Audiobook Review: Acceleration

Acceleration

by Graham McNamee

Narrated by Scott Brick

Published 2005 by Laurel Leaf

accel

Goodreads Synopsis:

It’s a hot, hot summer, and in the depths of the Toronto Transit Authority’s Lost and Found, 17-year-old Duncan is cataloging lost things and sifting through accumulated junk. And between Jacob, the cranky old man who runs the place, and the endless dusty boxes overflowing with stuff no one will ever claim, Duncan’s just about had enough. Then he finds a little leather book. It’s a diary filled with the dark and dirty secrets of a twisted mind, a serial killer stalking his prey in the subway. And Duncan can’t make himself stop reading.
What would you do with a book like that? How far would you go to catch a madman?
And what if time was running out. . . .

My Review: 

This was a fun read. I think it tapped into every teenager fantasy to be a hero.

When Duncan finds a killer’s journal he has to face his demons. The story captures readers right away. First, McNamee leads the story with Duncan’s motivation to be a hero. It’s obvious he’s not much of a hero to start with, but at least he’s not as bad as his friends.

There’s not a lot to really like about Duncan’s friends so I won’t talk about them. They’re flat characters with little development. Even Duncan lacks a certain amount of depth, but where character development lacks, it is made up for in action. Which truthfully is the premise of this book.

I was definitely on the engrossed in the story during the high action scenes. It was a little slow building up, but McNamee entertains readers with some light comedy and a few flashbacks. It was fun to imagine with Duncan. He was completely captured by the journal he found – Roach’s journal.

I’m going to keep this review short because there’s not too much to say about it. It was a quick, light read. I would recommend it for the action, but other than that there’s not a lot of depth to it. A great summer read!

As far as the audio, I think Scott Brick was fantastic. It helped that he only had to narrate male voices, but I think he captured the teenager’s attitudes very well.

I give Acceleration by Graham McNamee a 3 out of 5 Stars.

3 Stars

Book Review: The Last Werewolf

The Last Werewolf (Bloodlines Trilogy #1)

by Glen Duncan

Published 2011 by Random House Audio

were

Goodreads Synopsis:

Meet Jake. A bit on the elderly side (he turns 201 in March), but you’d never suspect it. Nonstop sex and exercise will do that for you—and a diet with lots of animal protein. Jake is a werewolf, and after the unfortunate and violent death of his one contemporary, he is now the last of his species. Although he is physically healthy, Jake is deeply distraught and lonely.

Jake’s depression has carried him to the point where he is actually contemplating suicide—even if it means terminating a legend thousands of years old. It would seem to be easy enough for him to end everything. But for very different reasons there are two dangerous groups pursuing him who will stop at nothing to keep him alive.

Here is a powerful, definitive new version of the werewolf legend—mesmerizing and incredibly sexy. In Jake, Glen Duncan has given us a werewolf for the twenty-first century—a man whose deeds can only be described as monstrous but who is in some magical way deeply human.

My Review:

I enjoyed listening to this book. The deep throaty voice of the narrator, Robin Sachs, brought out the character of Jacob, the werewolf. Unfortunately his American accent wasn’t all that great and some of the other characters seemed silly when they definitely should not have. Also, his voice was much too tenor to narrate a woman, but he gave it a valiant effort.

Duncan is certainly insightful towards metaphors. I truly enjoyed many of the figures of speech although some made me cringe; others made me shake my head. They just weren’t a good fit. Unfortunately I don’t have the text to draw back on, so I can’t recite any. I will say one thing, even for the metaphors that didn’t quite fit. Duncan (perhaps with the husky voice of Sachs) made valiant efforts and managed to make everything seem poetic. Speaking of poetic, the descriptive narrative gave the story major appeal. Even though some description of scenes was downright horrifying. I guess that’s to be expected in a story about monsters.

There was a lot of back-and-forth in this book. And yes, that is double entendre. First, there’s a tangle of people to keep straight and to remember who wants Jake dead vs. who wants him alive. It can be difficult to keep straight in some of the chaos, so stay sharp. But of course there is also quite a bit of sex. Not that it drives the plot in any way. Nor does it really seem all that useful towards the story at all. It’s not romantic, although you get the sense you’re supposed to believe it is. I wouldn’t call this book “steamy”, which is good since I prefer it that way, but if the romance is your thing, I wouldn’t recommend this read.

This one is graphic actually. Duncan never shied away from his imagination. Every gory detail is laid out – from the intimacies of sex to the gore of the kill, often awkwardly in the same paragraph. Speaking of killing, it happens often and quite casually. I suppose 200 years of being a werewolf can have that effect. The premise of this story is Jakes acceptance of his monster, even his delight in it. It’s raw with human emotion and detachment. Before you can feel anything, it get brushed away. While reading, I wish there had been a deeper emotional connection to Jake, but the dismissal of emotion made it difficult to feel sorry or hopeful for him.

I thought the story was paved very well. There were moments when I was completely lost for what was happening which is partly due to my distractions while listening. Still I think it was difficult to catch back up since roles changed and characters were constantly invading the story of Jakes life. I can’t be blamed for getting it backwards once or twice. I do wish there had been less secondary characters, but I’ll allow that it was important to build the chaos this novel thrives on.

Oddly, Duncan liked to compare his story to what might happen “in the movies”. This is all fine and well but the story actually was laid out like film at its moments, which for lack of imagination, the author simply described it’s coincidence as being like film. Unless, of course, it was conveniently unlike film. The whole theme was loosely paired with the events of the story and didn’t follow any recognizable pattern.

I think a part of me wanted to like this book more than I actually did. The prose was so tempting. Duncan knows how to craft words so they flow beautifully. However, the meaning was often too shallow or confusing to appreciate deeper. I liked the gore, but wish the sex and romance had been left out as they were fairly useless throughout the story anyway. However, the ending was very good. I was getting bored and worried I would be tempted to not finishing the book, just when the twist of the story came and led to an epic ending for the novel.
3 Stars

I choose to give The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan a 3 out of 5 stars.

Audiobook Review: Neverwhere: BBC Dramatization

 

never

Nevewhere by Neil Gaiman

Dramatization written by Dirk Maggs

Narrated by James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, Benedict Cumberbatch, Christopher Lee, Anthony Head, David Harewood, and more

Runtime: 3 hours and 48 minutes

Goodreads Synopsis:

Beneath the streets of London there is another London. A subterranean labyrinth of sewers and abandoned tube stations. A somewhere that is Neverwhere.

My Review:

I’ve read a lot of great reviews on this book, and I certainly enjoyed it. However, it wasn’t quite what I expected it to be, and therefore, to my fullest regret, I can not give this review five stars.

Gaiman has never disappointed me, and I’m not saying Neverwhere was a disappointment, but  the abridged version was far too rushed for the entire story to be as compelling as Gaiman originally wrote it.

Let me start with the story. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman is a brilliant story, and I was completely captured with London beneath and London above. The premise of the story, a second London in which all memories forgotten, and all of the people who have fallen through the cracks exist, was a thrill. It had everything you love about fantasy – mystery, danger, a little bit of nonesense. I highly recommend the story of Neverwhere

This version was abridged, which I knew before starting. I know that abridged versions can’t possibly tell the story with the same suspense as the original, but I felt this one was shortened too much. The original audiobook is over 12 hours long and this version comes in at less than 3 hours. A fraction of the time means a fraction of the story.

The storytelling itself was very good. It was told by some popular Hollywood voices such as Christopher Lee, James McAvoy, Natalie Dormer, Benedict Cumberbatch, Anthony Head…. and more. Neil Gaiman even makes a small appearance. They told the story very well and I had no difficulty with understanding the character’s roles; it was easy to recognize their emotion and predicament simply by the use of tone and expression of the narrators. It is a dramatic reading, so you can expect to get the full effect of the story that is told. It is much like watching a film with your eyes closed. They even used sound effects in every scene. In fact, the sound effects were as much a part of the story as was the voice acting.

The audio mixing was well done, but I had a hard time understanding the actors at times when the sound effects were too dominant. I was listening with my headphones and I was constantly adjusting the volume up and down because the voices would get lost in the sounds of splashing water or sometimes the sound effects would be deafening loud. The sound effects helped lay out the scene, but they interrupted the story at times beyond their usefulness.

I was enjoying the story and nearly addicted to listening to it; I was more than happy to have to wait for the bus to arrive to my stop since it allowed me plenty of time to listen to the story uninterrupted. I made my way through the first 6 chapters and was giddy to begin the last one. I was on a long car drive, so I knew I would be able to finish it without stopping. To my disappointment however, the story was already done. The last 28 minutes of the story, all of chapter 7, were bloopers and additional readings from the cast. I felt cheated out of more story. Granted, the bloopers had me laughing out loud at times, but I was much more interested in learning more of the story.

Ultimately, Neverwhere was worth the read. I still highly recommend this story to anyone with any interest. It’s a compelling story and the voice acting is very well done. I’m sure I will return to it often for a quick read. Some of the sound effects were distracting to the story, and the abridged version will never be a match for the full version, but Neverwhere is engaging fantasy for all book-lovers.

I give Neverwhere: BBC Dramatization a 3 out of 5 stars. 

3 Stars

Book to Box Office: The Giver

Well Hellooooo

It has been a while hasn’t it? However, since my last post was about The Giver, I deemed it appropriate to make my return discussing its film adaptation.

The Giver

2014

Directed by Phillip Noyce

Starring Brenton Thwaites, Meryl Streep, and Jeff Bridges

Based on the novel by Lois Lowry

giver

IMDb Synopsis:

In a seemingly perfect community, without war, pain, suffering, differences or choice, a young boy is chosen to learn from an elderly man about the true pain and pleasure of the “real” world.

My Review:

I admit I had low expectations for this adaptation. The novel had a slow start, taking time to explore the beauty and terror of Utopia. Film is naturally designed to portray as much action without dwelling too long on backstory. Therefore, I anticipated many changes to Lowry’s original image.

Not to my surprise, the black and white world of deranged perfection haunted viewers for only the first quarter of the feature. However, I was pleasantly surprised that the blend of color and grayscale representation took place throughout the entire film. This rang true with the my own depiction of the story. And it’s just nice to see what I imagined taking place on screen.

The picture was beautiful, contrasting gray to color, and stillness to movement. The juxtaposition was alive.

The film featured some relatively large names, Bridges and Streep are quality actors of our time and their talent was not unnoticed. Even pop star Taylor Swift gets a small appearance. Brenton Thwaites, and up-and-coming actor played Jonas well. In the film version, Jonas is older than eleven, around sixteen instead. However, the few years don’t change too much about the character and I was pleased at Thwaites performance; he was inquisitive and excited.

As The Giver is an award-winning book, beloved by readers for decades, the changes made to the story for its film adaptation needed to be done carefully. The film rushed a bit through the history of the utopia as I mentioned earlier, but some other small adjustments were made as well. I’ve never been one to get upset when filmmakers tweak the story from the novel, and I can’t say changes made to The Giver upset me either. However, the film focused far too much on the child’s rebellion and the chase. It had a similar way of hooking the audience as recent films such as Hunger Games and Divergent. Lowry’s novel focused on the psychological struggles of what is right and wrong, the tension between joy and pain. Phillip Noyce took the film in a more popular direction, which arguably attracts a larger audience. I understand the shift in focus, and I honestly expected it, but the film simply didn’t possess the same heart-wrench and inner turmoil as the book.

I do recommend watching the film. It may be more meaningful to watch after reading the book because the film rushes viewers through some of the details. It’s a short book, you ought to read it anyway. It was a pleasant movie, sharing thematic elements with other recent popular films. It’s appropriate for children and engaging to all audiences.

I give The Giver 3 stars.

3 Stars

 

Read the book review here

 

Book Review: The Peculiar

The Peculiar by Stefan Bachmann

TP

Goodreads Synopsis:

Don’t get yourself noticed and you won’t get yourself hanged.

In the faery slums of Bath, Bartholomew Kettle and his sister Hettie live by these words. Bartholomew and Hettie are changelings–Peculiars–and neither faeries nor humans want anything to do with them.

One day a mysterious lady in a plum-colored dress comes gliding down Old Crow Alley. Bartholomew watches her through his window. Who is she? What does she want? And when Bartholomew witnesses the lady whisking away, in a whirling ring of feathers, the boy who lives across the alley–Bartholomew forgets the rules and gets himself noticed.

First he’s noticed by the lady in plum herself, then by something darkly magical and mysterious, by Jack Box and the Raggedy Man, by the powerful Mr. Lickerish . . . and by Arthur Jelliby, a young man trying to slip through the world unnoticed, too, and who, against all odds, offers Bartholomew friendship and a way to belong.

Part murder mystery, part gothic fantasy, part steampunk adventure, The Peculiar is Stefan Bachmann’s riveting, inventive, and unforgettable debut novel.

My Review:

The Peculiar is a quick, fun read. I loved the various genres coming together seamlessly. This is  a novel to suit all types of readers.

It is an easy 376 page read, but despite action on nearly every page, I didn’t quite get an overwhelming sense of an adventure. Between the two stories taking place, that of Bartholomew and Mr. Jelliby, the villainous characters moved about in each of their separate story lines. It wasn’t difficult to perceive the roles of each of the antagonists, and the ultimate end of the novel. I think perhaps the element of surprise was lacking, taking away from the adventure. Then again, as a more seasoned YA reader, I do make a habit of making premature conclusions about novels. Take that as you will.

The climax of the story, in which Jelliby and Bartholomew take on the Lady in Plum and Mr. Lickerish, seemed to have some loose ends, which I can’t mention without giving away the story. This is a series though, so there was certainly some compelling reasons to pick up the next in the series.

While I personally got a touch bored in the reading, I can’t deny that the author really did draw the action out from beginning to end. Not only was this a tale of many adventures and misadventures, but it blends many styles of fiction together – Steampunk, Paranormal, Coming of Age, and a sprinkling of some more. This seemed like a successful experimentation with crossing genres and I really enjoyed the book for this reason.

 

I give The Peculiar 3/5 Stars

3 Stars

 

Picturebook Review: The Snatchabook

The Snatchabook by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty

Originally published by Alison Green Books

Received book from Scholastic Book Fair

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My Review:

The Snatchabook is good for a quick bedtime read, and then pass it along to another friend or family to enjoy. The story is entertaining, but lacks a true hook.

The cover is appealing as it looks like a feel-good adventure story. The artwork is colorful and textured, and while the cover image is of rabbit reading to the snatchabook, the book title displays a classic adventure-style font that slightly juxtaposes the warm, friendly cover image.

The illustrations throughout the book are quite beautiful; they are intricate and glow with an array of warm colors. The illustrations create the cozy feel of cuddling up with a book, which is exactly what readers are predicted to be doing. This is a bed time story after all.

The story itself is a series of short rhymes. The animal families of Burrow Down are confused as to why all of their books are disappearing. Until one night, a rabbit named Eliza Brown discovers the snatchabook. As it turns out, the snatchabook is simply a misunderstood creature and Eliza Brown is able to resolve the issue of missing books. What I like In about this story is the consideration of a night without a bedtime story, or owning any stories at all. The burrow was distraught at their missing books and this invokes reader sympathy. What would it be like without any books? And also, what about the children who aren’t read books at bedtime,or even at all? The story poses a challenging question to readers by way of a playful rhyme and beautiful pictures.

One of the images shows four families with parents reading to their children in bed. In each image the child is imagining him or herself within each story, displaying the use of reading as escapism but also reinforcing the idea that reading is playful and has a way of connecting people. Therefore, the snatchabook dilemma creates a real problem in the story.

One plot hole of the story is the discovery of the snatchabook. If the creature’s name implies his nature, why does the creature hang its head in shame? The character as an antagonist is severely underdeveloped. Why does the small creature have no one to read to him? While the snatchabook itself is a creative invention, I wished it had been a more rounded character.

Overall, The Snatchabook was a cute and engaging story of a small, misunderstood creature and the havoc he creates by snatching books from the families of Burrow Down. The rhyme and warm illustrations make this a good bedtime read-aloud, but some developments, specifically that of the snatchabook itself, are vague or ignored. It’s a good story. Share it with your kids or siblings. However, the story’s dilemma is simple and might not make for a favorite read.

I give The Snatchabook by Helen and Thomas Docherty a Three out of Five Stars

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Book Review: Everwild by Neal Shusterman

Everwild [Skinjacker Series #2] by Neal Shusterman

448 pages

published by Simon & Schuster, 2010

Goodreads Synopsis:

“Everlost, the limbo land of dead children, is at war. Nick the “Chocolate Ogre” wants to help the children of Everlost reach the light at the end of the tunnel. Mary Hightower, self-proclaimed queen of lost children and dangerous fanatic, is determined to keep Everlost’s children trapped within its limbo for all eternity. Traveling in the memory of the Hindenburg, Mary is spreading her propaganda and attracting Afterlights to her cause at a frightening speed.

Meanwhile, Allie the Outcast travels home to seek out her parents, along with Mikey, who was once the terrifying monster the McGill. Allie is tempted by the seductive thrill of skinjacking the living, until she discovers the shocking truth about skinjackers.”

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My Review:

The second installment of Shusterman’s series is a thrill. His regular frights become more frightening, more disturbing, more chilling. The agonizingly slow, yet strange and unpredictable plights of Nick to the deeply (very deeply) disturbing practices of Mary the Sky Witch make this book a welcome challenge to the reader. I’m 22 years old and this book disturbed me in ways I didn’t expect. Shusterman doesn’t adhere to the idea of innocence, he exposes something that might make the reader squirm, but its a thought that’s certain to stick with your memory. If you’re up to the challenge – read this book.

The characters become more rounded and complicated in this book, even some of the secondary characters such as Speedo have inner conflicts in Shusterman’s sequel. The character development is quite impressive. However, I was less impressed with some of Shusterman’s new characters. Squirrel and Moose, other skinjackers, seem to fit the static henchman stereotype and were entirely uninteresting. And as for Milos, he’s a boy with too many problems; during my reading I got the impression Shusterman changed his mind on Milos’s character and shifted his personality just slightly too much for me to enjoy him as a character. Zinnia was an enjoyable character, but her naivety after all her years in Everlost were a bit of a let down to her character. While I enjoyed the additional characters to Everwild, they seemed poorly developed in comparison to Mary, Nick, Allie, and Mikey. Speaking of Mikey, the emotional roller-coaster in just this little boy made me topsy turvey. I do think it was done artistically . Mikey reminded me that Everlost is a place of children, and children can be incredibly emotional and upredictable. I’m excited to see what happens to Mikey in the last installment of the Skinjacker series, Everfound.

Also, as much as I enjoyed this novel, there is one major plot hole in Shusterman’s story. Shusterman seems too eager to find a solution to why only some children can skinjack. Allie’s revelation is unrealistic and uncharacteristic of Shusterman’s otherwise tight plot. 

The plot of the novel was relatively slow paced. A lot of action takes place between the sequences of Mary and Nick’s plotting, but with as many story lines woven throughout the story, the final confrontation scene was a bit of a letdown. Shusterman continues to be incredibly creative in his plot, his action scenes are always a delight to read. However, the end left more loose ends than completed ones. I’m looking forward to the last novel of the series. I believe Everfound will be the profound ending to a good series or a letdown of Shusterman’s genius creativity.

I give Everwild a three out of five stars.

3 Stars