Thursday, June 05, 2008

Audiobooks that charm

The month of May was such a busy month here in the entwood that actual reading time has been minimal but BookMoot has been listening to some excellent audiobooks.

We may not be taking driving vacations this year but there are rooms to toss, and closets to clean out and corners to excavate and (sob!) bookcases to weed. I find I stay at these unpleasant tasks longer when I have a great book to listen to.

Ahhh... summer.

Ninjas, Piranhas, and Galileo
by Greg Leitich Smith, Recorded Books, 2004

Three friends, a private middle school and a science fair.

As the school science fair approaches, seventh grader, Elias, lives in the shadow of his older brother's legendary science fair success. Eli is also dealing with his developing romantic feelings for his good friend Honoria. Honoria is determined to train piranhas to become vegetarians for her science project and she is attracted to Shohei who is totally unaware that he is the focus of her attentions. He is frustrated by his adoptive parents' intense focus on his Japanese heritage and their overreaching attempts to make sure he remains "in touch" with his cultural background. His own interest in the science fair is minimal, so, looking for an easy way out, he teams-up with Eli. His lack of effort spells disaster for their project which in turn, has terrible consequences for Elias.

The story is told in the first person by three main characters. Elias, Honoria and Shohei are wonderfully voiced by the actors in this audio version. My one regret is that Recorded Books, who produced the book, did credit the performers who so perfectly caught the tone and point of view of the three characters.

The story is full of humor. Greg translates that strange time that is middle school / junior high with sympathy and affection.

Great fun.

Lionboy by Zizou Corder, read by Simon Jones, Highbridge Audio, 2003

I know you've heard audiobook narrators who work so hard at different characters' voices that they seem to be about to strangle themselves with the microphone chord sometimes.
Audiobook performance is difficult, which makes Jim Dale's (Harry Potter) achievement even more extraordinary. In this production, Simon Jones's narration never gets in the way of the story. His expertise in this genre shines here.

Charlie Ashanti has a happy life. His scientist parents provide him with love and security. When they disappear under mysterious circumstances, Charlie uses the clues they leave behind and his gift for speaking the language of cats to trace their whereabouts.

His search takes him to the river's edge where he joins a circus which travels the rivers of Europe on a huge barge. The calliope music is of the circus is utterly beguiling and puts the listener on board the ship along with Charlie. He is taken on as the lionboy, the assistant to the sinister lion tamer. Keeping his ability to communicate with the lions, a secret is a challenge. He receives updates about his parents from cats at the various cities and towns where the circus performs. Charlie longs to free the circus lions from their captivity and continue the search for his parents but accomplishing an escape is dangerous. Then there is the problem of traveling through a city with a group of lions and not attracting unwanted attention.

Very original story with sequels to listen to.

Oh boy!!

Miracle on 49th Street by Mike Lupica, read by Michele Santopietro, 2006

Why couldn't Santopietro read Twilight? I might have enjoyed it. She gives twelve year old Molly Parker's voice a freshness and optimism that works perfectly with the story.

Molly's mother has recently died from cancer and she has come to live with her mother's sister and family. She is not unhappy, she has a great friendship with Sam, a brilliant guy with whom she can share everything. Her dream is to have a relationship with her father, Josh Cameron who is a star player with the Boston Celtics. Living in England for most of her life, her mother had not told her the truth about her father's identity until she became ill.

YA novels are often about a girl yearning for a relationship with the guy of her dreams. In this story, they guy is her dad. Now Molly is on a quest to meet her father and hopefully enjoy a happy father-daughter relationship with him.

Lupica includes lots of behind-the-scenes details of the pro basketball world which ring true.

Sweet story !
Mike Lupica sure knows how to engage me with characters I really care about.

I confess I have been somewhat reluctant to take up Charlie Higson's Young Bond books. I have such a fondness for my Alex Rider (by Anthony Horowitz, nicely read by Simon Prebble.)

As Alex is a "sort of" young James Bond-like character, I wondered if Higson's "James" would be distinct or a mere shadow of young Alex. I have not even bothered with the new novel incarnations of Bond as I prefer the Fleming originals.

I was thrilled and happy to discover that SilverFin and Blood Fever were compelling and "didn't want to stop" listens for me. Nathaniel Parker (clicked on his website and shouted, "Oh, him! Inspector Lynley!) is an outstanding voice actor who shades each character with a distinct tone and cadence.

I enjoyed Siverfin but I loved Blood Fever. There is much here for the guys. Blood Fever teaches fishing techniques, explains the workings of the internal combustion engine and learning to drive a car.

One nice aspect of the stories, for those who insist that a book has to teach a lesson (not me) is that the loutish bullies who make life miserable for James at Eton, are redeemed and end up as friends with him.

There are sly references to the future career of 007 which fans will "get." I have Higson's third book downloaded and ready for listening.

I guess it is time to go toss the entlings' rooms now. I'm ready.

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