Wednesday, January 25, 2012


by Franny Billingsley
performed by Susan Duerden
Published 2011 by Listening Library
10 hours, 13 minutes. Unabridged.
Rating: 3/5

Before Briony's stepmother died, she made sure Briony blamed herself for all the family's hardships. Now Briony has worn her guilt for so long it's become a second skin. She often escapes to the swamp, where she tells stories to the Old Ones, the spirits who haunt the marshes. But only witches can see the Old Ones, and in her village, witches are sentenced to death. Briony lives in fear her secret will be found out, even as she believes she deserves the worst kind of punishment.

Then Eldric comes along with his golden lion eyes and mane of tawny hair. He's as natural as the sun, and treats her as if she's extraordinary. And everything starts to change. As many secrets as Briony has been holding, there are secrets even she doesn't know

Chime by Franny Billingsley has been billed as one of the best books from 2011. I found it just ok. It is about 17 year old twin girls, Briony and Rose. Set around the time of the Salem Witch Trials, this story is about love, redemption, the power of secrets and family.

After the death of their stepmother Briony takes on the guilt for all her families hardships. Her Father has been distant for years, her twin sister Rose shows signs of Aspergers, and she believes herself an evil witch because she can see the sprits of the swampsea where her and her family live. Everything changes when handsome Eldric arrives, and shows her all the beautiful things Briony has to offer the world.

This was a very unique story. It felt a bit like Austen and Nathaiel Hawethore, but also had elements of a modern day romantic comedy. The richness of the world lies in the alternative world that Briony can see. Every element of nature has its own spirits, and listening to it reminded me a bit of Hayao Miyazaki film or the anime series Kamichu.

The narration was just average. The narrator did an excellent job of creating voices for Briony, Rose, and stepmother, but the other voices blurred together a bit.

Overall I would recommend this book to Teens, and Adult fans of Fantasy and light romances.

Source: Library
Author's website:
Purchase this book: WorldCat

Monday, January 23, 2012

A Prayer for Owen Meany

A Prayer for Owen Meany
by John Irving
performed by Joe Barrett
Published 1989 by Garp Enterprises
26 hours, 57 minutes. Unabridged.
Rating 5/5

In the summer of 1953, two 11-year-old boys - best friends - are playing in a Little League baseball game in Gravesend, New Hampshire. One of the boys hits a foul ball that kills the other boy's mother. The boy who hits the ball doesn't believe in accidents; Owen Meany believes he is God's instrument. What happens to Owen after that 1953 foul ball is extraordinary and terrifying.

I loved this book! A wonderful story of friendship and relationships, beautifully read by Joe Barrett. I am not a religious person and there are a lot of biblical references to deal with. But that aside, I loved the way the story flowed and the characters are superb. I particularly liked Johnny's grandmother and of course I fell under Owen Meany's spell too. I will be looking for more of John Irvings work in the future.

Source: Purchased
Author's website:
Purchase this book: Audible

Saturday, January 21, 2012

A Tale of Two Castles

A Tale of Two Castles
by Gail Carson Levine
performed by Sarah Coomes
Published 2011 by Brilliance Audio
8 hours, 32 minutes. Unabridged.
Rating: 2/5

Mysteries abound, especially in Two Castles.
A handsome cat trainer, black-and-white cats, thieves on four legs and two, suspicious townsfolk, a greedy king, a giddy princess, a shape-shifting ogre, a brilliant dragon. Which is the villainous whited sepulcher?

Elodie journeys to the town of Two Castles to become a mansioner—an actress—but luck is against her. She is saved from starvation by the dragon Meenore, who sends her on a dangerous mission inside the ogre's castle. There, disguised as a kitchen maid at an ogre's feast, she finds herself cast in the role of a lifetime and pitted against a foe intent on murder.

Newbery Honor author Gail Carson Levine weaves an entrancing tale of a fearsome ogre, a dragon detective, and a remarkable heroine, who finds friendship where she least expects it, learns that there are many ways to mansion, and discovers that goodness and evil come in all shapes and sizes.

Tale of Two Castles by Gail Carson Levine was supposed to be a guilty pleasure, instead became a grating experience. The story is set in a classic Fantasy town. The 12 year old Elodie lived her entire life on a farm, and travels to the large town of Two Castles in search for an apprenticeship. Her parents want her to learn the trade of Weaving, but she dreams of being an actor. The world is not much different from a medieval town. There is no wizardy magic, but there are magical creatures including a shapeshifting ogre and a very intelligent dragon. One oddity is that instead of calling the art Elodie wants to study acting or theater it is called mansioning.

What was grating about listening to this story is the narrator’s use of accents and voices. Because Elodie wants to be a mansioner she is always trying on new accents, specifically the accent of the local townsmen who add hard consonants to all their words. It made it almost painful to listen to Elodie talking. I would have preferred a more consistent narration. After you get past Elodie’s attempts to mansion you discover an innocent mystery about an ogre, a king, a princess, a thief, lots of cats, and a super sleuth dragon. Elodie is encouraged to pay attention to every detail around her so she can help solve many mysteries which thankfully keep her from attempting to mansion too much.

I would recommend this story to Elementary or Middle School readers that enjoy Fantasy or Mysteries. It’s a story an entire family could listen together or could be read individually.

Source: Library
Author's website:
Purchase this book: WorldCat

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Devil's Elixir

The Devil's Elixir
(Templar #3)
by Raymond Khoury
performed by Richard Ferrone
Published 2011 by Penguin Audio
11 hours, 38 minutes. Unabridged.
Rating: 5/5

Sean Reilly and Tess Chaykin, heroes of Raymond Khoury's best-selling Templar thrillers, return in an edge-of-your-seat story that reaches from the present day back to 1800s Mexico - and possibly beyond.

What if there was an herb, previously lost to history in the jungles of Central America, capable of inducing an experience so momentous it might shake the very foundations of Western civilization? What if powerful forces on both sides of the law got wind of that herb, and launched a violent, uncompromising pursuit to be the first to exploit it?

And what if FBI agent Sean Reilly and his girlfriend, Tess Chaykin, were, unknowingly, the only two people who could keep the lid on this existential Pandora's box, one that's capable of destabilizing the world?

What a book to break me into a new genre. Okay, I admit I've read a few crime thrillers, but it was always because they were getting amazing buzz and sometimes I can't walk away from that. It was also before I got launched headfirst into the YA genre and the blogging world. This is the first time a crime thriller has made me say, "I might really love this genre."

I barely know where to start. I guess there's nothing too remarkable about this book, aside from the fact that it's my first real foray into crime thrillers. For that reason, I'm floored and this book will always remain a favorite. Also, I MUST read the rest of his books. Actually, I think I'll listen to them because I found I enjoyed the narrator once I got into the book. More on that later. For now, let me give you the top three reasons this audio book was awesome: thrilling plot, likable characters, and a great narrator.

Maybe I'm just a rookie in the whole suspense thriller genre, but I totally did not see some of that coming. I mean, I figured out some of it, but not the big revelations at the end. It's kind of funny actually, because I don't think it was that difficult to work out. I just wasn't getting it. Either way, I loved the plot twists and the way the story progressed kept me hooked. I was already telling other people about it before I finished.

Admitedly, I was not into this when it began. There's a little epilogue about this old monk or something who discovers this drug and I was beyond confused. I just needed to get into the groove. I was also wary of the narrator because his voice didn't seem like a good fit. Enter Sean Riley. Now, this guy is why they chose this narrator. He was the perfect voice for Sean. I couldn't have asked for anything better. He has a scratchy, low voice that works perfectly for cop or FBI characters. He even did some nice voices for some of the other characters. There was a very good distinction between the male voices and the female and child voices. That is a must for a narrator in my book. So bravo to Richard Ferrone!

Seriously though, Sean Riley was awesome. I loved him immediately and I'm eager to read the previous books he's in. I liked Tess too, but Sean was the one I was really interested in. I guess that's good since he's the main character. Some of the other characters are a little more complex. I thought I knew them: that they're pitiful or a little crazy, or totally evil. As the story progressed and I saw how they fit into the puzzle of the plot, it became harder to throw them into love or hate categories. Well, not all of them. There are defintiely some hatable characters.

Bottom line: if you're into crime thrillers, this is great one. If you're not into them, maybe you should pick this one up and try it out. It's certainly got me interested in the genre.

Source: Publisher
Author's website:
Purchase this book: Audible | Book Depository

Saturday, January 14, 2012

A Discovery of Witches

A Discovery of Witches
by Deborah Harkness
performed by Jennifer Ikeda
Published 2011 by Penguin Audio
23 hours, 57 minutes. Unabridged.
Rating: 3/5

An epic, richly inventive, historically sweeping, magical romance.

When historian Diana Bishop opens an alchemical manuscript in the Bodleian Library, it's an unwelcome intrusion of magic into her carefully ordered life. Though Diana is a witch of impeccable lineage, the violent death of her parents while she was still a child convinced her that human fear is more potent than any witchcraft. Now Diana has unwittingly exposed herself to a world she's kept at bay for years: one of powerful witches, creative, destructive daemons, and long-lived vampires.

Sensing the significance of Diana's discovery, the creatures gather in Oxford, among them the enigmatic Matthew Clairmont, a vampire genticist. Diana is inexplicably drawn to Matthew and, in a shadowy world of half-truths and old enmities, ties herself to him without fully understanding the ancient line they are crossing.

As they begin to unlock the secrets of the manuscript and their feelings for each other deepen, so the fragile balance of peace unravels....

I love a good vampire story, and although this was an original take, it did not live up to my expectations! I loved the idea of the book "Ashmore 783” discovered almost by accident by a young woman unaware of what or who she really was. The journey had potential but just never quite got there. The love story got priority and we ended up with a romance novel, not what I had hoped for. It got a little more interesting toward the end but I doubt I will bother with the next book. The narrator, Jennifer Ikeda did little to encourage my belief in the story. Her voice was dull and lifeless (yes, I know vampires are dead but even the living characters sounded as if they too were dead!) and lacked any expression or depth. I got the impression of straight faces and serious expressions even when they were supposed to be happy! Perhaps a younger reader (teenage) might find this more interesting than I did.

Source: Purchased
Author's website:
Purchase this book: Audible

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Getting Sassy

Getting Sassy
by D.C. Brod
performed by Karen Savage
Published 2011 by Iambik
9 hours, 21 minutes. Unabridged.
Rating: 4/5

With her nearly broke and practically homeless mother about to land on her doorstep, Robyn Guthrie learns that desperation can play havoc with a daughter's scruples. Otherwise, why would she even consider kidnapping a goat and holding it for ransom?

Apologies in advance if the following sounds a bit disjointed, but I’m trying not re-hash the plot, nor give away spoilers. Robyn, a freelance writer in her mid-40’s, has moved to the Chicago suburb where her 84 year old mother with onset dementia lives in a nursing home. A fair amount of the money set aside for her care has been lost in a crooked investment. Our heroine, and her accountant Mick (a former jockey), decide upon a plan to steal Sassy, the goat companion to a rich guy’s prize racehorse, splitting the proceeds. Meanwhile, Robyn has been assigned to do a profile of Erica, a new psychic in town. The plan was for her to sit in on a client’s séance, ask a few background questions, and crank out a piece. Instead, Robyn and Erica’s lives entwine towards the conclusion, where the heist doesn’t end up going according to plan.

I confess I had trouble accepting that mother and daughter weren’t at least a decade younger, though in the end that wasn’t a particular problem. Robyn is well drawn, being funny without a lot of over-the-top wisecracks. Her mother would be a disappointment for those expecting Sophia from the Golden Girls, or Grandma Mazur of the Stephanie Plum series; however, she holds her own, without being a mere prop. One item I thought particularly well done: a police detective who’d gone to see her mother gropes with the words to say why the woman’s statement isn’t all that useful, to which Robyn responds, “She has dementia, it’s okay to say that.” Mick quickly becomes the co-protagonist, and while he’s quite likeable, the edgy, awkward nature of their relationship struck me as a slight negative in the overall narrative. As a slight spoiler, I’ll say that it was frustrating that he goes in on the plan as he admits he needs the cash in a hurry, but we never discover exactly why. The author manages a good balance with the mystery of Erica’s character – is she (exactly) who she portrays herself as? Moreover, her storyline fits into the plot without seeming contrived.

On balance, I think this book might be better listened to than read, as Robyn’s lines are dependent upon delivery, not just content. Moreover, the narrator strikes the target tone in Erica’s scenes, creating a mysterious effect, though always dignified rather than drifty. My one quibble would be that Karen Savage reads very fast, although I was able to get past that after a while.

Verdict: I’m giving it four stars, as I was left looking forward to the sequel (“Getting Lucky”).

Source: Library
Author's Website:
Purchase this book: Audible

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Daughter of Smoke & Bone

Daughter of Smoke and Bone
(Daughter of Smoke and Bone #1)
by Laini Taylor
performed by Khristine Hvam
Published 2011 by Hachette Audio
12 hours, 30 minutes. Unabridged.
Rating: 2/5

Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human teeth grown dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherwordly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real; she's prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands"; she speaks many languages—not all of them human; and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she's about to find out.

When one of the strangers—beautiful, haunted Akiva—fixes his fire-colored eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?

I was underwhelmed by Smoke and Bone. I’d heard many librarians and adults say that it was the best book they’d read this year, so I made an extra effort to find it on Audiobook and give it a listen.

Smoke and Bone was a unique story about a sassy blue haired girl who collects languages. At the beginning of the story she is living in Prague studying Art, but she also leads a double life traveling to exotic locations to collect teeth for her foster father who happens to be a Chimera.

The Narration was a bit off, which made it difficult to listen to the story. I had a really hard time figuring out what part of the novel was dialogue and which part was narration. This pulled me out of the story, as I worked hard to figure out what was going on in the story. Another characteristic of the novel are some abrupt flashbacks. I found it difficult to track some the characters through the novel when this happened. At one point I didn’t realize the story had jumped into the past and had to re-listen to understand where the story went.

Smoke and Bone had beautiful world building. I imagine that reading the novel would be a rewarding experience. It would also give the reader the opportunity to have visual cues when the story changed to a flashback. I don’t think I’d recommend the audiobook to anyone, but I’d recommend the novel to fans of Fantasy, Gothic Romances, and Mythology.

Source: Library
Author's website:
Purchase this book: Worldcat

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