I read this year's Printz winner last summer and thought I would give it a try on audio. It's an excellent reading, and I particularly liked that Titu...moreI read this year's Printz winner last summer and thought I would give it a try on audio. It's an excellent reading, and I particularly liked that Titus' parts were read by a man, so you heard the conversations between him and Sym. I'd forgotten just how suspenseful the story is, how long things are dragged out and how unwilling Sym is to accept reality (understandably).
In contrast to Nick Hornby's Slam, this is a great example of how to have a real person "speak" to a fictional character; Titus feels alive and real (plus it's hard not to join Sym in developing a little crush), even though Sym tells us that, "Titus never says anything that I don't, in my heart of hearts, already know." Or does he?
The setting is fantastic in this story, as well as the tension. Details turn out to matter. Characters have real weight. The history of polar exploration comes into things with a fine balance. I've never been one for adventure stories, wilderness survival, Hatchet, all of that nonsense, but this is wilderness survival/suspense/history for the rest of us. (less)
A fantastic audio version - even with constantly shifting perspectives, I was always able to keep track of who was talking, plus the voices were just...moreA fantastic audio version - even with constantly shifting perspectives, I was always able to keep track of who was talking, plus the voices were just a delight to listen to. Bartimaeus continues to be his usual delightfully tongue-in-cheek self, Nathaniel turns into a stuck-up prig of a magician (the main character that you love to hate, but still hope he'll turn around), and Kitty was a great addition to the story. You see a lot more of the struggle between commoners and magicians, a sense of history, class differences, corruption, etc. Which makes it all sound very serious, but it's full of laughs and features perhaps the most entertaining walking skeleton to grace children's literature. I enjoyed this even more than the first book in the trilogy, The Amulet of Samarkand, and I look forward to getting my hands on the third.
Middle school and up - it's a thick book with an amazing vocabulary, so good for those readers who like a little challenge.(less)
The best humor comes out of the most heart-wrenching situations. While Joey has had a rough life so far, his voice and sense of the world are fresh an...moreThe best humor comes out of the most heart-wrenching situations. While Joey has had a rough life so far, his voice and sense of the world are fresh and entertaining and hilarious. Gantos does a great job of reading his own book, and I would recommend the book in either format to upper-elementary readers, especially the types that, like Joey, have trouble sitting still to read a book. I'll definitely listen to the sequels.(less)
It had been a few years since I originally read this, so I went at it with something of a fresh perspective, but knowing more or less how things would...moreIt had been a few years since I originally read this, so I went at it with something of a fresh perspective, but knowing more or less how things would turn out (I have a terrible memory for plot). I know some people object to Pullman's books because they think he's trying to push an atheist agenda; the experience of reading them, though, only makes me spend more time considering issues of spirituality and religion and the nature of the soul - how can that be a bad thing? Like the first time I read it, I was a little put off by Pullman's assessment of original sin, but how much better to read a thought-provoking book that you disagree with than to never have your beliefs challenged? The story is fairly mature in a lot of ways, although the main character is a child, and I would like to think that any child old enough to read and enjoy this book would be capable of differentiating between her own beliefs and what the book presents. Is IS fantasy, after all.
The audio version is excellent - the first time I've listened to a full-cast audio - with the exception of a tinny echo in some scenes, as though they were all recording in big room. Not bad enough to be really distracting, but odd. Overall it's entertaining and the narration and character voices mixed seamlessly to tell the story. (less)
This was a really well-done audio, with a narrator's voice that never distracted me from the story and often enhanced it - especially with all of the...moreThis was a really well-done audio, with a narrator's voice that never distracted me from the story and often enhanced it - especially with all of the speech-quoting that the brothers do. About family, and politics, and the things that tie us to people who could just have easily ended up staying complete strangers. The characters are the real draw in this story, but the setting is almost equally important. While the story on the surface felt very different from Bel Canto, the other only Patchett novel I've read, there's a real similarity in themes. There's a short interview with Patchett at the end of the audio, with real questions, not just fluff stuff, and she comments that she keeps writing the same story over and over - about how strangers act when they're thrown together. As true as that is, her novels don't feel repetitive. Instead, each one picks at a different thread of that theme. (less)
While the audio version was excellently done, and perfectly suited to a story half-told in audio tapes, this was one of those stories where I talked b...moreWhile the audio version was excellently done, and perfectly suited to a story half-told in audio tapes, this was one of those stories where I talked back to the characters. A lot. And not in a good way. However, this was a huge hit with the teen in my discussion group at the Mock Printz, and a hit with several other people, too. Clay was an interesting character, waiting on pins and needles as he listens to the tapes classmate Hannah made before her suicide, pointing fingers at various students who pushed her to her decision. Why is his name on the tapes? What did he do to Hannah? However, with each revelation, Clay's shock and anger felt disproportionate to the situation. From Hannah's point of view, it's easy to see how each little insult or rumor in high school could add up to the anger and desire for retaliation that she felt. But at the same time, I couldn't help thinking that things like that happen to ALL of us - we're all insulted and humiliated at some point. So why does that drive some people to suicide and some of us just get thick skins? I felt like Hannah's character needed another note or dimension to convince me that she wouldn't given up on trying to alter her reputation or actually befriend people. From her voice on the tapes, I didn't quite buy that she was suicidal. One detail that bugged me was that Hannah mentions, on one of the tapes, that she made a dramatic change in her hairstyle, and no one said anything, and that such dramatic changes in appearance are supposed to be one of the warning signs of a suicidal impulse. That may very well be - but are we supposed to go out thinking that any time a friend gets a haircut, she might be suicidal? Really?(less)