Posted by melydia on February 1, 2013
Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld (unabridged audiobook read by Alan Cumming; 8.5 hrs on 7 discs): What we know as World War I is about to begin, but in this world the two factions are the Clankers and the Darwinists. The Clankers have huge mechanical contraptions, sort of a steampunk AT-AT. The Darwinist’s giant war machines are actually carefully designed animals created through grafting genes. Alek is the son of the recently assassinated Archduke Ferdinand, now on the run from his own allies; Deryn is a Scottish girl pretending to be a boy so she can join the military. It’s a fun story, but unquestionably part of a series – the ending leads into the next stage of the plot, leaving you wishing for just one more chapter. I’m so glad I’m reading it now, after the whole trilogy has been released, so I don’t have to wait. I also appreciated the “this is real and this is made up” afterword. Definitely recommended if you like steampunk or WWI alternate history.
A note on the audio: Alan Cumming is fantastic. No, seriously, amazing. To the point where I want to watch every movie he’s ever used an accent in ever.
Posted by melydia on January 29, 2013
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan (unabridged audiobook read by Jesse Bernstein; 10 hrs on 8 discs): 12-year-old Percy Jackson is a troubled child. He has dyslexia and ADHD, and he’s been kicked out of six schools in six years. To make matters worse, one day during a field trip his math teacher turns into a horrible beast. It turns out Percy is a half-blood, that is, his mother is mortal and his father is a Greek god. I had a great time picking up on all the various mythological references. Though it’s a modern update – Olympus is no longer in Greece, for example – it’s still a pretty good introduction to these old stories. It is, however, definitely a children’s book. Percy meets a monster every single chapter, and much of the plot is moved forward by people withholding extremely important information for no particular reason. I don’t know if I’ll read the rest of the series, but I imagine I would have devoured these books had they been around when I was 12. I was obsessed with mythology at that age.
A note on the audio: Bernstein was fine for all the children, but for some reason all the adults – especially the gods – spoke extra slowly. It was kind of annoying, but not a huge deal. Not enough to keep me from listening on.
Also posted on BookCrossing.
Posted by melydia on January 18, 2013
City of Glass by Cassandra Clare (unabridged audiobook read by Natalie Moore; 15 hrs on 13 discs): Most of this tale takes place in Idris, which is a nice change of scenery. Otherwise it’s more or less more of the same: Valentine is evil, Jace and Clary are conflicted, Simon is awesome. I did have a couple of “noooo don’t die” moments, even during those times when I knew that particular character could never in a million years get killed off, so that was refreshing. All in all, I really enjoyed this world and these characters. I know there are more books in this series, but this ended in a satisfying place.
Posted by melydia on January 15, 2013
City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare (unabridged audiobook read by Natalie Moore; 13 hrs on 11 discs): It’s difficult to give a synopsis of this second book of the Mortal Instruments series without completely giving away the first one, but suffice it to say that Clary remains conflicted about Simon and Jace, Magnus remains fabulous, adults still are generally not to be trusted (gah the Inquisitor made me so angry), and Valentine continues to be awful. The plot is once again very easy to follow and predict, but like the first book, I enjoyed the world and its characters enough that I had a marvelous time all the same. Looking forward to the third installment. I understand the series began as a trilogy, so it should have a good solid ending.
A note on the audio: I have no idea why they changed narrators, but it’s not too jarring, as Moore’s voice and inflection are actually pretty similar to Graynor’s. I imagine they switched because Graynor is a Hollywood actress and had other commitments. That’s fine. Moore is quite good, and in fact I prefer her version of Magnus.
Posted by melydia on January 4, 2013
The Laughing Corpse by Laurell K. Hamilton (unabridged audiobook read by Kimberly Alexis; 10 hrs on 8 discs): In this second installment of the adventures of Anita Blake, she spends much of her time not wanting to know things. To be fair, there’s a child-killing zombie on the loose, she’s gotten on the bad side of a powerful voodoo priestess, and the master vampire of the city insists that she be his human servant. So there’s a lot on her plate. Luckily, she’s always ready with a clever comment or snide remark. The ending introduces some darker themes, leading me to believe perhaps the series takes a turn for the serious after this, but this particular story was still a lot of fun. Brutally violent at times, but still a fun bit of horror-comedy.
A note on the audio: My husband happened to listen to an hour or two of this and was mightily entertained. He said that Alexis’s voice made it sound like a film noir, and he often laughed aloud at some of the offhand comments Anita makes. I think he felt bad until I assured him that it’s supposed to be funny.
Posted by melydia on December 21, 2012
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (unabridged audiobook read by Ari Graynor; 14 hrs on 12 discs): Clary is an ordinary teenager living an ordinary life until the night she meets a trio of demon hunters. They are just as surprised to see her as she is, since they are usually invisible to mundanes. She barely has time to get used to the idea of demons being real before her mother is attacked by one. With the help of shadow hunter Jace, Clary begins the search for her mother and answers to questions about her past. The writing is nothing special – things land “with a dull thud” and people let out breaths they didn’t know they were holding – and I saw every single plot twist coming a mile away. But the characters are fun and the world building clearly extensive. I admit, I was a little put off at first by the main character sharing a name (and hair color) with the author. Luckily, Clary didn’t come across as too glaring of an author insertion. I’ve heard the series goes downhill after a few books, but I think I’ll at least give it one more volume. This world is way too much fun to give up just yet.
Posted by melydia on December 7, 2012
The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie (unabridged audiobook read by Simon Prebble; 10.75 hours on 9 CDs): Thomas Lang somehow manages to get himself entangled in a high-stakes game of intrigue in this tale which comes across as almost a spoof of the spy genre. Lang himself is absolutely hysterical – I laughed aloud many times. His random commentary just tickled me. As for the story, I liked that I didn’t always know what was going to happen next, without feeling like everything was being pulled out of thin air. And, as usual, I am having a terrible time thinking of things to say about a book I really enjoyed, except to say that I enjoyed it. I wish Laurie would write more fiction.
A note on the audio: I really wish Laurie had read this himself, but Prebble did a fine job (as usual). Except his American accent was kind of…bad. Especially for the female characters. But that’s okay. I still had a great time.
Also posted on BookCrossing.
Posted by melydia on December 4, 2012
The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield (unabridged audiobook read by Bianca Amato and Jill Tanner; 15.75 hrs on 13 discs): Vida Winter, an author of Agatha Christie-level fame and popularity, is old and ailing and finally ready to tell the truth about her life after fifty years of telling each would-be biographer a different, obviously fabricated version of her childhood. She chooses Margaret Lea, a young woman with painful secrets of her own, to record the tale. Lea becomes entranced with the story, as did I. It is about twins, and ghosts, and madness, and love. The characters are at once repellent and oddly compelling. I would advise a strong stomach for parts, but by and large I absolutely loved this story. The ending was so satisfying I had a goofy grin on my face for quite a bit of the last couple chapters. My only confusion was that I couldn’t figure out what time period it was supposed to take place in. Lea uses pencil and paper to write, and relies on almanacs and handwritten letters to genealogists for her research. But cars and trains and telephones are commonplace items. Winter’s tale, which begins with the birth of her mother, spans nearly a century, but never once is there a single mention of either World War. No matter where you were in England at the time, surely the wars were something that impacted everyone. So that was a bit of a mystery, but quite a small one. I’ll have to keep an eye out for Setterfield’s next novel.
A note on the audio: Both readers were excellent. I listened to Amato Her Fearful Symmetry, which was also about twins and ghosts. Kind of an odd coincidence. (Evidently I also listened to Tanner read Atonement – I thought I recognized her voice!)
Posted by melydia on November 23, 2012
Cod by Mark Kurlansky (unabridged audiobook read by Richard M. Davidson; 7.75 hours on 7 discs): Apparently cod has a long an illustrious history I had absolutely no idea about. I’m not sure I’ve ever knowingly eaten cod, to be honest, but I guess it used to be a big thing. My favorite parts were the social and linguistic effects of this fish. The history and bizarre political maneuvers were pretty fun to learn about as well. The recipes, however, did nothing for me. Probably of more interest to foodies.
A note on the audio: There are a whole bunch of recipes interspersed in this book, with a big collection of them at the end. Which would be interesting to peruse, I suppose, but it lost something on audio.
Posted by melydia on November 20, 2012
So Yesterday by Scott Westerfeld (unabridged audiobook read by Scott Brick; 6 hrs 33 min 6 on discs): Hunter is sort of a Cool Detector – that is, he looks for things that are novel and shoots them off to a certain major brand to see about incorporating it into future designs. The story opens with him meeting Jen, who has tied her shoelaces in a particularly unusual way. When Hunter’s boss disappears, he and Jen find themselves chasing a group of sort-of anarchists. It’s a somewhat interesting take on what makes something “cool” or popular, and why trends fade so quickly, but being someone so totally not fashion-conscious in any form, I couldn’t always relate. I’ve never seen a pair of shoes, for example, that I just had to have. That’s an utterly foreign idea to me. All the same, the story itself was kind of fun and Westerfeld always spins a decent yarn. I just wasn’t the right audience.