Posts tagged: audiobooks

Book review: Wonder

By , August 23, 2012

By R.J. Palacio

I fall in love with books pretty easily.  It’s kind of my job, after all.  So, it isn’t uncommon to hear me saying, “I love this book.”  But, I. Love. This. Book. It tells the story of Auggie who was born with an unimaginable facial deformity that has prevented him from entering school for medical reasons until now….5th grade.  The reader follows Auggie and a number of people in his life through his first year of middle school.  Alternately told from different perspectives, including Auggie and his sister and two of his friends, the book’s strong anti-bullying message of acceptance is overt without being forced. This is the author’s first novel and is appropriate for ages 8 and up. 

The audiobook version is wonderful, with different narrators for the different points of view. I’m going to put it out there that this is my pick for the Newbery this year (it should also be noted that I have never once chosen a Newbery correctly and rarely agree with the choice.)

Here’s the book trailer, if you’re in to that sort of thing…

- Lindsey

Book review: Ragnarok

By , April 23, 2012

Ragnarok: The End of the Gods
by A.S. Byatt

Byatt revisits her childhood for this exquisite retelling of the Norse apocalypse. A nameless child narrator is evacuated to the English countryside during the Blitz. She has three books: The Bible, Pilgrim’s Progress, and Asgard and the Gods. Can you guess which captures her the most? Byatt confirms her reputation as a literary heavyweight by making the old numiniously new. Ragnarok‘s short length and low key (pun?) twist ending make it the best re-imagining of Norse mythology since Neil Gaiman’s more playful American Gods.

My endorsement here is specifically for the Playaway version. Harriet Walter’s narration feels a bit posh at first but once she hits the Norse proper nouns it is pure incantation. I suppose you could read the print version aloud to your children if you wanted them to have nightmares about wolves and snakes.

Ragnarok is part of the Canongate Myth series which invites contemporary authors to interpret a myth of their choice. The library owns many titles in the series including entries from Margaret Atwood, Alexander McCall Smith, and Philip Pullman.

- Bryan

Take a Road Trip…with Zombies!

By , July 12, 2011

Looking for audio books that are humorous and filled with the undead? If you’ve yet to check out Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, your next road trip will be a perfect opportunity.   It’s two parts Pride and Prejudice, one part zombies.   For those purists who find this idea repulsive, several of my Austen-devoted friends really enjoyed and laughed at this book.  And while we’re talking parodies and mashups, check out The Zombies of Lake Woebegotten, where all the women are brave, the men pure of heart, and the zombies are starving for brains.  On a slightly related note, it’s not too early to start planning for this year’s Zombie Walk!

Book review: Ordinary Thunderstorms

By , January 22, 2011

Ordinary ThunderstormsOrdinary Thunderstorms
By William Boyd

Why is it that British guys are the best CD book readers?  Is it their deep, sexy voices or just that cute accent?  Either way, Gideon Emery (the delightfully-voiced reader) definately helped sell this book.

Not that he needed to do too much convincing.  I actually had not read anything else by William Boyd, prior to starting Ordinary Thunderstorms.  But, I came across the audio book version while I was working one day, and for some reason it wanted to come home with me.  Two weeks later and here we are.

The book follows climatologist Adam Ketron through the London streets as his life get flipped upside down after witnessing a murder and is subsequently blamed for it.  Raise your hand if you’ve heard that before?  A little cliched right?

But once you get past that somewhat wimpy beginning the book takes off and twists in some unexpected ways.  Be warned this book is NOT about weather, but it still kept my attention across the entire story.  I’m glad I took a chance on an author I’d never read before. Maybe he has something else that I’ll enjoy just as much…
:) Amanda

Book review: The Veteran

By , January 6, 2011

The Veteran
by Frederick Forsyth

I have to admit that this audio book was chosen only because I was desperate for something I hadn’t already heard/read for the daily commute. Oh, but what an excellent choice this turned out to be.

The Veteran is a collection of five longish short stories that absolutely grab you from the very beginning of each selection. The stories are as varied as their locale – from the seedy side of London to the mountains of Montana. Forsyth is a master at crafting stories with intricate plots which are populated with wonderfully developed characters in which the choice of the setting becomes almost a primary character. The suspense and mystery, along with the occasional ‘O. Henry’ like twists of plot, caused me to linger longer in the car, maybe even going the long way home in order to continue listening.

- Betsy

This review pertains to the CD Audio edition. Check out the print and other versions.

Audio Books: I have seen the light (or heard it, if you will…)

By , June 12, 2010

Ok.  So I am cough cough years old (excuse me, ah, something in my throat :) ) and have never, until very recently, understood the allure of audio books.  I thought because I tend to read things very quickly that the slower pace of the books would bore me and make me lose interest.

But I’ve heard such good things about a few series, that I just decided to try a couple.  It’s not like it cost me anything but time (thank you, NPL!).  First up on the docket – my Harrys.  Harry Potter and Harry Dresden. 

The Harry Potter series  (by JK Rowling) is read by the illustrious Jim Dale who somehow manages to create a different timbre of voice for each of the myriad number of characters he presents.  I have read the print books numerous times and have the movies memorized, but it is still fun to hear them read to me in my car as I drive to work.  And somehow I manage to find something new every now and again.  The library has all the HP books on audio, so feel free to start listening today!

HP Lineup

With Harry Dresden (by Jim Butcher), on the other hand, we were a little more selective in purchasing.  You can’t get the first couple of books on audio from us, but the back half of the series is just waiting on you to check them out.  This series is read by James Marsters – or Spike of Buffy fame, if you will.  He even uses his Spike voice when he reads Bob’s parts, which is awesome.  Marsters has that dry wit that totally works for Harry and I’ve long thought these two were a match made in heaven, and now I can see that I wasn’t wrong.  Good times.

HD lineup



I will admit that I have read all of these books before I listened to them, and I’m not sure I could tackle an audio book for a first “read.”  There are times when I find my mind wandering, which doesn’t matter so much if you already know the story.  Also, I can guarantee that the reason I like these so much is directly attributable to the reader.  If there was someone not quite as talented, that would be a complete turn-off for me (as would smelly feet and an overinflated sense of ego, but I digress…). 

After I finish with the Harrys, I’m going to listen to Paolini’s Eragon and Eldest to refresh my memory before I start Brisingr.  We’ll see how that works out with a new reader.   Fingers crossed…

So you may now consider me convinced (partially, at least) that audio books are good.  My name is Amanda, and I am an official audio book convert (more or less…).
:) Amanda

Book review: Two Philip K. Dick classics on CD

By , March 1, 2010

Man In the High Castle
By Philip K Dick

Blade Runner (Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?)
By Philip K. Dick

With the success of his recent novel Chronic City Jonathan Lethem seems everywhere these days. A huge influence on Lethem was novelist Philip K. Dick. Lethem edited Library of America’s  Dick reissues which became the best selling titles in the popular imprint .  It is a good time to find out what the fuss is all about and check out where Lethem got a lot of his inspiration. I want to talk about audio versions of two of Philip K. Dick’s most well known novels Man in the High Castle and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?. The latter being the basis for the film Blade Runner.

Man in the High Castle is set in a speculative future where the Axis powers have won World War II and the USA has been divvied up by her enemies. Japan occupies the West coast and Germany occupies the East. Set within the occupied Pacific states, the novel presents a cross section of the post war population: a high level Japanese bureaucrat with a taste for American antiques;  an antique dealer who tries hard to please his Japanese rulers; a working class counterfeiter of said antiques; and the counterfeiter’s ex-wife who lives off the grid in the small  rocky mountains towns. Through hints from a metafictional novel within the novel and use the Chinese I Ching oracle all the characters have slow revelations about not only the veracity of the antiques, but reality itself. By the end some characters can’t deny there must be another world where the Allies have won the war. It’s a complex book that will have you thinking until your brain sprouts new wrinkles.

It is also a short book and Dick packs far too much conceptual content inside such a meager page count (or disc count as the case may be). I’ve only listed about half the characters and ignored a number of subplots. None of the characters are really developed fully, and subtle philosophically ideas fly at you like tennis balls shot from a machine. It’s hard to keep up.

If ever there was a book that did not lend itself to audio version said book is Man in the High Castle. The reader Tom Weiner does his best, but really the material he has to work with is raw. Especially awkward is his rendition of Robert Childan, the conflicted antique dealer, who is constantly second guessing the social implications of his every action in the stilted phrasing of someone thinking to himself in a second language. Credit to Weiner to for capturing Childan’s false consciousness though.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a seemingly more straight forward affair. Weary, working class bounty hunter Rick Deckard must “retire” six Nexus One androids. He must do this because his electric sheep has ceased to function. He needs a load of cash to buy a real life animal to cure his wife’s depression and restore their place in the social hierarchy of their run down apartment complex. What we get is a hardboiled detective story that also causes us to question the role of television and religion in our lives, not to mention what we are willing to sacrifice or deny to remain happy, to ensure those we love remain happy.

What makes a good spouse? What makes a good lover? Deckard himself might be an android. God might be an android. If yourself and God and the lead character in the book you’re reading all androids what’s the difference between an android and a human?  What separates us from animals? What separates us from God? What separates us from… each other. This is a profound novel. It contains the best pitch for owning a pet goat I’ve ever heard.

Despite that characterization the plot is straight forward. Deckard goes after his androids one by one. Its a harrowing adventure that makes him question himself in very literal ways. The reader is forced to ask themselves the same questions. Having a single narrator lets us identify with Deckard more and it lets Dick flesh out the character far more than any of the cast of Man in High Castle. There is a moment in most Dick novels when reality falls apart. By making Deckard so real (forgive the pun), when this moment hits it is all the more effective. Similar moments in High Castle fall flat.

The book’s emotional resonance is helped by a tremendous reading by Scott Brick. Brick is kind  of the Matt Damon of American audiobook readers. He nails the haggard, arguably misguided, Deckard perfectly.  Brick’s Deckard is far more fragile than the Marlboro man portrayed by Harrison Ford in Ridley Scott’s film. Also spot on is Brick’s interpretation of the “special” J.R. Isidore, a man so lonely he’ll let himself he used by heartless robots just for a wee bit of friendship, or something like friendship. Brick  has narrated hundreds of novels and when asked what his favorite was he responded Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?.

It is strange a book as disjointed and uneven as Man in the High Castle won the Hugo Award in 1963. Even then an alternative history novel in which Nazis win WWII was old hat. It was Dick’s epistemological acid hit that blew readers minds. Written four years later, Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? is a far better read. I often wondered if Do Androids Dream was so popular because of its association with Blade Runner. Now I know it is one of Philip K. Dick’s best books. I highly recommend it in print form and CD read by Scott Brick. Man is High Castle is intellectually stimulating enough to check out, but I only recommend the CD version owned by the library to hardcore Dick fans.

- Bryan

[Editor’s note: since the release of the film Blade Runner most editions of Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? have been published using both titles printer on the cover, as does the version reviewed by Bryan. Searching the library catalog for either Blade Runner or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? will retrieve the audio book.]

Book review: Peace Like a River

By , July 23, 2009

Peace Like a River
by Leif Enger
Read by Chad Lowe

Wow! This book already seems like an American classic, and it’s only a few years old (2001). Listening to it was like traveling west, possibly back in time, following a dream. But in reality it takes place in current times, with a father, son and daughter traveling into the badlands in a search for the oldest son, who is running from the law. It is told in first person by the younger brother. Enger has woven a tale with threads of humor, poignancy, spiritual mystery, miracles and suspense; also with clever allusions to Zane Grey stories of the Wild West, complete with outlaws and heroes.

- Julie

Book review: The Red Tent

By , July 23, 2009

The Red Tent
by Anita Diamant
Read by Carol Bilger

This is the imagined story of Dinah, one of the daughters of Jacob, sister to Joseph, and daughter to four mothers, from the Old Testament story. Dinah is actually mentioned only briefly in the Bible, when her rape is referred to, as the incitement to a major tribal battle. But Diamant has created a rich and moving tale focused on a strong woman who endured terrible tragedies and yet survived, gaining her strength from other women who taught her skills, rituals, and provided comfort via a female society separate from the dominant patriarchy of the times. The Middle Eastern music interspersed in the recording contributes to creating the atmosphere for this powerful story.

- Julie

Book review: The Bonesetter’s Daughter

By , July 23, 2009

The Bonesetter’s Daughter
by Amy Tan
Read by Amy Tan and Joan Chen

Amy Tan has written a moving story based in part on her own mother and grandmother’s histories, and it is told from the points of view of Ruth, a first-generation Chinese-American who lives in San Francisco, and her mother, who has recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. In the process of reading her mother’s writings, Ruth learns truths about her mother’s life that had previously been untold, and gains a new empathy and respect for her. The Chinese-accented voices of Tan and Chen bring authenticity and emotional resonance to the recording.

- Julie

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