Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Awesome audio book (and narrator): Museum of Thieves

Several weeks ago, I listened to the most awesome audio book: Museum of Thieves by Lian Tanner. Part of the credit for it being so awesome goes to the narrator, Claudia Black, who played the awesome Aeryn Sun on the awesome Farscape. (Hmm, I’m noticing a trend here.) 

The story is entertaining all by itself. It takes place in a dystopian-like land called Jewel, where meekly following the rules without question is exemplary behavior and the children are literally tethered to their parents because of an overblown fear for their safety. The main character, 12-year-old Goldie, doesn't fare too well with those kinds of restrictions. On the day she's supposed to be legally "separated" from her parents, meaning she no longer has to have a leash, Jewel is rocked by a bombing. Goldie takes the opportunity to run away and ends up at the Museum of Dunt. There, she discovers a museum that is actually alive and a group of quirky characters who want her to help them try to overthrow Jewel's tyrannical leader.

Claudia Black has an amazing ability to handle multiple voices, accents and tones. Her range is such that the voices of men sound like real men, rather than the typical girly-girl man voice that most female narrators have no choice but to use. And Tanner's writing is so filled with emotion and energy that you can tell Black is having a blast reading the story. 

I've bookmarked one of my favorite parts and listen to it when I'm frustrated or cranky, cuz it totally cheers me up. It involves an altercation between Goldie and the boy who's eventually her partner in crime. Toadspit (yep, that's his name) has an attitude, and he and Goldie do NOT get along at first. Toadspit is annoyed that he has to teach Goldie the ropes, and Goldie is annoyed that Toadspit is annoyed. Cuz, you know, that's how boys and girls are sometimes.

When one of the adults punishes Goldie and Toadspit by banning them from communicating by talking, they're forced to use "finger talk," or sign language. Thing is, they've learned different versions of finger talk, so what means "follow me" to Toadspit means "hit me" to Goldie. She's no dummy, but she very much enjoys misunderstanding his command. What ensues is a hilarious exchange that devolves into a mud fight and the two laughing hysterically. Black reads the exchange with such dead-on portrayals of two frustrated, stubborn (but oh so lovable) adolescents that I can't help but laugh every time I listen.

This is the first audio book that I restarted from the beginning the minute it ended. I wish Claudia Black would narrate more of these! Perhaps I'll have my people call her people. : ) If only!

What about you? Is there an audio book/print book you've listened to/read more than once because you enjoyed it so much?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

What I'm listening to (audio books)

I've spent most of the past two months immersed in the last two audio books in The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins. I loved the first book among the trio, which I wrote about here quite awhile ago. (I swear that there are no spoiler alerts coming on these books!)

The second of the trilogy, Catching Fire, was completely mesmerizing. I was tempted to drive around the block a few times just to keep listening. I even welcomed traffic jams. Traffic jams! It always seemed as though I was turning the book off right at a good part -- which just means the entire thing was one big good part. Amazing. 

I've talked back to audio books before, saying stuff like, "Well, duh." And "Ya think?" Cuz, you know, I'm kinda sarcastic, and stupid characters make me slightly crazy. OK, majorly crazy. But with Catching Fire, I literally shouted "Oh my God!" when the plot took a shocking turn. When the character said something to the effect of "I didn't see that coming," I responded, "Neither did I!" That twist made me tingle for days afterward. Yeah, I know that sounds weird, but this is the thing: Most writers see the plot twists coming even in the most cleverly written stories. When I saw The Sixth Sense (Sixth Sense spoiler alert!!), I knew immediately that Bruce Willis' character was dead. I could tell by the way he interacted (or didn't) with other characters. So it was an extra special treat every time that Catching Fire caught  me by surprise. 

I'm about halfway through the third in the trilogy, Mockingjay, and already I've been blindsided by an unexpected turn in the plot. I knew something was coming -- because the author trained me on the other two books -- but when it happened, I was still blown away. How does Suzanne Collins do that? As a reader, I'm thrilled. As an author, I'm examining her storytelling from all angles, trying to figure out how I can do it, too.

Well, one can dream, right?

What about you? Any books that have shocked you with a plot twist?