A New Audio Review!

Do you need an adventurous, but funny, book to listen to?  This one is for you!

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Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas
by Jonathan W. Stokes, Read by Ralph Lister
7 CDs;  7 hours, 50 minutes

addison cooke and the treasure of the incasAddison Cooke and his sister Molly live with their Aunt Delia and Uncle Nigel, famous researchers and archeologists who work all the time.  It makes for some great perks (visiting archeological sites all over the world, for example) but also for some lonely times when both adults are working and Addison and Molly have to either eat dinners out of a vending machine at the museum or stay at home and eat peanut butter and jelly.  Again.

When Russian mobsters, led by Professor Ragar, an unscrupulous archeologist, kidnap Uncle Nigel and Aunt Delia in order to force them to find a mysterious treasure, Addison and Molly overhear their plans.  Unfortunately, Professor Ragar’s henchmen spot them just when they’re about to make a rescue, and the siblings have to flee.  Back at their apartment, they enlist the aid of their friends Raj and Eddie to get away from their pursuers.  But with the Russian mob hot on their trail, and the only adults in their lives in danger, Addison decides that the best defense is to follow the clues and find the Incan treasure before it can be stolen by the bad guys.

Armed with Uncle Nigel’s credit card, Addison’s ability to charm his way through most situations, Molly’s practical nature, Raj’s survival skills, Eddie’s Spanish translation abilities and the first clue (which Addison managed to steal) they buy plane tickets to Columbia and are off on the hunt!   Will they be able to find the treasure before Professor Ragar?  Can they free Aunt Delia and Uncle Nigel from his clutches?  Will they even survive the trip?

addison cooke audioAddison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas is a fun book to listen to in the car or at home.  It’s non-stop action will keep you laughing and not wanting to stop reading (or listening)! The cliffhanger endings (literally, in at least one case!) will leave you wanting to continue onto the next chapter to see what is going to happen.  I did like the narrator, my only question was why they picked someone with a British accent, since only Uncle Nigel is British.  It seems an odd choice to portray a bunch of kids from New York City.  The voices occasionally sounded a little forced, since he was trying to do American accents.  It did make a nice distinction between the narration and the dialogue though.

The author is apparently a screenwriter, and it’s obvious through the course of the story; the action goes from slapstick to heartfelt to dangerous .  In fact, Addison Cooke and the Treasure of the Incas feels a little like someone mixed parts of the movies Goonies and Indiana Jones, with a dash of National Treasure added.   Adults may find it a little predictable in places, but kids from 8 to 12 will enjoy this exciting treasure-hunting adventure!

Audio Review: Falling In

Magic, adventure, and alternate realities.  What could be better?

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Falling In
By Frances O’Roark Dowell, narrated by Jessica Almasy
5CDs, 5 Hours

falling-inIsabelle Bean has always been an unusual girl.  She doesn’t have many friends…other kids seem to know that she’s different.  Isabelle is the girl who sits in the back of the room, almost invisible to the rest of the class. She rarely speaks first, and has bangs hanging over her face so you can’t look at her eyes.  She wears clothes that come from wherever she finds them…right now, her favorite shoes are a pair of red lace-up boots she found stuffed into the corner of a chair on the sidewalk.

falling-in-pbkIsabelle is rather otherworldly, if another kid concentrates hard enough, he or she can almost see the silver sliver of light that connects  the top of her head to the bottom bump of her spine.  Kids don’t want to sit too close, because something about that silver thread tells them that if they get touched by it, Isabelle might just tangle them up in it and take them into a dark space where they will never be found.

But Isabelle is used to it.  She just makes her own way in the world, picking out words and ideas and rearranging them into stories.  Other kids aren’t going to keep her down, no sir!  Isabelle Bean keeps hope in her pocket, and listens to the buzzing that always seems to be just on the edge of her hearing.

And then…one day…she opens a closet door where the buzzing is loud, and falls through to another world.

Because of her red boots, the people in the world think she’s a witch!  Still, Isabelle feels like this world suits her just a little better than her own.  Can Isabelle Bean figure out how to prove that she’s not a witch, rescue the REAL witch, and find her way back home?

falling-in-audioFalling In was a fun audiobook, full of references to everything from fairy tales to Alice in Wonderland to The Wizard of Oz.  The chatty narration was fun to listen to; it felt like the narrator was talking directly to me. Isabelle’s adventures were both fun and a little scary, and her practicality and imagination both helped her survive. Isabelle Bean is a girl I would want in my corner if I fell through to another world.

Falling In would be a fun book to listen to on your own, or for a light-hearted car ride.  The books is for kids ages nine and up, but the audio book could be accessible to kids in first or second grade who enjoy fantasy.  Grown ups will enjoy picking up the references to older fantasy books.

Read-alikes: A Tale Dark and Grimm by Adam Gidwitz, A Series of Unfortunate Events by Lemony Snicket, and The Incorrigible Children of Ashton Place by Maryrose Wood.

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Give this book a try!  And, as always, if you would like an audiobook or book recommendation, ask one of our librarians.  We’re always happy to share some of the books we enjoyed.  If you would like to see some of BellaOnBooks previous audio reviews, click here.

::Kelly::

 

 

The Magicians of Caprona Audio Book Review–Fantasy!

Looking for something to listen to on the family car trip to Grandma’s?  Try one of these!

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The Magicians of Caprona, by Diana Wynne Jonesmagicians-of-caprona-2
Narrated by Gerard Doyle
7 CDs, 8 hours

The Montanas and the Petrocchis are the two most famous spell-casting families in the great city of Caprona.  The crests of the Montana winged horse and the Petrocchi leopard top the best spells and  grace all the magical (and non-magical) buildings and bridges across the city, and have for hundreds of years.  It’s unfortunate that the families have been at war for generations.  The Montana children are warned away from the Petrocchis starting practically at birth.  When the two families are forced to work together on a project, like mending the New Bridge that has started losing it’s magic, they stay as far away from each other as possible.

magicians-of-capronaTonino Montana looks at all the enchantments surrounding him, and wishes he was  better at magic.  But he doesn’t seem to be able to learn spells as quickly as his older brother Paolo, or even his dashing cousin Rinaldo.  Of course,  Tonino can talk to Benvenuto and all the other Montana cats;  Old Niccolo, the head of the Casa Montana,is the only other person who can do that.  But it takes Tonino forever to memorize a spell, and although it works, nothing spectacular ever happens.  At least he’s not like Angelica, the littlest Petrocci girl, who is said to have no control over her magic, and even turned her father bright green.  Tonino would much rather be reading a book than making a spell.

magicians-of-caprona-1But something is not right in Caprona.  The magic is disappearing, and both families blame each other for causing it.  When the Duke of Caprona brings two delegations to the Palace to talk about it, Tonino and Paolo are drafted to be part of it.  Across the room, they see Angelica and her sister Renata as part of the Petrocci delegation–the first Petroccis they have ever seen!  The girls look normal though, not like the monsters the Petroccis are supposed to be.  The boys’ attention is pulled away from the girls when both families are tasked  to find the true words to The Angel of Caprona, a powerful spell that should save their city.  But no one knows quite where to look.  Even the famous enchanter Chrestomanci, called from England to help, cannot fathom where the words might be.

magicians-of-caprona-originalWhen Tonino and Angelica are kidnapped to force the Montanas and the Petroccis to stop using spells, it seems like someone must think someone at one of the Casas is close to a solution. That doesn’t help Tonino and Angelica though, who find themselves stuck in a spell with only each other to rely on.   Can they work together to escape and get back home?

At the two Casas, even with the missing children, the Montanas and Petroccis won’t work together; blaming each other for their missing child.  They’re having a hard time not working spells too.   Paolo and Renata are determined to find their siblings.

As the countdown continues, the youngest members of the Montana and Petrocci families find themselves relying on each other.  Can they work together to find The Angel of Caprona and rescue their city?

magicians-of-caprona-3I love Diana Wynne Jones, and I’ve always loved The Magicians of Caprona.  (It’s also a bit of an Old Favorite.)  In this parallel world, Caprona is one of the city states that make up Italy.  Most of the cities are at war with each other, trying to take over the country.  Florence and Venice want Caprona and it’s spells for themselves.   The Magicians of Caprona originally came out in 1980, and is one of the Chrestomanci books.  The nine-lived enchanter Chrestomanci has a very brief appearance in this one though, although his sense of style and his demeanor make as much of a splash as they usually do.

Gerald Doyle narrates this title; he does most of the Diana Wynne Jones books.  I love his voice, it’s very smooth, and his accent is quite enjoyable.  He does a wonderful job making characters sound different, without changing his voice too much.  I would recommend any of the books he narrates–I’ve never been disappointed with his performances.

I would highly recommend The Magicians of Caprona, both as a book to read and an audio book for kids ages 8 and up.  With it’s subtle humor and intriguing setting, it would be as accessible for adults  listening in the car on a family trip as well as kids and teens.

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…

::Kelly::

 

 

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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Tomorrow!

::Kelly::

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.

What?

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!

::Kelly::

Four Audio Reviews — Adventure!

It’s always hard to decide how to post audio reviews.  Should I rank them according to how I liked them?  But in that case, should it be best to worst or worst to best?  Do a grab-back and pick?  Should I pick the order in which I listened to them?  Maybe a random combination?

It’s never easy.  This time, I’ll start with the earliest one I listened to, save the best one for last, and mix up the order of the other two.  Hey, it makes sense to me.

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The Genius Wars
By Catherine Jinks, Read by Justine Eyre
10 CDs; 11 Hours, 55 Minutes

genius wars2Cadel Piggott is a genius.  He’s not exactly modest about it, it’s something he’s known all his life.  He was hacking into high-security computers by the age of eight, and his skills only developed with age.  Cadel as a child was able to do things that no one else could do.  Unfortunately, he was also a criminal, working under an evil mastermind at the direction of Prosper English, the man he believed to be his father.

Now though, things are finally going his way. At fifteen, Cadel is in his first year at University. He’s living with his foster parents Detective Saul Greeniaus and his wife Fiona, and finally escaping his past.  He has friends, interesting classes, and nothing to worry about.

Until Prosper English is sighted on several surveillance cameras in nearby Sydney, walking across the city as if he hadn’t a care in the world.  Cadel knows that his testimony would put Prosper English in jail for the rest of his life.  Is Prosper in Sydney to get revenge on the boy once believed to be his son?  Cadel certainly thinks so.  When his best friend Sonja is attacked and ends up in hospital, Cadel knows that he has to take desperate measures.  Soon he’s abandoned his new life as a law-abiding teenager and hacking into computer networks, revisiting all his illegal skills and traveling around the globe to protect his new family and friends.

Will Cadel find Prosper English before Prosper English finds him?

genius wars audioThe CD for Genius Wars was very entertaining.  Most of the characters are from Australia, and all the accents sounded varied enough to come from different areas of that country.  There were also British, Canadian and American characters, and they all had accents that sounded true.  Maybe it was the accents that threw me off, but I believed I was listening to a Australian teenage boy reading the story, not a Canadian woman.  (I guess it helped that Justine Eyre has an Australian father, grew up in the Philippines, was educated in Britain and works in both the US and Canada…obviously, her ability to mimic various accents is something that comes to her from experience!)

Being set in Australia, there were some words and phrases that might be troublesome for American listeners, but their meanings were fairly obvious.  I did have to look up “wardriving”– a term which made no sense to me, although I could tell what it was through the story.  (It might be what we call geocaching…but not quite.)

Genius Wars is the third book in a series, preceded by Evil Genius and Genius Squad.  Although I didn’t read the first two books, it wasn’t difficult to come in on the third book.  I’m sure I missed things, but the story hung together tightly and made sense.  I did wonder about a few past connections (and I want to read the two earlier books anyway) but I think anyone who picks up Genius Wars cold will enjoy it as an adventure novel and not worry about what they might have missed.

Genius Wars has plenty of action, loads of dangerous situations and some skillful detective work. It also has quite a bit of humor, which helps alleviate the tension.  Hackers and computer geeks will probably love it, although some of the terms went over MY head!

I’d recommend Genius Wars (and both Genius Squad and Evil Genius) for middle school and high school readers.  Kids a little younger who are familiar with computer terminology who like a fast-paced, involved mystery might enjoy it too.  Our copies of all the books and the books on CD are in our Teen Collection.

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The False Prince
By Jennifer A. Nielsen, Read by Charlie McWade
7 CDs; 8 hours, 14 minutes

false princeSage lives by his wits on the streets.  Officially, he lives at Mrs. Turbeldy’s Orphanage for Disadvantaged Boys,  but that’s only for another few months, until he’s sixteen and is kicked out.  Sage believes in being prepared, so he helps get extra points with Mrs. Turbeldy by “acquiring” a few things she needs for herself and the boys in the orphanage.  It’s not his fault that other people call it stealing.  When Sage is caught by the henchman of a foreign noble after stealing a roast from a butcher in the market, he has no idea how much his life is about to change.

Conner offers Mrs. Turbeldy money for Sage, and she sells him to the noble. Sage takes issue with this and tries to escape…unsuccessfully.  When he wakes up, he’s tied in the back of a wagon, surrounded by three other boys.  All four look remarkably similar, as if they could be brothers.

Conner explains that he’s looking for a boy, one who can learn quickly and keep his mouth shut. It seems that there is a problem with the throne in Conner’s country, and he’s looking for someone who could play the part of a missing prince.  Prince Jaron was rumored to have been killed by pirate four years ago, but if found, he would be heir to the kingdom. And Conner wants to place whichever of the boys who learns his part best to take Jaron’s place on the throne.  He makes it brutally clear to the boys that the only alternative to participating in his plan is death.

So Sage quickly starts working to be Prince Jaron, along with Roden and Tobias.  As Conner and his henchmen plot, the three boys work hard at swordplay, court intrigue and other royal skills.  But Sage has a plan, and it doesn’t necessarily involve Conner.  With Prince Jaron’s title and kingdom and his own identity on the line, how far will Sage go?

false prince audioThe CD recording for The False Prince is well-done, with just the right pacing.  I loved the voice of the narrator, Carlie McWade. He sounded like a young man, stressed by circumstances and secrets.  He managed to make all the characters sound a little different, with different tones and speeds for their voices.

The False Prince is the first part of a trilogy, but it doesn’t leave you hanging. It’s a complete story in and of itself, but you will want to read the second book, The Runaway King, which came out earlier this year. The third book will be out next year.

The False Prince is a fantasy adventure, and perfect for a family car trip.  I would recommend The False Prince to readers in fifth through ninth grades, and the book on CD would be great for families from fourth grade up.  There is much going on in the story, so if you don’t listen carefully, you might miss some clues to the secrets and lies going on behind the scenes!  There is a bonus interview with the author that is quite interesting, and a missing scene from the book included on the CD.

Our copy of The False Prince as a book is located in both the Juvenile and Teen collections; the CD is in the Juvenile collection due to space issues.

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100 Cupboards
By N.D. Wilson, Read by Russell Horton
5 CDs, 6 hours; 23 minutes

100 cupboardsHenry York has spent all twelve years of his life with overprotective parents in Boston. How overprotective?  Henry had to wear a helmet to play outside, he wasn’t allowed to play sports, and at twelve, he was still riding in the back seat of their car, buckled into a booster seat.  When his parents were kidnapped on a business trip, Henry was put on a bus to Kansas, where his aunt, uncle and cousins live.

Arriving in Kansas, Henry is surprised at how different things are.  Uncle Frank has him ride home in the back of his pickup truck–no safety seat, not even a seat belt!  His Aunt Dotty is warm and welcoming, and not the least bit smothering. And his cousins– Penny, Henrietta and Anastasia—seem happy to meet him and want to take him right outside to play baseball and explore.

The girls have happily (mostly) sacrificed their attic playroom to give Henry a bedroom.  There is a spare bedroom in the house, but it had belonged to their grandfather, who died two years earlier.  He had locked his room, and since that day, no one has been able to get into the room. They’ve tried picking the lock, breaking the windows, chainsawing through the door…but both the door and windows are impervious to everything.

In the attic, Henry starts to hear strange noises from inside the wall, and suddenly plaster starts coming off.  Henry becomes curious and digs, and finds a post office mailbox under the plaster.  Henrietta sees it the next day, and the two of them set to work, pulling off the plaster.  Once it’s gone, they find a wall of 100 cupboards–all different sizes, shapes and types–revealed.  None of them will open.  But where would they go, anyway?  The other side of the wall looks over the field outside.

But then, one does open. And Henry discovers that on the other side is not the field, but a post office somewhere else. When an envelope and postcard appear in the mailbox that are obviously meant for him, Henry decides that he has to find out what is going on with the cupboards. With Henrietta’s help, he finds a key, and suddenly they are both traveling through the cupboards to mysterious places.  Why are the cupboards in the attic?  Where do they all go?  Henry and Henrietta find themselves and their family in terrible danger as they try to solve the mystery.

100 cupboards audio100 Cupboards is the first book in a time-travel/fantasy trilogy.  I found the story to be intriguing and interesting.  However, I had a very hard time with the narrator of this particular book on CD.  Although he did a great voice for a couple of the villains that appear later in the book, his voices for the rest of the characters sounded all the same to me; whiny and irritating. Uncle Frank and Anastasia were the only two that sounded different, and their voices were even more annoying.  People’s voices were drawn out, and the emotions I felt they might be feeling were not evident in the reading.

Now, voices and reading are a very subjective thing, so this may be something that doesn’t bother other listeners.  And I really did want to find out what was going on in Henry’s attic bedroom, so the problems I had with the voices didn’t prevent me from enjoying the story.  I did feel irritated with some of the actions of the characters, and I don’t know if it was because of the story or because of the narration.  But I do feel it’s a fair warning for discerning listeners!

This book is appropriate for third through sixth grade readers, and the audio recording would work with those ages as well.  100 Cupboards is in our Juvenile collection.

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Three Times Lucky
By Sheila Turnage, Read by Michal Friedman
7 CDs, 8 hours

three times luckyMoses LoBeau, rising sixth grader, lives in the small town of Tupelo Landing, population 148.  She lives with The Colonel and Miss Lana, on account of her Upstream Mother losing her during a hurricane eleven years ago.  Mo counts herself lucky to have been found floating downstream on a pile of debris, a tiny newborn, and being found by the Colonel, especially with his memory problems.

Mo helps run Tupelo Landing’s only cafe, which Miss Lana runs and the Colonel owns.  Some days she’s even responsible for opening it and creating the menu.  One summer day, the cafe is the reason Mo can’t go fishing with her best friend, Dale.  He’s a good friend though, and helps her at the cafe instead. And because they’re running the cafe, they’re among the first people in town to meet Detective Joe Starr of Winston-Salem, traveling through to Wilmington to solve a murder.  He stops to ask questions in the cafe though, and angers the Colonel.  Mo is skeptical of Joe Starr’s intentions, and Dale is downright scared, what with him having “borrowed” Mr. Jesse’s boat for their postponed fishing trip and not yet having returned it.  Crime is crime, right?

Summer goes on. Mo sends some more letters in bottles, trying to find her Upstream Mother, Dale returns Mr. Jesse’s boat, and both of them help Dale’s brother, Lavender, with his race car.  Miss Lana is away, but the Colonel helps with the Cafe.  Mo’s sworn enemy, Anna Celeste (otherwise known as Attila) even manages to not be so annoying.  Although the Azalea ladies and Grandmother Miss Lacy Thornton are gossiping about Miss Lana’s absence, things seem to be going about the same as they always go in Tupelo Landing.

But when Mr. Jessie is found murdered, Joe Starr is right there, investigating the murder.  Mo and Dale establish the Desperado Detectives with the intention of helping.  Mo is right there in the middle of everything, finding clues, interviewing witnesses and detecting, even if Joe Starr doesn’t seem to appreciate her assistance.

But when Dale comes under suspicion, and Miss Lana disappears, things have definitely taken a turn for the worse.  If Mo can’t help, who else can?  Mo is determined to find out who killed Mr. Jesse, and maybe, in the midst of all the turmoil, find out who she really is.

three times lucky audioThree Times Lucky  is absolutely wonderful: a little slice of quirky southern life.  Mo is someone I would have wanted to know when I was twelve.  After finishing the story, I wanted to drive straight down to Tupulo Landing and meet everyone that I had just read about!  I loved Three Times Lucky as a story, but the audio recording makes it even better!  As you listen, you absolutely believe you are listening to Mo, complete with her adorable southern accent.  The characters come to life as you listen through their accents, cadence and tones.  Even though Mo is narrating, each person has their own voice.

I especially loved the southern flavor of the town, which is evident in the text, but it’s something that comes alive through the audio recording.  The little idiosyncrasies of southern flavor were more apparent read aloud than they were in the visual text.  There is such a feeling of place that it felt like I was listening to a conversation at Mo’s Cafe.  I listen to books on CD in my car, so every time I had to stop and turn it off, I felt like I should be talking with a southern accent!

I’m not sure what else to say about Three Times Lucky other than it was great.  If you’ve ever listened to Turtle in Paradise, Three Times Lucky reminded me of that book, with a strong sense of place and the perfect marriage of story and narrator.  This book was a Newbery Honor book in 2013, and it was definitely a real winner.

Three Times Lucky is the perfect book for a family car ride.  The book is probably best for fourth through sixth grade readers.  There are some elements of the murder mystery that may make it difficult for the youngest readers, but on the whole, the audio recording works for everyone.   Three Times Lucky is my favorite audio recording of this entry and my favorite of the year, so far!

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And there you have it.  It took me almost as long to write this as it did to listen to one of the CDs!  I hope you’ll try one of these and enjoy!

::Kelly::