Friday, October 17, 2014

Audiobook Round-Up: Trigger Alert Edition

The universal law of putting items on hold at your local public library is that they'll all inevitably come in at once.  So I've been binge-listening to audiobooks that have been equal parts compelling and disturbing.  As in WTFBBQ Did I Just Listen To?!?!?! disturbing.

First up is Still Missing by Chevy Stevens, a debut novel that made a splash a couple years ago.  It's the story of Annie O'Sullivan, a realtor who is kidnapped by a madman while she's packing up an open house.  She's held for a year, and then she manages to escape.

The story hops back and forth in time - from Annie's sessions with her shrink, to her captivity and her eventual escape.  It's a seriously messed up read that should have "Trigger Warning!!!" slapped on the front cover.  We have violence against women (well, one woman - Annie - and yes, she's raped) and Bad Things Happen To Kids.  If you can get past that?  This was a very good psychological suspense story.  It also made a compelling read on audio because the nature of the framework means the style is kind of "tell-y."  There is some showing, but since a good portion is Annie talking to her shrink?  Yeah, telling.  It literally kept me glued to the driver's seat, the narration was very solid, and I was going out to lunch entirely too much that week so I could listen some more.  Not for everybody - but if you can handle the triggers? Highly recommended.

Final Grade = B+

These Things Hidden by Heather Gudenkauf is women's fiction with a dash of suspense thrown into the mix - but it's mostly women's fiction.  I could see it making a good book club selection.  It's one of those books that tells the story of four different women - parolee 21-year-old Allison, her 19-year-old sister Brynn, 19-year-old nursing student, Charm, who is also caring for her dying stepfather (lung cancer) and Clare, married, owner of a bookstore, and mother to an adopted five-year-old son.  What we know at the beginning of the story is that Allison got pregnant when she was 16, hid her pregnancy, and then murdered her baby girl.  She's getting out of prison now thanks to good behavior and wants to reconnect with her younger sister - which seems impossible as Brynn and their parents want nothing to do with her.  How do Charm and Clare fit into the picture?  Well, that's a spoiler.

So yeah, the story starts with a dead newborn - so that's your trigger warning.  This story is a train wreck - which is to say that as the reader you know disaster is ahead for everybody, you're just not quite sure how, why and when.  Watching the author fit her pieces together was fascinating, and even when I wasn't sure I liked this story, I couldn't stop listening.  The narration is done by three different women - and they were all good except for the woman who read for Clare and Charm.  Mostly because every time she did a child's voice the kid was in Perpetual Whine Mode.  The women who read for Allison and Brynn were much better, and I got to the point where I was dreading Clare's sections because that meant inevitably her little boy would get dialogue and - whine, whine, whine.

The one solid quibble I have with this story is the father of Allison's dead baby girl.  He plays a major role in the events that drive this story forward, and yet he's off-page other than to show up in couple of flashbacks.  I felt the story would have been better served had he been a more fully-realized character.

I'm still not sure how I feel about the ending of this book.  I'm not even sure I liked it.  But I had to keep listening and it certainly kept me engaged.  And even though I knew the train wreck was coming, I couldn't stop myself from listening.  That's hardly a fail.

Final Grade = B-


Kristie (J) said...

I'm not much of an audio book fan. I did win the ITeam series by Pamela Clare and have listened to most of them and I quite enjoyed it. But it was kind of odd at times. The guy reading the books would put a different emphasis on parts where I would have read if differently. I found myself critiquing it more that I would a book I read as I'm reading along emphasizing phrases and words I do in my head.

Wendy said...

Kristie: Try as I have, I cannot listen to romance on audio. Just can't do it. I get squirked out too easily during The Sexy Times, even if they're very tame G-rated Sexy Times.

The books that work best for me on audio are the ones I *know* I'd have trouble getting through if I read them. General fiction, non-fiction, some suspense. Books that maybe start off at a slightly slower pace. And I tend to only listen in the car, on my commute. Makes the time pass quicker - although I do notice I'm more likely to DNF quicker when an audio isn't working for me. Sometimes a story can overcome so-so narration, and sometimes it can't.