Audiobook: The Wizards of Once

The Wizards of Once by Cressida Cowell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb: This is the story of a young boy Wizard and a young girl Warrior who have been taught to hate each other like poison; and the thrilling tale of what happens when their two worlds collide.

Perfect for boys and girls who love fantasy adventure …

Once there was Magic, and the Magic lived in the dark forests.

Wizard boy, Xar, should have come in to his magic by now, but he hasn’t, so he wants to find a witch and steal its magic for himself. But if he’s got any chance of finding one, he will have to travel into the forbidden Badwoods.

Xar doesn’t realise he is about to capture an entirely different kind of enemy. A Warrior girl called Wish.

And inside this book, at this very moment, two worlds collide and the fate of the land is changed forever.

Xar and Wish must visit the dungeons at Warrior fort, and face the evil Queen.

But something that has been sleeping for hundreds of years is stirring …

My review: WOW. This is such a good story. From the first page, I was totally in. In fact, I was so taken by the plot and the characters, that I simply couldn’t stay away from the book for long periods. That doesn’t happen often, and is certainly a positive sign that I loved the book.

The world the two main character’s live in is dark. Wish is a warrior girl with a secret. Xar is a wizard boy with attitude. They come from different sides in a world where they are taught from birth to hate the other side. But these two are thrown together and must conquer all. (I know that’s a pretty general comment, but you’ll have to read the book to find out what they have to conquer.)

I love the two main character. And I have to say that Squeeze Juice is also a favourite of mine. The characters are so different, but so likeable. The story is so action-packed. Honestly, I can’t imagine anyone not enjoying this book.

I listened to the audiobook and I feel compelled to mention the narrator, David Tennant. He gave life to the characters and storyline. His reading was fantastic and I believe that added to my enjoyment of the book ten-fold.

This is the first of three books, I believe. I definitely will be listening to the rest of the series.

Highly recommended.

Audiobook: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb: Harry Potter has never even heard of Hogwarts when the letters start dropping on the doormat at number four, Privet Drive. Addressed in green ink on yellowish parchment with a purple seal, they are swiftly confiscated by his grisly aunt and uncle. Then, on Harry’s eleventh birthday, a great beetle-eyed giant of a man called Rubeus Hagrid bursts in with some astonishing news: Harry Potter is a wizard, and he has a place at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. An incredible adventure is about to begin!

My review: I read the Harry Potter series many moons ago. I’ve seen the movies umpteen times. So why go back to Hogwarts again, after all these years? My response is, why not?

I’ve read, and I’ve watched the series. Now I intend to listen to it. At the risk of sounding tedious, I was looking for an audiobook from my local elibrary and couldn’t find anything that appealed to me. Then Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone magically appeared, and I made my decision.

I won’t tell you what the story is about, as I’m sure you already know. If you don’t, then I’d like to ask what deserted island have you been living on over the last two or so decades? Anyway, what I will tell you is that the movies pushed the details in the books to one side and I was amazed to discover all those little details that I had forgotten.

Stephen Fry reads the version I am listening to. He is excellent—top marks to Stephen.

I’m enjoying revisiting the world of Harry Potter (I’ve almost finished book 2). Recommended.

Audiobook: Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds

Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds by Jeremy Lachlan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurb: Step inside. Don’t look back. Forward is the only way. Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights meets Mad Max in this unforgettable blockbuster adventure about the world between worlds.

When a fierce quake strikes the remote island of Bluehaven, and her father disappears, Jane Doe is thrown headfirst into an epic quest to bring him home. 

But this ain’t no ordinary rescue mission. Her father is lost in a place between worlds; a dangerous labyrinth of shifting rooms, infernal booby traps and secret gateways. And Jane has to find him fast, because someone else is searching for him, too. A man who knows her father’s secrets. A man who has an army. 

With a pyromaniac named Violet and a trickster named Hickory by her side, Jane is about to discover that this adventure is even bigger on the inside than it looks… 

My review: Jane Doe and the Cradle of All Worlds is another audiobook I found through my local library. Judged on the cover alone, I was intrigued enough to borrow the book. Then I discovered the author is Australian, which was a pleasant surprise. However, where the author is from actually doesn’t make a difference to me at all. A book is a book. A story is a story. But a good book with a good story is like finding gold.

And this is a good book. I enjoyed it from the first chapter.

Jane Doe lives in Bluehaven, and from the beginning, it’s clear that something is amiss. Jane and her dad, John, are treated poorly by the community. And there’s something peculiar about the Manor. Everyone is hiding something. Secrets are big in Bluehaven.

After a massive earthquake, Jane enters the Manor to save her father. She meets up with Hickory and her one and only friend, Violet. The trio is an awesome combination. But again, there are secrets and half-truths every which way Jane turns. Who can she trust, and can she locate her dad?

Of course, the Manor is no ordinary place and does not have regular occupants living there. Far from it. Jane must learn how to navigate the Manor without setting off the traps, and without being caught by creatures that want to kill her.

There’s lots of action. The three main characters are a strange combination, but they have their funny moments and are as crazy as anything. Something is always happening. Yet as the story progresses, the author allows the reader to find out bits of information to keep them anchored in the plot.

Male and female readers will enjoy this book. There’s something for everyone. I’ll be watching for book 2. I hope my library gets a copy soon.

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.

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.