Audiobook Review: Donny’s Brain by Rona Munro

donnys-brain-by-rona-munroTitle: Donny’s Brain
Author: Rona Munro
Narrator: Full Cast
Publisher: LA Theatre Works
Duration: 1 hour, 27 minutes
Source: Audiobook Sync
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

The acclaimed Scottish playwright Rona Munro has created a remarkable story about a man who wakes up from a car crash with brain damage. Now, he sees the world as the person he was three years ago, when his life and loves were in a very different place.

An L.A. Theatre Works full cast performance featuring:

Jared Harris as Donny
Sophie Winkleman as Emma
Siobhan Hewlett as Trish
Moira Quirk as Flea
Paul Fox as Al

Directed by Martin Jarvis.

Donny’s Brain is part of L.A. Theatre Works’ Relativity Series featuring science-themed plays. Major funding for the Relativity Series is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, to enhance public understanding of science and technology in the modern world.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

I downloaded Donny’s Brain during the Audiobook Sync promotion and finally got a chance to listen to it! I feel like the LA Theatre Works audiobooks are very much hit-or-miss for me. Obviously, I would prefer to actually watch the play and think that some are more suited than others for audiobooks, but this one worked fairly nicely as an audiobook!

Basically, Donny has been in a car accident and has brain damage. His memory has been set back some years, so he remembers loving and being married to a woman who is now his ex-wife, and can’t remember his current wife at all. And I thought some past situations I had involving exes were awkward —

This play revolves around relationships and basically how hard it is to communicate and be in a relationship. Sometimes, we guess at what people are intending when it’s not really what they mean to say or do, and sometimes we completely misremember events to make us out to be better than we actually are/were in the situation. This play goes into all of these things and involves some really interesting aspects of people not really remembering what went wrong, what went right, or what even happened. There’s even an ironic aspect of maybe the guy with brain damage remembers the most clearly, after all. It’s short, sweet, and drives the point home that when relationships don’t work out, it’s most likely the fault of both parties in some way or another.

Overall, this listening experience was enjoyable. The actors did a lovely job and having it be full cast really helped me follow the story. If you have an hour and a half to spare, I think this is worth your time.

Audiobook Review: The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial by Peter Goodchild

The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial.jpgTitle: The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial
Author: Peter Goodchild
Publisher: LA Theatre Works
Running Time: 1 h 55 min
Source: Audiobook Sync
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

The Scopes Trial, over the right to teach evolution in public schools, reaffirmed the importance of intellectual freedom as codified in the Bill of Rights. The trial, in a small-town Tennessee courtroom in 1925, set the stage for ongoing debates over the separation of Church and State in a democratic society – debates that continue to this day.

An L.A. Theatre Works full-cast performance featuring Edward Asner, Bill Brochtrup, Kyle Colerider-Krugh, Matthew Patrick Davis, John de Lancie, James Gleason, Harry Groener, Jerry Hardin, Geoffrey Lower, Marnie Mosiman and Kenneth Alan Williams.

The Great Tennessee Monkey Trial is part of L.A. Theatre Works’ Relativity Series featuring science-themed plays. Major funding for the Relativity Series is provided by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation to enhance public understanding of science and technology in the modern world.

©2006 L.A. Theatre Works (P)2006 L.A. Theatre Works

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

I’m not really sure how I feel about this play, to be quite honest. It’s an interesting subject, and full cast audios are the best, especially when they’re by LA Theatre Works and the actors are actually performing. However, simply based on the fact that it’s supposed to represent a historical event, I just didn’t like that I wasn’t sure which parts were dramatized and which were truly taken from the court records, especially when it came to dialogue. There were some parts that I feel like might have been added simply for entertainment/humor value, but if they weren’t, then that would have interested me in a completely different way, but I was never sure if any/all of it was true or made up.

Besides that, it’s an interesting case that’s worth further study and thought. Since Andrew’s a teacher, and I studied education for my Master’s, the way law and social norms influence how and what we teach is incredibly interesting to me, so that helped a lot for pulling me into the story in general. This case also foreshadows a lot of the textbook wars we have present-day, so it’s fascinating to hear some of these first arguments for/against teaching evolution/religion. Very cool.

However, I think it’d be better to actually see the play or read the book. It was hard for me to keep all the characters straight, and within the trial, I think it’s important to know who is speaking and who is making what argument (even though after a while, you can figure it out). Admittedly, I’m not the best when it comes to remembering details when I’m only getting information through audio, so if audio is your strong suit, then it might not be a problem for you.

Overall, however, I think it was a good dramatization of the trial and it presented a lot of interesting factors that (like the description says) we’re still debating today, especially within education. I just think that I would have much preferred to read this than to listen to it, even with the full cast.

Audiobook Review: Dodger by Terry Pratchett

Dodger by Terry PratchettTitle: Dodger
Author: Terry Pratchett
Narrator: Stephen Briggs
Publisher: HarperCollins
Running Time: 10 hours, 31 minutes
Source: Download from the Audiobook Sync program
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

A storm. Rain-lashed city streets. A flash of lightning. A scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in a vain attempt to escape her captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught again? Of course not, because he’s…Dodger.

Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London’s sewers, and he knows a jewel when he sees one. He’s not about to let anything happen to the unknown girl–not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England.

From Dodger’s encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery.

Beloved and bestselling author Sir Terry Pratchett combines high comedy with deep wisdom in this tale of an unexpected coming-of-age and one remarkable boy’s rise in a complex and fascinating world.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, then you probably already know how I feel about Terry Pratchett. The man was hilarious and created such wonderful worlds in his writing. What I’m consistently struck by was how much his love for his writing shines through in his works. Dodger is a story about the a poor young man living in Victorian England written by a man who clearly loved writing about all the weirdness and darkness of Victorian England.

In a word, Dodger is simply: fun. There’s mystery, intrigue, drama, and humorous callouts to notable 19th century figures, both fictional and non-fictional. I loved the tie-in to Dickens and Sweeney Todd, and I especially enjoyed learning about Dodger’s world — a world that, I’m sure, was shared by many 19th century London dwellers. This book is plain entertainment, and I love Pratchett for that. The one and only complaint I have for this story is that I didn’t think the ending was paced perfectly, but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment very much, so it’s a small negative thing.

Stephen Briggs did such a good job with narrating this book. When I’m listening to a book, I’m — sadly — probably not paying as much attention as I should be, and I sometimes get lost in terms of who says or does what. Briggs makes it incredibly easy to distinguish between the characters, especially — it seems — paying attention to the social status of each character and letting that reflect in their accent and mode of speaking. Some of the minor characters were given a lot more life than just reading the book would have given them, and I really appreciated the listening experience.

Overall, I recommend Dodger if you have any interest at all for Terry Pratchett books, or if you enjoy a good Victorian England mystery. I had a lot of fun listening to it and think it’s well worth anyone’s time.

Audiobook Review: Anne of Avonlea by LM Montgomery, narrated by Colleen Winton

anne-of-avonlea-post-hypnotic-press
Buy from the Publisher!

Title: Anne of Avonlea
Author: LM Montgomery
Series: Anne of Green Gables, Book 2
Narrator: Colleen Winton
Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press
Duration: 9 hours, 25 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Following Anne of Green Gables (1908), the book covers the second chapter in the life of Anne Shirley. This book follows Anne from the age of 16 to 18, during the two years that she teaches at Avonlea school. It includes many of the characters from Anne of Green Gables, as well as new ones like Mr. Harrison, Miss Lavendar Lewis, Paul Irving, and the twins Dora and Davy. Narrated by Colleen Winton.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

*I was provided a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.*

In Anne of Avonlea, we get to see Anne dealing with more grown-up troubles, which prevents this book from being as humorous as the first, but it’s still entertaining. Also, Marilla and Anne adopt twins, so their antics add a bit of fun into the story.

This is a re-read for me, and as a kid, I didn’t think to appreciate how Montgomery develops Anne’s character, taking time to show her growth from a child to an adult. What I like most is how Anne is shown as being much more responsible and thoughtful while still being herself, which is a tricky balance. Overall, not much goes on in this book. It’s very much a set-up for Anne becoming an adult, and there aren’t any huge plot points that wow-ed me. An engagement or two and the adoption of Davy and Dora are pretty much the only things that I found important. But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. This series is more character-driven that plot-driven, and it’s always nice to revisit Anne and her world.

My favorite part about listening to a series in audiobook format is that, with a good narrator, the characters just feel more real to me. And Colleen Winton is a great narrator — she really brings the personalities of the characters to life. She is consistent with all the old characters’ idiosyncrasies from the first book and does a good job in portraying the new characters. For this book in particular, I liked being able to listen to it, because not much goes on in the way of plot or excitement, so it’s nice to be able to do something productive while re-reading an old favorite. If you are at all a fan of audiobooks, this is a nice series to try in audio.

*Listen to a sample!*

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and bone.jpgTitle: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Book 1
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Duration: 12 hours 32 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious “errands”; she speaks many languages–not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When one of the strangers–beautiful, haunted Akiva–fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the first of a series, and because it’s the first, it suffers from being a bit slow in the beginning so that the foundation is laid for the rest of the books. However, the payoff is there, and I was in love with the story by the end.

However, I actually didn’t start really liking the story until about midway through, when we get to the more fantastical elements. I think that Taylor was trying to set up a contrast between Karou’s human world and the otherworld she grew up in, but the Prague stuff just wasn’t all that interesting. Her ex-boyfriend Kasimir is a useless character who doesn’t add anything to the story, and while I liked her best friend, Zuzana, I just didn’t see how they really added anything much to the overall conflict.

But I loved the story once it got going. I generally try to set aside an hour a day to listen to a book, but when it’s good, I have to pry myself away. That definitely happened when Akiva showed up — once he came into the picture, I was listening to 2-3 hours a day. The “plot twists” were a bit awkward, because I think that they’re hinted at too much in the beginning and easily guessable, but that’s redeemed by the characters’ reactions to those twists — the characters are simply beautifully done.

Hvam is a great narrator who does a good job with differentiating between characters. I especially loved her ability to capture the characters’ personalities with the way she spoke. Issa had a crooning voice and lingered over vowel sounds, which made me think of her as a loving, doting sort of aunt figure to Karou. When Hvam spoke as Zuzana, on the other hand, her sounds were clipped, giving her a no-nonsense sort of feel. Hvam’s narration added life to the characters and the story, in general. I think I enjoyed the story more in audio format than I would have in printed, just because I felt so close to the characters through the audio.

I have already added the sequel to my “to-read” list, and am excited to continue with this story. For those who aren’t good at waiting, the end was a bit abrupt, so if you want to start this series, be sure to have the first two books at hand!

Audiobook Review: Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

anne-of-green-gables-post-hypnotic-press
Buy from the Publisher

Title: Anne of Green Gables
Author: LM Montgomery
Narrator: Colleen Winton
Series: Anne of Green Gables, Book 1
Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press
Duration: 10 hours, 8 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Anne, a young orphan from the fictional community of Bolingbroke, Nova Scotia, is sent to Prince Edward Island after a childhood spent in strangers’ homes and orphanages. Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, siblings in their fifties and sixties, had decided to adopt a boy from the orphanage to help Matthew run their farm. They live at Green Gables, their Avonlea farmhouse on Prince Edward Island. Through a misunderstanding, the orphanage sends Anne Shirley. And Anne brings all sorts of surprises in her wake.

So begins the classic tale of a girl who, through trying to find her place in the world, ends up bringing love and adventure to Green Gables.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.*

It has been over a decade since I’ve visited the world of Green Gables, so when I saw this title available to review, I just couldn’t pass up a chance to revisit it.

Anne of Green Gables is a classic coming of age story about a young girl named Anne who gets sent to siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert by mistake — they wanted a boy to help with farm work. But when Marilla agrees to keep the talkative child and raise her up, she certainly gets more than she bargained for. Anne is energetic and over-the-top imaginative, but she is also full of love and generosity.

This book is about being a kid and, oftentimes, learning lessons the hard way. It also shows that even though adults are the ones in charge, they also learn just as much from children as children do for them — I love that balance of perspective. There are also lovely lessons embedded in this story about friendship, forgiveness, and making the most out of life.

But don’t take that to mean that you’re hit over the head with moral after moral! The events flow naturally together, and to make things better, this book is funny. I laughed out loud on numerous occasions because of the ridiculousness of Anne’s antics or Matthew’s attempts to go against Marilla’s wishes and spoil Anne.

I’ve only ever read the book, so listening to this story as an audiobook was a new experience for me. In some ways, it was more difficult for me to let go and enjoy listening to the story, because I’d already made my own assumptions about these characters in my head. However, Colleen Winton is an excellent narrator and I was hooked within a couple of chapters. She’s able to see into the heart of the characters and reflect their personalities in her narration, which made for an entertaining experience.

The excellence of the performance is in the details. When the book says that Anne’s friend, Diana is the kind of girl who always laughs before she speaks, Winton is sure to give a bit of a laugh before Diana’s dialogue throughout the entire audiobook. It’s the added thoughtfulness that really makes the narration stand out. And of course, all the standard marks for a good narration apply: there are distinct voices for each character and the tone of the exposition is reflected in Winton’s voice. Winton brings this story to life, making this an audiobook well worth listening to. And if you want a taste of it yourself — check out below, where I’ve shared the publisher’s sample track.

In short, if you haven’t read it, go read it! Anne of Green Gables is by far one of my all-time favorites. But if you have read it, consider giving it another go. This one is definitely worth revisiting. And if you’re audiobook-minded, definitely consider listening to this edition — it is delightful!

A big thank you to Audiobook Jukebox for their Solid Gold Reviewer program, through which I found this title.

A second big thank you to Post Hypnotic Press for providing me with a copy.

Audiobook Review: How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

how-to-eat-fried-wormsTitle: How to Eat Fried Worms
Author: Thomas Rockwell
Publisher: Listening Library
Narrator: Jay O. Sanders
Duration: 1 hr 53 minutes
Summary (taken from Goodreads):

Billy must eat 15 worms in 15 days–but the reward will be worth it: $50 for a shiny new minibike. Luckily, Billy’s friends cook up these fat juicy grubs in a variety of appetizing ways–drenched in ketchup and mustard, fried in butter and cornmeal, and the pièce de résistance, a Whizband Worm Delight (an ice-cream worm cake).

 

 

Review:
This book was short, sweet, and hilarious! I can just imagine 10-year-old boys making this sort of bet with each other. I admit, the part where he at the worms was kind of gross, but I enjoyed all the ways he tried to make the worm appetizing. It was also funny seeing how the other two try to trick Billy into losing the bet (and there are a couple of good tricks).

I do have to say that this book is somewhat dated. Written in 1973, some of the phrases used and attitudes of the parents/children just don’t fit in with how today is, but it still a great read. When it comes down to it, it’s all about dealing with peer pressure and that will stay relevant forever.

I thought the narration was phenomenal. Sanders really brings the characters and the story to life. However, I’m not a big fan of background music in my audio books, and there was a decent amount in this one. It wasn’t enough to really bother me, but I did find myself wishing they would cut out the music and just let the man tell the story!If you have a couple of hours to spare (whether for reading or listening to an audio book), then go for it and pick this one up. It’s worth it!

Overall Rating: 4/5