chicklit, contemporary, romance

Audiobook Review: Austenland by Shannon Hale

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Title: Austenland
Author: Shannon Hale
Narrator: Katharine Kellgren
Publisher: Macmillan Audio
Length: 6 hours, 20 minutes
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Chicklit
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Jane is a young New York woman who never seems to find the right man-perhaps because of her secret obsession with Mr. Darcy, as played by Colin Firth in the BBC adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. When a wealthy relative bequeaths her a trip to an English resort catering to Austen-obsessed women, however, Jane’s fantasies of meeting the perfect Regency-era gentleman suddenly become more real than she ever could have imagined. Is this total immersion in a fake Austenland enough to make Jane kick the Austen obsession for good, or could all her dreams actually culminate in a Mr. Darcy of her own?

Review:
I’ve been meaning to read this for a while and after listening to Daughter of Smoke and Bone I needed something light and this was perfect! I actually finished listening to it in about 4 hours because I sped up the audiobook and I really enjoyed it.

Jane was both endearing and annoying but I tend to like my heroines with flaws so it worked for her. She was naive and a bit silly for a woman in her 30s but very believable. I enjoyed her character over all and thought she was really funny.

The beginning of the story was kind of hard to get into though. Her aunt understanding her just from seeing the DVDs and gifting her the vacation made it hard to suspend my disbelief but once I got passed it I was in the story just like any other contemporary.

I didn’t see the plot twist coming actually which is honestly such a good thing. Normally I can spot contemporary plot twists a mile away. There were two actually, but the one I did see coming.

I can’t really talk about the other characters without spoiling anything but most of them felt really 2D, which I found okay for a story like this. Because almost all the other characters were supposed to be actors I think it’s better that they didn’t feel real. I think it made the plot twist a lot harder to see actually.

 

The narrator did a great job as well. She had an American accent for Jane but was able to do the British accents for the other characters very convincingly. She read a bit slower than I normally like but thank goodness you can speed up an audiobook for things like that.

I definitely recommend giving this book a try if you’re on the edge about it. Maybe I enjoyed it so much because the book I read before it was so heavy but it’s definitely a perfect light read. I almost wish I had read it at the beach over the summer.

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Fantasy, romance, young adult

Audiobook Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

daughter of smoke and bone

Title: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Publisher: Blackstone Audio, Inc.
Length: 12 hours, 33 minutes
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Karou leads two lives. One is in the tangled streets of Prague, as an orphan and art student; the other in a clandestine workshop, overflowing with jars of teeth and wishes, run by the ram-horned magician, Brimstone—the closest thing to family Karou has ever known. She doesn’t know where she came from, but she’s about to find out. When Karou meets stunning, haunted Akiva, she finds a love whose roots drink deep of a violent past, and an ancient war that is far from over. Master storyteller Laini Taylor imagines a wholly unique fantasy about a forbidden love, an epic battle, and hope for a world remade.

Review:
Honestly, I had absolutely no idea what this book was about going into it. I just knew that I’d seen it all over book blogs and booktube and the cover was pretty. I was looking for an audiobook on my library website and it was available instantly so it worked. I’d never read the blurb until I had to find it to write this review.

I was very pleasantly surprised by it! It’s very interesting and the story feels fresh. Even the insta-love feels fresh because of how Taylor built the story around it. It’s still insta-love and kind of gets so cheesy I found myself thinking oh get a room while listening to it but I still enjoyed the romance aspect.

The book itself felt like three separate books. I’m not sure if I would have felt the same if I wasn’t listening to the audiobook version but I didn’t mind that it felt kind of separate. It’s quite a long book to listen to so I think the feeling of 3 books in one made the pacing feel faster.

I really love Karou. She’s bad ass but isn’t afraid to feel her emotions (most times). There were times where I was annoyed with her actions/decisions but that happens with every character. I do think her personality changed it bit drastically in certain parts but circumstances in the book may be able to account for that.

My favorite character is by far Zuzana, she’s feisty and definitely the voice of reason in the story. I’m not sure how I feel about Akiva. Sometimes I think he has a personality and other times he feels as flat as a sheet of paper. I hope he’s fleshed out more in future books.

The narration for this audiobook was amazing. Hvam uses different accents and tones for different characters and it totally immersed me in the story. She’s very good at various accents as well. Her pacing was perfect as well.

I really enjoyed this book and I’ve already started Days of Blood and Starlight. I really enjoy the titles in this series, too. They feel majestic.

children's book

Audiobook Review: The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket

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Title: A Series of Unfortunate Events: The Bad Beginning
Author: Lemony Snicket (Daniel Handler)
Narrator: Tim Curry (with other actors for various voices)
Publisher: HarperAudio
Length: 2 hours and 31 minutes
Genre: Children’s book
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Like a car alarm, bagpipe music, or a doorbell ringing in the middle of the night, hearing this all-new audio edition of The Bad Beginning will only upset you. This unique multi-voice recording brings the first book in Lemony Snicket’s alarming A Series of Unfortunate Events to such terrible life that no one should really have to experience it. Unless you have an ear for such ghastly details as a tragic fire, a nefarious villain, itchy clothing, and cold porridge for breakfast, all narrated in chilly detail by the distinguished, and disturbed, Tim Curry with a team of talented readers, you would be better off listening to something else.

Review:
I read the entirety of the series when I was 12 and I loved it then. It was interesting and I enjoyed that Snicket (IE Handler) didn’t treat the reader like a child but was still able to explain the bigger words he used and the context. I think a great part of my vocabulary inauspiciously came from these books but I digress.

I decided to reread (well listen to the audiobooks) to refresh my memory on the series now that Netflix is putting out a TV show based on them. I’m super excited for that by the way. Let’s just pretend the movie they decided to make didn’t nearly do the books justice.

I really enjoyed listening to this audiobook. Tim Curry has exactly the voice I imagined the narrator to have while I was reading them. I didn’t necessarily care for the other voice actors who voiced the children mostly because they all kind of sound the same and make it hard to stay immersed in the story.

The story itself is relatively simple and there isn’t much I can say on it without spoiling people. I doubt there are people who haven’t read or still want to read it but just in case. I’m excited to get to further books in the series where Snicket isn’t setting up the scene so much so it focuses more heavily on plot.

The book was very short especially since I listened to it on 1.25x the normal speed. I appreciated that. It was just as good as I remember. I’m waiting for the next audiobook in the series to become available at my library to continue my “reread.”

 

classic, romance

Audiobook Review: Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

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Title: Mansfield Park
Author: Jane Austen
Narrator: Karen Savage
Publisher: Librivox
Length: 14 hours-ish
Genre: Romance, Classic,
Rating: 3 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Taken from the poverty of her parents’ home in Portsmouth, Fanny Price is brought up with her rich cousins at Mansfield Park, acutely aware of her humble rank and with her cousin Edmund as her sole ally. During her uncle’s absence in Antigua, the Crawford’s arrive in the neighbourhood bringing with them the glamour of London life and a reckless taste for flirtation. Mansfield Park is considered Jane Austen’s first mature work and, with its quiet heroine and subtle examination of social position and moral integrity, one of her most profound.

For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

Review:
I think of all the Jane Austen novels I’ve read/listened to, this one is the most boring. If I’m being for real. There was a lot of nothing happening a lot. But once things picked up I found myself enjoying it.

Fanny Price does not have a personality and I think that’s kind of the point Jane Austen was trying to make. She was seen by Henry Crawford as the perfect wife because she was agreeable and quiet and unable to speak out even when she was wronged. I like the point Austen was trying to make even if I think she took a little too long to make it.

Edmund Bertram also didn’t have a personality but in a different way. I’m not quite sure how to explain it but nothing particular stands out about him aside from him being nice to Fanny and wanting to be a clergymen.

I zoned out a lot listening to this novel and couldn’t be bothered to backtrack when I realized I did this. I enjoyed it but I definitely don’t think it should have taken over 14 hours to listen.

I listened to the Librivox free recording of the novel on Youtube. Karen Savage was a great narrator and I really enjoyed how she read it. I was worried because it’s a public space Audiobook that the quality would be sacrificed but it definitely wasn’t.

classic, romance

Audiobook Review: Emma by Jane Austen

Title: Emma
Author: Jane Austen
Narrator: Juliet Stevenson
Publisher: Naxos AudioBooks
Length: 16 hours and 38 minutes
Genre: romance, classic
Rating: 3.5 Folded Pages

Blurb (from Audible):
One of Jane Austen’s most popular novels. Arrogant, self-willed, and egotistical, Emma is her most unusual heroine.

Review:
Decidedly, Emma is my least favorite Jane Austen novel that I’ve read. It’s taken several tries to actually get through it (thank god for audiobooks tbh) and I finally have. I definitely like the book the more than any of the adaptations I’ve seen (2009 BBC Emma and Emma Approved) but I still find Emma completely unlikable.

For the most part, Emma annoys the ever living shit out of me. She’s bratty and conceited and can’t see the consequence of her actions before she acts. Frank Churchill also makes all these traits worse.

I did love seeing her character growth but she’s just less of those things. The only saving grace is Knightley who I honestly love as much if not almost more than Darcy. I love that he can see Emma’s flaws and loves her anyway.

Still I did enjoy listening to the book. I think the adaptations of the book present a much harsher Emma than the book does. I understand the need to get the point across about her character in not book form but still I see why I was turned off the book for so long.

As usual, Juliet Stevenson did an absolutely amazing job with the narration. I’m sad that the Naxos version of Pride and Prejudice isn’t narrated by Juliet Stevenson because she does such an excellent job.

classic, romance

Audiobook Review: Persuasion by Jane Austen

Title: Persuasion
Author: Jane Austen
Narrator: Juliet Stevenson
Publisher: Naxos AudioBooks
Length: 8 hours 47 minutes
Genre: Classic, romance
Rating: 4.5 Folded Pages

Blurb:
Anne Elliot has grieved for seven years over the loss of her first love, Captain Frederick Wentworth. But events conspire to unravel the knots of deceit and misunderstanding in this beguiling and gently comic story of love and fidelity.

Review:
Anne Elliot is the type of person I want to be and also want in a best friend. I like how down to Earth and loyal she is. And I think so far she’s my favorite character of any Austen novel I love Miss Elizabeth Bennet but she can be a bit grating which I don’t find at all with Anne.

Juliet Stevenson did an amazing job bringing this novel to life as well. I’ve read this before but I didn’t quite understand it the way I did when Stevenson narrated it. Her inflections and pace are amazing. The only thing I have to say is that I feel like chapter ends are abrupt because she narrates like the chapter is continuing. But I only noticed that 2 or 3 times.

I really enjoyed the way the romance played out in the book. Everything was done subtly. There were no grand gestures or over the top romantic lines. The romance perfectly suited Anne’s personality.

I think as far as Austen novels go, I’m going to have a hard time choosing the order of my liking. Pride and Prejudice (so far) has my number 1 but it’s a close fight for 2nd between Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility.

classic, romance

Audiobook Review: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Title: Sense and Sensibility
Author: Jane Austen
Narrator: Juliet Stevenson
Publisher: Naxos AudioBooks
Length: 12 hours and 43 minutes
Genre: Classic, Romance
Rating: 4 Folded Pages

Blurb:
When Mrs. Dashwood is forced by an avaricious daughter-in-law to leave the family home in Sussex, she takes her three daughters to live in a modest cottage in Devon. For Elinor, the eldest daughter, the move means a painful separation from the man she loves, but her sister Marianne finds in Devon the romance and excitement which she longs for. The contrasting fortunes and temperaments of the two girls as they struggle to cope in their different ways with the cruel events which fate has in store for them are portrayed by Jane Austen with her usual irony, humour, and profound sensibility.

Review:
I struggled to finish this book when I was reading it in paperback form, but there’s something about the audiobook (and the amazing narrator Juliet Stevenson), that made it impossible to stop listening to the audiobook.

I LOVED this book. I think reading Austen can be a little hard because her work is so dry but given amazing narration and the book comes to life. I absolutely fell in love with the story and the characters. I loved the contrast of Marianne and Eleanor’s personalities. I also really enjoyed how the book showed both girl’s reactions to similar situations as natural even if completely different. The sisterly love was awesome too.

If you couldn’t guess already, the narration of the audiobook version I listened to was amazing. Stevenson has a way of using slight inflections and voice pitches to give each character’s dialogue a very distinct flare. It made conversations extremely easy to follow within the text and if I had forgot to pay attention it was easy to catch on to who was currently speaking.

I’m always a sucker for a good romance, especially when it involves the intricacies of courtship in the 1800s. Pride and Prejudice is still my favorite Austen novel but I think Sense and Sensibility is pulling a close second!

Fantasy, historical fiction, young adult

Audiobook Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

A great and terrible beauty audiobook cover

Title: A Great and Terrible Beauty (Unabridged)
Author: Libba Bray
Narrator: Josephine Bailey
Publisher: Random House, Inc. & Listen Library
Length: 11 hours 13 minutes
Genre: Young adult, historical fiction, fantasy
Rating: 4 folded pages

Blurb:

It’s 1895, and after the suicide of her mother, 16-year-old Gemma Doyle is shipped off from the life she knows in India to Spence, a proper boarding school in England. Lonely, guilt-ridden, and prone to visions of the future that have an uncomfortable habit of coming true, Gemma’s reception there is a chilly one. To make things worse, she’s been followed by a mysterious young Indian man, a man sent to watch her. But why? What is her destiny? And what will her entanglement with Spence’s most powerful girls—and their foray into the spiritual world—lead to?

Review:

The last time I read a great and terrible beauty by libba bray I was 13. I remember having to look up nearly every other word or suffer through not knowing half of what was being said but I loved it none-the-less.  I decided to give audiobooks a try recently and started with something I’ve been meaning to re-read for a while considering it’s been almost 9 years.

I still love the plot as much as I remember which makes me really happy. I was slightly afraid I’d read (or rather listen to) it and I wouldn’t like it. I do think the book has a slow start. I kept wondering when they would get to the magic bit. The writing is still phenomenal though. I think that combined with listening to it rather than physically reading it is why I didn’t get impatient like I normally would.

The narrator, Josephine Bailey, did an amazing job. Every voice felt distinct and her British Victorian accent for Gemma felt very real. I enjoyed the way she pronounced and enunciated words and her voice wasn’t grating at all.

I thoroughly love Gemma but I did feel like some of the side characters like Pipper, Ann and Felicity could have been fleshed out a little more. Especially Pipper, I feel like most of the book we just get an annoying, jealous girl who’s afraid of losing Felicity to Gemma. I would have liked to see more go on between Gemma and Pipper to warrant some of what happens in the end. Another reason I couldn’t give this book a full 5 folded pages.

I enjoyed every minute of listening to this audiobook. I think I’m going make audiobooks a part of my reading. I had never really thought about it before, but I enjoyed listening to it while doing chores and taking walks.