Wednesday, September 21, 2011

If You Ask Me by Betty White

So I still haven't gotten the audiobook copy of The Warmth of Other Suns that I ordered from another library. Hopefully it'll get here next week after I get back from my Georgia vacation. I needed something that I could listen to on my way to and from class last night, but not something that was going to be more than a couple of discs, because I don't want to have to put off listening to Warmth (I have to read it for school, and I'd really just like to get it over with). So I looked over the list of audiobooks I had on hold, and one of them happened to be just two discs (about 2 hours and 15 minutes) long: If You Ask Me (And of Course You Won't) by Betty White.

If You Ask Me is a collection of stories from Betty's life. Did you realize that Betty White is 89 years old? I mean, I knew she was old, but I didn't know she was almost ninety. I guess I didn't realize she was so old because my great aunt Betty B. was about Betty W.'s age when she died, and Betty B. wasn't nearly as fun or spunky as Betty W. One of my favorite stories in the book was when Betty is talking about how she doesn't want to be a cougar. She often meets men she finds interesting but she doesn't want to go out with them because usually they're all younger than she is. "He might be only 80!"

This is the first time I've listened to an audiobook read by the author. For a memoir like this, it really adds to the story because you feel like Betty White is just talking to you, telling you stories about Saturday Night Live and her pets. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it to anyone who needs a quick, fun read.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Read by Debra Wiseman and Joel Johnstone

After my last audiobook, which was violent and difficult to listen to, I decided to pick a cheerier subject for my next listen. I picked Thirteen Reasons Why, which is about a teenage girl who commits suicide. I'm awesome at picking books.

In Thirteen Reasons Why, our protagonist is Clay Jensen. Two weeks after one of his friends, Hannah Baker, commits suicide, he receives a package in the mail (no return address) with 7 cassette tapes. When he plays the first tape he is shocked to hear the voice of Hannah Baker. Hannah made these tapes as a sort of suicide note. Each side of each cassette is about one person who directly or indirectly contributed to her decision to shuffle off this mortal coil. The first person mentioned on the tapes was the first to receive them, and when he's done he sends them on to the next person. Basically, if you receive the tapes, it's partially your fault. Well, sort of. Clay receives the tapes, but he didn't really do anything bad to Hannah. I was wondering how Jay Asher was going to keep the protagonist of his novel sympathetic after we find out how he contributed to a teenage girl's suicide. But since this is a YA novel, I wasn't really surprised to find out that Clay is a super good guy instead of an anti-hero.

It's an interesting book that focuses a lot on bullying, rumors, peer pressure, that sort of thing. There's a short discussion about what is or isn't rape that I found interesting. The phrase "victim blamer" is used at one point, which was awesome. My biggest problem with the book was the performance of Debra Wiseman, who performs Hannah's tapes in the audiobook version.

I'm not sure how it comes across while reading the book, but for several discs I had myself convinced that Hannah was punking everyone and didn't really commit suicide. I mean, it's specifically mentioned that there wasn't a funeral, so it wasn't impossible for her to have faked her death. (Yes, I was raised on Soap Operas, why do you ask?) The whole theme of rumors getting out of control actually could have contributed to my version of the story. But, no, Hannah really did die. Debra performs Hannah as being damn near cheerful on the first few "tapes," which was disconcerting when you consider that you're supposed to be listening to the voice of a girl who commits suicide just after finishing the recordings. The performance just didn't fit into what I imagine a depressed, suicidal teen sounds like. Also, she sounds kind of old. Maybe they wanted Hannah to sound like an old soul, I don't know. And she says "repercussions" in a way that sounds weird to me, and as you can imagine in a novel like this, "repercussions" is said quite often.

In case you're wondering: Audiobooks are pretty much going to dominate my posts for the foreseeable future. I'm in grad school, so all my reading time is dominated by book-learnin'. But, since I have a little over an hour commute each way to class, I can use that time to power through audiobooks for fun. I can pretty much knock out one disc each way. It's great.