Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Phenomenal by Leigh Ann Henion

I wrote this review for Library Journal Magazine. 

Henion, Leigh Ann. Phenomenal. 9 CDs. Unabridged. 10 hours 30 minutes. Books on Tape. 2015. ISBN 9781101887783 $34.95.

The story begins with Henion, and the birth of her son. After suffering what seems like postpartum depression, but is described as being "deeply shaken by the birth of her beloved son", she goes out to seek wanders. Seeing such things as phosphorescence off Vieques Island or a volcanic eruption in Hawaii as she travels the world. She begins to see that having a family does not mean the end of her independence or wanderlust.

Henion, a Lowell Thomas Award winner, has contributed to articles in the Washington Post Magazine, the Smithsonian, and Oxford America. She was relieved an Artist Fellowship in 2013 from the North Carolina's Art Council. 

Narrater Nicol Zanzarella, also a Trenton Film Festival Nominee, does a decent job working with the material she was given, showing inflection when she can, but coming off sounding like a computer in the end. 

I personally would not recommend this book, however,  fans of Elizabeth Gilbert's Eat, Pray, Love, may find this book interesting or folks who enjoyed Wild by Cheryl Strayed might pick it up.

Uncaged by John Sandford and Michele Cook

I wrote this for Library Journal Magazine
Sandford, John and Cook, Michele. Uncaged. 10 CDs. Unabridged. 11 hours 44 minutes. Books On Tape Listening Library. 2014. ISBN 9780553395501 $45.00.
Bouncing from home to home in the Foster Care system, Shay Remby has had to worry about herself and her Autistic, but brilliant brother Odin. Then Odin calls Shay in the middle of the night distressed and talking about horrible experiments of a company he and some animal rights activist hit, and that he has to disappear with one of the experiments, a dog, for a while. When the police who are not exactly police come looking for Odin, Shay knows she must find him before they do. 
John Sandford, who is the author of the adult Prey novels, begins his venture into young adult novels with this book. He does an excellent job of keeping the pace going. This novel is also Michele Cook's first Young adult book. Narrator Tara Sands does a wonderful job voicing the main character Shay, she is able to get teenage sarcasm down perfectly.   

Readers' who enjoyed D.J. MacHale's Sylo series will want to give this story a try. 

Storm by DJ MacHale

This was a review I wrote for Library Journal Magazine. 

MacHale, D.J. Storm. 10 CDs. Unabridged. 12 hours 13 minutes. Dreamscape. 2014. ISBN 9781629233727 $59.99.
The second novel in the Sylo Chronicles, Storm picks up where Sylo left off, Tucker, Tori, Kent, and Olivia had survived the sea battle between Sylo and the mysterious black planes; and finally made it to the main land only to discover that there is no one there! Things are not always as they seem though as little by little the group begin to find survivors of the attack, including Jonathan a hospital worker who introduces them to a mysterious radio message. After decoding the message, the group decides to head to Nevada, but along the way they run into danger; and Tucker discovers that there may be a traitor in his group of friends.

MacHale does it again, he manages to grab the reader and not let go until the very last page. He creates such a gripping thriller that it is hard not to get sucked in.

Andrew Bates returns as narrator, and continues to draw the listener into Tucker’s world with his talent.

Readers who enjoyed Sylo will find that this story does not disappoint.

Tilt by Ellen Hopkins

This was an audiobook review that I wrote for Library Journal magazine 

Hopkins, Ellen. Tilt. 7 CDs. Unabridged. 8 hours. Audioworks. 2014. ISBN 9781442368118 $29.99.
Teens Mikayla, Shane, and Harley’s, the teen characters who were introduced in Hopkin’s adult novel “Triangles”, world is changing. Mikayla thought she found her true love with Dylan, but that changes quickly when one night of carelessness turns into a lifetime commitment. Harley, has always been the good girl, but after changing her looks and behavior she finds herself unknowingly in way over her head. Shane, who has come out, finds his first love Alex, who is HIV positive, online. However amidst the joys of first love, Shane experiences the loss of his four year old sister, which then causes him to spiral out of control.

Hopkins is the author of several bestselling books such as Crank, Triangles, Glass, and much more. This novel is written as a narrative, and not in her signature poetry as the Crank series was. Hopkins has never held any punches back when it comes to the reality and grittiness of life of her characters in her books, and Tilt is no different.

The audiobook is narrated by three different narrators, Kirby Heyborne, who has received an Odyssey Award, Madeleine Maby, who has worked with several theater companies, and Rebekkah Ross who stars on a web series. Having multiple narrators is always nice because it is easier to keep track of who is talking on the audiobook. These three did a fantastic job of making Mikayla, Shane, and Harley come alive.

Hopkins fans will pick up this book without a second thought, but others readers/listeners who enjoy gritty realistic teen books will want to give this a try as well.

Mess: One Man's Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act by Barry Yourgrau

This was a review I wrote for Library Journal Magazine. 

Yourgrau, Barry. Mess: One Man's Struggle to Clean Up His House and His Act. 8 CDs. Unabridged. 9 hours 5 minutes. Dreamscape. 2015. ISBN 9781681414027 $49.99.
Barry's girlfriend has given him an ultimatum, clean up your mess or else. A self proclaimed clutterbug, Barry has been keeping odds and ends of all types- from a broken vaccum cleaner he will eventually fix to many many bags. Turning this into a writing project Barry decides to document his journey of decluttering, with before and after photos of his messes. The author goes on the examine packrats and horders throughout time from Mark Twain's Bleak House to the folks of Socrates' era. Talking with various shrinks, Ron the "disaster master", and Clutterers Anonymous, Barry looks at the different reasons why people may keep their items. With a failure to launch type situation, Barry over thinks his workflow, but with inspiration from Cheryl Mendelson's book "Home Comforts" Barry finally starts to chip away at his clutter. 
Yourgrau, born in South Africa, has penned other novels including "Haunted Traveller" and "A Man Jumps Out of An Airplane". He has won a Drama-Logue award for "Wearing Dad's Head." He also appeared in the film version of his novel "The Sadness of Sex." He splits his time between New York and Istanbul. 

Narrated by Peter Brooke, who has voiced numerous audiobooks in his career, has a very pleasant voice. Reading smoothly, Barry, his girlfriend Cosima/Medea/Prunella, and an abundance of secondary characters, Brooke speaks clearly and the sounds quality does not have that "phoning it in" feeling that some audiobooks will have. 
Folks who enjoy watching the TV Show Hoarders, will find this an interesting read, especially if they are looking for a psychological reasoning behind a persons "mess". 

Monday, April 21, 2014

Holy Orders by Benjamin Black

This review was published in the April 17, 2014 Xpress Reviews of the Library Journal website. 

Black, Benjamin. Holy Orders. 8 CDs. Unabridged. 9 hours 30 minutes. Macmillan Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781427231673 $39.99.
Holy Orders is the 6th book of the Quirke novels. Jimmy Minor, a reporter for the local paper, is found dead in the canal, beaten and horribly mutilated. Jimmy was always a private guy, who would want him dead? Was it because of who he fancied or was it the church covering up something he was working on? It’s up to medical examiner Quirke and Inspector Hackett to solve the case. Author Benjamin Black, which is the pseudonym for John Banville, fails to create the gripping thriller that he was aiming for. He attempts to develop his characters but bogs us down with so many pointless details that the listener only knows that someone died and that there are a bunch of characters that they don’t care about.  
Narrator John Keating tries his best to give the story life and emotion, but due to the story jumping points of view so many times by the second disc you can’t recall what voice belongs to whom.
Not recommended, fans of mysteries and thrillers would be disappointed.
Jessi Brown. Huntington City-Township Pub. Lib., Huntington, Indiana. 

Somebody Up There Hates You by Hollis Seamon

This review was published in the February 15, 2014 issue of Library Journal.

Seamon, Hollis. Somebody Up There Hates You. 6 CDs (6 hours 15 minutes). High Bridge. 2013. 9781622312108. $26.95

Seamon’s debut young adult novel is a mixture of heart wrenching sadness with some humor thrown in. The story is told from the viewpoint of Richie, a 17 year old boy living in a hospice unit. Richie along with his partner in hospice crime 15 year old Sylvi, is determined to make sure he lives whatever days he has left to the fullest, whether it is breaking out Halloween night with his uncle or being propositioned by Marie Antoinette. Seamon’s detail to the hospice unit is spot on from the showers to the family lounge area. Narrator Noah Galvin, who has narrated other novels such as Perks of Being a Wallflower and Punished, does an amazing job of voicing Richie.
Older young adults who enjoy reading books about dying teenagers will want to give this book a try.
Jessi Brown, Huntington City-Township Public Library. Huntington, Indiana.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Tao of Martha: my year of living or why I'm never getting all that glitter off of the dog by Jen Lancaster

The following review I wrote was published in the September 15th, 2013 Issue of the Library Journal.

Lancaster, Jen. The Tao of Martha: my year of living or why I'm never getting all that glitter off the dog. 7 CDs (8 hours 57 minutes). Dreamscape Media. 2013. 9781624065316

In Lancaster's newest book, she takes on the essence of Martha Stewart. Taking the things in life that are not that glamorous, organizing pantries, spice cabinets, planning holiday parties such as Easter, Fourth of July, Halloween, and much much more she tries to plan and execute in a way that would make Martha approve. Whenever she comes across an obstacle, she asks herself, what would Martha do? Even though this is Lancaster's 9th book, she is still rolling out fresh and original work, while keeping with her humor and wit. Narrated by Jen herself, she was able to get across the exact inflection and emotion that was used when she wrote the book.
This book is recommended for anyone who enjoys a good humorous memoir about self discovery/improvement.
Jessi Brown, Huntington City-Township Public Library. Huntington, Indiana.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

SYLO by D.J. MacHale

The following review I wrote was published in the November 22nd Xpress Reviews of the Library Journal, and was a starred review. 

MacHale, D.J. SYLO. 9 CDs. library ed. unabridged. 11 hrs. Dreamscape Media. 2013. ISBN 9781624068546 $59.99; digital download. F

First, freshman Tucker Pierce watches the star of his football team drop dead with no explanation. Then he witnesses an unexplained explosion followed by a stranger trying to promote an “athletic supplement” that gives those who take it superhuman speed and strength. The next thing he knows his home is being invaded by SYLO, a secret branch of the military, and quarantined for a lethal “virus.” The longer the quarantine goes on, the more Tucker and his friends start to believe that SYLO might be lying. MacHale, author of the popular “Pendragon” titles, here launches another thrilling series. With constant action, this book will have listeners trying to decipher the good guys from the bad guys to the very end. Andrew Bates does an amazing job of narrating the fear, anguish, and terror that the residents of Pemberwick Island feel.
Verdict Recommended for anyone who enjoys a fast-paced thriller. Fans of Robert Ludlum’s “Bourne” series might want to try this YA novel with crossover appeal.—Jessi Brown, Huntington City Twp. P.L., IN

Dad or Alive by Adrian Kulp

The following review I wrote was published in the December 20th Xpress Reviews of the Library Journal. 

Kulp, Adrian. Dad or Alive: Confessions of an Unexpected Stay-at-Home Dad. 4 CDs. retail ed. unabridged. 5 hrs. Tantor Audio. 2013. ISBN 9781452614229. $34.99; 1 MP3-CD/4 CDs. library ed.; Playaway digital; digital download. MEMOIR

Blogger Kulp (dadoralive.com) takes listeners into the life and mind of a first-time dad. Kulp explores the struggles of turning the man cave into his daughter’s room, navigating his pregnant wife’s hormonal roller coaster, and shifting gears from executive to stay-at-home father. Many parents will relate to the issues of strangers mistaking their children’s gender, having to change the baby in the car because a changing table cannot be found for miles, and everyone wanting to put their germy hands on the infant. Kulp provides his own capable narration.

Verdict Recommend to fans of humorous parenting memoirs.—Jessi Brown, Huntington City Twp. P.L., IN