Heft by Liz Moore – Audiobook Review

Heft by Liz Moore, narrated by Kirby Heyborne and Keith Szarabajka
Published in audio by Blackstone Audio, published in print by W.W. Norton

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

Former academic Arthur Opp weighs 550 pounds and hasn’t left his rambling Brooklyn home in a decade. Twenty miles away, in Yonkers, seventeen-year-old Kel Keller navigates life as the poor kid in a rich school and pins his hopes on what seems like a promising baseball career—if he can untangle himself from his family drama. The link between this unlikely pair is Kel’s mother, Charlene, a former student of Arthur’s. After nearly two decades of silence, it is Charlene’s unexpected phone call to Arthur—a plea for help—that jostles them into action.

Thoughts on the story:

Heft is very well-written with great characterization. It is also unremittingly depressing for quite awhile. Both Arthur and Kel just have bad thing after bad thing happen to them. It seems they have so little in their lives that is good that it can be hard to take. Still, Moore has created compelling characters and difficult as it is to stay with them, it is also hard to turn away.

Thoughts on the audio production:

(Note: the original version of this review had the narrators’ names reversed)

Keith Szarabajka is an incredibly talented narrator, and he performes Arthur’s role magnificently, not to mention the amazing range of disparate voices he gives to those with whom Arthur came in contact. I was less enthused by Kirby Heyborne’s performance. He does a technically good job, but Szarabajka is a hard act to follow. In addition, it is a bit difficult to believe Heyborne as a teenager when he was born in 1952. He is able to affect a fairly youthful voice, but a teenager he is not. Perhaps other people aren’t bothered by this in audiobooks, but it drives me batty. I am much more able to accept a vaguely adult sounding child, but a maturely voiced teenager pulls me right out of the audiobook.

Overall:

I think I might have preferred this in print, so the sadness didn’t go straight into my ears, but Keith Szarabajka’s performance is worth a listen.

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

Source: 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

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 Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen – Book Review

The Vanishing Act by Mette Jakobsen
Published by W. W. Norton & Co

Minou lives on a little island with her Papa (a descendent of Descartes and philosophy fanatic), a priest, Boxman the magician, and a little dog named No-Name. For most of her life, Minou’s mother lived on the little island with them, but recently she disappeared; Minou is convinced that she is still alive and may come back some day. When a dead boy washes up on the beach, Minou is certain that somehow her mother’s disappearance is connected to the appearance of the boy, and that her mother will want to know everything she has observed since the boy washed up on shore.

The Vanishing Act is a slight novel, but a magical one. It could almost be mistaken for a middle grades novel, with its young narrator, its child-like wonder, and even its brevity. The way the themes of love and loss are handled, though, are definitely more suited to an adult – or perhaps older teen – audience.

The Vanishing Act is a book that is difficult to talk too much about without revealing spoilers. There isn’t a particularly lot of plot, being instead more about Minou’s thoughts, feelings, and ideas, as well as her perception of the few people around her. It is however lovely and engrossing, and will stay with you for much longer than it takes to read.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Publisher, via Edelweiss.
* 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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Death by Black Hole by Neil deGrasse Tyson – Audiobook Review

Death by Black Hole by Neil deGrasse Tyson, narrated by Dion Graham
Published in audio by Blackstone Audio, published in print by W. W. Norton & Co

Synopsis:

From the publisher:

Loyal readers of the monthly “Universe” essays in Natural History magazine have long recognized Neil deGrasse Tyson’s talent for guiding them through the mysteries of the cosmos with stunning clarity and almost childlike enthusiasm. Here, Tyson compiles his favorite essays across a myriad of cosmic topics. The title essay introduces readers to the physics of black holes by explaining the gory details of what would happen to your body if you fell into one. “Holy Wars” examines the needless friction between science and religion in the context of historical conflicts. “The Search for Life in the Universe” explores astral life from the frontiers of astrobiology. And “Hollywood Nights” assails the movie industry’s feeble efforts to get its night skies right.

Thoughts on the book:

If there’s one thing that Neil deGrasse Tyson knows how to do, it is make astrophysics interesting. If there are two things, they are how to make astrophysics interesting and how to make it comprehensible to the layperson. Each of Tyson’s essays in Death by Black Hole is well-reasoned, well-organized, and accessible to those with basic science skills. In one particularly interesting piece, Tyson details a number of experiments one can conduct with no more than a stick and some string (and, you know, some equations), all of which have significant things to teach us about the structure of the universe as a whole. He does get a bit nit picky in the essay “Hollywood Nights,” as he catalogs the liberties that the film industry has taken with the universe, often at the same time he admits that no movie is likely to get EVERYTHING right. Overall, however, Death by Black Hole is full of fascinating information.

Thoughts on the audio production:

Dion Graham does a wonderful job narrating Death by Black Hole. In particular, he captures Tyson’s obvious passion for and excitement about this topic, without coming across corny. His excitement is so genuine, in fact, that one suspects that he may be an astrophysics junkie as well and if not then he is a truly superb narrator. The delineations from one essay to the next were clear, which is essential in an audio collection like this (see: my one criticism of Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me?). That being said, the audio was not idea, in my experience, for close study of the subject, what with limited ability to go back and review, or take time and really allow what Tyson is saying to sink in. Luckily, his style in these pieces is more loosely informative than scholarly, so listening to get a general overview of his subjects worked well for me.

Overall:

A fascinating essay collection, and one whose narrator ably matches the passion of its author. Recommended.

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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Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant – Book Review

Wherever You Go by Joan Leegant
Published by W.W. Norton & Co

Israel provides the backdrop for Joan Leegant’s Wherever You Go. Her three main character – Yona, Mark Greenglass, and Aaron – find themselves there for reasons as varied as reconciliation attempts, the fleeting saving power of religion, and an attempt to finally excel at something in life. Although they have very different relationships with both Israel and Judaism, they find themselves in situations which bring them closer and closer to one another in an event that will drastically change all of their lives.

Leegant’s command of her prose is masterful. She creates a vivid picture of her characters and the landscape that surrounds them. Particularly impressive is the way she uses her prose style to build anticipation leading up to the climax. Each of the three main characters alternates chapters; the first three chapters, which introduce the protagonists, span some 60 pages. By contrast, the last three chapters of the first part, at the high point of the action, cover only 10 pages, the majority of that being the final chapter. The downwards creep in chapter length is subtle, but incredibly effective, all but forcing the reader to turn the pages faster. At the same time, though, Leegant doesn’t resort to cheap, manipulative tactics such as manufactured cliff hangers at the end of chapters. The tension she creates is authentic, based on her skill both in the craft of writing and in creating realistic characters in whom the reader can invest a great deal.

Being Jewish is by no means a prerequisite for enjoying and becoming invested in Wherever You Go. Leegant’s characters may be Jewish, but her themes of estrangement, reconciliation, and crisis of identity are universal. Highly recommended.

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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Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber – Audiobook Review

Birds of Paradise by Diana Abu-Jaber, narrated by Tamara Marston
Published in audio by Highbridge Audio, published in print by WW Norton & co

Synopsis:

Avis and Brian Muir have what seems like it should be a happy life. They live in a big house in a wealthy community in Miami. Avis has a job that she loves. Brian has a job he at least likes, and one that more than pays the bills. They have two lovely and intelligent children. When their daughter Felice runs away at thirteen, though, the entire family falls apart. Now, five years later, they have fallen even farther, even as they continue to hope that they may someday because a “real” family again, whatever that might mean.

Thoughts on the story:

Abu-Jaber is extremely skilled at getting inside her characters heads, going so far as showing the reader the neurosis of which the characters themselves may not even be aware. In Birds of Paradise, she manages the often difficult task of fully fleshing out all four members of the family, making each of them seem real, bringing to life their hopes and their foibles. Felice’s storyline is particularly interesting. Although the secret that drove her to running away is relatively easy to guess, it is believable, even logical by the standards of her young teenage self.

Thoughts on the audio production:

This is where Birds of Paradise fell apart for me. Marston seemed more like she was reading Abu-Jaber’s text than like she was narrating or performing it. She had a great command of accents – a necessity for the multicultural world in which the Muirs live – but there was little to no passion in her voice, which is somewhat of a problem in a book with such deep emotions from its characters. Also, she had an incorrect and obnoxious pronunciation of the state Oregon that just pulled me right out of the book and annoyed me every time she said it. Marston’s narration really detracted from the potential power of Abu-Jaber’s story.

Overall:

Be prepared to become emotionally involved in the lives of the Muirs if you pick up Birds of Paradise, but for full effect choose print.

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: .
* 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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