Audio & Book Review: Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training

Another fun book for a car ride or plane trip!  This is the second book in the Pip Bartlett series, but I liked the first one so much, I picked up the second one as soon as we got it in at the library.  If you like humor and fantasy, with a little mischief and crazy situations mixed in, this book is for you and your family.

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Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training, by Jackson Pearce & Maggie Stiefvater
Read by Cassandra Morris & Peter McGowan
4 Hours, 20 Minutes – 4 CDs

pip bartlett's guide to unicorn trainingPip Bartlett is still in small-town Georgia for the summer with her veterinarian aunt and her cousin Callie.  Aunt Emma’s Cloverton Clinic for Magical Creatures is still a pretty exciting place to be, even after she and her new friend Tomas have solved the mystery of the fire-starting Fuzzles.  (This is all in the first book, Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Magical Creatures.)  Even though Pip is a little worried that all of the adventures of the summer are over, she’s soon proven wrong when she finds out that the Triple Trident–the most famous unicorn show in the country–is being held right in Cloverton!

Because of her common sense during a crisis at the vet clinic, Pip is hired by Ms. Gould to keep her Rockshines (a sheep like animal that go invisible with any stress) calm and visible before the show.  Pip is eager to get a chance to get behind the scenes at the Triple Trident, and even if Rockshines aren’t very glamorous, they’re still magical!  And when she’s helping, Pip can watch the unicorns, her very favorite magical creature.  Even if they are rather vain, they are beautiful.

Pip finds out that Regent Maximus, the only unicorn she knows personally, is entered in the show and goes to see him.  But poor Regent Maximus is the complete opposite of what show unicorns are supposed to represent. Instead of being proud and majestic, he’s fearful and cowering.  Mr. Henshaw, his owner, promptly hires Pip and Tomas to train him to be able to walk across the threshold of the stable and into the show ring.  Two jobs!?  Can they manage to help both adults with their magical animals?

Training is well underway with Regent Maximus and the rockshines when disaster strikes!  Someone cuts off the beautiful tail of one of the unicorns.  On purpose!  Is someone trying to cheat so their unicorns win?  Or is there a mysterious person trying to sabotage the show? Pip uses her own special talent–talking to magical creatures–to investigate.  If they can discover who is responsible, they can figure out why.  But even the magical creatures are flummoxed.

Can two kids manage to do everything that needs to be done?  Can Pip still train Regent Maximus to compete with this creepy unicorn stalker on the prowl? Will Pip and Tomas solve the mystery before it’s too late?

pip bartlett's guide to unicorn training audioThe audio recording for Pip Bartlett’s Guide to Unicorn Training is absolutely delightful!  There are two readers; one for Pip’s narration, and one to read the entries for Jeffrey Higgleston’s Guide to Magical Creatures.

I love both voices…Cassandra Morris sounds exactly like a girl who could talk to magical creatures, but she also sounds perfect as Aunt Emma, Callie, Mr. Henshaw and every other character who comes into the story.  She does a wonderful voice for all the magical creatures, Regent Maximus in particular is perfect! Her voice is wonderfully paced for the action.

I would highly recommend both of the Pip Bartlett books, both as books and as audio.  The book has lots of great pictures from Jeffrey Higgleston’s guide, with Pip’s comments and changes.  So if you do listen to the book, you should also check out the print copy for all the extras!  I don’t know how many more Pip Bartlett books are coming, but I hope that the series goes on for many volumes!

Pip Bartlett’s Guide books are probably best for third through sixth grade readers, but the audio is good for all ages–kids as young as five should enjoy both the humor and the mystery.  Some similar titles are Fridays at the Castle by Jessica George, The Imaginary Veterinary series by Suzanne Selfors, and The Familiars series by Adam Jay Epstein and Andrew Jacobson.

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As always, if you need help finding a book or need suggestions for books to read, just ask one of our librarians!

::Kelly::

 

Another Audio Review: Full of Beans!

Full of Beans
By Jennifer L. Holm, Read by Kirby Heyborne
3 CDs, 3.5 hours

full of beansBeans Curry has plans.  It’s 1934, and the country is in the Great Depression.  There’s no money anywhere for fun things; Beans’ family is just managing to squeak by.  His mother is taking in mending, and his father has left Key West to find work in New Jersey, so he can send money back to the family. Beans’ plan is to find a way to  make a whole lot of money so he can get his father back home, give his mother time to relax, and get some funds so he can go to the movies every week.

His first venture leads to him being cheated by Winky; the restaurant owner had promised Beans a dime for finding and cleaning cans for his business, but when Beans and his brother Kermit show up with the cans, Winky says it was fifty cans for a dime.  Hot, sweaty and angry, Beans casts out his net wider.  Several schemes with  his friends Pork Chop and Too Bad don’t go as  planned.  But when Beans hooks up with rum-runner Johnny Cakes, he suddenly has a lucrative job!

Too bad that it’s illegal.

Is the promise of money more important than honesty and friendship?  Can a kid from Key West find a way to survive?  Beans finds himself caught in the middle of some big lies and some small ones.  But he also discovers that keeping your eyes open and seeing what’s around you can lead to some pretty important discoveries…and some surprising sources of income.

full of beans audioFull of Beans is a sort of prequel to the Newbery-Award Winning Turtle in Paradise.  (Beans is Turtle’s cousin, and although Turtle is the main character, Beans has a major part to play.)  Beans is a character with a lot of character and an authentic voice…and Kirby Heyborne does a great job of translating that voice on CD.  In Full of Beans, Beans and his friends come to life, and you can practically feel the heat of Key West around you as you listen to the narration.

This is a relatively short book, and would be great to listen to on a short car trip.  If you’re going to Key West, you should definitely read or listen to this book…there’s a lot of history about how Key West developed, and what the residents did to help that happen.   Kids in grades three through six would enjoy reading this book, and it would be a good listen for kids as young as six through adults.

And if you listen to the audio, look at the book as well.  The afterword, with pictures from Key West in the 1930s, is well worth checking out, and so is the list of internet resources, with links to finding more information.

::Kelly::

Another Quick Audio Review!

Looking for a new audio book to listen to in your car or on the go?  Look no further!

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Stink No Surrender
By Carl Hiaasen, Read by Kirby Heyborne
7 CDs — 7 hours, 50 minutes

skink no surrender bookRichard has always been best friends with his cousin Malley.  She’s kind of a wild child, but she always tells Richard what she’s up to.  When he returns from the beach where he was supposed to meet Malley, her  parents tell him that she’s left for school and has only left him a voicemail message, Richard is suspicious.  Everyone knew that Malley was extremely unhappy about being shipped off to boarding school in New Hampshire.  So Richard starts to snoop around, and realizes that Malley hasn’t gone to school, she’s run off to meet someone she met online.

Richard is worried, but he doesn’t want to get Malley in trouble.  Before he learned of Malley’s disappearance, he had met a stranger on the beach.  A stranger who seemed determined to rescue endangered turtles and who had a stubborn sense of fairness. Richard had been intrigued, and spent some time  investigating the man’s background.  Skink, aside from the being listed as dead, is a former governor of Florida who has a reputation for relishing working for a cause, and being on the side of justice. And he has a local detective who vouches for him.  So when Richard needs advice, Skink seemed like a good source of information.

With no preparation and an alarming phone call from Malley, Richard and Skink set off to rescue his cousin. Florida is full of dangerous creatures, crazy weather, and outrageous people, but somewhere out there is Malley.  And they’re going to find her, no matter what it takes.

skink no surrender audioI really enjoyed the narrator of Skink No Surrender.  He was able to change his voice for every character, and keep you right on the edge of your seat.  Skink especially is a character, and his booming voice is fun to hear.  This audio has everything I look for in something to keep me listening.

Skink No Surrender bridges the gap between Hiaasen’s  teen books and his adult books; in fact, Skink is a character that appears in many of Hiaasen’s adult novels.  Because of the situation with Malley that sets off Richard’s and Skink’s rescue mission, this book is most appropriate for high school students.  The details of Malley’s time with her kidnapper aren’t detailed, but it’s obvious that she doesn’t want to be with him.  So I wouldn’t recommend this title for elementary students, or sensitive middle school students.  With that said, it’s a very enjoyable read–whether it’s the print or the audio version.

 

 

 

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::

 

 

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!

::Kelly::

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.

::Kelly::