Grab Bag (with many thanks & an audiobook review!)

1. Thanks for all the amazing comments on my “No Required Reading” post!  So great to know so many people share the feeling that reading should be about fun and whatever we want to call fun.  I used to choose five winners: Clementine, Anna, Trisha, Amy, and Neely.  Congrats to all, please contact me if I haven’t heard from you yet, and thanks to everyone for reading and entering.  If you’re a blogger and you won, I hope you’ll review it and link me to it.   I hope I’ll be able to host more giveaways in the future … they are quite fun!

2.  Speaking of thanks … THANK YOU to everyone who voted for me, tweeted for me, and blogged for me.  Thanks to your support I was elected to the 2013 YALSA Excellence in Nonfiction Committee.  I’m super-excited about this chance to work on another YALSA selection committee and get more intimately familiar with all the amazing things being currently published in YA nonfiction.

3. This past week I attended the New Mexico Library Association conference.  I attended a great session on teen programs and got good news ideas (bristlebots!) and finally got to meet Debbie Reese and hear her present.  (As expected, she was amazing.  And I found out she is getting her MLIS, wahoo!)

I was also happy to have the chance to present some programs.  This  was my tenth year of presenting at NMLA, I presented there for the first time way back in 2001, when I was just barely dipping my toes in the waters of the library world, just deciding that maybe this library business was something I wanted to make my “grown up” profession.  Consequently, NMLA is always very special to me!  I presented a half-day preconference about basic teen services and then participated on a panel about advocacy.  Of course, I’m trying hard to go paperless, so I don’t do handouts, I just share my Powerpoints!  So much easier, right?  🙂 If you’re here post-conference (welcome to my blog, hope you stick around!) and looking for the information from my presentations, here it is.  You may download all these .PPT via Slideshare and share the info as you wish with your colleagues. Please contact me if you have additional questions about any of this, whether you were at the conference or not!  And thanks to all who attended the programs and greeted the topics with such enthusiasm.  As always, NMLA made me proud to be part of the New Mexico Library community.

4. Upcoming this week/next week: reviews of Bitter End by Jennifer Brown and White Cat and Red Glove by Holly Black.  The Bitter End post will contain extremely triggery images and language about domestic abuse and violence and the White Cat and Red Glove reviews will contain spoilers.   Both are really enthusiastic endorsements of books I truly love and think are very special, however, so I hope you’ll check them out.

5. I wanted to throw in a quick review for this post!  Recently, I got a new car.  The best part, besides as how it turns on and runs and stuff, is that it has a CD player, so I can enjoy the wonders of audiobooks again.  On my most recent trip I decided to take a deep breath and give Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld yet another chance.

The backstory on Leviathan?  I have tried to read it about half a dozen times since it was first released.  I have a dedicated army of teenagers who would kill and die for this book, who are obsessed with this universe, who have seen the light of steampunk and being interested in WWI because of this book, who want me to KNOW WHAT THEY KNOW.  (seriously, a Goliath ARC would cause a knife-fight between my teens.) And I love Scott Westerfeld, I do.  Uglies was one of the first books to lure me into the YA fray.  But something about Leviathan … I could just never fall into it.  I’d try reading it again and again and just stall out.  The world wasn’t pulling me in, the language felt stilted, I thought Deryn was annoying – it just wasn’t working for me.  Which is fine, you know.  Not everything works for everyone.  BUT!  I had heard such good things about the audiobook (a 2011 Amazing Audiobook) and it was read by Alan Cumming…I decided to give it one last chance.

Almost immediately, it was true love.  How had I ever thought this was stilted or difficult to understand? How had I ever been able to resist this universe, these characters?   What was wrong with me?? This was one of those audiobooks that’s so good that you sit in your car to listen more, that you bring inside and listen to while you’re falling asleep. Usually my main problem with listening to audiobooks, especially after the longest parts of my drive are over, is having the patience to not just get the book and read ahead, since I can do that so much faster.  But Leviathan?  Even though I was dying to speed through it once I was sucked it, even though I knew I could get through it in half the time if I sat down to read it on my own … I wanted to make Cumming’s narration last as long as possible.  I didn’t want to rush a second.

Alan Cumming’s narration is nothing short of masterful.  Through clarity of voice and focus, he makes this alternative universe seem immediate and understandable.   And the characters!  His range of character voices is dazzling.  Alek, the Austrian prince on the run, is reserved, formal, scared, and sad in all the right ways.  Deryn, the Scottish girl pretending to be a boy, is not only clearly removed from Alek but Cumming uses different tones for her male self and female self.  And it’s not just nationality Cumming nails; it’s class.  He knows the way that crew members aboard the Leviathan would sound due to their ranks and the way members of Alek’s retinue would sound depending on their stations relative to the Austrian royal family.  I was prepared for Cumming to be best as Deryn, since her character shares his Scottish roots, and Deryn is a quintessential Westerfeld kick-ass heroine.  Cumming gets all her bravado across with a cocky strut in his voice.  But in the end, while I was impressed with every accent he used I was especially taken with Alek.  I think Cumming really captures his character’s confusion and dawning realizations about his life.  He makes you feel for Alek and relate to him – there’s yearning in his voice, sorrow and determination too.  Cumming made Alek sound like someone I wanted to have a conversation with, someone I wanted to hear much more from and that’s maybe the best compliment I can think of for any work.

I can honestly say I would never have fallen in love with this book, this series, these characters, if I hadn’t experienced them via audiobook.  I know, I tried.  And I’m so grateful I did, because this is a fully realized fictional universe and it’s a delight to sink into – even more so when Alan Cumming is narrating.  I can’t recommend this audibook enough.  Barking spiders, you can bet I’m on the edge of my seat for the next installment!

(I was inspired to post this review by Abby & Kelly‘s May edition of AudioSynced – a monthly round-up that encourages bloggers to submit posts about audiobooks.  I’m so excited  for the chance to read other blogs about audiobooks and I know I’ll be posting more audiobook reviews here in the future.)

6 Responses to “Grab Bag (with many thanks & an audiobook review!)”

  1. Torey

    Congratulations on your election to the YALSA selection committee!

  2. Abby

    I KNOW, ISN’T ALAN CUMMING FABULOUS?!?!?! I’m in love with this audiobook, too. 😀

  3. Kath

    I’m currently reading Leviathan and really enjoying it. I can only imagine I’m going to enjoy it a WHOLE lot more hearing Alan Cumming reading it!

  4. Lucy Curtis

    Hmm. I’ve always avoided audio books while driving as they tend to put me to sleep as a passenger, but now that I know it’s another avenue to Alan Cumming I may have to rethink my position.

  5. sylvia mcadam

    Oh, thanks for the great review and suggestion of Leviathan. I am in the middle, my nephew is almost done and my niece just started last night. We are all hooked!! All of us are listening to the audiobook and just loving it.

  6. Jodie

    Ahhhhhhhhh Alan Cumming reads the audiobook?? I might have to get that even though I’ve read the first two novels already. You’re going to enjoy the second one I think, because there’s lots of action packed encounters (which I imagine working really well in audio, because all the action is precise and easy to follow).