Audiobook: The Princess Diarist

princessdiaristby Carrie Fisher
Read by the author and Billy Lourd
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s about a dozen f-bombs and other mild swearing, plus  some talk of sex (but nothing graphic). It’s in the Biography section of the bookstore.

I downloaded this to listen to on audio soon after Carrie Fisher died, thinking that I might as well find out what everyone’s been talking about (well, maybe not everyone, but people I trust) when it comes to her writing.

First of all, she’s a delightful narrator. She’s sardonic and funny (not just in the writing, but also READING the book), and I loved listening to her gravely voice reminisce about her experience in making Star Wars. And while the gossip (of sorts) about her and Harrison’s affair was interesting, it really wasn’t, for me, the highlight of the book. (In fact, the actual diaries, which Billy Lourd reads, were kind of, well, lame.) No, the highlight was Fisher. I’m sure I would have enjoyed this book in print, but hearing her read this was like sitting in a room and listening to her reminisce. It was delightful and fun, and while not perfect, highly enjoyable.

Probably much like Ms. Fisher herself. (I imagine anyway.)

Audiobook: Out of Abaton: The Wooden Prince

woodenprinceby John Claude Bemis
Read by Ralph Lister
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There are some scary parts, but not many. I don’t know how it is as a book, but the story is good for 3rd grade and up.

In this magical steampunk retelling of Pinocchio set in a Renaissance-like Vienna, Pinochhio is an automaton, Geppetto is a alchemist, and there are chimera and a magical kingdom ruled by an immortal ruler. All the elements of the story (or at least the Disney movie; I’ve never actually read the story) are there — the blue fairy, the carnival master, the whale (it’s been a while since I’ve seen the movie) — but in an entirely new, and fantastical form.

I think this is one I would have liked better reading than listening to. The narrator was fantastic; it often sounded like an ensemble rather than just one person. But, there were sound effects added in, and they drove. me. nuts. They were super distracting and sometimes gross (really, do we need a sound effect for throwing up?), and sometimes made it hard for me to understand the dialogue.

And, to be fair, I kept fading in and out of the story, so I missed a bunch of the story line. Though, it didn’t really seem to matter. I was a bit disappointed it was a first, as well. I wanted it to be a wholly contained story, but it seems a stand-alone speculative fiction isn’t something that is often written anymore.

It wasn’t bad. It just wasn’t the best experience, either.

Audiobook: The Inquisitor’s Tale

inquisitorstaleby Adam Gidwitz
Read by the author and Vikas Adam, Mark Bramhall, Jonathan Cowley, Kimberly Farr, Ann Marie Lee, Bruce Mann, John H. Mayer, and Arthur Morey
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher for the Cybils.
Content: There’s a lot of poop and fart jokes, plus a bit of a running ass/donkey joke. It’s also a bit, well, long, and some violent moments. It’s in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the bookstore, but it’d probably be good up through the 8th grade or so.

I’ll be honest here: I tried reading this one and I didn’t make it through the third chapter. It just didn’t grab me.

The story is this: in the 13th century there are three children who can perform miracles. And someone is asking about them, collecting their story. Told in stages by several people over the course of a night, it follows the children — Jeanne, a peasant girl who has vision; William, a super strong oblate; and Jacob, a Jewish boy with healing powers — how they met, their run from the church and then the king, with a showdown outside of Mont-Saint-Michel.

It’s a very religious story (which shouldn’t have surprised me, considering when it was set), but it also deals with race relations and bigotry and just oppression in general. I think audio was the way to go for me on this one. I loved that the different tale tellers had different narrators reading the tale, each giving it their own spin. It made the tale come alive for me. (Maybe this is one that’s better read aloud?)

So, I’m glad I gave it a second chance. It was worth it.

Audiobook: Victoria

victoriaby Daisy Goodwin
Read by : Anna Wilson-Jones
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s some illusions to sex and scandal, but mostly it’s a pretty straight-up historical fiction. Good for those who are interested in England and/or queens and/or history. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

I have always had a bit of a weakness for historical fiction when it comes to royalty. I ate up the Phillipa Gregrory books about the Tudors back in the day, and I’m sure there’s more than I’m forgetting. I’ve had my eye on this one since it came out back in November, mostly because the cover is so pretty (and we all know I’m a sucker for pretty covers). I didn’t quite know what to expect about the book, though.

For the most part, I enjoyed it. Taking place over the first year or so of Victoria’s reign, it deals with her conflicts with her mother and her mother’s “companion” Conroy, with learning how to govern (and her dependence on, and infatuation with which was heavily played up, Lord Melbourne), and with finding her feet. It ends just as she meets and marries Albert, so there’s very little of the Victoria she came to be.

But the thing that kept me listening was the narrator. She was FANTASTIC. All the perfect inflections for every character, and she kept me wanting to know more about the characters and the story. I’m sure I would have enjoyed this one in print; Goodwin is an excellent writer, and she knew how to balance the personal aspects of Victoria’s story with the political ones to keep it intriguing. But, listening to it gave it the push it needed for me to really enjoy the book.

 

It’s Cybils Day!

I’ve had a super busy fall, so I haven’t been as involved in the Cybils as I would have liked, but it’s been going on.  The shortlists were just announced and there’s a LOT of really great books on them (I even manged to nominate one that made it!). Some of my favorites, many I haven’t read. Do check all the lists out!

As for me, I volunteered to be on round 2 of the new category, Audiobooks. This is what I get to listen to over the next 6 weeks, and I couldn’t be happier! As always, check back on February 14th to see what we’ve picked as our winner!

Out of Abaton, Book 1 (Library Edition): The Wooden Prince
by John Claude Bemis
Oasis Audio
Nominated by: Lauren Snell

This surprising & original retelling of Pinocchio takes place in a magical steampunk version of 15th century Italy. The title character is an “automa,” a wooden robot powered by alchemy. He seeks to be reunited with Geppetto & the musical cricket Maestro as they all race to save Prestor John, ruler of the Magical Kingdom of Abaton, from the wicked Doge of Venice. Pinocchio’s discoveries about family, friendship, and free will are deftly woven in with episodes of high adventure. The audiobook is truly a movie for your mind, with a full sound track that includes music & sound effects.

Jeanene Johnson, Got My Book

Raymie Nightingale
by Kate DiCamillo
Listening Library
Nominated by: Sondra Eklund

Raymie Nightingale by Kate DiCamillo. Narrated by Jenna Lamia. Listening library. 2016
Raymie Nightingale has one goal, to win the 1975 Little Miss Central Florida Tire competition. Her father left town with the local dental hygienist and Raymie’s plan is for him to read about her win in the paper and to come home to her. While preparing for the competition, she befriends Louisiana Elefante and Beverly Tapinski as they all take baton twirling lessons from Ida Nee, the town expert. The Three Rancheros, as they call themselves, help each other to solve the problems they are facing. While Raymie wants to win back her father, Beverly is determined to sabotage the pageant and Louisiana hopes to get her cat Archie back. These underlying motivations lead to some unlikely and amusing adventures for the quirky friends.
Lamia effectively conveys the emotions and personality of three distinctly different characters; single-minded, yet sensitive Raymie, ethereal and swooning Louisiana, and the tough and ardent Beverly. Lamia’s expert storytelling brings this this poignant tale of love and loss to life.

Maren Ostergard, King County Library System

The Best Man
by Richard Peck; narrated by Michael Crouch
Listening Library
Publisher/ Author Submission

A classic Peck tale, this is the story of Archer and his grandfather, uncle, and teacher. Told through his years as a fourth, fifth, and sixth grade student, we see the influence these individuals and others have had on his life during this bildungsroman story. Crouch strikes a balance between Archer aging through the grades, bring a sense of wisdom to the grandfather, and a general relatability to all the characters portrayed. Balancing both humor and touching moments, this audiobook is a fit for families and middle graders alike.

Stephanie Charlefour, Love. Life. Read.

The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, the Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog
by Adam Gidwitz
Listening Library
Nominated by: Katy Kramp

On a dark night in 1242, a group of travellers gathers in an inn in France to exchange stories of three remarkable children: Jacob, Jeanne, and William. With flavors of The Canturbury Tales, each tale teller adds a unique slant to the collection, slowly building on each others’ version to build a complete picture. This is a book that’s perfectly done as a full cast production, as each narrator gives a spin to their section that makes the characters come to life. With plenty of topics that middle grade readers will relate to today, this is a historical book with just the right amount of humor and magical realism to give it a wide audience appeal.

Alyssa Feller, The Shady Glade

When the Sea Turned to Silver
by Grace Lin
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Nominated by: Jennie

Traditional Chinese tales are interwoven with an adventure story in this book that follows the pattern of Lin’s award-winning books Where the Mountain Meets the Moon and Starry River of the Sky. There are some characters in common with the earlier two books, but readers stepping in for the first time won’t feel out of place. Young Pinmei has grown up with her grandmother, the Storyteller, on a remote mountain. But one year when the winter has gone on far longer than it should, her grandmother is kidnapped by a threatening stranger Pinmei can tell is only disguised as a common soldier. She and Yishan, the boy who lives alone up the mountain, set out to rescue her. Kim Mai Guest’s narration portrays Pinmei’s journey to confidence, as well as the full cast of characters. The audio format highlights the interconnected details and the poetic language in this book that’s destined to be a classic.

Katy Kramp, a library mama

Audiobook: Flawed

flawedby Cecelia Ahern
Read by Aysha Kala
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided me by the publisher rep.
Content: There’s a somewhat graphic branding scene, some teen drinking (but the main character doesn’t) and an uncomfortable scene where I was afraid there would be a rape (there wasn’t). It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

First a story: our Macmillan rep is an older gentleman, whose tastes run towards history and thrillers. But, being a good rep, he does read some of the kids stuff (he does both). And, every once in a while, he finds a YA he really likes.  This is the second time I’ve kind of said “yeah, yeah” to one of his recommendations (the first time was Cinder). I was going to get around to this one. Eventually. But then, he was kind, and sent me the audio version (which he REALLY liked) and I figured I should give it a shot.

I just need to learn to trust him: this was really good.

The problem is that it doesn’t really have a good hook. It’s a society (loosely based in England, or that may just have been the narrator’s English accent) in which they’ve developed a court system to judge people’s morality. If they find anyone to be morally or ethically wanting, they deem them Flawed, brand their skin and impose a whole ton of rules on them. They aren’t allowed to have children, they have restricted diets and a curfew, they aren’t allowed to congregate in more than groups of two. They have different restrooms, assigned seats on the bus… you get the picture.

Our main character, Celestine, on the other hand, is perfect. She has the perfect boyfriend (the son of the Flawed Court’s head judge), she has the perfect grades, the perfect family, the perfect clothes, the perfect life. Then, her next door neighbor gets hauled into the court for adhering to her mother’s wishes to be euthanized. Which gets Celestine thinking: maybe there’s something not quite right about the Flawed Court? And so, when she encounters an older Flawed man on the bus having a bad asthma attack, but doesn’t have a place to sit, Celestine helps him. Which lands her in the Flawed Court for aiding a Flawed.

And that’s just the beginning of Celestine’s journey. This is really just a set up for a bigger conclusion (due out in the spring), but it’s a fascinating one. I do have to admit that I was often annoyed with Celestine, especially her dependence on boys, but other than that, it was really good. I loved the comparisons to racism, from the segregation to a riot that broke out near the end of the book. I really liked the world that Ahern built; while it’s vaguely dystopian, it isn’t futuristic or mystical.

It’s definitely worth reading.

Audiobook: Today Will Be Different

todaywillbedifferentby Maria Semple
Read by Kathleen Wiljoite
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s two f-bombs, and assorted other milder swearing. There’s also some uncomfortable domestic issues, and thematically it skews, well, adult. It’s in the fiction section of the bookstore.

I loved the way this book began:

Today will be different. Today I will be present. Today, anyone I’m speaking to, I will look them in the eye and listen deeply. Today I’ll play a board game with Timby. I’ll initiate sex with Joe. Today I will take pride in my appearance. I’ll shower, get dressed in proper clothes and only change into yoga clothes for yoga, which today I will actually attend. Today I won’t swear. I won’t talk about money. Today there will be an ease about me. My face will be relaxed, its resting place a smile. Today I will radiate calm. Kindness and self-control will abound. Today I will buy local. Today I will be my best self, the person I’m capable of being. Today will be different.

It’s such a gloriously low bar for everything. I can completely relate.

Eleanor is trying to make it through each day. Some days are more successful than others. And on this day — the book takes place in 24 hours, with some flashbacks — she will be challenged. Her 8-year-old son, Timby, will fake being sick to get out of being bullied at school. She will discover her husband told his office he’s on vacation, which he is most assuredly not. She will be reminded — strongly — of her estranged sister. She will get a concussion and steal someone else’s keys. It will not be a winner of a day, by any standards, but Eleanor will be — hopefully — better for it.

I think the secret to this one, at least for me, was listening to it.  The narrator was AMAZING. So good in fact, that I want to hunt out other books she’s read. I think she captured Eleanor perfectly, and she pulled me into the narrative. I’m pretty sure it was because of the narrator that I came to love Eleanor and look forward to hearing more about this crazy day (and her crazy past) she was having. (Maybe I would have liked it in print… Stemple is a good writer; the story is entertaining and made me think as well. Plus there are some genuine laugh-out-loud moments as well.)

Sometimes I like adult books. This was definitely one of those times.