Book & Audio Review: Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians

It’s been awhile since we’ve posted!  There are quite a few new entries coming up though, so we hope you’ll be sticking around to check it out!  First up…a fun series featuring a boy with a problem and a group of librarians who are…(shhh…don’t tell!)…evil.

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Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians
By Brandon Sanderson, Narrated by Ramon De Ocampo
6 CDs, 7 Hours

Alcatraz vs the evil librariansAlcatraz Smedry has never known his parents. An orphan, he’s currently living with foster parents Joan and Roy Sheldon.  Although Alcatraz likes the Sheldons, he’s not counting on being with them forever.  They’re his 27th placement as a foster kid; not because he’s a bad kid, but because of his…problem.  Alcatraz breaks things.   He doesn’t intend to, it just seems to happen to things around him–from washing machines to plates to chickens.  He doesn’t destroy things, because all the pieces are still there, things just end up broken beyond repair.

Alcatraz oldWhen a package arrives on his thirteenth birthday, Alcatraz is surprised to open it up and see a note from his parents.  The package looks old…the stamps date back thirteen years, and the wrapping is old and faded, with frayed cords. Alcatraz isn’t sure what to think of it.  Is it a cruel joke? Did his parents really send it?  And how would they have been able to know the address where he would be in thirteen years?  He’s only lived there for eight months.  The “birthday gift” however, is a bag of sand.  Sand?  Alcatraz looks for more, but aside from a few mysterious scribbles on the packaging, that’s all it is. A bag of ordinary-looking beach sand.

alcatraz vs evil librarins 2Disgusted, Alcatraz goes downstairs to made dinner for his foster parents in gratitude for them being normal.  But he manages to break the kitchen, setting it on fire.  Alcatraz’s case supervisor comes to tell him to get ready to move to a new home.   Once again, his ability to break things has come back to haunt him.

The next day, a very odd old man in a rattletrap old-fashioned car shows up, calling Alcatraz by name.  The case worker, Alcatraz assumes.  But the old man seems completely crazy!  When he tells Alcatraz that he’s his grandfather.  Grandpa Leavenworth Smedry has a preposterous tale of  the Free Kingdoms and the Hushlands, evil librarians who control our world, and Oculators, who control technology with special lenses.  Alcatraz tries to get away from the crazy old man, only to run into a second strange man who tries to kidnap him!  What’s the better choice? A loony old guy who seems fond of him, or a man with a gun who shoots at him?  Alcatraz leaves with Grandpa Smedry, but not before breaking the whole house.

Soon, Alcatraz is in a flying car, helping to form a team of freedom fighters and Oculators to battle the forces of Libraria and the evil librarians infiltrating our world.  Will he and his team succeed?  Or will they fall to the forces of order and librarianship?

alcatraz vs evil librarians soundThe sound recording of Alcatraz Versus the Evil Librarians is excellent!  I love the narrator–Ramon De Ocampo is the perfect choice for this series.  His voices for all the characters (and there are quite a few!) are all varied.  Old, young, male, female, good, bad…every character has a distinct voice and stands alone.  His pacing is excellent, and his voice is always clear and easily understood.  The quality of the recording is excellent.

alcatraz seriesThere are five books in the Alcatraz series: Alcatraz vs. The Evil Librarians, The Scrivner’s Bones, The Knights of Crystallia, The Shattered Lens and The Dark Talent.  There may be a sixth book on the way…author Brandon Sanderson has shared that he’s writing it from the view point of Bastille (you’ll be introduced to her very quickly in the first book).  There’s currently no publishing date, but it looks like he’s said the manuscript should be finished in 2017…so maybe soon we’ll have some news about it!

If you’re looking for a series to read or listen to with a lot of action, a great cast of characters, a touch of humor, some elements of fantasy and a likeable hero (even though he says he isn’t one) you’ll love the Alcatraz series.  As an audio book, we have had families with kids as young as six tell us they loved listening to the first book, as well as the entire series.   For reading, it’s probably at a 4th – 7th grade level–on par with the Unwanteds series by McMann or the Alex Rider series by Horowitz.

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Sound good?  You should check it out!  If you like Alcatraz, besides the two series mentioned above, you could also try The Lives of Christopher Chant, by Diana Wynne Jones, The Thief Lord by Cornelia Funke, or The Beyonders by Brandon Mull.

As always, if you would like help finding an audio book to listen to, or a book to read, ask one of our Youth Services librarians.  We’re always happy to help you find the perfect book for you.






Two Audio Reviews–Fantastic Adventures!

I don’t know how it happened, but I have a back-up of audio books to review!  So…on with the first reviews!

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The Beyonders: A World Without Heroes
by Brandon Mull, Narrated by Jeremy Bobb
12 CDs, 14 Hours

The prologue starts in a dungeon with a tense confrontation between a prince and an emperor.  The prince loses. Or does he?

Skip to a completely different world.  Jason Walker is your normal, average, everyday Colorado thirteen-year-old.  He’s athletic, has several good friends, pretty good grades in school and a volunteer job at the zoo.  It’s that job that drops him into danger…but probably not in the way anyone would be expecting.

One afternoon, cleaning around the hippo tank, Jason hears mysterious music.  Because he’s curious, he follows the music to the source…the hippo tank.  Or is it the hippo?  Trying to find out where, exactly, the music is coming from, Jason falls into the tank and into the hippo. The hippo’s mouth, to be exact.  After a brief bout of disorientation, he finds himself coming out from the top of a tree in the middle of a dark forest.  He doesn’t know where he is, but it’s certainly not Colorado!

Not sure what to do, Jason hears the same mysterious music and once again follows it until he finds a river. On the river is a raft full of people playing instruments, on the banks of the river are people watching them.  Jason starts asking questions, and learns that the musicians are about to make a statement against their evil ruler, The Emperor Wizard Maldor, by falling to their deaths over the waterfall just downriver.  Horrified by the inaction of the watchers and needing to stop the musicians from killing themselves, Jason tries to save them. He saves one of the musicians, but makes an enemy of the guards. The crowd has also turned against him.

This is just too crazy!  Jason thinks he must be still in Colorado, unconscious from a head wound or something and hallucinating, but sees no reason to hang around for the crowd to find him.  He runs through the forest and starts following a path.  Eventually, he comes across an imposing building, where he seeks refuge for the night.

The building turns out to be The Repository of Learning. The Loremaster who resides there tells Jason about Lyrian, the land where he is.  Jason learns that Lyrian is ruled by the cruel emperor Maldor, who cares nothing about his people.  People live in fear, and anyone who speaks or acts against the emperor vanishes, never to be seen again.  Over the course of the night, Jason discovers that seems to fill a prophecy about a Seeker of Knowledge.  Before he knows it, he’s on a quest to find the syllables of a unique word that will defeat Maldor and bring peace and prosperity to Lyrian.

He can’t do it alone though, and along the way, Jason finds himself allied with Rachel, a girl from Washington who has also fallen through our world and into Lyrian, Ferrin, a man who cannot die, and several other people who he helps along the way.  Will Jason and Rachel find the word?  Will it defeat Maldor?  And what happens if they find a way home first?

Lyrian is a world where almost everyone has been quashed. No one is able to stand up for anyone else, they’re all just trying to survive.  Jason and Rachel, two ordinary kids with ideals and a strong sense of right and wrong end up in a world that is not like anything they know.  Their quest starts out as a straightforward search for a word, and ends up with them in a position to be the heroes that Lyrian needs.  Of course, The Beyonders: A World Without Heroes is only the first book of a trilogy, so you know that there’s more to come.

Jeremy Bobb, the narrator of this audio book has a great voice for the tale.  His voices for the characters are separate and varied.  The pace of his reading is great; his pacing for the action sequences makes the action both easy to understand and suspenseful.  He does a wonderful job keeping the listeners’ interest.

The Beyonders: A World Without Heroes would be a great book for a family car trip. There are some violent parts, so it’s not for very young children or for sensitive listeners. A good fourth grade fantasy fan could read it, but it’s more appropriate for  kids in fifth through eighth grade.  Listeners could be a little younger, although parents might be explaining things to them. The book on CD is long, so you may want to save it for a long ride!

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The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp
by Rick Yancey, Read by Paul Michael
6 CDs, 7 Hours

Alfred Kropp is an orphan. He never knew his father, and his mother died when he was thirteen.  He now lives with his Uncle Farrell, a security guard, in Nashville.  Alfred is big for his age, a little slow, and maybe a bit of a coward.  He’s afraid of fights, confrontations and blood.  When his uncle tells him he has a way to get rich quickly, Alfred is skeptical.

Uncle Farrell has worked for Mr. Samson, a rich businessman for over twenty years. But when Mr. Myers, one of the man’s rivals offers him a million dollars to steal something from Samson’s safe, Uncle Farrell thinks it’s easy money.  The only problem is, his plan requires two people. Alfred objects.  Even though Mr. Myers told them he only wanted to take back something Mr. Samson stole from him, how do they know that Myers is telling the truth?  Besides, something about Mr. Myers gives him the creeps. But Uncle Ferrell doesn’t listen to Alfred’s objections. He threatens to turn him over to foster care if Alfred doesn’t help. Totally against his will and principles, Alfred steals the object–an incredible sword.

Is it Excalibur?  Alfred finds himself fighting mysterious monks with the sword, and defeating them. And he doesn’t know anything about fighting or swords! With the sword now in his possession, Alfred returns home with Uncle Ferrell.  When they get there Myers is waiting. Uncle Ferrell tries to hold out for more money, and Myers kills him.

Alfred is now alone.  Mr. Samson comes to talk to him, but although he seems kind, and tries to help, he has his own problems.  Soon Alfred is on the run with Excalibur, allied with a wounded knight, driving a Ferrari, with punks on motorcycles and a mysterious organization chasing him.  Will he find out the truth about the sword and return it to its rightful owner?

I wasn’t too sure about the narrator when the book started. Alfred and Uncle Farrell sounded too much alike.  But as soon as other characters started popping up, I was enthralled.  From Irish businessmen to American spies to not-quite-French mercenaries, everyone sounded different.  I loved the narration.  And the pacing was great.

Alfred is a reluctant hero. He grows as he faces things he never thought he could handle, and comes out the other side a stronger person.  Since there are two other books about Alfred’s adventures, you know that he’ll have a lot of dangers to face before he reaches his final adventure.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp is a great adventure story for fantasy and spy fans, but it is violent. And that violence is described in detail in the narration. For that reason, I’d recommend it to kids in sixth grade and up.  Although younger kids could read it, The Extraordinary Adventures of Alfred Kropp is in our teen section.  It has been optioned as a movie, so it may pop up on the silver screen at some future point in time!

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And…that’s it for tonight!  More tomorrow…I hope.  🙂