Never Let Me Go | Audiobook Review

I really had hope of liking this book, but it just did not work out at all.

Pages: 288

Genre: Contemporary, (a bit of sci-fi dystopia so small it shouldn’t be mentioned in fear of getting your hopes up)

Synopsis

Hailsham seems like a pleasant English boarding school, far from the influences of the city. Its students are well tended and supported, trained in art and literature, and become just the sort of people the world wants them to be. But, curiously, they are taught nothing of the outside world and are allowed little contact with it.

Within the grounds of Hailsham, Kathy grows from schoolgirl to young woman, but it’s only when she and her friends Ruth and Tommy leave the safe grounds of the school (as they always knew they would) that they realize the full truth of what Hailsham is.

The audiobook

Made by Faber & Faber Audio. The narrator was great, slipping you right into that british boarding school with lots of descriptive language. Hearing it out loud does make my annoyances with the writing more prominent as the book progressed. The voice given to the boy Tommy was so annoying and douchey as well, and made it subconsciously hard to like him. Took me a while to figure that one out. It’s a good audiobook, if you would prefer that.

My thoughts

three out of five stars

This was promoted to me as with an dystopian vibe, or at least set in an alternate reality where things are pretty similar to ours, but not quite. At the very least – that there would be mystery! WRONG. It’s as british boarding school children without parents and a few questions that I’ve ever gotten, but without the curiousity to figure out the answers because they all have a great time generally. And then it moves over to other settings as they grow up, but mostly it’s not that different from like a very good orphanage program. I feel tricked, and almost gave it two stars just out of that.

My thoughts about one hour into this book:

I often think that books should come with a “how it will make you feel”, as it’s just as or more important than the synopsis. The beginning of this book was pure mimring about the past, someone telling a story of how things once was with a mystery of why attached to it. And that was perfect for my mood. It was spring break, which for Norway means everyone that is able to is at cabins at the mountain and I was sitting outside just beneath them, the first week of real sun and warmth allowing it. I had time, even for a slow-paced book.

Me halfway into the book:

I’m desperate for this pace to get quicker, someone tell me if any mystery or society-critical questions is coming up at all. I’m so bored.

Me after finishing the book:

It just never delivered.

There’s lots of reviews I saw that was like “oh no, don’t read reviews it might spoil the mystery!” WHAT MYSTERY? This is not the book for anyone who have read fantasy or sci-fi.

*SPOILERS BELOW*

Or even watched Orphan Black. That is one tv series that takes the concept this plot completely misses to act out. This is one of the books that thinks it’s smart, without really coming up with any critical questions or message about society. The writing of the plot had one goal – to leave out as much as possible – so that it would have enough secrets to be interpreted as a mystery. And the “kids” get to ask all their questions at the end to their former teachers, about everything that’s kept from the characters and more so the reader, and it just isn’t satisfying or revealing at all. Overall, I liked the actual writing, although I don’t think it’s everyone’s taste as the main character is really observant and telling the story like a fake memoir.

The beginning is lovely, but then the plot never unfolds with the message it claims to have and the “mystery” doesn’t hold up.

Why Audiobooks Are Great (I Changed My Mind) & Some Recommendations

I’ve experimented with what kind of audiobooks I like, through different free trials of platforms, before eventually paying for one. I went through the whole summer on free trials, listening to the beginning of a lot of books. I didn’t like audiobooks until this summer because I really like to read books myself. I’ve read a lot and have become good at it, I don’t need to narrate voices in my head always, so info can go in and translate to pictures in my head – it’s a lot faster. Reading physically I can choose the pace myself, pausing at sections with beautiful writing. Physical books are easier to bookmark or take notes in.

But here’s why I changed my mind and now also like audiobooks:

  • Audiobooks can be enjoyed by people who don’t like to read for so many different and good reasons, like just not being able to sit down and focus for that long. It makes books more accessible.
  • There’s easier to find time for audiobooks and you can do other things while listening (the reason I love podcasts), like cleaning, training, sitting on the bus for hours or try to fall asleep
  • BUT MOST OF ALL – I was admitted to the hospital this summer and because of illness I could not focus enough to read. It’s so hard to read without concentration or your mind in the right place, in a way it isn’t so difficult to listen to small chunks of audiobooks. This really converted me, as I saw why audiobooks are better than physical ones in certain situations or for some people
  • It’s so much cooler to hear a memoir told by the author themselves! This is my favourite type of audiobook as you’ll see in my recommendations, it’s just so comforting or adds an extra layer of emotion and realness to the story.

Here’s the recommendations:

Memoirs narrated by the author

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah: IF YOU WANT TO PICK ONE, PICK THIS. It’s so damn good, as Trevor is already a driven comic and an amazing story-teller. It’s hilarious, it’s heart-warming, heart-wrenching, informative. Just 10/10 will listen to it a lot and one that many will love without knowing much about Trevor Noah.

Buffering by Hannah Hart: I wrote and then lost the review of this book, but it’s so heartwrenching, good and honest. She talks about being lesbian and how it was to realize that in a family where her dad later became jehovas witness and her mom was a schizofrenic. About having to make choices for the family and the best of her sister, of growing up to soon and trying to find herself afterwards. I cried, a lot.

My Fight / Your Fight by Ronda Rousey: Listen to this to get motivated to train your ass off or excell at anything really. It’s written before she lost and her popularity went downhill quick, but it really brings out the human sides of Ronda as well, in a sometimes natural way.

Secrets For the Mad by dodie: If you like dodie, her voice is really calming to listen to for so long and the audiobook itself is excellent. If you don’t know who she is, don’t pick it up, it doesn’t really tell a powerful stand-alone story like the others here.

I’ve Only Found One Fictional Audiobook I Loved? And A Lot of Okay Ones

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo reads like a memoir/biography, only it’s fictional and not only is the story excellent, but it’s the only fictional audiobook I really fell into and embraced as possibly better than the physically reading it. The narrator is excellent.

If you just want to find audiobooks that have good narrators here’s a short list: If we were villains by M. L. Rio, The poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, The price guide to the occult by Leslye Walton (didn’t like the story personally) and The power of habit.

PS: If you want more – here’s all my audiobook reviews tagged. And if you like poetry, poetry collections on audio are so great to listen to! I recommend Mary Oliver’s.

Do you like audiobooks or do you prefer ebooks/physical books? I’ll appreciate audiobook recommendations!

If We Were Villains by M. L. Rio

Pages: 370

Genre: contemporary mystery, set in a college

Synopsis

On the day Oliver Marks is released from jail, the man who put him there is waiting at the door. Detective Colborne wants to know the truth, and after ten years, Oliver is finally ready to tell it.

Ten years ago: Oliver is one of seven young Shakespearean actors at Dellecher Classical Conservatory, a place of keen ambition and fierce competition. In this secluded world of firelight and leather-bound books, Oliver and his friends play the same roles onstage and off: hero, villain, tyrant, temptress, ingénue, extra. But in their fourth and final year, the balance of power begins to shift, good-natured rivalries turn ugly, and on opening night real violence invades the students’ world of make believe. In the morning, the fourth-years find themselves facing their very own tragedy, and their greatest acting challenge yet: convincing the police, each other, and themselves that they are innocent. 

Audiobook review

The narrator is good, except for how he’s trying to do the female voices. Every heard one narrator dub tv series? It’s hilariously bad. Also there’s a lot of characters in the friend-group to meet all at once at the beginning, so I actually picked up the text version the second chapter and went back to really understand who each of them is, because there’s no good separator in the audiobook (except for bad female voices). I would recommend physically reading this one, I was packing for a trip and wanted to get throught it.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: three

I picked this book up because of its college/university setting and saw it recommended for those who liked “The secret history” by Donna Tartt. That book is much better than this one, in a lot of ways. They both do have a “dark academia” vibe – which I recently learned was a thing and I love it. I wanted to give it an extra star for that alone, but then I saw that ending and thought hell no, I was bored through too many parts of this book.

I’m happy I read the book, because it had its entertaining points as the characters uncover dark things about the others and themselves. It’s very centered on the characters and who’s friends and enemies as they all attend the same class. So it’s dark and dramatic, which also comes through in the greek plays they perform. The theater parts were very nice details, going through the whole book and giving it more texture and depth. You can see how the characters are pushed to excell and that they know that themselves, before they start to unravel from guilt. Still, I didn’t feel the characters was given enough space to show how supposedly three-dimensional they was. Instead the author seemed to make them do things out of character, playing on “well, you don’t know when they’re acting or not” which sure is an explanation, but doesn’t help on feeling that connection for the reader.

I both loved and hated the writing at points. On one hand it has some really pretty lines, like “Dense forest surrounded it on all sides except one, the north shore, where the trees were thinner and a strip of sandy white beach shimmered like diamond dust in the moonlight.” On the other hand, so much annoyed me. Mostly the author’s choices, like the ending or having Richard be described as a person everyone hated, which then made us miss out on later feeling sorry for him. The characters in this book doesn’t feel like villains because there were no sense of feeling sorry for Richard, because his character was so violent. The bolder choice would’ve been to make him sympathic. I just felt like a lot of depth was missing, there were hilariously little moral dilemmas for the reader watching this play out. I get that it’s part thriller and part mystery, but as I didn’t think who killed him was such a big mystery, a more cohesive and focused history or plot would’ve been better.

What I felt reading this book: mostly entertained and intrigued, annoyed at writing choices. And I was laughing at myself for chosing to read this hours before a weekend of partying with classmates. It was a nice weeked, but I did think of this book as we were driving into the snow-filled forest.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo | Review

Pages: 370

Genre: Poetry, young adult, lgbt characters

Synopsis


A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. 

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
 

The audiobook

The narrator was fantastic, some of the best I’ve ever heard. And of course she was, I thought as I realized towards the end it was the author and slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo narrating the audiobook as well. I fully recommend listening to it! As the book is written in verse/poems (hard to say having only listened to it), it’s “only” three and a half hours as well, completely worth it.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: four

fire

It’s a strong and beautiful story of a quiet girl finding her voice, letting out all the thoughts she’s not been allowed to tell and finding good friends, through slam poetry. She’s growing and finding her way to deal with romance, family, religion and need for a bit of freedom. 

It’s obvious reading/listening to the book that the author knows what she’s writing. She’s a slam poet, she’s seen people find their voice through it most likely. The way she tells the story is stunning, from the first page I was sold. This is the way to tell that story. 

There’s not much else for me to say about this book, which is rare. It’s more young adult novel than I realized going into it, and I would absolutely recommend giving it to young girls. I became a bit frustrated in the middle part of the book, when Xiomara wasn’t doing poetry out of fear, and nothing moved along. Had to realize the story isn’t something unexpected – the plot is only going one way – but it’s still important and told great. What really brought me in again was Xiomara and the mom coming to the height of their conflict, and how impactful the writing was in that moment. The ending was very wholesome, setting the tone of the whole book’s message. It’s so tough being a kid with little control over your own life, trying to find it as you’re becoming older, with opinions of your own. This book conveyed that.   

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo | Review

Pages: 390

Genre: fiction, lgbt characters

 

Synopsis

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?

Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband has left her, and her professional life is going nowhere. Regardless of why Evelyn has selected her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s luxurious apartment, Monique listens in fascination as the actress tells her story. From making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the ’80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way, Evelyn unspools a tale of ruthless ambition, unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love. Monique begins to feel a very real connection to the legendary star, but as Evelyn’s story near its conclusion, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

Written with Reid’s signature talent for creating “complex, likable characters” (Real Simple?, this is a mesmerizing journey through the splendor of old Hollywood into the harsh realities of the present day as two women struggle with what it means -and what it costs- to face the truth.

The audiobook

Evelyn Hugo sounds just like a movie star. Monique is done by another narrator and they both do a really good job. It really made the story come alive, like Evelyn was telling her own biography, and Monique’s thoughts on it.

My thoughts

Rating out of five: five

fem

Evelyn Hugo, the movie star, was such an interesting character, especially seen through the journalist Monique’s eyes. She’s into playing games, and it has gotten her far in her life, as she’s gotten out of poverty and into mansions. This book brings up ideas around power, it has all the glam of a 1950’s star, but also a lot of moral dilemmas as Evelyn talks about the decisions she’s made in her life and how she rarely regrets them, even those with huge consequences. I really liked her friend-group/family she built up, really this book turned from ambition to impotance of community and love. Of how to deal with loss. And queer characters and love!

“It’s always been fascinating to me how things can be simultaneously true and false, how people can be good and bad all in one, how someone can love you in a way that is beautifully selfless while serving themselves ruthlessly.” 

The story itself seems so real, several times I went to google Evelyn Hugo, to find out a piece of info, before realizing that of course, she was fictional. While I liked Monique, the character, I didn’t care for her descriptions of her own life. It’s less spectacular than Evelyn’s, sure, but there’s ways to find joy even in a “normal” life. The miserable soon-to-be divorced journalist negative view of herself storyline is quite boring and I didn’t get it. The twist of the story blew me away. I didn’t see it coming at all, and it made the entire story make sense, every doubt Monique had, was cleared up.

It’s a fictional biography of a fictional 1950’s movie stars life, and it does it so spectacularly well, making quite an impact on me. This book also encourages you to take more of the opportunities you get, to not be so timid about ambition. I don’t think it’s the right way to look at life, putting your needs before everyone else, but it’s one that should be considered in more situations, especially by women in careers.  

Secrets for the Mad by dodie | Audiobook Review

 

Genre: memoir 

Rating out of five stars:

fire

who is dodie?

Dodie Clark, often just dodie, is a musician and youtuber I follow. Her music is lovely and relatable, her honesty refreshing and she makes videos on topics like mental health and depersonalization, bisexuality and just being a young adult.

the audiobook

I wasn’t rushing to read this book when it was released, which is why I only got to it now. It didn’t feel like a book I needed to read from what I gathered, but it got good reviews and when I found the audiobook I was sold. dodie’s voice is lovely and calms me, which is weird to admit. Her phrasing of thoughts is good as well.

The audiobook is great! I highly recommend to listen to memoirs this way, especially if the author is narrating it like this one, and you like their voice. It’s the person telling their story, with all the emotion they have about it visible. 10/10 audiobook, especially as some chapters include songs that fits with the times and ideas she’s talking about. It was my favourite parts and reminded me why I love her music. Also it was nice that all her friends voiced their parts in the audiobook, giving another perspective on dodie’s life.

what it’s about

The book felt aimed at teenage girls especially, as dodie takes a lot from her own experiences and those she is told from fans. The first chapter, one I really liked, is about how she was writing and a girl found her, told dodie her story of struggles and anxiety and dodie gave some advice, shared some experiences. I think that’s very transferrable to the content of the rest of the book.

I loved the song-parts and when she described them. I realize that I’m more interested in how she thinks about the world as a young adult in the business she’s in, something I get through her youtube videos and songs. In many ways this feels like a book that is written too soon, but at the same time it might be people out there that really needs it, if only for the idea that everything, every situation is temporary, much more temporary than it feels when you’re fourteen and not in control of your daily life. And for that alone I’m glad this book exist and is out there spreading that message.

Comparing this book to other memoirs I’ve read, it has a lot less to say and less new information or personal experiences to share, because dodie is already an online personality. Lately, after the book was published, she’s openly questioned how much to share, but I feel it’s a real thing in this book as well. She doesn’t seem to pour herself into it, like her music lyrics. But it fulfills the role of comforting and giving advice to young people, along with other smaller things like giving a bit of backstories to songs or times in dodie’s life. It’s a book that I expect is important for certain people, which is why I give it a good rating, but I didn’t personally gain a lot from it. It could also be that I felt like she was telling a story I in many ways already know, between having followed her casually and having been a teenage girl. 

Born a Crime by Trevor Noah | Audiobook Review

 

 

Genre: memoir

 

My thoughts

Rating out of five: 

fem

the audiobook

It’s the best kind of audiobook (in my opinion), where the author narrates the memoir he wrote. Trevor has the perfect voice for these things already, and the emotion, power or softness he brings really brings out each element of the book. Would definitely recommend the audiobook, as well as the story.

 

the story

 

Trevor Noah is known as a comic and host of The Daily Show, born and grown up in South-Africa before also getting big in USA.

Every detail in here is fascinating. I’ve watched Trevor on tv occassionally, I knew the bare minimum about him growing up in South Africa and being a kid of mixed race when that was illegal under apartheid. In this book I also got to know about everything from how complex South-Africa is considering all the different groups of people who lives there, with eleven (!!!) official languages, to how his relationship with his amazing and strict mom was when he grew up. There’s so many stories he tells, some funny, some heartbreaking, most either both or a place in between. Among all of this is some sturdy thoughts on change in society and how he views the world and people.

“We tell people to follow their dreams, but you can only dream of what you can imagine, and, depending on where you come from, your imagination can be quite limited.”

Trevor speaks six languages. That and his ability to be a chameleon in social settings is some of the qualities that led to his success, as he talks about in here. Also religion seem to be out to kill him, as the many trips to church with his mom sometimes ended in kidnappings and catastrophies. I applaud the way these stories are told, with the seriousness they need and a lot of humor. I’m a bit unnerved by how Trevor manages to tell some stories so calmly, and still sound perfectly honest and genuine. That’s a skill or a mindset I still can’t tell where comes from.

The ending is heartwrenching and filled with tension, but then he takes it all around to his mom’s belief again and I was crying. There’s some things in this book that most would see as too unrealistic if it were fiction, including his step-father nearly killing his mom. I don’t know what to say to this other than it felt like a book that someone had poured their truth and soul into, and I honestly encourage everyone to read it. Most articles I’ve seen of this book talks about how Trevor was in jail for a week, but it’s the “smaller” things it’s worth it for. Like how he acquired a cd burner and started a dj business, and what that meant. Or how his mom didn’t let risks derail what she did in her life.

“People love to say, “Give a man a fish, and he’ll eat for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime.” What they don’t say is, “And it would be nice if you gave him a fishing rod.” That’s the part of the analogy that’s missing.”