Thoughts on books, family, and life in one impressive package.

Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman

I picked up Practical Magic by Alice Hoffman in a desire to see how different the original book is from the movie, which I do love despite its use of numerous chick flick tropes. Plus, the first book in the series did not impress me, and I am 50/50 on liking Ms. Hoffman’s novels. So, with some free credits to spare, I decided to give it a chance.

It was, more or less, what I expected. The movie does deviate from the book, as expected, but I don’t think the changes make the movie better or worse than the novel. I enjoyed learning more about Sally’s girls and appreciated the chance to see them grow into their characters. The move to New York and away from the aunts surprised me, but I appreciate what it does for the story. The book also downplays the family curse, another surprise. There are a few more changes, all of which make the book more credible. While the ending of the book is not quite as spectacular as the one in the movie, I appreciate it for the quiet work of magicks it displays.

Christina Moore makes for a good narrator. Her voice is pleasant and clear, her cadence easy. She doesn’t do much to differentiate between characters, but that didn’t bother me at all. I found the entire listening experience smooth and easy, and it made the time fly.

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman

The Sandman by Neil Gaiman is one I jumped at the chance to listen to partly because it is Neil Gaiman and partly because of the full cast. I am not a fan of graphic novels, so I knew this would be the only way I would get to experience Mr. Gaiman’s Sandman series. I don’t regret the decision, even though I will admit that I did not enjoy it as much as I hoped I would.

The cast is amazing. Kat Dennings as Death is spectacular. She portrays A level of compassion that you do not expect in any personification of Death. James McAvoy has a great voice, but I found it to be a bit too deep for my ears. I struggled to understand his dialogue without turning up the volume each time he spoke. The rest of the cast is just as amazing, even if I think they didn’t utilize Michael Sheen to his fullest.

My problem with The Sandman is that I am not a fan of the individual chapters or acts. Just as I was getting into the storyline, the act would end. The next act began with a different narrator, a different setting, or even a different storyline. I much prefer my stories to have more depth to them and to follow a smoother path.

However, if you like short stories or even graphic novels, then I believe this audiobook production works quite well. The cast makes it easy to discern the characters, and the acts follow the graphic novel episodes. For me, had this been one long novel, I would enjoy it more than I did.

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand

Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand is a stunning story of survival. that had me shaking my head in disbelief. What Louis Zamperini experienced still boggles my mind. It isn’t just the Olympics and meeting Hitler. Then there is the airplane crash and survival across the Pacific Ocean. As if that isn’t enough, then there is what he faces at the end of his shipwreck ordeal. It is insane.

I love Edward Hermann (RIP), and I think his narration is excellent. His voice is so suave and smooth. that I could listen to it forever. Beyond that, he excels at the explanatory portions of the story, describing details of the war or planes in a way that feels informative and new even if it is information you already knew. Plus, I think Mr. Hermann has the same sense of admiration and awe for Zamperini that you have while hearing about Louis’ ordeal. It always helps to know that others are experiencing the same feelings you are.

I know I am probably the last person to get around to reading/listening to Unbroken, but if I’m not, then I cannot recommend this highly enough. Fascinating, intense, and awe-inspiring, it reads like a fiction novel even though it is a true story. Ms. Hillenbrand does an excellent job of explaining events in a way that is never tedious as she finds that perfect balance between educating and moving the narrative forward. The thing is, even without Ms. Hillenbrand’s excellent research, Louis Zamperini’s story is so remarkable that I would recommend learning more about him no matter what.

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