Sunday, August 25, 2019

Four audiobook reviews

I've just been too busy to review everything I've been reading lately, so I thought I'd combine 4 audiobooks into a single post to try to catch up a bit.

In My Father's House: A New View of How Crime Runs in the Family by Fox Butterfield

As we all now know that true crime works really well on audio, and this is not a salacious account of murders but instead, a sociological look at a single family of criminals, and because most crimes are committed by a tiny percentage of the population, how dealing with families like this could have a major impact on society at large. The book looks at this family's background, the major players, the few who got out unscathed, and the repercussions of their criminal activity in the region and beyond. Fascinating.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan, read by Lynn Chen (audio)

I read very, very little fiction on audio. I find it much harder to follow than nonfiction, and also a small distraction can cause the missing of crucial information, ruining the book. But I thought I could manage this one, hvaing seen the movie twice. I knew who the major characters were and could probably mostly keep them straight, and I even knew where the plot was going, although the ending is different (truth be told, I prefer the movie's ending.)

I enjoyed the book very much. There's much more detail of course. But I missed that Peik Lin wasn't as big of a character (I get that's mostly due to Awkwafina's portrayed being so fantastic, they made the part bigger in the movie. But I liked that. I did like getting much more of Astrid's background. And while the portrayal of certain characters was unbalanced compared to their impact on the story, I believe that's because the story goes on in future books and those characters prove more important later.

Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee by Casey Cep

Another audiobook that's a half-step removed from true crime, and features a Pulitzer-Prize winner novelist as the main character--this seemed like a no-brainer! Harper Lee's life has been so fascinating, despite a couple of movies (well, the movies were mostly about her best friend Truman Capote and she was a side character) and a biography, we don't know much about the reclusive author of To Kill a Mockingbird, the posthumous release of Go Set a Watchman just confused everyone further, and then when this book came out, claiming to recreate a true-crime book Harper wrote but never published, well, that's pretty much literary gold. The beginning of the book truly is true crime, telling the full story of Willie Maxwell who killed his first two wives, a step-daughter, a cousin, and basically a half-dozen or so family members, then the book dives into Harper's story from her childhood in Alabama to her adulthood in New York City, and finally, when she worked on writing the book that was never published, about Willie. A fascinating look at a messed-up woman and how amazing it is that someone so accomplished still felt like she had something to prove, and yet never did.

A Woman of No Importance: The Untold Story of the American Spy Who Helped Win World War II by Sonia Purnell, read by Juliet Stevenson

Not too shocking, but the best spy in WWII was a woman, and everyone around her tried to deny that for decades.

Virginia Hall was raised to marry well, but instead she was an independent minded young woman from Maryland who tried to join the CIA, then moved to England to join the secret service there instead, who set up the French Resistance, and after she was revealed, escaped by hiking over the Swiss Alps on a moments' notice. Oh, and she had a wooden leg which almost no one knew. England wouldn't put her back in the field, so she quit and went back tot he US, which was in the war finally at this point, and joined the OSS. She deployed back to France and continued to help the Resistance so much that the area she was in, which had been known as a Nazi stronghold, was liberated from the Nazis by the locals two days before the Allies liberated Paris. The intelligence she provided, the sabotage she coordinated, and simply the hope she gave to the French people immensely helped the outcome of WWII, possibly more than any one individual, certainly anyone below the level of world leader or general.

I thoroughly enjoyed all of these audiobooks. None stood out as amazing. But all were great, captivating, kept me listening, and are worth you checking out as well.

I checked out all of these on Libby/Overdrive through my local public library.

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