Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Advance copies

So my library can get Harry Potter out on the day it's published, but with some other titles, we can be a bit poky. (Right now, we've got a teen desperate for the audio version of Eclipse [which evidently was shipped to the committee this week -- and, thank god! has not been assigned to me for listening] who writes our email reference service pretty regularly begging us to process the book and send it to her.) That thought is apropos of nothing (except that I'm amused at that patron's eagerness and embarrassed that we can't process it a little faster for her), because what I really wanted to say is that the Selected Audiobooks Committee usually gets its titles when everyone else does. No mountains of ARCs (or would they be ALCs?) for us!

It seems to me, though, that someone at Brilliance Audio is picking the titles up right off the assembly line to send to us, because we've been receiving the audios before the books are officially published. We've already received the new Peter Pan prequel: Peter and the Secret of Rundoon (to be published on October 23) and the one I've got in my CD player: Alex and the Ironic Gentlemen (published September 18). It makes me feel very special. (Now that I've complimented them, do you think they'll refrain from making 60+ minutes of audio into 99 tracks per disk?)

Well, receiving the early copies makes me feel special; Alex and the Ironic Gentlemen just makes me feel OK. This was nominated by a colleague, so I'm being a good committee member. Mostly I'm wondering why she considers this a good book for middle school readers. It seems very childish to me.

Orphaned (natch!) and bookish (natch again!) Alex Morningstar lives with a beloved uncle above his doorknob shop in a funny small town where she feels odd and out-of-place (natch III). Going into sixth grade, she meets her new teacher, Mr. Underwood, and believes she has found her (intellectual) soul mate. It turns out that Mr. Underwood is the descendent of her little town's most prominent citizen, who once found and secreted a treasure somewhere. Unfortunately, others (who happen to be pirates from the good ship Ironic Gentlemen [I think ... I'm not there yet!]) in search of the treasure have followed him to his new home, and -- all too soon -- kidnap him, killing Alex's uncle in the process. Alex is, fortunately, not home at the time; in fact, she was obtaining the map that identifies the location of the treasure. She vows to follow the kidnappers, rescue Mr. Underwood, and find the treasure.

At the moment, though, she is having a bit of difficulty getting to the port (called -- I'm assuming the break in the word -- Port Cullis) from where the Gentlemen and their captive will embark. First she was trapped in a vacuum (a train full of big band entertainment and glittery society), and right now she's trying to talk an octopus (whose moniker is the Extremely Ginormous Octopus) into completing a promised movie role (wearing those electronic thingys so that the moviemakers can film a "motion capture."

As you can see, it's all very twee. Evidently, according to the PW review posted on Amazon, there are many capitalizations and clever (or not) asides to the reader. It is mildly entertaining, but I think a little on the youngish side. The reader, Christopher Lane, is good; he's reading professionally with a nice variety in pace and volume and he's created a number of characters (including the inebriated E.G. Octopus) with lots of consistent voicings. The story seems more suited to the elementary school set, although we all know that fantasy attracts a broad age range. And, one of my nominations, Larklight, could definitely be enjoyed by elementary schoolers. As a matter of fact, I'm suggesting it to my 4th-5th grade book group.

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