Category Archives: audiobooks

Audiobook Review: The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

27th June 2013

pg1*I received this audiobook from Penguin Audio in exchange for an honest review.

Honor Bright is a Quaker woman who is fleeing a broken engagement and following her sister to Ohio, where the sister will be married. Though Honor is violently ill on the journey over, it is her sister who succumbs to illness once they reach shore. Instead of facing another lengthy trip overseas home, Honor continues her trip to Ohio, to her sister’s intended, and to a new life in a strange country.

On the last leg of her journey, she meets Donovan, a slave hunter. Crude and disrespectful, Donovan is everything Honor is not. Yet he unsettles her, and she sees the good in him. Belle, his sister, is a milliner and takes Honor into her home, offering her a spot to grieve for her sister while she waits for her sister’s fiancee, who must travel from the next town over. Belle is rough, but again, Honor sees Belle’s beautiful hats and stitchwork and knows Belle is a kindred spirit. Honor isn’t boastful, but she is adept with a needle, and Belle offers her work, stitching in quiet solitude, just what Honor needs to acclimate to America.

Once she reaches Faithwell, she finds the Quaker community much different from her own. She marries relatively quickly, in many ways just so that he has somewhere to belong. Her journey has changed her, but her new family constricts that growth. Honor has never seen a slave until she reaches America, but her community doesn’t rail against slavery as she wishes. After a runaway stumbles onto her new family’s property, Honor decides she must help the slaves, even against the wishes of her stalwart mother in law.

Honor Bright is a study in juxtaposition. She is faithful, but she also has strong beliefs, and when those beliefs butt up against the people of her community, she takes a stand. She struggles against the strictures her mother in law imposes, making decisions she herself is surprised at, all in the name of her newfound beliefs.

Though the quilting descriptions and their significance in the Quaker community was interesting, to a point, the endless descriptions of the stitches and what an excellent quilter Honor is were tedious. This is particularly apparent in an audiobook.

However, this is also an example of how good narration can save a book from an otherwise tepid response. Kate Reading narrates Tracy Chevalier’s The Last Runaway, and as with anyone whose name isn’t Simon Vance, it takes me a bit to grow accustomed to the voice reading me a story. But as I continued to listen (on a road trip to Dallas), Reading absolutely caught me with her pacing, use of accents, and intonation.

A quiet but consuming read from the eyes of an outsider both to the country and to the American Quaker community, The Last Runaway is absorbing historical fiction.

Add this to your shelf on Goodreads.

Audiobooks: The Lowdown on Headphones

6th February 2013

At the end of the year, I listened to a lot of audiobooks. Between October and December, I listened to at least 15. Those who listen to audiobooks and know that even a short book can be a 6-hour listening time know that it’s a commitment.

I thoroughly enjoy audiobooks, but I was running into a problem: headphones. When I could listen without them, I did, but at the gym, on walks, and cleaning house, headphones make so much more sense. And I have a confession: as much as I love Apple products, I absolutely hate the earbuds. (I hear the EarPods are better, but I have not tried them out.)

When a friend at AT&T* (thank you!) offered me two sets of headphones to try out, I jumped at the chance. The headphones? Skullcandy Supreme Sound Merge and Plantronics Backbeats Go Wireless.

 

headphone1

headphone4

Fits flush on the opening of the ear.

The Skullcandy Supreme Sound Merge are wired, and they work as well as any wired earbuds I’ve tried. The wire itself is flat to reduce tangling. I will say, I just pulled these out of my bag after a week of not using them, and they pulled out without any knots or untangling. That’s a plus. Also, these earbuds are comfortable. There are several different covers, and the smallest were awesome. Unlike the earbuds I’m used to, I could wear these for a long stint without feeling like I had an earache.

I’m not an audiophile, but I will say the sound is a bit tinny on these. For me, that isn’t a huge issue, but if you’re a sound guru, you may want something a bit fuller. For comfort (and this includes not having to push these back in my ears), these are excellent for the price. These also fit in the ear without sticking out much, so wearing earrings or sunglasses isn’t an issue.

Pros:

  • Comfort
  • Price ($20-$30)
  • Discreetness
  • Tangle-free

Cons:

  • Sound
  • Still pull out easily if jogging

headphones2

Image via att.com

Image via att.com

headphone3

Fits the ear well but does stick out about a quarter of an inch.

The Plantronics Backbeat Go Wireless are just awesome. One of my biggest complaints of headphones (other than comfort) is how easily I rip them out of my ears or device. This annoys me so much, even though I know it’s just because I swing my arms like crazy. Still, if it’s bothersome, it’s bothersome. The Backbeats Go Wireless are wireless in that they have no main wire or lead out to the device. There is a wire that connects the left ear piece to the right ear piece. It fits easily behind your head or under your chin.

This little set of earbuds is pretty impressive for a number of reasons. First, they manage to fit the mini USB charger into one of the ear buds without making it too large to be comfortable. Second, the sound is awesome. Partially, I think that’s because they do a good job of sealing the ear and giving a fuller sound, but the Skullcandy set had the same setup, and the sound doesn’t compare. Once charged, there’s a side button on the in-line control panel to power these on and connect with your device via Bluetooth. The in-line remote is super easy to use and located a few inches below the right earbud. Some reviews hit these on battery life, but I’ve gotten excellent battery life out of these (nearly five hours). Of course, I don’t use these much for actual calls, which could make a difference if you utilize the headset for call purposes. Speaking of phone calls, I did make and receive a couple, and the sound was fine – no tunnel effects, though I did take one bud out because I felt so muffled.

The downside to this set is that when you do have to charge these, it takes a while. The other drawback is the size of the buds themselves. They’re small, particularly with what I mentioned above regarding charging capabilities, but they’re still large enough with the smallest bud covers that I continually have to secure them in my ear a bit more, even with the stabilizers. Therefore, I can’t recommend these for jogging without some adjusting. But for house cleaning, walking, and sitting at a desk, these are unobtrusive and comfortable with a great sound experience. I’ll be frank: these are my new go-to headphones. I kind of geek out about them. 🙂

Pros:

  • Wireless
  • Great sound
  • Long battery life
  • Fit

Cons:

  • Ear stabilization
  • Charge time
  • Price ($99)

So all you audiobook listeners out there, have you tried either of these? Tempted? Treat. Yo. Self.

 

*AT&T provided me with these headphones; however, that did not affect my review. The links provided are for convenience. I do not receive any compensation for any clicks or views.

Audiobook Review: The Mark of Zorro by Johnston McCulley

15th November 2012

El Zorro, the Curse of Capistrano, is, according to the government, a highwayman, a vicious bandit who steals from the hardworking. But the caballeros, friar, and poor know the truth. El Zorro is a hero. Defending the defenseless and meting out justice in a corrupt government is Zorro’s mission, but he does it with such aplomb, he wins the hearts of the just, including Senorita Lolita Pulido, the daughter of a man with good blood who has been disgraced by the governor.

El Zorro’s first entrance is in the local bar, where Sergeant Gonzalez has been boasting of facing down Zorro and his 20 followers. Not a word of it’s true, and Zorro slaps the sergeant across the face, humiliating him in front of all present. But Zorro takes few things more seriously than honor, and Gonzalez is not an honorable man. The soldiers are ready for blood, but Don Diego Vega’s entrance seems to calm everyone. Don Diego is a caballero, but he isn’t exactly robust. His blood and family name command respect, however. He often complains of tiredness and though he wishes to marry Senorita Lolita Pulido, he can’t summon the energy to court her. In short, he’s a bit of a joke.

The story here is classic but not complicated, and what wins the novel is the dialogue. It’s quickly apparent that Don Diego’s insipidness is a front for his true spirit, but the gullibility of those around him, who see only what they want, is really funny. Plus, el Zorro is harsh, and his insults are both humorous and stinging.

Armando Durán narrates, and he is absolutely fantastic, so much so that I happily did chores for about four hours Friday night, including cleaning out my closet, so I could have more time with The Mark of Zorro.

Download The Mark of Zorro from Audible. Add this to your shelf or check out other reviews on Goodreads.

The Orphanmaster by Jean Zimmerman (& 2 Giveaways!)

19th July 2012

*This book was sent to me by the publisher Viking in exchange for an honest review.

In 1663 New Amsterdam, life is fragile. Attacks by Native Americans are a constant threat, as is attack from the British government or the competing companies. Orphans are a commodity, bought and sold by the orphanmaster for the best price. Blandine van Couvering escaped that fate. Orphaned at 15, she took over her father’s trade business with the help of a large African who, saved from the hangman’s noose, guards Blandine. Edward Drummond is a British spy, there to seek out the colony’s weaknesses. When orphans start to go missing, Blandine and Edward seem to be the only two who care, or at least, the only rational two. Witika fever has terrified the colony – the witika is the demon of the natives who can make a man desire human flesh, and when orphans turn up dead with witika masks and symbols near the bodies, New Amsterdam panics.

The Orphanmaster is an ambitious historical novel that, though incredibly spooky and suspenseful, suffers at times from information overload. Many chapters begin with information dumps about the history and geography of the area, which is interesting but definitely slows an otherwise tense novel. The Orphanmaster isn’t a traditional mystery in that it’s fairly evident who the devilish murderer is, but the aspect of adventure is enticing, as is the 17th-century colony and its inhabitants. The narration flips between telling the stories of Blandine and Edward to the story of the killer and a Native American under the influence of the witika.

Though slow in the beginning, The Orphanmaster thoroughly unsettled me and made me want to read more about New York and its origins. (Thankfully, I’ve got just the book for that…)

Curious? Leave a comment below, and you could win the hardcover book or the audiobook thanks to the generous people at Viking Books.

Psst! Click on the title to see if you won the giveaway for Shadow of Night or The Truth of All Things.