Audiobook review blitz – Daisy Jones and the Six, Between the World and Me, & Soul of the Sword

It’s that time again–I’ve read three more audiobooks, so you get three more super-quick reviews of what’s been in my ears lately! On today’s list: a popular release from earlier this year, a nonfiction essay, and a YA fantasy sequel.

Daisy Jones and the Six

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid
Genre: Adult fiction, historical fiction, novel-in-interviews
Narrators: a full cast, and holy cow did it work well. Each actor was perfect for the part they played.
Plot summary (in 10 words or fewer): 70’s band’s rise and fall. Sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll.
My rating: 5/5 stars

Best parts:
– The cast perfectly captured the spirits of their characters. Honestly, this worked so well as an audiobook, it’s like it was written to be listened to. I think reading it on paper just wouldn’t have been the same.
– Speaking of which, the whole style? Telling the entire thing in excerpts from interviews with the band members, their families, their associates…? It worked so well, and it really established the unreliability of memory.
– There was a nice paradigm shift near the end. Not really a plot twist, but a moment that reframed the whole story in a meaningful way.
– The characters in general were fascinating. Nobody was perfect, all had their flaws and foibles–Daisy’s drugs, Eddie’s anger, Billy’s need to control, and so on–but they all had positive sides as well. They felt like real people.
The women aren’t weak! They all kick ass in different ways (Karen is my favorite), and there are strong female friendships throughout the book that really matter, just as much as (if not more than) the career-based ones and the romantic ones. Especially the connection between Daisy and Simone.

Worst parts:
– It took me a minute to figure out every character’s voice and role in the story, especially the guys (for some reason the girls’ voices were more distinct to me). That’s the price you pay for a full cast audiobook with over a dozen narrators: initial confusion as to who’s who before the reward of it all coming together. I figured it out eventually, and it was excellent once I did.
– Sometimes, I didn’t want to sympathize with certain characters who made certain decisions. But I think that was deliberate, because real people aren’t always likeable, and the big moments hit hard.
– I really can’t think of anything else. This was not my usual kind of book, but it was excellent, and I’m so glad I took a chance on it.

Between the World and Me

Author: Ta-Nehisi Coates
Genre: nonfiction, essay
Narrator: the author himself. Honestly, I didn’t love his voice for this–it felt like there wasn’t as much emotion behind it as I would have expected. There wasn’t much build or rise and fall in it. This one may have been better to read on paper.
Plot summary (in 10 words or fewer): black man tells his son about racism and the world.
My rating: 3.5/5 stars
Disclaimer: I know, this book was not written for me. I do recognize its importance, and I think it is a highly worthwhile read, but there were some aspects, both in the writing and in the voice of the audio narrator, that dampened my appreciation of it. It’s hard to rate a book that you know is objectively important but subjectively you didn’t like as much.

Best parts:
– A deeply personal, #OwnVoices examination of contemporary racism in America and in the way that racial attitudes have evolved over generations
– Commentary on police violence, which is still highly timely and relevant today
– Emphasis on the importance of HBCUs, specifically Howard University
This is a book that I think will mean a lot to black teens, and would also be eye-opening for their white peers to read

Worst parts
– Sometimes the text felt repetitive in its commentary
– I just…didn’t find it interesting. I am very much interested in race and social justice issues, but something about this particular book, especially after the first part, wasn’t particularly compelling to me (please don’t attack me for saying this)
– As stated previously, the author’s speaking voice wasn’t very gripping, and that might be part of why I didn’t find it as engaging to listen to

Soul of the Sword

Author: Julie Kagawa
Genre: YA fantasy
Series: Shadow of the Fox (#2)
My rating: 4.5/5 stars

**DISCLAIMER: there might be some spoilers in here for the first book in the series. You’ve been warned.**

Narrators: three (for Yumeko, Tatsumi, and Suki). The first two were excellent; the narrator for Suki’s part was kind of annoying. Her voice was perpetually weirdly low, both in pitch and in volume, and she sounded like everything she said was wimpy and hesitant. I get that Suki’s character is uncertain and a literal ghost, but the voice sounded like she had absolutely zero conviction.
Plot summary (in 10 words or fewer): More Japanese monsters. Ragtag crew fights demon for Tatsumi’s soul.

Best parts:
– The character development: Yumeko comes into her own, we see a more vulnerable side of Tatsumi, Reika becomes less uptight, Daisuke questions what honor means, Okame’s past comes to light…it’s the same gang I love, but with new depth!
– More crazy monsters! Twin girls with braids that are LITERAL SCORPION TAILS.
Unexpected gay romance??? Sign me up!!!
– So much deception. The plot twists genuinely threw me off. All of Yumeko’s illusions also make it hard to tell what’s real, which is a great effect.
– The fight scenes were really well done! The combination of all the characters’ unique fighting styles (illusion, ofuda, bow, sword, simply being a giant dog/shrine guardian) made for fast-paced and fascinating combat scenes, without anything becoming too jumbled or full of jargon. Not everyone can write a good fight, but apparently Kagawa can.
– Speaking of fight scenes: the violence. Kagawa did not pull any punches. For example, someone got their arm cut off and then their spine literally ripped out. By a demon, of course. Who laughed as he did it.
#OwnVoices Japanese representation, obviously a plus
– Even with its darker tone, this book kept that same Avatar: The Last Airbender vibe as the first book, with traveling and quests and growth along the journey.

Worst parts:
– Another cliffhanger ending? I know it’s a series, so some degree of suspense is expected, but it felt almost like too corny of an ending line. Like the ending of a TV episode.
– A certain couple needs to just express their dang feelings. Come on, now.
– Some plot choices were a little too convenient, with really complicated plans being made in absurdly short amounts of time…but I was kind of okay with it. It fit the tone of the story.

That’s all for now, folks! Have you read (or listened to) any of these? What did you think of them? Going to check any of them out soon?

Until tomorrow,

Kathryn (“K-Specks”)

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