Good for You by Tammara Webber

Good for You by Tammara WebberGood for You by Tammara Webber
Narrator: Kate Rudd, Todd Haberkorn
Series: Between the Lines #3
Published by Brilliance Audio on 12/3/12
Genres: Romance
four-stars

Story: B
Narration: A-

Quick Review:

This was a highly enjoyable romance with protagonists who step outside some commonly seen themes to develop into complex characters with depth. The dual narration works extremely well and enhances this first person contemporary YA/NA quite nicely.

Goodreads Summary:

“Reid Alexander’s life is an open book. His Hollywood celebrity means that everything he does plays out in the public eye. Every relationship, every error in judgment is analyzed by strangers. His latest mistake totaled his car, destroyed a house, and landed him in the hospital. Now his PR team is working overtime to salvage his image. One thing is clear – this is one predicament he won’t escape without paying for it.

Dori Cantrell is a genuine humanitarian – the outward opposite of everything Reid is about. When his DUI plea bargain lands him under community service supervision, she proves unimpressed with his status and indifferent to his proximity, and he soon wants nothing more than to knock her off her pedestal and prove she’s human.

Counting the days until his month of service is over, Dori struggles to ignore his wicked magnetic pull while shocking him with her ability to see past his celebrity and challenge him to see his own wasted potential. But Dori has secrets of her own, safely locked away until one night turns her entire world upside down. Suddenly their only hope for connection and redemption hinges on one choice: Whether or not to have faith in each other.”

My Thoughts:

What starts out as some often seen (and often simplified) themes in romance novels – a good girl (preacher’s kid), a bad boy (and a movie star to boot), and sparks flying as the two butt heads when forced by circumstances to interact – reveals itself to be more than the initial setup might suggest. I haven’t read the first two books in this series (and by the way, this one worked very well as a stand-alone) so I didn’t have any preconceptions about the character of Reid but I hear he was a bit of a jerk in the earlier books. While he was definitely a spoiled and self-centered movie star to kick off the book, he wasn’t unbearable and as the story progresses not only does his personality begin to change in response to his experiences but his actions are understandable given his history. His shift in personality and his desire to be better than he was seemed reasonable to me and I enjoyed his transformation.

Dori was the protagonist who benefited the most from the in-depth characterization she was drawn with. She judged Reid pretty harshly (understandably so) to start with but found herself drawn to him anyway. I reached a point in the story where everything could have wrapped up nicely into a romantic resolution but with more than half the book left, Dori started coming into focus and carried much of the rest of the story for me. She could easily have been a goody-two-shoes but she had some real (and realistic) struggles with her faith that were backed up by an unexpected history that broke my heart. Her present wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows either.

The struggle between Dori and Reid to establish a relationship was lengthy and it was interrupted part-way through as they pushed each other away and as life pulled them in separate directions. Usually this interruption of “together time” in the middle of a romance would make the book seem drawn out but it worked particularly well for me here because each of them needed to see what life without the other felt like. Dori in particular had to figure out what need Reid met (besides the obvious – nudge-nudge-wink-wink) in her life.

I often find literary characters who evince a religious faith to be written in a manner inconsistent with my experience with religion in real life. They seem to hit an extreme end on the spectrum: either overzealous and so preachy as to be irritating or a former believer whose faith has been crushed by tragedy and now they reject religion entirely. Dori’s religion was a real-world version and she questions it as life throws curve balls her way. It was also a part of who she was and for once, I didn’t get a sense of authorial intent behind the inclusion of faith – that was simply who this character needed to be.

I really enjoyed this audiobook. I listened to it in a couple long sessions over a two day period and it captured my interest completely and had terrific narration.

The Narration:

Although it isn’t my intent to take away from the author’s ability to make a story containing common romance elements something fresh and engaging because the characters are written as complex and interesting people, the fact that the narrators delivered such contemporary and natural voices for the characters absolutely enhanced my enjoyment of this book. Alternating short chapters that switch first person perspective between the protagonists is an ideal situation for a dual narration casting. The selection of narrators who can swing age-appropriate voices in addition to being very skilled in their craft was a major score. If I have one complaint (and I do) it’s that Dori’s voice, which is described as “lyrical”, is given the slightest hint of an Hispanic accent when read by Todd Haberkorn but not when read by Kate Rudd. While either delivery is fine, it’s the disconnect between the two that I had to get used to.

This was my first listen to one of Todd Haberkorn’s narrations but I won’t hesitate to pick up another with his name on it. He was convincing as a young and spoiled movie star while still managing to not make him so much of a jerk (vocally) that I tuned him out in self-defense. He delivered the emotional gamut the story and character called for and nailed distinctive voices for each character. His delivery was very natural sounding which sucked me right in and I heard Reid as a person rather than a character.

This was my second listen to Kate Rudd’s work (and she’s two for two at making me cry, thank-you-very-much) and she was the perfect pairing to put up against Mr. Haberkorn. Her youthful inflections matched Dori’s age and she was pitch-perfect at the lines that delivered the biggest emotional punch. She also brought a very natural sound to the character as well as providing distinct voices for each of the supporting cast. Her delivery was very effective at providing me with a sense of immediacy as events unfolded.

four-stars

The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Narrator: Kate Rudd
Published by Brilliance Audio on 1/10/12
Genres: Literary Fiction, Young Adult

Story: B+
Narration: A

Publisher’s summary:

“Diagnosed with Stage IV thyroid cancer at 12, Hazel was prepared to die until, at 14, a medical miracle shrunk the tumours in her lungs… for now.

Two years post-miracle, sixteen-year-old Hazel is post-everything else, too; post-high school, post-friends and post-normalcy. And even though she could live for a long time (whatever that means), Hazel lives tethered to an oxygen tank, the tumours tenuously kept at bay with a constant chemical assault.

Enter Augustus Waters. A match made at cancer kid support group, Augustus is gorgeous, in remission, and shockingly to her, interested in Hazel. Being with Augustus is both an unexpected destination and a long-needed journey, pushing Hazel to re-examine how sickness and health, life and death, will define her and the legacy that everyone leaves behind.”

My Thoughts:

Sometimes life collapses around your ears and it can happen with cancer, it can happen like it’s described in the book, and it can – to use the analogy Hazel does – go off like a hand grenade and send shrapnel flying into the hearts of those you least want to cause pain. With that, though, there can still be beauty and humor and love and I think that’s what makes this book more than a cancer story or a tear-jerker (and boy was it ever) or a YA book. It encompasses the full measure of messiness that life can be in a story told with grace and humor and not a few tears.

Hazel’s and Augustus’ battles with cancer are obviously the focal point but we don’t just get a self-absorbed or micro-perspective. The struggle their parents go through and the guilt Hazel feels over that are also part of the story. Facing an uncertain future and rejecting love because of that, the process of falling in love anyway, how the world looks at cancer patients and sees the disease more than the person… there are a lot of strands to this story. The thread of humor that runs throughout this book balances out the tragic moments and while I wasn’t completely sold on the storyline regarding the author Peter Van Houten (although I understand how it tied up in the end) and I might have experienced a momentary sense of disbelief at the level of erudition and whip-like humor that flowed through Hazel and Gus’ dialogue, it was still very amusing to listen to and not a stumbling block to my enjoyment of this audiobook.

I wish I had more to say about the book itself in terms of storyline or writing or the character development or any number of things but this book spoke to me on an emotional level far more that an intellectual one so although the writing was smart and the dialogue clever, I flounder in describing it because it’s the wrenching emotional impact of the story that burns brightest in my mind. That’s also why I feel compelled to write a review of it, even though mine will hardly be the most eloquent recommendation – this book just moved me that much. It was a very good book about a serious subject with enough humor to balance it out and I highly recommend it.

The Narration:

I have to ask myself: why have I never listened to a Kate Rudd narration before now? Excuse me for one moment… *pulls out newly acquired fan-girl soapbox* To put it simply, her narration of this audiobook was my idea of perfection. I’m tempted to tell you that the only person I heard narrating in this book was Hazel and leave it at that but that wouldn’t do justice to the skill that let me forget about the narrator and hear only Hazel’s very authentic voice. Ms. Rudd has an extremely natural sounding delivery and when voicing Hazel and Augustus she hit the humorous lines that alternated between wacky and deadpan perfectly. Hazel runs the gamut of emotions in this book and each minute I listened I heard a pure perspective of her point of view based on the inflections, emphasis, and a myriad of subtle vocal cues that were employed. The struggle to breathe that Hazel sometimes battled with would start out gradual and become more apparent without ever overwhelming the narrative or dialogue and I found myself tensing at the quiet onset of each of those scenes. The moments of grief or anger or exhaustion were never overdone and the emotional wallop that lives in the text of this story was allowed to resonate with the listener without overwrought narration getting in the way. The character voices were nicely distinct and Gus’ voice brought him to vibrant life with his goofy humor, bravado and burning desire to be a hero and live a life that leaves a mark. The dialogue was crisp and flowed organically and, in contrast to a common grumble of mine with YA audiobooks, the inspired casting meant the teenage characters sounded young but not childish and the adult voices didn’t sound artificially aged in order to contrast. In short, the voices just sounded natural. This was an excellent narration. *puts fan-girl soapbox away.*