Audiobook Review: Anne of Avonlea by LM Montgomery, narrated by Colleen Winton

anne-of-avonlea-post-hypnotic-press
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Title: Anne of Avonlea
Author: LM Montgomery
Series: Anne of Green Gables, Book 2
Narrator: Colleen Winton
Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press
Duration: 9 hours, 25 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Following Anne of Green Gables (1908), the book covers the second chapter in the life of Anne Shirley. This book follows Anne from the age of 16 to 18, during the two years that she teaches at Avonlea school. It includes many of the characters from Anne of Green Gables, as well as new ones like Mr. Harrison, Miss Lavendar Lewis, Paul Irving, and the twins Dora and Davy. Narrated by Colleen Winton.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

*I was provided a free copy from the publisher in exchange for my honest review.*

In Anne of Avonlea, we get to see Anne dealing with more grown-up troubles, which prevents this book from being as humorous as the first, but it’s still entertaining. Also, Marilla and Anne adopt twins, so their antics add a bit of fun into the story.

This is a re-read for me, and as a kid, I didn’t think to appreciate how Montgomery develops Anne’s character, taking time to show her growth from a child to an adult. What I like most is how Anne is shown as being much more responsible and thoughtful while still being herself, which is a tricky balance. Overall, not much goes on in this book. It’s very much a set-up for Anne becoming an adult, and there aren’t any huge plot points that wow-ed me. An engagement or two and the adoption of Davy and Dora are pretty much the only things that I found important. But that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy it. This series is more character-driven that plot-driven, and it’s always nice to revisit Anne and her world.

My favorite part about listening to a series in audiobook format is that, with a good narrator, the characters just feel more real to me. And Colleen Winton is a great narrator — she really brings the personalities of the characters to life. She is consistent with all the old characters’ idiosyncrasies from the first book and does a good job in portraying the new characters. For this book in particular, I liked being able to listen to it, because not much goes on in the way of plot or excitement, so it’s nice to be able to do something productive while re-reading an old favorite. If you are at all a fan of audiobooks, this is a nice series to try in audio.

*Listen to a sample!*

Book Review: Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and bone.jpgTitle: Daughter of Smoke and Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Narrator: Khristine Hvam
Series: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Book 1
Publisher: Hachette Audio
Duration: 12 hours 32 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

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?

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5

Daughter of Smoke and Bone is the first of a series, and because it’s the first, it suffers from being a bit slow in the beginning so that the foundation is laid for the rest of the books. However, the payoff is there, and I was in love with the story by the end.

However, I actually didn’t start really liking the story until about midway through, when we get to the more fantastical elements. I think that Taylor was trying to set up a contrast between Karou’s human world and the otherworld she grew up in, but the Prague stuff just wasn’t all that interesting. Her ex-boyfriend Kasimir is a useless character who doesn’t add anything to the story, and while I liked her best friend, Zuzana, I just didn’t see how they really added anything much to the overall conflict.

But I loved the story once it got going. I generally try to set aside an hour a day to listen to a book, but when it’s good, I have to pry myself away. That definitely happened when Akiva showed up — once he came into the picture, I was listening to 2-3 hours a day. The “plot twists” were a bit awkward, because I think that they’re hinted at too much in the beginning and easily guessable, but that’s redeemed by the characters’ reactions to those twists — the characters are simply beautifully done.

Hvam is a great narrator who does a good job with differentiating between characters. I especially loved her ability to capture the characters’ personalities with the way she spoke. Issa had a crooning voice and lingered over vowel sounds, which made me think of her as a loving, doting sort of aunt figure to Karou. When Hvam spoke as Zuzana, on the other hand, her sounds were clipped, giving her a no-nonsense sort of feel. Hvam’s narration added life to the characters and the story, in general. I think I enjoyed the story more in audio format than I would have in printed, just because I felt so close to the characters through the audio.

I have already added the sequel to my “to-read” list, and am excited to continue with this story. For those who aren’t good at waiting, the end was a bit abrupt, so if you want to start this series, be sure to have the first two books at hand!

Audiobook Review: Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery

anne-of-green-gables-post-hypnotic-press
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Title: Anne of Green Gables
Author: LM Montgomery
Narrator: Colleen Winton
Series: Anne of Green Gables, Book 1
Publisher: Post Hypnotic Press
Duration: 10 hours, 8 minutes
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Anne, a young orphan from the fictional community of Bolingbroke, Nova Scotia, is sent to Prince Edward Island after a childhood spent in strangers’ homes and orphanages. Marilla and Matthew Cuthbert, siblings in their fifties and sixties, had decided to adopt a boy from the orphanage to help Matthew run their farm. They live at Green Gables, their Avonlea farmhouse on Prince Edward Island. Through a misunderstanding, the orphanage sends Anne Shirley. And Anne brings all sorts of surprises in her wake.

So begins the classic tale of a girl who, through trying to find her place in the world, ends up bringing love and adventure to Green Gables.

Overall Rating: 5 out of 5

*I received a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.*

It has been over a decade since I’ve visited the world of Green Gables, so when I saw this title available to review, I just couldn’t pass up a chance to revisit it.

Anne of Green Gables is a classic coming of age story about a young girl named Anne who gets sent to siblings Matthew and Marilla Cuthbert by mistake — they wanted a boy to help with farm work. But when Marilla agrees to keep the talkative child and raise her up, she certainly gets more than she bargained for. Anne is energetic and over-the-top imaginative, but she is also full of love and generosity.

This book is about being a kid and, oftentimes, learning lessons the hard way. It also shows that even though adults are the ones in charge, they also learn just as much from children as children do for them — I love that balance of perspective. There are also lovely lessons embedded in this story about friendship, forgiveness, and making the most out of life.

But don’t take that to mean that you’re hit over the head with moral after moral! The events flow naturally together, and to make things better, this book is funny. I laughed out loud on numerous occasions because of the ridiculousness of Anne’s antics or Matthew’s attempts to go against Marilla’s wishes and spoil Anne.

I’ve only ever read the book, so listening to this story as an audiobook was a new experience for me. In some ways, it was more difficult for me to let go and enjoy listening to the story, because I’d already made my own assumptions about these characters in my head. However, Colleen Winton is an excellent narrator and I was hooked within a couple of chapters. She’s able to see into the heart of the characters and reflect their personalities in her narration, which made for an entertaining experience.

The excellence of the performance is in the details. When the book says that Anne’s friend, Diana is the kind of girl who always laughs before she speaks, Winton is sure to give a bit of a laugh before Diana’s dialogue throughout the entire audiobook. It’s the added thoughtfulness that really makes the narration stand out. And of course, all the standard marks for a good narration apply: there are distinct voices for each character and the tone of the exposition is reflected in Winton’s voice. Winton brings this story to life, making this an audiobook well worth listening to. And if you want a taste of it yourself — check out below, where I’ve shared the publisher’s sample track.

In short, if you haven’t read it, go read it! Anne of Green Gables is by far one of my all-time favorites. But if you have read it, consider giving it another go. This one is definitely worth revisiting. And if you’re audiobook-minded, definitely consider listening to this edition — it is delightful!

A big thank you to Audiobook Jukebox for their Solid Gold Reviewer program, through which I found this title.

A second big thank you to Post Hypnotic Press for providing me with a copy.

Book Review: Shalador’s Lady by Anne Bishop

shaladors-ladyTitle: Shalador’s Lady
Author: Anne Bishop
Series: The Black Jewels, Book 8
Publisher: Roc
Hardcover: 476 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

For years the Shalador people suffered the cruelties of the corrupt Queens who ruled them, forbidding their traditions, punishing those who dared show defiance, and forcing many more into hiding. Now that their land has been cleansed of tainted Blood, the Rose-Jeweled Queen, Lady Cassidy, makes it her duty to restore it and prove her ability to rule.

But even if Lady Cassidy succeeds, other dangers await. For the Black Widows see visions within their tangled webs that something is coming that will change the land-and Lady Cassidy-forever…

Overall Rating: 3 out of 5

Shalador’s Lady continues the story arc introduced with The Shadow Queen — we pick up where we left off with Lady Cassidy, who is still trying to pull Dena Nehele together while trying to win the people’s hearts and negotiate a reluctant First Escort.

The Black Jewels sequels are nowhere near the quality of the original trilogy, and I’m getting a bit tired of the recycled phrases and situations. We get it: a “too soft” voice and sleepy eyes means that the all-powerful Saadi family is angry. Queens are stubborn and too reckless with their own safety, while the Warlord Princes are overprotective. Nothing new there. With that said, however, these books are fun, easy-reads that are good for a quick fix when you’re craving time in the Black Jewels world.

In this one, I wasn’t so much interested in the story as a whole, but I did like seeing the growth of the two male characters Ranon and Gray. We get to see a much more vulnerable side of Ranon, while Gray turns from vulnerable, broken boy to a strong Warlord Prince who is someone to be feared. I also enjoyed getting to see more Sceltie characters and reading about how they interacted with the other Queens and Princes.

Overall, I would say this is a light read that will appeal to fans of the series, if only to revisit old characters. Other than that, there’s not much to it.

Book Review: Alpha and Omega by Patricia Briggs


Title: Alpha and Omega
Author: Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha & Omega, Book 0.5
Publisher: Subterranean
Hardcover: 105 pages
Summary (taken from Goodreads):

Anna, four years a werewolf, raped, beaten, half-starved and handed from one male to another, places a call from Chicago to the wilds of Montana. She reaches the Marrok, North America’s werewolf ruler, telling him she’s seen a boy, one reported missing and possibly injured. He was in a cage her pack’s Alpha keeps for confining new werewolves.

The Marrok says that his enforcer is flying from Montana to O’Hare. Anna meets the plane, and, Charles, enforcer, as well as the Marrok’s oldest son, insists on staying with her. He has seen she is not the Submissive she thinks she is. Charles is a supreme Alpha, and she is his antithesis, a rare Omega; her very presence lowers tension, calms and soothes.

Overall Rating: 5/5

Having already read Cry Wolf, the first book in the series, this prequel didn’t hold any surprising information; however, I still really liked it. It’s a fast and enjoyable read, even if it is a bit gruesome because of what Anna’s Alpha did to her.

My favorite part was reading about Charles and Anna meeting for the first time. I love seeing their reactions to each other and realizing that they want to be mates. It was a good call on Patricia Briggs’s part to start this series, because I think Charles is such an awesome character and it’s a shame we don’t see him more in the Mercy Thompson series. Anna is also extremely cool; she’s tough while not being overly aggressive and she’s keeps calm in the face of danger. After reading about Adam saving Mercy all the time, it’s kind of fun reading about a girl saving a guy’s ass when he gets himself into trouble.

The one problem I see with this is that, as a novella, it doesn’t explain much. If you haven’t read the Mercy Thompson series or the Alpha and Omega series, this isn’t a good one to start on. Briggs assumes you know how the world works and who some of the characters are and doesn’t go into a lot of explanation. It’s great for those who have already been introduced to this world, either through the Mercy Thompson books or the books in the Alpha and Omega series.

This novella isn’t necessary in understanding the series as a whole, but it is a good read. I highly recommend it for those who have already started the series or those who are thinking of starting the series.

Book Review: Torment by Lauren Kate

Torment by Lauren Kate.jpgTitle: Torment
Author: Lauren Kate
Series: Fallen, Book 2
Publisher: Random House
Hardcover: 452 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

Hell on earth.

That’s what it’s like for Luce to be apart from her fallen angel boyfriend, Daniel.

It took them an eternity to find one another, but now he has told her he must go away. Just long enough to hunt down the Outcasts—immortals who want to kill Luce. Daniel hides Luce at Shoreline, a school on the rocky California coast with unusually gifted students: Nephilim, the offspring of fallen angels and humans.

At Shoreline, Luce learns what the Shadows are, and how she can use them as windows to her previous lives. Yet the more Luce learns, the more she suspects that Daniel hasn’t told her everything. He’s hiding something—something dangerous.

What if Daniel’s version of the past isn’t actually true? What if Luce is really meant to be with someone else?

The second novel in the addictive FALLEN series . . . where love never dies.

Overall Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

I’m grateful my friends told me to stick with this series, because I definitely liked this book better than Fallen. There was still a lot of teen angst, which I guess you have to expect from a book like this, but the story was more believable, which I appreciated.

With all the stuff that’s going on, Luce is finally becoming a little less whiny and helpless and is taking charge of her own life. Thank goodness! I wanted to see this in the first book, but I’m glad that it came about eventually. One thing I didn’t like about her was that she seems to be a bit stupid at the beginning. I mean, she just went through this huge battle with people trying to kill her, yet she doesn’t listen when Daniel and Cam tell her to stay at the school where she’s safe. This cluelessness on her part is an attempt at conflict, I think, but it just irritated me.

Another thing that bothered me was the tension between Daniel and Luce. Again, I feel it was forced. Daniel using phrases like, “Don’t disobey me!” to Luce doesn’t make any sense to me. He knows her personality and knows how she’d react to that. And why can’t he just explain things? It doesn’t help the suspense at all, because the reader pretty much knows what’s going on and it bothered me a lot.

Despite that, I really did like this book. I liked the new characters we were introduced to, though Miles is a bit annoying. And Shelby is definitely my new favorite. Seeing children of angels and demons and learning what they can do was a highlight. It was also strange to see how popular Luce is in the angel/demon world. Kind of a Harry Potter moment for her.

The story itself was fast-paced and interesting. I kept wanting to know what would happen next and what Luce would figure out about her past that would shed some light on what’s going on in the present. I loved the ending and how it gave enough information to satisfy my curiosity, but not so much that we now know all that’s going on. It answered some questions, and made me ask a few more. I thought the final battle at the end was a little unrealistic — really, nobody saw that? But I can get over it.

If you found yourself on the fence about Fallen, don’t give up on the series! Definitely give Torment a try before you decide not to like it.

Audiobook Review: How to Eat Fried Worms by Thomas Rockwell

how-to-eat-fried-wormsTitle: How to Eat Fried Worms
Author: Thomas Rockwell
Publisher: Listening Library
Narrator: Jay O. Sanders
Duration: 1 hr 53 minutes
Summary (taken from Goodreads):

Billy must eat 15 worms in 15 days–but the reward will be worth it: $50 for a shiny new minibike. Luckily, Billy’s friends cook up these fat juicy grubs in a variety of appetizing ways–drenched in ketchup and mustard, fried in butter and cornmeal, and the pièce de résistance, a Whizband Worm Delight (an ice-cream worm cake).

 

 

Review:
This book was short, sweet, and hilarious! I can just imagine 10-year-old boys making this sort of bet with each other. I admit, the part where he at the worms was kind of gross, but I enjoyed all the ways he tried to make the worm appetizing. It was also funny seeing how the other two try to trick Billy into losing the bet (and there are a couple of good tricks).

I do have to say that this book is somewhat dated. Written in 1973, some of the phrases used and attitudes of the parents/children just don’t fit in with how today is, but it still a great read. When it comes down to it, it’s all about dealing with peer pressure and that will stay relevant forever.

I thought the narration was phenomenal. Sanders really brings the characters and the story to life. However, I’m not a big fan of background music in my audio books, and there was a decent amount in this one. It wasn’t enough to really bother me, but I did find myself wishing they would cut out the music and just let the man tell the story!If you have a couple of hours to spare (whether for reading or listening to an audio book), then go for it and pick this one up. It’s worth it!

Overall Rating: 4/5

Review: Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris

Dead in the Family.jpgTitle: Dead in the Family
Author: Charlaine Harris
Series: Sookie Stackhouse, Book 10
Publisher: Ace
Hardcover: 311 pages
Summary: (taken from Goodreads)

After enduring torture and the loss of loved ones during the brief but deadly Faery War, Sookie Stackhouse is hurt and she’s angry. Just about the only bright spot in her life is the love she thinks she feels for vampire Eric Northman. But he’s under scrutiny by the new Vampire King because of their relationship. And as the political implications of the Shifters coming out are beginning to be felt, Sookie’s connection to the Shreveport pack draws her into the debate. Worst of all, though the door to Faery has been closed, there are still some Fae on the human side-and one of them is angry at Sookie. Very, very angry..

My Review:

Dead in the Family starts off a bit darker than the other novels in the series, but considering what happened in the previous novel, I would have been upset if it didn’t. Sookie has lost a lot of her innocence and naivete, and I think this is a good change from the beginning books of the series. After hanging around the vampires and the weres, something had to happen to make her less soft.

From when I first started reading it until it ended, I couldn’t put this book down. What I love about Harris’s books is that they are so well-constructed and developed. There are a lot of things going on, what with the political business concerning the weres, Alcide’s pack adjusting to the new rules, her relationship with Eric, Eric’s maker coming to visit, and the aftermath of the Faery War. Needless to say, it was packed with conflict and problems. The characters are awesome, as always — Claude was particularly hilarious in this novel, and I’m glad we got to see more of Sookie’s telepathic cousin, Hunter.

This book was a lot calmer than the rest — less tension, less conflict. I didn’t mind it at all, because I feel like this is just the calm before the storm. Victor seems to have it out for Sookie and Eric, something different is happening with Bill’s character (not going to say what due to spoilers!), and the fairy situation is finally starting to wrap up — or so it seems. I think the next few books are going to be very interesting and exciting.

Overall Rating: 5/5

Book Review: The Arm of the Stone by Victoria Strauss

arm of the stone.jpgTitle: The Arm of the Stone
Author: Victoria Strauss
Series: The Stone Duology, Book 1
Publisher: Phoenix Pick
Paperback: 358 pages
Summary: (Taken from Goodreads)

Long ago, when the worlds were one… So begins the Tale, the ancestral legend Bron’s family has guarded for a thousand years. Once, they were the keepers of the Stone, the most sacred object on earth, from which all the powers of Mind are drawn. But when the conflict between Mind and Hand split the worlds apart, the Stone was seized by an ambitious sorcerer. To keep the new world from contamination, he created rigid Limits circumscribing which tools might be made and which knowledge might be pursued-laws brutally enforced by a group of Guardians known as the Arm of the Stone. ** For centuries, Bron’s family has concealed the secret of its heritage. But when Bron’s brother invents a new kind of plow-an unpardonable heresy in the world of the Guardians-the Arm of the Stone reaches in once again to tear them apart. Fleeing for his life, Bron vows revenge. To strike the Guardians down, he will become a Guardian himself. But Bron cannot know how much that choice will change him. Nor does he anticipate the hatred of a powerful enemy, or the love of a beautiful Guardian named Liliane…whose mission is to destroy him.

My Review:

The beginning of The Arm of the Stone was really rocky for me. Honestly, it got to the point where I thought about giving it up; however, I didn’t and I’m glad I stuck with it.

I thought the beginning was rather drawn out and overloaded with characters, history, etc. Also, the conflict didn’t seem very interesting to me: Bron’s family swears to take back the Stone, which was once theirs and reclaim their power from the Guardians who now hold it. I thought this was too simplistic and it didn’t really hold much promise. However, there is a huge turning point in the novel, and that’s when the novel picked up its pace and started to become interesting.

What I love most about The Arm of the Stone is the story and the world. Strauss does an excellent job in making the story seem straightforward, and then she throws a curveball at you, completely changing your perspective of what’s happening. Also, the world is extremely well-constructed. When I read the novel, I was completely immersed because of the level of detail Strauss includes.

Another thing I liked was that I felt that the characters showed a lot of growth. The Bron we meet on page one is completely different than the Bron we know on the last page, which I think is one sign of a successful book. The same goes for many of the characters in the novel, including Liliane and Goldwine, to name a few.

There were times when I got confused about jumps in time and it did take me a long time to finish this novel, because it’s loaded with so much. I don’t think the latter is necessarily a bad thing, but it’s definitely not a quick summer read. It is, however, one of the best fantasies I’ve read in awhile and I’m greatly looking forward to the sequel.

I would recommend this for fantasy fans who enjoy coming-of-age adventures.

Overall Rating: 4.5/5


Manga Review: Kimi ni Todoke – From Me to You, Vol 1 by Karuho Shiina

From Me To You Vol 1.jpgTitle: From Me To You, Vol 1
Author: Karuho Shiina
Series: Kimi ni Todoke, Vol 1
Publisher: VIZ Media LLC
Paperback: 216 pages
Summary (taken from Goodreads):

Sawako Kuronuma is the perfect heroine…for a horror movie. With her jet-black hair, sinister smile and silent demeanor, she’s often mistaken for Sadako, the haunting character from Ringu. Unbeknownst to but a few, behind her scary façade is a very misunderstood teenager. Shy and pure of heart, she just wants to make friends. But when Kazehaya, the most popular boy in class, befriends her, she’s sure to make more than just that—she’s about to make some enemies too!

Review:

I have never read a manga book before this. It seems surprising, since I watch anime and I’ve always been interested in the stories, but I guess I’ve always thought reading novels would be more satisfying. However, I’m glad I decided to read this one.

It’s such a cute story. I finished this book in about three days, even during finals week. I like how the author takes time to really develop the characters and the story. It’s not a fast-paced romance, where both of the main characters instantly fall for each other and can’t live without each other; rather, it’s more real. It’s obvious that they like each other, but they don’t immediately fall in love. Instead, they talk and hang out and get to know each other.

Despite the fact that this is paced slower than most stories, I still really enjoyed it. It’s very funny — some parts even had me laugh out loud. I am definitely going to read the rest of the series.

All in all, a very good introduction to the manga world.

Overall Rating: 4/5