Cannonball Read IV

A bunch of Pajibans reading and reviewing and honoring AlabamaPink.

Archive for the tag “audiobook”

The Scruffy Rube’s #CBR Review #15 Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

I’ve been reading a lot into the difference between books based on spectacle and those based on subtlety lately. While The Civil War thrives on spectacle and Indian Killer glories in subtlety, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter tries to thread the needle between the two. Seth Graham Smith (the man behind Pride and Prejudice and Zombies) has a lot of fun with coupling the dried, academic language of a typical Lincoln biography with the pulse pounding gothic thrills of a vampire rumble. And even I, stodgy old English teacher that I am, had fun with the genre mash-up most of the time.

A lesser known portrait of the great emancipator

My only complaints (and genuinely, they are minor complaints) revolves around the erratic pacing. Much of the time, Smith is content to let the life story of Lincoln slowly unfurl–like a genuine life story–guiding him to motivated (and logical) peaks of axe-wielding fury. But at points he seems bored with Lincoln’s maturation and either adopts an ambivalent tone in his writing or squeezes in a dream-sequence to satisfy those desperate for a little blood and guts.

Still, it’s a fun ride through the 19th century, with the rail splitter, splitting skulls for fun. Smith tries his best but definitely wobbles between spectacle and subtlety. And while some might say that a man like Abraham Lincoln is badass enough not to need an action-star alter ego, I tend to think of it like a chocolate coated chocolate sauce: unnecessary? Yes. Still worth a try? ABSOLUTELY

pyrajane’s review #16: Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: A Mostly True Memoir by Jenny Lawson

Jenny Lawson is amazing.  Pretty please read my review and if you don’t know who she is, find out why you want to know her.  If you do already know who she is, read what I wrote and be happy she’s in our world.

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #43: The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein, narr. by Christopher Evan Welch

I’d heard RAVES about this book from all of my friends that had read it, people whose opinions on writing I respect very much. (I also heard that I should read it with a box of tissues, which made me gulp.) But I just didn’t love this book as much as they did, for a couple of reasons (and I don’t think — though I could be wrong about this — it was because I listened to it as an audiobook, although I know sometimes good books can be ruined by awful audiobook performances).

It’s been over a month and half since I finished this book, so forgive me if leave out a few things, but the basic plot of The Art of Racing in the Rain is that it’s told from the perspective of a dog* — a very smart, kind, observant dog named Enzo — who is at the end of his life and has some things to say. It’s pretty much a given that if you have a book about a dog, that dog is going to die, but I did appreciate that TAoRitR let us know up front that yeah, dude’s going to die, instead of trying to be clever and sneak it up on us. That way I could mentally prepare for it (still didn’t stop me from crying buckets, but more on that later).

*Just in case you were wondering, my favorite dog-as-narrator book is The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. OH MY GOD. (Also in case you care (you don’t) my favorite narrated by mouse story is Ralph S. Mouse by Beverly Cleary because he rides a tiny motorcycle, and my favorite narrated by hamster story is I, Houdini, by Lynne Reid Banks, because the hamster is an asshole, and it is hilarious.)

Enzo’s owner is an up and coming race car driver named Denny, and Enzo loves him very much. Not surprisingly, Enzo also develops a taste for racecar driving (watching, not driving, obviously), and the whole book is laced with the underlying metaphor of “racing is life.” That sounds cheesy, but it’s actually very well done. For instance, one of the things Denny tells Enzo (in the way an owner talks to a pet — this isn’t the kind of book where humans talk to animals) is that “Your car goes where your eyes go,” or “That which you manifest is before you.” Enzo is also convinced (because he saw it on television one time) that when he dies, he will be reborn as a human. It is his fondest desire to go find Denny as a human and shake his hand.

Racing is just a small part of the book, though. The majority of the story focuses on Denny’s family, his wife Eve and their daughter Zoe, and what happens to Denny (and Enzo by extension) when Eve dies of cancer, and her parents attempt to ruin Denny’s life. Parts of this story (mostly the parts involving happy times) were wonderful — I love the way Stein characterizes Denny, Eve, and Zoe — but Eve’s parents were such despicable, over the top villains that it actually turned my stomach a little at the book itself. Stein has a tendency to fall into cliches at important moments, and the custody battle that erupts around Zoe is pure melodrama, as is a story that involves Denny being accused of rape by a teenage girl. Those two stories felt like something out of a soap opera, very out of place, and the only thing that saved it was the brilliance of Enzo as narrator. Especially at the end of the book (which does have a happy ending, sort of), I felt like I was being concsiously emotionally manipulated, and I resented it.

Of course, that’s not to say that I didn’t cry like a little bitch when Enzo died at the end (and something else that I won’t spoil as well), but I did. But didn’t I feel like an asshole sitting there sobbing like an idiot even while I knew that was exactly what Stein wanted, the stupid jerk — but I am helpless against the power of certain stories. Definitely worth reading, just know you’re in for an emotional ride if you pick it up. (Stay away from the audiobook . . . Christopher Welch does a nice job with the male characters, but his female characters are annoying and cringeworthy.)

[Cross-posted to Goodreads]

narfna’s #CBR4 Review #37: Ready Player One (audiobook) by Ernest Cline, narr. by Wil Wheaton

Look, I wasn’t kidding when I said I wanted to read this book again immediately after I read it the first time, because that’s exactly what I did. I reserved the audiobook at my library, and when it came in, I rushed my fanny over there to check it out. It was a glorious three weeks of listening to Wil Wheaton’s gravelly nerd voice driving back and forth from work, and the story held up wonderfully on re-read.

Actually, probably the closest comparison I can make for having re-read the book so soon is like that thing you sometimes do (or maybe you don’t, I don’t know, but I definitely do) when you go and see a movie and you love it so much that you immediately go out and watch it three more times. The last time I did that was for Star Trek back in 2009. God, I love that movie.

Coincidentally, Wil Wheaton did the voices for all the Romulans in Star Trek — that dude is just really good at his shit. So not only did I get to listen to this book and its awesomeness all over again, but his performance is wonderful. It’s one of the best audiobooks I’ve ever listened to (some of my other favorites are Ron Perlman’s narration of City of Thieves, Stephen Fry’s narration of the Harry Potter books, which I MUCH prefer to the Jim Dale versions, and Lenny Henry’s performance of Anansi Boys. Henry’s performance actually elevates the book, and I’m convinced it’s the reason it’s one of my favorite books, when everyone I know who’s read it and NOT listened to the audiobook merely enjoyed it. Longest parenthetical ever). Wil Wheaton has actually narrated a bunch of John Scalzi books, and since I’m on a Scalzi reading kick right now, I hope I can track some inexpensive or free versions of those books down sometime soon. Any help in this matter would be greatly appreciated, as my library system is being a huge buzzkill at the moment.

Anyway, let’s all just take a moment and give thanks for Wil Wheaton. Wil: I appreciate you. I like your beard and your gravelly voice and how super super nerdy you are. I also secretly like Wesley Crusher, but don’t tell anyone or I’ll lose all my internet cred.

pyrajane’s #CBR4 review #8: Seriously…I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres

Quick and dirty review: If you like Ellen, you’ll like her book.

The less quick and not at all dirty full review is over on my blog.

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #05: The Lighthouse Land by Adrian McKinty

The Lighthouse Land by Adrian McKinty bookcoverThe Lighthouse Land introduces us to a 13 year old boy in New York City, who has survived cancer via an arm amputation which has left him mute from the shock.  His life changes for the better after he and his mother inherit their own small island and home off of the coast of Ireland.   There he becomes friends with a boy-genius his own age and they discover a portal to another world.  After becoming friends with a girl on the alien planet, they help to fight the pirate-type race who are attacking her people.

Again, I chose to listen to the audiobook version for this review.  At the beginning of The Lighthouse Land, I did not like the use of the future tense “you will”.  Maybe it was a little more confusing hearing it, rather than reading it, since it is unexpected.   Fortunately, this does not continue for very long, and I stopped myself from giving up on it too soon.

I also thought that the narrator, Gerard Doyle, sounded amateurish, by tending to end his sentences on a high note.  I was shocked to discover that he has won numerous narrating awards, including Best Voice in Young Adult Fiction in 2008.  So, I’m very curious now to listen to something else he has narrated to compare.  I did feel that his voice was better suited to the characters later in the book, rather than the ones in the New York setting.  I’m not sure if this was the writing or his voice, but Gerard was almost certainly chosen as narrator because of the Irish setting after New York.

Overall, I thought this was just an OK book.

continued at Loopy Ker’s Life

 

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #04: The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare

The Witch of Blackbird Pond

Original Hardcover Cover

I’ve held on to my copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond since I was about 11 years old and have re-read it many, many times. In a time when the word “witch” brings up images of Harry Potter-type stories, it might be helpful to clarify – this book is historical fiction, NOT fantasy. 🙂 “Witch” refers to the Puritan colonist ideas of what a witch was in the 1600’s. Generally, anyone who was a little different, especially a different religion, might be accused of being a witch in league with Satan. For this review I decided to listen to this old favourite in the audiobook version for the first time, to compare it to the experience of reading it myself. 

The Witch of Blackbird Pond starts with a 16 year old, free-spirited girl named Kit, traveling on a ship from Barbados to Wethersfield, Connecticut – a Puritan colony up the Connecticut River, in 1687.  Kit was raised by her wealthy grandfather in Barbados in a completely different lifestyle from the Puritans. But after his death, she is now on her way to live with relatives who she has never met before. Kit struggles to fit into her new life and to understand the Puritans, but, while her relatives try to be welcoming, they make little effort to understand her in return. It is quite the culture shock for her to go from having wealth, status and slaves to being poor and an outsider having to learn daily household chores.

Kit does her best to become friends with her cousins, Mercy and Judith, while they are all getting to know each other and are developing romances with the very few eligible young men around. But eventually, she rebels against the intolerance of the community and finds comfort by becoming friends with the lonely, old Quaker women who lives at Blackbird Pond.

continue at Loopy Ker’s Life

Note: I rated the audiobook as 3-stars, but would give the print version 5 stars

pyrajane’s #CBR4 #2: The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee by Sarah Silverman

I got the audio version for this one and I loved it.  I know I would have enjoyed reading it, but having her read it to me was so much more enjoyable.

If you hate Sarah Silverman, you’re going to hate this book.  I’m not going to try to sell you on it.  But if you like her even a little bit, pick this up.  And get it on audio if you can.

Read more over on my blog.

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #03: Circle of Magic Series by Tamora Pierce

I listened to all four audiobooks in this series in rapid succession right before signing up for CBR4, so I will treat them as one review since I can’t really separate them completely in my memory now.

Sandry's Book cover imageThe Circle of Magic series begins with Sandry’s Book, with the individual stories of four lonely, outsider children. Each is from a very different background (noble, merchant, trader and thief) and has either been abandoned or orphaned in some way. Each is found by a kind man, and taken to a private school of sorts. There each finds their way to a teacher and mentor who turns out to be a mage in a special kind of magic – a different kind than is well-known in this world. Given the title of the series and hints along the way, it is no surprise to anyone except the children’s characters that each posses their own rare kind of magic (weaving, weather, metal and plant).

As you can tell by the book titles, each of the four books, is from the point of view of one of the children (3 girls and 1 boy), but all four are still main characters in each book. The first book, Sandry’s Book is rather slow to get started as it introduces all the characters and locations and really is more about setting up the rest of the series. The four children are getting to know each other and figuring out their new lives. There is finally some real action with the group of four at the end which ends up binding them in a way that is important for the rest of the series. Together they form a completely unique magic which keeps changing and surprising them in the later books.

Surprisingly, since I read a lot of young adult fantasy, this was the first Tamora Pierce book I’ve read! I was a good, average, juvenile-young adult fantasy book that interested me enough to continue to the next in the series, Tris’s Book.

Tris’s Book begins soon after Sandry’s Book ends. The children are now bonded both my magic and by growing friendship. They are learning more about their abilities and how to control their magic, but still have a long way to go. However, there is a pirate attack on the way, before they are prepared. These are not the “nice” pirates of some stories, but the ruthless kind.

For me, Tris’s Book was the weak one in the series. I found it predictable and emotionally flat. It also depended more than I liked on the cliche of children not listening to what they are told to do and getting into trouble when they should have known better. However, by then I was invested enough in the characters to want to continue to the third book, and I’m glad that I did.

continued at Loopy Ker’s Life

loopyker’s #CBR4 Review #02: Dewey the Library Cat: A True Story by Vicki Myron and Bret Witter

Dewey the library cat cover

This review is for the audiobook only. When looking for “Dewey” books it can be a little confusing, so to clarify – this is the juvenile adaptation (grades 3 and up) of the original adult version, Dewey: The Small-Town Library Cat Who Touched the World. There are also international versions simply called Dewey by other publishers. In addition to those, there are illustrated children’s books Dewey: There’s a Cat in the Library! and Dewey’s Christmas at the Library for the kindergarten to grade 2 children. All, of these are about the same cat, Dewey Readmore Books, who brought joy to many people of all ages.

Dewey the Library Cat begins with the discovery of a sad, frozen, little grey kitten in the book return box of a small-town public library. After being brought back from near-death with a warm bath, it was discovered he was actually a sad, frost-bitten, little orange kitten. The librarian, Vicki Myron, who found him bonded instantly with the little guy and, with the approval of the City, he became the official “library cat” and lived in the library, except for when it was closed for holidays.

The book has many sweet stories of how Dewey impacted the lives of many of the staff and patrons of the library. It takes a special cat to have the personality to welcome so many different people! Many accounts tell how he did this while entertaining and comforting many people during his 19 years of life at the library, leading to world-wide fame. A satisfying, heartwarming book for those who enjoy cats and/or animal-human bonding stories. It just makes it better that it is also a true story.

As an audiobook listener, I missed out on the photographs, but there are photos and videos available on the Dewey web site and the Spencer Public Library site. The narrator, Laura Hamilton, sounds like she would be right at home in a library reading this to juvenile aged children, but not so much that adults can’t enjoy this audio version too.

continued at Loopy Ker’s Life

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