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.





Audio Review: The War That Saved My Life

Whoo-hoo!  Another audio book review!  One to go on our “top ten” list, too.

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The War That Saved My Life
By Kimberly Brubaker Bradley, read by Jayne Entwistle
6 CDs, 7 1/2 Hours

war-that-saved-my-lifeAda and her little brother Jamie live in a one-room flat in London with their Mam.  It’s 1939, and a war with Germany is looming.  Ada doesn’t know much about the war; because she has a ‘bad foot’, Mam doesn’t allow her to ever leave their room, even for school.  She has grown up staying in the flat all day, sitting for hours in the chair by the window, watching Jamie play with his friends and waving at neighbors she’s never met.  Unless it’s a day that Mam is angry with her, then she’s stuffed into the cupboard under the sink or not given any food.

One day, Jamie comes home with the news that the children from their neighborhood are being evacuated to the country because the government is expecting London to be bombed.  Mam scoffs, but decides that one less mouth to feed might be a good thing.  She’s not letting Ada go though. No, Mam says Ada has to stay and get bombed, if it comes to that. Both children protest, but Mam locks them in and leaves for the pub.

No one at school knows Ada even exists, but she’s determined to go away with Jamie. Her practice standing on her bad foot comes in handy for their escape. When the morning comes to evacuate on the train, she steals her mother’s shoes and limps, then crawls, then gets a lift from one of Jamie’s friends.  Ada and Jamie make it to the country…only to be left out when everyone else is chosen.  Not one villager seems to want two dirty children with no belongings.

Then Lady Thornton, the woman in charge of the evacuated children, takes them in hand and leaves them to stay with Susan Smith, in a big old empty house.  Even though Miss Smith claims she is unkind and unfit to care for children, living with her is better than living with Mam.  As Ada and Jamie start exploring the world around them, fall in love with horses (Ada) and planes (Jamie), they start to trust Susan.  But will Susan want to keep them?  Will the war reach them, even in the country?  Will their Mam come to take them away, as the other refuge children are taken back?  And what about spies?

A little bit adventure, a little bit coming-of age, a little bit historical fiction, this is an amazing story about strength and courage and family.  The War That Saved My Life was a 2016 Newbery Award Honor Book Winner.

war-that-saved-my-life-audioThe sound recording of The War That Saved My Life is simply wonderful.  I loved the narrator, Jayne Entwistle.  She did a terrific job finding each character’s voice, and I was truly impressed at how she could infuse her voice with emotions.  You could hear the laughter and the tears in her voice as Ada spoke.  This audio book is right up there in my top ten recordings of children’s books.  It also won the 2016 Odyssey Award for Excellence in Audio Production, so I’m not the only one to think that way!

The War That Saved My Life is for kids in grades 5 – 8, although I think adults would enjoy it just as much as their kids do.  The sound recording would be great to share on a family car trip, although it might be difficult for a child younger than nine or ten, because of some tough subject matter.  (In addition to the consequences of being at war and the loss of loved ones, Ada and Jamie’s Mam is a thoroughly horrible person, and her treatment of the children might be difficult to hear.)  Listening to it as a family though, would provide some great groundwork for discussion about war, and families, and strength of spirit.

Some read-alike suggestions:  Turtle in Paradise by Jennifer Holm, Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage, Homecoming by Cynthia Voigt.

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Remember, if you would like recommendations for book or books on CD, ask one of our librarians.  Or check out some of our earlier recommendations here at BellaOnBooks!




Five Delightful Audio Books!

It’s a run of fun books on CD to listen to alone or to share with your family!

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half a chanceHalf a Chance
By Cynthia Lord, Narrated by Maria Cabezas
4.75 Hours; 4 CDs

Lucy has just moved–again–with her parents to New Hampshire.  This is the first time their new home has been on a lake, but other than that, it’s kind of the same.  At least it’s summer, and Lucy won’t be the “new kid” in the middle of a school year.  But since most of the time, summer vacations are spent with friends you meet at school, she’s not sure what she’s going to do all alone.

half a chance audioThen she meets Nate, the kid who’s spending the summer at the lake with his family.  He’s staying with his grandmother,  who practically adopts Lucy into the family.  When Lucy’s father, a professional photographer, leaves shortly after they’ve arrived, Lucy comes up with a different way to stay close to him.  He’s supposed to judge a photography contest when he returns, and Lucy is determined to get his attention by winning.  She doesn’t want him to know he’s looking at her photos though, so Nate agrees to help her.  She’ll do the photography, and he’ll help her find ways to interpret the themes.  They work well together.  But then Lucy realizes that something is up with Grandma Lilah, and her photographs reveal things that Nate would rather not see.  Can they still work together and be friends?

Half a Chance is a poignant story about life and friendship, beginnings and endings.  I really enjoyed the narrator, who made the story come to life.  Highly recommended for kids in grades four through seven.  If you vacation in New Hampshire, like loons, or are a photographer, you have to read or listen to this story!

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By Carl Hiaasen, Read by Michael Welch
5 Hours, 23 Minutes, 5 CDs

Noah always knew his father could be a little irrational about saving the environment, but there’s irrational and there’s just plain crazy!  When his father is arrested for sinking a casino boat, Noah is prepared to deal with the fallout of fines and a grumpy mother, which is usually what happens.  But this time, his father refuses to pay the fine, declaring he will stay in jail until the casino owner answers for his crimes–namely, dumping the raw sewage from the boat’s waste tanks every night into the Florida Keys.  And there are reporters from newpapers and TV talking to him about it in jail!

But there’s no proof, and soon the casino is up and running again.  Noah’s father is still in jail, and his mother is talking the D word…divorce.  Noah decides that he has to prove his father is right, and his little sister Abbey plans to help.  Together, they come up with a plan.  But when the guy who was going to tell the truth on the casino order vanishes, leaving behind a blood-stained car, Noah and Abbey realize that maybe they’ve bit off more than they can chew.  With the bad guys after the whole family, can they prove their father is right in time?

flush audioIt’s not perfect, but the audio recording of Flush is enjoyable. The narrator of this sound recording has a pleasant voice, but he does tend to swallow some of his words when he’s reading, and it’s sometimes a bit difficult to tell who is talking.  However, the story is compelling, the characters are quirky and fun, and the mystery will keep you guessing, so it’s easy to ignore a few flaws.

Flush is best for kids in fifth through eighth grades, and it’s good for a car trip too, especially if your final destination is Florida!

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fantastic family whippleThe Fantastic Family Whipple
By Matthew Ward, Narrated by Steven Crossley
10.25 Hours, 9 CDs

To the Whipple Family, the most important thing in the world is achieving World Records.  From the moment they’re born (on March 1st for Mr. and Mrs. Whipple, Henry, Simon, Cordelia, Penelope, Edward, Charlotte, Lenora, Franklin, Abigail, Beatrice, George and Ivy) –they’re breaking records for everything from holding heir breath to competitive eating.  The only exception is Arthur, who was born on February 29th and who, try as he might, can’t manage to break a record for anything.

But when his latest attempt at record breaking by hopping on one foot while cracking a bullwhip fails in front of the birthday party audience fails, Mr. Whipple makes a slip and reveals to Arthur that there might be a curse on the family.  Arthur manages to put a few random clues together and is soon tracking down an unusual pair of menacing clowns.  With the help of the family’s cook and butler, and Ruby, the daughter of Mr. Whipple’s nemesis, Arthur is soon tracking down the source of the curse.  But will he be in time to save the Whipple Family?

fantastic family whipple audioI loved the narrator of The Fantastic Family Whipple; Stephen Crossley did an excellent job creating many different voices, filling out a huge cast of characters with creativity.  I enjoyed the narration more than the story, in fact.  (But that may be that pesky problem I have with trying to read real-life logic into fantasy worlds.)   If you don’t mind not thinking about things like how a family of fifteen can spend all their time trying to break world records or how a four year old can be a competitive eater, then you’ll probably love The Fantastic Family Whipple.  If you Do have a problem with that, just sit back and listen to the voices and imagine the characters.  You’ll still enjoy it.   The book is for kids ages 8 to 12, and the recording is good for all ages.

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escape from mr lemoncello's libraryEscape From Mr. Lemoncello’s Library
By Chris Gravenstein, Read by Jesse Bernstein
6 Hours, 20 Minutes; 5 CDs

Kyle Keelly has spent all of his life competing with his two older brothers–one a jock, the other a brain–and the only time he wins, sometimes, is when it comes to the games they play created by Mr. Lemoncello.  Most of them are board games, but with dice and wacky rules and physical components that give anyone the opportunity to win!  So when Kyle learns that Mr. Lemoncello, the world-famous game maker and library enthusiast, is building a state-of-the-art library in his very own town, he’s intrigued.  And when he learns that there’s going to be a contest for all ten-year-olds to write an essay where the winners get the chance to be the first to stay overnight in the new library, he plans to win.  Too bad that he didn’t realize what the prize was until five minutes before the essay was due.

However, Kyle manages to be one of the kids spending the night.  And after an exciting night finding solving one mystery, when they wake up the next morning, they learn that there’s an even greater contest they can choose to participate in–the first kid to follow the clues hidden throughout the library and escape the building wins an unbelievable prize!  Kyle is determined to be that kid.  As the games get harder, Kyle figures out that working together may be the best chance to win.  But with the other kids go along with that?  See if you can figure out the clues as the story unfolds!

escape from mr lemoncello's library audioMaybe it’s the librarian in me, but I thoroughly enjoyed Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library, both the book and the sound recording.  It’s sort of a cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, The Mysterious Benedict Society, The Kingdom Keepers series, and the Summer Reading Program!  If you read the book, the clues are pictured and slightly easier to put together.  The book on CD is good too, even if it’s a little harder to follow audio clues.  The narrator is wonderful, with distinctive voices for the kids and great voices for the adults.  Pure enjoyment all around!

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello’s Library is a thrilling puzzler–or a puzzling thriller—right to the very end.  For kids in fourth to seventh grade, this adventure would be a mystery for the whole family to enjoy!  (And I’m really looking forward to reading  The Island of Dr. Libris, Chris Grabenstein’s new book that just came out this week!)

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smek for president 2Smek for President!
By Adam Rex, Read by Bahni Turpin
6 Hours, 5 CDs

My absolute favorite of the bunch!  🙂

This sequel to The True Meaning of Smekday (my favorite audio book EVER–see the original review here) is just as impressive as the first book.  My only complaint is that it ended–it’s just not long enough!

A year after all their adventures saving the world from the alien Gorg (and a bit from J.Lo’s people, the Boov) Tip and J.Lo are a little bored just staying close to home.  They need a vacation.  And also, they kind of have to escape town so that J.Lo won’t get into trouble for attacking and partially eating some college girl’s furry purple boots.  So they decide to take their hovercar Slushious out of mothballs and fly to New Boovworld, one of the moons of Saturn which has become the new home of the Boov.  Except that Tip’s mother isn’t in agreement with their plan.  Tip tricks J.Lo into going anyway, and soon the pair is on their way.

smek for president audioBut once they get there, things become complicated.  J.Lo had planned to wear his disguise helmet (which are sort of like sunglasses for humans) because he knows the Boov are still angry with him for being the reason the Gorg came to Earth.  But when Tip and J.Lo find out that they’ve reached New Boovworld just in time for the presidential elections, with J.Lo’s hero Smek running, J.Lo wants to explain what happened back on Earth.  Little does he know that the Boov call him The Squealer, and he’s considered Public Enemy Number One.  Even though Tip protests, that doesn’t stop J.Lo, he still convices her to come with him to meet Smek.  But right after that meeting, J.Lo and Tip are on the run from Smek, the entire planetful of Boov, a masked Boov assassin, and Dan Landry, the only adult human on New Boovworld, the man who took credit for their hard work saving Earth.  It’s a mess!  But this is Gratuity (Tip) Tucci, and J.Lo.  If anyone can handle it, they can.  Can’t they?

I love both Smek books, I love this author, I love this narrator, I love the whole package!  (Other people must have understood how good it is too, as The True Meaning of Smekday is hitting theaters this month, retitled as Home, a new animated movie from Dreamworks Pictures, starring Jim Parsons and Rihanna.  My only complaint is that they should have used Bahni Turpin as the voice of J.Lo, who was renamed Oh in the movie.)

Anyway, Bahni Turpin is the best, and the sound recording is excellent.  You’ll laugh out loud at the voices she creates, and probably forget that only one person is reading!  Make sure to check out the artwork, either in the book or on the PDF files on the CDs).

Smek for President is best for kids in grades four through seven, and it will be much better if you read The True Meaning of Smekday.  The sound recording for Smek for President is great for all ages, and it would definitely enhance a family car trip.  I highly recommend both books!  I hope that there’s a book three, continuing the adventures of Tip and J.Lo, coming out sometime soon!

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Try one of these books, or one of our many other enjoyable audio selections on your next trip.  Or just to listen to on your drive around town, because it will definitely make it pass faster.  If you need other suggestions, please ask a librarian any time for help!


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!


Three Excellent Teen Audios for Review

Are you looking for something new to listen to (or read?)  Here are three excellent suggestions of good books–one fantasy/science fiction, one fantasy/horror, one fantastic crime caper.  In fact, I’ve been driving longer lately, just so I can finish a chapter or a disc!  What are these great titles?  SO glad you asked…

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By Catherine Fisher, Read by Kim Mai Guest
10 CDs, 11 hours, 37 minutes

IncarceronFinn lives in a prison.  It’s all he can remember.  Incarceron is a sentient prison; it is aware of all the prisoners within it, and it arranges their lives; it has been doing it for generations.  No prisoners have entered or left Incarceron in all that time.  But Finn wasn’t born in the prison–he doesn’t think so, anyway–but when he woke up there, about four years earlier, he was just a terrified boy with no memory of his past.  In order to survive, Finn has learned to function with the holes in his knowledge; he’s even joined a gang and sworn allegiance to his oath-brother, Keiro.  Together, Finn and Keiro have managed to rise to positions of power with one of the warlords of Incarceron.

Claudia is the Wardenincarceron_book_cover of Incarceron’s daughter.  She lives in a beautiful castle, with servants at her beck and call.  She is engaged to Caspar, Earl of Steen, Heir of the Realm. Claudia doesn’t like Caspar much. She actually liked his brother, Prince Giles, who she had been set to marry before he was killed years earlier.  Now, Claudia spends much of her time maintaining her father’s household, or with her tutor, the Sapienti Jared, trying to figure out what plots her father and the Queen are involved in.

Both Finn and Claudia long to escape their worlds, Finn to get Outside of the prison, Claudia, to throw off the rules and protocols that limit her existence.  Neither of them is aware of the other.  But then Finn retrieves a stolen artifact from a prisoner, and Claudia finds a hidden treasure while searching her father’s office…and they find each other through the devices.  Now Finn and Claudia are communicating, and they may be able to help each other achieve their individual goals.

But Incarceron is awake and aware, and it has been keeping prisoners captive for hundreds of years.  No one has ever escaped, and Incarceron is not going to let Finn be the first.  And Outside, the Warden and the Queen are not without their own resources.  How far will Finn and Claudia manage to go before someone stops them?

incarceron cdI loved Incarceron the book, and I loved Incarceron the spoken recording.  Kim Mai Guest has a very unique way of separating the narration from the characters.  When she’s reading the descriptive passages, she uses an American accent. All of the character’s voices, however, have distinct English accents.  It’s a wonderful way to clarify the story in an obvious way.  All of the character voices are distinctive; it sounds as if the listener is hearing the action unfold as it’s happening.

There is a sequel to Incarceron, called Sapphique.  I believe it is only a two-book set, since Ms. Fisher has just written the first book of a new projected trilogy (The Obsidian Mirror) that comes out in April.

Incarceron is in our Teen Section.  I would recommend it to dystopian fans, readers of steampunk, and science fiction/fantasy fans.  It’s probably best for 8th – 10th grades, but a good 5th grade reader who enjoys those genres would probably be able to read the book with no problems.  I know quite a few adults who have enjoyed it too!

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The Raven Boys
by Maggie Stiefvater, Read by Will Patton
10 CDs, 11 hours, 9 minutes

raven boysBlue Sargent spends the night of April 24th, St. Mark’s Day at the local cemetery.  Every year on that day, she helps her clairvoyant mother speak with the spirits so she can discover who will die over the course of the year.  Blue’s mother is a psychic, and every member of Blue’s family has a psychic power…everyone but Blue herself.  Blue does have a talent though–she amplifies the psychic ability of the people around her.  So on St. Mark’s Day, the year she is sixteen, Blue is surprised to see a spirit herself for the very first time.

She’s even more surprised when she sees the “spirit” in person a few days later.  He’s a boy named Gansey.  Blue investigates and discovers that he’s one of the rich students at Aglionby, the local private school.  The boys are mostly from wealthy backgrounds, and used to getting their way. The locals call them The Raven Boys, after the school mascot.  Blue meets Gansey and his friends, Adam, Ronan and Noah at her waitressing job.  She and Gansey immediately rub each other the wrong way.

Gansey might not be a spirit…yet…but the fact that Blue saw him in the churchyard on Saint Mark’s Day means that he will die before the year is out.  Blue doesn’t want to get involved with any of the Raven Boys, but suddenly they seem to be everywhere she turns.  Gansey, who makes her angry every time he acts; Adam, the local poor boy at the school on a scholarship; Ronan, who can’t control himself or his life; and Noah, the quiet one who seems to notice everything.  Blue doesn’t know that the boys are working on their own project–Gansey has been working for years, trying to find a ley line.  If he can find the one that seems to run through the Virginia landscape, he might be able to waken the sleeping Welsh king, Glendower, who he believes is hidden in the nearby hills.

Try as she might, Blue cannot seem to stay away from Gansey and Adam and the other boys. Eventually, she begins to help them, starting a friendship that might turn into something more.  But  Blue and the boys are not the only ones searching for Gwendower, someone else is too.  And he has a much more sinister reason, and will stop at nothing to satisfy his needs.

raven boys cdI really loved The Raven Boys.  The story is excellent.  I had a bit of a problem with the narrator; his voice grated on me so much that at first I didn’t think I’d even make it through the first CD.  He has a soft-spoken southern accent, and he speaks in almost a whisper throughout the first chapter, trying, I suppose, to sound feminine.  It gets a little better when he starts the second chapter which is louder and less accented, from Gansey’s point of view.  By the third chapter I didn’t even notice, I was so absorbed in the story.  I do wish that the narrator was more personable in his voices, but the story is compelling enough that it overwhelms the dislike I felt.

The Raven Boys is also in our Teen section of the library.  It’s sort of a modern fantasy, with elements of both horror and history.  The story is probably best for readers in 8th grade and up.  I do know a lot of adults who have read and enjoyed the book…I think it’s one of those crossover novels that can be enjoyed by readers well beyond their teen years.  (Shannon, Karen, Casey and I all read and enjoyed it, and my sister, who has nothing to do with teens or books, loved it!)  The Raven Boys is the first title of a projected four book quartet, so there’s plenty more to come!

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Heist Society
By Ally Carter, Performed by Angela Dawe
5 CDs, 6 hours, 10 minutes

heist society 1Kat Bishop has never had an ordinary life.  Boarding school is about the most normal it’s ever been.  But her new life at the Colgan School is cut short when Kat gets blamed for putting the Headmaster’s car on top of a fountain.  It’s not that she couldn’t do it, but this time, she’s actually not guilty!  It doesn’t matter though; Kat can’t convince the school council and she leaves the school.

Her friend billionaire W. W. Hale the Fifth is on hand to pick her up in his limo. It turns out that Hale, her friend and sometime partner-in-crime, is the real culprit behind the car incident.  The plan had been to cut off all contact with her former life at boarding school, but Hale is sure that Kat needs to be back with her friends and family.  Hale tells her that Kat’s father is the main suspect in the theft of five paintings from a powerful mobster named Arturo Taccone.  Not suspected by the police or Interpol, but Taccone is certain that he’s the only one with the knowledge and skills to pull off the theft.

Kat’s childhood included casing the Louvre and stealing the crown jewels of Austria.  her family is well-known in the world of art thieves, con artists and high society crime.  It’s not impossible to believe that her father took the paintings.  But when she flies to Paris to meet with him, he tells her that he is innocent–he was pulling another job that night; stealing a statue from an art gallery. Kat believes him.  So when Arturo Taccone has her picked up by his goons, and tells her that she has two weeks to return his paintings or there will be consequences, she’s aware that she’s in serious trouble.  Taccone is a scary man, and Kat is knows that her father’s life is on the line.  The only solution?  Find the art and steal it back!

With Hale’s help, she gets in contact with her cousins and friends and starts assembling a crew of teenage thieves, hackers and con men.  Is two weeks enough time for Kat to organize her crew into a cohesive unit?  Can they pull off a job that seems impossible to even Uncle Eddie, the most experienced master thief in the family?  And why does the name Visily Romani, an alias from one of the worlds greatest heist families, keep coming up?  If they can pull it off, Kat and her crew will save her father’s life and prove themselves the best thieves in the world.

heist society cdsHeist Society was a fun read.  It’s a teen version of Ocean’s Eleven, with a touch of the TV shows White Collar, Nikita and Leverage thrown in for good measure.  The narrator of the audio recording was good–her voices for the various characters were on the mark.  She did a range of different accents for characters who came from all around the world, and it was very convincing and fun to listen to.  My only problem was that I had to keep adjusting the volume.  When characters whispered, the sound became almost inaudible.  Just turn up the volume, and you should be good to go!

Our copy of Heist Society is in the teen collection. All the characters are between fifteen and seventeen, but the book itself would be accessible to both middle and high school readers.  It’s a fun “caper” book.  There are two sequels, Uncommon Criminals and Perfect Scoundrels, and I just saw a short story online that crosses over with Ally Carter’s other series, The Gallagher Girls.  (In the stort story millionaire Hale meets spy Macey during a society party that turns into a hostage situation.  And if that doesn’t sound like a great crossover, what would?)  Heist Society has been optioned for a film by Drew Barrymore.  It sounds like she’s planning on aging the characters up by a few years, but I still think it would be fun to watch!

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So if you’re looking for a good book to listen to during your next car trip or vacation, these three books from our YA collection would be great choices to listen to, and also good series to read.  So pick them up in either format and see what you think!


Two Audio Reviews–Fantastic Adventures!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Three Fantasy Audio Books Reviewed

Time for a few more audio reviews!  For some reason this month, they’re all fantasy-adventure stories.  I guess I have a type.

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Earwig and the Witch
by Diana Wynne Jones, Narrated by Charlotte Parry
1 CD, 1 Hour

Earwig was left on the steps of St Morwald’s Home for Children as a baby with a note pinned to her shawl:
Got the other twelve witches all chasing me.
I’ll be back for her when I’ve shook them off.
It may take years.
Her name is Earwig.

Of course, Matron didn’t believe that anyone would name a child Earwig, so she called her Erica Wigg. That never stuck though, and Earwig became…Earwig.

One of the interesting things about living in an orphanage is when people show up looking to foster children. Earwig always manages to avoid being chosen though, because she likes living at St. Morwald’s.  Where else would she be able to make everyone do whatever she wants? When potential foster parents come through, Earwig concentrates on looking unloveable. It’s always worked.

So when two strange people come in–the woman with one brown eye and one blue one in a mean face, with blue-rinsed hair and purple lipstick, wearing a brown suit with a green sweater and sky blue high-heeled boots,  the man just a tall black blur in the air–looking for a child, Earwig looks unloveable. It doesn’t work. The couple seems to see right through her concentration, and they take her. Earwig tries to refuse, but she has no grounds for an objection.  She goes to live with Bella Yaga and the Mandrake.

But the little house on Lime Street has some curious secrets. Why is it bigger on the inside than it is on the outside? Where are the doors to get out?  How can Thomas the cat speak to Earwig?  And what is Bella Yaga brewing in hter kitchen?  Soon Earwig has her hands full figuring out the mysteries of her new home and practicing magic, as well as trying to make her place in the world.

The narration for Earwig and the Witch is quite charming…I love the narrator’s matter-of-fact approach to telling the story.  All the characters have distinct voices and accents.

Earwig and the Witch was the last book Diana Wynne Jones completed before her death, and it’s an intriguing story.  Somehow though, it feels like it was only the beginning of a tale that is much longer and more involved.  I just wish she’d had the chance to write more about Earwig, Thomas and all the orphans at Saint Morwald’s.  But for a quick car trip or to introduce Diana Wynne Jones to younger readers, this would be an excellent choice.  I think kids as young as five would enjoy listening to Earwig’s story, and the book is aimed at second through fourth graders.

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Skulduggery Pleasant
by Derek Landy, Performed by Rupert Degas
6 CDs, 7 Hours, 30 minutes

Stephanie had always enjoyed her Uncle Gordon, even if he was a bit of a mystery. Part of that may be because he was a mystery writer, coming up with far-fetched horror plots where the hero never quite makes it through the book. But when Gordon dies and leaves the bulk of his estate to Stephanie, she’s as shocked as the rest of her family.

At the reading of the will, she meets the mysterious Skulduggery Pleasant. His only legacy from Gordon is a pithy piece of advice, but Stephanie is intrigued by his appearance. He wears a very fancy suit, gloves, a large hat, sunglasses and a scarf. There’s not a single bit of skin showing on his extremely thin frame. Stephanie and the rest of her family finds it very odd.

When Stephanie ends up alone in Gordon’s house–well, HER house now–overnight, she enjoys the time alone and the chance to read Gordon’s last manuscript.  Just after midnight, when she’s finished reading, someone starts banging on the door.  Stephanie tries to pretend she’s not there, but soon the prowler breaks into the house and attacks.  He apparently wants something that he thinks Gordon left to Stephanie–something that is hidden in the house. Something Stephanie has no idea exists.  She fights back, but Stephanie is no match for the mysteriously strong thug. She is saved by Skulduggery…who in the course of the fight reveals himself to be a living skeleton.

Stephanie is determined to learn what kind of craziness Uncle Gordon was involved in, and soon discovers that there is a whole other world which exists alongside the human world, populated by magic users, monsters and beings like Skulduggery, former humans transformed into something different by magic.  As she works alongside Skulduggery, trying to find out who is trying to kill her, she learns that she has some magic skills of her own…

The CD recording of Skulduggery Pleasant is fun to listen to.  I love the narrator’s accent, and his tone is full and rich.  I was at first taken aback by the bridges between chapters and scenes…most of them feature spooky music but there are also rattling bones, echoing footsteps, and sudden screams. (My poor dog practically jumped out of the car the first time she heard the screams on a car ride.)

The narrator’s voice is surprisingly deep, but there are so many menacing adult male characters in the story that his voice is perfect.  One thing that did throw me was that Skulduggery’s voice changed from disc to disc…on the first two CDs, he had a very deep voice with what sounded a bit like an American accent…but on the third CD, it was higher and had the same accent as most of the other characters.  It was a small flaw in an otherwise masterful recording.

Skulduggery Pleasant is both a mystery and a fantasy story.  It has two sequels–Playing with Fire and The Faceless Ones. The books do feature some magical fighting and contain some violence, so it’s probably better for older listeners.  I would recommend the books and the recordings to kids in fourth through seventh grade.

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Flora Segunda: Being the Magickal Mishaps of a Girl of Spirit, Her Glass-Gazing Sidekick, Two Ominous Butlers (One Blue), a House with Eleven Thousand Rooms, and a Red Dog
by Ysabeau S. Wilce, Performed by Danielle Ferland
10 CDs, 11.25 Hours

Flora Fyrdraaca has problems.  She’s the only Fyrdraaca at home, which makes her the one in charge of Crackpot Hall.  As if being fourteen and preparing for her Catorcena ceremony wasn’t enough, she has to clean a house with 11,000 rooms, muck out horses stalls, care for the family dogs and watch out for Poppy, her father who lives in his Eyrie away from everyone else at the top of the house, has temper tantrums that destroy rooms and cause more work for Flora.

Even if Flora’s Mamma was home, the responsibility would still fall to Flora. Mamma, after all, is the Rock of Califa, the Commanding General of the Army of Califa, second only to the Warlord who rules the country. She is much too grand and busy to worry about the upkeep of the house. It would be different for Flora if Mamma hadn’t banished the Fyrdraacan Denizen, the magical entity who IS the house. But she did, and that’s why nothing in Crackpot Hall works. Even though there are 11,000 rooms, only a handful are actually accessible regularly.

So when Flora takes a forbidden shortcut and ends up in the Library, a room she has never before seen, she just has to explore. And when a skinny boy comes out of the gloomy stacks and introduces himself as Valefor, the family butler, Flora is amazed at how much Fyrdraaca family history he knows. But when he tells her that she can restore him to the healthy magical Denizen of Crackpot Hall by giving him a tiny taste of her will, Flora is intrigued.  The pot is sweetened when he offers to restore some of the conveniences of the house with the rebuilding of his Will.  Flora will have help cleaning, and cooking, and have fresh towels and sheets and someone to talk to while her Mamma is away and Poppy is hiding in his Eyrie.  Flora agrees, and Valefor takes some energy.

Flora thought that things would get easier with Valefor’s help, but then Mamma comes home and she has to hide his presence. Mamma leaves shortly, but not before Flora’s snooping in Mamma’s office reveals that one of her heroes, the Dainty Pirate, is about to be hung.

Flora enlists her best friend Udo to help rescue the Dainty Pirate. But can two teenagers take on the entire forces of the country (not to mention the overlords and enemies of that country) to save one pirate? Some surprising people come to their aid, and some unsuspected villains are revealed as Flora and Udo take their lives into their hands to do what they think is right.

I loved the narrator of the Flora Segunda CD.  The language in the story is quite different from most books, with a little bit or exotic flavor. The narrator’s voice is quirky, and her accent is just right for this book.  There are terms thrown around that are not what you expect to hear, and yet they sound perfectly natural.  It feels like the listener is in an entirely different world.

Flora has to deal with some difficult issues in her life–her father has PTSD and drinks, her mother is away too much, her family tree is riddled with strange characters–yet her charm and innocence and determination comes through. But because of that, I would recommend both the book and the book on CD for kids in fifth through ninth grade.

And if you like Flora Segunda, try the two sequels: Flora’s Dare and Flora’s Fury.

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So if you’re in the mood for a good fantasy book of CD for a car trip, a bedtime listen, or just to play for fun, try one of these.  They’re sure to be a hit with the right listeners.

If you need suggestions for your next book on CD, please ask one of our librarians. We’ll be happy to help you find the perfect story for your family!