Audio Book Mini Reviews: historical fiction, comedy, advice, and satire

Dearest readers, lately I have been listening to more audio books on my commute to work. Some I love, some I quit pretty early on, but all of them stuck in my memory. Because it’s so hard to capture quotes or take notes while listening to a story and driving, I’ve decided to create mini reviews of some of the works I’ve listened to lately. The links take you to Goodreads.

The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek by Kim Michele Richardson (fiction)

Thoughts: DNF. When the audio book narrator, Katie Schorr, introduced the title and author with perfect elocution and then started the novel in the most corn-bred hillbilly accent I’ve ever heard, I nearly peed. Checking the physical copy, I see it’s NOT written in dialect, so what was Shorr thinking?? I was also dismayed that first-person narrator, Cussy, could see into wood stoves and cooking pots with her bionic eyes. Not recommended (at least as an audiobook). My sweet ma, Biscuit, is listening to the book and will tell me if it’s worth getting the paperback version. *fingers crossed*

The Last Black Unicorn by Tiffany Haddish (nonfiction)

I would only recommend you listen to this book, as it is read by Haddish, who gives the words life. I can see how the sentences may appear poorly written on page. While I listened to the entire book, I didn’t review it because there are issues I had that are out of my lane, such as how Haddish describes a physically and mentally disabled man who was the best lover she ever had, and some hyper-aggressive moments that sounded stereotypical. Overall, it’s incredibly funny. Recommended with some caution.

Tiny, Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed (nonfiction)

People write in to the anonymous “Dear Sugar” column (we now know it was Strayed) asking for advice. Strayed writes back with compassion, empathy, a firm hand, and gives the kind of answers I’m not sure I would have dreamed. A woman who has experienced all sorts of physical and emotional hardships, Strayed’s ability to see forgiveness as an option where I might not have looked was uncanny. Highly recommended.

Treasure Island!!! by Sara Levine (fiction)

Oh, good gravy. DNF. This one felt like a wacky cousin to Convenience Store Woman, if the main character were Shiraha. The narrator was a woman in her 20s who refused to act with integrity or empathy. She describes living by the principles of the characters and themes in the children’s book Treasure Island, but has zero care for actually doing anything. An unbearable protagonist in a book that carries on with its satiric gimmick too long. A fair performance by voice narrator Emily Durante. Not recommended.

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36 comments

    • Cheryl Strayed is just wonderful with her advice. I’m someone who puts a lot of effort into being emotionally aware of myself and others, and even then she taught me about being a human.

      Glad I could make you laugh, Laura! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  1. I choose my audio books pretty randomly, and I get through 150-200 a year, but I haven’t run into any of these thank goodness! I agree though that you think review thoughts while you’re listening but it’s hard later on to write down anything coherent (unless you chase it up in book form).

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    • Why “thank goodness”? Tiny, Beautiful Things was wonderful, Bill!

      I’m at the very end of an audiobook right now — just 26 more minutes — that I can’t wait to finish. I’ve learned about a couple of REALLY strong YA authors in the last few years whose books are so visceral as to upset me in “good” ways.

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  2. I really enjoyed these mini reviews. 🙂
    I feel like having sex with someone who is physically and mentally handicap is probably abuse. But then again, does it depend on the level of mental handicap? I see why you didn’t want to touch that with a 10′ pole.

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    • He was nice and wanted to have a relationship with Tiffany, but she kept describing his “baby arm” and how he drooled a bit. She really liked him, but it didn’t work out between them because he lived in a group home and she was definitely shallow about it. However, she also says he was the nicest and best sexual partner she’s ever had. So, as someone who doesn’t have similar disabilities, I don’t want to speak for the man. It’s an odd one.

      Thanks for your compliment! I’m starting to wonder if my readers like mini reviews better. A few people said they enjoyed them!

      Liked by 1 person

  3. The Strayed was extraordinary – I started listening to the audio and decided a short way in that it was so good that I had to get a copy. Got it on my Kindle and started highlighting passages. Another few letters in, I decided I needed a hard copy, so that I could easily refer back… So yeah, I guess owning three copies of a book is a strong recommendation! 😀

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    • Kate, I’m so glad you liked it! Did you find that her advice surprised you sometimes? The way she advises people to forgive or move on was always well-argued, but I would never guess which way she’d go with it. Nia Vardalos, the woman who wrote and starred in My Big Fat Greek Wedding, turned the essays into a play that I would love to see. It has a small number of actors, and they each play different letter writers. The only actor who remains the same is the woman who plays Dear Sugar.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. What a nice variety of audiobooks in your review. I have abandoned audios just on narrator alone. Even though I listen to most of them at 2x speed, if the narrator doesn’t mesh, I will quickly return (I was especially picky when I first started listening several years ago). One I remember returning because of narration was A Piece of the World (Polly Stone narrator) by Christina Baker Kline. I just couldn’t do it. There was one I returned earlier this year because of the accent but can’t remember. Accents in some cases are what can feel authentic in a book and other times not so much. For instance, when I reread To Kill a Mockingbird, Sissy Spacek was brilliant. Or one of my all time favorite, Ruby Dee for Their Eyes Were Watching God

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    • YES! OMG, Ruby Dee is fantastic in that book. I listened to it on a train ride from Indiana to Boston and was so engaged. I think she makes Hurston accessible for people who struggle to read the dialect, too. I know this was the case for my mom.

      I’m with you about voice narrators. A narrator who reads too fast, one with poor annunciation, or a reader who doesn’t modulate their volume (a good volume and then talks really loudly or softly) all make me send a book back. Because my hearing is not good, I also tend to send back books from time periods when reading fast was part of the deal + the book is older and uses different phrasing than I’m used to + a British accent. For example, I can’t do any Jane Austen via audiobook. I just can’t follow along.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. The What Should I Read Next Podcast was just mentioning the Book Woman of Troublesome Creek as a recommendation for this week’s guest. Maybe it’s better in print? A ridiculous accent (or just a grating voice) can ruin an audiobook.

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  6. I hope you have better luck with Troublesome Creek in the paperback, if you give it another go! I could not have listened to an entire book in a gimmicky accent like that either. Dear Sugar looks really interesting though, I should give that one a try!

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  7. Oh what a bummer that The Book Woman was bad. Sounds like this one might not work in an audiobook format!
    Glad to hear that the Strayed book was good. Wild is a book that has stayed with me long after finishing it. We were just up in Oregon and visited Crater Lake, and whenever I’m up there I think of her journey.

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    • I think the Book Woman novel is just not good as an audiobook, so don’t let my comments deter you from check out a library copy of the physical book.

      If you liked Wild, you should absolutely get Tiny, Beautiful Things. I think it’s even better and smarter.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. The Cheryl Strayed book sounds interesting-perhaps because I am a Canadian I didn’t know she had an advice column? Seems like she would be in a position to give really good advice though. As someone who doesn’t read audio books this seem like a strange comment to make, but I wholeheartedly agree that some books will only work as audio books-that makes total sense!

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    • When Strayed was writing the advice column on therumpus.net, she was anonymous, so it could be easy to miss that she was the person behind the computer.

      I think certain genres work better as audiobooks, including nonfiction and thrillers. The voices change in thrillers and make them more intense, to me.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I can totally understand not caring for the audiobook narration in The Book Woman of Troublesome Creek. I was annoyed by the narrator myself, but was too fascinated by the story & the historical context to let it bother me very much.

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  10. I just had to click on this post, when I saw The Book Woman. As it happened I just finished the audiobook. The narration did bother me to begin with, but I got used to it eventually. It sounds like you are quite good at DNF, which I admire. I tend to continue in the vague hope, that things will improve…

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