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
Cadel 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?
The 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
Sage 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?
The 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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By N.D. Wilson, Read by Russell Horton
5 CDs, 6 hours; 23 minutes
Henry 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 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
Moses 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 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!