Wednesday, February 01, 2017

audios and sadness

Woods runner by Gary Paulsen; read by Danny Campbell.  I checked out this audiobook so we would have something to listen to on the drive to and from the airport earlier this month.  The boy ended up sleeping in the car more than anticipated, and my husband and I were equally interested in the story, so it took us a while to find enough family time with all three of us present to finish the book.

Opinion from the boy:  "Great, really great.  I liked the amount of detail.  I liked the adventure.  That's about it."

Opinion from the spouse: "I enjoyed the historical snippets that got put in there.  They're at [reading] level and a lot of times the content does prepare you for what's coming next in the actual story."

My opinion: The reader was pretty good, until later in the book when there got to be more characters and he trotted out a variety of poorly-done accents, a different one for each character.  That was annoying.

The tale of the dueling neurosurgeons: The history of the human brain as revealed by true stories of trauma, madness, and recovery by Sam Kean; read by Henry Leyva.  New San Kean?  Yes, please.  This was a fun, informative book.  The only problem is with the audio download: the narration directs the reader, repeatedly, to "the PDF" for puzzles, charts, diagrams, etc.  It is my working assumption that the Book on CD version has a disc with this treasure trove.  The downloadable audiobook, courtesy of OverDrive, does not appear to have any such thing.  It isn't listed in the file's table of contents and I can't find it anywhere else.  I heard a rumor about "enhanced content" recently made availale through OverDrive-- audiobooks with accompanying eBook-formatted content-- but I've yet to actually come across one, and it isn't the case with this title.

The lost book of the grail by Charlie Lovett.  I could have enjoyed this more than I did.  There were a few parts in particular where I felt the story sweeping me along, but I resisted, so I could stay outside the story and observe critically.  The hang-ups I found, which are minor, would have been less apparent had I immersed myself completely.

I found the underlying plot difficult to believe.  The main character isn't religious but he has invested his life in searching for the Holy Grail.  Without the one, you really can't have the other.  This made the whole story less plausible.

While the main character was likeable, he's kind of shallowly-drawn.  I mean, the crochety small-town university lecturer who prefers silent archives and enjoys his bachelorhood is... almost too easy.  I feel like the author relied on tropes and stereotypes a bit too much, didn't challenge himself to create a unique, vibrant character.  It is incredible, unbelievable, that a not-too-old man in a story set in 2016 doesn't have an email account or know how to send an attachment.  I think the character is probably drawn this way *in order to* appeal to likely interested readers-- people who bemoan the very exisence of eBooks and accuse the library of throwing away hardcovers so that we can buy DVDs.

Finally, the story set-up matches almost exactly The bookman's tale: a long-time-ago story which jumps forward in time, giving snippets but not the whole story; a modern-day story about a guy who is a little lost but finds love; the two stories told in alternating chapters.  My objection is that the story structure matched his work too closely.  It felt so exact, it's like the author used book one as a tempalte and just substituted the new story's details.

I really enjoyed it; it's definitely a 4-star book at least.  I just expected so much more from the author.

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