Fiction Audiobook Review: Red Birds

Red Birds

Red Birds

Fans of the modern classic Catch-22 will be pleased to hear narrator David Bendena’s warm voice deliver this thought-provoking story, which explores the ugliness of war and U.S. meddling overseas. Told from several perspectives, the story kicks off when Major Ellie’s plane crashes in an unknown Middle Eastern desert he is supposed to bomb. Depleted and struggling to survive, he chances upon Momo and his dog, Mutt, and is taken to their camp. There, he becomes entangled in the struggles of people whose lives he is supposed to take. Bendena’s fluid voice and careful pacing bring the characters to life, especially Mutt, who speaks with a swaggering American accent. Bendena’s performance makes this otherwise challenging work interesting. A.C. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: AUGUST 2019]

Originally appears at AudioFile Magazine

Fiction Audiobook Review: Haunting Paris

Haunting Paris

Haunting Paris

Narrators Lisa Flanagan and Daniel Oreskes transport listeners to twentieth-century Paris in a haunting audiobook that infuses war and romance with magical realism. It’s 1989, and Sylvie is mourning the death of her husband, Julien. She accidentally finds an envelope that leads her on a search for Julien’s long-lost niece, who may or may not have survived the roundup of Jews in wartime Paris. What she discovers will change her life forever. Flanagan’s voice and tone faithfully capture the melancholy mood of the work. Oreskes, who portrays Julien, further elevates the production with his compelling wistful narration. Even though the narrators’ French accents and vocal characterizations falter, their perfectly paced storytelling brings Nazi-occupied Paris to life. A.C. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: JULY 2019]

Originally appears at AudioFile Magazine

Young Adult Audiobook Review: We Are All That’s Left

We Are All That’s Left

We Are All That’s Left
Laura Knight Keating and Elisabeth Rodgers skillfully narrate the story of a mother and daughter who are both coping with the aftereffects of political tension, terrorism, and war. Zara’s relationship with her mother, a refugee, has always been discordant. When a terrorist attack in Rhode Island leaves her mother in a coma, Zara loses the chance to fix their strained relationship and must find another way to dig into her painful past before it’s too late. Both Keating and Rodgers are exceptional storytellers who make each scene vivid to the listener. Keating’s voice is silvery, while Rodgers’s is solemn. Together, they make this multigenerational novel about love, loss, and healing from Bosnia and Herzegovina to America even more affecting. A.C. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: JULY 2019]

Originally appears at AudioFile Magazine

Sci-Fi Audiobook Review: Vessel

Vessel

Vessel

Lisa Flanagan and George Newbern’s dual narration underwhelms listeners in this sci-fi thriller. After a disastrous six-year space mission, Catherine Wells makes it back to Earth as the sole survivor onboard Sagittarius I. Without a single recollection of her nearly decade-long space expedition, Catherine doesn’t know what has become of her crew. Meanwhile, Sagittarius II embarks on a similar mission. Catherine must race against time to unlock her memory before it’s too late to warn the new crew of what lies ahead. Newbern’s lighthearted tone contrasts with Flanagan’s compelling one. The work itself is engrossing, but Flanagan is the only one who elevates it further. Those willing to ignore the lapses will be captivated by this sci-fi “fix.” A.C. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine
[Published: JUNE 2019]

Originally appears at AudioFile Magazine

Poetry Audiobook Review: American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin

Terrance Hayes

Terrance Hayes

In a smooth voice and a measured tone, poet Terrance Hayes delivers 70 of his own sonnets condemning what he calls America’s assassins: racism, violence, and prejudice against black people. In this National Book Award-nominated collection, Hayes unflinchingly criticizes President Trump and decries hate crimes against blacks throughout history. Hayes’s political opinions are augmented by poems paying tribute to radical figures such as James Baldwin and Emily Dickinson. His steady cadence and warm tone blend well with both his politically charged and his tributary sonnets. However, because one title encompasses all of the poems, the audiobook can be challenging for multitasking listeners. Nonetheless, Hayes’s narration elevates this provocative, relevant, and timely collection. A.C. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: MAY 2019]

Originally appears at AudioFile Magazine

Classics Audiobook Review: What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew

What Maisie Knew

Juliet Stevenson provides a compelling narration of Henry James’s story about innocence, social class, and morality. The protagonist, Maisie, struggles to preserve her innocence when her parents divorce and her stepparents commit adultery. Seemingly effortlessly, Stevenson changes her voice to match her characters’ traits: Maisie’s innocent demeanor, her stepfather Sir Claude’s confident poise, her stepmother Ms. Overmore’s patronizing personality, her nanny Mrs. Wix’s didactic disposition, and her parents Ida’s and Beale’s narcissistic attitudes. Stevenson’s pace is slow and steady—in harmony with every moment. However, even with her elegant English accent, her performance is challenged by the author’s long sentences. Overall, though, Stevenson’s pleasant narration makes James’s complex and long-winded novel an auditory treat. A.C. Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: MAY 2019]

Originally appears at AudioFile Magazine

Fiction Audiobook Review: Dawn

Dawn

Dawn

Narrators Baris Duyan and Ayse Eldek earnestly deliver 12 stories of love, despair, and hope in conflict-ravaged Turkey. In this debut collection by a Turkish political hostage, Duyan and Eldek recount the everyday lives of people affected by political chaos. Listeners may perceive this audiobook as highly political, but the foreword, narrated by Kate Reading, says that it “is not a political tract. It is a collection of short stories.” Duyan’s voice is warm, and his accent varied in the thought-provoking work “It’s Not What You Think,” among others. Eldek’s Turkish accent adds poignancy to stories such as the titular “Seher,” which translates to “Dawn,” and “As Lonely As History.” A fine narration of a provocative and important listen. A.C. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: MAY 2019]

Originally appears at AudioFile Magazine

Memoir Audiobook Review: For All of Us, One Today

For All of Us One Today

For All of Us One Today

Poet Richard Blanco discusses important aspects of his life, commenting in particular on being an openly gay Latino immigrant and on having been named an inaugural poet by President Barack Obama. He also talks about struggling to find his place in America as a new immigrant. This short work features four poems, narrated in a haunting tone. “Where did I come from? Where do I belong?” he asks. The works include the 2013 inaugural poem, which, he says, made him feel “like part of America for real” when he read it during Obama’s second inauguration. Blanco’s earnest writing and accessible narration make up for the measured cadence of his delivery. Spanish versions of the poems are read by Eric Pollins. A.C. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: APRIL 2019]

Originally appears at AudioFile Magazine

Fiction Audiobook Review: Homeland

Homeland

This story of estrangement and forgiveness will move listeners. In a smooth voice and steady pace, David Pittu narrates the plight of two families as they confront the devastating effects of the Basque-Spanish conflict. In a Basque country village occupied by militants, Bittori and Miren are lifelong friends. But when Bittori’s husband is gunned down by Basque separatists, a group Miren’s son belongs to, the families drift apart. Pittu manages to convey the audiobook’s narrative despite its nonlinear structure. The greatest challenge is to give each character a unique voice, an aspect Pittu struggles with a bit due to the multitudes involved. Nonetheless, this is an important listen. A.C. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: APRIL 2019]

Originally appears at AudioFile Magazine

Fiction Audiobook Review: If, Then

If Then

If Then

This speculative audiobook will surely engage listeners. What would you do if you saw an alternate version of yourself from a parallel universe? The story centers around four residents of a quiet Oregon neighborhood and the decisions they make after experiencing strange occurrences. There’s Ginny, who sees a parallel version of herself who is happier with a woman; Mark, who sees a postapocalyptic version of himself; Samara, who experiences a different reality in which her late mother is alive; and Cass, who sees herself having another baby. Rebecca Lowman’s steady voice perfectly captures each character’s demeanor as they try to make sense of their situation. She narrates with enough clarity and distinction that listeners can follow the complex world-building. A.C. © AudioFile 2019, Portland, Maine [Published: APRIL 2019]

Originally appears at AudioFile Magazine