Friday, September 9, 2016

Sound Bites: Audiobook Reviews - The Crown's Game and Tell the Wolves I'm Home


I'm not what you would call a huge fan of audio books but from time to time I do download one from my library's Overdrive app and enjoy a little entertainment during my daily commute. Over the past couple of months I listened to several audio books - more than I've listened to in the last few years. I'm a total purist when it comes to reading and while audio books can be fun, for me it's never as rich an experience as actually reading the physical book. Because of that, my thoughts are pretty brief so I'm combining a couple reviews into one post.

Tell the Wolves I'm Home by Carol Rifka Brunt


Narrated by: Amy Rubinate


Synopsis:  1987. There’s only one person who has ever truly understood fourteen-year-old June Elbus, and that’s her uncle, the renowned painter Finn Weiss. Shy at school and distant from her older sister, June can only be herself in Finn’s company; he is her godfather, confidant, and best friend. So when he dies, far too young, of a mysterious illness her mother can barely speak about, June’s world is turned upside down. But Finn’s death brings a surprise acquaintance into June’s life - someone who will help her to heal and to question what she thinks she knows about Finn, her family, and even her own heart. 


At Finn’s funeral, June notices a strange man lingering just beyond the crowd. A few days later, she receives a package in the mail. Inside is a beautiful teapot she recognizes from Finn’s apartment and a note from Toby, the stranger, asking for an opportunity to meet. As the two begin to spend time together, June realizes she’s not the only one who misses Finn, and if she can bring herself to trust this unexpected friend, he just might be the one she needs the most.

An emotionally charged coming-of-age novel, Tell the Wolves I’m Home is a tender story of love lost and found, an unforgettable portrait of the way compassion can make us whole again.


WHAT I LIKED: Tell the Wolves I'm Home was beautifully written. It was realistic in that characters and relationships were never one-dimensional. The standout for me throughout the entire novel was Toby. That sweet, gentle soul who was suffering so much, dealing with incredible loss but at the same time managed to be so selfless. He was so willing to share all he had with June: his time, his friendship, his stories of Finn, trinkets of Finn's. I adored Toby. 

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: Where do I start? First, the breathy narration was a constant distraction. Was Rubinate channeling Marilyn Monroe? Secondly, I'm not a huge fan of literary fiction. If that makes me sound like a less than astute reader, so be it. Give me genre fiction any day; I'll leave literary fiction to more high brow readers. Lastly, I found myself disliking almost every character. Greta was a wretched sister - hateful and cruel, June's mother was petty and jealous, and June herself grew more unlikable with every chapter. I understand she was only 14 and I understand she was grieving the loss of her uncle - her best friend and supposedly the only person who "got" her. Even so, I found her to be self-indulgent, selfish and petty. While Toby gave all he could to June, did all he could do for her, June was busy acting like a petulant child, jealously withholding stories of Finn because she refused to share them with Toby. It was heartbreaking to me that it was the gentle Toby that suffered most from the actions of both June and her mother. After almost 12 hours of June, I was desperate to toss her to the wolves and just read about Toby.

2.5/5 STARS

The Crown's Game by Evelyn Skye


Narrated by: Steve West


Synopsis:  For Vika Andreyev can summon the snow and turn ash into gold. Nikolai Karimov can see through walls and conjure bridges out of thin air. They are enchanters—the only two in Russia—and with the Ottoman Empire and the Kazakhs threatening, the Tsar needs a powerful enchanter by his side.

And so he initiates the Crown’s Game, an ancient duel of magical skill—the greatest test an enchanter will ever know. The victor becomes the Imperial Enchanter and the Tsar’s most respected adviser. The defeated is sentenced to death.

Raised on tiny Ovchinin Island her whole life, Vika is eager for the chance to show off her talent in the grand capital of Saint Petersburg. But can she kill another enchanter—even when his magic calls to her like nothing else ever has?


For Nikolai, an orphan, the Crown’s Game is the chance of a lifetime. But his deadly opponent is a force to be reckoned with—beautiful, whip smart, imaginative—and he can’t stop thinking about her.


And when Pasha, Nikolai’s best friend and heir to the throne, also starts to fall for the mysterious enchantress, Nikolai must defeat the girl they both love . . . or be killed himself.


As long-buried secrets emerge, threatening the future of the empire, it becomes dangerously clear . . . the Crown’s Game is not one to lose.


WHAT I LIKED: The Crown's Game had so much going for it before I even picked it up. I've long had a fascination with Russian history and culture - so add romance and a magical competition to an Imperial Russian setting? Yes, yes and YES! The narration was perfection. West performed both Russian and French accents with ease and his delivery always felt spot-on. I loved the characters and main players Vika, Nikolai and Pasha were so easy to connect with and be invested in. Secondary characters - Sergei, Galina, Ludmilla - were just as interesting and Aizhana was downright scary. I enjoyed the magic system - the explanation, the way it was used, and the descriptions of the magic performed during the competition. The settings were so well presented that I felt like I was part of the story: walking down Nevsky Prospekt, attending the masquerade ball at the Winter Palace, walking through the grassy landscape on the Steppe. Lastly, the surprises and plot twists that I never saw coming kept the story interesting and exciting. Simply put, The Crown's Game pulled me in from the very first page, I was enthralled by the story, invested in the characters and I enjoyed every minute. And I really, really want need the next book now!

WHAT I DIDN'T LIKE: I'm having trouble coming up with anything and, really, why even try? 

4.5/5 STARS

Are you a fan of audio books? Have you read either of these?

16 comments:

  1. I've never really been into audiobooks, I get easily distracted, I need to read the words, you know? But The Crown's Game has been on my TBR for so long, I'm glad you liked it!

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    1. I'm with you, Kei. I'm pretty choosy about what I listen to on audio. I'd never go the audio route for a book that I was super excited for or by my fave authors. I want to read those and experience them for myself. But for ones I'm only sort of interested in or for re-reads, sometimes it's a good option. And I can highly recommend The Crown's Game now!

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  2. I am so sorry Tell the Wolves I'm Home didn't work for you :( Yay for the Crown's Game though!!

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    1. Yeah, Tell the Wolves I'm Home just wasn't for me... but The Crown's Game was a big winner! :)

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  3. I just won a HP and the Philosopher's Stone audiobook in a a giveaway and it's my first one, LOL :D It's great though!
    I'm sorry Tell the Wolves I'm Home didn't quite work for you :( It does have an intriguing synopsis, so it must have been quite disappointing to you when it turned out the way it did!
    You remind me, yet again, why I nee to read The Crown's Game! It sounds too good to be true, lol. I can't wait to give it a try sometime soon :)) Great reviews, Tanya!

    My latest post: Feminism in YA

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    1. Congrats on the win! How exciting... I hope you'll love the experience with the audio version. And The Crown's Game is one I can highly recommend... loved it!

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  4. OOOH I am so glad that you loved The Crown's Game too! It is one of my favorites of the year because, hello, RUSSIA! And I loved the characters, and so many great things! I cannot WAIT for the sequel!!

    Tell the Wolves I'm Home... yeah, not for me either. I feel you. I mean, I haven't read this book, but literary fiction and I are not besties either, so I am definitely out.

    I haven't been able to do an audiobook because my mind cannot concentrate, basically. At all. It's kind of a mess really. I tried, even books that I was really excited for, and found my mind wandering almost immediately.

    OH! ANd I see that you have a button, no thanks to me. Sorry, I totally and completely failed. BUT. While I am shit at timeliness, I have been saving graphics and backgrounds for you- especially green and purple ones ;) So if you ever need them, let me know!!

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    1. I was so excited about Tell the Wolves I'm Home when I saw Margot (Epic Reads/Harper Teen) rave about it. I mean, she positively gushed. And when I read the synopsis I was so on board. A 1986 setting (the year I graduated, so plenty of nostalgia), theearly days of AIDS, just so much possibility. But... ugh.

      I feel like I could gush about The Crown's Game for ages. Definitely one of my big surprises of the year. So much good stuff!!

      You are too funny... and believe me it's zero issue about the silly blog button. I just got it in my head one day "I wonder if I could make one?" And what do you know. LOL

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  5. I have begun to listen to audiobooks over the last year and a half, Tanya, but they'll never replace my love of reading. Like you, I don't get the same rich experience with an audio and details don't tend to stick with me like they do when I see it on the page, whether it's a digital or paper page. PLUS, if the narrator's voice grates or irritates in any way, the story is ruined for me. And I'm apparently pretty picky with my narrators. *ha* I'm glad you have these a go and at least one of them was a winner! :D

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    1. Sounds like we feel exactly the same way about audio books, Brandee. I can enjoy them sometimes, but it will never, ever be the same as actually reading the book for me. Which is why I don't choose just anything on audio. For books that I'm super excited about or fave authors, I want to actually read the book. I need to experience it for myself. But for books I'm mildly interested in or for re-reads, I'll consider going the audio route. And you're right about narrators - they can totally make or break the entire experience.

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  6. I don't blame you one bit for complaining about the breathy narration for Tell The Wolves I'm Home. I can't even stand someone breathing heavy in the same room as me, so I can't imagine reading/listening to an entire audiobook read by someone with that type of voice!
    And I've heard nothing but good things about The Crown's Game, so I'm glad to hear you enjoyed that one!
    Emily @ www.rabbitholereviews.com

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    1. LOL Too funny, Emily. I swear, the narration became such a distraction that it was all I could concentrate on. Once when I was listening in the car my husband was with me and at one point he said, "Why is she talking like that?" LOL

      And The Crown's Game was such a great surprise! I mean, me and fantasy - who knew? :)

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  7. I have not read either of these. Sorry you didn't really like Tell The Wolves I'm Home. It sounded so good!

    I've tried audiobooks but I just couldn't focus. I still think I need to try and listen at the gym or something, maybe I'd pay better attention.

    -Lauren

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    1. I know what you mean about the audio books, Lauren. I do find myself drifting off once in a while and I have to backtrack. That's why I only do audio books for books that I'm kind of so-so about. If it's one that I'm dying to read or by a favorite author, I'll *always* read the book and experience it for myself.

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  8. Great reviews! I actually have been wanting to read Tell the Wolves I'm Home so I'm bummed that one didn't work for you. I am with you re: audiobooks -- I would/could never listen to a favorite author's new book for the first time; I always want to read it and highlight and savor. I also have the unfortunate tendency of zoning out while listening - WHOOPS!

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    1. Thanks Eva! Tell the Wolves I'm Home might still be worth trying. I mean, it over 80,000 ratings on GoodReads with a 4.03 average. So obviously a lot of people like it. It just wasn't for me. Yeah, zoning out during audio books might be a problem. LOL

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