Cluster Review #2 (Books 6-10)

For this second cluster review, I will be reviewing books 6-10 of my 2020 reading list. The majority of these (all except #6) are Audible originals, so the reviews will be relatively short. As an Audible member, you get two free Audible originals each month, and they can really be hit or miss. I have to say, though, getting an Audible membership and beginning to listen to audiobooks during my school and work commutes instead of the radio was pretty life-changing! I’m so grateful for audiobooks for helping me read consistently even when life gets busy. The “Audible freebies” (as I like to call them) can be a nice break from some of the longer, heavier listens. *Once again, I’ve shared the publisher’s summaries of these books.

6. “A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World” by C.A. Fletcher

A Boy and His Dog at the End of the World: A Novel: Fletcher ...
  • Year of Publication: 2019
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Summary:

“My name’s Griz. My childhood wasn’t like yours. I’ve never had friends, and in my whole life I’ve not met enough people to play a game of football.

My parents told me how crowded the world used to be, but we were never lonely on our remote island. We had each other, and our dogs.

Then the thief came.

There may be no law left except what you make of it. But if you steal my dog, you can at least expect me to come after you.

Because if we aren’t loyal to the things we love, what’s the point?”

  • Format: Audiobook (Narrated by C.A. Fletcher) 
  • Themes: Survival. Courage. Hope. Adventure. Family. Trust. Friendship. Animal companionship. Revenge.
  • Windows and Mirrors: For me, these were the “windows” in this book: life in isolation (though not so unfamiliar after practicing social distancing), the experience of being fueled by revenge. Mirrors: Strong family relationship, loyalty to family and pets, love of dogs.
  • Overall Thoughts: Honestly, I did not enjoy this when I read it. However, I do remember feeling fairly distracted during many of my listening sessions, so this could be the reason I didn’t connect with it. The narration was okay (narration by the author is always hit or miss), but I just felt the story moved too slowly and not much happened. However, the characters and their development were interesting.
  • Recommendation: Personally, I can’t really say I recommend this book, but I also can’t say that I don’t recommend it. It was not one that stuck with me, but, like I wrote above, I wasn’t fully invested so it could be my fault that I didn’t enjoy it as much. It’s an interesting dystopian novel with thought-provoking themes and unique characters, so if you enjoy sci-fi you might want to check this one out! 

7. “Tinaca Jones” by Matt Boren

Tinaca Jones in 2020 | Audio books, Workout programs, Audible
  • Year of Publication: 2020
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Summary:

“What’s in a name? A lot. The name Tinaca, for example, has been passed down in the Jones family for generations of women. In fact, the Joneses name a Tinaca every other generation, to let the name breathe a little. To let each Tinaca shine. And shine is exactly what Tinaca Jones intends to do.

A grocery cashier by day and household name in the making by night, Tinaca Jones pays her dues, saves her coins, and takes business and marketing classes. She spends every second readying to launch her lifestyle brand for anyone who wants to live like her—that is, intentionally and fabulously. But when a basic blonde with an even more basic name, Kelly Smith, approaches her register and peeps her nametag, Tinaca’s plans come crashing down all around her.

The next thing Tinaca knows, Kelly Smith has launched herself into overnight fame with a pathetic, old-as-time, red-carpet stunt, using the stage name “Tinaca Jones.” But Kelly Smith messed with the wrong woman. What follows is Tinaca Jones’s wild and triumphant account of the battle to reclaim her name, told over the course of an epic and hilarious deposition.

  • Format: Audiobook (Narrated by Retta, Matt Boren, and Stephanie Lemelin) 
  • Themes: Identity. Ingenuity. Perseverance. Dedication.
  • Windows and Mirrors: I’m not sure for this one, but I didn’t have a strong connection to it, so it was definitely more of a “window” book for me.
  • Overall Thoughts: I thought this was a fun, fast-paced story and I enjoyed the narration by Retta (Donna from Parks and Rec). This is another one that didn’t really stick with me though.
  • Recommendation: Again, with this one I can’t really recommend it one way or the other. If you’re looking for something light to listen to while doing chores or something, this would be a good choice! It’s not anything profound or life-changing, but it’s fun and enjoyable. However, if swearing in books bothers you, you might not enjoy this one.

8. “Interview with the Robot” by Lee Bacon

Interview with the Robot by Lee Bacon
  • Year of Publication: 2020
  • Genre: Science Fiction
  • Summary:

“Fugitive. Criminal. Robot.

Eve looks like an ordinary 12-year-old girl, but there’s nothing ordinary about her. She has no last name. No parents or guardian. She’s on the run from a dangerous and secretive organization that will stop at nothing to track her down.

And most astonishing of all: She’s a robot, a product of Eden Labratories.

When she discovers the truth, she realizes everything she thought she knew about herself is a lie. Eve manages to escape, fleeing the lab, the only home she’s ever known.”

  • Format: Audiobook (Narrated by Kevin T. Collins, Ellen Archer, Josh Hurley, Eileen Stevens, Erin Mallon, and more)
  • Themes: Humanity. Human nature. Technology. Artificial intelligence. Power. Control.
  • Windows and Mirrors: Again, considering this one was about a robot, it was definitely more of a “window” book. However, some of the experiences of the human characters could be windows or mirrors for some readers (depending on their perspective). For instance: loss of loved ones, curiosity of children, desire for knowledge, and escaping harmful situations/relationships.
  • Overall Thoughts: I actually really enjoyed this one! Its target audience is children, but I thought the themes were really relevant and intriguing. The story was fast-paced and well-narrated; it kept my attention the whole time.
  • Recommendation: I absolutely recommend this Audible original! I thought it was really fun, and would be a great choice for a family to listen to together.

9. “Caffeine” by Michael Pollan

Amazon.com: Caffeine: How Caffeine Created the Modern World ...
  • Year of Publication: 2020
  • Genre: Nonfiction
  • Summary:

“In this controversial and exciting listen, Pollan explores caffeine’s power as the most-used drug in the world—and the only one we give to children (in soda pop) as a treat.

Pollan takes us on a journey through the history of the drug, which was first discovered in a small part of East Africa and within a century became an addiction affecting most of the human species. Caffeine, it turns out, has changed the course of human history—won and lost wars, changed politics, dominated economies. What’s more, the author shows that the Industrial Revolution would have been impossible without it. The science of how the drug has evolved to addict us is no less fascinating. And caffeine has done all these things while hiding in plain sight! Percolated with Michael Pollan’s unique ability to entertain, inform, and perform, Caffeine is essential listening in a world where an estimated two billion cups of coffee are consumed every day.”

  • Format: Audiobook (Narrated by Michael Pollan)
  • Themes: Addiction. Energy. Motivation.
  • Windows and Mirrors: This category isn’t as applicable with nonfiction, though some people may connect with the story more than others depending on their relationship with caffeine.
  • Overall Thoughts: I thought this Audible original was really well-written and well-researched. It covered a lot of information I wasn’t familiar with, but it was presented in a way that kept me engaged and following even if I wasn’t very knowledgeable on the topic (such as the history of coffee or caffeine). It’s a quick and easy listen; another great option for something to have on in the background when driving or doing chores.
  • Recommendation: If you have an interest in coffee/tea/other caffeinated beverages, I definitely recommend this Audible original! If you don’t have any interest in this topic, though, this book probably isn’t for you (and that’s okay!). It wasn’t so phenomenal that it’ll capture the attention of anyone and everyone, but it provides a new perspective for those interested in learning more about the topic.

10. “Cut and Run” by Ben Acker and Ben Blacker

Cut and Run (Audiobook) by Ben Acker, Ben Blacker | Audible.com
  • Year of Publication: 2020
  • Genre: Fiction
  • Summary:

“Welcome to a tale of love, adventure, and organ theft.

In this charming, scripted audio crime comedy, Samantha Dugan (D’Arcy Carden) and Abe Lally (Sam Richardson) are best friends and partners in crime. They steal kidneys. Like all jobs, it’s complicated. Despite being Robin Hoods of organ thievery, Abe and Samantha are just the sweetest people.

Samantha, a professional con artist, uses her charms to steal kidneys from bad people and get them to good ones. Abe, Sam’s surgeon-in-crime on their illicit kidney theft operation, is using unfettered access to the human body to advance his research to cure diabetes. This gig is hell on their social lives.

This hilarious and twisted Audible Original tale features just about everything you could hope for: crime, punishment, law, order, love, romance, air travel, Ed Begley Jr., and a quinceañera.”

  • Format: Audiobook (Narrated by Meg Ryan, D’Arcy Carden, Sam Richardson, Rachel Bloom, Ed Begley Jr., and more) 
  • Themes: Honesty. Trust. Deception. Friendship. Lying to yourself.
  • Windows and Mirrors: This story was so quirky and playful that it’s hard to find true connections or windows into real and unfamiliar experiences. Some themes that could connect with people might be the lengths we go to to protect the people we care about, and the way we lie to ourselves to justify our more questionable decisions. But again, it’s tricky to find genuine windows and mirrors in such a silly story (especially when it’s been a while since I’ve read it).
  • Overall Thoughts: This one was pretty good! It wasn’t my favorite Audible original, but the quirky storyline kept my attention since it was so unusual and different than anything else I’ve read. The narration was also great. 
  • Recommendation: If you enjoy dark humor and quirky characters, then I recommend you give this a try. It’s another good “background” listen for some quick entertainment. The humor is pretty dark, so keep that in mind if that’s not a type of humor that you enjoy.

Thank you for reading and leave a comment below letting me know what you think! How do you feel about audiobooks? Do you enjoy reading in this format?

Keep an eye out for my next cluster review featuring a collection of historical fiction children’s books that I read in preparation for teaching a 6th grade historical fiction unit!

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