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::

Two Audio Reviews that will make you think

Summer is a great time to listen to audio books, whether you’re driving back and forth to the beach, to camp or to visit relatives.  Audio books make the trip go faster and, if the whole car is listening, give you something to talk about along the way.

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Okay For Now
by Gary D. Schmidt, Read by Lincoln Hoppe
8 CDs, 9 hours, 18 minutes
Winner of an Odyssey Honor Award for Audiobooks

Doug Swieteck is not in the least bit happy when his father’s temper causes him to lose his job. Instead of just finding another one in the city, his father calls an old buddy, Ernie Echo, who gets him work at the papermill he works for in upstate New York. So Doug, his mother and his older brother have to give away everything that doesn’t fit in a pickup truck and move.  One of Doug’s classmates shows up as Doug’s mom is giving away her plants and gives Doug a jacket signed by his hero, Joe Pepitone.

But even Joe Pepitone’s jacket can’t save the day. Stupid Marysville is a small town, and The Dump, as he calls the family’s new home, is disgusting. Doug has to share a tiny room with his brother, the criminal mind. He has to hide Joe Pepitone’s jacket from him too, or the criminal mind would take it and trade it for something else.

On the first stupid Saturday in stupid Marysville, Doug ends up on the steps of the local library, where he meets Lil Spicer, who teaches him how to drink a really cold Coke. She also gets him a job with her father, delivering groceries for Spicer’s Deli. On his route, Doug meets some of the characters in Marysville, like  and Mrs. Windemere, an elderly playwright with a penchant for different ice cream flavors every week.

And in the library, Doug discovers a treasure–a book of John James Audubon’s Birds of America. The book is in a glass case, but Doug is fascinated by the Arctic Tern, whose eyes seem to see more of life than Doug could have imagined.

But life in Marysville is challenging with a family like Doug’s. His brother, the criminal mind, is suspected of robbing several local stores. His father is spending more time with Ernie Echo than with his family. And Doug’s mother is thinking of her oldest son, serving in Vietnam.  Doug’s life in Marysville is filled with ups and downs, love and loss, discoveries and and learning how to see what life is really all about.  His time there changes his life, but his presence in Marysville changes the lives of the residents just as much.

I loved Okay for Now, and I adored the audio recording. The book is set in 1967, and full of details about life in the 60s.  (For instance, Doug earns $5 for a full day of deliveries, and the library is only open on Saturdays.) This was the year of the Apollo Lunar Landing and of Vietnam war protests. It was a turning point year in many ways, and Doug manages to survive things that kids today would consider horrible treatment.

I do have to admit, it took me the full first disc to get into the story. I didn’t like Doug’s accent (he sounded like an imitation Vinnie Barbarino) and I was tired of listening to “So what?” and what Joe Pepitone would and wouldn’t do. But I stuck with it, and I’m extremely glad that I did.

This is a book that could lead to some great discussions for book groups or for families. I would recommend it to middle school and high school readers, but certainly a sophisticated fifth grader could read and enjoy it.  It is recommended for listeners ages 10 through 16, and would be a wonderful sound recording for a family trip, especially with middle school students.

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No Passengers Beyond This Point
By Gennifer Choldenko, Read by Becca Battoe, Jesse Bernstein and Tara Sands
5 CDs, 6 Hours, 6 Minutes

Finn Tompkins is the middle child (and only boy)  between two very different sisters. His older sister, India, is into fashion and gossip and dating–a typical 14 year old.  His younger sister, Mouse, is a genius who has a unique outlook on life and an interest in science and planets.  They live with their mother, who is a teacher. Their father died after a car accident on the way to the hospital before Mouse was born.

When a series of bad decisions leads to their mother losing their house to foreclosure, she decides that Finn, India and Mouse will go live with their Uncle Red. Although she’ll join them eventually, she will have to complete the school year and stay with their aunt in town. It’s evident to the entire family that four more people just couldn’t all fit into Uncle and Aunt’s tiny house.

No matter how hard India argues that she HAS to stay with her friend Maddie…no matter how much Finn wants to stay and play basketball with his team…no matter how much Mouse cries and begs to stay with their mother, she remains firm. The kids are put on the plane to Red Fort and Uncle .

But when they arrive at the airport, it’s not Red Fort.  It’s not even Denver, or Colorado.  The man waiting for them in the airport turns out to be a boy disguised with a mustache. He drives a pink feathered taxi.  The kids are delivered to Red Bird, where crowds of people cheer and celebrate their arrival. India, Finn and Mouse are each given a small wooden puzzle piece and told the only way to return home is for all of them to decide they want to go home, and to join their wooden pieces together. They’re also given a clock, and told that they have 13 hours to decide, but that time will go differently for each of them.  Then each one is brought to all their new house, designed specifically to their interests, with an adult parent-substitute who will provide for all their needs, sometimes even before they ask.

India loves it (she has a direct line via computer to Maddie), Mouse is happy (her new “mom” has all the time in the world for her, plus she loves science experiments), but Finn questions where they are and what’s going on. His questions lead to him being kicked out of his house and trading time for information.

The more Finn discovers, the more he realizes that he has to find his sisters and get home. Unfortunately, it won’t be as easy as Finn thinks, because there are a lot of obstacles in his way, and the biggest one might be India.  And the clocks are ticking down…

No Passengers Beyond This Point was a very interesting book to listen to. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on until halfway through the book, and without the actual print copy I couldn’t flip through to see if I was right! It wasn’t until the very last chapter that the full story is revealed in a very clever fashion.  This really IS one of those books where to say too much is to give away the story.  However, I am very curious to know what other readers or listeners think!

I loved that there were multiple narrators for this book–each chapter is from the viewpoint of India, Finn or Mouse, and each had a different narrator.  This was much more effective than a single narrator would be, and gave each of the siblings a unique voice.   The pacing was great.

No Passengers Beyond This Point is recommended for listeners ages 8 to 14. I’d say the book is accessible to kids in grades four through six.  If you like adventures and puzzles, try this book. It’s enjoyable both on tape and in print.  It would also be a great discussion book for a parent-child book group.

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Try either of these audio titles on your next trip, and see what you think!

::Kelly::

Audio Reviews – Three series fantasy(ish) books!

These three books on CD have been waiting since February vacation to be reviewed!  All three are sort of fantasy…but not really.  One mysterious fantasy with some humor, one sort of dystopian science fantasy, and one fantasy alternate universe historical.

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Whales on Stilts
by M.T. Anderson, Read by Marc Cashman
3 CDs, 3 hours, 3 minutes

Lily Gefelty is a normal girl.  Sure, her hair hangs over her face so that she can only see out of one eye at a time, and her best friends both have their own book series, and her father works in an abandoned warehouse for an evil genius…but other than that, she’s pretty normal. Who knew that she’d soon be involved in a plot to take over the world?

The problem starts on Career Day when Lily’s dad, Mr. Gefelty, brings her to work. Mr. Gefelty is in sales, but he has to use the same secret door to the abandoned warehouse and check in with the receptionist, just like all the mad scientists do.  Lily can’t help but notice the secrecy about everything, the signage and guards everywhere.  Lily wants to linger and figure out what might be going on, but she can’t because (as her father tells her) the guards get nervous and start shooting if people don’t keep  moving.  Mr. Gefelty tells her that there’s no mysterious hidden agenda–the company is simply devoted to expanding cetacean pedestrian opportunities.

But when Lily meets Larry, her father’s boss, her suspicions only grow.  Larry is wearing a pin-striped suit, has bluish hands, and has a sack over his head with eye holes cut out for him to see.  There may even be the slightest hint of a tail under the suit. When Larry dumps a vat of briny water over his head in the middle of the conversation, no one even looks surprised. Despite her father’s reassurances, Lily knows something weird is going on.

Luckily, Lily’s best friends Jasper Dash, Boy Technonaut and Katie Mulligan (who doesn’t have a title but does have a book series of over 200 books dealing with her adventures with zombies, killer bugs, ghost teachers and other supernatural creatures) are ready and willing to help.  Between Lily’s investigation, Jasper’s inventions and Katie’s fighting skills, the kids think they can figure out what is going on.  But that’s when the whales appear, with lasers and stilts.  Can three kids save the world (or at least their town) from an unthinkable threat?

The audio book is read by Marc Cashman, who is a well-known voice actor. At the beginning, I thought the pacing was rather slow; as the story progressed, it became obvious that it started slow so that there could be better effects during the action-packed portions of the story. And the action-packed parts were very good!  The pace, tempo and emotions in the reader’s voice varied.

Whales on Stilts is a very quirky little story, but there was a lot in it. Whales on Stilts is the first book in M.T. Anderson’s Thrilling Tales: Pals in Peril. Each book features a story that’s a unique blend of mystery, laughs and thrills…sort of like the Hardy Boys were fighting a villain from Saturday morning cartoons alongside  Buffy the Vampire Slayer, with Anastasia Krupnik helping them.  It’s a blend that might appeal to parents as well as elementary school listeners.

I’d recommend this to fans of Goosebumps and detective series books. It might be a little frightening (or incomprehensible) to kids younger than second grade.  It’s a fun, short book for a car trip.  If you listen to the CD, make sure you look at the book as well…the illustrations are funny, and add a lot of extra clues to the story.

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The Queen of Attolia
by Megan Whalen Turner, Performed by Jeff Woodman
8 CDs, 9 hours

In this sequel to The Thief, Eugenides is still working for Eddis, his queen, trying to get information to aid their kingdom.  However, things are not going quite as well this time, and Gen is on the run.  Even though he’s slipped in and out of the palace of Attolia hundreds of time, this time, he’s been cornered. With the Queen of Attolia anticipating his every action, Gen uses all his skills to escape, but in the end he is captured and thrown into Attolia’s prison.

Although Eddis manages to ransom him, Gen is first subjected to an ancient punishment for thievery…his hand is cut off.  Sent back to Eddis one-handed and in terrible shape, Eugenides has to recover his health, his sense of adventure and his skills as a thief…and deal with his feelings for the Queen of Attolia.

During his recovery, war has erupted between Attolia and Eddis. Once he’s recovered, Gen knows that he is the one to end that war…and so Eugenides, Queen’s Thief of Eddis takes back his mantle and comes up with a plan.  All he has to do is has to steal a man, steal a war, steal a queen…and win a kingdom.

The audio book is read by Jeff Woodman, who also read The Thief (as well as the other sequels The King of Attolia and A Conspiracy of Kings.)  His voice is light and believable–which is not easy when the character he’s reading is hiding so many things!  He does a great job with all the characters, using his phrasing and tone to distinguish between their voices.

I love this series, and I love both the book and the audio rendition of The Queen of Attolia.  There are a lot of things going on in this, both on the surface and hidden beneath.  Little clues are interspersed throughout the unfolding story, and the reader or listener has to be watching to catch them all.  It’s difficult to talk about this story without worrying that you’ll be giving too much away!  All the Megan Whalen Turner’s books are stories where, if you go back and re-read, you’ll find all kinds of nuances that may have been missed or misinterpreted the first time around.

I’d recommend The Queen of Attolia to middle and high school readers, just because of the sophistication of the story.  Adults would enjoy it too.  Fantasy fans in fifth grade who enjoyed The Thief would enjoy this book too.  I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys Diana Wynne Jones, Neil Gaiman or Terri Pratchett.

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The Unwanteds
by Lisa McCann, Narrated by Simon Jones
6 CDs, 7.5 hours

Every year in Quill, thirteen-year-olds are sorted into three categories: Necessaries, Wanteds and Unwanteds. The Necessaries go on to do the boring, routine jobs that keep the city operating.  The intelligent and strong Wanteds go to the University and learn how to govern the walled city. And the artistic Unwanteds are sent to the Death Farm to be terminated.

Alex has known he would be an Unwanted since the day he was caught drawing with a stick in the dirt.  He doesn’t mind leaving his Necessary parents, but he regrets his separation from his twin, Aaron, who’s been declared Wanted.  He’s extremely hurt therefore, when Aaron turns his back and walks away as if it doesn’t matter…as if HE doesn’t matter. Crushed, Alex mounts the steps to the bus that will take him and  the 22 other Unwanteds purged this cycle. Their journey will end outside the gates the city. All the Unwanteds know that their fate is to be tossed into the lake of boiling oil on the Death Farm.

Instead, all the children are surprised after the Quillitary bus leaves, and the guardians and soldiers they expect to lead them to their death instead throw off their disguises and reveal the hidden land of Artime, a creative paradise run by the enigmatic Mr. Tomorrow, where statues talk, magic is learned, and every Unwanted ever purged from Quill survives and thrives. The children are given rooms and lessons, learning how to paint, make music, dance and sing.

Even as the Unwanteds learn creative magic and art, they are also being taught spells of destruction.  For if they are ever discovered, Quill will try to destroy them.  But Alex cannot forget Aaron, and wants his twin to join him. The bond between twins is strong, and Alex thinks to use that to rescue his brother. While Aaron is working to better Quill, Alex is trying to find a way to reunite them. Will Alex’s longing for his brother cost Artime the ultimate price?

The narrator of The Unwanteds audio book has a gravelly, very deep voice, which threw me at first.  It seemed too harsh for the story at first. But in a land where statues talk, as do flying turtles, it turned out that the narrator was perfect for the story. He’s just as convincing as a thirteen-year old-boy and a twelve-year-old girl l as he is at voicing a seven-foot granite statue.

The Unwanteds has been described as a blend of Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, and that really is an apt description.  It has the magic and heart of Harry Potter, and the dystopian fight-to-the-death background of The Hunger Games.  I think it’s a little more accessible to younger readers than The Hunger Games, but there’s almost as much mayhem and destruction in the final battle.  It is aimed at grades five through eight, and that is definitely the audience that will appreciate it most.  There’s definitely some disturbing violence at the end, as the battle between Quinn and Artime comes to a head.

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So if you’re looking for a good book on CD for your next vacation car trip, try one of these titles.  And let us know if you’d like these titles.  If you have any suggestions for other books to listen to as a family or as an individual, ask one of our librarians!  We’re here to help.

::Kelly::