Showing posts with label audiobook. Show all posts
Showing posts with label audiobook. Show all posts

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Audiobook Review: Wedding Night by Sophie Kinsella

Title: Wedding Night
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Publisher: The Dial Press
Publication Date: April 23, 2013
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

Lottie just knows that her boyfriend is going to propose, but then his big question involves a trip abroad—not a trip down the aisle. Completely crushed, Lottie reconnects with an old flame, and they decide to take drastic action. No dates, no moving in together, they’ll just get married . . . right now. Her sister, Fliss, thinks Lottie is making a terrible mistake, and will do anything to stop her. But Lottie is determined to say “I do,” for better, or for worse.

My Review:

Well, I can definitely tell that audiobooks aren't my go-to format anymore!  This one took me 2 months (and 2 library renewals) to complete...ha!  I borrowed it because I had to do about 9 hours of driving in a day for my friend's bridal shower, but once I got home I still had 5 discs left to listen to.  Ah well...such is the life of no work commute!

Thankfully, this is a story that is great to listen to.  In typical Kinsella fashion, it's light-hearted and funny, and kept me well entertained for my looooong drive through upstate New York.  I know I've poked fun at fluffy, chick-lit type books in the past, but just like with any other genre, sometimes I'm just in the mood for it.  Wedding Night is a great read if you're looking for something that will keep your interest, make you laugh and not require your brain to work too hard.

One of the things I liked best about this book is that I could see it playing out in my head as a great movie.  The characters end up in those quirky, this-would-never-happen-in-real-life types of situations that seem ridiculous in the everyday, but would make for great cinematic fodder.  Yes, the ending is a tad predictable, but the journey to get there is humorous, so it made the anticlimactic conclusion worth it.

Only downside here has to do with the audio format.  For the most part, I enjoyed the voices of the two narrators (especially the woman who plays Fliss, she was a hoot).  However, they were TERRIBLE at doing men's voices.  The woman playing Lottie had to voice her husband, Ben, and she made him sound like a decrepit old man (even though he was, I assume, in his mid-thirties).  And the woman playing Fliss had to voice Ben's friend Lorcan, who is described in the text as having a very deep voice (think the guy who narrates movie previews).  Yeah...that was NOT the way his voice was portrayed at all.  So those two things were a little off-putting in the audio version, but otherwise it was a good listen.

Overall: over-the-top chick-lit is not my go-to genre, but when I'm craving it, I want it to be silly and humorous enough to make me truly LOL.  Wedding Night fits the bill!

Readers, what was the last book you read that made you laugh-out-loud for real?

Friday, July 5, 2013

Audiobook Review: Joyland by Stephen King

Title: Joyland
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Simon and Schuster Audio
Publication Date: June 4, 2013
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Set in a small-town North Carolina amusement park in 1973,  Joyland  tells the story of the summer in which college student Devin Jones comes to work as a carny and confronts the legacy of a vicious murder, the fate of a dying child, and the ways both will change his life forever.  Joyland  is a brand-new novel and has never previously been published.

My Review:

You guys know about the relationship that is Me + Stephen King.  He's had a few flops in my eyes (The Girl Who Loved Tom, and I'm so-so on Cujo), but for the most part, I devour and adore his work.  His most recent release caught my eye, partially because of the premise (creepy amusement park crime novel, oooooh!) and partially because of its somewhat-limited release.  It was primarily printed in paperback and audiobook format e-books and very few hardcovers.  I decided to go with the audio CD, narrated by Michael Kelly.

(Side note: while I was listening to this, we went on vacation to New Jersey and visited Wildwood one day.  Their boardwalk amusement parks totally reminded me of Joyland!  Which is probably not saying much for Wildwood...haha.)
Wildwood...or Joyland?  Hmmm...
Anyway!  About the book.  I quickly realized that this is not a typical Stephen King horror story.  It certainly has its chilling, supernatural elements, but it's probably more of a coming-of-age story than anything else.  It's narrated by Devin Jones, now an adult, but in the summer of 1973, he was working at Joyland, a seaside amusement park in North Carolina.  As the summer progresses, he struggles to get over a recent breakup while also uncovering the details of a murder that happened at the park not so long ago.  Along the way, he encounters a unique-though-fatally-ill child whose clairvoyant abilities are startling.

(Because what would a Stephen King novel be without a child with superpowers?)

I finished this audiobook a couple of weeks ago, and I'm still having a hard time deciding how I feel about Stephen King as a "whodunit" author.  The identity of the killer didn't come as a great surprise to me, which is what made me feel that this was less about the mystery and more about the maturation of Devin over the course of the story.  And Devin's character is great, but I guess I wanted more than just that from the book at times.  I go to Stephen King and want suspense--he's clearly the master of that arena.  However, that is not a big element of this novel, and in that regard I felt mildly frustrated.

That said--ignoring my feelings about the lack of suspense, this is an excellent example of a coming-of-age story.  As I mentioned already, Devin's character is excellent: witty, sarcastic, honest about his faults.  I enjoyed watching him change throughout that fateful summer at Joyland.  And Michael Kelly is an awesome narrator for the audiobook.  He helped me visualize Devin in a clearer way than I may have been able to do while reading the paperback format.  So in this regard, the book is a win.

Overall, this is obviously a mixed review.  Joyland is not a typical King novel, so I'd say it's best to know that up front.  If you focus more on the "human" element of the story, you'll be sure to admire it.  But your average King creep-factor will be if that's important to you, you may want to try another of his works.

Any other King fans have thoughts on this one?  If you've never read any King, have you ever been thrown off by a book written by one of your favorite authors?

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Round House by Louise Erdrich

Title:   The Round House
Author: Louise Erdrich
Publisher: Harper Audio
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

In the spring of 1988, a woman living on a reservation in North Dakota is attacked. Geraldine Coutts is traumatized and reluctant to relive or reveal what happened, either to the police or to her husband, Bazil, and thirteen-year-old son, Joe. While his father, who is a tribal judge, endeavors to wrest justice from a situation that defies his efforts, Joe sets out to get some answers of his own. The quest takes him first to the Round House, a sacred space and place of worship for the Ojibwe. And this is only the beginning. Louise Erdrich's novel embraces tragedy, the comic, a spirit world very much present in the lives of her all-too human characters, and a tale of injustice that is, unfortunately, an authentic reflection of what happens in our own world today.

My Review:

If you pay attention to the world of "very important book awards", you know that The Round House was the winner of the 2012 National Book Award for Fiction.  That's a big deal, y'all.  As soon as I heard that Erdrich's novel had won, I knew I had to read it.  I adored one of the other finalists (This Is How You Lose Her by Junot Diaz) so if a novel was beating that in competition?  My interest was piqued.

The beginning of the book definitely drew me in.  Joe's peaceful life on the reservation is rocked very suddenly when his mother arrives home late one Sunday, severely beaten and bloodied.  She is mute as to what happened, and Joe and his father are immediately compelled to find out who did this to her.  If that's not enough to throw you into a good mystery, I don't know what is.  Erdrich unveils this tragic occurrence while also carefully detailing the ways of life on the Ojibwe reservation, something that I knew very little about.  This combination of gruesome, mysterious attack and compelling detail makes for a great intro.

However, I can't say I loved the rest of the novel.  The pace slows down (a lot), and the identity of Geraldine's attacker becomes clear very early on.  This isn't a case of an author mishandling a mystery--no, it becomes obvious that the identity of the attacker is not the point of this story.  Instead, the novel attempts to expound more upon the struggles of Native American life on a reservation, their historical and familial roots, different laws and struggles they face vs. non-reservation residents, etc.  I'm not saying that's a bad thing.  If you go into the novel expecting and wanting this, you'll probably love it.  However, based on the description (and the hype), I was expecting a plot that moved faster and had more elements that would surprise me along the way.  That?  I didn't get.  But I did get an artistically written picture of injustice and Native American life, which wasn't a totally unwelcome alternative.

It's so hard to review a National Book Award winner.  How can you say anything bad about a book that the Literary Elite has deemed Amazing?  But I wouldn't call this bad--that's kind of a strong word.  I think I went into it with the wrong expectations.  This isn't a book that focuses on one particular character or event.  It's much larger in scope, and written with the words "cultural epic" in mind.  I think it just wasn't totally for me, given the direction and tone that it eventually took.

As for the audio version--I was at first unsure of the narrator, Gary Farmer, who has a very measured (and occasionally monotone) voice.  However, I quickly grew to enjoy his narration, because it's entirely fitting of the tone of the novel.  The only downside to the audio is that some parts of the novel don't seem to lend themselves well to that format.  There are long sections of Native American folklore that felt rather boring and tangential when listened to.  I probably would have gotten more from them if I was reading in print.  But otherwise, a very good narrator, fitting for the story at hand.

Have you ever felt lukewarm about a critically acclaimed novel?

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Audiobook Giveaway Winner!

Morning, my dear readers!  Just a quick post today to announce the winner of the audiobook CD copy of Don't Go by Lisa Scottoline.

And the winner (chosen randomly by Rafflecopter) is...

Jennifer from The Relentless Reader!

Woot woooooooot!  Congrats Jen!  Check your inbox for an email from me.  And readers, if you've never been to her blog before, check it out, because it is bookishly fabulous.

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, May 13, 2013

GIVEAWAY and Audiobook Review: Don't Go by Lisa Scottoline

Title: Don't Go
Author: Lisa Scottoline
Publisher: St. Martin's Press/Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: April 9, 2013
Source: CD copy received from the publisher for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Lisa Scottoline's  Don't Go  introduces us to Dr. Mike Scanlon, an army doctor called to serve in Afghanistan, who is acutely aware of the dangers he’ll face and the hardships it will bring his wife Chloe and newborn baby. And deep inside, he doesn’t think of himself as a hero, but a healer.

However, in an ironic turn of events, as Mike operates on a wounded soldier in a war-torn country, Chloe dies at home in the suburbs, in an apparently freak household accident. Devastated, he returns home to bury her, only to discover that the life he left behind has fallen apart. He’s a stranger to his baby girl, and his medical practice has downsized in his absence. Worse, he learns a shocking secret that sends him into a downward spiral.

Grief-stricken, Mike makes decisions upon returning to Afghanistan which will change his life forever.  It’s not until he comes home for good that he grasps the gravity of his actions, and realizes he must fight the most important battle of his life, to reclaim his life and his daughter. Along the way, he discovers that everything is not as it seems, and he learns ugly truths about those he loves the most, as well as the true meaning of heroism.

My Review:

One of the first reviews I ever did on this blog was for Lisa Scottoline's Look Again .  While I didn't give it a roaring endorsement, I was left feeling like I needed to give her work another shot.  Read the plot summary of any one of her books (this one included), and I think you'd be hard-pressed not to want to pick it up like NOW.  She comes up with some truly unique and twisty plot ideas, and since most of them fall into a "women's fiction" category, my interest is always piqued.

Her latest release is Don't Go, and I decided it was high time for me to give her novels another shot.  Overall, I'm glad I did, though this book had its high and low points for me as well.

The best thing about this novel is the sense of mystery surrounding it, right from the first chapter.  It's told from Chloe's perspective as she dies, and there's a cliffhanger ending to the chapter that left me saying, "Okay, I'm committed to reading this entire book now, WELL PLAYED."  As with Look Again, I often thought I knew exactly who was involved in each part of the mystery--in fact, at one point I was not looking forward to writing this review, because I was going to have to call the book out for being so predictable.  However, SMUGNESS IS NOT YOUR FRIEND.  Learn from me.  My predictions were totally wrong, and the ending took a turn that I truly did not see coming.  I love it when a book can completely unravel my super-sleuthing skills, so this was certainly a big advantage for the novel.

The flip side to this is that, at times, the details of the plot seemed carelessly handled--and in one place, they were downright wrong.  I never do this, but I have to throw in a SPOILER ALERT right now so that I can illustrate my point.  Did you see it?   I SAID SPOILER ALERT!  SPOILERS ALL UP IN THE PARAGRAPH BELOW!  You have been warned.

Okay, so when Mike returns from Afghanistan, he finds out from Chloe's autopsy report that she was 4 weeks pregnant.  OH MAN, major downer, because in the words of Maury Povich, he is NOT the father since he was in Afghanistan at that time.  Mike then finds some emails between Chloe and a mystery suitor proving that they had sex while Mike was away.  Here's the detail that (really REALLY) bothered me: Chloe died December 15.  The emails show that she had sex with Mystery Guy around November 11.  THAT DOES NOT MAKE YOU 4 WEEKS PREGNANT ON DECEMBER 15.  It makes you roughly 6-7 weeks pregnant.  This is biology, people, so get ready for some knowledge.  The first two weeks of pregnancy, you're not really pregnant.  You conceive at around the 2 week mark.  If she was 4 weeks preggo on December 15, she conceived around the end of November.  This was an absolutely GLARING mistake, and since it plays a significant role in the mystery around Chloe's death, it bothered the heck out of me.


There was also a point in the novel where Mike got in a fight, the cops were called, and the cops showed up and immediately arrested him without interviewing him OR the person he fought first.  This is another example of a head-scratching detail that detracted from the reading/listening experience for me.  I just wish a little bit more care had been given to finer points such as these.

Okay, enough of my overzealous attention to detail.  Let's talk about the narration on the audiobook.  Jeremy Davidson did a really excellent job voicing this novel.  He's a perfect pick as the main character (Mike)--especially because many of you may recognize him from the TV show Army Wives.  However, he also had an impressive array of other voices that he had to portray, and he did a great job making each character distinct for the listener.  I'd say the only one I was iffy on was Mike's friend Jim--he was supposed to have a Philadelphia accent that came out more like a southern California surfer dude.  But that aside, Davidson does excellent work here, and lends an appropriate air of drama to the entire story.

Overall?  Don't Go is a fantastic pick if you want a family drama with lots of unpredictable twists.  Scottoline definitely excels in making readers second-guess their ideas about a plot, and I think that's a huge plus in her novels.  However, the details weren't always handled well, which led to a clunky reading experience for me.  Readers who are less hung up on nitty-gritty plot points may, admittedly, have a smoother ride than I did!

Other reviews of Don't Go:
An Unconventional Librarian
Ramblings of a Marine Wife
Robin Reads and Writes


I have one audiobook CD copy of Don't Go to give away to a lucky reader.  It's been used (once, by me!) and is in great condition.  Just enter using the Rafflecopter below (US entrants only please).  Giveaway closes May 20!
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Thursday, March 28, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Tiger's Wife by Tea Obreht

Title: The Tiger's Wife
Author: Tea Obreht
Publisher: Random House Audio
Publication Date: March 8, 2011
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

In a Balkan country mending from years of conflict, Natalia, a young doctor, arrives on a mission of mercy at an orphanage by the sea. By the time she and her lifelong friend Zóra begin to inoculate the children there, she feels age-old superstitions and secrets gathering everywhere around her. Secrets her outwardly cheerful hosts have chosen not to tell her. Secrets involving the strange family digging for something in the surrounding vineyards. Secrets hidden in the landscape itself.

But Natalia is also confronting a private, hurtful mystery of her own: the inexplicable circumstances surrounding her beloved grandfather’s recent death. After telling her grandmother that he was on his way to meet Natalia, he instead set off for a ramshackle settlement none of their family had ever heard of and died there alone. A famed physician, her grandfather must have known that he was too ill to travel. Why he left home becomes a riddle Natalia is compelled to unravel.

Grief struck and searching for clues to her grandfather’s final state of mind, she turns to the stories he told her when she was a child. On their weekly trips to the zoo he would read to her from a worn copy of Rudyard Kipling’s  The Jungle Book,  which he carried with him everywhere; later, he told her stories of his own encounters over many years with “the deathless man,” a vagabond who claimed to be immortal and appeared never to age. But the most extraordinary story of all is the one her grandfather never told her, the one Natalia must discover for herself. One winter during the Second World War, his childhood village was snowbound, cut off even from the encroaching German invaders but haunted by another, fierce presence: a tiger who comes ever closer under cover of darkness. “These stories,” Natalia comes to understand, “run like secret rivers through all the other stories” of her grandfather’s life. And it is ultimately within these rich, luminous narratives that she will find the answer she is looking for.

My Review:

Where to begin with this audiobook?  It's beautiful, and metaphorical, and confusing, and illusory, all at once.  Leaves me in quite a pickle when trying to write a concise review, eh?

I should start by telling you that when I picked up this audiobook, I only read the first two paragraphs of the above description.  (As we know, I often don't read them at this was quite the big step for me.)  As such, I was thrown off guard when the novel took a bit of a fantastical turn--specifically, when Natalia's grandfather started telling her the story of the "deathless man".  The beginning of the book is steeped in the gritty reality of the Balkan War and its aftermath, so this change in atmosphere was unexpected.  

However, I found myself intrigued and kept on with the book.  It helped that the narrators have such wonderful voices.  Susan Duerden, the voice of Natalia, has a soft and lyrical way of speaking that gives real life to the magical realism of the story.  And Robin Sachs (the voice of Natalia's grandfather) has a gruff manner that is extremely fitting for his role.  Probably one of the best narrator choices for an audiobook that I've heard, ever.

The ending rather confused me, and I think a big part of this was because I was listening to, rather than reading, the novel.  The ending takes an unexpected turn as Natalia reaches conclusions about her grandfather's death, and with all the fairy-tale-like aspects that are included, it made it very hard for me to keep track of what was going on.  It was only after the book ended, when I Googled some analyses of it, that I had a better understanding of what had occurred.  One of those analyses (over at Biblio Quill) stated that this is a book best read a second time, once you understand the themes involved--and I think that is spot on.  I didn't have a full understanding of the meaning of "the tiger's wife" and "the deathless man" until after the story had reached its end, and I had time to process/research it.  If I had had a print copy of the novel, I may have been able to go back and reference things more easily, thus making the reading experience more satisfying as a whole.

Overall, I was impressed by the storytelling abilities of Tea Obreht (and this was her debut novel--even more noteworthy!).  She weaves together a captivating tale that will draw you in quickly. I would just suggest that you have a heads-up about the "magical" aspects of the story before you begin, so that you have a smoother reading experience than I did.  I would also suggest reading this one, rather than listening to it (especially if you listen to your audiobooks as you commute, like I do).  The narrators are truly fantastic, but the structure of the story just did not lend itself to the disjointed way that I listen to audiobooks.  You really need to concentrate on this one to do it justice.

Other reviews of The Tiger's Wife:
Bibliophile's Corner
Caroline Bookbinder
Melissa' Eclectic Bookshelf

What are your favorite picks in the "magical realism" genre?

Friday, March 8, 2013

Audiobook Review: The Four Ms. Bradwells by Meg Waite Clayton

Title:  The Four Ms. Bradwells
Author: Meg Waite Clayton
Publisher: Ballantine Books/Dreamscape Media
Publication Date: March 22, 2011
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Mia, Laney, Betts, and Ginger, best friends since law school, have reunited for a long weekend as Betts awaits Senate confirmation of her appointment to the Supreme Court. Nicknamed “the Ms. Bradwells” during their first class at the University of Michigan Law School in 1979—when only three women had ever served full Senate terms and none had been appointed to the Court—the four have supported one another through life’s challenges: marriages and divorces, births and deaths, career setbacks and triumphs large and small. Betts was, and still is, the Funny One. Ginger, the Rebel. Laney, the Good Girl. And Mia, the Savant. 

But when the Senate hearings uncover a deeply buried skeleton in the friends’ collective closet, the Ms. Bradwells retreat to a summer house on the Chesapeake Bay, where they find themselves reliving a much darker period in their past—one that stirs up secrets they’ve kept for, and from, one another, and could change their lives forever. 

My Review:

The general concept of this book intrigued me.  Based on the summary above, my interest was piqued by the meshing of chick-litty women's friendships, plus high-level political appointment: definitely spelled "smart women's fiction" to me.  I liked the idea of "humanizing" a situation that you usually would only see the CNN-proofed version of (ie. a Supreme Court appointment confirmation hearing).  All of this seemed to point to an awesome reading choice for moi.

At the beginning, the book lived up to my expectations.  We see Betts at her Senate confirmation as her three friends gather and look on.  We start to get background on their friendship, which is complex and funny, based on a bit of a joke that occurred in their first semester of law school.  Then the "deeply buried skeleton" comes out at the hearing, and Betts (along with her friends) take off out of Washington DC to hide from the press.

At this point, things started to go a bit sour for me.

Why, oh why, if you were possibly involved in a scandal that happened on a tiny little island in the Chesapeake...would you hide out ON THAT EXACT TINY LITTLE ISLAND?  This was the first point of confusion for me.  The first of many.  And I think I know why the author did it...a lot of the novel focused on revisiting the past, reconsidering past mistakes, facing your demons, etc.  So returning to the scene of the "crime" was symbolic.  But I refuse to believe that these four well-educated women, one of which was a Supreme Court nominee, would immediately flee to such an incriminating locale.  That's like someone accusing OJ of murdering Nicole and Ron, and he goes straight to their house to camp out.  MAKES NO SENSE.  And I do expect my book characters to have more sense than OJ.  That's a minimum expectation.

That particular detail highlights my main issue with this book: I feel like the author had all these MESSAGES she wanted to get across.  Things about women's rights, tests of friendship, girl power, etc.  And in her effort to make those messages crystal-clear to the reader, she sacrificed believability in the plot details, forcing her characters to do absolutely inane things that no real-life person would do in such a situation.  Example: skinny dipping.  No woman skinny dips nearly as much as the ladies in this novel do, but obviously their naked swims were meant to symbolize a release of inhibitions, feeling free from other's scrutiny, etc. so they were mentioned incessantly.  And, THE ENDING.  I nearly crashed my car with all the eyerolling I was doing while listening to the last CD.

Adding fuel to the fire, the characters themselves are not likeable--especially Mia, who is fairly central to the story.  Some sympathy is drummed up for her at the end, but I couldn't get behind it.  Plus, as an audiobook, it didn't do a good job keeping my attention.  The same narrator (Karen White) is used for all four women, and there were many points where I would lose track of who was speaking--made for a lot of rewinding and confusion at times.  I imagine this is not as difficult in print.

I am sad about this book, you guys.  I wanted so badly to like it, but I just couldn't.  I think the basic structure and subject of the novel had a lot of promise, but the actions of the characters started to lose me pretty early on.  I wish Clayton had focused less on getting her messages across, and more on creating a well-crafted storyline.

I need to get back on the audiobook horse--what's your favorite audiobook?

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Audiobook Review and GIVEAWAY!: Political Suicide by Michael Palmer

Title: Political Suicide
Author: Michael Palmer
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: December 11, 2012
Source: copy received from the publisher for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads

In  Political Suicide ,   Michael Palmer delivers another gripping thriller at the crossroads of politics and medicine.  Dr. Lou Welcome, from Palmer's  New York Times  bestselling  Oath of Office,  is back in this heart stopping medical thriller. A desperate phone call embroils Lou in scandal and murder involving Dr. Gary McHugh, known around the Capital as the “society doc.” Lou has been supervising McHugh, formerly a black-out drinker, through his work with the Physician Wellness Office.  McHugh has been very cavalier about his recovery, barely attending AA and refusing a sponsor. But Lou sees progress, and the two men are becoming friends. Now, McHugh has been found unconscious in his wrecked car after visiting a patient of his, the powerful Congressman Elias Colston, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. Soon after McHugh awakens in the hospital ER, Colston's wife returns home to find her husband shot dead in their garage. She then admits to the police that she had just broken off a long-standing affair with McHugh.

Something about McHugh's story has Lou believing he is telling the truth, that the Congressman was dead when he arrived and before he blacked out. Lou agrees to look into matters, but when he encounters motive, method and opportunity he is hard pressed to believe in his friend—that is until a deadly high-level conspiracy begins to unravel, and Lou acquires information that makes him the next target.

My Review:

I feel split about this audiobook; there were some elements that I really enjoyed, and others that left me feeling a bit "meh".  As with most thrillers, the best part was just trying to untangle the mystery that was at the heart of the novel.  If McHugh didn't kill Colston, then who did?  What was their motive?  And what does the ambiguous prologue (set in the Middle East) have to do with the seemingly-unrelated events happening in Washington?

Palmer does a great job unfolding this maze bit by bit, and I found the final answers to be both intriguing and highly relevant (given modern-day relations between the US and Afghanistan).  The suspense was excellent (especially for an audiobook--made my commutes go by quickly!), and I liked the last twist that was tacked on regarding Colston's true murderer.  Definitely didn't see that coming.  Plus, the ending leaves the door open for future adventures with Dr. Welcome and company.

However, as I said before, there were a few things about this book that left me a tad unsatisfied.  First is the method of Dr. Welcome's involvement.  I found myself highly skeptical of the way that he, as a person completely unaffiliated with the law or the military, was able to jump into the investigation just because he was McHugh's friend.  Related to that, he was oddly able to get himself out of an awful lot of dangerous mishaps, without any real combat training (days at the local gym notwithstanding).  The first few incidents like this got a pass, but after a while, it became a bit much.  I am unfamiliar with Welcome's appearance in Palmer's previous novel (Oath of Office), so maybe readers of that book could give him more credence, but...I just had a hard time with the plausibility of many of his escapades.

The other issue I had was the relationship between Lou and Sarah.  Their budding romance felt unnecessary to the plot, perhaps a bit forced.  Not to mention that their dialogue was incredibly high in the cheese-factor.  Was this connection a detail meant to bring in the female readers?  Tough to say, but as a female reader, I know I could have done without it.

Overall though, I'd say if you're a fan of thrillers, this one is worth a shot.  It's more political/conspiracy thriller than medical thriller, but there are some interesting scientific elements to it as well.  And the audiobook narrator (Robert Petkoff) is fantastic--the perfect voice for a suspenseful tale!  His tone heightens the excitement with every new twist that's unveiled.

Want to see for yourself?  I have 2 audiobook CD copies of Political Suicide to give away!  (Consider this your Happy Valentine's Day, my lovely readers!)

One copy is very lightly used (by me, for this reading), and the other is brand new (still in the wrapper).  Much thanks to Macmillan Audio for providing them!

To enter, just fill out the Rafflecopter below.  Giveaway ends February 20, US entrants only please.  Good luck!!
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Saturday, January 26, 2013

Audiobook Review: Dreamcatcher by Stephen King

Title: Dreamcatcher
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Publication Date: March 1, 2003 (book first published March 20, 2001)
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads

Once upon a time, in the haunted city of Derry, four boys stood together and did a brave thing. It was something that changed them in ways they could never begin to understand.Twenty-five years after saving a Down's-syndrome kid from bullies, Beav, Henry, Pete, and Jonesy -- now men with separate lives and separate problems -- reunite in the woods of Maine for their annual hunting trip. But when a stranger stumbles into their camp, disoriented and mumbling something about lights in the sky, chaos erupts. Soon, the four friends are plunged into a horrifying struggle with a creature from another world where their only chance of survival is locked in their shared past -- and in the Dreamcatcher.

My Review:

I just...I think...I can't...


You guys, I just finished a Stephen King book, and I really, really didn't like it.  That happens almost never.  In fact, the only other time it's happened, so far, is when I read Insomnia.  As a Stephen King fan, I was hoping it would never happen again, but alas, here I sit.

At its start, I was diggin' this book.  These four friends in their mid-thirties are all at a hunting cabin together, as they do every November.  They have some weird, unexplained telepathy going on, which is intriguing.  And then this guy (Rick) comes out of the woods near their cabin.  He's been lost for a day (or more...), and is hungry and not feeling particularly well.  The friends let Rick into the cabin to recuperate and...CUE STEPHEN KING GORE FEST!  I was sufficiently grossed out and ready for more.

Unfortunately, that's where the awesomeness ended.  Basically the other 18 discs of this audiobook consist of completely non-fear-inducing aliens, a crabby old army general who holds a grudge that I don't even understand, and the world's longest, most bore-you-to-tears car chase.  Also, bacon...something about bacon.  By the end, when the narrator said "Epilogue", I nearly cried knowing that I had more story to sit through.

The real problem is that King just didn't get me to CARE enough.  A lot of the story centers around this army general chasing one of his old lieutenants, but the reason he's chasing him is so underdeveloped that I didn't understand its importance at all.  And even the telepathy shared by the four friends (which is pretty central to the story) did not have a backstory interesting enough for me to want to figure it out.  Usually Stephen King is amazing at getting you hooked into his characters, and his long-windedness has a purpose behind it.  But neither of those two things were true for me in Dreamcatcher.

All of this mediocrity was made worse by the fact that I did not enjoy the voice of the audiobook's narrator (Jeffrey DeMunn).  This is probably more personal preference than anything, but to me, he sounds a lot like David Sedaris (if you've ever listened to one of his audios) and Sedaris's voice rather annoys me.  I don't know how to describe it...he's too heavy on some consonants (every time he said "jacket pocket" I cringed) and his voice sounds...thick, for lack of a better word.  I will say that he did a nice job with the wide variety of tones/voices that the book required (I never had trouble telling characters apart).  But as an overall listening experience, I didn't love it.

Other than the very beginning, I'd say the ONE shining light in this novel is the references to It.  Any mention of Pennywise is a win in my book.

If this was written by any other author, I would have DNF'ed it, but because it was Stephen King, I stuck through it to the very last word.  Unfortunately, that's two months-worth of commute time that I'll never get back.  Le sigh.

I need help readers--name your favorite King novel, so I can get back in the saddle with his books!  And if you loved Dreamcatcher...why?

Monday, December 17, 2012

What Are You Reading? (3)

Happy Monday, reader friends!  We just had our first (of 3) Christmases this weekend, as we traveled to my in-laws for some holiday celebrating.  As a result, I did not get a ton of reading done, but I DID get Amazon and B+N gift cards, so BOO-YAH!  Christmas reading win.

'Twas kind of a crazy weekend though as well, because Small Fry got sick with croup, and we spent all of Friday night in the ER as a result.  (Luckily, it has subsided and he's doing much better now.)  We came home from the in-laws a day early, and spent yesterday recouping and watching the Giants play disgustingly.*

Christmas #2 is this weekend in Connecticut with my family, and Christmas #3 is the actual Christmas day, at home, just the three of us.  Ahhhhh.  I can't wait to just relax with my boys in front of the tree for a few days.  It's nice seeing our families, but all those car rides get exhausting.

(Says the girl who used to jump in the car and drive from NY to Florida at the drop of a hat...oh how the mighty have fallen.)

Anywho, right now I am currently reading:

Sad Desk Salad by Jessica Grose
I am reading this as part of Mandy's Blogger Book Club at The Well-Read Wife.  Mandy bought 20 copies of the book and sent them out to some fellow bloggers so we could discuss and enjoy together.  How cool is that?  
She also has awesome taste in blog names.  Obviously.  
Oh, but the book!  I have only a few pages left, love it so far, and I'm looking forward to posting a full review for you later this week.  Stay tuned.

And I'm listening to:
Dreamcatcher by Stephen King
I love me some Stephen King.  That said, I think maybe this was the wrong one to pick for an audiobook.  It's really long (20 CDs) and while the story started strong, I'm feeling kind of stuck halfway through it.  While reading, I can usually push through slower/longer novels fairly well, but on audio, it involves me having to rewind way too many times because my brain wandered.  Anyway, I hope it picks up and gets better soon.

What will I read next? 
Probably either The Intercept by Dick Wolf (yes, of Law and Order fame! I have an ARC for review), or Matched by Ally Condie (which I know, I'm about the last person on that bandwagon).

What are YOU reading today?
*There was also a really horrible thing that happened on Friday (you've seen it in the news), and no, I didn't post about it. I'm keeping it mostly off the blog, because it hits a little too close to home for me (I grew up in CT and have several friends that knew the victims). But suffice to say those families are in my prayers.  I am hugging Small Fry a little tighter these days.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Audiobook Review: Landing by Emma Donoghue

Title: Landing
Author: Emma Donoghue
Publisher: BBC Audiobooks America
Publication Date: May 1, 2007
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads :

A delightful, old-fashioned love story with a uniquely twenty-first-century twist, Landing is a romantic comedy that explores the pleasures and sorrows of long-distance relationships--the kind millions of us now maintain mostly by plane, phone, and Internet.

Síle is a stylish citizen of the new Dublin, a veteran flight attendant who's traveled the world. Jude is a twenty-five-year-old archivist, stubbornly attached to the tiny town of Ireland, Ontario, in which she was born and raised. On her first plane trip, Jude's and Síle's worlds touch and snag at Heathrow Airport. In the course of the next year, their lives, and those of their friends and families, will be drawn into a new, shaky orbit.

This sparkling, lively story explores age-old questions: Does where you live matter more than who you live with? What would you give up for love, and would you be a fool to do so?

My Review:

I read Room by Emma Donoghue a few years ago, and was completely captivated by it.  So when I saw this audiobook sitting on my library's shelf, I had to go for it, in the interest of exploring Donoghue's other work.  This, however, is an entirely different novel, and if her name was taken off the cover, I probably would never have guessed that she penned it.  I'm not saying that as a bad thing--if anything, it shows the range of her abilities as a writer.

The beginning of the novel intrigued me.  Jude, flying home to Canada after visiting her mother in the UK, realizes mid-flight that the man sitting next to her on the plane has died.  Sile (pronounced Sheila) is the flight attendant that she flags down, and Sile takes charge of the situation as Jude quietly panics.  The two of them end up sharing a cup of coffee after the incident is over, and a relationship is born.

I'd have to say this is probably the most unique romance novel I've read in a long time.  And not because it's a lesbian romance (though I admittedly don't have a lot of that in my reading past).  Sile and Jude's relationship is distinctive for so many other reasons; this is a May-September romance on crack.  The 14-year age gap is one thing, but is actually a relative non-issue compared to other differences.  Primarily, this includes their far-flung locations and their diverse personalities.  The novel's description doesn't do those dichotomies justice.  Jude is a staunch homebody, and an "old soul"...set in her ways, living in the same house she grew up in, no cell phone, and has never had an email account before meeting Sile.  Sile, on the other hand, is carefree, a jet-setter, attached to her smartphone, thrives among crowds of friends in big city settings.

Honestly, despite the proclaimed chemistry between the two throughout the novel, I had a hard time truly seeing them together for most of it.  They were just SO polar-opposite in many ways, that it was often difficult for me to believe that either of them would ever be willing to make the changes necessary to be with the other.  I tried to suspend my disbelief as much as possible, and towards the end I started to soften towards them a bit, but that was probably my main dislike about the book.  I understand the idea of "opposites attract", but I think I could have done with just a few more similarities in this case.

My favorite relationships in the novel were actually between Jude and Sile and their respective friends.  Jude and Rizla (her best friend and ex-husband...kind of) have a great back-and-forth, and their history lends a lot to their interactions.  Sile's friend Jael is raunchy, crude, and downright hilarious, and her friend Marcus is witty and eminently likeable.  These side characters were a big part of what kept me interested in the plot.

Even though I had some trouble with the chemistry between Sile and Jude, I thought Donoghue did a good job with the progression of their relationship and the novel's ending.  I mean, the whole point here is that they are both exploring their personal identities, and trying to determine what is worth changing for their partner--so despite the whole thing about them being opposites, Donoghue does delve into their inner struggles very thoroughly.  Plus, I was completely unable to predict how the book would wrap up, and it was crafted it nicely--not cliched, not perfectly tied up, leaves you with a few questions unanswered.  It's about as vague of an ending as a romance novel can have, without being unsatisfactory.

Overall, I'd say if you are looking for a one-of-a-kind romance, Landing is a good bet.  Donoghue builds very distinctive characters (both primary and supporting), which lends a fun atmosphere to the entire novel.  You may just need to be more of a believer in extreme "opposites attract" than I am!  And don't expect this to be similar to Donoghue's Room--this novel is a complete gear-switch in comparison.

Other reviews of Landing:
Bonjour, Cass!
Secluded Charm
Casey The Canadian Lesbrarian

Monday, October 15, 2012

Audiobook Review + GIVEAWAY!: Rogue by Mark Sullivan

Title: Rogue
Author: Mark Sullivan
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Publication Date: October 2, 2012
Source: audio CDs provided by the publisher for an honest review

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Two years ago, Robin Monarch was maybe the best black top level CIA operative. But one day, in the middle of an operation, with his team around him in the field, Monarch walks away, leaving his old life and friends behind without a word of explanation.
Now this ex-soldier, ex-operative, and orphan with a murky past is a thief, stealing from the super-rich and has surfaced in St. Tropez. But when a complicated, high profile jewel heist goes wrong, Monarch is led into a carefully woven trap designed to force him to complete the very same mission he walked away from years ago. 
It will take all of his skills (as well as those of the team he burned) and all of his cunning, if Monarch is to thwart the violent and deadly goals of the very powerful cabal who will do whatever it takes to bring the very dangerous "Green Fields" technology under their control.

My Review:

This book easily caught my attention, because most other reviews I found mentioned similarities to Jason Bourne.  Whoa now--big expectations there!  Who doesn't think Jason Bourne is the ultimate action hero?  So after all that hype, I wanted to see if Robin Monarch really matched the bad-assedness of Bourne.

Early on, I realized that that was not a fair comparison--and not because Monarch fails to hit the bar.  Oh no!  His action sequences are great, and I could definitely envision him kicking some arse on the big screen.  (I give Sullivan a lot of credit for this--it can't be easy to write out a complicated fight scene and have it come off as both unconfusing and believable.)  

It's just that Monarch is a very different sort of character than Bourne.  First of all, he's less 'lone wolf' and more 'team player' (think Bourne meets A-Team?).  Monarch has a group of CIA operatives that stick with him through thick and thin in this novel, and are ready to back up his every ninja-like move.  (And their own action sequences will keep you on your toes, as well.)  He also has a more personal, Robin-Hood-esque backstory, which slowly unfolds throughout the novel and adds a lot to the plot as a whole.

After the first part of the book, I just decided that Robin Monarch holds his own as Robin Monarch--not Bourne, or Bauer, or anyone else.  No comparison necessary.

Beyond my thoughts about Monarch, I found this book to be a solid espionage thriller: you get everything that you'd expect from the genre.  The action starts early and doesn't let up.  There are lots of two-faced villains, mobsters, terrorists and (duh) spies.  Technological innovation and weaponry abound.  Plus, Monarch and his team end up all over the globe--from the foulest slum of Buenos Aires, to the high-class resorts of St. Moritz.  And contrary to Bond-style spy stories, while Monarch does have a few lovely ladies on his arm along the way, there are no strong romances in the novel--which for me, is a plus.  I wanted to focus on how Robin was going to evade the next baddie, not whether he would bed every female along the way.

There were some downsides.  The biggest one was the unveiling of the "Green Fields" technology.  This is kept secret for the majority of the novel, and is built up to be a world-ending, catastrophic sort of technological advance.  As a result, I was expecting something that would truly make my mind go numb.  Maybe I don't have enough appreciation for what Sullivan was trying to describe, but I just wasn't wow'ed when the reveal finally happened.  Green Fields is a question mark from the very beginning, so having this be a disappointment was a bit of a letdown.

Also, I found Monarch's constant repetition of his "rules" to be a bit cheesy.  The story behind the rules he lives by is explained as part of his history, but that didn't make it less odd when he answered a question with "Rule number four: no sudden moves" or something of the sort.  I see how Sullivan was trying to make this a unique and cryptic part of his character, but it didn't work for me.

I can't forget to mention the audio: Jeff Gurner is a fantastic narrator for this book!  His voice is intense, perfectly matching the tone of the novel.  Plus, he had to handle an amazing array of accents (everything from Argentinian women to Russian men), and he jumped into all of them seamlessly.  I'd say the only voice I disliked was that of CIA agent Agatha Hayes (she sounded more man than woman), but given the range he exhibited with everyone else, the voice of this side character didn't ruin the experience (it made me laugh, more than anything).  Gurner makes this worth a listen for sure.

Overall, if you like the spy-thriller genre, you should add this one to your list.  It keeps a fast pace, and Monarch is more than just your typical CIA operative.  I was disappointed in the reveal of the much-sought-after Green Field technology, but there are enough other twists at the end that it still felt like an explosive conclusion.

Sound interesting?  Then enter a chance to win a copy!

I am giving away 1 audiobook (CD format) of Rogue by Mark Sullivan.  It's only been listened to once (by me!), so it's in great condition.  This book made my commutes fly by, and I'd like to pass that on to another lucky reader.  (And thank you to Macmillan Audio for providing it in the first place!)

Just enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below for your chance to win!  Giveaway closes on October 22 at midnight and winner will be contacted by October 25. a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Audiobook Review: The Mermaid Chair by Sue Monk Kidd

Title: The Mermaid Chair
Author: Sue Monk Kidd
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Publication Date: March 31, 2005
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Plot Summary from Goodreads:

Inside the abbey of a Benedictine monastery on tiny Egret Island, just off the coast of South Carolina, resides a beautiful and mysterious chair ornately carved with mermaids and dedicated to a saint who, legend claims, was a mermaid before her conversion. Jessie Sullivan’s conventional life has been “molded to the smallest space possible.” So when she is called home to cope with her mother’s startling and enigmatic act of violence, Jessie finds herself relieved to be apart from her husband, Hugh. Jessie loves Hugh, but on Egret Island—amid the gorgeous marshlands and tidal creeks—she becomes drawn to Brother Thomas, a monk who is mere months from taking his final vows. What transpires will unlock the roots of her mother’s tormented past, but most of all, as Jessie grapples with the tension of desire and the struggle to deny it, she will find a freedom that feels overwhelmingly right.

My Review:

I was initially drawn to this book because I (and much of the rest of the world) enjoyed Kidd's other novel, The Secret Life of Bees.  I'd heard mixed reviews about this one, but gave it a try anyway.

Early on, I felt myself getting drawn into the book's atmosphere.  The narrator for the audiobook, Eliza Foss, provides a wonderful Southern lilt that perfectly fits my imagined voice for Jessie.  She also does a great job providing very distinct voices to all of the other characters in the novel (something that I find can make or break an audiobook for me).  And the fictional setting of Egret Island was beautiful--I wished I could explore the island in real life.

However, it wasn't long before I started to dislike Jessie's character.  She quickly started to come off as selfish, and constantly had an explanation for why everything she did was right.  But what really got me is this: Kidd tries to mask it with flowy prose, but the bottom line is that after 20 years of marriage, Jessie is bored and feeling tied down, so she rectifies the situation by cheating on her husband with another man.  I'm not averse to books that deal with infidelity--but I am not a fan of writing about it in such a way that it seems common, easily forgivable.  This book does that.  Jessie does what she does, explains it away throughout the novel, and maddeningly few pages are given to the way to which it is reacted.

The stated purpose of the book is to explore the connections between "the spiritual and the erotic", but I just don't think this was well-expressed.  I found myself not caring very much about the Mermaid Chair aspect (and while there is an interesting mystery surrounding Jessie's family, I found it's conclusion seemed like it was pulled out of thin air, disconnected from other parts of the story).

I think one of the better points of this novel is that you need to find yourself before you can "give" yourself to others.  I would have enjoyed the book more if that had shined through a bit brighter.  But it was hard for me to focus on that message with the messy way that Jessie's infidelities were handled.

Overall--this book had a lot of promise in the beginning.  Great setting, great voice, interesting family mysteries.  However, Jessie's perspective did not make me feel sympathetic to her in the least, and you need to be able to root for her at least a little bit if you want to put faith in the story Kidd is trying to tell.  An potentially beautiful story with an unfortunate POV problem.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Audiobook Alert: Where We Belong by Emily Giffin

Hey readers!  Remember the review I did of Emily Giffin's Where We Belong a couple weeks ago?  Well, Macmillan Audio reached out to me this week and let me know that it is also available as an audiobook. They sent me a clip from the first chapter, which you can check out here.

I'm always looking for attention-grabbing audiobooks with good narrators (which this appears to be!), so I thought I'd pass it on.

What are your favorite audiobook recommendations?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Book Review: The Confession by John Grisham

Title: The Confession
Author: John Grisham
Publisher: Random House Audio (audiobook on CD)
Release Date: October 26, 2010
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads:
For every innocent man sent to prison, there is a guilty one left on the outside. He doesn’t understand how the police and prosecutors got the wrong man, and he certainly doesn’t care. He just can’t believe his good luck. Time passes and he realizes that the mistake will not be corrected: the authorities believe in their case and are determined to get a conviction. He may even watch the trial of the person wrongly accused of his crime. He is relieved when the verdict is guilty. He laughs when the police and prosecutors congratulate themselves. He is content to allow an innocent person to go to prison, to serve hard time, even to be executed. 

Travis Boyette is such a man. In 1998, in the small East Texas city of Sloan, he abducted, raped, and strangled a popular high school cheerleader. He buried her body so that it would never be found, then watched in amazement as police and prosecutors arrested and convicted Donté Drumm, a local football star, and marched him off to death row.

Now nine years have passed. Travis has just been paroled in Kansas for a different crime; Donté is four days away from his execution. Travis suffers from an inoperable brain tumor. For the first time in his miserable life, he decides to do what’s right and confess.

But how can a guilty man convince lawyers, judges, and politicians that they’re about to execute an innocent man?

My Review:
Everyone's read John Grisham before.  That's a requirement these days, isn't it?  (I probably shouldn't say that, seeing as how I've never read Nora Roberts or James Patterson...)  But I think it's safe to assume most readers are pretty familiar with Grisham's genre, even if they haven't read one of his books.  He specializes in the legal thriller, usually pinpointing a particular issue that's made a recent splash in the media.  I went on a Grisham kick a few years ago, burned out (started to get courtroom-induced brain spasms), and now decided I was ready to jump in again.

I listened to this one on audio CD during my commutes over the last month.  I'll start with the narration and writing.  The narrator, Scott Sowers, was a little tough for me to follow at first--some of his voices between characters were too similar, leaving me confused at the beginning when I was still trying to figure out who everyone was (it is a LARGE cast of characters).  But after a disc or two, I had it figured out, and I thought his tone/accent were pretty fitting to the East Texas setting.  I especially enjoyed his voices for Travis Boyette (CREEPY) and The Monk (reminded me of the nerdy teacher in the movie Clueless).

The writing is pretty typical to most other Grisham novels that I've read.  It's concise, explaining the legal elements in laymen's terms without much technical jargon.  Lots of dialogue, lots of drama.  Easy to follow and easy to read (I would imagine).  I've never encountered a Grisham book that wasn't easy vacation-type reading (explaining why his books are available in every Hudson News airport kiosk, ever).

In terms of plot, I'd say the story moved along well, but the climax happened a little too early.  (Insert R-rated joke here.)  The novel jumps right in with Travis's confession, which pulls you in immediately.  And the action leading up to Donte's execution date was awesome--I had some commutes that left me sitting in my car for a few minutes after I parked, because I had to know what happened.  But after the execution day drama (which did NOT go as I expected, but I'm not going to spoil that for ya), I still had 3-4 CDs left, and for a while it just dragged.  Eventually it did pick up a little at the end, but there are several scenes after the "big day" that left me feeling like I was just killing time until the next legal issue could be resolved.

I thought Grisham's handling of the death penalty as a political issue was interesting, especially with the setting in a high execution state like Texas.  I can't discuss it too much without giving up the good stuff, but I think he brought forth a good mix of challenging the current laws, while also being realistic about how possible changes to those laws might be viewed in the state.

Overall?  It's a solid legal thriller that won't hurt your brain with too much technical detail, but could still get a good political debate going.  The plot isn't overly predictable.  The ending leaves something to be desired.  It feels like a cop-out to say it's "typical Grisham", but it is!  Not award-winning stuff, but enough to keep you entertained (and feeling mildly intelligent) the next time you need a quick read.
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