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Friday, July 11, 2014

Building Balance

The Good, the Bad, and the Clunky  Audiobook Reviews
 By Kitty Griffin 


I’ve become infected. I’ve always enjoyed hearing stories read aloud, so this isn’t a new infection. It’s just an old one reestablishing itself.

I’ve just joined Audible.

(And it’s good. Not as comfy as my dear Grampy’s big lap. I don’t smell Old Spice. I can’t feel his whiskers, but I’ve found comfort.)

When teaching, I often encouraged my students to look at a story from as many angles as they could. In fact, the mid-term was to take a beloved book, one that had been turned into a movie, and compare every creative aspect of it, determining what worked and what didn’t.

It’s wonderful to read stories.
It’s wonderful to listen to stories.
It’s wonderful to see them (unless Hollywood does what they did to Ella Enchanted then it’s not wonderful, it’s sickening—but that’s another review).

Let’s start with what makes an audiobook work.


There are two voices in an audiobook. The voice of the main character and the voice of the reader. Those two voices have to be in harmony for things to work well. They need to balance, with one side not heavier/lighter than the other.

So I’ll give you a story that became C, or CLUNKY for me. A story that didn't balance.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas.
Reviews of the book are quite good. Folks loved it. I had the chance to get the book and the audio version for a very decent price (like two bucks).

I didn’t listen to the sample. BIG BOO BOO.

So, I get to the gym, turn on my player and
Thunk. Clunk.

The voice I heard was so harsh it was like fingernails on a chalkboard to my ears.
It made me hate the main character, Celaena Sardothien. I mean hate her so much that after an hour of listening I was done. Later, I tried to read the story but that harsh voice scraped my brain and that was that. My money was wasted.

Go and listen to the free sample on Amazon. See what you think. The narrator, Elizabeth Evans, has read quite a few books. I find it interesting that in the review for a book called “Jesus Land” the writer said this: “She afforded the mother a sharp, intolerant voice that I may not have been as affected by.”

Exactly. A sharp voice.

Even a soothing, mellow voice of Scott Holst couldn’t help Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter for me.

When you keep saying to yourself, “Is he serious?” until that phrase separates you from the story, it’s time to give up.
So, good voice, story stretched beyond my very pliable “suspension of disbelief” boundary.
(I know, a lot of folks loved this book. Shrug. It’s all personal taste and this one just didn’t work for me.)

So that’s an audiobook that got a B. Bad story didn't work for me. 

Now we come to G for good.  

We’ll start these reviews with A FOR ADVENTURE!

Airman by Eoin Colfer

This is ADVENTURE ADVENTURE! Yes. I’m shouting that. Fourteen year-old Conor Broekhart dreams of flying, for these are the early days, before man has figured out how to do it. After a horrible series of horrible events (warning: if you have a sensitive child, you may want to read this book first, Colfer doesn’t hold back with violence). Conor ends up in prison where he must find a way to break out if he is to save the princess and keep his beloved country from being ruled by a madman.
(I told you it was an adventure!)
The reader, John Keating (who also reads many of the Ranger’s Apprentice series) is very skilled at changing his voice. The prison guard has a whine, the old magician’s voice is thin and scratchy, the tutor has a French accent, and Conor speaks with a wonderful Irish brogue, the timbre of his voice is like a lovely Irish tenor, smooth and so delightful to listen to.
G for good, yes, very good.

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima is part of a quartet calld the Seven Realms.

The Exiled Queen
The Gray Wolf Throne
The Crimson Crown

If you go to Good Reads you’ll see that this book has 24,894 ratings and it’s earned a 4.22 out of 5.
Seriously superior, and it has the awards to prove it.

This is a YA, Young Adult book, but easily readable for younger readers who are skilled. 

This series involves a number of characters and the story switches between them.

The two main characters are Princess Raisa and Han Allister.
It is adventure, it’s fantasy, and it’s romance. More of a girl’s book, but it wouldn’t surprise me if boys might not secretly enjoy it, too. After all, there’s plenty of adventure, battles, one on one combat.

I really enjoyed the series. I’m not sure I would’ve been caught up with the stories had I chosen to read the books.

The reader, Carol Monda has a smooth, wonderful tone. She changes into various characters with ease. She makes these changes with accents or adding gruffness, whatever the changes are so believable that without a doubt she adds to the story.

I loved listening to these books and I forgave the over-writing and story stretches. 
G for good, wonderfully good.

Trickster’s Choice by Tamora Pierce

Trickster’s Queen

Again, adventure and fantasy, this pair of books by the fantasy master, Tamora Pierce.
With nearly 30,000 ratings on Good Reads, this book has a 4.24.

It's considered YA, Young Adult. It's adventure and coming of age, and there's romance that buds and leads to marriage and kissing that leads to a bit more. It's high fantasy on a world that has gods and magic and mystery, which all leads to mayhem! 

This story dances with one of Pierce’s liveliest and fiercest girls, Alianne, the daughter of the Lioness and the Trickster. At the start of the story, Ali is bored. She seeks adventure, and it’s what she finds when she takes a little boat planning to prove to her parents…well, whatever she wanted to prove is lost when the pirates grab her.

The reader for this set is Trini Alvarado. Again we have a voice that is flowing, charming and inviting. She makes changes with such subtlety that it becomes musical.

I was really quite enchanted with the fantasy, the mystery, and the excitement.

G for good, great, glorious!


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