A Bigamist’s Daughter by Alice McDermott – Audiobook Review

A Bigamist’s Daughter by Alice McDermott, narrated by Tavia Gilbert
Published in audio by Macmillan Audio, published in print by Picador, both imprints of Macmillan

If you reviewed an audiobook today, Friday, June 29th please leave your link in the Mr. Linky before midnight Central time (US) and you will be eligible to win a prize.

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

Elizabeth Connelly, editor at a New York vanity press, sells the dream of publication (admittedly, to writers of questionable talent). Stories of true emotional depth rarely cross her desk. But when a young writer named Tupper Daniels walks in, bearing an unfinished novel, Elizabeth is drawn to both the novelist and his story—a lyrical tale about a man in love with more than one woman at once. Tupper’s manuscript unlocks memories of her own secretive father, who himself may have been a bigamist. As Elizabeth and Tupper search for the perfect dénouement, their affair, too, approaches a most unexpected and poignant coda.

Thoughts on the story:

I truly loved the fact that McDermott’s main character in A Bigamist’s Daugter was an editor at a vanity press. It does date the book a bit, since this is pre-ebook revolution, which makes sense as this is McDermott’s debut novel, written in 1982, recently re-released and recorded in audio. Elizabeth is a complex character, especially in relationship to her job. Her relationship with Tupper – and her memories of her father – is a bit odd, she is a rather emotionally stunted and closed off, which makes it a bit difficult to invest in their relationship, but she remains a fairly empathetic character. There is definitely some unevenness in this debut, but the concept itself will be intriguing enough for many readers to carry the novel.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Tavia Gilbert does a wonderful job narrating Elizabeth’s somewhat neurotic train of thought. A Bigamist’s Daughter often switches between present and past, and Gilbert generally keeps the listener following where McDermott is going. Gilbert also helps nurture the reader’s empathy for Elizabeth, she might have been more difficult to relate to in print without the sympathetic narration.

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

Overall:

If you do choose to pick up A Bigamist’s Daughter, try it in audio and get the most out of it with Tavia Gilbert’s narration.

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.
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Mad Women by Jane Maas – Audiobook Review

Mad Women: The Other Side of Life on Madison Avenue in the ’60s and Beyond by Jane Maas, narrated by Colleen Marlo
Published in audio by Tantor Audio, published in print by Thomas Dunne Books, an imprint of Macmillan

If you reviewed an audiobook today, Thursday June 28th please leave your link in the Mr. Linky before midnight Central time (US) and you will be eligible to win a prize.

Synopsis:

America loves Mad Men, but was was it really like to be a woman on Madison Avenue  in the 1960s? Is Peggy’s story accurate? Joan’s? If anyone has the answers, it is Jane Maas. Maas was an advertising copywriter in the 1960s who grew to a great success within the industry, and she’s not afraid to tell it like it is (and was).

Thoughts on the story:

Here’s where I admit I never really got into Mad Men. I watched the first season, or most of it, on dvd, but was never really motivated to start the second season. Having watched the first season did give me a bit of background to what Maas discusses in Mad Women, but watching the show is not really a prerequisite to enjoying the book. Maas weaves feminist issues effortlessly together with advertising history and lore in an absolutely fascinating package. There’s quite a bit of sex, drugs, and alcohol in Mad Women, but it is in an attempt to set the scene and explain what was really going on, not in an attempt at being salacious, or gossip-mongering.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Colleen Marlo largely became Maas in her narration, she had the same mix of confidence and knowledge that comes across in Maas’s writing, making them a very good fit, and making the already interesting material all the more compelling.

Overall:

You don’t need to be a fan of Mad Men to find Mad Women intereting, but it will hold a special attraction for fans wondering, “was it really like that?” Although I’m sure it is still fascinating in print, Marlo’s narration is a great experience.

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.
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GirlChild by Tupelo Hassman – Audiobook Review

Girl Child by Tupelo Hassman, narrated by Tupelo Hassman
Published in audio by Tantor Audio; published in print by Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, an imprint of Macmillan

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

Rory Hendrix is the least likely of Girl Scouts. She hasn’t got a troop or even a badge to call her own. But she’s checked the Handbook out from the elementary school library so many times that her name fills all the lines on the card, and she pores over its surreal advice (Uniforms, disposing of outgrown; The Right Use of Your Body; Finding Your Way When Lost) for tips to get off the Calle: that is, the Calle de las Flores, the Reno trailer park where she lives with her mother, Jo, the sweet-faced, hard-luck bartender at the Truck Stop.

Rory’s been told that she is one of the “third-generation bastards surely on the road to whoredom.” But she’s determined to prove the county and her own family wrong. Brash, sassy, vulnerable, wise, and terrified, she struggles with her mother’s habit of trusting the wrong men, and the mixed blessing of being too smart for her own good. From diary entries, social workers’ reports, half-recalled memories, arrest records, family lore, Supreme Court opinions, and her grandmother’s letters, Rory crafts a devastating collage that shows us her world even as she searches for the way out of it.

Thoughts on the story:

Hassman’s debut is both beautiful and tragic. Rory is an extremely endearing character, she is both old and young for her age, which is not terribly surprising, given everything she’s been through. GirlChild doesn’t have a traditional structure, Rory doesn’t tell her story in a strictly linear fashion, and it is often interspersed with the lessons she has learned from the Girl Scout Handbook. This structure works very well for the story, however, Hassman weaves the strands together beautifully, and these diversions may actually keep Rory’s life from seeming too brutally horrid, as they might if she told parts of it straight through.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Honestly, I wasn’t completely sure about Hassman’s narration initially. Her voice is reminiscent of Sarah Vowell’s, not exactly a typical narrator. There were three things that worked in Hassman’s favor, however. First, her voice and delivery fit her character very well, naive and too grown-up at the same time. Second, Hassman is highly connected with the characters and story she created and narrates with feeling and empathy. Third, although her voice is not that of a typical narrator, Hassman gives an incredibly professional performance, only the relative squeakiness of her voice tells the listener that she is likely not a professional narrator. Overall Hassman makes a great narrator for GirlChild.

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

Overall:

There are many points when GirlChild verges on devastating, but it is always worthwhile, whether in 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: 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 American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin – Book Review

The American Heiress by Daisy Goodwin
Published by St. Martin’s Griffin, an imprint of Macmillan

Cora Cash is just about as close to royalty as an American can get. Her family isn’t old money, but they’re wealthy enough to be the talk of the town – and own a mansion in Newport that makes the Vanderbilt estate look miniscule. Even so, Cora’s mother is always looking for the next step to improve her family’s standing, and she’s fairly sure she has found it in Europe: a title. Rich American girls are all the rage among Europe’s cash-strapped gentry, to the point where there is actually a publication in the States listing those titled men looking hardest for an heiress. After all, who but a duke could be worthy of the Cash family’s only child? Luckily for Mrs. Cash’s plans, the Duke of Wareham happens upon Cora when she is injured in the woods while riding, and before long the two are engaged. It isn’t long, though, until Cora discovers that she is not quite as prepared for this life as she believes herself to be.

Daisy Goodwin’s American Heiress is a fun and engaging read. Nobody is particularly likable – the closest is Cora’s maid Bertha, Cora herself is quite spoiled – but Goodwin still manages to evoke some empathy for those characters who find themselves in situations they don’t entirely understand. The time period was believable, as was the fairly dramatic plot, both of which contributed to the cotton candy can’t-stop-reading aspect. At close to 500 pages, though, it was just too long. Considering it was much more plot-driven than character-driven, not enough happened to justify that length of book. Quite a bit could have been cut down to create a tighter story.

American Heiress is a flawed but interesting novel. Certainly the concept of Gilded Age American heiresses infusing a generation of British nobility with money is a fascinating – and true – one.

The American Heiress is the SheKnows Book Club pick for May.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, for the SheKnows 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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Gravity by Brian Clegg – Mini Review (DNF)

Gravity: How the Weakest Force in the Universe Shaped Our Lives by Brian Clegg
Published by St. Martin’s Press, an imprint of Macmillan

From the publisher:

A history of gravity, and a study of its importance and relevance to our lives, as well as its influence on other areas of science. Physicists will tell you that four forces control the universe. Of these, gravity may the most obvious, but it is also the most mysterious. Newton managed to predict the force of gravity but couldn’t explain how it worked at a distance. Einstein picked up on the simple premise that gravity and acceleration are interchangeable to devise his mind-bending general relativity, showing how matter warps space and time. Not only did this explain how gravity worked – and how apparently simple gravitation has four separate components – but it predicted everything from black holes to gravity’s effect on time. Whether it’s the reality of anti-gravity or the unexpected discovery that a ball and a laser beam drop at the same rate, gravity is the force that fascinates.

In many ways, Brian Clegg’s Gravity is a work of popular science. The early chapters, particularly those dealing with the Greeks, are extremely accessible, and provide a good basis for the workings of gravity by examining the erroneous beliefs about the force that used to prevail. Clegg is a clear and engaging writer, but as we approached the present, I began having a harder and harder time with the book. This was not the fault of Clegg, his writing, or the way the book was laid out. I blame science. As we have gained a better understanding of how gravity and other forces in the universe work, the explanations have become increasing complicated and mathematical. Sadly, by midway through the 20th century, my long-ago high school physics was no longer quite enough to help me wrap my brain around exactly what Clegg was trying to impart and reading – for me – became a slog. I might have been able to get through this in audio with a good narrator, where I could just let the too-difficult parts wash over me and glean what I could, but in print it was a word-by-word battle and eventually I had to concede defeat.

Gravity really is a very interesting book about a very interesting and important force, but a good basic grasp of physics and/or a willingness to spend a lot of time puzzling over the details is a must to enjoy it.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, via Netgalley.
* 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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