Five Delightful Audio Books!

It’s a run of fun books on CD to listen to alone or to share with your family!

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half a chanceHalf a Chance
By Cynthia Lord, Narrated by Maria Cabezas
4.75 Hours; 4 CDs

Lucy has just moved–again–with her parents to New Hampshire.  This is the first time their new home has been on a lake, but other than that, it’s kind of the same.  At least it’s summer, and Lucy won’t be the “new kid” in the middle of a school year.  But since most of the time, summer vacations are spent with friends you meet at school, she’s not sure what she’s going to do all alone.

half a chance audioThen she meets Nate, the kid who’s spending the summer at the lake with his family.  He’s staying with his grandmother,  who practically adopts Lucy into the family.  When Lucy’s father, a professional photographer, leaves shortly after they’ve arrived, Lucy comes up with a different way to stay close to him.  He’s supposed to judge a photography contest when he returns, and Lucy is determined to get his attention by winning.  She doesn’t want him to know he’s looking at her photos though, so Nate agrees to help her.  She’ll do the photography, and he’ll help her find ways to interpret the themes.  They work well together.  But then Lucy realizes that something is up with Grandma Lilah, and her photographs reveal things that Nate would rather not see.  Can they still work together and be friends?

Half a Chance is a poignant story about life and friendship, beginnings and endings.  I really enjoyed the narrator, who made the story come to life.  Highly recommended for kids in grades four through seven.  If you vacation in New Hampshire, like loons, or are a photographer, you have to read or listen to this story!

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By Carl Hiaasen, Read by Michael Welch
5 Hours, 23 Minutes, 5 CDs

Noah always knew his father could be a little irrational about saving the environment, but there’s irrational and there’s just plain crazy!  When his father is arrested for sinking a casino boat, Noah is prepared to deal with the fallout of fines and a grumpy mother, which is usually what happens.  But this time, his father refuses to pay the fine, declaring he will stay in jail until the casino owner answers for his crimes–namely, dumping the raw sewage from the boat’s waste tanks every night into the Florida Keys.  And there are reporters from newpapers and TV talking to him about it in jail!

But there’s no proof, and soon the casino is up and running again.  Noah’s father is still in jail, and his mother is talking the D word…divorce.  Noah decides that he has to prove his father is right, and his little sister Abbey plans to help.  Together, they come up with a plan.  But when the guy who was going to tell the truth on the casino order vanishes, leaving behind a blood-stained car, Noah and Abbey realize that maybe they’ve bit off more than they can chew.  With the bad guys after the whole family, can they prove their father is right in time?

flush audioIt’s not perfect, but the audio recording of Flush is enjoyable. The narrator of this sound recording has a pleasant voice, but he does tend to swallow some of his words when he’s reading, and it’s sometimes a bit difficult to tell who is talking.  However, the story is compelling, the characters are quirky and fun, and the mystery will keep you guessing, so it’s easy to ignore a few flaws.

Flush is best for kids in fifth through eighth grades, and it’s good for a car trip too, especially if your final destination is Florida!

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fantastic family whippleThe Fantastic Family Whipple
By Matthew Ward, Narrated by Steven Crossley
10.25 Hours, 9 CDs

To the Whipple Family, the most important thing in the world is achieving World Records.  From the moment they’re born (on March 1st for Mr. and Mrs. Whipple, Henry, Simon, Cordelia, Penelope, Edward, Charlotte, Lenora, Franklin, Abigail, Beatrice, George and Ivy) –they’re breaking records for everything from holding heir breath to competitive eating.  The only exception is Arthur, who was born on February 29th and who, try as he might, can’t manage to break a record for anything.

But when his latest attempt at record breaking by hopping on one foot while cracking a bullwhip fails in front of the birthday party audience fails, Mr. Whipple makes a slip and reveals to Arthur that there might be a curse on the family.  Arthur manages to put a few random clues together and is soon tracking down an unusual pair of menacing clowns.  With the help of the family’s cook and butler, and Ruby, the daughter of Mr. Whipple’s nemesis, Arthur is soon tracking down the source of the curse.  But will he be in time to save the Whipple Family?

fantastic family whipple audioI loved the narrator of The Fantastic Family Whipple; Stephen Crossley did an excellent job creating many different voices, filling out a huge cast of characters with creativity.  I enjoyed the narration more than the story, in fact.  (But that may be that pesky problem I have with trying to read real-life logic into fantasy worlds.)   If you don’t mind not thinking about things like how a family of fifteen can spend all their time trying to break world records or how a four year old can be a competitive eater, then you’ll probably love The Fantastic Family Whipple.  If you Do have a problem with that, just sit back and listen to the voices and imagine the characters.  You’ll still enjoy it.   The book is for kids ages 8 to 12, and the recording is good for all ages.

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escape from mr lemoncello's libraryEscape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
By Chris Gravenstein, Read by Jesse Bernstein
6 Hours, 20 Minutes; 5 CDs

Kyle Keelly has spent all of his life competing with his two older brothers–one a jock, the other a brain–and the only time he wins, sometimes, is when it comes to the games they play created by Mr. Lemoncello.  Most of them are board games, but with dice and wacky rules and physical components that give anyone the opportunity to win!  So when Kyle learns that Mr. Lemoncello, the world-famous game maker and library enthusiast, is building a state-of-the-art library in his very own town, he’s intrigued.  And when he learns that there’s going to be a contest for all ten-year-olds to write an essay where the winners get the chance to be the first to stay overnight in the new library, he plans to win.  Too bad that he didn’t realize what the prize was until five minutes before the essay was due.

However, Kyle manages to be one of the kids spending the night.  And after an exciting night finding solving one mystery, when they wake up the next morning, they learn that there’s an even greater contest they can choose to participate in–the first kid to follow the clues hidden throughout the library and escape the building wins an unbelievable prize!  Kyle is determined to be that kid.  As the games get harder, Kyle figures out that working together may be the best chance to win.  But with the other kids go along with that?  See if you can figure out the clues as the story unfolds!

escape from mr lemoncello's library audioMaybe it’s the librarian in me, but I thoroughly enjoyed Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, both the book and the sound recording.  It’s sort of a cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Kingdom Keepers series, and the Summer Reading Program!  If you read the book, the clues are pictured and slightly easier to put together.  The book on CD is good too, even if it’s a little harder to follow audio clues.  The narrator is wonderful, with distinctive voices for the kids and great voices for the adults.  Pure enjoyment all around!

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is a thrilling puzzler–or a puzzling thriller—right to the very end.  For kids in fourth to seventh grade, this adventure would be a mystery for the whole family to enjoy!  (And I’m really looking forward to reading  The Island of Dr. Libris, Chris Grabenstein’s new book that just came out this week!)

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smek for president 2Smek for President!
By Adam Rex, Read by Bahni Turpin
6 Hours, 5 CDs

My absolute favorite of the bunch!  :)

This sequel to The True Meaning of Smekday (my favorite audio book EVER–see the original review here) is just as impressive as the first book.  My only complaint is that it ended–it’s just not long enough!

A year after all their adventures saving the world from the alien Gorg (and a bit from J.Lo’s people, the Boov) Tip and J.Lo are a little bored just staying close to home.  They need a vacation.  And also, they kind of have to escape town so that J.Lo won’t get into trouble for attacking and partially eating some college girl’s furry purple boots.  So they decide to take their hovercar Slushious out of mothballs and fly to New Boovworld, one of the moons of Saturn which has become the new home of the Boov.  Except that Tip’s mother isn’t in agreement with their plan.  Tip tricks J.Lo into going anyway, and soon the pair is on their way.

smek for president audioBut once they get there, things become complicated.  J.Lo had planned to wear his disguise helmet (which are sort of like sunglasses for humans) because he knows the Boov are still angry with him for being the reason the Gorg came to Earth.  But when Tip and J.Lo find out that they’ve reached New Boovworld just in time for the presidential elections, with J.Lo’s hero Smek running, J.Lo wants to explain what happened back on Earth.  Little does he know that the Boov call him The Squealer, and he’s considered Public Enemy Number One.  Even though Tip protests, that doesn’t stop J.Lo, he still convices her to come with him to meet Smek.  But right after that meeting, J.Lo and Tip are on the run from Smek, the entire planetful of Boov, a masked Boov assassin, and Dan Landry, the only adult human on New Boovworld, the man who took credit for their hard work saving Earth.  It’s a mess!  But this is Gratuity (Tip) Tucci, and J.Lo.  If anyone can handle it, they can.  Can’t they?

I love both Smek books, I love this author, I love this narrator, I love the whole package!  (Other people must have understood how good it is too, as The True Meaning of Smekday is hitting theaters this month, retitled as Home, a new animated movie from Dreamworks Pictures, starring Jim Parsons and Rihanna.  My only complaint is that they should have used Bahni Turpin as the voice of J.Lo, who was renamed Oh in the movie.)

Anyway, Bahni Turpin is the best, and the sound recording is excellent.  You’ll laugh out loud at the voices she creates, and probably forget that only one person is reading!  Make sure to check out the artwork, either in the book or on the PDF files on the CDs).

Smek for President is best for kids in grades four through seven, and it will be much better if you read The True Meaning of Smekday.  The sound recording for Smek for President is great for all ages, and it would definitely enhance a family car trip.  I highly recommend both books!  I hope that there’s a book three, continuing the adventures of Tip and J.Lo, coming out sometime soon!

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Try one of these books, or one of our many other enjoyable audio selections on your next trip.  Or just to listen to on your drive around town, because it will definitely make it pass faster.  If you need other suggestions, please ask a librarian any time for help!


snicer of magic audio

Three New Audio Reviews set in fantastic worlds

Vacation week is almost over, but there’s still plenty of time to travel.  If you don’t want to listen to the sound of tires rumbling or music, beat the traveling blues with a book on CD.  If you’re looking for something new, try one of these selections…

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museum of thieves 2Museum of Thieves
by Lian Tanner, Read by Claudia Black
6 CDs, 6 hours, 48 minutes

Goldie Roth lives in Jewel, a city in a world where all children are protected.  So protected that they are attached at all times to the adults in their lives with locks and chains.  Although most of the children have loving parents who would do anything to keep them safe, the world knows that parents are not all-seeing, so the protection of children is left to the Blessed Guardians.  Until their sixteenth year, children spend most of their times under the care of the Blessed Guardians.

Goldie chafes at that protection, longing to be independent and free of the chains.  Her inability to obey the Guardians makes them place her in heavy punishment chains, much more restrictive than the everyday chains.  But her freedom is within sight…Goldie is overjoyed to be going to Separation Day, the ceremony where children have their chains removed and they are free.  Usually, Separation Day happens only when children reach sixteen years, but the Grand Protector of the City of Jewel has declared that this year, Separation Day will happen for everyone between twelve and sixteen years.  And Goldie is first in line!

But only one chain is broken with the city is attacked.  The Blessed Guardians are told to stop the Separation, and get the children back to their hall.  Goldie cannot stand it.  She grabs the pair of scissors from the Blessed Guardian’s hands and breaks her chains herself.  But now she can’t go home, or she’ll just end up back in chains.  She has to find somewhere to hide, somewhere to live until she can figure out what to do next.  Wandering through the city, she finds The Museum of Dunt.  And suddenly, her life is completely turned around.  She meets the residents of the Museum and finds out that Jewel isn’t quite as safe as everyone thought.  And if she wants to save herself, she has to work with a strange group of people to save Jewel…from the attackers and from itself.

museum of thieves audioMuseum of Thieves is narrated by actress Claudia Black, who has an absolutely WONDERFUL voice for reading aloud.  She brings the characters completely to life, with accents and pacing.  I just love her take on every character.

Museum of Thieves is the first book of the Keepers Trilogy, so it does end on a bit of a cliffhanger.  The other books in the trilogy are City of Lies and Path of Beasts, which are also available.  If you have middle grade students who enjoyed  the movies of The Hunger Games or The Maze Runner, this science fiction/dystopian world book would be a great read at a slightly more accessible level for fourth through seventh graders. It would be an enjoyable car audio for a family trip.

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snicker of magicA Snicker of Magic
By Natalie Lloyd, Narrated by Cassandra Morris
8 CDs, 8.25 hours

Felicity Pickle is used to moving.  Every few months, Mama packs Felicity and her younger sister Frannie Jo and their dog Biscuit into their van, the Pickled Jalepeno, and the little family wanders on to a new place.  But this time, Mama landed them in Midnight Gulch, the town where she grew up, staying in the small apartment with Aunt Cleo, Mama’s sister.

Felicity isn’t quite sure what to expect of Midnight Gulch, it seems to be the same as every other town they’ve rolled into. Then she discovers that Midnight Gulch used to be magical; it was a place where people could dance up thunderstorms, save memories in a jar and bake secrets into pies.  Felicity’s ability to see words kind of fits right in there, even though she doesn’t exactly want to share her ability with anyone but Frannie Jo.  Mama and Aunt Cleo are reluctant to tell anyone, but Felicity soon learns from other people in town that most of the magic has drained away due to a curse.  But even so, there’s still a tiny bit, just a snicker of magic, that may be left.

And that’s good, because Felicity Pickle wants to settle down and stay somewhere.  If she can find a way to settle Mama’s wandering heart with a little magic, that’s what she’s going to do.  Felicity soon finds herself in the midst of her new town, making friends and meeting people and finding out about the magic.  But can Felicity manage to find the answer to the town’s needs before Mama leaves?  She’s going to do her best!

snicer of magic audioA Snicker of Magic is a fun book to read, the language is rich, and colorful and it comes to life, even when it’s not narrated.  But the audio recording enhances that so much more.  Cassandra Morris has a wonderful slightly southern accent, with a unique twist of phrase.   I loved Felicity and her family and their way with words.

A Snicker of Magic is a book that readers of Three Times Lucky, Savvy, and A Tangle of Knots will love.  Readers from third through sixth grades will enjoy both the print and audio versions of this book, but listeners of all ages–even grownups–would also enjoy it.  It’s definitely my new favorite of 2014!

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and for a complete change of pace…

half badHalf Bad
by Sally Green, Narrated by Carl Prekopp
7 CDs, 8.5 hours

Nathan lives a brutal existence, locked in a cage, beaten by his caretaker, deprived of everything that most people take for granted.  His cartaker’s brutal training is to turn him into a killer, for the Council of White Witches.

Nathan’s mother was a white witch, and his father was a black witch.  He knows neither of them…his mother died when he was a baby, and his father is an outlaw on the run. Nathan was brought up by his Gran with his older half-siblings, Jessica, Deborah and Arran.  Gran, Deborah and Arran love him, but Jessica has always hated him, to the point where she sabotages everything he has ever loved.

In Nathan’s world, white witches are good and black witches are bad.  His father Marcus is the worst, most violent of the black witches.  It’s rumored that Marcus has killed over two hundred white witches, eating their hearts to steal their powers.  In this alternate version of modern-day England, there is no such thing as a half-good or a half-bad witch.  Nathan has spent his life under close scrutiny, every witch he knows watching to see if he’s good or bad.  They will wait until his sixteenth birthday to decide; the time where every witch is given three gifts by their nearest blood relative and discover their powers.

But the Council didn’t give Nathan much leeway.  They’re not planning on giving him the chance to get any powers.  He’s spent three years locked in the cage to keep him from Gran, and no one even knows where his father is.  With his sixteenth birthday only weeks away, Nathan’s only chance to save himself is to escape, find his father, and persuade Marcus to give Nathan his blood gifts.  It won’t be easy. But if Nathan can do it, he may be able to survive.

half bad audioHalf Bad is an intense, gritty book, not for the squeamish.  The scenes of Nathan’s life in the cage are gut-wrenching.  But it also is a story of a boy who is struggling to find his place in the world, living up to the expectations of the wonderful woman who raised him and loved him.

The narration of Half Bad is compelling and tense.  It ends on a real cliffhanger–Half Bad is the first book of a trilogy.  The second book, Half Wild, is coming out in the spring of 2015, and the third  probably in 2016.  Even though it’s a long time to wait, Nathan’s story is too unique to wait to read.  Both the print and audio book of Half Bad are best or readers in high school and older.  But if you try it, you’re sure to come back for more of Nathan’s story.

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And…that’s it!  Three more audio books to enjoy!  As always, if you want suggestions, ask a librarian!


More Audio Reviews..three for teens, one for kids!

…and here we go again!  More audio reviews for your next road trip, or travels around town.

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breadcrumbs audioBreadcrumbs
By Anne Ursu, Read by Kirby Heyborne
7 CDs, 7 Hours, 47 Minutes

Hazel and Jack have always been best friends. Since they met in first grade, Hazel has always had Jack’s back, and Jack has always been there for Hazel.  Until the day he stops talking to her.  Hazel can’t figure it out; she didn’t do anything, nothing happened to drive them apart, Jack just…changed. Hazel’s mother tells her that sometimes that happens with friendships, especially when boys and girls are eleven and start to have different interests.  But Hazel knows her mother is wrong.

The change in Jack started after it snowed, so Hazel starts her search in the park, where she knows Jack went that day.  Soon Hazel, who never needed anyone but Jack, is meeting new people while she searches for answers.  When she discovers that Jack’s heart has been frozen, Hazel knows that the solution to her problem lies in the stories she and Jack have treasured.  But she’s one girl against the power of icy indifference.  Can she save Jack and win?

I enjoyed the audio recording of Breadcrumbs very much.  At first, I was surprised that Hazel’s story had a male narrator, but Kirby Heyborne has a very adaptable voice.  His pacing was excellent, and his voices were great.  Hazel and Kirby are eleven, and this book is probably enjoyable for kids in grades four through seven.  If you enjoy fantasy, adventure or modern retellings of fairy tales, you will enjoy Breadcrumbs!


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Once Upon a Time, there was a prince named Oliver. On his sixteenth birthday, he realized that he had to defeat the evil man who slayed his father, the king, and save the lovely maiden Seraphima.

Once, inside a book, there lived a young man named Oliver.  He hated his life in the book, playing the same role over and over and over.  He didn’t really like the girl who played Seraphima, and he despised the fact that “happily every after” meant that the book would be closed, and he would have to start all over again at his sixteenth birthday celebration every time the book is opened.  His greatest ambition was to escape the book and live his own life.

In our world, a girl named Delilah feels awkward and weird wherever she is.  She hates school, but she loves books.  Even though she’s in high school, she still enjoys reading fantasy and fairy tales.  In the library at her private high school, she has found a beautiful hand-painted fairy tale book about a prince named Oliver, on a quest to save his love, Seraphima.  She reads it over and over again, wishing that she could meet Prince Oliver in person.

And then, one day, she sees one of the illustrations move.  At first she doesn’t trust her eyes, but she opens and closes the book several times, until she catches Prince Oliver in motion.  Oliver decides that she’s trustworthy, and so he speaks to her…and she can hear him!  Soon Oliver and Delilah are plotting ways to be together.  Either they have to get Delilah into the book, or Oliver out of the book.  They don’t know where exactly to start, but they’re willing to try anything and everything.  Will they be able to have their own happily every after?  And if they get it, will they want it?

Between the Lines is set up with several different points of view, and the audio has four different narrators. There’s a narrator for the fairy tale story, a narrator for the chapters from Oliver’s point of view, and a narrator for the chapters from Delilah’s point of view.  Jodi Piccoult reads the author notes.  I absolutely loved each of the narrators, and it was great to hear them imitate each other’s voices. Technically, this is a wonderful audio production.  But.  I had so many questions about the plot of the book, the motivations of the characters, and the little details of practicality and common sense that were just left out of the story.  For that reason, I have to say that if details are important to you, you probably will not enjoy this book.  If you’re just looking for something to listen to and not think too deeply about, this is a great audio.  It’s all up to you.

Between the Lines is in our Teen collection, and is probably best for middle school readers. If you do listen to the audio recording, it’s worth picking up the book too.  The illustrations are wonderful.

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michael vey audioMichael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25
By Richard Paul Evans, Read by Fred Berman
8 CDs, 9 Hours, 30 Minutes

Ninth grader Michael Vey is just a regular kid.  Okay, that’s not true.  He’s pretty tall.  He has Tourette’s Syndrome, so he blinks a lot.  He has a best friend named Ostin who’s a genius, and they both get bullied, though for different reasons.  Michael has a crush on a cheerleader named Taylor.  So…regular.  Except that Michael Vey has a really, really big secret.  And no one knows, except his mother, who years ago left a normal life behind and fled with Michael to Idaho, where they could hide in anonymity.

But it’s difficult for Michael to be just a face in the crowd, when he stands out so much.  And when Taylor starts paying attention to him, he gets in trouble with the bullies at his school.  Pushed to the end of his patience, he uses his secret power and shocks them.  It’s an accident, but Ostin, Taylor and most of their classmates saw the electricity arc from Michael’s hands to the bullies he shocked.  Everyone but Taylor is surprised, and Michael soon discovers that Taylor has her own secret.  But even if one or two people can keep a secret, a whole community cannot.

Suddenly, Taylor has been sent away to an “exclusive” school, and Michael’s mother has vanished, kidnapped by the people who sent them on the run so many years ago.  This mysterious organization doesn’t want his mother, they want Michael.  Ostin vows to help Michael find Taylor and get his mother back, but to do so, they need to get to California. Can they rescue Michael’s mother without getting captured themselves?  The outlook doesn’t look good…

The recording of Michael Vey, The Prisoner of Cell 25 is well done.  I enjoyed the narrator’s voice, and he did a great job with accents, distinguishing a large cast of characters.  The Michael Vey series is very popular with teen readers, currently with four titles out and more to come.  Teens who enjoy reading series by Anthony Horowitz and Robert Muchamore will like these books just as much.


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thirteen days to midnight audioThirteen Days to Midnight
By Patrick Carman, Narrated by Steven Boyer
6 CDs, 7.25 Hours

Jacob  has had a rough life.  He became a foster child at the age of four, and went through a lot of different homes.  Because of all the changes he’s had to endure, he’s mistrustful of most adults and their motivations.  He’s been content for almost two year  though, after meeting Mr. Fielding, who became his foster father.  They shared a small home on the grounds of Holy Cross, a Catholic boarding school, where Mr. Fielding was a teacher.  That is, until Mr. Fielding was killed in a head-on collision with a tree.  Just before the accident, he touched Jacob and said “You are indestructible”.  Somehow, Jacob survived the accident, although he has no memory of the actual impact.

Arriving back at school after the funeral, Jacob is invited to live in the staff quarters until he graduates.  Mr. Fielding, it seems, was one of the benefactors of the school, and he has left Jacob a small fortune at his death.  At first, Jacob is numb to the world around him, even his best friend Milo can’t seem to interest him in everyday life.  Then Milo introduces him to his new  friend Ophelia.  Unfortunately for Milo, Jacob and Ophelia seem to hit it off.  Ophelia, who takes risky chances and likes living life on the edge, is all about testing limits.  Jacob, still trying to make sense of Mr. Fielding’s death, tells Milo and Ophelia about the accident, and repeats “you are indestructible!” as a joke, touching Ophelia on the arm. She decides to test it, pavement surfing on a new skateboard, hanging on to Milo’s car as he drives.  But Ophelia’s hits a bump, then her head hits the pavement with stunning force.  Jacob and Milo are sure that she’s dead, but she just gets up and brushes herself off.  What is going on?

Jacob needs to find out.  As he uncovers the mystery of Mr. Fielding’s past, he and his friends test the new power that seems to have come into their lives.  At first, it’s an adrenaline rush that starts out as something exciting, but soon turns dark.  Cheating death is a big responsibility, it turns out. Is this power something that will save lives, or will it cost Jacob and Milo and Ophelia everything?

Thirteen Days to Midnight is a suspenseful story, full of twists and turns.  The narration of the audio book is well done, with dramatic flair in just the right spots.  I thoroughly liked the narrator and the story, and I had no idea how it was going to end.  Thirteen Days to Midnight  is in our Teen collection, and is probably best for readers grades eight and up.

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If you’re looking for something to listen to for a family trip, to relax before bed, or to read with a book, visit the library!  Our librarians are happy to help you find something to suit you, whether you’re looking for something for the family or something for yourself. And since I just found two more audio books I listened to that I haven’t reviewed, there are more reviews are coming soon…




Quick Audio Reviews: A (partial) summer’s worth!

It’s been a long time since there was an actual review in Bella’s Blog.  Sorry about that!  It was a very busy summer, and September was also busier than expected!  But to make up for it, here are a few quick reviews of some excellent audio recordings for your next road trip.  Four today, four tomorrow!


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witch week audioWitch Week
By Diana Wynne Jones, Performed by Gerald Doyle
7 CDs, 8 Hours

“Someone in Class 6B is a witch.”

In most classrooms, that would inspire giggles and wishes to wield magic.  But in the school that Nan Pilgrim, Charles Morgan and Nirupam Singh attend, the anonymous note found on the teacher’s desk could be a death sentence.  In their world, witchcraft is punishable by death, and they all know from first-hand experience that even good people can end up accused of magic.  The problem is, all three of them suddenly seem to HAVE magic.  It’s easy to use. And it’s not easy to give up.

As their lives and the lives of their classmates become more and more complicated, Nan discovers a spell that could save everyone.  The spell is just one word, repeated three times: Chrestomanci.  But when chanting the spell brings a strangely elegant enchanter into their world, will he make things better…or worse?

The recording of Witch Week is delightful.  I love Gerald Doyle’s voice; he manages to make every character sound different…and there are a lot of characters!  The pacing is wonderful, and the story, by my favorite author, is fun.  If you like Harry Potter, you should give Witch Week (and the rest of the Chrestomanci series)  a try.  It’s a very different type of witch-school from Hogwarts, but just as intriguing.   Best for kids in third through sixth grade, this would be a fun CD for a family trip!


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kingdom keepers audioThe Kingdom Keepers
By Ridley Pearson, Read by Gary Littman
6 CDs, 6 hours

Finn Whitman is a celebrity at Disneyworld.  No one actually knows his name, but he has to wear a disguise any time he wants to visit the park.  That’s because Finn was chosen for a cutting-edge program for Disney–he’s one of the new 3D hologram guides to Disneyworld.  It’s kind of fun to be so famous, and kind of a pain.  But he never expected it to be actually painful.

Finn finds himself dreaming about being inside Disneyworld at night though, and it’s so real that when he gets hurt in the dream, he’s hurt when he wakes up.  That can’t be a coincidence.  After an encounter with Wayne, an old Imagineer from Walt’s day who claims that Finn’s dream self is actually him, Finn starts investigating.  He finds the other five kids who were scanned and imprinted onto the Disney Host Interactive and Daylight Hologram Imaging program, and discovers that they’re also experiencing strange things when they sleep.  Together, the teens find Wayne, who tells them that there’s evil afoot in Disneyworld, and only Finn and his new friends can fix it.  After hours. In the most famous amusement park in the world.  And then they have to split up, because they’re attacked by pirates from the Pirates of the Caribbean display.

Finn has to rally the others and fight the evil Disney villains, or risk them getting out of the park and into the world. It’s dangerous, and there’s a possibility that he might get stuck in his hologram body.  But what’s a kid to do?

The Kingdom Keepers is  a fun book to listen to, especially for anyone who has ever visited Disneyworld.  You can find out about hidden tunnels and the behind-the-scenes activity in the park, as well as use your imagination to see how the rides might be after dark.  (Hint: pretty scary!)  The narration is excellent.

This is the first book in the Kingdom Keepers series, which just ended (maybe?) this year with the seventh title: The Insider.  It’s a fun series for grades 4 – 6, although it could go younger or older for listening, especially if you’re a Disney fan.  A great mystery/adventure series!


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Liesl and po audioLiesl & Po
By Lauren Oliver, Read by Jim Dale
5 CDs, 5 Hours, 55 Minute

Poor Liesl is stuck in her attic bedroom, condemned to live there by her evil stepmother.  She’s rather accepting of her circumstances, considering.  She would have likes to have seen her father, but he’s been sick for years, and her stepmother refuses.  Three days after her father dies, Po appears in the tiny attic.  Liesl is convinced that Po is there from the Other Side to bring a message to her father for her.  Po thinks he was just following Bundle, his…dog?  Cat?  Small formerly furry companion, anyway.  That same night, a delivery boy named Will issent on an errand for a powerful alchemist; where he makes a terrible mistake in his deliveries.

Two boxes.  One containing the ashes of Liesl’s father, the second containing the most powerful magic in the world.

Will is in deep trouble, and suddenly on the run.  Po finds himself drawn to Liesl, unable to find her father, but returning to see her.  Liesl mourns her father and looks for a way to escape the attic and put him to rest.  Will, who  has been watching Liesl at her attic window for days, wishes they could meet while trying to figure out how to escape his situation.  Po figures out how to help Liesl.  And Liesl finds the courage to defy her stepmother. When Will’s mistake becomes obvious to the adults in their lives, it affects all three children, and Bundle too.  Suddenly, Liesl, Will, Po and Bundle are on the run, looking for the answer to a problem they don’t quite understand.  But they will!

The narration of Liesl & Po is excellent. Jim Dale is the narrator of this audio book, and if anyone has ever listened to the Harry Potter audio books, you’ll know that listening to his voice is an experience in itself.  The story is spooky, and full of adventure, with a hint of mystery and a lot of feelings.  You should also look at the book, even if you experience the story through the audio book, because the illustrations are wonderful.   Best for kids in fourth through sixth grades, but enjoyable for all ages.


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19093_dreamthieves_lbl_nodieThe Dream Thieves
By Maggie Stiefvater, Read by Will Patton
11 CDs, 12 hours, 46 minutes

Where we left off: in The Raven Boys, Blue Sargent had befriended The Raven Boys; four students at nearby Aglionby Academy–Adam Parrish, local boy on scholarship, Noah Czerny, mysterious and not quite part of their world, Ronan Lynch, angry bad boy and Richard Campbell Gansey III, otherwise known as Gansey, their defacto leader.   By the end of the book, their search for the lost Welsh king Glendower  awakened the ley lines, Blue and Adam had started dating (even though Blue was attracted to Gansey) and  one of the boys had sacrificed himself for the others, changing their world.  At the very end of the book, Ronan announced that he had brought his pet crow out of his dreams.

In the sequel, The Dream Thieves,  Ronan is keeping secrets from everyone, and maybe even from himself.  Although he told the others that he could bring items out of his dreams, he didn’t tell them that he has.  And every item that is taken from a dream can be dangerous.

Luckily, Ronan has friends who are willing to help him, because his family won’t.  When his father died, his will stated that his three sons never set foot on their childhood home again.  It also stated that are to never see their mother, who slipped into a coma after his death, again.  Declan and Matthew seem to abide by this, although both obviously hate it. But Ronan, angry Ronan, who was his father’s favorite, fights it.  In his day to day life, and in his dreams.

When Ronan discovers that there is  a killer after his family, working for someone who is determined to retrieve all the dream items and learn the secret of how to steal items from dreams, it stirs his anger to a boiling rage.  Blue, Gansey, Noah and Adam are pulled into the fight, along with Matthew and Declan.  But is it a fight that they can win?

The Dream Thieves is a well-written and suspenseful story, and the audio book reflects that.  I had an easier time getting into the second book on audio, but I still wish that they had picked a different narrator.  I think it’s me though, not him.  Other listeners seem to love his take on the characters.  The third book in the cycle, Blue Lily, Lily Blue, will be released this month and I’m really looking forward to seeing what happens to these characters in the next chapter of their lives.  The Dream Thieves is in our Teen collection, and is definitely for high school readers.  I think adults will enjoy it as well.

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Audio Review: Half Moon Investigations

And…here’s another audio review!  It’s a mystery this time, from a popular author of fantasy adventure books.  I was actually expecting some kind of fantasy element in this one, but it’s a straightforward follow-the-clues-to-the-end mystery.  And a good one!

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Half Moon Investigations
By Eoin Colfer, Read by Sean Patrick Reilly
6 CDs, 7 hours, 17 minutes

half moon investigationsFletcher Moon is a private detective.  He’s seen it all, heard it all, is a little world-weary…and he’s only in seventh grade.  It’s not easy to train to be a detective at such a young age, but Fletcher got his degree online, from the Bernstein Academy in Washington, D.C..  Of course, he had to use his father’s name and ID to get certified, since there was an age requirement.  But Fletcher and his father share the same name and birthdate, so it was pretty easy to do.   He’s probably the only seventh grader in Ireland, maybe even the world, who has completed the requirements for the Bernstein private detective certification and received the highly prized silver private detective badge.  Fletcher has used his qualifications for good, solving cases and bringing justice to his fellow students at Saint Jerome’s Elementary and Middle School.

Because of his successful solve rate, Fletcher’s reputation has spread around the school.  So it’s no surprise when one of his elementary school informants comes to get him to help break up a wrestling match caused by a theft.  Herod Sharkey, the youngest member of the infamous Sharkey crime family, has been accused of stealing the fancy new computer organizer of Bella Barnes, the biggest girl in the elementary school.  There’s even a witness; April Devereaux, the wealthiest girl in the school (as well as the one most likely to wear pink.)  Fletcher follows the clues and finds the organizer.   It looks like an open and shut case until Red Sharkey, Herod’s older brother and Fletcher’s classmate, gets involved. In spite of the witness and the general reputation of his brother,  Red claims his brother is innocent and has been framed.  Red threatens Fletcher, and warns him to shut down his detective agency.

But then April Devereaux puts Fletcher on retainer to investigate the entire Sharkey family and their connection with some odd crimes at the school and around town.  Fletcher is at first reluctant, but then intrigued once he starts looking into the case.  Are the Sharkey’s really behind all the crimes?  Or will his trail lead to someone else?  Fletcher enlists his allies, his informants and even an enemy or two to follow the dangerous trail to a surprising conclusion…and a new view on detective work.

half moon investigations audioSean Patrick Reilly’s narration of Half Moon Investigations has the appropriately hard-boiled tone down for this first-person narration.  I loved his Irish accent too.  The “film noir” tone continues throughout the story, with musical breaks between the chapters.  The kids in the story all have slightly different voices, and the adults sound completely different.

The story is populated by a huge amount of characters with genuine character…crooks with hearts of gold, police inspectors who are more patient than a whole realm of teachers, and lots of kids with different ideas about school, life and honesty.

Half Moon Investigations was a fun CD to listen to in the car.  I enjoyed trying to follow the clues along with Fletcher, and worrying about the red herrings thrown in his path.  I have had several families tell me that Half Moon Investigations was their favorite CD ever.    I would recommend the book to readers in fourth through sixth grade.  The audio recording could be enjoyed by the whole family.  Adults will enjoy the Philip Marlowe-type narration, while younger listeners will just enjoy the mystery, the story and the colorful characters.

If you’re going on a trip for April vacation, both the e-book and the audio (e-audio?) are available through the Minuteman Digital Catalog.


Another Audio Review!

It’s been busy here, with no time for blog entries!  Fortunately, there’s still been time to listen to audio books to (eventually) report back and review.   I’ve listened to six different books since the last audio entry, but I’m not sure all six will make it into this blog entry.  We’ll see.  So, without further ado…

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No Place For Magic
by E.D. Baker, Performed by Katherine Kellgren
6.25 Hours; 6 CDs

no place for magicEmma is the princess of Greater Greensward, but even more important, she’s also the Green Witch of Greater Greensward, in charge of all the magic use in the kingdom.  Not bad, for a sixteen-year-old former cursed frog. After attending the spur-of-the-moment swamp wedding of her Aunt Grassina and her beau, the former enchanted otter Haywood, Emma and her fiance, Prince Eadric of Upper Montevista decide that it’s time to clear up some issues with Eadric’s parents, King Bodamin and Queen Frazzela.  Although it pains Emma to admit it, it’s time for a visit to Upper Montevista.

The biggest issue that Emma is avoiding is Queen Frazzela’s hatred of any magic and magic users.  For Emma, who uses magic daily for everything from cleaning her room to weeding her garden to settling a dispute between warring factions of witches, the queen’s attitude is incomprehensible.  But she is the Queen, and Eadric’s mother.  And the two of them have been avoiding facing the King and Queen of Upper Montevista for months.  Adventures with dragons and curses are fun, but even Eadric has admitted that it’s time to start planning for their own wedding.

no_place_for_magic 2The first snag is when Emma’s mother, Queen Chartreuse, decides that she must join Emma.  Although the queen understands the need for magic, she really doesn’t approve of it any more than Eadric’s mother does.  So long, quick magic carpet ride!  Since the queen doesn’t think it’s proper for a princess to be traveling unchaperoned, she can’t even ride horseback with Eadric.  So it’s an uncomfortably long horse-drawn carriage ride for Emma, complete with maids, trunks of wardrobe, dressmakers, a trousseau, and the company of her mother.  And her grandmother, the formerly evil witch, her grandfather the ghost, her aunt, the royal fairies…pretty much everyone at the castle! Emma manages to leave quickly though, leaving the queen and her entourage to follow a few days behind.  In the carriage it will be just Emma, her friend Lily, a bat who can talk, and Shelton, a crab she’s taking care of for her mermaid friend.

The journey isn’t easy, and Emma is tempted to use her magic as they run into problems along the way.  Their arrival in Upper Montevista is no happy homecoming though, as they learn that Prince Eadric’s younger brother, Prince Bradston, has been kidnapped by trolls!  Emma and Eadric set off on a mission to rescue the prince, even though Emma isn’t sure that he hasn’t brought this catastrophe upon himself.  The problem is that, to satisfy both Queen Frazzela and Queen Chartreuse, Emma has promised not to use magic.  Even as a last resort.  What’s a Green Witch to do?  When it becomes apparent that there are trolls, dragons, vampires, sea monsters and other creatures after Emma and Eadric (not to mention the girls fluttering over and flirting with the prince, right under Emma’s nose) Emma has to make some difficult decisions about magic and friendship, not to mention allies, enemies and family.

no place for magic audioThe audio recording of No Place for Magic is absolutely, incredibly wonderful! Katherine Kellgren, the reader, has a huge range of voices, each with a different accent, speech pattern and tone.  I absolutely adored her vocal range and voices.  Not surprising!  When you look her up online, you will find that she has recorded over a hundred audio books, and she won the Audie Award for Best Voice in Young Adult and Fantasy from 2008 through 2011.  She’s a finalist for the 2014 Audie Award for the narration of a book that’s near and dear to my heart, Magic Marks the Spot, by local author Caroline Carlson.  In other words, she’s a shining star of audio books!  I would highly recommend anything Ms. Kellgren has narrated, not just No Place for Magic.

Although No Place for Magic is Book Four in The Tales of the Frog Princess, you don’t necessarily have had to read the previous volumes to enjoy this title.  Although the listener (or reader) would perhaps have a better idea of the background characters if they did read the previous books, No Place for Magic does stand well on its own.  It’s an enjoyable story with fairy tale characters, monsters and humor each playing a sizable role.  The stellar performance of Ms. Kellgren is a reason to listen as well.  There are currently eight volumes in the Tales of the Frog Princess series

No Place for Magic is written for third through sixth grade readers.  The audio recording would be enjoyable for the entire family, with good listeners as young as four or five.  Fans of fairy tales would love it.  It would make a perfect audio book for a family car ride!  It’s also available as an e-book through the Minuteman Library Network Digital Media Page.  If you’re going on vacation, it would be a fun pick to bring along.

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And that’s it.  I think I’ll try to write one review every day until I catch up with all the listening.  So…until tomorrow!





New York, New York! Audio books

I just finished listening to two audio books I grabbed at random, and by coincidence, both are set in New York City.  Now, I like visiting New York, but to really know the city, you have to grow up there.  Here are two girls, from very different worlds, who really know all the ins and outs of The City That Never Sleeps!

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The Red Blazer Girls: The Ring of Rocamadour
by Michael D. Beil, read by Tai Alexandra Ricci
6 CDs, 6 hours, 55 minutes

red blazer girls ringThe mystery starts with a spooky face in the window of a church–a pale face with long white hair where no face should be.  In the middle of English class, Sophie screams at the sight.  She knows she wasn’t daydreaming though, and is determined to find out who was in the tiny window set high in St. Veronica’s church.   Sophie attends Saint Veronica’s Academy, a New York City girls’  attached to the church, and her fifth story classroom is opposite the window.  Saint Veronica’s church is a huge, grand structure, with lots of alcoves, tiny rooms and tunnels that provide many hiding places, for people and for treasured artwork.

Determined to prove that she did see something strange, Sophie drags her friends  Margaret and Rebecca into the church, where they evade security and priests alike to find a cat that leads them to a little-known passageway through the church and into the former convent next door.  The first mystery is solved when they meet Ms. Harriman, and elderly lady who lives in the former convent.  She introduces them to the second mystery, which involves a hidden treasure.

Ms. Harriman has just discovered a card that was sent to her daughter Caroline Chance twenty years ago for her thirteenth birthday, by her grandfather Everett Harriman.  It’s the first clue in a treasure hunt that leads to a priceless treasure.  The problem is that the second clue is somewhere inside a book in the St. Veronica’s school library, and Ms. Harriman has no way to access it.  There’s also a problem with her ex-husband, Caroline’s father Malcolm Chance, who is also searching for the treasure. When Mrs. Harriman meets the girls, who DO have access to the school, and they team up. Suddenly, the hunt is on!

red blazer girls soundThe audio recording of The Ring of Rocamadour is an excellent production.  I loved the reader’s voice…she has a slight New York accent, so the narration sounds very authentic.  The voices of Mrs. Harriman and Malcolm Chance sound very different, with Mrs. Harriman having an excellent sort of “elderly eccentric” voice, and Malcolm Chance being very British.  There are five girls who play strongly into the plot–my only issue with the voices was that the girls sound a little too similar.  Still, the pacing for each is a little different, so it’s not difficult to follow who is speaking.

The Ring of Rocamadour is an excellent mystery, with a great sense of place.  Listeners will find themselves absorbed in the characters and the mystery, walking through the city, rooting for Sophie and trying to figure out “whodunnit”!  And if you like this book and/or audio, it’s the first in a series about The Red Blazer Girls.

I would recommend The Ring of Rocamadour (and all of  The Red Blazer Girls mysteries) to mystery lovers in fifth grade through eighth grade.  It would be a fun CD to listen to for a family car trip, and a great selection to listen to if you’re planning a visit to New York City.

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Bras & Broomsticks
by Sarah Mlynowski, Read by Ariadne Meyers
7 CDs, 8 hours, 11 minutes

bras and broomsticksRachel’s morning has a great start when she looks down and her crappy old black boots have been replaced by the fashionable pair of green suede designer sneakers she’d seen at Bloomies the previous weekend.  How did that happen?  How could she forget lacing them up? Buying them? Thinking she just had a strange lapse in memory, Rachel calls home to thank her mother (and maybe get an idea about how she could have forgotten.)  But her mother seems to be worried about something else and doesn’t even want to talk about the sneakers…she just orders Rachel to come home, even though she knew she had plans for after school.

Extremely reluctantly (and with maybe a tiny bit of an attitude) Rachel goes home.  Her younger sister Miri is already there, having stayed home from school, and looking extremely smug about something.  Rachel’s mom is smoking, something she never does anymore, and she looks even more worried than she sounded over the phone. Rachel knows something is wrong, but she never expected the problem to be what it is!  Miri is a witch.  So is Rachel’s mom.  It’s inherited at puberty, it just seems to have skipped Rachel.


At first, Rachel thinks her mom has cracked.  Ditto Miri.  But Miri does some magic, and so does Mom, and suddenly, Rachel has to be a believer.  Mom lays down the rules–Miri has a new spellbook, The Authorized and Absolute Reference Handbook to Astonishing Spells, Astounding Potions, and History of Witchcraft Since the Beginning of Time, but she is not allowed to use it.  Seriously?  Color Rachel Not Impressed.  If you have magic, why not use it?  With a little wheedling and a bit of blackmail, Rachel gets Miri to do a spell.  In secret, of course.  And that opens the floodgates.

What is the teenage sister of a pre-teen witch to do?  If you have magic at your fingertips (or at your sister’s) it’s just too tempting.  Popularity, here comes Rachel!  But even the best-intentioned spells seem to have some consequences, and the ones that are…maybe…a teeny bit selfish have even more.  Rachel has all her witches come true, but will it really help her with her achieve popularity and a place in the high school movers and shakers?

bras and broomsticks soundBras & Broomsticks was a fun book to listen to.  I loved the narrator’s voice, and all of the main characters are clearly different.  Rachel and Miri sound different, which is great when they spend so much time talking to each other.  Rachel’s mom has a Brooklyn accent, while her father sounds like he’s from Long Island.  Several of the other characters–Rachel’s friends and the girls’ stepmother-to-be–are clearly differentiated.

Within the story, there are  a lot of details about daily life in New York City. Even though it’s flavored with a bit of witchcraft, it rings true.  From traveling by subway to finding the best coffee shops and shopping, the flavors of New York are there.  There’s also the question of popularity…and if the ends justify the means.

Bras and Broomsticks is in the Teen section of the library. It’s best for upper middle school and high school readers.  There are several more books about Rachel and her friends that are just as funny as this one.  (And Rachel has one of her greatest wishes come true in Book Two!)  Bras & Broomsticks will probably be most enjoyed by girls facing the issues of dating, crushes and popularity.  It might be a great book for a family trip, with a discussion about some of these things afterward!

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If you’re looking for other audio titles set in New York City, you could also try Liar & Spy or When You Reach Me, both by Rebecca Stead, From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler by E.L. Konigsburgh or How I Live Now, by Meg Rosoff.

I wish there were as many great books set in Boston!