never to be heard from again. Even worse, the family could not attempt to look for her, because the insinuation that one had dealings with North Korea could ruin a Korean family. Janie, at least, has the freedom to look for her sister Hannah. For one thing, their family now lives in America, having moved there when the girls were young for fear of repercussions from Janie’s father’s politics.

When Hannah disappears without a trace – although clearly voluntarily – it would certainly be possible for Janie to track her down and, initially, she contemplates doing so. After their father is diagnosed with late-stage cancer, though, Janie begins to feel increasingly frustrated with and betrayed by her sister. Hannah is not their for their father, their family, so why should Janie expend energy on trying to draw her back into the fold? When the girls’ parents return to Korea in hopes finding a doctor who can cure their father – or at least prolong his life – Janie is forced to track Hannah down, whether or not she actually wants her sister to return.

With Forgotten Country Chung has created a beautifully sad portrait of a family. That they are Korean and have immigrated to the United States and return to their native land is in some ways incidental to the universal story of family love, jealousy, and betrayal. At the same time, it is their cultural heritage and immigration status and the authentic ways that these aspects of who they are inform their lives that brings Chung’s characters so vividly to life.

Chung’s writing is beautiful and her characters are alive, so I can recommend Forgotten Country without reservation.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, for BOOK CLUB.
* 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 Orchard by Theresa Weir – Audiobook Review

The Orchard by Theresa Weir, narrated by Ellen Archer
Published in audio by Hachette Audio, published in print by TK

Synopsis:

Theresa Weir had a tough life as a child, and things didn’t really become any easier when she married Adrian Curtis and joined him on his family’s apple farm. Derided as an outsider – particularly by Adrian’s mother – Theresa must struggle to find her place in this world, even as she has significant reservations about the use of pesticides.

Thoughts on the story:

The Orchard had a bit of a slow start, mostly because of the slightly odd timeline. The book is nearly half over before Adrian and Theresa wed, even though they know each other for only a few months before marrying (this portion includes a lot of flashbacks to Theresa’s childhood, which are edifying, but perhaps not enough to justify drawing this part out so much). The second half of the book comprises the entire rest of Theresa and Adrian’s life together, which gives some events a rushed feel. Suddenly, the couple has two children, next thing you know, Theresa is writing a book, and then is a published author. Still, despite what is an initially puzzling timeline, Weir has created a story with power and heart. Both a very personal memoir, and an exploration of the place of pesticides in farming.

 

Thoughts on the audio production:

Ellen Archer did a wonderful job conveying Weir’s life. For my full audio review, please see my Audiofile Magazine review.

Overall:

A moving book, very well narrated. 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.
* 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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Damascus by Joshua Mohr – Book Review

Damascus by Joshua Mohr
Published by Two Dollar Radio

Love, sex, cancer, war, protest, and identity collide in a dingy bar located in San Francisco’s Mission District in Joshua Mohr’s Damascus. There is a surprisingly large and well-drawn cast of characters for such a short book. The lynchpin is Owen, the owner of the bar, whose livelihood makes the interactions of all of the other characters possible, and whose life is made somewhat miserable by the Hitler mustache-esque birthmark on his upper lip until he dons a used Santa costume to hide it from the world. Among the rest of the ragtag bunch is a divorced barfly nicknamed Shambles who has an unexpected connection with the unnamed man – referred to only as No Eyebrows for most of the book – who is dying from cancer. Rounding out the bunch are Owen’s niece Daphne and her protesting artist friend Syl, and Byron, the drunk Iraq War veteran Owen takes in temporarily.

It is impressive how vividly Mohr paints his characters, and how richly he weaves their stories in a book just slightly over 200 pages. Many of them have immense pain and anger in their lives, and have made non-conventional decisions, but even so they are beautifully alive, with enough humanity that readers in vastly different circumstances will still be able to understand where the characters are coming from.

Full of pain, anguish, and beautiful writing, Damascus may not be for the faint of heart, but it is perfect for readers who don’t mind having their heart torn out.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

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.
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The Emperor of All Maladies by Siddhartha Mukherjee – Audiobook Review

The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee, narrated by Stephen Hoye
Published in audio by Tantor Media, published in print by Scribner, an imprint of Simon & Schuster

Synopsis:

“The Emperor of All Maladies” is a sprawling and epic biography of cancer from its earliest mentions, through a rocky history full of misunderstandings, to the latest and greatest cancer drugs of the present.

Thoughts on the work:

Absolutely fascinating.

Almost 600 pages or 21 hours of a discourse on cancer sounds perhaps somewhat intimidating, but Mukherhjee has created a fairly comprehensive biography which can be easily grasped by laymen, but is still detailed. I cannot even begin to list all of the things I learned. The section which has stuck with me more than anything else is the discussion on carcinogens and how they actually cause cancer. My level of thought on that had always been limited more or less to ‘they do,’ without questioning the how. This is merely one example of how Mukherjee makes the reader examine what she thinks she really knows about cancer. I cannot think of a single section of “The Emperor of All Maladies” that failed to excite my interest and curiosity. Best of all, Mukherjee walks the line of intellectual and easily understandable with grace and ease.

Thoughts on the audio production:

I was not terribly fond of Hoye at the outset, but he grew on me throughout the 21 hours of this audiobook. Largely I think he just got out of the way of Mukherjee’s work, but I think that was really exactly what needed to be done. Please see my review for AudioFile Magazine for more details.

Overall:

I would absolutely recommend “The Emperor of All Maladies.” Whether you partake in print or audio should be determined by the purpose you have in reading it. If you are already a medical science-minded person and want to really get in depth with the details Mukherjee provides, that is often best served by print. However, if you are like me and are looking more for a comprehensible overview of cancer and the history of cancer, audio is a great choice to keep you from getting too caught up in technical jargon and still give a good, comprehensive overview.

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

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.