Monday, November 9, 2009
Dragonflight, by Anne McCaffrey
The audiobook is good - Average production quality, no silly special effects or anything. As far as rating where children are concerned, again, probably PG-13, though not as much as Treason, the last book I reviewed.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Treason, by Orson Scott Card
It's been a long time. Unlike most of Card's work, this book is more adventure and action and a plot that is physically interesting, instead of the psychological drama of the Ender quartet, or the political and intellectual intrigue of the Bean quartet. This one moves along and is fun. It's also quite interesting as far as a thought study on these powers people could develop if...
There is some sensuality in the book, though not explicitly sexual - more than I would like my 11-year old son to be exposed to, so I would suggest a strong PG-13 rating as a book.
The audio production is fine - one of the people who reads the Ender and Bean saga reads the whole book, as it's told from first-person perspective. All in all, a pleasant, intersting book. I'll give it 7 out of 10.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
Redwall, by Brian Jaques
The audio production is great - Brian Jaques himself does much of the narration, and there are actors and voices that make it a lot of fun as far as that is concerned, but it doesn't quite make up, in my opinion, for the plain and simple storyline. It's basically a kids book that doesn't cross over into adult levels of interest, and I find myself feeling like it's a chore to listen to it in-between more favored titles to avoid over-listening to them. Sorry, Brian Jaques.
Monday, June 22, 2009
Mistborn 3 - The Hero of Ages, by Brandon Sanderson
As with the other books, the action is awesome. Allomancy is cool, and the battle sequences are awesome. You learn too about more about Ferrochemists and also about Hemalurgy, which is all unique to these books. Some of the details get a little macabre, so probably still PG-13.
I also love the characters in these books. They seem so real to me, with well developed personalities, and also with personal struggles and developments. This book especially shows Sazed and Elend as they deal with things that test their metal (haha - metal - ok so not funny unless you've read the books). As with the other books, the setting, subject matter, and way things are handled is original and amazing. Pretty much the only other thing I can think to say without spoiling anything is that you won't be left with much of anything unresolved in this one - only enough for Sanderson to someday write sequels, but they aren't needed to wrap up the series.
Top marks again for this one. Way to go, Brandon Sanderson, and thanks to Paul and Danny for recommending this series to me!
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The Well of Ascension - Mistborn 2
One thing I have enjoyed a lot is the relationship/romance at the middle of this story. The romance doesn't take over the story like it kind of does in Stephenie Meyer books, or be simplified and silly like in Eragon and Eldest of the Inheritance trilogy, but is still critical to the plot, and the difficulties they have to overcome are, to me, very easy to identify with - thoughts about whether they deserve each other, each one trying to make self sacraficing decisions because of what they think is best for the other, etc. And it meshes seamlessly into the overall plot for a combined effect of me not being able to wait to find out what happens next.
As far as a production goes, I'm used to the reader now, though he's still no Jim Dale. I give it 5 out of 5 for story and 4 out of 5 for audio production for a 9 out of 10 total. The first book had some gore and violence that made me say early teen for age appropriateness. This book has a little more mature content including a libidinous bad guy so still probably PG13 or so.
Wednesday, June 10, 2009
Mistborn: The Final Empire, by Brandon Sanderson
The audiobook production is not bad. I wasn't a huge fan of the reader at first - his tone seemed like he was trying to sound dry and witty all the time, but I got used to it pretty quickly and settled in to enjoy the story. He doesn't detract from the story like some do, but doesn't really add to it either. Still, all in all, an enjoyable book - probably 8 out of 10.
Sunday, May 31, 2009
The Host, by Stephenie Meyer
I thought Orson Scott Card had the prize for a wacked out romance that I could enjoy when, in Children of the Mind, Miro was in love with a bodiless soul that lived in the computers, and at the same time, with a soul-less body that was animated from afar by his stepdad. Weird, right? Well, in this book you have an alien parasite not able to entirely subdue the consciousness of its host human body who is in love with a member of the resistance and has a brother there too who she also loves and misses terribly, and then they get involved with others and it gets messier. Don't worry though, it's also got giant clawbeasts, underwater dragonfly dolphins, alien vivisections, mutilated bodies and brains, and all the gooey stuff you expect from science fiction, and yet somehow Stephenie Meyer managed to make it not seem gooey. It was awesome.
I give this one a ten all around - the story is awesome and the audio production is flawless. The characters are believable, sympathetic, and realistic, and the story is intriguing and enthralling. It's clean too - little if any swearing, sex, or other material I'd have to shelter my children from. Way to go Stephenie Meyer!
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Children of the Mind - by Orson Scott Card
The audio production is great - adds to the story nicely, making this a great audiobook.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Xenocide, by Orson Scott Card
There is a storyline in the book - a few characters on a parallel world with Chineese culture - that bogs down for me a little, but fortunately, that is dropped after this book and the next one focuses on the root of the story, except for one character who comes from that world who is central to the next plot.
SO I enjoy it, and it sets the stage for the next book which is also very fun, and wraps up the whole rebellion of Lusitania, and impending death of Jane storyline quite well.
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Speaker for the Dead - by Orson Scott Card
As far as the story, this is heavier science fiction than Ender's Game - I like to tell my kids that the aliens in it are called buggars and piggies. They think that's pretty funny. Though it is a sequel, it is a completely different story, more removed than, for example, the Lord of the Rings is removed from the Hobbit. Still, no laser guns, no sex with aliens, no green goo, none of the things that science fiction is made fun of for, it's more like historical fiction set in the future, and involving aliens. What I like about the book is that it is about discovery - the discovery of a family's secrets that have been causing pain until they get exposed and dealt with, and the discovery of the thought and culture of an alien species that was not understood at all, not because the information wasn't there, but because viewed through our human perspective and forced to fit into our way of thinking, it made no sense at all. If you want gun battles and explosions, this book is not for you. But I find it intrigueing and interesting, and it sets the stage for the books that come afterwards, which I find even more so.
10 points for the audiobook production, 8 points for story, for 9 overall.
Monday, March 30, 2009
The Diamond of Darkhold, by Jeanne DuPrau
Thursday, March 26, 2009
Ender's Game, by Orson Scott Card
I'm not really sure what makes this so good. I think it's because I identify with Ender. And I don't think it's because I'm a genius, so much as the way the book is written it makes you feel like you are a genius like Ender, and that you are living through it with him. And there's a lot of tension and fear in the book - can Ender save humanity from destruction? Can he save himself from murderous jealous fellow students? stuff like that. I really like it. Call me crazy.
The audiobook is read by several people, depending on whose perspective the story is being told from at the time. All the readers do just fine. It's a good production. No need for cheesy sound effects to embellish it.
This is not a book, though, that I would let my pre-teen kids read, as ambitious as they are about reading. There's a lot of bad language in it, and a lot of locker-room type situations, what with a fight in the showers, and prepubescent machismo in the dorms and stuff. I don't feel like it necessarily detracts from the story, but I want my kids to have a little more maturity before they can swallow it and enjoy the story. Call it PG-13 I guess.
Overall, 10 out of 10. Excellent read, excellent audiobook.
Monday, March 23, 2009
The People of Sparks - by Jeanne DuPrau
This book was interesting, though a little bit disappointing after City of Ember. It's about a post-apocalyptic society trying to survive with pre-industrial revolution level of technology, but with pieces of stuff that still works from before the disaster - towing trucks with oxen, for example. The story is really about what happens when the people from Ember try to mix with those who survived the disaster, and the conflict that arises. The story is plausible, but to me the dialog and the emotions and interaction between characters seem simplified, as if written for a very young audience - maybe third grade level or so. I think that part of that, though, is due to the reading style of Wendy Dillon. Her voices are too diminuitive, and her intonations make it sound like she's reading to children. I haven't actually read this one - I was waiting to post a review until I had read the paper version to see if I got the same impression, but I gave up - haven't had much reading time lately.
I'm hopeful that the next book, the Diamond of Darkhold, will pull the series out of the slump I feel right now. Otherwise, I'll recommend that you stop after City of Ember and read the wikipedia synopsis of the others if you want to know what happens to Dune and Lina and the Ember crowd.
Thursday, March 19, 2009
The Prophet of Yonwood, by Jeanne DuPrau
Thursday, March 5, 2009
The Fire of the Covenant, by Gerald N. Lund
I listened to this about a year ago, and didn't have the heart to listen to it again, though it was very very good, till just recently. I think the second time is harder than the first, since you know going into it which characters don't make it through. The parts that shake me up the most are two - one where the company has to continue on despite the fact that a 7-year old boy is missing, and the dad stays back to search the plains for his son while the wife and the rest of the family moves on with the handcart company, and two - as a six year old boy freezes to death while riding piggy back on a man's back as they hike through the cold. I can't help but picture my boys' faces who are the same age as these people. I had hoped that these were the fictional characters, but they weren't. And they seem so real. It drives home the lessons that the Prophet, Joseph Smith Jr. taught about trials and sacrafice:
Wednesday, February 4, 2009
The Chronicles of Narnia - by C. S. Lewis
I never read The Chronicles of Narnia as a kid. I'd heard of them, but honestly, my big sister liked them, and she also liked Little House on the Prarie, and so I wrote them off, being a cool boy and all. This meant that I was starting into them with no idea what to expect when I started reading them to my son a few years ago. I was blindsided by the religious allegory, and in a very nice way. I was very impressed with the book. The language and reading difficulty is targeted to late elementary school or early middle school reading level, but the story appeals to all ages. The books move quickly and can be read in 3-4 hours each if you read as fast as I do anyway. They're light and pleasant, engaging and fun. The audiobooks are read by professional actors and very nicely done, including consistent voices and appropriate intonation. I'd give the story 8 out of 10 only because it's not as complex and interwoven as books I rate higher, and the audiobooks 9 out of 10 for quality.
The Magician's Nephew is the first in the set chronologically and probably my least favorite in the series. It really is the back-story to the other books, most of which were written earlier. It deals mostly with characters not in the other books, which is probably why it doesn't seem as interesting to me, though it is still worth the read. One fun thing about this one - it's read by the same guy who plays Professor Lockhart in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the most widely known in the series, and for good reason. Great story, and they did a good job with the movie. The atonement allegory is all but impossible to miss, and there's plenty of peril, adventure, and fun. My son cried and cried when I read the chapter, the Triumph of the Witch, which blindsided me since I didn't know it was coming, but I did understand the allegory and it made a powerful teaching moment.
The Horse and His Boy is my favorite of the books. It occurs after the main events of the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, but before the end of the book, and involves in a minor way the major characters from the story, focusing instead on a storyline and characters independent of the other books. It has a very powerful scene, in which the hand of Aslan (who represents Jesus) in the life of the main character that gives me the chills. It also has two of my favorite quotes: "He had not yet learned that if you do one good deed your reward usually is to be set to do another harder and better one," and "Years later, when they were grown up, they were so used to quarrelling and making it up again that they got married so as to go on doing it more conveniently."
Prince Caspian is another popular one, the second made into a movie (although they took some big liberties in how they cut and pasted the plot together for the screen play), it has the same kids as the Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe, and makes a great story.
The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is another personal favorite - close runner to the Horse and His Boy. Lucy and Edmund are back from the last two books, as is Caspian and Reepicheep, one of my favorite characters. This book will make an odd movie since it's more like a series of adventures along the voyage rather than a single building plot. Makes a great book though. My favorite thing about this is Eustace's experience with Aslan, and its allegory in the christian world of losing yourself to find yourself, and of putting to death the natural man and being born again. And the dark island where dreams come true - that part of the story to me is bone chillingly frightening, which of course makes it another favorite part of the books.
The Silver Chair kind of gets lost in the middle in my mind, but I find when I read it (or listen to it) I love the story. I love how it shows that the daily hum drum can distract us from remembering what's really important, sometimes with disastrous consequences. Puddleglum is another of my favorite characters too.
The Last Battle is an interesting story. In this book, the religious allegory is impossible to miss. I wonder how they'll make it a movie without it being highly religious. Read by Patrick Stewart, otherwise known to me as Captain Picard of the Starship Enterprise.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
Fablehaven III - The Grip of the Shadow Plague
Monday, January 19, 2009
Fablehaven II - The Rise of the Evening Star, by Brandon Mull
Thursday, January 15, 2009
Fablehaven, by Brandon Mull
The audiobook is not quite up to what I would like. The narrator puts a little too much enthusiasm into his inflection, making it feel every now and then like he's reading to young children. His voices, though, are good, and for the most part, doesn't detract from the story. I'd give his narration a 7 out of 10, for a combined score of 8 out of 10 for this audiobook. It's worth the money.