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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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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The 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 & 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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The 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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