Ears on the Odyssey

2019 flash reviews

We’ve been doing a lot of listening lately, and we wanted to share our latest finds. There’s a lot here, so we’re keeping it short. Don’t let that fool you, though–these are some great audios! We hope you enjoy them. Tell us what you think!

2019 final

Blood Water Paint, by Joy McCullough, read by Xe Sands. 3 hours, 51 minutes. Listening Library, 2018.

This novel, a book in verse by debut author Joy McCullough, has been getting a lot of attention, and rightly so. The print version is wonderful, but it’s possible that the audio is even better. This book is based on the life of influential painter, Artemisia Gentileschi, who lived and painted in early 17th century Rome. Artemisia is exploited by her father, who is not nearly as good an artist as she, and then her life is shattered when she is raped by her tutor, Agostino Tassi. The trial that follows is appalling, infuriating, and utterly devastating. You’ll have to hear about it to believe it, that’s for sure! The supremely talented Xe Sands narrates Artemisia’s story, nimbly moving from free verse to prose, and conveying the rage, desperation, and courage of this remarkable young woman. An exquisitely painful story that is elevated by Sands’ precise pacing and nuanced delivery.

The Parker Inheritance, by Varian Johnson, read by Cherise Booth. 10 hours. Scholastic Audio, 2018.

An informative and intriguing middle-grade mystery that brings up important issues of race, culture, and history. 12-year-old Candace is stuck in Lambert, South Carolina, while her mother tries to get back on her feet. Candace figures that she’s in for a super boring summer, but then she stumbles upon an intriguing mystery that involves her late grandmother and possibly millions of dollars. Candace enlists the help of her young neighbor, Brandon, and together, the two children embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Cherise Booth narrates the story with warmth and good humor, capturing Candace’s tenacity and snappy intelligence with her spirited reading. Secondary characters, including older relatives and friends, are realistic and distinct. Running throughout is a sense of excitement and momentum, ensuring that listeners will be waiting anxiously to find out the results of Candace and Brandon’s sleuthing.

Sadie, by Courtney Summers, read by Rebecca Soler, Fred Berman, Dan Bittner, Gabra Zackman, and a full cast. 7 hours, 57 minutes. Macmillan Audio, 2018.

19-year-old Sadie has had a really tough life. Too tough, in fact. Her younger sister, Mattie, has been killed, and Sadie sets out to bring the killer to justice. Something goes wrong, though, because Sadie’s car is found abandoned, and Sadie cannot be found. Meanwhile, podcast producer West McCray produces a series of podcasts in which he tries to find out what has happened to Sadie. This audio is performed by a full-cast, mimicking an authentic podcast in every way. Much care is taken with sound effects (pops, volume changes, static), and the character voices are perfectly unpolished and real. Rebecca Soler’s Sadie and Dan Bittner’s West McCray are outstanding and compelling, truly inhabiting the characters in a way that seems completely transparent. Here is a book that is meant to be experienced in audio.  

The Season of Styx Malone, by Kekla Magoon, read by Sullivan Jones. 5 hours, 40 minutes. Listening Library, 2018.

Sullivan Jones’ warm and inviting voice is sure to draw you in from the very first sentence of this heartwarming and sometimes heartbreaking middle grade book. Ten-year-old Caleb Franklin cannot bear the thought of being ordinary. He wants to be special, and he gets his chance when he and his brother, Bobby Gene, run into Styx Malone. Styx is a fast-talking 16-year-old with big plans. When these three boys come together, the Season of Styx Malone ensues, complete with train-hopping, moped-stealing, sister-trading, and lots more. Jones’ performance is perfection, capturing Bobby Gene’s earnest hopefulness, Caleb’s passion and need, and the smile-in-his-voice smoothness of Styx himself. Here’s an audio that the whole family will enjoy!

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