Audio review: Redwall

Redwall by Brian Jacques

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve meant to read this book for many years. I’ve owned the paperback (twice) and then donated them as I needed to pack up and move (and I have way too many books). But this year I’ve been scanning my local library’s elibrary for new audiobooks and came across Redwall again. This time I decided to stop procrastinating and get listening.

I expected to love it, but unfortunately, found it annoying for the most part. I didn’t like the constant joking around. I couldn’t connect with the book, or maybe the characters. The interaction between the characters felt wrong somehow. Honestly, I can’t put my finger on what I found wrong with it.

Many readers love it, and I don’t want to take anything away from the author for that. I might read the second book to see if it captures my imagination more, but don’t know when that will be.

I’ll leave you to decide if you like it or not.

Audio review: Children of the Famine Trilogy

I recently listened to all three books in the Children of the Famine trilogy, and have decided to write a review for all three in one post.

Under the Hawthorn Tree by Marita Conlon-McKenna

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Although this book is written for children and the main characters are children, I had trouble associating the book for children. It felt and read like a book written for adults about children.

For a classic, I wonder why I had never heard of the book, or the series (Children of the Famine) before I spotted the cover in my local elibrary for download.

Putting these two things aside, Under the Hawthorn Tree captured my attention. It’s a brilliantly crafted work set in the mid 1800s (I believe) and tells the story of the Great Potato Famine. Of course, I had heard of the famine but knew very little about it. The author painted a clear, believable image of how the people lived and suffered during what must have been a terrifying time.

Eily, Michael and Peggy are the three children in the story. They find themselves alone and desperate when their mother leaves them to look for their father. When things turn sour, the three decide to travel across Ireland to find their great aunts. It’s a story of love, courage, determination and desperation.

It is difficult not to put yourself in their little shoes and wonder if we had to do the same, would we manage, let alone survive?

It’s a heart-warming story, filled with scenarios I never hope to experience. Recommended.

Wildflower Girl by Marita Conlon-McKenna

My rating: 4.5 of 5 stars

The sequel to Under the Hawthorne Tree, Wildflower Girl, is told from Peggy’s point of view. She’s the youngest of the three children.

Seven years have passed, Peggy is now 13 years old, and many Irish have left their country to make a new life elsewhere. Eily is to be married, and Michael has found his dream job as a stable boy. There are few jobs to be had, and Peggy fears she will always be nothing more than a helper for her older sister, Eily. So when the opportunity arrives to go to America, Peggy is keen, but her siblings are not. She wins the argument and goes on her own.

The book tells the story of hope, dreams, hardship and mistreatment. The story moves fast and gives a good account of the travel by ship from Ireland to Boston.

Once in America, Peggy is on her own and must find a way to support herself. Again, I cannot imagine anyone her age starting an adventure of this kind. I would be terrified the entire time. But, the thing is, young people of that time did emigrate to another country.

Recommended.

Fields of Home by Marita Conlon-McKenna

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Fields of Home is my favourite book in the series, and as far as I’m concerned, a book written for adults about children, who are no longer children.

Six or seven years have passed, and the children have grown up. Peggy, the youngest, is around 19 and she is still working as a maid. Michael is still a stable boy in the Great House in Ireland. Eily is married with two children of her own and living on a farm with her husband and Great Aunt Nano.

While the story has heartbreak and struggling, hope is strong, and the siblings still show signs of strength. The story is told from all three points-of-view. We see how the carpet is pulled out from beneath all of them and then witness how they pull their lives back together. The siblings help each other even though they have barely anything to give. It warmed my heart to read this book. I thoroughly enjoyed it for so many reasons, but the most important is love.

Recommended.

Audio review: Esme’s Wish

Esme's Wish

Esme’s Wish by Elizabeth Foster

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I finished this book a while ago, but have had two deaths in the family in the last month. Things are a bit all over the place and writing reviews has not been a priority at the moment.

Esme’s Wish is an in-between book. It’s not really a children’s book, but isn’t fully a young adult book.

I liked the world the author created. It is fresh and different — the words clean and bright seem to come to mind, instead of dark and gloomy. And I found that refreshing.

I also liked the characters. Esme came across as confused and uncertain, but given her circumstances that was spot on. Her friends fell in beside her well, they both had their own strengths and weaknesses, and I could see that the three of them would work well together.

The author did a good job of transporting me into her world, and that is a big thing to accomplish. I could almost see and feel the water and the huge monuments. I took a walk around the market, following the three main characters, almost seeing what they saw.

I’m not going to go into a lot of detail. I believe it’s enough to say that I enjoyed the book and will be looking for the next one soon, after things have settled down on the home front. Recommended.

I received a review copy of this book, and this is an honest review.

Audiobook: The Testaments

The Testaments (The Handmaid's Tale, #2)

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is Book 2 in The Handmaid’s Tale. Book 1 had a voice that drew me in and kept me spellbound. Book 2 has a different voice, which I readily accepted because different characters tell the story.

I read some bad reviews before reading Book 2. Terrible reviews. However, I must disagree with them. The Testaments revisit some well-known characters and introduces new ones. It provides more back story and fills in blanks left at the end of Book 1.

For me, the book beckoned me back to it during the hours that I could not return to Gilead. Surprisingly, I identified with the story because of what’s happening in the world right now (COVID-19).

I guess, for me, Book 1 felt as it if was seeing Gilead from the inside, leaving me feeling oppressed and worthless. Offred had no hope and surrounded the reader, me, with that same feeling. The words must be powerful to have that effect.

However, Book 2 felt as if it saw Gilead from the outside looking in. By this, I mean we approach the story from a different angle. We see how a person can appear mean and nasty but are fighting the fight behind closed doors. We witness Gilead official’s weaknesses and their enemies. And, like in every down-trodden era, we discover brave people who are willing to stand and fight against the powers of the world.

What I’m trying to say is that Book 1 took hope away and Book 2 gives it back.

Personally, I think both books are brilliant, and I highly recommend both of them.

Audiobook review: The Tower on the Rift

The Tower on the Rift (The View from the Mirror Series, #2)

The Tower on the Rift by Ian Irvine

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurb: War rages across Santhenar as Aachim, Faellem and old humans pursue the Mirror of Aachan. A desperate Tensor, leader of the Aachim people, flees with it into the wilderness, taking the brilliant young chronicler Lilan with him. Only Karan can save him, though she’s not sure that she can help herself. Tensor wants her dead, the other powers are hunting her for her sensitive talents, and Rulke the Charon broods over them all from his Nightland prison. The Twisted Mirror holds knowledge that the world can only dream about. How will Tensor use it in the final confrontation? Will Llian be seduced by it too? Or will the Mirror betray them all, in the end?

My review: Book 2 in the series. Again, I could not “read” the book, but as an audiobook, it was quite good. In fact, this volume of the series saw some action and movement in the storyline. We live in an instant world these days, and the plot for some fantasy books can be painful.

Llian and Karan’s relationship is one of those stop and go situations. Sometimes it is one of them doing the stoping. And other times it is what is happening around them. I can’t accept their relationship as being real though. Or perhaps “deep” is the word, I should have used. It feels superficial. That may be intended or not. I don’t know, but I suspect not at this stage of the story.

Thankfully, the world’s history is no longer a problem. It is assumed we know that after book one and I’m pleased to say that we do not have to read it again.

Reading over what I’ve written makes me think I’ve given the wrong star rating as it sounds like I don’t like the story or characters at all. Yet, despite all I’ve said, I have gone on and listened to book 3 and I’m halfway through book 4 so something must have kept my attention.

Audio review: A Shadow on the Glass

A Shadow on the Glass (The View from the Mirror, #1)

A Shadow on the Glass by Ian Irvine

My rating: 3.5 of 5 stars

The blurb: Once there were three worlds, each with their own human species. Then, fleeing out of the void came a fourth species, the Charon. Desperate, on the edge of extinction, they changed the balance between the worlds forever.

Karan, a sensitive with a troubled heritage, is forced to steal an ancient relic in repayment of a debt. It turns out to be the Mirror of Aachan, a twisted, deceitful thing that remembers everything it has ever seen. At the same time, Llian, a brilliant chronicler, is expelled from his college for uncovering a perilous mystery. Thrown together by fate, Karan and Llian are hunted across a world at war, for the Mirror contains a secret that offers each species survival, or extinction.

My review: I’ve given it a lot of thought and decided that I could not have finished this book if I had read it. However, for me, listening to certain types of books is different.

My biggest issue was that parts of the storyline, especially the world’s history, were drawn out. Too lengthy for me. To be honest, I didn’t want to know in that much detail. Some people do, and you can’t please everyone. I realise that typically, fantasy books are inclined to do that, but it’s not something I enjoy (any more). Lengthy descriptions of any type are boring.

That aside, after some listening, I grew attached to Llian and Karan. And to be frank, I wanted to know what adventure they would experience. Llian can be a bit annoying, but I’m sure he’ll grow into someone worthy by the end of the series. We all have our ways, and we learn from experience. Llian hasn’t had it easy, but I wouldn’t say he’s had a hard life either. At least he had a roof over his head and had some semblance of normality.

In comparison, Karan’s life was harder and lonelier, which gives her the tools to look after herself in a world about to go to war (mostly). The two together manage to figure out what to do to survive.

Of course, other characters upset their plans. Some help them, some are loyal, and others betray. The mix makes for an interesting story (once all the description is pushed aside).

I’m halfway through book 2. Persevere, it gets better.

Audio Review: Polly

Polly (Edwardian Candlelight Series, Book 1)

Polly by M.C. Beaton

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurb: Polly was a bewitching young girl, that pretty Polly Marsh, and she knew it…

Polly also knew that beauty could be her passport into the castles where she had always known she belonged. So she set her sights for a duke and joined the firm of Westerman’s as a stenographer. Surely one of that noble family would notice her and then all of her dreams would come true! The trouble with Pretty Polly Marsh was that she just didn’t know her place. But others did, and were only too happy to remind her that dashing Lord Peter was merely playing at love when he appeared to be paying her court.

My review: This is the first book I’ve read by the author, and I believe she goes by several names and I haven’t read any books by any of the them. I do, however, have a couple of cozy mysteries by M.C. Beaton on my bookshelf, so I thought I was reading a cozy mystery when I started this book. I soon realised that this was not a mystery, it is an historical romance. But that wasn’t a problem.

Polly is a social climber. She is ashamed of her cockney family. She wants more, better. And she believes she deserves it. She falls in love with a duke and sets her sights on marrying him, but is it real love. That’s the real question.

The character’s are humorous. And I must say at this point that the narrator, Emma Powell, certainly played a part in bringing them to life. She did an excellent job of narrating the story. I could picture this book as a romantic comedy movie, to be honest. You know the type I mean, the ones you sit and watch on a cold, rainy afternoon to cheer yourself up.

In all honesty, I didn’t find anything about the book fabulous or unforgettable, as the plot was quite simple really. Nothing spectacular there. I’m not even sure the historical parts were accurate. But all that aside, I did find the characters and storyline entertaining. I enjoyed the book and recommend it to anyone who wants a light read that will bring a smile to their face.

Audio review: Loyal Creatures

Loyal Creatures

Loyal Creatures by Morris Gleitzman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurb: Like many of his mates from the bush, Frank Ballantyne is keen to join the grand adventure and do his bit. Specially as a chest full of medals might impress the currently unimpressed parents of his childhood sweetheart. So Frank ups his age and volunteers with his horse Daisy…and his dad.

In the deserts of Egypt and Palestine he experiences all the adventure he ever wanted, and a few things he wasn’t expecting. Heartbreak, love and the chance to make the most important choice of his life.

From Gallipoli to the famous charge at Beersheba, through to the end of the war and its unforgettable aftermath, Frank’s story grows out of some key moments in Australia’s history.

They were loyal creatures, the men and horses of the Australian Light Horse, but war doesn’t always pay heed to loyalty. This is the powerful story of a young man’s journey towards his own kind of bravery.

My review: At a whim I looked for a book about animals, because I wanted to feel warm and fuzzy inside, and I came across this one. Years ago I had a huge involvement with horses and decided this would be the book I would read next (or listen to, in this case). I didn’t read the blurb. I knew nothing about the storyline. I picked the book purely because of the horse on the cover.

The book turned out to be about the Australian horses sent overseas during WWI. Specifically, a breed of horse called walers, which were sturdy, hardy horses, able to travel long distances in hot weather with little water.

Loyal Creatures is about a young (under age) boy and his horse, who join the Australian Light Horse and go to Egypt, and later to Gallipoli. The boys innocence and the horse’s loyalty are touching. Their adventure together is something to be proud of and memorable, yet filled with heartbreak. The boy soon grows up as he faces the reality of war, death and having to make hard decisions.

This is a story of fiction, but it is easy to believe that it could have happened to a boy of the same age in real life. The character’s are vivid, believable, complete. The story was the same.

With ANZAC day just around the corner, I must remind everyone to remember those who gave their lives for us, including all the animals, not just the horses. Recommended.