Tuesday, November 13, 2012

audiobook mini-reviews: Defending Jacob, Then Came You, and Ten Thousand Saints

Because I seem to be unable to actually get caught up on reviews, this week I'll be bringing you a few sets of mini-reviews. First up: audiobooks!

The backstory: I don't listen to many audiobooks. I've tried, I really have, but I can never finish the digital library loaned ones before they delete (my library only gives you seven days!) I don't drive to work, so cds don't work for me. I used to copy cds to my iPod, but my iPod is now over six years old and doesn't allow bookmarking, so if I want to  listen to anything else, I have to write down my stopping point. I'm not invested enough in them to spend money at audible. I have finally found something that works: Playaways! They're genius, really. Playaways are their own portable player with only the book loaded on to it. I can plug it into the car on the odd chance I am driving, take it to the gym, listen to it while doing dishes, and I can check one out for three weeks for only $1. After not listening to an audiobook all year, I've been listening consistently enough to complete about one a month. Here are my thoughts on the first three I finished.

Defending Jacob by William Landay gets the credit for my renewed audiobook accomplishments: it was the perfect blend of intriguing (I was eager to listen again) without making me drop everything else I was doing to only listen. It helped me find more times I could listen (while grocery shopping!) The narrator was really good, and I never had any problems picking up where I left off, even as the novel moved between two time periods. Grover Gardner's narration was strong: his emphasis and cadence enhanced the story and helped convey the gravity of several scenes.

The verdict: Defending Jacob is a legal thriller. I was fascinated by the depth of legal knowledge Landay brought, but what makes this novel shine is how well it sits in different shades of grey from multiple points of view. Read it: in print or on audio.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 432 pages (12 hours and 25 minutes)
Publication date: January 31, 2012
Source: library
Buy: Amazon (Kindle version)

Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner
After adoring her first several books in my early twenties, I haven't read Jennifer Weiner for several years. I'm increasingly fascinated by issues surrounding fertility, and the premise of this one intrigued me. It's narrated by four different women: Jules, a Princeton student approached at a mall to donate her eggs; Annie, a young mother of two who wants to contribute more financially by being a surrogate; India, a forty-three year old woman who wants a baby with her husband, who already has two grown children; and Betina, India's step-daughter who wants to thwart India's plans.

The verdict: I don't think I would have enjoyed this one as much in print, but the four narrators were fabulous. The segments of their stories were the perfect length for my workouts, cleaning and errands. Some parts were slower than others, but overall, it was engaging and emotionally compelling. The narrators gave each woman a unique voice, both literally and figuratively. Read it: on audio.

Rating: 4 out of 5
Length: 354 pages (10 hours and 53 minutes)
Publication date: July 12, 2011
Source: library
Buy: Amazon (Kindle version)

Ten Thousand Saints by Eleanor Henderson was on of the New York Times top 5 fiction of 2011 picks. It opens in Vermont on New Year's Eve in 1987, a night the reader learns early on will be the last for sixteen-year-old Teddy. Stretching from Vermont to Manhattan's East Village and back again, Ten Thousand Saints is both a fascinating glimpse at a time and at the dueling drug and straight-edge subcultures. The writing was beautiful, and I found myself doing as Gayle does--reading and listening to the book at the same time. It's a testament to the vulnerable, raw, urgent and strong narration of Steven Kaplan that I ultimately opted to finish it on audio. He captured the essence of the characters and the period beautifully. Read it: in print or on audio.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5
Length: 400 pages (11 hours and 5 minutes)
Publication date: June 7, 2011
Source: library
Buy: Amazon (Kindle version)

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  1. I can't wait to read Ten Thousand Saints now! Great reviews.

  2. I tend to find audiobooks hit or miss. I'm glad you found several that you enjoyed! I have Then Came You on my tbr list.

  3. The ending to Defending Jacob just blew me away, and I am glad that you loved it as much as I did. I think the others that you chose sound fabulous too, so I will have to look for them. Thanks for the awesome and very enthusiastic reviews today!

  4. I hadn't heard of Playaways until you mentioned it here. I did download Defending Jacob from Audible, so I will be sure to listen to that next! (If I ever finish 11/22/63.. I'm just not really an audio person!!)

  5. I agree with you -- 7 days is not long enough to complete an audiobook. That is why I went with Audible. I've found I really enjoy listening but need quite a bit of time to complete a book. Plus I want to get what I want to get -- not what I can scrounge at the library. My library doesn't have these Playaway things but my sisters-in-law love them. I think I'm going to try Defending Jacob -- I've heard such good things about it.

  6. Ten Thousand Saints was new to me until reading this review but will have to put it on the list - thanks! I sprinkle audiobooks throughout my regular reading but it does take a me awhile to get through them because I tend to listen in snippets. 7 days wouldn't work for me in print or audio.

  7. Thanks for the shoutout!! I love the read/listen combo. :)


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