Audiobook: The Woman in the Green Dress

The Woman in the Green Dress by Tea Cooper

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The blurb: 1853 Mogo Creek, NSW

Della Atterton, bereft at the loss of her parents, is holed up in the place she loves best: the beautiful Hawkesbury in New South Wales. Happiest following the trade her father taught her, taxidermy, Della has no wish to return to Sydney. But the unexpected arrival of Captain Stefan von Richter on a quest to retrieve what could be Australia’s first opal, precipitates Della’s return to Sydney and her Curio Shop of Wonders, where she discovers her enigmatic aunt, Cordelia, is selling more than curiosities to collectors. Strange things are afoot and Della, a fly in a spider’s web, is caught up in events with unimaginable consequences…

1919 Sydney, NSW

When London teashop waitress Fleur Richards inherits land and wealth in Australia from her husband, Hugh, killed in the war, she wants nothing to do with it. After all, accepting it will mean Hugh really is dead. But Hugh’s lawyer is insistent, and so she finds herself ensconced in the Berkeley Hotel on Hunter St, Sydney, the reluctant owner of a Hawkesbury property and an old curio shop, now desolate and boarded up.

As the real story of her inheritance unravels, Fleur finds herself in the company of a damaged returned soldier Kip, holding a thread that takes her deep into the past, a thread that could unravel a mystery surrounding an opal and a woman in a green dress; a green that is the colour of envy, the colour buried deep within an opal, the colour of poison…

My review: I was looking for something different to listen to while on my treadmill each morning and came across this audiobook. It’s set in Australia, and as I know of the two locations (Mogo Creek and Sydney) and have visited them, I decided to borrow this book.

The author wrote the story over two timelines and then merged them together. It was well done. I especially enjoyed reading about the hardships of the two eras – 1853 and 1919. Both eras would have been difficult to live in, and I could appreciate those difficulties and felt like I experienced them because of the way the book was written.

The taxidermy element was interesting to read as well. It’s a craft I know little about, but I believe the information given would be correct, especially the bit about arsenic. I also appreciated how the author wove the issues early Australia had between the new settlers and the original inhabitants of the land into the storyline as well. I believe many atrocities occurred back then. Many never recorded in history.

I class the story as a drama/mystery. There was a tiny bit of romance, but nothing overbearing. The characters were written well and fit together nicely. I was interested in the main characters, from both eras, and wanted to know what the harsh times and the storyline had in store for them.

I would recommend the book and would read more by this author.

Audiobook: The Wizards of Once, Books 2 & 3

I read, or listened, to both of these books in March 2021.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Twice Magic by Cressida Cowell

The blurb: This was once the story of a young boy Wizard and a young girl Warrior who had been taught since birth to hate each other like poison.

But now, the boy Wizard and girl Warrior have been brought together in the Badwoods and they have witnessed the shocking consequences of the Stone That Takes Away Magic. They will need to cast aside their differences once more–for an Evil Spell has broken free.

It’s up to Xar and Wish to find the ingredients. But it means entering dangerous territory unannounced…

My review: I have been borrowing most of the audiobooks I read from my local library. I read the first book last year in July. The books are so popular that I had to wait for a … very … long … time to get my hands on book 2. It was worth the wait.

The adventure continues for our two heroes – Wish and Xar. The plot is fast-paced. There’s no time to get bored, too much is happening. And the characters are intense, funny, different, and work so well together even if they do argue and screw things up for each other.

I enjoyed the pace and the humour. And, again, I especially enjoyed David Tennant’s reading of the book. He truly brings the book alive.

Again, totally recommended.

Knock Three Times by Cressida Cowell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The blurb: Xar and Wish are heroes with a huge task ahead–confronting the Nuckalavee is not for the faint-hearted. But with Magic and Iron together, they might just have a chance of saving their beloved homes from those who seek to destroy everything they hold dear. The third electrifying book in The Wizards of Once series fizzes with magic and introduces us to a host of glorious new characters: bears and piskies and magical pins and needles to name but a few.

My review: And we arrive at book three of the series. I believe there is one more book after this one, but I don’t have access to it yet.

Book 3 changed a bit, went in a slightly different direction. For me, that had something to do with a storyline that loosely fell into a Hogwarts feel as several chapters were in a school. Apart from that, the story continued to twist and turn. The characters are learning and growing, and betraying, because things are getting serious. Everyone is after them, including their parents. And, yes, sparks will fly. (You’ll get my meaning when you read the book.)

The books continue to be a fast-paced, exciting read. And the narrator, David Tennent, continues to bring the story and characters alive. I am thoroughly enjoying this series.

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.